This time last week I was in a very sunny and very beautiful Paris *sobs thinking about being back to reality* and although it's not the first time I've been, it's a city that never fails to impress no matter how many times you see it. Lastminute.com kindly set Jess and I up with some Eurostar tickets so we got ourselves booked into a hotel the week after I finished my exams for a few days away to celebrate. Neither of us had travelled on the Eurostar before and as we live in the north east we had to make our way down to London and instead of paying £150 each (!!!) for the ridiculously expensive train, we decided to budget and go with the Megabus, a decision we both now heavily regret. I'll tell you all a bit more about that experience in a later post but let me tell you this; you don't know hell until you've been on an overnight Megabus.
Anyway even after the disaster with the Megabus on the way down led us to miss our Eurostar (oh yes you can guarantee we were panicking) the staff at St Pancras Station and the Eurostar staff could not have been better and they made sure we got on our merry way to Paris only 2 hours behind schedule - can we all just take a second to appreciate great customer service? When we finally arrived in the beautiful city, we started our plan and got out to see some of the most beautiful sights in Paris.
The Eiffel Tower
Obviously we started our trip with what is arguably Paris' most famous landmark - the Eiffel Tower. I'd never been up it before so we went right to the top to see the beautiful views of Paris that it's famous for. The views of the city are breathtaking and you can even treat yo'self to a glass of bubbly right at the top from the small bar that's up there! We booked our tickets beforehand so we got straight up as I know last time I visited Paris the queue for the tickets was about 2 hours long, which is quite a long time to spend waiting when you've only got a couple of days. The view is definitely worth it though and we were extremely lucky with the weather and ended up with a clear, bright and red hot day so the views were simply spectacular.
I like to get my hotel close to the Eiffel Tower as it's a really good base and is quite central but if you're not staying within walking distance, the nearest metro station is Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel on the RER C line or Bir Hakriem on Line 6. They'll take you literally right outside the tower and let's be honest, you can't miss it!
The Arc de Triomphe
Now although the view from the Eiffel Tower is spectacular, there is one view of Paris that I don't think you can beat and that's from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Sometimes I think that you can go a bit too high and miss out the beautiful architecture of buildings and the hustle of life and the Arc de Triomphe for me is at the perfect height to see just how amazing Paris really is. Plus, you get the Eiffel Tower in the view too! You do have to climb some rather old, steep and very windy steps to get the top (they are harder to climb than you think!) so definitely take some water with you if it's a hot day and do not think you'll be okay wearing even a small heel because you really won't be! The Arc de Triomphe itself is really beautiful too with intricate carvings and sculptures with some history behind it too so it is really great to see.
This is something that's really great if you're on a budget because it doesn't cost a lot anyway but if you're under 25 and an EU resident, it's completely free so remember to take some ID with you!
The Arc de Triomphe is really easy to get to by Metro as so many lines go to its nearest tube station which is Charles de Gaulle Etoile. You can get on the RER A, Line 2, Line 6 or Line 1 so it's really accessible and when you come out of the station it is right in front of you.
Paris is so good for shopping and although it's full of high-end shops like Chanel and Louis Vuitton that mere mortals like us can only dream of shopping in, it has some really great stores like ZARA and Forever 21 too. We had a little meander down the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysees and of course had to stop at the mothership of city shopping - Sephora. I love going in shops you can't get at home and stocking up on things I wouldn't be able to get without paying a ridiculous amount of shipping so Sephora was a must. I picked up quite a few things and I might do a YouTube haul video so keep a look out for that but the shopping in Paris is really great, especially if you're having a bit of a girly trip like we were!
The Louvre is a must see for everyone, whether you like art or not. Not only is it home to one of the most famous paintings in the world (do I even need to utter the words "Mona Lisa"?) but as you can see by the photos, the design, the pieces, the paintings, the sculptures and everything about it is just wow. I love beautiful art work on ceilings (which was why I loved the Vatican so much!) and words can't describe the feeling when you look up and see something like that, especially when you're from the countryside and haven't had the possibility of seeing such talent regularly. The Louvre doesn't just boast artwork either but is home to rooms full of history from the Egyptians, Greeks, French and more so it's got it all for history lovers too!
What's more, like the Arc de Triomphe, entry for under 25s who are EU residents is completely free but you must take ID!
There a few metro stops close to the Louvre. Louvre Rivoli is on Line 1 and Palais Royal Musee de Louvre is on Line 1 or Line 7. Chatelet is also within walking distance and has absolutely loads of lines running through it so if you're stuck or don't want to do a lot of line changes that's an option too.
This is not something for the faint hearted. All kinds of mysterious things lie under the streets of Paris, some of which are the winding tunnels that make up the Catacombs. The Catacombs originated with quarries and old caves and are now lined with the remains of over 6 million people, creating eerie tunnels that stretch for hundreds of miles underneath the city. Of course you can only visit certain areas of the Catacombs (imagine getting lost in there!) but going down was still one of the eeriest things I've ever experienced. The tunnels seem to stretch on forever and it is cold down there, with skulls and bones everywhere - if you are squeamish this is definitely not for you but it is so interesting, telling the story of how the catacombs came to be.
The closest Metro Station to the entrance to the Catacombs is Denfert Rochereau on line 6, Line 4 or the RER B and from there it's a short walk to the actual entrance which is quite hard to spot as it's just a small door so keep your eyes peeled for it!
Now I'm not religious but the beautiful gothic architecture of many religious sites never fails to amaze me and Notre Dame is definitely one of those. The stained glass windows, the carvings, the candles, the detailing...it's all just beautiful. It's also free to get inside the main foyer but you do have to pay a small fee to see some of the artefacts and climb to the top. Notre Dame is one of those buildings you've seen a lot on TV, in films and on photos but it's also one of those buildings that you don't truly appreciate its majesty until you see it for real.
The closest Metro station to Notre Dame is St Michael Notre Dame on the RER C or RER B. You can also get off at Cite on line 4 if that's easier for you but St Michael Notre Dame comes out literally in front of the Cathedral.
Paris is notoriously expensive and when it comes to food the restaurants are no different. There are some cheap restaurants but many of them are much more expensive than what you'd normally pay, especially if you're like me and you aren't from a city. Jess and I did treat ourselves though and went to the super swanky Angelina's which is situated a couple of minutes walk from the Louvre and let me tell you it was beautiful. The interior is exactly what you'd expect from a posh Parisian restaurant and although it pained me to pay over €20 for a bagel (!!!!) it was lovely, with crispy french fries, avocado and boiled egg. We also tried their famous hot chocolate and I swear it was like drinking melted chocolate - if you are a choccie lover you must try it!
We did splash out that time but I would never spend that much on food throughout the trip and Paris is lined with great little stalls that serve food throughout the day, especially crepes with Nutella and banana *droooools*. I love street food, especially when it's boiling hot like it was throughout our trip!
There is one thing though that you cannot get away from paying a lot for and that is soft drinks. Supermarkets are reasonably cheap for large bottles of water etc. but when it comes to restaurants, you could end up paying as much for three cokes as you do for your main meal. I ordered an English breakfast tea in one of the restaurants we went to for breakfast and it cost €6. Yup €6 for a teabag and some hot water! So yeah, that's definitely something to bear in mind when you're planning your budget for your trip!
Well that's my easy guide to Paris! What other things are a must in the city?
Huge thanks to LastMinute for our Eurostar tickets!