You could say I’m somewhat obsessed with Paris (and all things French in general). Since the first time I went on a 5-day solo trip when I was in my early 20s, it was love at first sight. I can’t get enough of the world famous museums, the food (cheese and wine in particular), stunning monuments, boutiques and charming parks. You could probably spend a whole year in Paris and not see everything. Although, I’d happily live there for a year and try.
After visiting Paris 7 or 8 times, I’m finally sharing some of my favorite restaurants, shops and things to do in the City of Lights. Of course, I’ve also included logistics like the best way to get around the city, where to stay and more travel tips.
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How to get to Paris
There are two main airports in Paris. Charles de Gaulle is massive and serves large airlines from all over the world. Orly is a smaller airport where more budget European airlines operate. Use a search engine like Skyscanner to see which one is best for you. Both airports are easily accessible from the city center using public transportation or a private car. I take the RER to get to central Paris when I’m by myself, but it’s worth taking an Uber or taxi from the airport if you are with someone else.
Transportation Around Paris
Paris is massive and you can count on getting your steps in. My mom and I once walked from Montmartre to the Eiffel Tower, strategically making stops along the 4 mile trek. I also like to take the bus over the metro simply because you can get a mini driving tour in transit. The metro is faster during rush hour though when traffic is hectic. A pack of 10 single tickets for the bus or metro is about €15 and can be purchased at tobacco shops or metro stations.
Where to Stay in Paris
With ultra cool hotels in Amsterdam and London, the Hoxton opened their Paris location in 2017. At the very least, you need to visit their bar and take a seat on that velvet couch.
The recent renovation at Hotel des Grands Boulevards perfectly marries Marie Antoinette vibes and modern design with canopy beds, velvet, rich colors and light-filled bathrooms.
My mom and I chose Hôtel Marais Paris Caron de Beaumarchais for its old world French style and excellent location for one of our trips. It was nice to know we didn’t have to walk too far after a few drinks out in Le Marais.
Apartment rentals are always a great way to experience a city like a local. You might have seen a photo of this apartment with a view of the Eiffel Tower from the bathtub (made famous by Vanessa of Messy Nessy Chic). For something a little larger, how beautiful is this one in Place Dauphine?
Are you a young, solo female traveler on a budget who just read through that whole section thinking, “That’s not quite in my price range”? On my first trip to Paris right out of grad school, I rented a room for $40 a night. If you want to go the hostel route, be sure to get an all female dorm or stretch your budget to stay in a private. If you’re uncomfortable where you are sleeping, showering and storing your belongings, it can really affect your trip.
Where to Eat and Drink
Buvette is a charming little cafe near Pigalle. Not only does this place make fresh breakfast (my aunt said it was the best waffle she’s ever had), but it’s also a cool spot to get a drink in the evening.
Café Méricourt makes the best shakshuka along with other fresh brunch fare.
I get the omelette at St. Regis Cafe on Île Saint-Louis every time I go to Paris.
Stop by Miznon in Le Marais if only to have the roasted cauliflower.
Le Progres and Cafe Charlot are two classic Parisian restaurants within a block or two of each other. Parisians will sit, smoke and chat for hours on outdoor terraces. I love people watching from these two places in particular. Les Philosophes has a similar high quality people watching scene and excellent bistro favorites.
I’ve only been to Ober Mama for a cocktail, but their whole menu looks amazing. Stop by their sister restaurant Pink Mama for an absolutely stunning interior.
I will never forget the crepe I had at Crêperie Little Breizh. I guess it was technically a galette (I am gluten free). Breizh Café is also a high quality creperie.
On the top floor of BHV, you’ll find Le Perchoir Marais. I love this place for a drink and a view of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
Emily of the Glittering Unknown brought me to the Little Red Door. Go for a fancy cocktail in a trendy setting.
Pierre Hermé and Ladurée for macarons. Aux Merveilleux de Fred makes the most delicious merveilleux. It’s a creamy meringue treat that really can’t be missed.
Boot Café, Ob-la-di, Fragments and Café Kitsuné are all lovely shops to try for your morning cup of coffee.
Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots are both classic Parisian cafes that were frequented by famous intellectuals and literary creatives like Ernest Hemingway and Picasso. I also like to stop for a glass of rosé at Le Bonaparte around the corner. You’re sure to see your fair share of that impossibly chic French style walking by any of these spots.
Read Cafes You Can’t Miss in Paris for more coffee shops and historic cafes.
Have allergies or dietary restrictions? Read my tips and restaurant recommendations in my post on eating gluten free in Paris.
Things to do in Paris
See Attractions and Gardens
Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, Notre Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe are classic Parisian attractions that shouldn’t be missed for any first time visitor. Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg are the more famous large gardens in Paris. On a sunny day, the parks fill with locals catching up with friends and taking a rest.
I also really love the smaller Place de Vosges and Jardin du Palais Royal. Place Dauphine is a charming square near the Pont Neuf and is a must see for anyone who ever bawled their way through the movie Me Before You.
To Louvre, or not to Louvre, that is the question. It all boils down to how important it is to you. For most people, going to Paris is a once in a lifetime trip. If seeing the Mona Lisa is on your life’s bucket list, go for it. I went to the Louvre on my first trip to Paris and it is really impressive, but I can’t say it’s a place I need to go again. Personally, Musée d’Orsay is my favorite museum. The Rodin Museum is also famous for being smaller and less of a zoo than the Louvre. One day, I’ll see Claude Monet’s Water Lilies at Musée de l’Orangerie.
Le Marais is a great area for boutique shops. I always pop into Merci for home items, & Other Stories for clothing and Mariage Frères for tea. BHV, Printemps, and Le Bon Marché are the premier department stores. The interior of Galeries Lafayette is always beautiful, but definitely swing by if you’re visiting for the holidays and get a peek at their famous Christmas tree.
City Pharmacy for the best deals on French cosmetics. Be sure to read my post on the best French skincare before you venture out on this endeavor.
Shakespeare and Co. is a must stop for all book lovers.
Sézane is the ultimate cool girl brand and a pioneer in online French fashion. Their stunning shop is located in the 2nd arrondissement and it’s a stop high on the to do list for any Francophile wanting to take home a special piece. They also offer free shipping and returns.
If you’re into cooking, you’ll want to head to E.Dehillerin. There’s every cooking accoutrement you could every think of in that store, including a duck press that Anthony Bourdain bought on the No Reservations Paris episode.
To call La Grande Epicerie de Paris just a grocery store would be an understatement. Stop here for a true culinary shopping experience. Of course, Paris is also known for its outdoor markets selling fresh produce, cheese and spices.
After a few trips to Paris, I eventually made it up to the famous flea markets. The stalls and shops are filled with pricey antique treasures and fun finds. While I don’t think this is a “must do” for the first time visitor, you should definitely go to the markets if you’re a design aficionado or want a very special piece of furniture.
Is it safe to go to Paris solo?
Paris is a great city for the solo female traveler. It was one of the first places I visited on my own. I was living in England doing an internship (so in a way I was on one big three month solo trip), but it was still so special. I’ve been back by myself twice since, and I’d highly recommend a solo trip to Paris to anyone. I’ve always felt safe there, but as always in a large city anywhere in the world, definitely be aware of your surroundings and belongings.
Before You Go
When I’m researching a place before a trip, I try to read several blogs and follow Instagrammers that live in that city. For more inspiration and helpful posts from other bloggers, see my Pinterest board on Paris. If you prefer a guide book, take a look at Don’t be a Tourist in Paris and The New Paris.
When is the best time to visit Paris?
From the spring blossoms to a summer picnic by the Seine to Christmas decorations, there’s something to love about each season in Paris. Personally, I love Paris in the fall (here’s a whole post on Paris in the fall to prove it). The temperature is still comfortable and some lovely fall colors are sprinkled throughout the city. The fall colors get some competition though when it comes to the cherry blossoms! I can’t quite decide if I like to drink rosé by the river or cozy up in a bistro. I really love Paris every moment of the year, as the song goes.
It’s typical to experience some closures in August as a lot of Parisians go on holiday. I went in late August once and did feel like the streets were noticeable more empty, but hotel prices dipped as well.
More Paris Travel Tips
I always like to read reviews and see photos of a place before I eat there. Sometimes it takes the fun out of just going with the flow and picking a spot at random as you walk by, but your trip (and life in general) is too short to have crappy meals and it’s worth it to do your research.
If the restaurant’s website doesn’t have a menu, I’ll try to see a photo of one on Google or TripAdvisor. You can get a good idea of the kind of food available and price point. While I don’t plan every minute or meal location, I like to have a few options in different parts of town saved in my Google Maps.
Undoubtedly, Paris is one of the most romantic cities and it’s wonderful to spend time with a loved one there. However, it can also be a fun family adventure or a solo trip location. There is really something for every type of traveler.
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