Ever since I watched Emily in Paris I wanted to go back to the city of love. Frequently getting emails from Eurostar of £39 deals made it even more tempting. Here is a little guide on what to eat and what to see while in Paris.
My friend, Donna, and I decided to plan our trip for her 40th Birthday in early September. I started looking at Eurostar however it became clear, as we both live in the Midlands, it was much cheaper just to book a flight from Birmingham. Donna bagged a deal on Expedia for 3 nights for less than £340 at The Hotel Notre Dame. The flights were with Vueling which compared to other budget airlines has a generous luggage allowance. Extra baggage is also reasonable compared to other airlines.
The flight to Paris was at 745am and we were at our hotel by noon. On the day of departure we left the hotel around 230pm so had a good few hours for more sightseeing. We could have easily spent more time there but it would just mean more money plus it gives us a reason to go back.
In terms of the hotel, would I recommend it? Yes! The staff were helpful and the location was perfect. We had a view of Notre Dame and walking up to the beautiful sunrise behind it was epic. It is an hour walk to Eiffel Tower from the hotel to give you a rough idea of distance. That is the furthest we walked. Other sites are about 30 minutes away. The only down of the room was it was by the main road and there was traffic noise. If you are a light sleep it is probably better to get a room at the back. The room was clean and had all the amenities you would expect. They have a 24 hour front desk. You can enjoy a continental breakfast overlooking Notre Dame and the Seine for 10 euros each.
I am a bit of a planning freak and had a colour-coded excel sheet with things to do for the duration. Luckily Donna is chilled and happy to go along with what I had planned. I tried to leave gaps so we can go with the flow yet have something planned so we don’t miss out on seeing some key sights. Making a list on google or the maps you use is so useful for planning city breaks. See my tips below.
What I realised is the main parts of Paris are not that large and you can get around it pretty quickly depending on what you want to do. We both love walking and that is exactly how we got around whilst we were there. 80000 steps later we were ready for a foot massage but saw hidden gems.
The time of the year we went was perfect. Paris was not that busy (apart from Chanel which constantly had queues). The temperature for the 3 days we were there (12-15th September) was over 25 degrees Celcius. One of the days was due to have thunderstorms but there was no sign of rain or thunder at all and that just made our break even more special.
Paris can be as expensive or as cheap as you want it to be. This is why I think walking allows you to stumble across some lovely local places and not get sucked into tourist traps (though that happened too).
Places to Eat & Drink
Here are the places we ate and drank while in Paris. We did not have breakfast at the Hotel just because we wanted to eat croissaints and sip of lattes in local cafes.
- Monsieur Bleu at Palais De Tokyo: Blink and you will walk past it. It truly is a hidden gem overlooking Eiffel Tower. They have a courtyard and some seats have a view others do not. Either way, it is a fabulous spot located just off Avenue De New York. The service was paced well and every dish we had was delicious. I have never had Octopus so delicious before. It was my first proper experience of eating Escargot and I will always remember it. This was my treat to Donna and the restaurant made it extra special for her too. I went with a cocktail called Nairobi and that hit the spot. For dessert, we shared a profiterole – again neither of us had ever tasted one so fine. Portion sizes were competitive and so were the prices.
The restaurant was not pretentious and the atmosphere was lively. A three-course meal with a drink each is around 180 euros for two depending on what you choose.
- Pink Mamma: This restaurant commonly pops up as the most Instagrammable restaurant in Paris. Located en route to Montmartre it sure is pretty. It is pink outside (hence the name) and full of plants and cute decor inside. It is part of the Big Mamma group so my expectations were high and they were met. The Italian meal we had here was beautiful. TIP – Pizzas are large so share one along with another dish. I went with the hot girl summer and cooked and topped perfectly. I also went with the Big Mamma cocktail which also was fabulous. Pizzas are around 12 euros.
- Le Petit Chatelet: This cosy Parisian restaurant is located by Notre Dame. There are not many tables so prepare to wait for a table. The meats are charred well and the duck and chicken dishes we had were packed with flavours. Prices are reasonable too with mains at around 18 euros. The mains come with gratin potatoes which are cooked beautifully too.
- PavYllon : the restaurant is the most star-rated independent establishment in the world with the head chef Yannick Alleno. There is a funny story to this. I must have read this was an affordable place and booked it without checking the menu. I did not think to check what affordable fine dining actually meant. After a long walk in the day, we went for dinner and initially felt out of place but it was fine later on. I told Donna at the end of the day we are all the same and yes we did not wear fancy frocks but neither did some of the other customers. We ate from the A la carte menu on the high seats in front of the open kitchen – the gastronomic counter. It was a beautiful experience and the food was just amazing. We had a cocktail and main each and shared a dessert and it was around 90 euros which was not bad. They gave a nice chunk of bread to start with too and local chocolates at the end. After reading up on the restaurant I am so glad I didn’t check the menu beforehand or else I would have cancelled. It truly is a special place and one you need to visit in Paris.
- Cafe La Cooperative on Rue De Rivoli: One morning we were on our walk to Cedric Grloet for a croissant but the queue was crazy so we went to another cafe we stumbled across that had locals. We had our daily fix of croissants and coffee for around 9 euros each which was about the going rate.
- Le Consulat: This is the oldest house in Montmartre and I had read a lot about it before going. It is a perfect spot for people watching and is just by Sacre Coeur. My french onion soup tasted delicious. It was not the deep colour you normally get but the flavour was spot on. I posted a TikTok on this and many were disappointed with the colour of it whereas others commended how it was a poor person’s meal! Quite interesting however I enjoyed it and would have it again. My friend has the Croque Monsieur and that was average. It didn’t have the cheese content we were imagining. These were around 12 euros each.
- Laduree: When in Paris you have to eat Macarons and Laduree is known for them. Ok compared to the first time I had them I was not as wowed (I actually thought mine were better:O). I should have tried Pierre Hermé or even the Mcdonald’s ones to compare. On the other hand, it was Donna’s first time and she enjoyed it. There are a few locations to enjoy this so don’t spend hours queueing for one. Around 2.50 euros each.
- L’Eclair De Genie: Enjoy the decadent eclairs here – they were just as good as I remembered them. When in Paris you got to eat pastries because they are the finest. There is one in Galeries Lafeyette Haussmann. Eclairs are around 6 euros each. I prefer them to Maitre Choux in London.
- Angelina. Ok, it is 8.50 euros however worth it. It is enough to share between two because of the richness (shhh don’t tell them that you are sharing). It is made from melted chocolate bars and served with mascarpone and whipped cream. I did have hot chocolate at other locations but it just seemed sweeter and already premade.
- Cosi: This sandwich shop serves perfectly filled homemade sandwiches and cakes. The fillings are varied and the cafe is quirky but definitely a great spot for lunch. I had one with ricotta bacon and walnuts and Donna had one with Tuna. They are around 8 euros however large and the fillings are fresh.
We did not manage to go into any of the big sights however we saw them all. Got to leave some stuff so go back to right? Here are the places you need to check out:
- Eiffel Tower and the surrounding areas including the gardens of Eiffel Tower
- Champ de Mars – lots of benches to sit on and take in the view of the Iron Lady
- Avenue De New York – the road to get the best shots with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Beautiful day and night. At night the Eiffel Tower sparkles on an hour for 4 minutes so make sure you check it out.
- Arc De Triomphe then walk down Champs Elysees. Stranger Things fans there is a store here you can visit too
- Les Invalides
- Pont Alexandre III
- Trocadero Gardens: View of the iron lady
- Jardin des Champs-Elysees
- Walk down Rue Saint Dominique
- Visit the Louvre Museum or walk around the beautiful ground
- Passage des Panoramas – one of the first covered passages in Paris and a lot of lovely restaurants and shops
- Sacré Coeur de Montmartre and the area around Montmartre for art
- Galeries Lafayette Haussmann – free rooftop with the view of Paris (you can have a drink at Creatures bar there too)
- Palais – Royal Garden ( most beautiful garden in Paris – the architecture is beautiful)
- Walk down Quai De Conti, along River Seine towards Notre Dame and see the row of local artists
- Get a boat down River Seine – a totally different view of the city from the river. We booked the hop on hop off which was good however it does not have commentary so I would suggest a boat tour instead so you know what you are passing
- Walk down Promenade Des Berges De La Seine Andre Gorz and take in the views of the gorgeous bridge Port Alexandre III
- Go for a show at Moulin Rouge
- Take in the views of the iconic Pantheon
- Rue Mouffetard & Rue De L’Arbalete – lively street in the Latin Quarter with cheap eats
- Place Vendome: This square is grand with Colonne Vendome standing tall surrounded by luxury stores and the Ritz
- View Place de la Concorde and Eiffel Tower just off Rue Royale
- Cafe De Flore and Cafe 52: Emily in Paris spots
Here are some spots we went to shop:
- Avenue Montaigne: Lovely shopping street but very high end
- Rue Mouffetard: The place for cheese and chocolate shopping as well as cheaper eats
- Opulence Luxury & Vintage – second-hand luxury shop
- Carrousel du Louvre – the underground shopping centre by the Louvre
- Rue Royale – is not too upmarket and more relaxed vibes
- Rue di Rivoli – a great mixture of shops
- Galeries Lafayette – The Paris department store that has everything you need.
Some Tips on this that and the other in Paris:
- Book restaurants where possible especially if you want the popular ones. Many have walk-in slots and space if you call in. Yes, it is nice to get to those Instagrammable spots for dinner however if you cannot get in, don’t stress. Paris has so many lovely spots and I learnt the hard way. I wanted to take Donna to Girafe for dinner and I tried for a month to book and call but had no luck. I then realised I was worried for no reason because a good restaurant should have the courtesy to try and reply to emails or answer their phones and not ignore any potential customers. They should not have any contact details if they chose not to reply.
- Book slots for museums and cathedrals. Again like in restaurants you can join the queue but it can get frustrating especially if you do not understand French and do not know how long you will wait or what the procedure is. We had this experience at Sainte-Chapelle where we got in the no-ticket queue and had no idea when we would get in. The security was not helpful at all and we left in the end
- Walk where possible because you see some hidden gems. When Kev & I do not have mobile data we use Here we go which works offline
- Pin the places you want to visit on your map. I made a list on google maps. This way you can easily find the spots you want to visit when you are in an area. It also allows you to see the bigger picture and what areas you want to visit and spend more time at
- Try and use an international card like Aqua Card or Monzo to get the best exchange rate. Most places in Paris took card. This way you can also track what you have spent by looking at your statement. You also get a couple of percentage more for the tax refund.
- Sometimes the cheapest easiest things are the best – on our first day we just walked to a Boulangerie (bakery), picked up a baguette and some salad and ate it by the Eiffel Tower.
- Getting tickets to use a bus was a nightmare and we spoke to many who had the same experience. It is not clear however I think you need to buy them at the metro stations. You cannot pay by card or cash on the bus. You need a ticket. Luckily our bus driver was friendly and asked us just to move to the side and did not kick us out. It was a tad stressful cause i was not sure if the would be random checks
- You can drink tap water in Paris and restaurants serve it too. Save your pennies and order tap water.
- If you are thinking of treating yourself, remember if you live in the UK and have your passport whilst shopping you can claim the tax back. Shopping at Galeries Lafayette makes this a bit easier because you fill out the forms there and then get a barcode you have to scan at the airport. You get a couple of percentage more if you pay by card and get refunded that way
- For those who love croissants, you will notice Cedric Grolet has some fabulous ones however you have to queue for hours to get one. I did not realise you can click and collect beforehand and would recommend that however, you need to do it over a week before. Check out Maison Carton Paris for another spot on good croissants.
Any questions on Paris, drop me an email.