Last spring, I took a trip to Paris with a few of my best friends. After several trips there during different seasons, this one was a favorite for me. It was my first time seeing the city green, and with the huge trees covering the city, I never even knew what I was missing. This trip was also a bit unusual for me because we didn't even step foot inside of a museum. We mostly just walked and walked and walked and giggled, and it was actually so lovely. So this is definitely not a comprehensive guide of what to do in Paris, but a few highlights of the things that you should do with someone who is going to Paris for the first time, wants to take it all in, doesn't love museums, and likes to look at pretty things.
- My favorite view of the Eiffel Tower is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (photo 11 by night, and here is a photo of mine from that viewpoint that Travel and Leisure shared during the fall so that you can see it better!). The view from the Embarcadero across the street is also fabulous, free to get to, and you don't have to hike (photos 1, 24)! The best time to see it, in my opinion, is just before sunset. That way, you can see it during the daytime, and then it lights up just as it's getting dusky, and I love the photos of the tower illuminated and even sparkling while the sky isn't completely dark. Just make sure you wait for it to sparkle (five minutes at every hour after sunset)!
- One of Paris's hidden gems is Parc de Sceaux (photo 12), probably because it is a train ride outside of the center of Paris, but it only takes 20 minutes! Most of the parks in the center of the city have ground covered in gravel and you sit in chairs to hang, rather than laying out a blanket on some grass. This expansive park has much more green, and is so pretty. You can get out there on the RER B train.
- Tooling around the Tuileries (photo 5) was our motto for the trip, mostly because we thought it sounded funny, but seriously, this place in the springtime can't be beat (well maybe in the fall...). The rows and rows of lush and giant green trees are so perfect and you can walk around for hours before or after a visit to the Louvre (that dramatic photo 21, where I would recommend going early early to avoid the crowds surrounding Lisa!).
- Palais Royal (photo 23) is a great photo op spot, where a typical gorgeous Parisian building surrounds an open courtyard filled with more modern looking striped columns of all different heights. You'll also find rows of trees adjacent to this installation, perfectly aligned just like the Tuileries.
- Place Vendome (photo 10) is a lovely area to explore (and home to my favorite hotel in Paris, the Park Hyatt**), and the scaffolding is finally off of the column (which has been there my past four trips to Paris!). Obviously as an opera lover I am a big fan of the nearby Palais Garnier (photo 2), while my friends flipped over the store Colette, just down the street.
- Run, don't walk to the Fondation Louis Vuitton! A new contemporary art museum designed by Frank Gehry, it is so stunning and one of my very favorite things about Paris now. There is a new installation opening May 11 covering the sails in colored filters that looks amazing. I am hoping I can make a trip to go see it!
- The Galleries Lafayette (photo 9) has to be the prettiest department store ever (don't even get me started on their Christmas displays!). I am sure the shopping is good too, but I think they mostly have things you will find anywhere. Definitely go inside to see the stunning atrium though.
- Avenue Montaigne was a highlight for my Sex-and-the-City-loving friends. I guess the Dior store is something very special (without much expertise on the fashion house I unfortunately can't elaborate). My favorite stop along the road is the gorgeous hotel Plaza Athenee (photo 3) and that amazing window display of hats (photo 8).
- Walk around Montmartre to explore endless charming little streets and houses and lots of local artists selling their work on the street. On my favorite corner you will find the most adorable little pink cafe, La Maison Rose (on the corner of Rue de L'Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules).
- And of course, for anyone who has never been, Versailles (photos 14-20) is kind of mandatory. Just make sure you go with enough time to get out to visit Marie Antoinette's little cottage, because after several visits, I have still never made it and everyone tells me it is their favorite part! Next time!
There will be more Paris posts in this blog's future, and coming up next I will post my restaurant recommendations across all of the trips I have done (one of the best parts of a visit to Paris is the weight you will gain there eating). Stay tuned!
**A note about staying in the Park Hyatt: It is so dreamy and amazing and perfectly located and rates start around 1,000 Euro per night. Daunting, yeah? Well if you want to stay there for FREE and get treated like royalty with platinum status while you are at it, consider getting the Chase Hyatt Credit Card. Spend $1,000 in 3 months and get two free nights at any (yes, any) Hyatt property. Have a travel buddy do the same thing and together you can get four nights! Free (you would have spent $1,000 over three months anyways, right?)! Dream vacation!