7 Things You Must Do on Your First Trip to Paris

As promised, I’m sharing my top must-dos in Paris, based on that 48 hour whirlwind trip I took back in January. Having only two days—a day and a half really, and less if you count sleeping!—I conducted extensive research to craft the perfect itinerary. And, I genuinely don’t regret a single second of how I spent my time. Reflecting back, though, seven experiences stood out to me as highlights of the trip.

Whether you spend two days or two weeks in Paris, you really oughta make time for these seven must-dos:

1. Sunset from the Eiffel Tower

Not near. From. Though Paris was basically overcast my entire trip, the clouds broke at sunset, juuuust in time for me to witness a glorious sunset glow over the Seine. So yeah. Sunset city views from Eiffel Tower level two are pure magic. And, we all need more magic in our lives!

Sunset over the Seine River in Paris, viewed from above

Helpful tips for visiting the Eiffel Tower:

  • First, walk to the second floor. Forget about the nearly 700 steps you’ll have to climb and do it for the views. Plus, you can pause as often as you like to take in said views, and no one needs to know that you’re also stopping to rest those jelly legs and catch your breath!
  • NOTE: You can’t purchase tickets for the stairs in advance. But, this line is shorter than the lift line, so you’re good. Also, tickets from the 2nd level to the top must be purchased separately anyway, which segues nicely into my next tip…
  • If your heart is set on going to the top, purchase your tickets waaaaay in advance. I tried to buy one three weeks prior to my trip, and all the dates and times were completely sold out! Please do spare yourself that disappointment.
  • NOTE #2: It IS possible to purchase tickets to the top at the 2nd level – BUT ONLY if advance ticket holders don’t show up at their allotted times. It’s a gamble and I was not so lucky.

2. Experience Mass at Notre Dame

Admission is free, so venturing inside is a must – during Mass being a top must. View service times here, then plan your visit accordingly. Whether you slip into a pew or stroll around the nave with eyes fixed upward on those rose windows and that vaulted ceiling, listening to the Mass echo through the cathedral adds a deeper level of authenticity.

Stained glass inside Notre Dame in Paris

3. Take a Selfie in Front of Arc de Triomphe

It’s yet another iconic Paris landmark, and to truly experience it, I recommend crossing to the middle of Champs Elysees, to a narrow strip of pavement marked for pedestrians. With cars whizzing past in both directions, follow the strip till you reach what is almost the very center of the intersection! Once there, take a million selfies and, if your camera has manual settings, have a little fun with the traffic and a slow shutter speed – especially at night.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris at night

4. Feed Pigeons at the Louvre

You know from my previous post that I didn’t actually tour the Louvre. I came. I saw the Pyramid. I left. But, in between the ‘saw’ and the ‘left,’ I encountered a small crowd surrounding a man with pigeons perched on his outstretched arms. Instagram story gold! I thought, so I recorded a video. Just as I finished recording, he approached me, grabbed my gloved hand, and filled it with birdseed. Before I could think – or even blink! – two birds were eating out of my palm. I gotta share this, too! were my first coherent thoughts, so with my other hand, I managed to snap a shot of my new feathered friends. It was a delightfully unexpected moment that brought Paris to life for me. So, just in case you don’t run into pigeon man, BYOB (as in birdseed) to the Louvre.

Two pigeons eating birdseed on a hand with a gray glove

5. Buy an Authentic Souvenir You Can’t Get at Home

Those touristy shops selling t-shirts and postcards and magnets… and Eiffel Tower figurines… are EVERYWHERE. Now, I won’t bash you for going into one or buying something, because that’d make me a hypocrite. But, I do recommend that you leave Paris with at least one keepsake that’s either one-of-a-kind, authentically Parisian, or special to you in some way. For me, that was vintage clothing. In fact, “buying something from a vintage shop in Paris” was actually on my bucket list! So I did. I also ended up with one of those cheap Eiffel Tower figurines – but only because I bought it IN the Eiffel Tower. And that, to me, has meaning.

6. Try Authentic French Parisian Foods

Yes. Yes. Macarons count. But I encourage you to expand your French palate beyond those tempting, petite treats. Think fresh baked French bread, crepes, soufflé, foie gras, escargot. My French foods of choice were a Nutella banana crepe, French bread, and escargot – and all lived up to the hype. Of course, I’m not saying you should only eat French food. (I ate sushi, too!) But, do have at least one French meal.

Bakery window in Paris, France

7. Walk as Much as Possible in Paris

The Paris Metro system is quite efficient, especially for longer distances. It’s also easy to navigate, even if you don’t speak French (like me). Still, why spend all your time underground, when there is SO much city to see?? My rule of thumb was to walk anytime the distance between point A and B was two miles or less. Your rule might be different, and that’s okay. Whatever it is, though, I encourage you to walk whenever you can. Otherwise, you’ll be kicking yourself for tunneling your trip away when you could have been gushing over alllll the cute Parisian cafes.

Do you have any must-dos to add to this list? Or, are you planning a trip to Paris? Let’s chat about it!

4 thoughts on “7 Things You Must Do on Your First Trip to Paris

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