I also spent ample time in Paris while living in France, because why not? It's a vibrant, incredible city with so much to do. Besides, I could take the TGV (high- speed train) and get from Aix-en-Provence (where I was living) to Paris in 3 hours.
Some people have this vision that Paris is this beautiful, luxurious city. And it can be. Paris is also smelly, dirty and has a lot of crime. Just like any other city. Just remember, Paris is incredibly OLD and has been around for longer than most other cities.
Here are my recommendations for things to do there that I enjoyed (some touristy and some not)
- The Louvre. Go see the Mona Lisa even though it's much smaller than you imagined- you have to see it for yourself. I once read somewhere that there is so much to see there that if you spent 30 seconds looking at each painting/sculpture you will have spent 30 days in the Louvre. It's insane.
- Musee de L'Orangerie. This is a super small museum with Monet's beautiful wall-length paintings. It's not far from the Louvre so make sure you stop there!
- Musee D'Orsay. This is my favorite museum! It's an old train station that has been converted into an Impressionist Museum. It' so beautiful.
- Angelina's. It's a pretty ritzy restaurant that's perfect for brunch. Their hot chocolate (chocolat chaud) is to die for- it's made from melted chocolate- as are their pastries.
- Walk down the Champs Elysees and go into the store.
- Stop at Laduree for Macarons and/or pastries while on the Champs-Elysees. I promise you won't regret it.
- Eiffel Tower. If you haven't done it before, you have to do it once in your life.
- Go see the Eiffel Tower at night because they have a light display.
- It's never a bad idea to grab cheese and a baguette and head to a park or the grass by the Eiffel Tower.
- Visit the Arc de Triomphe. This is, in my opinion, one of the best views in the city. Some believe the view from the Eiffel Tour is, but you have the view of the Eiffel Tower in your view of the Arc de Triomphe. The stairs up to the top of the arch will make your legs feel like jelly, but it's worth it.
- Walk around Montmartre (my favorite neighborhood in Paris). It's where a lot of the famous artists/writers/poets lived centuries ago. It's so cute.
- Visit Sacre Coeur and Notre Dame. Both are amazing and historic churches. I've never been on the tour of Notre Dame, but I've heard it's really cool!
- Visit the Catacombs. It was surprisingly creepy but so interesting. There are the bones of about 6 million people neatly stacked in the walls, some in patterns.
- Check out the Moulin Rouge (yes, like the movie :) ). I've never seen a show there, but will someday.
- Find crepes somewhere. Anywhere.
- Look for outdoor markets. They have them often and it's a great way to experience the Parisian culture. I happened upon an Oyster and Champagne market one time and had some of the best food of my life.
- Take a picture at the love wall- a wall with "I Love You" listed in almost every language.
- The Centre Pompidou was interesting, but I'm personally not a big fan of modern art.
- If you're a falafel fan, try L'As du Falafel!
- Go to any of the cafes or bars!
- Go to Cafe Procope- the first Cafe in existence. If I remember correctly from a French History course I took in college, many of the great French Philosophers frequented the cafe.
- Get lost on the metro. It's okay-everyone does. Everyone also misses a stop at least once.
Please remember to respect the French culture when you're there. Learning a couple French words can get you far. Parisians are generally nice and helpful. I once had a Parisian gentleman come up to me to offer help figuring out which lines to take on the metro when I was standing in front of the map, which can be incredibly difficult to figure out.
You'll find stuff to do just by walking around. There is ALWAYS something going on. HAVE FUN, et PROFITEZ BIEN!