Paris is an incredible city. This isn’t news, people have been saying it for years.
Now that I’ve experienced its greatness first-hand, I can confidently agree. I spent four days in Paris on my first trip through the city, and it was the perfect amount of time to get to know her.
Paris, for me, wasn’t so much about seeing all the sights and doing all the things. There was some of that, too, naturally.
I sought out the flagship Ladurée store on Champs-Élysées to pick out my favorite macaron flavors with big, googly heart eyes.
I gazed up at the Eiffel Tower from below, wishing the ugly orange soccer ball commemorating the Eurocup tournament wasn’t dangling from the center or that Champ de Mars (the green space at the base of the tower) wasn’t cordoned off as a Fan Zone, inaccessible when matches were not taking place.
I did a lot of gazing at the Eiffel Tower, actually. At night, I sat perched atop Palais de Chaillot near the Trocaderó metro stop and watched as its glittering light shows dazzled the crowds.
I admired her from a distance, where her grandeur can best be appreciated as she soars above the Paris skyline. I enjoyed the view from the river Seine, as she rose against a backdrop of pink and purple clouds at dusk.
When I wasn’t busy Eiffel Tower gazing, I ate late night crêpes like it was my civic duty and ordered wine with every meal (except breakfast… ha ha ha). I even got to meet up with an old friend from high school who happened to be in the city for work–it’s always fun to see a familiar face in a city so far from where you first knew them.
I got around via every method imaginable–by foot, by metro, by bicycle, by Uber. Mostly by foot, though, as I feel that’s the best method for taking in all the details and nuances you’d otherwise miss.
I enjoyed Paris slowly and methodically, without rushing around intent on ticking items off a to-do list.
Our chosen hotel was a charming old building tucked away in the narrow streets of the 17th Arrondissement. Hotel Eldorado was equal parts funky, old-fashioned, and French–crooked wooden staircase included–and I loved every second of our stay.
There were bakeries, cafés, restaurants and lively bars all at a stone’s throw, and a major grocery store and a metro station (Place de Clichy) just one block away.
I loved exploring this neighborhood, eating all the amazing food we could find, pantomiming our orders in some of the bakeries when the shop owners didn’t understand our poor attempts at French.
Discovering the street art. Watching the locals saunter by, looking every bit as chic and insouciant as I’d imagined.
From our base, we were able to reach the neighborhood of Montmartre by foot where we enjoyed a few cheap beers and live music on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, where you can find one of the best views of the whole city. The white buildings seem to stretch into infinity from this vantage point, and the atmosphere is lively and fun.
If you have four days in Paris, I highly recommend packing a picnic and enjoying an afternoon here! The only downside is that you can’t actually see the Eiffel Tower from here, as it’s hidden behind a wall of trees and shrubbery. But no matter, the city is perfectly beguiling in its own right.
Another of our days was spent ambling from neighborhood to neighborhood until we eventually found ourselves along the banks of the Seine. En route, we passed through the gorgeous Parc Monceau, overflowing with blooming flowers.
We passed by the impressive Arc de Triomphe, pausing momentarily to snap a few (hundred) pics and to use it as shelter from a sudden rainstorm.
We strolled down Champs-Élysée for a second time, stopping at a wine shop for a €4 bottle to take with us for an afternoon picnic.
To be honest, it’s hard not to take in the “touristy” sights of Paris, as there is something noteworthy at just about every turn. We passed by the incredible Grand Palais and Petit Palais (seen below), two ornate exhibition halls that stand face to face between statues of great historical figures Charles de Gaulle, Georges Clemenceau, and Winston Churchill.
From here, we also stopped to enjoy Pont Alexandre III, from where we could once again see the Eiffel Tower (a view that never became any less impressive).
We continued along the river until finally reaching the impressive and sprawling Jardin de Tuileries. It was here where we set up camp to enjoy our picnic under some dark clouds that arrived out of nowhere, threatening more rain that never came.
Finally, we ended our day of walking with a visit to the glass pyramid of the Louvre. We opted not to go inside but had fun snapping photos of the exterior amongst a surprisingly sparse crowd–perhaps because we arrived so late in the day (around 5 pm).
The following day, we chanced upon the Paris Pride Parade and joined in for the final few blocks, dancing and waving rainbow flags alongside a cheerful crowd. The parade ended in the Bastille neighborhood, where we would stay in a beautiful Parisian apartment on our following visit.
If you only have four days in Paris…
There’s certainly no right or wrong way to see the city of Paris, but if you have a limited number of days like we did, here are a few activities I highly recommend:
- Take a river cruise on the Seine at sunset. Click here to see the photos from our river cruise experience–it was amazing!
- Try one of these 24 fun things to do in Paris, as recommended by my friends at Hostelgeeks. Like #12: Have a picnic with wine!
- Visit the Eiffel Tower. Seeing it up close and personal is a whole different ball game! Buy tickets in advance if you want to go up to the top for the view.
- Eat everything you can get your hands on. My favorite restaurants from our visit were L’Éclaire, Café des Anges, Les Caves Populaires, Ma Biche.
- Rent bicycles for a day. I’m normally terrified of biking in big cities, but Paris is very bike-friendly so it’s a fun way to get around! The bike stations can be a little confusing at first–click here for instructions.
How would you spend four days in Paris?