Let me start by stating the obvious: a weekend in Paris is just not enough. Paris is a city that begs to be explored slowly, including plenty of time to get lost in the narrow streets of Saint-Germain-des-Près, discover small cafés, and people watch while sipping a perfect cup of coffee.
Unfortunately, time is not a luxury most travelers have. So if all the time you have to get to know the City of Love is a weekend, make sure to get the most out of it!
Saturday Morning: In the Seine we trust
If you ask me, every trip to Paris should start the exact same way. Take the metro to Trocadeiro station and enjoy the most Parisian monument: the Eiffel Tower. This is the fundamental stop. It does not matter how many times I’ve seen it, it is the one thing that makes me go: “Oh, my God! Wow! Yes, I’m in Paris!” If you get lucky and the line is manageable, go ahead, ride the elevators and enjoy the view. But keep in mind that the long lines could mean waiting for hours and if you don’t have a lot of time to begin with, it might be wise to skip the view.
Instead, how about riding the Bateaux Mouches? These are the boats that take tourists up and down the Seine, and you can catch them at several points along the river, including right in front of the Eiffel Tower. This way, you can get acquainted with the main monuments, including the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre Museum. It feels like a “mini city tour” from a very special angle, with some great photo ops.
Saturday Afternoon: Big brands and small boutiques
The French are very proud of the Champs-Élysées. They say it’s “la plus belle avenue du monde” — yes, the prettiest avenue in the world. Start with the beautiful Arc de Triomphe and take a walk on the large sidewalks. How many stores you will stop at is up to you and your budget!
Hopefully, you’re lucky and the Ferris Wheel is going ‘round and ‘round at Place de la Concorde. Usually, it is only set up in the winter, but some years the mayor decides to leave it up all year. It is definitely my favorite view of Paris, so it is highly recommended!
The last stop of the day will be Montmartre. This picturesque neighborhood is quaint and lively, bursting with cute little shops and restaurants. Most people tell me it is what they picture Paris to be like before they come to the city.
Try to make your way up to the Sacré-Coeur in time to watch the sunset. There are a lot of people just sitting on the stairs, watching the sun disappear and the City of Lights come to life. It’s such an experience. Don’t let all the tourists and street performers dissuade you from experiencing it. And don’t skip the church itself. It’s unbelievable.
Before going back to your hotel, you get the chance to see the Moulin Rouge. The best pictures are taken from the little island in the middle of the road.
Sunday Morning: Let’s go to the church
Start your Sunday straight at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The earlier the better, so the lines are shorter. However, they usually move pretty fast, so it should be ok. If you made it early enough on a clear day, go for the line on the side of the church, which lets you go all the way to the roof. The pictures with the gargoyles looking over Paris will be a nice addition to your Instagram feed.
Use the rest of the morning to explore the two little islands in the middle of the Seine. Expert tip: the best ice cream in town only has one shop, located right there at Île Saint-Louis!
Sunday Afternoon: Choose your own art-venture
Alright, it’s time for the last obligatory architecture mark: the Louvre. The famous glass pyramid is right in front the museum, so you can take all the pictures you want before going in. When you’re done, ask yourself: “How badly do I need to see the Mona Lisa?” If you answer “very”, then what are you waiting for? If you are not that keen — or the line is so long it makes you give up —, may I suggest the Musée d’Orsay? It is an incredible museum with an amazing impressionist collection and usually shorter lines. Alternatively, those who are more into contemporary art might prefer the Pompidou and even shorter lines. Either way, the plan for the afternoon is filled with art.
Finally, I like to finish all my trips to Paris the same way they start. So, go say goodbye to the Iron Lady herself, the Eiffel Tower. At night, all lit up, it is a totally different experience. Plus, you get a little treat every hour. Not to be missed.
Since this is the last stop on your itinerary, queue and go see the view. Paris will be all lit up just waiting for you!
About Our Guest Blogger
Louise Elali wants to live in a world where airplane seats are comfortable, pictures get developed, and postcards have stamps. A travel writer and communication specialist with an MA in Global Visual Communication, she writes for travel outlets and works with travel brands to improve their exposure in four languages. When she’s not editing up a storm, you can find her watching the silliest sitcom she can find, searching for cheap airline deals or sharing travel tips in her mother tongue at http://www.sosviagem.com.br. Learn more about Louise at LouiseElali.com