5 days in the City of Lights


I'm just back from my trip to Paris and this is going to be the first post in a series about La cité de la lumièr (the city of lights). In this post, I'm gonna share what we visited during our 5 days stay and what we saw. This post will include prices, tips, and recommendations.

How to get around

 Paris is a big city with a lot of public transport, 3 airports and easy access to platforms like Uber or Bolt. It is also a great city to walk (something I always love to do when I travel), once every corner looks like a postcard and hides a special kind of magic.
  We flew to the Charles de Gaule Airport (CDG), the biggest one in Paris and a 45-minute drive away from the city center. We took a transfer from the airport to the city center with the company Bus Direct. It cost 18€ per person and it dropped us off by the Eiffel Tower. Then we had to get a Bolt to our apartment that cost us another 7€. To go to the airport when we were departing from Paris we ended up taking a Bolt that was 45€ (shared by the two of us it cost us pretty much the same as the transfer). I would recommend the Bold simply because it will pick you up and drop you off when and where you want it to, which is a big advantage when you have your bags with you.
We were lucky to stay in the center of Paris so we had 3 different metro lines near our house. We always got around by metro. Paris as one of the oldest undergrounds in the world and it's so characteristic of the city that it would be silly not to do it. We got 3-day passes that allowed us to take as many trips as we wanted in all the metros, trains and buses and it costs 26,25€. However, you can get 10 tickets (that are printed individually, so you can share them with everyone that is traveling with you) for 16,90€. We did this on our last day and I think it would probably be the best option if you are traveling alone or with another person, it becomes really cheap and I doubt you will take the tube more than 5 times in a day.

The Museums

 To recommend museums in the city that is a museum itself is a very hard thing to do. I visited two during my stay, probably the two most famous ones. The Louvre and The Pompidou.
Firstly I want to praise France for the amazing job their government does when it comes to promoting culture. Visits to museums (like the ones I've mentioned) and other monuments (like the Arc de Triomphe) are free of charge for all people that come from the European Union and are under 26. I recommend that you still book your tickets for the museums online because you will be able to skip the line.
The Louvre was an experience. We decided to only focus on the top floors. I felt very overwhelmed by art, I felt like I could go back every day that I stayed in Paris and I wouldn't have been able to see the whole thing. I didn't bother to go see Mona Lisa, there are hundreds (if not thousands) of other paintings that are less crowded and as beautiful (if not more). If you like paintings and sculptures I would recommend the Louvre one hundred percent. One room not to miss is the jewelry room, a room dedicated to a few of the most beautiful treasures from the French crown, a place that has crowns worn by Marie Antoinette or Empress Beatrice (Napoleon's wife). For someone who has studied art history for more than 7 years now to see paintings I had heard about in school for so long in real life touched me deeply.


If you only have time to visit one museum during your stay I would have to recommend The Pompidou. The outside of the museum is a modern masterpiece for itself. We only had the opportunity to visit the floor dedicated to Modern Art because we were short on time, but it was one of the best experiences of my life. I saw paintings by Kandinsky, Picasso, Otto Dix, Pollock, and many others. I saw the fountain by Duchamp. While I was there I was 17 again, inside my history book trying to learn everything about the vanguards in 10 days to take an exam on a subject I had never studied. I rediscovered the crazy minds of the art revolution like I was meeting them for the first time. I stood there looking to Yellow-Red-Blue by Kandinsky and I cried. To think that the geniuses behind those masterpieces were never fully aware of how brilliant they were, the fact that they changed art completely without even realizing, it touched my soul. Pompidou is the best museum I have ever visited and if I lived in Paris is a place I would spend hours in, absorbing everything that those paintings have to offer. Every feeling, every little piece of their story and every little piece of history.

Montmartre



 Following that, I have to talk about the neighborhood for the artists. Many, like Picasso, Van Gogh, Renoir, and many others called this place home. The beautiful Sacré Coeur graces Paris from it's highest hill. A visit to the cathedral is free of charge but you have to pay 7€ to visit the dome. After reading in many blogs about the amazing view we decided to go and I must say that it is absolutely amazing, in the past I had only gotten a skyline of Paris once when I climbed the Eiffel Tower but to see the view with the tower being part of it, it's something else.
Montmartre is the perfect place to simply walk around. The streets have life. There are multiple vintage shops, bakeries, restaurants, and the most various shops around the area. I recommend you visit Place de Tertre (also known as the artists' square), very close to the Sacré Coeur the visit is mandatory. This is the place where artists still gather, they sell portraits and caricatures (last time I was in Paris an artist actually did my caricature and I still have it at home). You are transported by a different time just by being there. It's almost like visiting a museum but it feels real and mundane, not academic.


Another place I have to recommend is The Consulat, a café known to be a hangout spot for Van Gogh or Picasso. A place that breaths art and history just by looking at it. Montmartre has many other interesting places to visit. You can easily spend a full day there (like we decided to do), I could easily write a travel guide only on Montmartre. Lose yourself in the streets, the shops and the cafés, visit the museums and you will understand the mistic that poets, painters and all types of artists describe when talking about it.


Talking about the whole Vive la vie de bohème that you feel around this area I had to talk about the Moulin Rouge. Cabarets are something very characteristic of this neighborhood and the Moulin Rouge is probably the most famous one (thanks to the masterpiece of a movie created by Baz Luhrmann). You will be able to find the Moulin Rouge at the bottom of the hill, an area with a lot of sex shops and gay clubs (a bit like the red light district of Paris). The cabaret is monumental and it will for sure capture your attention, with bright red lights and a rid mill on top of the building. It's obviously a tourist attraction where you can have dinner and watch a cancan performance (I think they cost around 150€ per person or something crazy like that).

From Notre Dame to Shakespear and Co

 I vividly remember the day Notre Dame fire happened. I was glued to my phone trying to get updates, I cried. I'm not sure why maybe because I love art and history and Notre Dame as been there to see so many of the historical events that happened in Paris as the French Revolution, The Plague, 2 world wars (amongst others), maybe because I have a connection that I can't explain with that city. Nowadays the cathedral can't be visited because there are repairs and construction going on in the building. But you can still look at the Notre Dame in its full glory from the outside. The building is monumental, to think that it was built almost 900 years ago is crazy, to say the least. I had never been so close to Notre Dames's front door like I did this time and I felt so small.
Surprisingly I didn't find the restaurants and bars near the cathedral particularly expensive (we had 2 glasses of wine in a café by the river for 10€ which is pretty reasonable in my opinion).


Another mandatory stop in the area is the bookshop Shakespeare & Co. a bookstore that for years was a meeting point for writers like  Ernest Hemingway is an authentic masterpiece. The place is decorated with such care and attention that you feel at home. You are encouraged to grab books, to feel them, to read. They sell second-hand books and new ones. The bookstore is gigantic with different rooms designated to different topics. Next to the bookshop, you can visit the Shakespeare and Co. café which is basically a cool trendy place to have a coffee with a view to the Seine and to read the books you just bought. I would really recommend this place, being one of those shops that makes you feel the magic poets described Paris to have for centuries.


LaFayette Galleries and the Ópera

If you are in the mood for shopping I have to recommend that you stop by Galeries Lafayette. An enormous shopping center that is home for the most luxury brands like Dior, Louis Vuitton, Channel, Saint Laurent, and many others. It has a beauty corner that would make any makeup lover hold its breath. I was in heaven (and surprisingly managed to not buy anything). The ceiling of the building has a gigantic dome made of stained glass. The whole place feels like a gigantic Christmas Market, mixed with a shopping center from the 1900s. A place so luxurious that it feels like you have to be really rich to shop there, a place so beautiful that it turned into a bit of a touristic attraction. The dome can be visited and you can take pictures there, it's free but there is normally a line. We had to wait for around 15 minutes, but the panoramic view of the mall is worth it.



On the outside, nearby Galeries Lafayette, you will find Palais Garnier, the home of Paris Ópera. A monumental neo-baroque palace in the center of a square, it rises from the busy city. The building makes you feel small (pretty much like everything else in Paris), due to its enormous size, but due to its beauty as well, the details, the huge stairs. I'm not sure if visits are available to the palace, but if they are, whenever I go back to Paris I would love to get a tour of the inside of this place.


Champs-Elysées, Alexandre III bridge and everything in between

 Joe Dassin wrote Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Elysées (there is everything you can wish for in the Champs-Elysées). An avenue known for its luxury stores topped by the Arc de Triomphe and with Place de la Concorde in the bottom, near the river is an iconic street in Paris. I think it's worth the stroll down the street. If you are into makeup the Sephora is a mandatory stop. The store is huge and I read somewhere it attracts more than 6 million visitors per year. I had never been in such makeup heaven (again I didn't buy anything, but totally worth the visit).


Going down the Champs-Elysées you will be able to see the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais beautiful buildings built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
You will then arrive at Place de la Concorde, the biggest and most famous square in France. The square has beautiful fountains and beautiful buildings all around it, a great spot to snap a few pictures. The place has huge historical importance as well, this is the square where King Louis the XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette were guillotined during the French Revolution.
Little details like this really reflect on the historic richness France has to offer, everything looks magnificent, beautiful, everything looks like the inside of a painting, everything has a lot of history.


Near the river, you can visit the  Alexandre the III bridge, probably the most famous bridge that crosses the Seine. The bridge connects the Champs Elysées with the Invalides it is adorned with multiple sculptures, a lot of gold details and beautiful Art Nouveau styled lamps. Those lamps were a few of the first lights to illuminate what would become the city of lights with electric energy during the Universal Exhibition of 1900, a truly revolutionary thing at the time.


A night cruise in the Seine

 I couldn't finish this post without sharing another recommendation. Something we did during our stay that we truly loved. As you can imagine the city is huge and it has loads to see, in 5 days you won't be able to see everything the city as to offer (I honestly doubt that 5 years would be enough). We decided to go on a cruise at night. We booked our tickets here and it was 13€ for a boat tour with an audio guide. I love to do stuff like this when I am traveling, it allows you to see a lot of the city and to learn more about its history. A lot of the main buildings in Paris are by the river and the city is strongly illuminated at night making it a totally magical experience. I would really recommend this activity if you are searching for a general vision of the lights in various buildings. The boats depart from near the Eiffel Tower and you will be able to see the tower sparkle from close (a light show that happens every hour and that lasts for 5 minutes).
The cruise goes from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame and it lasts one hour. I wasn't expecting it to be one of my favorite things I've ever done in Paris, but it truly was.


Location: Paris, France
Photos: Ana Teresa Pessoa & João Machado

1 comment

  1. Paris fica-te tão bem, tenho de dar uma segunda oportunidade a esta cidade :D

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