Travel Guide to Paris

Paris is a destination that sits atop many bucket lists and travel destination dreams. It’s beautiful, full of incredible history, stunning buildings, museums, and more. Not to mention, who doesn’t love indulging in some of the best food in the world?

Despite the reality that Paris can be an expensive city to indulge in, there are alternatives one can take to minimize the impact on a bank account. Even on a budget, you can still get the full enchanting experience of this romantic city.

Paris Budget Accommodation

Check out Hostel Bastille for a cheap stay in Paris.

While this hostel is no Ritz Carlton, it gives you all you need in a lodging facility in Paris. When one is in a beautiful city like this, there is no reason to book a hotel or place to spend an excessive amount of time in, there is just way too much to do and see. Located at 6 Rue Trousseau in the Bastille district of Paris, this hostel is well-located, walking distance to various attractions and right on the metro line.

The TOP Things You Must See & Do in Paris

Notre Dame

Meaning “Our Lady of Paris,” this famous Roman Catholic cathedral is a must-see for its history and architecture.  The line accumulates outside the main doors and a simple walk through tour is completely free, and donations are welcomed with the option to light a candle upon donating.

Impressive stained glass windows, sculptures and gargoyles, and the architectural feat of the flying buttress all come together to make this Cathedral an iconic site to visit. Expect long lines and wait times, but get yourself a croissant to enjoy while you wait.

The Lovers Bridge of Paris

Located a few blocks away from Notre Dame, this tourist/collectively created site in Paris has gained recent fame and interest on the internet from various celebrities locking their own locks on this bridge.  Thousands of locks of different shapes and sizes are locked on this bridge, representative of a couples love for each other, many locks have names or initials written on them. While it looks somewhat tacky in the city, it is still a site worth visiting for the picture value You can leave a piece of yourself in Paris – although I have heard that it’s gotten so out of control that authorities do remove the locks.

The Eiffel Tower

You already knew you had to visit this spot, but if you’re on a time crunch, you’ll have to decide – visit the Eiffel Tower during the day, or at night? Either way, the Eiffel Tower is a magnificent sight to see and experience.  

Going all the way up to the top is a must for anyone visiting Paris. It’s a great thing to do with friends or your partner during the night or day.  I personally loved going all the way up at night to see the vast lights across the city and being in the tower when it sparkles during the first 10 minutes at the start of every hour. It’s a breathtaking experience everyone has to have when they travel to Paris.

Sacré Coeur

French for “Sacred Heart” Sacré Coeur is a beautiful church that sits at the highest point in all of Paris. It’s a bit of a hike to make it up to the plaza where the church sits, but definitely worth the walk.

Caution is advised to tourists in this area, as pickpockets roam freely preying on naive and distracted travelers, especially those paying close attention to the various street performers. A walk through the cathedral is free of charge, but donations are appreciated.  To get there, take the metro to Anvers. From here you can walk to the plaza where there are various vendors (try some vin chaud – hot wine) and climb up to the church from there.

Check out the Moulin Rouge

Not a far walk from Sacre Coeur (and its a downhill trek, fortunately) this iconic place is not as exciting as one would expect, but it was a unique spot to check out and take pictures at.  Famous for the red windmill and the conception of the can-can dance, the Moulin Rouge has a rather seedy history which can still be felt today in this part of the Pigalle district of Paris.

Paris Museum Must-Do – The Louvre 

A trick to visiting this famous museum is to go on the first Sunday of the month if your travel plans allow because it is free of charge! If your travel plans do not coincide with the first part of the month, go anyway and pay for admission because the Louvre is not something to miss while in Paris.

An art museum that is sure to please people that do not have a preference for art museums, the Louvre boasts an impressive collection of galleries of sculptures, paintings, and other works by famous artists from an enormous range of time periods. Of course, the most famous painting that is at home here is the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, which will surprise you with its actual size.

The Palace of Versailles 

Located a brief train ride outside of the heart of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a must see on a first-timers visit. The enormous estate turned into a museum houses the famous hall of mirrors as well as sprawling gardens, preserved gold, and other artifacts from when it was used for government affairs and housing royalty.

The entrance fee price depends on which parts of Versailles you choose to explore. You can check out your options on the Versailles website. We opted to explore the palace and the gardens – I’d highly recommend this option for the full experience. Purchase your tickets ahead of time and download them to your phone or save the confirmation email, as this is sufficient to gain access to the palace. It will save you a lot of time from waiting in line!

Headsets are free if you want an audio tour. You’ll learn a lot about the artwork and design of Versailles, as well as historical information on the construction of the palace and changes that Versailles went through over several centuries. Definitely don’t miss the gardens – even in January they are still cool to wander around, admiring the fountains and long expanse of plants and sculpted shrubs.

Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe

On my last visit to Paris in 2013, I was a poor college student. Thus, the posh upscale boutiques and expensive restaurants on the Champs-Elysées were far beyond my budget. It’s still a great window-shopping destination, and another item on a Paris bucket list that you must check off during a visit. And it’s free to look!

At the one end of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe, a monument in honor of French soldiers who have died throughout the various wars of the country’s history.  To get to the Arc you take an underground passageway. The Arc is an iconic monument to see in Paris. While we did not enter, you can also purchase a ticket to go to the top of the Arc. This will give you another elevated view of Paris, a perspective different from the Eiffel Tower.

Restaurants & Bars in Paris

I don’t have a ton of restaurant recommendations for Paris – one day I will go back with tons of money and spend all my time eating and drinking my way through the city. Here are a few places we went on our adventures!

Fondue in Paris

French fondue: a delicious mix of melted cheeses served with small potatoes, toasted bread and meat for dipping. There are It’s a must-do in Paris I think, especially if you’re visiting during the winter. A fondue experience in Paris will run you a higher price tag than a typical budget backpacker meal, but it’s well worth it. You’ll enjoy an excessive amount of food, more than enough for sharing. We went to Le Chalet D’Avron for fondue, but there are many places to choose from.

Le Cafe Faubourg

This was actually our first stop when we arrived – waiting to check into hostels when you arrive early in the morning always sucks. Solution – find a cafe to chill out in and eat non-airplane food. This is a nice cafe in central Paris to stop in for a cappuccino and a meal, I had a grilled ham and cheesy toasty, which was perfect to wake up from my jet lag.

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