Missed my Top 10 tips and tricks for surviving Paris? Don’t worry, you can still check out in Part 1, here.
Trying to cull down our 2 1/2 weeks in Paris into a Top 20 Favorites list is actually quite challenging. So challenging in fact that I’m breaking this Top 20 list into two parts, so check back here for Part 3. You’ll also notice the list is consists a lot of food; but what do you expect when you’re in the food capital of the world?! Without further adieu and in no particular order….
1. A la Biche au Bois (45 av Ledru-Rollin, 12th arr.)
Hands down the best meal we had in Paris. We were fortunate this was a block from our hotel and saved this restaurant for our last meal in the City of Lights. Trust me, this is a must-do visit while you’re in Paris. Located in the Bastille neighborhood, a block from the Gare de Lyon metro station, this is the go-to for locals and tourists alike. But be sure to make reservations in advance or show up at 6 to make a 7pm reservation and you should be fine…because Americans are the only ones who eat this early. The food and service is authentically French and delicious. After making friends, a delicious meal, and five-hours later, we rolled ourselves back to the hotel.
2. Luxembourg Gardens
This beautiful garden was our first stop when we started our holiday and we frequently came back. It constantly amazed us that Paris had these perfectly manicured parks which were available for free to tourists and locals. There are always chairs for folks to sit, relax, and enjoy the view. Also, surprisingly locals didn’t steal or vandalize the chairs. Did I mention this is all FREE?!?!?
3. Boulangerie Poilane (8 rue du cherche-midi, 6th arr.)
Featured on Giada de Laurentiis weekend trip to Paris, Boulangerie Poilane was on our must-do while we were in Paris. Word on the street is that this Bakery has the best bread and pastries in all of the city. And you know what they say, if the locals frequent it, it must be good. Luckily for us (not so much for my hips and thighs) this Boulangerie was a mere 5 minute walk from the first place we stayed, around the Saint Germaine neighborhood, which also meant this became my morning ritual…every. single. day.
4. Sacre Coure
Sacre Coure, Monmartre, France
Though the Notre Dame Cathedral is a must do on everyones visit to Paris, we loved the Sacre Coure so much more. It might seem like a bit of a trek to the Monmarte neighborhood, but the hills and stairs make this more of a pilgrimage than anything. Don’t get me wrong there’s definitely hawkers everywhere but the vibe is so much more peaceful and reflective here. This church sits on the tallest hill overlooking Paris. From these steps you can see breathtaking views of the city and is definitely worth the trip.
While you’re here, grab lunch at the kiosks/markets out front of the Sacre Coure church and sit the little park just beneath the market road on the right (when facing the city) for a beautiful view and a delicious meal.
5. Hotel de Sully
One of the things we appreciated so much about Paris were these little unknown surprises that only locals knew about. We happened to break for a cafe and wine mid-afternoon and ended up befriending a local Parisian who happened to be an English teacher. Seriously, talk about a blessing in disguise. She shared that a block down from the cafe was a local secret, Hotel de Sully. It was neither a hotel nor lodging accommodations, but rather an historical landmark…
…which led to a courtyard…
…which then led to a gorgeous secret garden…
…which finally emptied out into massive park/courtyard on the block behind the front street Hotel Sully faced.
I love me bolognese and though we weren’t in Italy, this was an Italian restaurant that could do no wrong. It’s not on the island that the Notre Dame Cathedral is on but smaller island, ile saint-louis. All there food is locally sourced, in season and amazing.
7. Arc de Triomphe
There’s something to be said for those who have given us their lives, regardless of the country, the people….and this is a beautiful tribute with spectacular views.
We ended up deciding to visit this monument at the last minute and am so glad we did. It was beautiful, cold, and breath-taking.
8. Le Petit Vendome (8 Rue des Capucines)
Voted by locals, this is the best place for sandwiches in Paris. Simplicity and freshness are the key ingredients to making this an amazing sandwich. And it doesn’t matter the sandwich because everything here is amazing. The best way to end nine hours of non-stop walking and sight-seeing is with this amazing sandwich and a delicious glass of wine. Bon Appetite!
9. Saint Chapelle Chapel
A few streets over from the Notre Dame Cathedral is Saint Chapelle Chapel. It was originally built to house Christ’s crown of thorns and is currently under renovation efforts. The crown of thorns are housed and brought out on special ocassions at Notre Dame. Regardless, this was by far one of our favorite churches.
Key Note: After standing in lines you enter the main church and are immediately at a loss….many try to mask their disappointment but it’s hard not to see the confusion on many people’s face, ours included. I had to pee, was starving and freezing cold, walked into this the main doors and saw this…..
I’ll be honest, it was not my finest ‘wife’ moment. I was upset, cold, and disappointed that there was a lot of hype for this. It also shows you how spoiled (and snobby) we had become amongst the mast amounts of art, history, and architecture…this was disappointing. We turned to leave; one foot out the door, one foot in the door; and noticed a set of stairs to the right leading upwards. We decided to head up and am so glad we did. Because the above turned out not to be the grand, picturesque, breathtaking cathedral this place was known for….it was this….
So what’s the lesson we learned here kids? Always go up the stairs…..and pee before you stand in line.
This is a no brainer. The palace, the expansive gardens, the fountains. It’s amazing and overwhelming in the same way the Louvre is except you have fresh air…and dirt. We came here twice because in Ostlie fashion we were not as prepared as we should have been. We don’t read that many (I don’t read anything before I leave) guide books, rely on our instincts, and chattiness with locals when we land. Well, this was the one time we learned our lesson and regretted our “let’s live by the seat of our pants” attitude. We slept in, missed the RER C bus by 2 mins and had to wait another 30 mins and finally boarded a bus at 11am. We got into Versailles at 12pm and spent 30 minutes trying to figure out where to find a restroom. Starbucks and McDonalds are your only options with the former requiring an access code that is only provided to customers (so there Rick Steves…it’s not free!!!) and the latter being ridiculously long….like over an hour wait. I have no idea how I held it but I did…for another hour. Needless to say we realized in the heat of ‘we need to get out of our hotel room now!’ we left our Museum Passes AKA tickets to get into the Palace on the desk back in the city. It required us to stand in line only to find out that it was a 3 hour wait and the Palace closed at 5pm. The lady was gracious to tell us that since we had so much time to come back on Thurs at 9am sharp and the wait wouldn’t be that long. So we came back, coffee in hand to brave the lines….and here’s some of our faves from the Palace and the garden…
Have recommendations, suggestions, comments? What did I miss? I want to know!
Be sure to check back for Part 3 where I list off 10 more of our Top Favorites on our recent trip to Paris!