Best time to visit Paris:
Anytime from April through October would be a good time to visit Paris. However, the summer months of June to August would be jam-packed with tourists, and would be quite hot. The ideal time would therefore be April and May (Spring) or September and October (Fall).
Travel to Paris:
A return air ticket from Chennai, India to Paris in the month of April will cost you roughly around Rs. 30,000 to Rs. 35,000 if you book them much earlier. Oman Airways offers cheap tickets to Paris.
Here is a sample screenshot of a booking page for a ticket to Paris from the 10th of April till the 17th of April.
You can get an entire apartment to stay from Rs. 3000 to Rs. 3500 per night if you book via Airbnb.
Alternatively, you can also rent a private room for much lower rates (~Rs. 2500)
Places to visit:
Montmartre, Paris – The Montmartre disctrict of Paris is a beautiful artistic district in Paris where one can experience the ‘Old’ authentic charm of Paris. Behind the Sacre Coeur Basilica at Montmartre, you can take a glimpse of several artists at work and perhaps get a portrait of yourself done, for a fee. You can also see several street musicians in action and grab a cup of hot chocolates in one of the quaint side walk cafes in this district.
Moulin Rouge – The famous cabaret in Paris. The name says it all. Rose to fame by the famous movie with the same name, this is one of the top attractions in Paris. Make sure you stand on the vent that continuously blows a strong waft of air upwards and a click a picture with the distinctive Red Moulin Rouge at the backdrop. Personally, I chose not to go in and would advice the same. However, if you do want a peek, make sure you make reservations or be prepared to wait in a long queue.
Notre Dame – This very famous cathedral in Paris is a must see for all those who have read/watched The Hunchback of Notre Dame by the French author Victor Hugo. Make sure you get a glimpse of all the sides of this cathedral and the inside as well for it’s well known stained glasses.
Eiffel Tower – Need I say more? In my opinion, there is no need to wait for hours (there was absolutely no queue in November) in a long queue and pay a hefty sum to climb the Eiffel tower. One – you can get beautiful views of the city for free by climbing the hill on which Sacre Coeur is situated. Two – it’s much more beautiful to see the Eiffel tower from outside it rather than from the top of it.
Louvre – The very famous museum that houses some of the most finest pieces of European Art. The very famous Mona Lisa is on display at the Louvre. Again, in my opinion, owing to the very, I repeat, very long queues and the expensive entrance tickets, it’s not worth your time unless you are a connoisseur of the arts, Instead, you can head to Musee Rodin – A museum dedicated to the French sculptor Rodin – or one of the other smaller less touristy museums. You can however, enjoy the Louvre from outside, like I did.
Avenue des Champs Elysees – It is a ~2 km long avenue in Paris and is one of the most chic avenues in the world that houses luxury shops, theatres, posh restaurants and cafes. I personally, did not spend much time here. In my opinion, a quick Hello and Goodbye should do.
Place de la Bastille – A memorial erected to commemorate the storming of the prison that started the French Revolution – a must visit for the history geeks.
Arc de Triomph – Built by Napolean to commemorate his victories. Situated at the western end of Champs Elysees, it is one of the largest victory Arcs in the world. I haven’t been to the top of the Arc, but like I said before, I’m not sure if the view is worth the cost and the time. You can get wonderful views of the city from other spots in Paris for free!
Les Invalides – A complex of several buildings that contains museums and monuments. It houses the tomb of Napolean.
Palace of Versailles – Signing of treaty of Versailles after the end of World War 1 happened at this palace. It is a posh suburb of Paris situated around 20 kms from the city and can be easily accessed by train. You can board the RER C Metro Line and get down at the Versailles Rive Gauche station and walk to the Palace (a 10 minute walk).
Pont Neuf (Oldest bridge in Paris)
Café de Flore and Les deux magots – Located right next to each other, the two cafes were the hangout spots of Ernst Hemmingway, Scott Fitzgerald, etc. Be warned, the food and drinks are quite expensive.
Sainte-Chapelle – Supposedly, more beautiful than Notre Dame. The stained glass interiors are a must see.
Maison du Victor Hugo – This is where the author of The Hunch Back of Notre Dame, Les Miserables, etc – Victor Hugo lived. It is now converted to a small museum dedicated to the writer.
Shakespeare and company – A very famos book store that was once the visiting place of authors like Ernst Hemmingway, James Joyce, etc.
Maison de Nicolas Flamel (51 rue de Montmorency) – The house of the famous Alchemist – Nicolas Flamel – a must see for the Harry Potter fans and the fans of ‘The Alchemist’.
Trocadero park/square – For the best view of Eiffel Tower. You can walk down to Eiffel Tower from here. On the way, you can see some wonderful Belle Epoque Parisian Carousals worth stopping by and visiting.
Pont des Arts – Lovelock bridge – Very famous bridge in Paris where tourists attach padlocks (love locks) with their name written/engraved on the locks and throw the keys in to the river. Quite recently, the locks were removed from the bridge after one of the railings of the bridge collapsed due to the weight of the locks. This however did not stop the tourists. They moved on to another bridge to attach their locks – Not sure if this is the right thing to do though. Definitely spoils the beauty of the place.
Pont de Bir-Hakeim – For another good view of the Eiffel Tower
Café des deux moulins – This cafe featured in the famous french movie Amelie.
Musee Rodin – A museum dedicated to the works of the French Sculptor – Rodin. Must see are – ‘The Thinker’ and ‘Gates of Hell’ (inspired by Dante’s Inferno). We only visited the garden outside the Musee. Luckily, both these sculptures are situated in the garden. The fee to enter the garden is quite less – hardly 4 EUR.
The best way to travel around Paris is to get the week long Navigo Decouverte Smart card for all 5 zones. It costs around 25 EUR and you can use the card for – Bus, Metros, RER, Airport Lines, Disneyland, Palace of Versailles (I’m not very sure of this but you can also use the card to go to Provins listed under Day trips). It’s better to get this rather than buy individual tickets because there will be a lot of hopping on and off trains and buses to reach the above tourist spots.
Things to do:
Walk around Montmartre, Paris and take in the bohemian feel of the place.
Picnic by the river Seine at Quai de la Tournelle – Pack some Baguettes, Fromage (Cheese), Confiture (Jam) and juice, sit down by the river, and read a book – what a feeling!
Walk along the banks of Seine
Ride a Carousal near the Eiffel Tower
Visit Monoprix – French Department stores
Day Trips from Paris:
Ghent, Belgium – Roughly two hours and a half from Paris. You can take the SNCF/Thalys trains from Paris to Brussels and then from Brussels to Ghent. Book your train tickets much ahead to get a good discount. I used www.goeuro.com to book my ticket from Paris to Ghent. We boarded the train at Gare du Nord, Paris at around 10:30 in the morning and reached Ghent at around 1 PM. We had to switch trains at Lille. While returning, we took a train at 5 PM to Brussels and then from Brussels, we reached Gare du Nord by night. There is no direct train from Paris to Ghent. You will have to switch over. However, the entire trip from Paris to Ghent can be booked online. Click here to read more about Ghent.
Brugges, Belgium – Situated very close to Ghent (around 30 to 40 minutes by bus/train). You can either cover Ghent and Brugges on the same day or stay over at Ghent for the night, finish Brugges and return to Paris from Brugges. You can book your tickets online through www.goeuro.com.
Giverny – Visit the Monet’s garden at Giverny. This is where the French painter Monet lived and worked. It is located roughly 45 minutes away from the city. Take a train to Vernon from the station Gare Saint Lazare in Paris. Once you arrive at Vernon, take a bus to Giverny (a 20 minute ride). You will have to buy a separate ticket for this bus ride. At Giverny, you can see the gardens that inspired Monet’s famous paintings and also his personal items are on display along with his paintings. (Closed from November to March)
Provins – A quaint medieval city located about an hour and a half away from the city. You can a board an SNCF train from Gare de l’Est in Paris to Provins.
Mont Saint Michel – A magnificent towering abbey located on a island. You can reach here by taking a SNCF train to Dol de Bretagne from Gare Montparnasse and then the SNCF’s bus to the island. The entire journey can be booked together at the Grand Lignes ticket counter. The journey time to Dol de Bretagne is three hours and a half. A bust waits for the train’s arrival. It acts as a shuttle between the station and the island. Make sure you don’t miss the train or the bus while going and while returning. If you miss either one of them, you’re likely to miss the other because the train and the bus are coordinated such that the bus leaves within 10 minutes after the train arrives and vice versa.
Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurants to eat in:
Gentle Gourmet Café (Book reservations in Advance) – Authentic Vegan French cuisine
Biosphere café – For some eggless crepes
Hank Vegan burger
Berthillon – For ice creams and sorbets (ile saint louis)
Le Potager du Marais – Cremebrulee, Bundt
Paul’s – Not vegan/vegetarian but a very famous chain of cafe.
Food to try:
Bourguignon (Vegan version available at Gentle Gourmet Cafe – although the menu changes everyday)
Macaroons – Laduree (Contains egg)
Hot chocolate – Egg free
Crepes – (Contains egg)
Croissants – usually egg free
Amuse Bouche – (Contains egg)
Baguette and Fromage – from Eric Kayser – Egg free
Crembrulee – (Contains egg)
The Napolean – pastry crème layered between puff pasty sheets – (Contains egg)
Souffle – (Contains egg)
L’éclair – (Contains egg)
Pain au chocolat – Angelina Patisserie – Egg free
Brioche – (Contains egg)
Kouign Amann – Round crusty cake made with bread dough containing layers of butter and sugar folded in – Laduree/Maison Georges Larnicol – Egg free
Kouglof – Vandermeersch Bakery (Bundt cake). – (Contains egg)
Souvenirs to get:
A French book – Maybe ‘The little prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or ‘Sans Famille’ by Hector Malot.
Caramels – Jacques Genin Caramels, Patrick Roger Caramels or Sebastien Gaudard
Angelina hot chocolate powder
A Parisian painting
French Bath products and Perfume
French – English is rarely spoken except by a handful at the tourist spots. So it’s best you install the offline version of French in your google translate app before you head to Paris!
Budget for one for a stay of 8 days & 7 nights:
Air ticket: Rs. 32,000
Accommodation: Rs. 2500*7 (If you take a private room)
Food & Beverages: Rs. 15,000
Miscellaneous: Rs. 15,000
Total: ~Rs. 80,000 for one person for an amazing holiday in Paris (This does not include the day trips. However, the day trips won’t cost you much if you use public transport. It can be covered under miscellaneous). I know Rs. 80,000 does sound like a lot but Paris is on the expensive side and you can easily cover at least 4 European cities in a span of 8 days.
A Four Day Itinerary for First Time Visitors –