A day in Paris is a day of love. Love for architecture, food, fashion, grace. I recently took my first trip to France and, en route to Brittany, had a day to spend in la ville de l’amour- poor me, I know. If you want to know how to best spend 6 hours in the French capital, here is my picture guide.
Stop 1: Luggage Drop-Off.
If you’re getting into the city from one of Paris’ airports, head over to any bigger train station. Gare du Nord, Montparnasse, or really any major station has lockers you can rent. Keep in mind that they need to be paid for in coins and can cost up to EURO 9.50/ day. Click here for more information on lockers in Paris.
Stop 2: Eiffel Tower
Now, that one you must have seen coming. The walk from Montparnasse to the Eiffel Tower took about 20 minutes, though you could see it from further away and much earlier on. It’s a magnificent sight, really and the most beautiful metal structure I have yet seen. Ever noticed how the tower looks almost like it’s made from lace even though it’s all metal? Yeah. Think about that one.
You can either take the elevator all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower or attempt the climb to its second viewing base on your own. 680 stairs later, you’ll be sweaty but will feel accomplished. Because hey, you just climbed the freaking EIFFEL TOWER (and made room for macaroons while you were at it). To be honest though, if you have less than 6 hours to spend in the city, don’t climb up. Paris lacks a typical skyline that would need to be admired from up top, its charm and beauty really lie in the fine details of houses, monuments and streets- and those are best enjoyed by walking through town.
And if you’re with a loved one, don’t forget to take the obligatory couple picture in front of the Eiffel Tower (it’s so cheesy but so fun)!
Stop 3: Arc de Triomphe
This momument on Champs-Elysees was built to honor those that died in both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars and can also be climbed. If your legs are still soar from the Eiffel Tower though, simply do some window shopping instead. Among high-end stores like Luis-Vitton, you will also find slightly more affordable options. If you feel like grabbing lunch, Chez Clement has some great lunch deals that give you a two-course meal, wine and coffee for EURO 20. And you can either sit outside for some people-watching or enjoy the restaurant’s grande interior. Worth a break!
Stop 4: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
If you have enough time, take a direct metro line (M1) from Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame. This will take you about half an hour BUT IS SO WORTH IT if you want to relive all your childhood memories of The Hunchpack of Notre Dame. The church is incredibly impressive and, again, can be climbed. But if you’re short on time, just walking around it will be more than enough to give you a feel for this momument. The church took 200 years to build and was perceived as an eyesore by Parisians for decades (but then again, didn’t all of today’s most instagrammed sights start off like that?) and it was Napoleon who saved the church’s image by declaring it to be his place of coronation in 1804. And no, I didn’t get this from Wikipedia, I was listening in on the tour guide that stood next to me at the square.
If you have time PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE stop by Berthillon. It is some of the best ice-cream that I have ever tasted (and I have tasted a LOT of ice-cream) and I fully agree with all the raving reviews this place has gotten online. The chain has several locations throughout the city and has also expanded to selected cities abroad. Its original location, however, is around the corner from the Notre Dame Cathedral, so a perfect little detour on your way back. Very much worth it! I recommend the Speculoos and Dark Chocolate flavors.
Of course there is loads more to do and see in Paris. Activities we would have loved to do while there included a boat ride on the Seine, seeing the tower lit up at night and taking a tour of the Paris catacombs. The latter had a three hour wait during main season, so budget that time in if this is really high up on your must-see list. One word of advice: Please do attempt to learn a bit of French before you go visit. Whether it is store personal, waiters, train conductors or cab drivers, there is no guarantee that they will speak English. Or would want to speak English, for that matter. Showing a bit of willingness to converse in their native tongue will go a long way and can get your foot in their doors to make life a little bit easier.
I hope you will love your trip to Paris just as much as I did- no matter if it’s for 6 hours or 6 days!