Feeling like Marie Antoinette strolling around the gardens at Chateau de Versailles
Recently I had the opportunity to travel to Paris with my family. As this was my first ever trip to Paris I learned a few things to do and not to do. Hopefully I will be able to venture back to Paris soon and will be able to provide more information in the future. But be sure to read below the things I did learn that will make your next Paris adventure the most perfect it can be!
Paris Museum Pass
One of the most important items purchased prior to our trip was our Paris Museum Pass, which can be purchased here. We chose the 6 day Museum pass. This pass allowed us to skip many of the lines at popular destinations. Be sure to check out the website which lists all of the Museums that are included. We saved a lot of money by choosing this route and a lot of time not waiting in long lines.
The metro is extremely easy to use and the best way to get around. When compared to New York I find that Paris is a lot more spread out so walking is not always an option if you are trying to visit several places in one day. If you have Google Maps on your phone, it will give you exact directions including which Metro/RER/Bus line to take, where to exit, and estimated time. Honestly it was the easiest public transportation I have ever taken. The only important thing to note when purchasing Metro tickets is what Zones you will be visiting. Most Paris attractions are within Zones 1-3, but places like Versailles are out of that and a different ticket is needed. All information about purchasing tickets and the different zones can be found here.
Versailles is one of the most beautiful places I have ever been and is totally worth it. I HIGHLY recommend getting to Versailles when it opens. While the Museum Pass is your ticket the line for security is extremely long! We arrived at 9:15am (15 minutes after open) and still waited in line for about an hour. Although if you hate lines then you can purchase skip the line tickets at additional costs (purchase here).
As for getting to Versailles, the train is the best option. Be sure to look up on Google Maps which train to take and make sure you pay attention to which one you are hopping on. We took the RER C which has several different variations so we made sure we were hopping on the correct lines that would take us to Versailles. For reference it was about at 50 minute ride!
Whether you plan to travel all the way to the top of the Eiffel Tower or just the second floor there are some things to note. If you would like to walk up the stairs to the second floor, the line to purchase tickets is not that long (Museum Pass does not cover Eiffel Tower), but if you want to use the elevator to the second floor, I recommend buying tickets prior to arrival (purchase here) as the line is over an hour wait. And with regards to going all the way to the top, you must make a reservation online ahead of time as the tickets for this sell out.
When it comes to Notre Dame there are two things you can do. You can simply go inside of the Cathedral (which is free) or you can venture up the towers (museum pass covers this). If you are just going into the Cathedral there is a decent sized line but it does go fast. But if you are going up the towers you must make a reservation time even if you have the museum pass. There are kiosks located outside the Tower entrance but be aware that reservations will sell out. We arrived around 11am and the earliest reservation time was 3:50pm. They also have an app that can be downloaded to make reservations, it is called Jefile (Duck the Line) App.
Cafe de Flore
Hands down the best salad I have ever had in my entire life. I am still dreaming about how fantastic this meal was. You need to go here. So many people visit Cafe de Flore that it tends to always look busy but do not fret, there is a first floor which is not too crowded and we did not have to wait at all to be seated.
When looking for picture perfect spots in Paris honestly you just have to open your eyes. It is so easy to find beautiful places. If you are looking for famous spots that tend to be filled with tourists my best suggestion would be to venture to those spots early in the morning. Many tourists do not start venturing out until about 9am as that is when many of the museums and attractions open. So get out around 7am or 8am and your pictures will have a better chance of just being you and the scenery! A pro tip: If you stand in a spot long enough snapping photos you will eventually get one with no people or only a few people in the background!
The one negative about my trip to Paris included the failure of my iPhone. As we boarded our flight to Paris my phone screen stopped working. When in a different country not having the ability to use Maps or contact anyone can be difficult. Fortunately Apple was fantastic. I was able to make an appointment to get my phone fixed and it was just as easy as going to my typical Apple store (thankfully several employees spoke English). So if you mess up your phone in Paris, the Apple Store is very helpful! Although I do recommend making an appointment online prior to stopping by the store as all three stores are very busy and you will not be able to just walk-in for help at the Genius Bar! And thank you so much to the Marche Saint-Germain Apple Store for helping me out!
A few things to avoid:
- DO NOT take the Metro from the airport to your hotel. My personal experience was that this was a disaster. So many people were on the metro that having 4 people with large suitcases was not easy. Not to mention that there is a chance you will end up lugging your suitcases up several stairs. A Taxi/Uber is fairly priced and way more convenient and quicker.
- DO NOT take your eyes off your belongings especially while on the Metro, eating at cafes, or walking in large crowds. Like in all big cities pick pockets are possible and you do not want to be in a foreign country without your phone, wallet, etc.
- DO NOT assume everyone speaks English. While it is true many people speak English and speak it really well you should at least try some French. I would recommend learning keys words and phrases and ALWAYS greet with Bonjour! A little Bonjour and Merci will go a long way!
- DO NOT forget to get your tax refund at the airport when leaving. If you purchase a single item that is over 175.01 Euros then that item is eligible for a tax refund. Make sure to collect all the correct paperwork at purchase, you will need your passport to prove you do not live in the European Union. At the airport you will be able to take your paperwork, debit card, and passport to a designated counter and recieve a refund!
Paris was an adventure. It was beautiful, perfect, fun, and memorable. While I loved being in Paris knowing everything I listed above prior to arrival would have made the trip a little easier. I can not wait to convince Jmo to go back to Paris (hopefully soon) and be able to give more recommendations on places to eat, attractions to see, and of course the best spots for Instagram photos. So everyone make sure to cross your fingers and hope we travel again soon!