This is a translation of a mini-guide to Paris I sent to a friend years ago. I posted the original Norwegian version on this site back then, and now that a friend who doesn’t speak Norwegian is off to Paris, I’ve translated it.
Let’s start with the view from the top floor of the Pompidou Art Museum in the fourth arrondissement:
I prefer to see the Eiffel Tower either like this, or from Champ de Mars or Trocadero. If you insist on going up to the top of Eiffel Tower, take the stairs as far up as possible. There is a line specifically for people who want to walk (shorter than the line for the elevator) and it’s cheaper. To get up the very top, you have to buy an additional ticket.
Museums are often free in the evenings on specific days if you are under 26 (student or not). I’ve added the days of the week when they were free back in 2008 to these brief museum descriptions:
- Pompidou, the world’s largest collection of modern art. The building is interesting in itself, and it’s in my favorite part of town. Go up to the top floor and enjoy the view. (Free on Wednesday nights)
- Musée d’Orsay, the art museum you should see if you only see one. All the great impressionists, in an old train station. (Free on Thursday nights)
- Louvre, actually really stressful. I think the paintings are too close together, and it’s just too big. Go in with a plan, know what you want to see, and then get out. (Free on Friday nights)
My favorite of the 20 arrondissements is the fourth. In addition to the Pompidou, this is where you find Notre Dame, the world’s best ice cream from Berthillon on the island behind the Notre Dame and Le Marais, an area with cobble-stone streets, fantastic fallafel and Jewish bakeries. There are plenty of bars and restaurants here too, as well as my favorite place for coffee in Paris, Soluna Caféotheque (52, rue de l’Hôtel de Ville, Pont Marie metro stop). (Read my guide to coffee in Paris for more coffee info) This is also where you’ll find the stalls that sell used books on both sides of the Seine, and on the left bank, Shakespeare and Company, the English language book store where “Before Sunset” starts.
- Once you’ve crossed over to the left bank, you’re in the Latin Quarter in the 6th arrondissement. This is the traditional student area, so there are affordable restaurants and lots of bars. You can eat a traditional three course meal here for less than 20 euros. Afterwards, I recommend sharing pitchers of sangria at Le Dix (10, rue Odeon, Odeon metro stop).
- For slightly more than 20 euros, you can get a slightly better version of the traditional snails+baguette+duck+vegetables+crème brûlée at Au Pied du Sacré Coeur (85, rue Lamarck). It’s in Montmartre, right by the Sacré Coeur (hence the name). There are MANY good restaurants in Paris, but if you’re in Montmartre, this is a nice one. Then go up to the cathedral, enjoy the view and watch people drinking beer and playing music on the church steps.
- If you get off the metro at Opera, you’ll be surrounded by shopping opportunities, including all the chain stores and the big department stores Galleries Lafayette and Printemps. I did most of my non-grocery shopping at Lafayette when I lived in Paris (both the shoe department and the lingerie floor are excellent). The Marais also has some good stores, and vintage shopping in Rue de la Pompe in the 16th arrondissement is good. Les Halles and rue Rivoli also have all the standard brands for clothing and shoes. My favorite French brands are Comptoirs des Cotonniers (clothes, including good trench coats), Aubade (lingerie) and Parcours (shoes).