© Katie McCabe | Arc de Triomphe | Hotel Splendid Etoile | Paris | France

Paris: 11 Things Not To Miss in the City of Lights

by Katie McCabe  |  @awelltraveledpair  |  May  1st, 2016

I took six years of French in school. For whatever reason, I always had this attraction to anything French - the language, the cuisine, and of course, Paris. When I started planning my first trip overseas, I just knew that Paris had to be my first stop. It was a day that I had dreamt of since I was a little girl - walking along the Champs-Élysées, eating way too many croissants, seeing the Eiffel Tower, and, of course, trying to sound fluent in a language that I love so much. I did all those things during my visit to the magical City of Lights, and then some. I fell hard for Paris. It's an enchanting city. It awakens the soul. If you haven't been, you must go. And here are eleven things you mustn't miss.

Eiffel Tower

It's no surprise that the Eiffel Tower is the most famous sight in Paris - it is absolutely stunning! With over seven million visitors each year, the tower remains the number one attraction in all of Europe. The only thing better than catching a glimpse of this beauty during the daytime, is seeing it sparkle at night. Every evening, starting at sundown, the tower lights up and transforms into a glowing masterpiece. The light show is performed at the top of the hour, every hour, for about five minutes. The last show, and the longest, is at 1am, and it lasts for ten minutes. You can also take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower for €17, where you can soak up the incredible views of the bustling city below. And if you're in the mood for a five star meal with lots of romance and more amazing views, make reservations at the famous Jules Verne Restaurant.

© Katie McCabe | Eiffel Tower | Paris | France

Louvre

Over 650,000 square feet and containing more than 380,000 pieces of art, the Louvre is one of the most impressive museums in the world. Known for housing famous creations such as the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, it would take days to see everything this place has to offer. No matter if you have one hour or one week, be sure not to miss this magnificent museum. 

Note: Avoid long lines and purchase your tickets on the official website.

© Katie McCabe | Louvre | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Louvre | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | John T. Woods | Louvre | Paris | France

Notre Dame Cathedral

Not only is Notre Dame one of the most beautiful cathedrals in the world, but the views from the top are absolutely breathtaking. After climbing 387 steps up a tight spiral staircase, visitors are rewarded with sweeping views across the city. It is here that you can get an up-close look at the famous gargoyles intensely watching over the cathedral, and enjoy one of the most unique spots in all of Paris.

Note: Due to a devastating fire in 2019, Notre Dame will be closed to the public until 2024.

© Katie McCabe | Notre Dame | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Notre Dame | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Notre Dame | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Notre Dame | Paris | France

Champs Elysées

The Champs-Élysées is a stunning tree-lined avenue that links the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Along this beautiful stretch of street you'll find high end shopping, local boutiques, and a variety of cafes and restaurants. A trip to Paris would not be complete without a stroll along the world renowned Champs-Élysées.

© Katie McCabe | Champs Elysees | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Champs Elysees | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Champs Elysees | Paris | France

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is a gorgeous arch-shaped monument that sits at the beginning of Avenue Champs-Élysées. Built as a tribute to those who fought and died in the French Revolution, the arch also has the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier buried underneath it.

© Katie McCabe | Arc de Triomphe | Paris | France

There definitely isn't a shortage of tasty pastry shops in Paris. Cookies, cakes, pies, and numerous sweet treats are advertised all around town. One of my favorites spots is Ladurée on Avenue Champs-Élysées. Their delicious homemade macarons are absolutely delectable. For those of you who don't know what a macaron is, it is two circular meringue-based confections that sandwich sweet sugary icing. With a variety of flavors, such as salted caramel, chocolate, pistachio, and orange blossom, there is something to satisfy everyone's taste buds.

© Katie McCabe | Laduree | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Laduree | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Laduree | Paris | France

Sitting beautifully along the Left Bank of the River Seine, the Musée d'Orsay is often times overshadowed by its famous neighboring museum, the Louvre. But don't miss out on this incredible sight. Housing the largest collection of impressionist art in the world, the Musee d'Orsay has numerous masterpieces by artists such as Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, and Gauguin (just to name a handful).

© Katie McCabe | Musee d'Orsay | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Musee d'Orsay | Paris | France

Walk in the footsteps of artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Pablo Picasso in the artsy neighborhood known as Montmartre. This hilltop area consists of winding cobblestone streets, quaint cafes, the famous Moulin Rouge, and the captivating Sacré-Cœur Basilica. My favorite thing about Montmartre is the authentic feeling it gives off. Strolling around this magical part of town will have you feeling as if you've been transported back in time. Enjoy raw Paris at its best.

© Katie McCabe | Montmartre | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Le Consulat | Montmartre | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Moulin Rouge | Montmartre | Paris | France

One of my absolute favorite things I did in Paris was the Batobus cruise along the River Seine. This hop-on-hop-off water bus cruises along the river, while stopping at the most popular tourist sights. I hopped on at the Eiffel Tower and cruised all the way to the Champs-Élysées, while seeing numerous sights in between. It is a fun and unique way to explore Paris, and it should not be missed. Check out the official website for ticket prices and hours of operation. 

© Katie McCabe | River Seine | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | River Seine | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | River Seine | Paris | France

For all you Disney lovers, Disneyland Paris is a must-do! Located about twenty miles from the center of Paris, an easy train ride will take you right to one of the happiest places on Earth. Check out their official website for prices, hours, and travel suggestions.

© Katie McCabe | Disneyland | Paris | France
© Katie McCabe | Disneyland | Paris | France

It's no question that Versailles is one of the most exquisite places in France. The palace and grounds are truly stunning and will definitely take a whole day (or two) to explore. I enjoyed my time there so much that I wrote a separate article about it. Check it out for travel tips and recommendations.

© Katie McCabe | Versailles | France
© Katie McCabe | Versailles | France

Where to stay: When it comes to choosing where to stay in Paris, there are so many great options. It depends on what side of town you want to be in, and what you want to see. My favorite area to stay is the 4th arrondissement. I feel like its centrally located, and close to everything I love most about Paris. For first time travelers, I recommend any of the 1st through 8th arrondissements, as they are close to all the popular tourist attractions. Before booking a room, think about which area best suits your needs and desires.

© Katie McCabe | Paris Map | France

Weather:  My two favorite months to visit Paris are April and October.

The spring months (March - May) are lovely. Although they can be chilly and rainy, the flowers are starting to bloom, the daytime hours are getting longer, and the heavy crowds have not arrived yet. Daytime highs sit around a comfortable 55° to 70°F, and rain showers can be frequent, so be sure to pack an umbrella if you visit during this time of year.

 

The fall (September - November) is another great time of year in Paris. In early fall, temperatures are still warm, and the crowds are much lower than the summer months. By the end of fall, the air is crisp, and the crowds are gone. October is personally my favorite month to visit Paris.

 

The winter months (December - February) are cold, wet, and often times windy. The crowds are very light, and if you don't mind colder weather, and possibly snow, this can be a lovely time to experience Paris. Be sure to pack warm clothing as temperatures can dip down into the 30's.

 

The summer (June - August) is warm, muggy, and crowded. Considered the 'peak season', the summer months are definitely the busiest months, attracting millions of tourists from all over the world. Daytime highs are around 80° to 90°F, the air is humid, and the occasional thunderstorm can occur.