moulin rouge, paris, red mill

Where to stay and what to do in Paris.

The Eiffel tower in Paris

Paris, the French capital, the city of romance and famous for its arts, culture, fashion, food and cafe scene. Its a city people love to to visit over and over and is the second most visited city in Europe.

The perfect destination for a Mini Break, ideal for couples and single travelers alike. A trip on the Eurostar will take you directly from London St Pancras to Paris Gare Du Nord in 2 hours 30 minutes. The Eurostar will zip you along in comfort while traveling at speeds of up to 186mph. I always prefer to travel to Paris using the Eurostar as the check-in and passport control is much quicker and you don’t have all the usual airport hassle.

Choosing the right hotel for your short break in Paris can be tough unless you are a regular visitor here. The reason why it’s so difficult to decide on where to stay is that all the main points of interest are so spread out. Is it the location you want? Is it a budget hotel you are looking for? There are a few things to consider before booking your hotel, after all, there are over 1500 hotels here. In the paragraphs below I hope to give you a guide of the best districts (arrondissement) to stay and what to do there. I would always recommend booking a hotel within walking distance of a metro station though, as the metro is by far the easiest way to get around the city.

Paris is divided into 20 districts but if you are visiting as a tourist, districts 1-9 or the central areas will be the areas of most interest to you. My personal favorite is Paris 8, the Elysée, situated on the bank of the River Seine and housing the famous Arc De Triomphe and the world-famous Champs-Elysées shopping street. This high-class area is a great base for your hotel as it has easy access to explore some of the city’s famous sights, on foot, or by bike. There are around 69 hotels or accommodation types in this district.

Where to stay and what to do in Paris.

8th arrondissement (Élysées District)

This district is mainly centered around the Champs-Élysées, the world’s most famous street, known for its high-end shops and its lavish bars and restaurants. Sitting on the right bank of the River Seine, it’s home to the famous Arc De Triomphe which is linked to the Champs-Élysées by the Place de la Concorde. Hotels and apartments range from €80-€1100 or £70-£1000 so you won’t be priced out of this area even on a budget.

The busy Champs-Élysées street on a rainy day in Paris

While the Champs-Élysées area of the city is most commonly known for its glitz and glamour, it’s also home to some of the city’s most famous landmarks. Even if you don’t like all the glitz and glamour if it’s your first visit to the city you will surely want to visit this area. This is an extremely busy area and if you don’t like crowds, visit during the lesser busy times, early in the morning or weekdays.

The Arc De Triomphe – One of the world’s most famous sites, and a magnificent piece of architecture. It was built in honor of the people who died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It took nearly 30 years to complete the construction of the iconic landmark. You can walk around and under the arch, for free but tickets will need to be purchased to climb to the top, these are priced at €12 euros for over 18’s, although if you are an EU citizen between 18-25 you can gain entry for free. Take advantage of the free entry on the 1st Sunday of the month between 1st January – 31st march and 1st November 31st December. It’s most definitely worth a climb to the top for the view, especially at night when the city looks stunning and the Eiffel Tower is lit up.

Guided tours are available and prices range from €16-30. The opening times are 10 am – 11 pm between 1st April and 30th September and 10 am – 10.30 pm between 1st October 31st March.

The nearest metro station is Charles de Gaulle Étoile. Beware of the craziest roundabout in Europe – 12 major roads all circle around the Arc De Triomphe, so don’t try to cross here and be careful when taking pictures.

View from the Arc De Triomphe
View from the top of the Arc De Triomphe on a rainy day
View of the Champs-Élysées from the Arc De Triomphe on a rainy day
7th arrondissement (Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides)

If you are visiting Paris for the first time and you want to stay near the main attractions you can’t go wrong with the 7th arrondissement. Situated on the left bank of the river Seine, it’s home to some of the best museums in Paris and its most famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower. The district is surrounded by quirky little streets and is home to Rue Cler, one of the best markets in the city. There is also plenty of food shops and cafes in this area.

The Eiffel Tower – No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to the famous “iron lady”. Built as the entrance to the 1889 worlds fair, construction started in 1887 and took just two years to complete. The structure wasn’t built to be a permanent fixture, it was supposed to be destroyed but in 1900 the French navy added a radio antenna to the top, saving it from destruction. Standing at a staggering 324 meters (1,063 feet) tall it is one of the tallest structures in Europe. Postcards and pictures do not do this structure justice, it’s not until you get close that you realize the sheer scale of it.

Admission prices for the Eiffel Tower will vary depending on a few factors like what floor you wish to go to ( the top being most expensive) and also the way you wish to get there, for example, if you wish to climb the stairs to the second floor the price will be cheaper than taking the elevator, but beware there are 704 stairs 😳. My advice would be to take the elevator up but the stairs down, it’s worth it just to take in all the inner parts of the tower. Prices for tickets start at €5 and rise up to €17.

The queue at the Eiffel Tower can often be long, so get there early and make it your first stop or visit and night to see the magnificent light display, this can be seen on the hour every hour from sunset until 2 am (1 am in winter months). This is a spectacular showing and you may be tempted to take photos and post them, but it’s actually illegal.

Hôtel National des Invalides – (Musée de l’Armée’s) – Built between 1671 and 1676 Domes des Invalides, at 107 meters, is the highest Church in Paris and is a masterpiece of French Baroque architecture. The tombs of Napoleon, a few members of his family, and many French war heroes are housed here. Here there are monuments and museums relating to the history of the French military. The building was originally a hospital and retirement home for veterans. Entry to the Musée de l’Armée’ will cost €14 for over 18’s and free entry for under 18’s. Free entry is also available for people 26 and under who are from the European Union.

Les Invalides, Paris
Les Invalides
Napoleon's coat
Napoleon’s hat and coat are on display in the museum in the Les Invalides chapel

Rue Cler – One of Paris’s most famous market streets, a place where you will find locals doing their daily shopping. The cobbled streets are lined with cafes, pastry shops, deli’s, specialty food shops, butchers where you can find a selection of fresh meats, and my favorite, chocolate shops. The shops stay open late here and if you are a foodie or you love the cafe culture then I recommend having a wander down these cobbled streets. You will find many of the shops closed on Mondays though.

Musee D’Orsay – While I am not a big lover of art I am a fan of great architecture so I had to visit this museum. The museum itself hosts collections of famous arts from the likes of Edgar Degas and Vincent Van Gough. The museum is situated in the old Gare d’Orsay railway station, and walking around the place today it still looks and feels a bit like an old railway station. It is one of the largest museums in Europe with nearly 4 million visitors in 2019. I found myself admiring the building and structure rather than the art itself. However, if you are a lover of art then this is essential to add to your itinerary. Come and see the different types of works including sculptures, photography, architecture, and paintings.

As with most museums in Paris, admission prices vary. Visitors aged 18 and over will pay €14 each and under 18s it’s free. If your an EU resident aged between 18-25 its also free to get in as well as the first Sunday of the month, but I would avoid going then because it is much more crowded. The museum is open all year round except on Mondays from 9.30 am to 6 pm and from 9.30 am to 9.45 pm on Thursday.

Musee D’Orsay
1st Arrondissement (the Louvre)

Paris’s most central district and Situated on the right of the river Seine. It’s home to the famous Louvre museum, beautiful picturesque gardens, open-air markets, quality restaurants, many cafes, and trendy shopping streets. The 1st Arrondissement is the royal heart of the city. I have found this to be the most expensive part of the city when looking for accommodation but it’s also one of the best areas to stay hence the price. Although it is a bit more pricey around this area, staying here will not disappoint, not only because of the stylish and lively atmosphere but its also a great central location and you are within walking distance of the main tourist attractions.

The Louvre – The biggest art museum in the world and home to the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo’s the dying slave. The Louvre was once a royal palace and home to the kings and emperors of France, but in 1793 it opened as a museum. The collections in the museum date back hundreds of years, although the oldest piece is 9000 years old. It’s a little statue called Ain Ghazal, made out of plaster, and found in Jordan in the mid-eighties. The famous glass pyramid-shaped structure houses roughly 35,000 different pieces of art and my advice would be to plan your visit here, do your research and mark out the bits you want to see, you simply won’t have enough time to see everything here in a few hours.

Purchasing tickets in advance are essential and could save you long waiting times of up to 2 hours. Tickets will cost €17 online and €15 on the museum door. Under 18’s will get in free as will anyone under the age of 26 every Friday from 6 pm until 9.45 pm and it’s also free for anyone visiting on the first Saturday of each month from 6 pm until 9.45 pm.

the Louvre museum in Paris
The Louvre museum in Paris
The Louvre museum in Paris
The Louvre museum in Paris

Sainte-Chapelle – The Sainte-Chapelle is a stunning example of gothic architecture with an eye-catching collection of stained glassed windows, each one 15 meters tall and telling the story of the bible. Its the stained glass windows that draw the crowds here, with nearly 1 million visitors per year. The Chapelle opened in April in 1248 and was the residence of the kings of France until the 14th century. Sainte-Chapelle was restored in the 19th century due to the damage caused during the french revolution, including a full restoration of the stain-glassed windows, returning this gothic gem to its former glory. The best time to visit here is early in the morning when the queue will be shorter, otherwise, you could end up queueing for over 1 hour.

Tickets will cost you €10 euros for an adult and free for under 18s. A little money-saving tip, if you plan to visit the Conciergerie, I would advise buying a combined ticket, this will save you about €3-4 pp.

The Sainte-Chapelle, Paris
The Sainte-Chapelle stunning stain glassed windows
The Conciergerie, seen from a boat trip on the river Seine
The Conciergerie, seen from a boat trip on the river Seine
4th Arrondissement (Hôtel-de-Ville)

This is one of the most popular districts in Paris, amongst both Parisians as well as tourists. This is where you will find the popular neighborhood of Marais, with its collection of hipster boutiques, art galleries, gay bars, lively cafe culture, and a vibrant nightlife. Fancy a bit of shopping, then head to Le BHV Marais, the biggest department store in the city.

NotreDame – One of the most famous sites in Paris is the medieval Notre-Dame cathedral and another example of stunning French gothic architecture. Taking roughly 200 years to build the cathedral has stood for nearly 1000 years but during that time its had its knocks, suffering severe damage during the French revolution, and sadly on April 15th, 2019 the cathedral was engulfed in fire, destroying the spire and roof. Unfortunately, the cathedral remains closed, but the French president hopes to have it open again by 2024. You can still walk around the site and cruise by on the river, you just can’t enter the cathedral.

Notre Dame cathedral seen from the river Seine
Notre Dame cathedral seen from the river Seine

Place des Vosges – Fancy a picnic in the park on a sunny day in Paris’s oldest public square? Then stroll down to Place des Vosges, located in the classy Marais neighborhood, and set amongst some beautiful 17th-century townhouses. Lay back and relax on the lush green lawns with a picnic, sampling some of the street food and waffles and crepes on offer around the square. With galleries, museums, and restaurants around the square, a visit here is certainly worthwhile.

More of Paris.

Opera Garnier – Not just for opera lovers! Before even reaching the auditorium, Le Grand Foyer, the long golden gallery, lined with mirrors and chandeliers and topped with musical themed paintings, is reminiscent of Versailles but just as glorious is the marbled Grand Escalier – the double staircase, beneath its enormous vault, will make you wonder at the vision and creativity of the architects and builders. I am so pleased that I didn’t walk on by this astonishingly beautiful creation. Although the city’s opera has now relocated, the Palais Garnier is now home to Paris ballet. Located in the 9th Arrondissement, the Palais Garnier was built between 1861 and 1875, with an utterly breathtaking amount of gold and marble on display.

Opening times are 10 am to 5 pm, but the Palais is closed during performances. Tickets cost between €10-14 euros for an adult and the admission is free for under 12s and the unemployed.

Palais Garnier opera house in Paris
Palais Garnier opera house in Paris
Palais Garnier opera house in Paris
Palais Garnier opera house in Paris
Palais Garnier opera house in Paris
Palais Garnier opera house in Paris

Moulin Rouge – The moulin rouge is a cabaret in Paris co-founded in 1889. Originally, the moulin rouge was a music hall where people discovered a dance that became hugely successful in France, the Can-Can. Today it offers music and dancing entertainment, with 2 shows every night. The Moulin Rouge has become very popular with tourists visiting Paris, and there is more than just the show, you can have dinner here too, in fact, you don’t even have to see the show if it’s not your thing.

The Tower of Montparnasse -If you get a chance, I would recommend a visit to the Montparnasse building where an elevator whizzes you 200 meters above Paris in a few seconds! The Panoramic Observation Deck provides breathtaking views over Paris, then, when you’ve done that go a little higher to the roof terrace where you will be stunned by a 360-degree vision of the most beautiful city imaginable.

I hope my guide to Paris has inspired you to take a trip to this fantastic city or even inspired you to share some of your stories. I would love to hear about some of your stories of trips you have been on or are planning to go on.

Please, don’t hesitate to get in touch.

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