Why I love Paris:

1.    It's beautiful: this isn't news or a particularly unique observation, but it is true just the same. Paris is the most beautiful city in world. That's what you get in a city that was bull dozed (except for the Latin quarter) by Napoleon III and went through an "urban renewal" in the 19th century designed by Haussmann. The alleys, the bridges, the magnificent buildings, even the department stores are incredible!
2.    It's walkable: It's a city where you need to stroll to fully appreciate it's glory and gifts to the senses. And after you've strolled, a park, in a church or in a cafe and immerse yourself in the feel of the city, drinking a cafe au lait or glass of wine, people watching, dog watching (there are A LOT of dogs in and out of restaurants), city watching. It also is not that large a city geographically, so by hopping a bus or metro once in a while you can easily explore the city end to end. On one trip, we ended up staying out later than the metro ran (midnight?) and had to walk from the Latin Quarter to our hotel near the Eiffel Tower. We went down small streets that passed embassies shuttered for the night and lovely 19th century townhomes, following our hotel-provided map without a problem.

3.   There is something for everyone: I've been to Paris eight times and each time it was a different and wonderful experience. The first trip started with my work companions as we had a week of meetings at La Defense and at the end my husband joined me before we set out for Bordeaux. This was a trip of discovery, as it was the first time in the city. The second visit was with my sister and brother and the focus was on food. We had picked the restaurants before we left and had made the reservations before arrival. The state run museums were closed so no Louvre or D'Orsay but we discovered the Jacquemart Andre, a wonderful mansion off of Haussman that has become one of my favorite sights. It was owned by a couple in the 1800's who poured their passion into art collecting and the house is preserved as they lived, with the art displayed as they experienced it. We also went to Fontainbleu and Vaux le Vicomte on a day trip which we loved. The third trip was with girlfriends and it was a shopping trip! We went to the Port de Vanve flea market, a much smaller one than Clignoncort but still full of interesting items. I brought home a great old Alsatian coffee grinder that is mounted on my kitchen wall. Trip number 4 was with Dave and the boys. Billy was twelve and Bobby was eight and it was their first time in Europe. We learned to adjust our pace to Bobby and slowed down.  Seeing a city through a child's eyes is new adventure. Each morning, after enjoying our breakfast croissants, we'd buy Bobby a baguette that he would take with him on the metro and buses to munch on throughout the day. He was fell in love with the dogs in the cafes. And both boys were fascinated by the different cars...particularly SmartCars and the French Citroens. The fifth time was another "girlfriends" trip with a different group and we focused more on museums and food. And the last trip was another with Dave and the boys, but by then the boys were 17 and 14 and though we repeated some of our sightseeing, we added new stops of interested such as Les Invalides, Napoleons tomb, the Cluny Museum, and Deyrolle, a fascinating taxidermist shop on Rue du Bac, as well as the Musee Carnavalet which is another one of those unique museums, a hidden gems, that focuses on the history of Paris. Seventh trip was quick two night visit via the EuroStar from London with a good friend. We stayed at my new favorite hotel (Hotel Signature St. Germain des Pres) near the Bon Marche department store and spent our time exploring street markets, revisiting some favorite spots and adding two new attractions to my list of things I've wanted to see: Musee Nissim Camondo, a wonderful intimate museum in a lovely home with a tragic history, and also the antique area of Village St. Denis. (See my post from September 2014). My most recent trip was this past summer (2015) and was the trip I've always wanted with my husband. We had three nights also staying at the Hotel Signature St. Germain des Pres, and all we did was roam the streets of Paris, stopping where ever we felt like, drinking wine, coffee, eating croissants, chocolate and soaking in the city. We did make a stop on Rue Cler and gathered provisions for a wonderful picnic on the Champs du Mars, found a great wine bar near the Palais Royal, and made an impromptu stop at the Pantheon which I loved. 

4.   The food: It's almost a cliche but the food really is amazing. From the morning croissants and cafe au lait to lunches of croque monsieurs and dinners to die for. Boulangeries and patisseries full of the most wonderful bread and pastries, chocolate shops where the creations are works of art and even the local vegetable markets where fruits and vegetables are laid with care and treated like delicate porcelain. Rue Cler is one of my favorites streets in the 7th arrondissement, as it is filled with different food shopes: cheese, meats, chocolate, vegetables, bread and pastries ...perfect for a pick-up dinner if you've rented an apartment.
5.   The people! Yes, the people. My experiencies in Paris have been positve, with the exception of a surly Swiss proprieter of a Raclette restaurant in the Latin Quarter. Parisians are cosmopolitan and polite, and are grateful when you attempt a few words of French. I always greet the shop keepers and thank them as I leave. We've had some lovely conversations in restaurants. On our first trip with the boys, in 2003, we arrived the day that the US bombed Iraq. That night at the bistrot, we sat next to this charming elderly man, wearing a beret and accompanied by his tiny dog. He talked of how the French were not as quick to jump into wars, having lived through wars on their own soil. He raved about the Philadelphia Orchestra and he complemented us on our children. It was a wonderful encounter.

Different travel companions, different trips, some things stay the same.

Though I've seen different things on each trip, there are some stops I've made each time, that should be part of any trip to Paris. Some things are not on this list that you might want to include, for example I'm not a huge fan of walking the Champs Elysee, full of tourist shops and restaurants.  The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, and Notre Dame (if you don't mind steps) can all provide amazing views of the city from on high. It's definitely worth doing at least one of these.

Arrival Day Itinerary suggestion:

For the first day, I've always gone to Notre Dame and St. Chapelle. Nothing immerses you into Paris as much as walking into Notre Dame and being awed by the grandeur of the cathedral and the beauty of the rose windows. Even my boys on their first visit, let out a gasp of astonishment when they entered. Next, walk a few blocks to see Ste. Chapelle, a much smaller, more intimate church but filled with incredibly beautiful stained glass windows. After these two churches, we are normally ready to walk a bit and get some refreshment, so we head over to Ile St. Louis, making sure to admire the BACK of Notre Dame on the way. Go down Rue St. Louis en Ille and a few blocks down (#31) you'll find Berthillon, the best ice cream in Paris. Order from the window to save money and window shop up and down this street.

Not the usual museums:

Of course you need to plan a visit to the Orangerie, the Louvre and the D'Orsay but there are other wonderful smaller museums in Paris that are a joy to explore. My favorite is the Jacquemart-Andre, located at 158 Blvd. Haussman and as I described earlier it is in a beautiful 1870s mansion that used to belong to Parisian industrialists. The collection contains wonderful Renaissance art and is displayed as the couple enjoyed it in their home. I also mentioned Carnavalet, which is at 23 rue de Sevigne in the Marais district. This museum is also an old mansion (actually two adjoining mansions) and provides the history of Paris from prehistoric times to present day. The explanations are in French for the most part, but it is still fascinating. Lastly, I just visited theMusee Nissim Camondo at 63 rue de Monceau. It is another Parisian mansion and this one houses 18th century furniture, art and decorative art. It is an amazing house and well worth the visit.

If you want to make best use of your time, I recommend a wonderful guide, Michael Osman: I've used him twice. The first time was on the Dave/boys trip#1 and he spent the day with us going through the Louvre, around Paris on the bus (which is great so you can see the city, rather than being submerged in the metro), and up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur. I also used him on one of my girlfriend trips and he took us through the D'Orsay, Louvre and the Orangerie (where Monet's huge waterlillies are displayed). Michael is an art history major from the Philadelphia Academy of Fine Arts, and he gives you a wonderful education on the art work, as well saving tons of time by knowing the most expedient way through the museums. He also gives you the historical perspective of the Louvre which is fascinsating and he is also A LOT of fun! Contact him early because he does book up. He's a great way to really maximize what you see and learn.

Go to church!

There are so many lovely churches in Paris: Notre Dame, Ste. Chappelle, Sacre Coeur, the Madeleine, St.Germain-des-Pres and sure to have one on each day's itinerary. I would add the Pantheon to this list, though it is no longer a church per se. It is a wonderful secular monument (and former church) that honors French heros, both military, resistance, scientists and artists.

Explore the parks:

Paris is made for leisurely strolls. Make sure you take the time to wander through Luxembourg Gardens, admire the Medici Fountain, watch the tennis players, the chess matches and the old men playing boules (the French version of bocci). I also love the model boat pond at the Tuileries Garden, which sits between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde.

Another suggested itinerary

Go to the Madeleine, a church centered on the Place de Madeleine. It is modeled after a Greek temple, so is not your typical European church. Make sure you take the time to look at the lovely, old public bathroom that is outside the church. It is labeled "Hommes et Dames W.C." and is a lovely example of Art Nouveau style. Explore Fauchon and Hediard, gourmet food stores that surround the Madeleine. Sit at one of the cafes and people watch or enjoy some wine and lunch in L'Ecluse, a wine bar on the Place. Then walk down Rue Tronchet, window shopping, maybe stop at a great purse store La Bagagerie, that is on the right hand side of the street (12 Rue Tronchet) as walk away from the Madeleine. When Tronchet intersects Haussman, go in and explore Printemps or Galeries Lafayette, french department stores. If you make a left onto Haussman, you will be heading towards the Jacquemart Andre Museum, which will be on your right. It also has a lovely cafe.

Day trips

On our first trip with the boys we also went to Normandy, Mont St. Michel and Brittany and had a wonderful time. During one of the days in Normandy, we hired a guide to give us a D Day tour and this ended up being one of most memorable travel experiences we've ever had. All of us, included the boys who were quite young, were really touched by history on this tour. Mark was able to bring the war alive as we visited all the beaches and then we finished up at the American cemetary as they were lowering the flag for the day. I still get shivers when I think of the intense emotion evoked on that day. So if you want to take a day trip (or side trip) to Normandy, I recommend Mark Worthington as a guide. He is fabulous. His email is: It is also worth seeing the Bayeux tapestry a look while you are there.

Other ideas for day trips (thanks to friends for some of these suggestions):
Versailles is an easy train ride out of the city and worth it. You could easily spend several days between all the buildings and gardens but can tailor your trip to fit in a full day.
Chateau de Vaux le Vicomte is a wonderful chateau and garden that was the inspiration for Versailles. If you don't feel like tackling Versailles, this is much more manageable.
Giverny is Monet's home and garden. I've yet to visit because it seems like I'm always visiting in the off season, but one of these days I will get there!
Angers is 1 1/2 hours away on the TGV, the French high speed rail. The Castle of Angers is a fantastic,huge castle from the Middle Ages. The enormous Apocalypse Tapestry is housed here as well.
Rouen in Normandy is only an hour away and has the plaza where Joan of Arc was burned, Monet's cathedral and beautiful half-timbered buildings.
Reims is northeast of Paris and is the home of Notre Dame de Reims, the cathedral where the kings of France were crowned. There are 250 kilometres of underground wine cellars and tunnels under the city that store Champagne. Tastings available!


I like to stay in the 7th arrondissement. It is a lovely residential neighborhood near the Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars park. I've stayed in apartments as well as hotels in this area. There are many very nice 2-3 star hotels in Paris that are relatively reasonably priced, especially if you take advantage of internet specials from their websites. Ones that I or other people I know have stayed in over the years are:

My favorite accommodation choice is to rent an apartment from Paris Perfect. We discovered them on the initial trip with the boys and loved both the incredible apartment with a great view of the Eiffel Tower as well as the a wealth of recommendations and information on Paris that you receive when you book with them. I tried a different apartment company in 2009 because we weren't staying for a week and were trying to save some money and though the apartment was adequate, it wasn't nearly the quality of Paris Perfect. I've sent many people to ParisPerfect over the years and everyone has been very happy with their apartments.


There are SO many restaurants and more constantly opening but a few of my favorites that I'd recommend are:

  • L'Epi Dupin is near the Bon Marche store and is a wonderful tiny place with a creative delicious menu that changes daily. I highly recommend this restaurant. 11 Rue Dupin, 33 1 42 22 64 56
  • Clos des Gourmet is a wonderful classic French small restaurant. The food is superb. Address is 16, av Rapp, phone 01 45 51 75 61
  • Legrand Filles & Fil is a wine bar/shop/epicerie that my husband and I recently discovered at 1 Rue de la Banque near the Palais Royal. We had a great tasting with cheese and charcuterie accompanying the excellent wine. It has a great atmosphere and charming gourmet shop as well.
     Shopping: Part of the fun of exploring the city is discovering the shops on your own and there are a ton of books on the subject, but a few of my favorites are listed below. If you are lucky enough to be in Paris in late June to mid July as well as January, you'll find that nearly all the store have incredible "soldats" or sales! And if you are a Longchamps fan, yes, the best prices are at the shop(s) in Paris.
  • Petrusse Paris - a wonderful scarf shop at 46 Blvd Raspail between Rue Chomel and Rue de Babylone. Very unique, french scarves.
  • La Bagagerie - my favorite purse shop. Everyone has a Longchamps, why not buy a bag that really says Paris. They have locations all over the city.
  • Magasin Sennelier - if you have anyone who is an artist that you are buying gifts for this store has been around for over 100 years and many famous artists have bought their supplies here. It is at 3 Quai Voltaire.
  • Le Bon Marche - the oldest department store in Paris with an incredible food market. It is worth the visit to window shop and people watch if nothing else. Located at 24 Rue de Sevres,

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