After just 90 minutes on the TGV fast speed train, flying through the French countryside with its rolling hills and undulating pastures from a little town in the Beaujolais wine region, I arrived at the Gard de Lyon railway station and made my way to the boutique hostel I had booked for 4 nights. Over the next 5 days, The City of Light gave me one of the most enjoyable, entertaining and delightful travel experiences of my life. Here are 9 essential Paris things to do that I found made my experience of Paris a great one.
Top 9 Paris Things To Do
1. See a Cabaret Show
I chose to go to the Moulin Rouge and it was fabulous. I was worried it might be a bit seedy and erotic but it really wasn’t. What I found was a group of talented artists showing off their dancing skills; and guiding the audience through a lavish night of elegant costumes and much revelry.
There are two show times at 9pm and 11pm. If you want to have dinner then you need to arrive at 7pm. I didn’t have dinner, but did enjoy a glass or three of champagne. Le Crazy Horse is not as famous of a cabaret show, but I met people at the Moulin Rouge who said they liked Le Crazy Horse better. And it is slightly cheaper and less busy. Whichever one you choose, I think you will have a night to remember and perhaps be performing the can-can in the streets of Paris on the way back to your hotel.
2. Climb the Eiffel Tower
A bit of an obvious one here, but it’s an iconic landmark of Paris and a must do on your Paris things to do list. What Paris would mean to visitors, both from France and abroad, if the Eiffel Tower was no longer there. It is hard to imagine! The queues here can be severe, so try to get there as early as you can or pre-book a skip-the-line tour. If your time and budget allows, try the Dinner Cruise, Eiffel Tower and Champagne at Moulin Rouge tour – my partner and I did and it was extremely romantic.
3. Eat snails
Sorry if you are a vegetarian, but we were fascinated by how eating snails could be considered a delicacy so we had to give it a try. Not delicious, but not gross either! They come covered in a garlic sauce and are pretty rubbery. Definitely worth a try if you have an inquisitive nature. Prizing them out of their shells is fun and you get special ‘tools’ to do so.
4. Make time for the Louvre
It’s a beast of a museum brimming with culture and history – a grand, historic, scene of so many great events in French history. And now, most recently, in May 2017, the place where the newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron, chose to make his first public speech to the people of France. Expect to find extreme queuing, so plan to spend at least half a day here, if not a whole one.
If natural navigation is not your forte, I recommend getting a programme. So you don’t get lost in the maze of hallways; and it will also give you great information on the artworks.
5. Relax in the Jardin des Tuileries
When you come out of the Louvre, you can go and sit in this delightful garden and look back across the Seine or along towards the Place de la Concorde, once the site of the infamous guillotine during the French Revolution. I found an amazing little stall here selling ice-creams that were just the tonic to re-energize after a day in the Louvre.
6. Unlock your iPhone
There is so much to see and do in Paris that I spent most of my time in places that had no wifi. I knew that using data abroad would be very expensive, but I wanted to have the option to surf the web to find good restaurants and information on Paris things to do. I did some research and found the best thing to do was unlock my iPhone, so that when I got to Paris I could purchase a cheap French pay-as-you-go sim card and just buy enough data to last me for the week I was there.
Here’s a guide that can walk you through the steps of how to unlock your iPhone.
7. Rummage through some Paris Boutiques
The Boulevard St-Germain on the Left Bank is a fascinating area to poke your nose into small shops selling second hand luxury items – see if you can find yourself a bargain. Many famous figures are associated with this part of Paris including celebrated writers like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald and the surrealist Salvador Dali. Why not stop for a coffee in one of the many cafes and imagine yourself making their acquaintance like in the Woody Allen movie, Midnight in Paris?
8. Sample some French cuisine (other than snails)
Start your day with a French breakfast. You can find a little place on almost every corner that will sell you fresh croissant and coffee. Yum yum! Eat a crepe. I like a splodge of jam in the middle surrounded by sugar and lemon juice. Don’t forget to wash it down with cider – a Paris tradition.
Eat at a Michelin starred restaurant – there are plenty of outstanding gastronomic eateries to be found that won’t break-the-bank.
9. Climb up to the Sacré-Coeur
Take a walk around Montmartre (you can arrive at the metro station Abbesses) and enjoy sauntering through the little streets and squares before climbing some of the most famous steps in Paris up to Sacré-Coeur. The church is delightful with great views over the city. The best thing is that you don’t have to pay for these views. And it’s a great spot for a pic-nic.
Paris things to do have so much to offer that I could easily write another 20 bullets on wonderful things to do there. But for me, these 9 were the experiences that left the biggest mark on me.
If you have been to Paris and have other experiences you would like to share; then I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.