The Eiffel Tower is a classic destination in Paris, the City of Light.

City of Light

I was 11 on my first visit to Paris. My mother had a God-daughter in France, and we went back every few years. I fell in love with the City of Light and return as often as I can. Here are some of my favorite places.

Walking the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe is one of Life:Beautiful staff member Dara Poorman's top Paris picks.
Oh how Parisian I feel after walking the Champs Elysées and getting a nonchalant snap in front of the Arc de Triomphe.

Stay I like to stay in the 7th arrondissement (Paris is divided into 20) within walking distance to many attractions such as Les Invalides, the Champs du Mars and Eiffel Tower, the river Seine and Rue Cler market. I often stay at the Hotel de la Tulipe (33 rue Malar, Paris, 75007 France), a former convent from the 17th century, with quaint exposed beams and stonework. It’s a small family-run hotel with a beautiful courtyard in the center. They have wonderful service and are always helpful. Try out a little French. No matter how rudimentary, you will always receive compliments for trying!

Walk Spend an afternoon walking around Paris and exploring. If you get lost, ask for directions. Most Parisians speak English, and if you are courteous, they are more than willing to help you. My favorite place to walk is the Luxembourg Gardens. Meander through the apple and pear orchard to the Medici Fountain, dating back to the 1600s, tucked away among elm and willow trees. It’s a relaxing place to read or people-watch as Parisians do.

Catching a concert on the world-famous Grand Organ at the Church of Saint Sulpice is one of Life:Beautiful staff member Dara Poorman's top Paris picks.
The Grand Organ rocks at the Church of Saint Sulpice.

If it happens to be a Sunday, walk a couple of blocks to the Church of Saint Sulpice and you may catch a concert on the world-famous Grand Organ. Stop in the Chapel of the Holy Angels to admire the painting of Michael the Archangel Doing Battle with Satan by Eugene Delacroix (1855). Then walk around the square and window-shop at the designer boutiques and galleries.

There are the go-to museums in Paris like the Louvre, but I always find myself at the Rodin. It’s tucked off a quiet street near Les Invalides (Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb location). There I relax on one of the sculpture garden’s many benches, pondering along with ‘The Thinker’ high on his pedestal. The medieval gothic Sainte Chapelle is another personal favorite, not just for its amazing stained glass work (ca. 1300) but for the power and glory represented in the history and architecture.

Eat Breakfast is simple, maybe a croissant or pain au chocolat but there is always coffee. Duck into a little café and order “Une café si vous plait.” (A cup of coffee, please.) Voila! Enjoy! In France most people still like to sit and drink their daily coffee at the café while reading a newspaper or just relaxing. Don’t be surprised if you’re charged a sitting fee when you order at a café or restaurant that also offers takeout.

Lunch can be simple and inexpensive. You can grab a traditional baguette with butter and ham to go at most boulangeries. Have a picnic near the Seine or on the steps of one of the many museums. Or find a nice café or bistro to grab a bite. Service takes time and the waiter will let you eat in peace without interruption. Outdoor dining is a must. Most chairs face away from the restaurant so you can enjoy the view.

Dinner is often a social gathering later in the evening and can be the most expensive meal. I prefer to walk around the neighborhood I’m in and find a bistro. Menus are usually ‘prix fixe’ and have two or more options. The more options, the more expensive the meals. Here too, most people speak English if you’re polite and may have English menus.

At night, I like to walk over and gaze at the Eiffel Tower. You can usually bypass longer lines, and every hour on the hour there is a sparkling display of lights, fun to watch from below or on any of the three levels.

I prefer to visit Paris in spring or fall and avoid the summer season, as most places in Europe, including hotels, don’t have air conditioning.

Top Picks

  • Paris Museum Pass. A pass is a must if you plan on visiting more than two museums. You gain free entry, as many times as you wish, to 60 museums and monuments in and around Paris.
  • Musée d’Orsay. This is a Beaux Arts train station containing mostly French Impressionist and Post Impressionist art. It is located across the Seine from Musée du Louvre, so make a day of the two.
The courtyard is one of the features of the Hotel de la Tulipe, a small family-run hotel in Paris's 7th arrondissement.
Here’s a bird’s-eye view of the courtyard at the Hotel de la Tulipe.
  • Versailles. Take a short train ride to the suburbs of Paris to see grand hall of mirrors and the opulence of Louis the XVI and Marie Antoinette. On weekends from April through October, catch the Grandes Eaux musicales (the musical fountain show) with over 2,400 fountains! Also find the Potager du Roi (Kings Kitchen Garden). The garden is located a few blocks from the Palace of Versailles and has over 400 varieties of fruit trees and an extensive selection of vegetables.
  • Sacré-Coeur. Sitting atop the highest point in the city, this basilica and its grounds are lovely. Inside you will find the Mosaic of Christ in Glory, one of the largest mosaics in the world.
  • Champs Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe. Walk this world-famous street with luxury specialty shops, cafés, cinemas and famous monument.
  • Galeries Lafayette. This Parisian department store is located on Boulevard Haussmann. Get the quintessential Paris shopping experience.

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