When people think of Paris they think of love, lights, romance, elegant buildings and fashionable women, handsome men, delicious food and croissants everywhere you look, the Eiffel Tower sparkling at night, and most of all the idea that if you lived in Paris and were a Parisian, everything in your life would be perfect and everyone would want to be you. This is what I thought over the summer, as I prepared to move to Paris in September, but there was something in the back of my mind that made me feel uneasy and uncertain, something that made me think what if all of these things that people talk about are myths? What if Paris is in fact very overrated? However, once arrived and settled in my new home in the French capital, I realised that the stereotypes people all over the world have of Paris are actually true, that there is indeed a reason why it is known as one of the most beautiful cities on earth.
Paris as a place to visit should be on everyone’s bucket list, even if it is for a mere 24 hours, and although there are hundreds of things you could do in those few hours, here are some things that I would recommend you do.
When thinking of where to stay in the capital, don’t worry about finding a hostel as close as possible to the Eiffel Tower or to any other big attraction that you know you’ll want to see, because getting around Paris is so easy and nowhere is far, so it doesn’t matter if you’re not staying right in the centre. The best way to travel around the city is by metro, so make sure you buy a pack of 10 metro tickets as in the long run this will be cheaper than buying one every time you need to hop on the train. The great thing about the tickets is that they last forever too, so if you don’t use all of them during your first visit, you can use them when you come again (because you will!)
You’ve only got 24 hours so get up early, go outside and head towards the first boulangerie you see. Every bakery in Paris is pretty much the same as they all sell delicious croissants and little pastries that are much better than the ones at home, but if you want to be fussy, Pierre Hermé patisserie in the sixth arrondissement has the best macarons and gateaux in the whole of Paris. Next up of course has to be the Eiffel Tower, because although it might be cliché, it really is worth seeing this marvellous piece of architecture in the flesh. Just being underneath it is enough excitement, but if you fancy going up it, make sure you get there early in the morning to be at the front of the queue. If you have time afterwards, walk along the Seine from the north of the tower until you reach the mini Statue of Liberty, a subtle reminder that the original New York statue was a gift from France to the States.
Next, take the metro to the Arc de Triomphe, another stunning building that you can also climb up and see a breath-taking view of the city. I actually prefer this view to the one from the Eiffel Tower, and the massive bonus is that this one is free for students and under 25 year olds. Walk along the Champs Elysées to see the many designer shops, boutiques and restaurants until you reach the Place de la Concorde. If you’re feeling peckish you can buy a crepe from the many stalls on the square, and then ride the huge Ferris wheel, which is set up from November 11 until May 15. Afterwards make your way through the Tuileries gardens, stopping if you like to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie (free for under 25 year olds) to see Monet’s spectacular Water Lilies masterpiece.
At the other end of the gardens is the famous Louvre museum, which is worth seeing and taking iconic photos in front, even if you don’t go inside. But if you want to be able to tell everyone that you saw the Mona Lisa, it’s easy to do so as entry is again free for under 25 year olds and there are signs to follow once inside.
If it’s raining and you’re in need of another activity to do inside, or you simply want to do something a bit more cultured, cross the bridge nearest to the Louvre to head to the other side of the seine, to the Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Here you’ll see a large building that was evidently an old train station before it became a museum, the Musée d’Orsay. This is worth a visit solely for its famous gigantic gold clock, but there are also many art treasures to be discovered, from Monet to Rodin. However, if museums are not your cup of tea, cross a bridge anyhow and enjoy rummaging through the unique trinkets, old magazines, vintage film posters and French books that are sold at little stalls on the pavement along the river. Follow the river until you reach Pont St Michel, from which you can see a stunning view of the Notre Dame cathedral. Cross the river to get a closer look and cross it again on the other side of the cathedral to reach the Hotel de Ville. Not far from here is the Pompidou Centre, another museum full of different art galleries. This area is known for its creative and arty ambiance, and you will find many cheap and unique vintage shops around.
Before dinner, take the metro to Abesses, the nearest station to the Sacré Coeur basilica, which stands proudly on top of a hill, looking out over the city. This area, full of restaurants, little art galleries, and more vintage shops, is called Montmartre. The walk to the Sacré Coeur will be worth it, especially if by the time you get there the basilica will have lit up in the dark and you’ll get to see the whole of Paris twinkling beneath you. Afterwards, it will be finally time to eat, and although there are thousands of restaurants in Paris to choose from, I recommend one called Le Bouillon Chartier. Located in the ninth arrondissement, the restaurant offers a delicious three-course meal and half a bottle of wine for less than 20 euros, and if you’re feeling adventurous you can try their plate of snails. Afterwards, head to any bar, as there are many in the area, or take the metro to nearby Oberkampf in the eleventh arrondissement, which is a popular district amongst young people and has a buzzing nightlife.
After 24 hours in this magical city, you won’t want to go home, but at least you can return easily as flights from the UK to Paris are very cheap, especially in winter. When you do return, again and again, I guarantee you that there will always be more places to be explored and more treasures to be discovered.
Photo credit: Flickr