48 Hours In Paris
BEFORE going on an Erasmus year to France I made it my mission to visit as many cities, towns and regions as possible and as of writing this article, I’m quite pleased with my current total of 13 cities spanning over 8 regions. But a year abroad in this fair country would not be complete without a trip to the capital. With a short amount of time to spend there, here is my own breakdown of some of the best sights to see and areas to explore when short on time.
First up is Versailles. Located in the suburbs of Paris, the beautiful palace built by King Louis XIV is truly magnificent and resonates of a time of kings, queens and princesses. While it is a little further out of the city the palace and grounds truly merit the trip. Between the Hall of Mirrors and the fantastical gardens filled with fountains Versailles is truly worth the half and hour train journey out of Paris city centre. However getting there early is advisable as the place is constantly filled with visitors, especially in the afternoon.
Along the Seine is a goldmine of sites and views. The world famous Louvre can be found with the Notre Dame cathedral close by. If you follow the river further down, past the street artists, you can cross over another bridge and explore the islands of Paris. With the cobblestone streets and quirky shops the islands are a little treasure trove filled with the smell of crepes. The lack of traffic also makes wandering around that little bit more pleasant.
Tucked away off the street directly across from Notre Dame is the Shakespeare and Company bookshop. As a complete and utter bookworm I fell in love with the store. Founded in 1951 by George Whitman, whose love for books led him to open the bookshop, the shop is currently run by his daughter Sylvia and has remained virtually unchanged in all its years. The store on the left houses antique books and first editions while the one on the right hand side contains a mixture of new and old books from every genre. With the crooked stairs, stone floors and little notes and photographs adorning the wall upstairs the shop can only be described as a book lovers’ paradise.
While Paris is beautiful to wander around, it is well worth seeing the city from a height. While nearly every visitor to Paris chooses to go up the Tour Eiffel there are many other locations to get that bird’s eye view of the city. L’Arc du Triomphe by the Champs d’Elyseés is a remarkable structure with so much history that also offers a fantastic view and generally has less of a queue than the Tour Eiffel. Another is the Centre de Pompidou, the modern art gallery which is well worth a visit in itself. Students can get in for free and this includes a trip up the escalators to the very top of the building giving a lovely view of Paris city centre. If you head up during the late afternoon or evening you can catch the sun setting across the City of Light. My own personal favourite is the Sacre Coeur Basilica in Montmartre. Not only do you get a fantastic view of the city at any time of the day but there’s no charge for climbing up the steps or seeing the beautiful interior of the church.
The area Montmartre, especially by the basilica, is another must. With the street artists who offer portraits and the late night café above all the hustle and bustle of the busy city. Head down a few streets and you’re outside the world famous Moulin Rouge. But the absolute gem in Montmartre is the Café des Deux Moulins, the café where Amelie, the eponymous heroine of the film worked. Seeing as the film is one of my all-time favourites the chance to sit down, drink a coffee and eat a crème brulée can only be described as surreal.
No matter how short on time you might be, there is so much to see and do in Paris. One thing to keep in mind is that it is a tourist hotspot so plan your day(s) there in advance and to visit any of the popular sites early in the morning. It’s also worth investing in a Paris Visite ticket for the Metro as it is the quickest way to travel from one destination to another. The city also has a rental bike service called the Véli for those who aren’t afraid to brave the traffic. But most important of all is that you enjoy your time in the City of Light!