Paris is a city that has it all. Romantic streets, historical sites, world famous museums. Almost every bucket list includes a trip to Paris. So naturally, we had to see it for ourselves!
Our decision to visit Paris began with our trip to the USA for the holidays. We were finally seeing our family and friends for the first time since we moved abroad to Austria. Instead of flying directly back to Salzburg after our visit, we decided to fly to Paris, since tickets to Paris were half the price. We would then travel back home by train, touching other cities along the way. So without thinking any further, we booked our flight!
Our 5-day Itinerary in Paris
Day 1: Getting settled, the Eiffel Tower and insane views.
After our 2pm arrival, we hopped in a cab from the airport and headed to our Airbnb. We found the perfect studio in the 3rd Arrondissement of Paris, 10 minutes walking distance from the Louvre and right in the middle of a lively street.
When we were settled and caffeinated, we headed out, straight to the Eiffel Tower! We knew that no matter what chaos took place during our travels that day; they would instantly be erased at the site of the Eiffel Tower.
And that is exactly what happened! As soon as we hopped out of the cab, the entire Tower began twinkling, as it does every hour on the hour after sundown. It was an amazing surprise! We were officially in love with Paris.
The beauty of coming to Paris in January is there are no lines to wait in. In less than 10 minutes, we were standing at the 2nd level platform taking in the views of the city. Seeing Paris from above gave us an amazing perspective and allowed us to map out all the landmarks in the distance. It was the perfect way to start our trip.
Day 2: The Notre Dame, Sacré-Cœur and quaint cafés.
After a good night’s sleep, we woke up refreshed and ready for our first day of exploring. We took our baguettes and coffee to go and walked through the streets, stumbling upon buildings like the Hotel de Ville, the seat of Paris’ local administration since 1357!
Then we made our way to Notre Dame where we spent hours admiring every intricate corner of the cathedral. What an impressive building! The entrance alone completely took our breath away. When we felt satisfied with our visit (and with the 9000 pictures we took!), we headed back to the streets, on a mission to Sacré-Cœur, the highest point of the city.
Since the walk was far, it was time to utilize Paris’ metro system. Within minutes we completely understood how to use the metro. It was that easy!
Then we arrived at Sacré Cœur in Montmartre, and oh what a view! We stood; eyes wide open, watching the sunset over the Paris skyline. It was perfect. And the historic district of Montmartre felt like walking through a movie set. Artists painting, quaint cafes, little shops, cobblestone streets.
We found an artist that we loved (who had been painting there for 40 years!), bought one of his water color landscapes and headed back into the city.
Our day ended at Rue Montorgueil, an old-fashioned Parisian pedestrian market. We sat down at the Cafe Montorgueil, sipped the most delicious red wine and snacked on a cheese and meat platter that we’re still drooling over. Day 2 = SUCCESS!
Day 3: A day in ‘Louvre’ and cheese.
That’s right, Day 3 was all about the Louvre! We dedicated our rainiest day to exploring this massive art museum. Even after a full day of admiring the most famous artwork in the world, we still weren’t able to see it all!
Every inch of the Louvre is impressive, from the artwork to the ceilings and even the outside of the building itself. Taking our time here was the best decision we made, but after 8 miles of art (YES, the Louvre is 8 miles total), we were exhausted.
To end our day and to relax, a picnic was in order. So we bought a platter of cheese from the market, a bottle of red wine and a baguette, put on the 3 Musketeers and had a Parisian picnic in our Airbnb.
Day 4: The world’s largest flea market, stained glass and an Arc.
On Day 4 of our trip to Paris, we decided to focus on something that we personally love – antiques! And did you know the largest flea market in the WORLD is located in Paris? Marche aux Puces de Saint-Ouen. Even though there was still so much to see, taking half the day to do something other than the standard sites was a great decision. We strolled around all morning discovering so much about Paris, in the most interactive and fun way!
After the market, we went to the Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel that boasts the most extensive 13th century stained glass collection in the world! We took our time to admire every single window pane. It was breathtaking!
Last but not least, we finished our day at the Arc de Triomphe in the 8th arrondissement. This arch is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. And it was even more epic than we had imagined. You can pay 8 euros to go to the top or you can simply walk around the base of the monument and take pictures, which is what we did.
Day 5: Macarons, Absinthe and the Musee d’Orsay.
For our last morning in Paris, a luxurious French breakfast was in order. And what better place to dine than Laduree in Champs-Elysee? A restaurant that boasts the best macarons in the city!
We filled up on macarons, omelets and tea and walked to the Musee d’Orsay, a world famous art museum housed in the former Gare d’Orsay railway station. Once you get past how awesome the building is itself, you can admire the masterpieces of Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and so many more.
After the Musee d’Orsay, we set off for Place de la Concorde, a major public squares in Paris. Not only to see the ferris wheel, the Luxor Obelisk, and the fountains, but to also purchase a bottle of Absinthe from a traditional Absinthe shop. After all, when in Paris!
In our final few hours, we decided to take a long walk back to our Airbnb to get our bags. We took in the city one last time as we strolled, and passed through Le Marais, a historic and cultural district on the way.
And just like that our trip came to an end. We hopped in a taxi to the train station and prepared for our next city. But we knew we’d be back. There’s still so much to discover in the city of lights!
Behind the Scenes
The challenges and triumphs during our trip to Paris.
Okay, now it’s time to go behind the scenes. Sure we had an amazing trip, but there were definite obstacles we had to overcome and lessons that we learned the hard way. After all, no trip is flawless, so we are hoping you can learn from our challenges.
The Lines and the crowds…
Problem: From what we’d heard, the crowds in Paris can get crazy. Apparently, we should have expected to wait in line for hours to see the top attractions…
Solution: We solved this problem the second we booked our tickets! Traveling to Paris in January was the best decision we made. Since it was the off-season, we waited in line for maybe 15 minutes tops! That is why we were able to see SO much in such a short amount of time.
WAY too much luggage.
Problem: Yes, of course that’s something we should already know. But in this case, we flew directly to Paris after spending the holidays in the USA. We had our presents and ALL the toiletries/food that we can’t find in Austria. 3 suitcases (together weighing 200lbs) and 2 large backpacks… Oh and did I mention our Airbnb was a 4th floor walkup?!
Solution: Well, we had no choice but to brush it off and accept the consequences. To help make it easier, we packed strategically so the biggest suitcases wouldn’t need to be opened the entire time.
Overnight flight = jet lag was real.
Problem: With the 6 hour time difference and the overnight flight, we knew we wouldn’t be at our best the next day. But in a city like Paris, you can’t afford to spend a day catching up on sleep.
Solution: During our flight, we slept any hour that we could afford to sleep. And when we landed, we downed coffee, picked a low key, but time consuming site for the day (the Eiffel Tower), and headed out to explore. It was important to push ourselves, so that no day was wasted.
Not familiar with public transportation.
Problem: From what we’d heard, the Paris metro was easy to figure out, but we arrived jetlagged with way too many bags. So how should we get to our apartment?
Solution: Learning the metro system is not something we wanted to deal with the second we arrived. A cab would be about 50 euros, but it would get us to where we want to be without any hassle. Most importantly, it would start our trip off on a good note. So that’s exactly what we did. Some expenses are completely worth it, and this was one of them!
Under-researched and lack of planning.
Problem: Usually, we do a LOT of research. We make a list of everything that we want to do and use it as an ‘a la carte’ menu for each day. It keeps our trips structured yet flexible at the same time. But because of the timing of this trip, we’d done none of that!
Solution: Since we hadn’t researched, we walked as much as possible, discovering attractions on the way to our main attraction. It allowed us to make the most out of our visit, and walk down hidden streets we would have completely missed. We also spent an hour each night before we went to bed catching up on our research, so it didn’t interfere with our day.
Feeling lost upon arrival.
Problem: As soon as we landed, we felt overwhelmed. There is so much to do and see in Paris. How do we tackle it all? In a city this big, where do you start?
Solution: We took it one step at a time. Settle in our new airbnb – check! Find a close (cheap and delicious!) restaurant – check. Wander around to get our bearings – check! Then we made our way to the Eiffel Tower to not only conquer one of Paris’ most famous landmarks, but to put everything into perspective. We’re in PARIS! That decision fueled us for the rest of the trip. Instead of feeling lost, we just felt excited!
Where do we get connected?
Problem: Without a SIM card, we had no directions, no internet, and no ability to research our next move. From what we’d read, Orange was the place to get it. So we went there and they quoted us 40 euros for 1 gb. WAY too expensive, but where should we go next?
Solution: We wandered from kiosk to kiosk until we stumbled upon a small mobile store. Instead of paying 40 for 1 gb, we spent 10 euros for 1 gb, which is all we needed for the entire week. Patience here was key. We knew what we needed and how much we should be spending, and taking that extra half hour to save 30 euros was a good choice.
That escargot gets pricey.
Problem: Prices seemed a little outrageous, especially compared to our cost of living in Austria. We needed to figure out how to enjoy all the French classics without breaking the bank.
Solution: There are cheap options if you look a little! Grabbing a baguette for breakfast, a savory crepe for lunch, and splitting a more gourmet dinner (within reason) kept us satisfied! Then at night, we’d snack on cheese and bread – fresh, cheap and oh so delicious.
Rain, rain – Go away!
Problem: The weather forecast was terrible. Rain practically every day that we were there! How could we enjoy a city that’s so marvelous without marvelous weather?
Solution: We packed our best raincoats and didn’t let the weather scare us away. We planned our itinerary around the weather each morning. Rainy in the morning? Museum. Sunny for 2 hours in the afternoon? Lunch outside at a café. It ended up working out perfectly and the weather didn’t ruin our experience. Some things you can’t control, and it’s important to simply make the best of it!
Why we felt safe in Paris.
Safety is always a concern when traveling. And after the events in Paris along with the issued travel alerts, it was natural to have second thoughts. It didn’t take us long, however, to decide that nothing would come between us and Paris.
After 5 days, we’re happy to say that we never felt worried. Our experience was no different than our experiences in other European cities. To make us feel even more secure, police and military were monitoring the streets constantly. As a traveler, you should always be aware of your surroundings, no matter where you are. Keeping that same mentality in every destination is important. And that’s exactly what we did in Paris.
So there you have it. Everything about our trip to Paris. What we did, the challenges we faced and how we overcame each one to enjoy our time in the city of lights.
Just remember, no matter how magnificent the destination, there will always be obstacles. Whether it’s the language, the culture, the weather, the crowds or the city itself. You can and you will conquer every obstacle to enjoy the full journey. After all, traveling isn’t just about the destination. It’s about you and your ability to grow with every new experience!
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