Ah, Paris… the city of light, the city of love, the city of croissants… Paris has so much to offer: there is beauty around every corner, the aromas of delicious food at every turn, and as you explore, you never know what you may find.
For myself, Paris has always been my dream. Ever since I read Madeline and Angelina Ballerina when I was a little girl, my dream was simple: I have to go to Paris. When my husband and I took the Eurostar from London St. Pancras to the Gare du Nord, the first glimpse of Paris I recognized was the stunning Sacré-Cœur, standing proudly on the butte to Montmartre – read on for more Montmartre adventures!
It was in that moment, when I saw my first glimpse of the beautiful basilica, that I truly fell in love with Paris. It was love at first sight.
After settling into our adorable apartment in the Marais district and exploring the neighborhood, we made our way to the heart of Paris: the Île de la Cité. There, on a small island formed in the middle of the Seine River, you will find one of the most famous cathedrals in the world: Notre Dame de Paris.
While we were unable to enter the cathedral due to ongoing construction after the fire of 2019, which destroyed its famous spire, we enjoyed passing by Notre Dame several times throughout our trip on the way in and out of our neighborhood.
Originally built in the 1100s (though not completed until 1345), Notre Dame is considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. With its gargoyles peering at you from the towers above, its stained glass windows, and its long nave stretching behind, Notre Dame is magnificent to see. With its name meaning “Our Lady of Paris,” it truly is one of the most beautiful “ladies” that Paris has to share with with world.
After acquainting ourselves with the heart of Paris, we took a walk down the quays of the Seine, making our way toward another one of Paris’s ladies – the iron lady herself – La Tour Eiffel!
The Eiffel Tower was originally built in 1889 for the World’s Fair, and, at 300 meters (that’s 980 feet for us who don’t use the metric system), surpassed the Washington Monument in D.C. as the tallest building in the world. At least, for a little while!
Entering into the Eiffel Tower, you must take the elevators or climb the stairs to the top viewing platform. There are multiple platforms at varying levels, so the first elevator takes you up to Level 2, which boasts views of Paris from every angle, a gift shop, some restaurants, and more. The next step: The Summit.
We took another, slightly-rickety elevator to the summit, which felt like the tallest building I had ever been in. Technically, the Empire State Building (at 443m/1454ft) stands taller, but the surrounding buildings are also quite tall. Here, in Paris, the surrounding buildings are miniscule in comparison, making you feel like the world is much farther below.
Pro tip: Book your timed entry ticket for 30 minutes before sunset, so that you have time to enter as Paris is washed with a beautiful golden glow.
Up at the summit, my husband and I treated ourselves to coupes of ridiculously expensive champagne as we watched the sun set on our first day in the city of light. We toasted to Paris, and all that she would have in store for us. If you’re on the top of the Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend getting champagne…
it is Paris, after all.
Cheers to Paris!
After making your descent, head to the Champ de Mars, the nearby greenbelt that sits nestled under the Eiffel Tower. Here is where the real magic happens: beginning at dusk and running until 1 in the morning, the Eiffel Tower is shining at her finest. If you time it right, you can catch her sparkling for 5 minutes at the top of the hour, every hour until 1 am.
This sparkly light show is absolutely magical! I actually cried watching the Eiffel Tower light up for the first time; it was the realization that I was living my dreams. How much more magical can it get?!
Situated in the 18th arrondissement on a hill overlooking the rest of Paris, is the devastatingly charming Montmartre.
This neighborhood was once the bohemian area outside of Paris, a comune where artists and courtesans could be found painting and dancing the can-can. It has since become a part of the city itself, and is home to Place du Tertre, the artists’ square, where you can find local artists painting, drawing, and snag yourself some unique art to bring home. If nightlife is more your style, Montmartre is home to the famous Moulin Rouge, which still offers sumptuous dance performances, like their current Féerie Show. Get your tickets here!
Situated at the top of the butte is the Basilique di Sacré-Cœur, the magnificent Basilica of the Sacred Heart, which showcases incredible views of Paris from its perched location above the city. Entrance to the basilica is free, and the inside is particularly beautiful. I suggest bringing some cash if you’d like to make your way to the top of the dome, which provides a panoramic view of Paris.
The next stop on our agenda this time around is the stunning Arc de Triomphe, which stands proudly at the center of the large roundabout at Place Charles de Gaulle. Twelve streets branch outward from this traffic circle, the most famous of which is the Champs-Élysées. After taking a stroll down the avenue, shopping to your heart’s content – or if you’re like me, faire du lèche-vitrines (“lick the windows” or go window-shopping) – then climb the 286 steps to the top of the triumphal arch. Grab your tickets here before making the climb to the top!
The views from the top are incredible. If you’re looking for a place to enjoy a view of the Eiffel Tower, typical Parisian Haussman architecture, and more, this is the spot to be!
I have saved the best for last, and it’s something that you can enjoy from many parts of the city: The Seine River. Running through the center of the city, the Seine is full of life at any time of the jour. We loved sitting by the Seine with a bottle of vin, a freshly baked baguette, and some fromage – Cantale was our favorite kind of cheese while in Paris! We took a river cruise on our first night in Paris, which helped us get acquainted with the city and feel more comfortable navigating on our own; I highly recommend this cruise. The Seine is beautiful at all times of the day, but shines at sunset, when a golden glow encompasses Paris and is reflected in the river’s flowing waters.
Whether you’re exploring Paris for the sights, the food, the art, the nightlife, or something else, there truly is something for everyone in Paris. If you’re excited to read more about travel in Europe and beyond, check out these posts:
Pop the bubbly and lift your glass to Paris! Chin chin, darlings!