When I was just a little tyke, my eldest sister travelled to Paris for a musical tour around Europe. I remember her stories about the romantic city – the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomph, Champs Élysées, the crepes and lovely street art.
I had fallen under a second-hand Parisian spell, and the city made it to the top of my life list. (I like to call it life list instead of bucket list because of some valuable advice I once got from my auntie, “You should focus on the living part. Not the dying part.” Amen to that.) Well over a decade later, I made a weekend trip to Paris with a group of friends, and I can finally cross the destination off my list.
*Caution: The trip itinerary you are about to read is jam-packed because we were only able to allot a few days in Paris before we had to return to London for class on Monday. We hit it hard. So if that type of travelling floats your boat, feel free to borrow our itinerary. If you prefer to slow down the pace and just take it easy, I suggest you pick and choose or finagle the itinerary a bit to suit your desires.
We began our trip on a Thursday evening by hopping on the Eurostar from London to Paris. It’s extraordinary that we have the ability to travel under the ocean by train. That’s just an experience within itself.
Whenever I arrive somewhere new, I always get antsy to see the most iconic sight right away. In this case – the Eiffel Tower. We hopped on the Metro and found our way to this majestic monument, just in time to catch its light show on the hour.
Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
The night continued to get even better when we bumped into a crepe stand by the tower, and I had my first Parisian Nutella crepe. It was nothing short of a religious experience. To say the least, it was a magical first night in Paris.
Friday morning we got up bright and early and set out to the Eiffel once again to conquer the tower from the bottom up. I must warn you that the queue to catch the elevator from the ground to the top is quite long – even right at the opening time. So if you are physically-able, I suggest that you buy a ticket to walk halfway up to the second platform and then jump on a lift to the top. We only had to queue for a couple of minutes to get this ticket. I’ll be upfront with you. The steps are a bit strenuous, but you can take them at your leisure. They also allow you to better relish the view on the way up rather than being whisked immediately to the top. Once you’re to the tip, you won’t regret all the effort you took to climb those pesky stairs.
A view from atop the Eiffel Tower. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
Next stop: Musée D’Orsay – which is a convenient walking distance from the Eiffel Tower (It all helps to save money on public transportation). This was my favourite museum in Paris (gasp that it’s not the Lourve) because its architecture as an old train station is breath-taking with a massive, ornate clock on the wall. I’m also a fan of impressionism, and the Musée D’Orsay has a large impressionist collection including Monet. I was also impressed with the number of Van Goghes they had. If paintings aren’t your cup of tea, the museum also has a plethora of other exhibits including photography, antiques, sculptures, glasswork and much more.
The main Hall of the Musée D’Orsay. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
The Love Lock Bridge, officially called the Ponte des Artes, was our next destination. Yes, I gave into the cliché and took part in the cheesy ritual of fastening a lock to the bridge and tossing the key in the River Seine. But hey, can you blame me? I’ve been waiting to do this since I was like 10. This practice is even more frowned upon since the bridge has started to collapse under the weight of all the locks. I suppose if a bridge is going to collapse it’s a good thing that it’s collapsing because there’s just too much love, right?
Love Lock Bridge. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
Not far from the Love Lock Bridge is Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. Sainte Chapelle was an unexpected gem for me. I had honestly never heard of the chapel until it was brought to my attention by my travel companions. It turned out to be one of the most gorgeous sights of the weekend, which is quite a feat when touring the beautiful city of Paris. Almost the entire second floor of the chapel is windows. The stained glass shone in the late afternoon light, showing off the vivid hues and design. I was mesmerized by the deep maroons, golds, blues and purples. If I had my way, I would have sat in that chapel for hours just simply staring at the glasswork.
Sainte Chapelle. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
I had a preconceived image of Notre Dame from the Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and it was actually pretty accurate – other than Quasimodo dwelling in the bell towers. The cathedral was quite busy, but it was worth the visit.
Being the thrifty college students that we are, my friends and I visited the Louvre Friday evening because it is free for anyone under the age of 26 from 6:00 pm to 9:45 pm. You probably already know this, but that place is massive! We almost got lost. No rephrase that. We definitely got lost – even with a map. However, we were able to see the biggies like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Liberty Leading the People and The Raft of Medusa – and everything in between.
The Louvre. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
Our evening ended atop the top of the Arc de Triomph, with a sweeping view of the city lighs, including all the Christmas displays as well. It was marvelous.
Our Saturday morning was dedicated to the Palace and Gardens of Versailles. We arrived right when the estate opened, so it wasn’t too busy. The palace was magnificent and luxurious with the King’s Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors. But perhaps the biggest treat of our trip to Versailles was the gardens with their majestic, gold fountains, well-manicured trees and hedges and all the autumn colours. It’s the perfect location for a long stroll.
On our way back to the city center from Versailles, we stopped off at the Grande Arch de la Defénse, located in a business district of Paris. Lucky for us, there was also a Christmas market in front of the Arch. We perused all the booths with jolly Christmas carols and the sweet aromas of goodies as a festive back drop.
Goodies at the Christmas market. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
Then in the evening we made our way to the vibrant Parisian neighbourhood of Montmartre. Here we did some browsing of all the little souvenir shops and quaint boutiques. Things you definitely won’t want to miss while you’re there is the “I Love You Wall,” the Sacre Coeur and the Artist Square. The Artist Square was the most charming characteristic of Montmartre because you can watch artists in action as they work on their masterpieces. If you are looking especially smart that day, you can even hire one of the artists to draw a portrait of yourself.
We rounded out the evening with a photo opportunity at the infamous Moulin Rouge and a walk through the bustling Christmas market at Champs Élysées. Paris is such a festive, holiday city.
Our final day in Paris. One of the last things that we definitely needed to see before we left was the Catacombs. Now I had researched a visit to the Catacombs before we left, and I had gotten the advice that you should at 9:00 am in the morning even though it opens at 10:00 am. After my visit, I would have to pass along that same advice. We arrived around that time and were second in the queue to get in. If you arrive much later than that though, you will probably have to wait 2 to 3 hours to get inside. Prepare yourself for a very fascinating and slightly morbid walk along the tunnels lined with human bones.
Entrance to the Catacombs. Photo Credit: Dana Wolthuizen
My friends and I ended our Parisian excursion with some relaxation in the Jardin de Luxembourg as we watched people sail their little boats in the garden fountain. We also soaked up some sun in the Jardin des Tuilieries so that we could say farewell to the Louvre and a view of the Eiffel Tower just one last time.
I hope that you find this itinerary helpful or at least pick up some small morsel of advice to keep in mind during your trip to Paris. And what I hope you find even more helpful is that Loving Apartments offers over 400 apartments to stay in the city. Many are conveniently located near these points of interest. Enjoy your time in Paris!
>Dana Wolthuizen is studying English and non-profit business at Central College with a passion for travel writing.