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With the sheer quantity of things to see in Paris the best thing to do is activities that allow you to see multiple things at once. One of the best ways to do that is to take a Bateaux Mouches boat along the Seine where you will pass many of the large monuments such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame as well as passing under many of the beautiful bridges.
There is shopping for every budget, not only for finished goods but for food as well. For bargain and antique shopping check out the Marche aux Puces (Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, access via Porte de Cligancourt Metro station), the largest flea market in France! A little bit more impact on the wallet but not breaking the bank are stores in shopping areas like Chatelet or the Carousel du Louvre shopping centers. Then there are the ‘grandes magasins’ (or large department stores) like Galeries Lafayette or Printemps that are as much a feast for the eyes as for the wallet, particularly if you visit the Printemps located on the Avenue Haussman with its amazing cupola.
When it comes to food choices, Paris has the best cuisine in the world and you can enjoy fabulous fine dining balanced with simpler meals – it will be better for your waist as well as your wallet. First thing to do is eat a traditional French breakfast by going to a local bar. Not a brasserie or bistro, but a café bar. There you can order a standard breakfast, which gives you a glass of orange juice, coffee or tea, and either croissants or a baguette (or sometimes both) with jam and butter. It is inexpensive and gives you plenty of slow sugar to keep you going until lunch. For lunch have a picnic in any one of the many beautiful parks. Buy sandwiches from one of the many Paul Bakery spots or any other bakery or pick up pieces here and there at a food market or épicerie (small grocery store).
Now you are ready for dinner! Go traditional with a brasserie like La Coupole or Bofinger where everyone in your party can find something to enjoy. Try out one of the many new bistronomie spots like Spring, Septime or the aptly named Frenchie. If you saved enough Euros you can have the fine dining meal of a lifetime at Le Grand Vefour, Le Tour d’Argent or La Grande Cascade.
Champagne, martinis and wine…French drinks that everyone is familiar with, but how about trying something a little different? How about a pastis, a panaché or a Lillet? Try them out in fun bars like: Chez Prune, Footsie, Mondrian, Curio Parlour or Closerie des Lilas. For the ultra-experience have a drink at Georges V, dinner may be out of reach but you can enjoy the magnificent setting of the hotel from the bar as well.
Just like everything else there are a ton of options for accommodations in Paris. From wonderfully inexpensive boutique hotels like Hotel Taylor or Hotel Lautrec Opera to the mid-range artsy Hotel Beaumarchais or the 17th-century ‘hotel particulier’ Hotel de la Bretonnerie both with style and character in the Marais. For grand ritz stay at the Westin on the Rue de Rivoli with beautiful Tuileries Garden views or the famous Hôtel Plaza Athénée where Sex and the City’s Carrie Bradshaw lived out her Parisian dreams.
Everywhere! There is so much architecture to see, so many gardens to laze through and so many fascinating people to watch! Want a guide to give you the juicy details of the streets you are meandering over? Hire a walking guide. There are food walks, wine walks, history walks, shopping walks…you name it and it can be “walked!”
In Paris you can get around on a scooter or a bike, but there is also no reason not to rent a cheap rental car as there is plenty of parking and you will be able to easily get to places like the amazing Versailles Chateau or Chambord Chateau which are in driving distance from the city and are well worth leaving the ‘city of light’ to get to.
Check out amazing jazz in delightful clubs like Le Peit Journal Saint-Michel or Le Caveau des Oubliettes. For rock try La Mécanique Ondulatoire. Like tangos and foxtrots? Try the Le Tango (La Boîte à Frissons). And for opera, well…the Opera!
Unnecessary lines. Don’t wait in line to go up the Eiffel Tower. You can get beautiful shots of it from many spots in the city like the Bir-Hakeim bridge or the Trocadero. Instead wait in the smaller lines to go up into the top of Notre Dame where you will get equally gorgeous skyline views of the city but the lines are MUCH shorter. Don’t wait in line to see the miniscule Mona Lisa, you will be disappointed and there are so many glorious things to see in the Louvre. Lastly, the bateaux mouches Seine cruises are fantastic, but don’t waste your money on a dinner cruise – it is too expensive, you won’t see as much and the food is not that good.