10 must-see things to discover Paris
Hi everyone, I'm Michela, Giulia's sister - as many of you will already know, and today I'm going to tell you about 10 things not to miss to discover Paris at its best!
You may be wondering why you are reading an article written by me this time. Well, as a present for Giulia's 30th birthday - her amazingly generous sister Michela (i.e. me myself and I), with the help of mum and dad, gifted her a trip to Paris. Although France in general has never excited us, Paris is one of those things that you have to see at least once in a lifetime. So, last March, my sister and I spent a long weekend in the amour capital.
First a wonderful anecdote though.
Picture the scene: my sister and I, at one o'clock in the morning outside a random door, of a random Airbnb, in a random building, in a random neighbourhood of Paris. We ring the doorbell for an hour straight. Nobody opens it. After an hour someone has the decency to open up. We enter the house but the door to our room is locked. We spend the night on a single sofa, the two of us. Hours slept: one and a half.
Things could only get better from there.
And indeed, it kind of went pretty well. So I leave you with the following 10 things we liked best and would like to recommend for a future trip to *oui oui* Paris - plus some tips that were very useful to us!
1. Admiring the magnificence of the Eiffel Tower
Of course, we can only start with a visit to the Eiffel Tower, the symbol of the French capital.
Visiting it by day is certainly an experience not to be missed, but going there at sundown is priceless. The structure is indeed illuminated from 8pm to 11.45pm every day, but the best thing about it is that its illumination is not static: at the stroke of each hour, it is adorned with a golden, shimmering coating that lasts for five minutes (watch the video below if you have never seen this spectacle and want a spoiler).
Tip: The best and least crowded spots to see the Eiffel Tower are definitely: Rue Buenos-Aires, Rue De L’Université and, finally, just cross the bridge in front of the Tower to find yourself along the Seine, precisely on Avenue de New York, and enjoy a breathtaking view.
2. Exploring Montmartre
*favourite place in Paris*
Known as the artists' quarter, Montmartre offers a unique bohemian atmosphere. Lose yourself in its picturesque cobbled streets and be charmed by the art boutiques, colourful houses and the famous Moulin Rouge. Visit the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which sits on the highest hill in Paris and offers an incredible panoramic view of the city. You can sip a coffee in one of the many historic cafés, or you can do as we do and stop at a bar and sip on a great 0.2 beer that will cost you a kidney. If you opt for the second choice, we recommend Patoche, an excellent craft brewery with several role-playing games (in French, the Taboo experience without understanding a thing was amazing and embarrassing at the same time) that you can use to pass some time.
3. Visiting the Louvre
*pictured here are some of the works on display in the museum, including the famous sculpture 'The Two Graces'*
The Louvre is one of the most famous and influential museums in the world. With a vast collection ranging from ancient Egypt to Renaissance art, the museum is home to masterpieces such as La Gioconda and reserves an entire section for sculptures, among which you can find Amore e Psiche and those hotties of The Three Graces.
To visit the entire museum would probably take two days, so the advice I can give you is to have a clear idea of what you want to see and to look for the works with the help of a map.
Tip: Little secret about the entrance to the Louvre: if you don't feel like standing in that huge queue in front of the Pyramid, once you get to the Louvre, just search on the internet (or as I did, on TikTok) for 'entrance Carrousel Du Louvre', and, following the directions and the various videos, you will be inside the museum in a few minutes, passing through a shopping mall!
4. Immersing yourself in the Musée d'Orsay
Located in a beautifully restored railway station, the Musée d'Orsay is a must-see for art lovers. Here you will find a vast collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works by artists such as Monet, Van Gogh and Renoir. It may be an unpopular opinion, but the Musée d'Orsay scores 10 points to the Louvre.
5. Exploring the Latin Quarte
The Latin Quarter (which has very little in the way of Latin, eh) is a place with a long cultural tradition and a colourful multi-ethnic atmosphere: the district is, in fact, the meeting place of the university nightlife, thanks to the presence of the Sorbonne, the oldest university in Paris. Here by day you can wander the narrow Parisian streets and discover antique book shops, historic cafés and lively bistros. In the evenings, on the other hand, you can savour the youthful and lively atmosphere by going into one of the typical French restaurants or bars to enjoy some typical French food or drink a great cocktail.
6. Tasting delicacies in boulangeries and cafés
A visit to Paris would not be complete without a stop at a boulangerie, the traditional French bakery. Let's face it, the Pain Au Chocolat is a little bit of a bakery that's a must. We probably ate three or four of them, we also tasted some croissants, an excellent omelette for breakfast... In short, when it comes to breakfast or a snack, French cuisine will not disappoint.
7. Enjoying a walk along the Seine
The Seine is the main artery of Paris, traversing the city and offering fascinating views. You can enjoy a leisurely stroll along its banks and admire the fascinating bridges that cross it. Along the way, you can meet street performers and enjoy the romantic atmosphere that makes Paris so special.
Luckily for us, in the midst of three days of grey and constant rain, we managed to find a ray of sunshine (which lasted an hour) and took the opportunity to take a stroll along the river.
8. Entering the Pantheon and exploring its dungeons
The Pantheon is an imposing building located in the Latin Quarter. This majestic monument was originally built as a church, but now serves as a mausoleum for France's most important historical figures. Explore its halls and admire the impressive architecture. In addition, the Pantheon, in its basement, now houses the tombs of famous French personalities such as Voltaire, Rousseau and Victor Hugo that are definitely worth a visit.
The Pantheon is also the place where the French physicist Foucault demonstrated the earth's rotational motion by means of a revolving pendulum attached to the Pantheon's dome. Foucault's pendulum (still present inside the structure, I don't know if it is a reproduction) consists of a wire about 70 metres long, from which is suspended a 30-kilo iron ball with a rod attached that touches the ground sprinkled with sand.
9. Admire Notre Dame
Despite the devastating fire in 2019, Notre-Dame Cathedral remains a symbol of grandeur and spirituality. The Parisian cathedral is a majestic work that catches the eye of anyone who passes in front of it. With its imposing façade, this iconic Gothic structure represents a perfect combination of architectural grandeur and artistic beauty. Even just admiring it from the outside - as we did, by the way - one can sense its aura of history and spirituality.
We actually admired it so much that we don't even have a photo that does it justice!
10. Getting lost in the Parisian streets
One of the joys of Paris is simply getting lost in its streets and discovering hidden corners. I would say it is the perfect city to get lost on foot, admiring the architecture and charm of its streets. You can discover hidden corners, cute cafés and quaint shops.
Finally, we would like to mention the Odeon district, a very nice area where we lived for three days. Located in the heart of Paris, this charming neighbourhood is known for its lively nightlife, cosy cafés and historic theatres. Here you can immerse yourself in authentic Parisian culture and enjoy the vibrant atmosphere. Explore the bustling streets, simply sit in a café and observe the life around you.
Odeon is a place that will make you feel like a true Parisian.
Additional thanks: thanks to my sister who always puts up with me and whom I love very much (even though we argued a thousand times during the holiday). But, above all, thanks to Mario, whose advice was fundamental for this wonderful trip 😀