Thursday, August 29, 2013

Want to go to Paris?

Nope, sorry, unfortunately this is not one of my fabulous giveaways. I wish! If I could, I'd send each and every one of you there on the trip of your life. By request, I'm writing a detailed post on going to Paris for a week. 

The Fiancé and I went there during the first week of July, and while everything is still fresh in my memory, I also thought it would be a good idea to write down all the information you might need to make your trip a little easier if you plan on visiting the City of Lights in the future.

When to go?

Most guidebooks and websites will tell you that the absolute worst time to visit Paris is during the summer. Personally, I like being in the middle of the action, and that's why I like going on vacation to a place during their busy season. The weather was lovely, even a bit chilly at times. My favorite part though, is that the sun only sets at 10pm, which gives you plenty of daylight hours to explore the city. (This makes a huge difference to how much you can do and see during your week in Paris).

But, if you're not in the mood to wait in line, almost everywhere, maybe go during the cooler months when Paris is usually tourist-free (okay, not totally, but you know what I mean). 

Here's more info about "When to go?"

Getting from the airport to the city

There are many options to get to and from Charles de Gualle Airport to the city. We opted to take the RoissyBus, which was only 10 euro per person, which took us straight to Opéra (9th arrondissement). There are other bus companies that can also take you to other parts of the city. 

I heard that the taxis are very expensive (about 60 euro) for about a 20-minute ride to Paris, but if you're not on a budget, be my guest. (Although, what are you thinking!? Use that money for shopping, silly!) Some hotels also offer a shuttle pick-up, so check with your hotel about that before leaving for Paris.

Then, of course, there are also the trains. But, I think that's only really convenient if you don't have a huge suitcase, as you'd probably have to change lines once or twice.

Here is all the info you might need about transportation to and from Charles de Gualle Airport.


The view from our hotel room 
The Fiancé and I are not hostel-style travelers, and prefer to stay in a hotel that has a good location, is clean and has good reviews online. Before choosing a hotel, I do the following; First, I make a list of all the things we want to do and see. Then, I pin all those places on a Google Map. That way, I can see in which area we want to do and see the most things. That's usually how I can figure out in which area to start looking for a hotel.

After that, I go to (best hotel prices, guaranteed!) and look for a hotel on there. We decided on Le Grand Hotel de Normandie because of it's location, in the 9th arrondissement(It is close to subway, and other train, stations and also walking distance from the shopping paradise which is Galleries Lafayette and Printemps, and other sightseeing attractions.) The price wasn't too bad and the hotel was wonderful! Clean, comfy and we had a great view of Saint-Lazare Station. Also, the staff was friendly and helpful.

Of course, you can also stay in a hostel, or rent an apartment, or stay in a luxury hotel if you are in a position to "make it rain". has a very big selection of hotels and there's something for each individual's budget.

Here is more information on "Where to stay?" in Paris.

Getting around

The wonderful thing about the city of Paris is that you can basically walk everywhere. The sidewalks are spacious, and the city really isn't that big. We easily walked from our hotel in Opéra to the Eiffel Tower in about 25 minutes. And Paris is such a beautiful city, that walking around on it's streets is an attraction on its own. Every street is like a post card snapshot and I wouldn't want to miss it.

We didn't use the subway once because, as I said, we just walked everywhere. We did take a taxi one night from the Eiffel Tower back to our hotel because we were too late to catch a train and we were very tired. The taxi fare wasn't even too steep. (Sorry, I don't remember how much we paid, but I remember being pleasantly surprised.)

We are usually big fans of those red City Sightseeing buses that you see in big tourist cities around the world. You can buy a 1 or 2-day pass, which means that you can hop on and off at any of their stops around the city. We did buy a 1-day pass, but were a little disappointed that it only had 9 stops, and you don't really get time to relax on the bus, as the stops are so close together. 

Bookings / Passes

So if you're planning on going to Paris during the high season, and you are planning on going up the Eiffel Tower or Notre-Dame and visiting museums, I would recommend that you book your tickets and passes online before going on your trip. 

We weren't really interested in going up the Eiffel Tower or going into the museums, so we avoided those clusterf*cks. But, if you do want to visit those places, you will most likely spend most of your day standing in line if you don't have a booking/pass already.

Buy your Paris Pass here.

Day Trips

Palace of Versailles
I would definitely recommend making a day trip to the Palace of Versailles if you have a free day. It was very simple to get there, and the grounds are absolutely breathtaking. To get there, go to Saint-Lazare station and, on the ticket machines, buy a ticket to Versailles Rive-Droite. The train station is very tourist-friendly, and if you have a problem, don't be hesitant to ask around. From Paris to Versailles is a short, scenic train ride, and when you get there, you can just follow the signs to walk to the Palace. (It took us about 15 minutes to walk from the station to the Palace.)

Here is more info on getting from Paris to Versailles.


The magnificent ceiling of Galeries Lafayette
Lawd have mercy! Paris is a well-known shoppers' playground and, being a self-professed shopaholic, I totally lost myself in those amazing shopping malls. Bless France and their 12% Tax Refund for non-European citizens. Yes, if you spend more than 175 euro in one store in one day, you are eligible for a 12% refund. (Here is a step-by-step of how to claim your refund; it's not that simple, but it's so worth it.)

We loved the Printemps and Galaries Lafayette shopping centers and it's also where we did most of our shopping. But, you CAN'T not go shopping on the famous 
Champs-Élysées when you're in Paris. Just remember to take your passport with you when you go shopping, and keep your receipts and ask for the tax refund form at the store if your purchase is more than 175 euro.

I also recommend visiting the flagship stores of Repetto (ballet shoes & flats) and Diptyque (candles, room spray, lotions and perfume).

Diptyque's flagship store on Boulevard Saint Germain
Food & Drink

France is a foodie's paradise and be prepared to eat a lot. I can't count how many croissants and crêpes I devoured, and basically every meal is served with a baguette. And the wine! We drank a bottle of wine, or two, every day during our week there. It's just really hard not to. I mean, when in ...France!? 

If you're planning on eating at a Michelin starred restaurant, be sure to make a booking way in advance. Also, try to avoid the overpriced restaurants close to famous sites. 

Don't forget to try some famous sweet treats like chocolates and macarons, from Ladurée, Paul or Pierre Hermé.

Here's more info and reviews on where to dine in Paris.

My personal list of must see/do in Paris

I know that everyone has different interests, but I'm going to include a list of all the places that we visited that I'd definitely recommend:

The Eiffel Tower - A must-visit when you're in Paris. Although, you don't have to make an effort to see it. The Eiffel Tower is visible from most area in Paris.

Sitting on the grass at the Champ de Mars, waiting for the Eiffel Tower to light up.
Champ de Mars - This is the park next to the Eiffel Tower. Take a picnic blanket and some wine and go and watch the sun set behind the Eiffel Tower. The lights of the Eiffel Tower will flicker every hour for 5 minutes after the sun sets.

Tuileries Palace & Gardens - These gardens are huge and beautiful! Take a walk through the park and you can even go on a ferris wheel there, which should provide you with an awesome view of the city.

Tuileries Gardens
The Louvre - Even if you're not planning on going inside, the Louvre is also a must-visit. The architecture of the building and the Pyramid is pretty amazing.

Louvre Pyramid
Love/Padlock Bridges - There are three bridges (Pont des ArtsPont de l'Archevêché and Pont de Solférino) that you can visit to put your padlock on. (You can buy a padlock there, or take your own). After you and your loved one put your padlock on the bridge, throw the key in the Seine.

 - The famous avenue leading up to the Arc de Triomphe, is lined with famous stores like Cartier, Louis Vuitton and many more. Even if you're not planning on dropping the big bucks, it's a nice walk.

The Arc de Triomphe 
Arc de Triomphe - This is also a must-visit. You can even go to the top for an awesome view of Champs-Élysées.

Moulin Rouge - The only thing I regret about our trip is not going to see a show at the famous Moulin Rouge. Again, if you want to see a show, you have to make a booking in advance.

Moulin Rouge at night
Montmartre - This was one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris. It is picture perfect and we loved walking around there. Take a stroll through the little streets and alleys leading up the mountain, it's really beautiful.

The stairs leading up to the basilica
Sacré-Cœur Basilica - This is the big white basilica at the very top of Montmartre. We walked up there and then sat on the large steps leading up to the basilica, with hundreds of other people. From here, you can see the entire city. We watched the sun set from there, and it was gorgeous.

Notre Dame - Another must-visit. Next time I'll go inside and to the top, but we didn't feel like it when we were there. The lines are really overwhelming, even though it did look like they were moving quite fast.

Notre-Dame Cathedral
Luxembourg Gardens - Another gorgeous park in the middle of the city. Here you'll see hundreds of Parisians relaxing with their friends after work, having a cig or enjoying a tasty treat from a nearby pâtisserie

Luxembourg Gardens
Père Lachaise Cemetery - The Fiancé literally dragged me there to go and see Jim Morrison's grave. The cemetery actually has a few famous people buried there, and you can get a map to the graves at the entrance to the cemetery. It is a little way out of the city center though, and I'm not a huge fan of cemeteries.

Jim Morrison's grave
Seine boat cruise - There are many companies along the Seine that offer boat cruises. They looked pretty cool, but we didn't have time to do it. If you want to see a lot of the city, but you don't want to walk around, this will be a very relaxing way to do it. I heard it's best to do it at night.

More stuff to do and see:

Grand Palais
Tour Montparnasse
Palais Garnier
Musée d'Orsay
Pompidou Center
The Panthéon
Hotel des Invalides
Shakespeare and Company bookshop
Le Marais

Obviously, there are MANY amazing places to see and many things to do. Everyone has different interests, so tweak your itinerary to fit your needs.


Smoking - Apparently, Parisians have yet to receive the memo that smoking isn't cool anymore, because EVERYONE still smokes. Everywhere. Anytime. I found it quite annoying and disgusting, but The Fiance enjoyed himself.

Locals - Please don't believe the stereotype that Parisians are rude and unfriendly. We didn't experience a single incident of rudeness. To the contrary, people were extremely friendly and helpful, and we were actually baffled by their "unrudeness". 

Speaking French - It will definitely get you in the locals' good books if you can speak, or just try to speak, French while you're there. A simple, enthusiastic bon jour will put a smile on everyone's face. But, don't fear! You don't have to be fluent, because everyone speaks perfect English, and don't mind speaking it at all. Luckily, The Fiance can speak decent French, so I just let him do his thing. The language really is so beautiful, I also couldn't help throwing in my, very limited, French whenever I had the chance.

Tipping - In the beginning we were quite unsure about how much to tip in Paris. I got many mixed messages from different sites online and people I asked. But, according to most people, you don't even have to tip, because all restaurants already include a service charge. It's totally fine to leave less than a euro tip for a basic meal. I'd say you can tip more if you had exceptional service, or if you're at a VERY nice restaurant. You can also give taxi drivers a small tip if you want.

Be aware - I read in the Lonely Planet that pickpockets are very active in the touristy areas of Paris. We've traveled a lot and are always very cautious. Never carry a backpack and always put your money/wallet inside a zipped pocket inside your purse or bag (which should also be able to close properly.) 

Also, outside Tuileries Gardens we were caught off guard when a group of teenage girls came up to us and wanted us to sign a form and donate a small amount of money to a charity. As we signed the form, they kind off surrounded us and when we gave them some money, they tried to grab more out of our wallets. Luckily, The Fiancé is tall and big and can be a little scary when he speaks loudly, so we got ourselves out of that situation. It was really unexpected, so just ignore strangers coming up to you to talk to you.

Hiring a professional photographer - The Fiancé and I did our engagement photo session in Paris. We found a photographer online. He came to pick us up at our hotel and drove us all over the city to different locations for our shoot. This was a little private tour of the city in itself and a wonderful experience. Why not get some professional photos taken while you're there, to have those beautiful scenes captured forever? I strongly recommend David Bacher Photography. David is a great guy who made us feel very comfortable and we couldn't be happier with the quality of our pictures.

Engagement photo session with David Bacher Photography
I have so many amazing memories of our trip to Paris, and I know you will have the same experience when you ever visit this wonderful city. If you have any further questions, or if I left something out, please don't hesitate to ask down here in the comments. Or feel free to send me and email

Bon voyage!


  1. i will definitely read this post all over again and again when i will plan my vacations to paris. theres more information on your blog liesl than everywhere else. thnx for that. after watching montecarlo (the movie) starring selena gomes where she goes to paris using a travel agency, and especially after my friends vacations there using again these kind of agencies, i will plan them by myself as you did. i think is cheaper, and you manage your time as you want needless to wait in lines to enter some place. not to talk about hotels or hostels they book. thnx a lot again...a lot of kisses. <3

    1. Thank you so much for your nice message. I put a lot of effort into this post, so I'm really glad you found it helpful and informative.

      Keep in touch and have a nice week! xxx

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