After a snow storm over the weekend the sun is out and I have Paris on my mind. About this time last year I was in the City of Love. I’ve been reading Antonia Fraser’s Marie Antoinette: The Journey, which I highly recommend. So I thought I would share some pictures and give a few tips about traveling in Paris. This is in no way a complete guide, but more of a little overview of what the city has to offer.
Our first day we visited Sacré Cœur, which I definitely recommend. Sacré Cœur translates to Sacred Heart in English, named after the divine love of Jesus for humanity. It was built between 1875 and 1914 by architect Paul Abadie, in a Byzantine style. The first Christian Chapel was built on the site around 270 AD. This is the place that many believe marks the site of St. Denis’ execution by the Romans. It’s a bit of a hike, but well worth it, and from there you can explore the rest of Monmartre (which is really just a big hill, but it holds an art district where artists like Toulouse Lautrec lived and worked and it homes the Moulin Rouge).
You can’t go to Paris without stopping by the Louvre. It’s huge, and can take days to see everything, so download the map beforehand and make sure you have a plan to see the “can’t miss” pieces on your list.
Outside the Louvre, the gardens, called the Jardin des Tuileries, are so beautiful. I recommend packing a lunch and eating outside. Also, make sure you bring water because the line to get into the Louvre can be long and you’ll be standing in the sun while you wait.
Of course, there is so much art in Paris you will never be able to see every piece. But the galleries at Musee D’Orsay hold so many gems that you won’t feel like you’ve missed out. The view from the clock face is an added perk, if you make it all the way to the top. The museum was once a Beaux-Arts railway so the building itself is a work of art.
My favourite part of Paris was Versailles. Technically, the palace is outside Paris, so you have to take the train— it’s about an hour trip. Do check beforehand to be sure that the palace is open for the day before heading out! This trip takes a whole day to really see everything— the Palace, grounds, and Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette’s retreat. This is another trip that you should pack a lunch for. You can eat outside before going in. There is a café inside, but like most places it’s expensive. There are a couple of ice cream stands out in the gardens, and it is very good ice cream, so I would recommend buying. You can’t bring strollers or prams into the palace so be prepared for that. I saw several women with slings for babies, but older kids will have a long day of walking. You can rent a little golf cart like buggy to explore the grounds with, although I’m sure it costs a mint.
Versailles isn’t very old by European standards— construction started in 1623. The Palace has very little original furniture. What is there has been purchased elsewhere as it was lost during the French Revolution. I would recommend reading up a bit on the history before visiting because while there is information in the tour, it is a lot to take in at once. You’ll be more present if you know what you are looking at, and the palace offers a lot for history lovers.
We didn’t have time to go inside Notre Dame, that’s what’s at the top of the list for next time. I would recommend going to the Eiffel tower early on because for me, after everything else we’d seen, it was a bit of a letdown. We were lucky because we got to see the Lock Bridge just before the locks were removed! I really didn’t love Paris as much as I love London, but in hindsight it is a such a great city. I would love to go back again when we have more time (and money) to spend!
Let me know what you think, or any highlights or tips you have from your own Parisian adventures!