A Guide to 48 Hours in Paris



Ok, I'm not pretending I'm a total expert on Paris (yet!), but this was my second trip to the City of Light, and I feel like I have a pretty good idea of things you can't miss in the city! I ran a little behind on my blog schedule during my first trimester, so please just ignore the fact that it's January and I'm wearing no sleeves in these pics!

One thing I had forgotten about Paris is just how massively huge it is!! After coming from Barcelona, where we could walk across the whole city in a few hours, Paris is way more spread out than that, and even things that look very close on a map can be a 30-minute or hour-long walk. Not only is it spread out, but the streets are at all different angles and curves, so there's rarely a very direct way to get anywhere. Because it's so spread out, however, it feels pretty slow-paced and not crazy-busy for the size city it is. Each neighborhood, or arrondissement, feels like it's own village, complete with apartments, cafes, butchers, cheese shops, shoe stores, and more. The Parisian pace of life really is a thing, and I absolutely love it.

You could be in Paris for 48 days (or years even) and not experience everything it has to offer! However, I've outlined what's doable if you have just two days to take in the city.

ATTRACTIONS

The Eiffel Tower

Obviously you have to see this, but, really, you have to see this! I mean, you can see the Eiffel Tower from places all over Paris, but you have to get up close and personal for the full effect! My husband couldn't believe how industrial and delicate it looked and the same time, and it's hard to know what that means until you see it yourself. We opted not to go up into the Eiffel Tower (my thought was how cool can the view of Paris be without the Eiffel Tower in it?), but it's so tall, I'm sure the city would still be amazing to see from that angle.

Probably the best place to view the tower are the Jardins du Trocadéro, a large garden area near the Eiffel Tower, just across the Seine river. There's a large piazza space with stairs, for plenty of bystanders to take photos, food, vendors, and yes, lots of peddlers hassling you. Just be sure to keep an eye and tight grip on your bag and not to make eye contact with any of the vendors trying to sell you their wares. Also, be sure to walk around the grassy area under Eiffel tower for amazing shots. You can picnic there and there's plenty of room for snapping pics. 

One thing I didn't do the first time in Paris that we did on this trip was watch it "light up" after dark. After dark, every hour on the hour, the Eiffel tower "sparkles" with dazzling lights for a full five minutes. It's such a fun group energy waiting for the lights to start, and we loved the moment when they finally came on and you could hear people gasping and exclaiming in literally a dozen different languages within just feet of you. Be sure to check that out!



Arc de Triomphe 

This is probably the second-most popular monument in Paris, and it's definitely worth seeing. It's only about a 30 minute walk from the Eiffel tower, and there are lots of cafes in between if you want to stop halfway. It makes for some great photos and isn't too crowded, so there are plenty of places to get pictures. It's also neat to see the cars going in a roundabout around it, which are the iconic images you always see. However, if you wait 10 minutes or so, you'll be sure to hit a patch of no cars, where you can snap your unicorn of a photo that's automotive-free.


Saint-Chapelle

This is one place I didn't go the first time I was in Paris and was one of my absolute favorite things we did. Saint-Chapelle is a gothic chapel, used by the kings of France up until the 14th century. Thinking about that history as an American, when we consider really old buildings to be from the 1800s, is really mind-blowing. The bottom of the chapel is what you might expect, but the upper level is completely surrounded by the most intricate stained glass windows, depicting bible stories. My husband and I, and everyone we heard enter after us audibly gasped after walking up the small stone spiral staircase and catching sight of the windows. It really is a sight to behold. Seriously, even if you aren't religious, it's a spiritual experience, and if nothing else, it's incredibly interesting history.

Sacré-Cœur

This basilica, located in Montmartre should definitely be on your list. It was built in the late 1800s-early 1900s, so it's fairly new as far as Parisian religious sites go, but it's pretty amazing to check out. Since the whole neighborhood is located on a hill, you HAVE to go up to the top (yes, it's a lot of stairs, but so worth it!) to see the 360 degree view of Paris from such a high point. It's truly breathtaking. We did this on our first night in Paris, and it was so cool to get such a broad view of the city before going to see other sites.



Notre-Dame

Both times I've been to Paris, I've seen Notre-Dame from the outside, but haven't gone in, and I've been told the outside is much more interesting to look at anyway. The outside obviously has the two-towered silhouette you think of first, but the sides and back are of a totally different style. This is because it began construction in the 1100s, but after the French revolution in the 1700s, a lot a reconstruction work had to be done.

Before traveling to Paris, I read City of Light, City of Poison, which is an account of the first police chief of Paris, and witches, murderers and poison, and the royal courts. This book explained that and witches who were sentenced would be dragged to Notre-Dame before their executions, forced to kneel and pray before being executed, which added an extra, albeit dark layer to the history. Another fun fact is that Notre Dame was heading into complete disrepair until the book The Hunchback of Notre Dame came out in 1830 and totally rekindled people's interest in it, at which point it became a tourist destination.

If you've been into Notre-Dame, let me know if you thought it was worth it in the comments, I'm curious!


Palace of Versailles

Though this isn't technically in Paris, if you're in Paris, definitely consider a trip to Versailles. I've been to Versailles both times I've been to Paris, but the second time, without a tour group was a bit trickier to figure out. Figuring out the train situation wasn't all that easy, and to take an uber or cab from the city would be pretty astronomical. Luckily, there are lots of blogs that explain the ticketing situation, complete with photos, but be sure to read up on this ahead of time. You'll have to take a metro to an RER train station, and the station names contain multiple "Versailles" names, none of them which also say "Palais."

First, know that if you do venture from Paris, leaving early in the morning, you probably can't make it back to the city before 1 or 2 pm. It's at least a half-day affair. Then, once you arrive, prepare to WAIT. Like, from the time you get in line, it could be a 2-3 hour wait to get in the door. Yes, even if you buy tickets ahead of time. So, if you have a limited amount of time in Paris, and your heart isn't set on it, this may be a skip for you.

That said, the palace is stunningly gorgeous. From gold-guilded gates to the many rooms where the king would take his meal, it really is a marvel to see. There's a reason why hordes of people show up for the tour.

The book City of Light, City of Poison covered a great deal about King Lois XIV, who expanded Versailles from a hunting lodge into a palace. That made a lot of aspects of the tour of Versailles, which the audio guide mostly covered the later history of on the tour, all the more interesting.







The Louvre

This art museum is definitely worth checking out if you have time! It houses Venus de Milo, the Mona Lisa, along with many other da Vinci works, as well as collections from Rembrandt, Raphael, Michelangelo, and countless other artists. It houses works from pre-history to the 21st century, so there is no artwork that is very modern. If you are short on time, or if older artwork doesn't interest you, at least walk around the outside of the building. Snap a picture by the iconic glass pyramids, and walk down the block that houses the building, it's incredible how large it is. I visited the first time I went, but in our 48 hour trip, we weren't able to take the time to go inside.

Want to see works by Van Gogh and more recent artists? Be sure to check out Musee D'orsay instead!



Musee D'Orsay

After the Louvre, stop by the nearby Musee D'Orsay, which houses art created between 1848 and1914. This means you'll see work from Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, Seurat, Cézanne, and more. It also holds the large iconic clock you can snap a gorgeous silhouetted photo in front of. The inside architecture is also just gorgeous! Unfortunately, we didn't have time to make it in here either (and with 48 hours in a city full of good wine and food, my husband wasn't too keen on looking at art for hours on end).
 


NEIGHBORHOODS

There are 18 neighborhoods, or arrondissements, in Paris and they're arranged as a spiral, with Arrondissement 1 in the center.  Wherever you stay, I would definitely recommend staying within the circle of these 18 neighborhoods. Paris is SO LARGE, that things that look very close on the map can actually be hours and hours away to walk. Here are a couple neighborhoods to definitely check out!

Montmartre

Montmartre is the name of the 18th arrondissement, and is at the northern-most point of the city. This is the neighborhood we stayed in and I highly recommend it! The neighborhood is set up on a hill and has a rich history of housing artists such as Monet, Renoir, Degas, Toulouse-Loutrec, Mondrian, Picasso, Van Gogh, and more. It holds attractions from everything like Sacré-Cœur to Moulin Rouge, and everything in between.  

Le Marais

This shopping district is a little more polished and bustling than many other neighborhoods. Be sure to hit up Monki, a really cool brand that doesn't even ship to the U.S. Better get it there while you can! You can also do some seriously high end shopping (or window shopping) here as well.

FOOD AND ACCOMMODATIONS 


In Paris, Air Bnbs are totally the way to go! They're so reasonably priced, even within the inner city. I would highly recommend wherever you stay, you're within the 18 arrondissements.

Again, we stayed in the Montmartre neighborhood, and this was our cozy Air Bnb. It was only one small room, and once the fold-out bed was folded out, there wasn't a whole lot of extra space, but that's Paris for you! You did also have to drag your bags up a few flights of stairs, but only we as Americans are spoiled with elevators in every building. This place was a great location near a Metro stop, and you really couldn't ask for anything better.

FOOD

I highly recommend just wandering and stopping to eat nearby wherever you are. Snag some pastries and espresso at any outdoor cafe, grab lunch at a cafe, and find a neat-looking spot for dinner. It's a lot about the French experience of eating as it is the actual food you're consuming. However, eating in France can be a bit different if you're not used to it, so here are some things I would suggest: 

Eat outside.
We ate outside everywhere we went except the day it was sideways raining torrential downpours. Eating al fresco makes your restaurant experience much more than eating. It makes for excellent people-watching and soaking up French life. After eating outside the entire time we were traveling, we decided we should do it a lot more when we returned home, only to come back to 104 degree weather. Eat outside while you can!


Order the lunch special. 
There are usually a couple of lunch specials and honestly sometimes we got weird looks if we asked for a menu. The server will return in about 10 seconds and if you don't have your order ready, they will never return again. So, for the sake of your sanity, get the lunch special!

Get wine with lunch.  
The locals do, so it can't be wrong! Though there is wine with every meal, the portion sizes tend to be smaller than we're used to in the U.S. A one litre carafe is perfect to split over a meal and roughly the cost that one glass of wine would be at home. 

Always order dessert and coffee. 
That's what the locals do too! That said, dessert is a way smaller portion than we're used to in the U.S. It makes a nice small bite or two if you decide to share it, and a "cafe" is just a small little shot of espresso that will be a perfect pick-me-up after a long day of walking around!

Don't expect American service. 
As I hinted at before, Americans tend to get really used to the way we interact with our servers in the U.S. A lot of negative reviews I'd see on places were because Americans were expecting American service. Let me be clear, French service is in no way worse, it's just totally different. No one really looks at menus, and you have to know what you're ordering right away. Servers do not come back to check on you after they bring you your food. You have to catch them to ask for refills or dessert, and we saw local French folks just walk up to the service counter when they were done to get their check.  

OTHER IDEAS

Like I said, there are things to keep you busy for weeks and weeks in Paris. We definitely fell a little short on our list. Here are some places we wanted to check out but weren't able to due to time constraints. Feel free to mix and match these with my earlier suggestions to customize the trip for you!:

Galeries Lafayette is just a ridiculously large department store, but don't let that fool you. Even if you aren't really into shopping, this shopping center is stunning just from an architectural perspective. You might as well be in an art gallery.

These historic gardens in the 6th district, complete with a palace in the middle, a museum and picturesque landscaping. It's a perfect, very Parisian place to take a stroll or find other activities. Someday!

This fancy restaurant in a hotel was recommended to us before our trip and I'm so bummed they didn't have any teatime reservations on the days we were in Paris. Pastry Chef Cédric Grolet creates seriously breathtaking pastries and desserts that are almost photorealistic and turn to something completely new when you cut into it. This will definitely be on our splurge list next time we go to Paris!

The rooftop cafe here apparently has the best view in all of Paris. Perfect for that IG pic, or just soaking in Parisian magic, it was one stop we weren't able to squeeze in, but would love to revisit next time!

This museum and exhibition hall is stunningly gorgeous on the inside and out. From ice skating to Fashion Week runway shows, this place houses it all. Or, just observe the gorgeous architecture.


Check out my other 48 Hours in city guides here:

Barcelona

Provence


Shop my outfits from the posts here:

Striped Parisian Look     




Red Dress is Paris 




White Ruffle Top



Call of the Styled Blog
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