Three days in Paris
This time last year I went to Paris for the first time with my family and I can honestly say, I’ve thought about it every day since. The culture, the architecture – the pastries! – and its sheer beauty and history left an indelible impression that seems to have only deepened over time. While we only had a few days to explore the city, we managed to soak up a lot in a short amount of time.
Here are some highlights I recommend first-time travellers to Paris experience.
Immerse yourself in art
From the Musée d’Orsay and Georges Pompidou to the Grand Palais, Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet and iconic Musée du Louvre, it’s no wonder Paris is one of the great art hubs of the world. If you’re in the mood to bring home a rare antique, check out the Carré Rive Gauche area, which is near the Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Musée des Arts Décoratifs.
The recently opened Musee Picasso Paris houses a stunning collection in The Hôtel Salé, one of the most exquisite Parisian houses of the 17th century”. Comprised of over 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archived pieces, this collection is the only one in the world to present both Picasso’s “complete painted, sculpted, engraved and illustrated œuvre and a precise record—through sketches, studies, drafts, notebooks, etchings in various stages, photographs, illustrated books, films and documents—of the artist’s creative process.”
Afterwards, I recommend a coffee and cake on the balcony, where you can soak up the stunning setting.
Look out for the pop-up galleries located in Paris’ side streets, where the walls are as fascinating as the paintings that hang on them.
You don’t have to step inside a museum or gallery to see Paris’ creative side, with street art displayed throughout the city. There are even street art walking tours you can go on to learn about the history of graffiti and the multicultural influences behind individual artworks.
Eat local delicacies
Bouillabaisse, cheese, foie gras, mushrooms, cassoulet stew, escargot and beef bourguignon – these are just some of the local delicacies you’re likely to find on Parisian menus.
A trip to Paris is not complete without tasting a genuine macaron – the quintessential French cookie! Featuring a ganache filling sandwiched between two small almond-base meringue cookies, it is commonly sold and beautifully displayed in bespoke bakeries throughout Paris.
Eating escargot (snails) is almost a right of passage for foreigners visiting Paris. Cooked in tonnes of garlic, butter and parsley while they are still in the shell, this acquired delicacy, which has been eaten since the Roman times, actually tasted delicious.
Also known as chocolatine in the south-west part of France, Pain au Chocolat will quickly become your breakfast of choice during your stay in Paris. Stocked in every bakery and supermarket, this delicious sweet features rolled pastry (like a croissant) called “viennoiserie” that is stuffed with chocolate pieces. Don’t even get me started on the Nutella version…
Soak up the architecture
There are many reasons why Paris is one of the world’s most visited cities, and its architecture is definitely one of them. Roman, Medieval, Renaissance, Baroque, Classical, Rocco, Neo-Classical, Empire, Art Nouveau, Art Deco, Modern, Post-Modern, and Contemporary Architecture – you’ll see it all in this magnificent city.
The Belle Époque period, which extended from 1871 to the beginning of the First World War in 1914, is characterised by curved facades and sculptural details.
This beauty is located in the Jewish Quarter of the Le Marais, which spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements in Paris. Known for its buildings of historic and architectural importance, Le Marais has become a fashionable district that’s home to numerous, restaurants, fashion houses, contemporary art galleries and vintage stores.
And of course the majestic Eiffel Tower, Paris’ most famous monument.
Take the Metro
The underground Paris Metro consists of 300 stations on 16 lines covering roughly a 10×10-km area of central Paris. It’s the fastest and easiest way to travel around the city and there’s always something interesting to see – and hear – as you make your way to the platform…
Like French men singing Russian songs!
The Paris Metro runs from roughly 5:30am to 12:40am Sunday through Thursday, and 05:30am to 1:40am on Fridays, Saturdays, and on days before a holiday. Frequency between most trains range from 2 minutes during rush hour up to 8-10 minutes during off hours, holidays, and Sundays.
Go vintage shopping
Paris’ vintage stores are sartorial goldmines where you’ll find everything from Hermès bags to Chanel shoes. Here’s a great list of vintage shops in Paris but I highly recommend popping into Tilt Vintage at 8 rue de Rivoli, Le Marais.
Le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen will not only blow your mind but potentially also your budget. Paris’ famous flea market is a treasure-trove of antique dealers, artisans, designers and retailers. Marché Paul Bert Serpette inside of the market has extraordinary mid-century pieces.
And ladies, don’t forget to pick up a pair of genuine Parisian espadrilles.
Parisians are serious about their café culture, and it involves more that drinking an un allongé or une noisette. Their bistros are the best places to people-watch, with Paris’ iconic rattan chairs facing on to the street instead of inwards.
Look out for random moments
Like these uni students…
And this rollerblader.
Let your inner child loose
We told our young girls we were taking them to the dentist and they adorably believed us. So imagine how many brownie points we earned when they say this:
I figure if you’re going to go to Disneyland, then Paris is the place to do it! My only advice is to not only pre-purchase FastPass tickets to avoid queues but also print them out to avoid wasting precious holiday time scouring the city to find an internet café with a working printer like we did!
Paris may have experienced unspeakable horror over the past 12 months, but it has done nothing to dampen my love and affection for this great city. Until next time Paris, au revoir!
Images courtesy of Veda Dante