Paris, ah yes, that beautiful city that many travellers have an opinion about. The love of many and such a predictable city to cover in any first time tourist to Europe. Though when you come to think of it, Paris does have its merits that grants its popularity. Given 2 full days to eat and explore in the city, this was what I did and perhaps would recommend to visitors looking to get a taste of this city.
Arriving in the afternoon, visiting one of Paris’ most famous landmark is a good way to orientate oneself to this city that does not follow the grid-like structures of other metropolis. Start off by going to the top of the Arc de Triomphe in between the Avenue de la Grande Armée and Avenues des Champs-Élysées. The view from this monument is stunning and allows visitors to grasp the full extent of the city and even see the places of interest.
After immersing one with the breathtaking view, head on to the Jardins du Trocadero which is a manicured garden with several museums and points of interest. Though the star attraction here is perhaps the view of Eiffel Tower. While this icon might be visible all across Paris, this garden provides a photo-taking opportunity for visitors. Who comes to Paris the first time and not take a photo with the Tower? By then it would be time for dinner. While Paris might be home to some fine Michelin-starred restaurants, it does have a wide range of good eateries and I highly recommend Le Relais de Venise which is a restaurant serving just one dish – Steak Frites. Essentially a simple dish of steak and fries, this is perhaps one dish that could be associated with France.
This is not a large restaurant and it is located in Porte Maillot, across from the Palais des Congres and just beside the Le Méridien Etoile where I stayed. A long queue might be there but they do serve diners quickly since there is no need to choose what dish you want. The menu has a simplicity to it either. Just order drinks and the server will come back with your drink and bread. A salad is also served with the steak. While the steak is not a special high-end cut, the savoury gravy and their way of serving your steak portion twice instead of everything at a go does create a unique dining experience on its own right. This makes sure your other half of the steak will not be cold. At the end there is a dessert menu to choose from.
Maybe start off the next morning with a nice meal in a cafe somewhere. There are a lot of cafes in Paris but I do recommend a proper boulangerie to get their croissant or even a baguette for breakfast.
After getting a bite, one of the attractions of Paris is the shopping. In particular, the department stores like Printemps and Galeries Lafayette are both great venues to start the morning with. With multiple floors to explore, there are definitely something for everyone. And what is great about these 2 stores are their glass domes which are even worth visiting for!
While the glass dome over Galeries Lafayette is visible from the main floor, the dome in Printemps is over its top floor cafe. That makes it a great venue to stop for a lunch break after half a day of shopping. In fact the cafe can get busy during lunch time but plenty of seats and a value 3-course set menu certainly makes it convenient for visitors.
A sample of the set lunch starts off with a bowl of onion soup, before the main course of chicken breast and ending with a crème brûlée. With the ambience and the close proximity to all the shopping, this is not a bad place to take a break and have lunch.
Visiting a large city like Paris means also checking out the grand architecture of this city. Boulevard Haussmann where Printemps is located at is one of the most prominent boulevards and avenues lined with beautiful buildings.
As a metropolis built over the century, Paris has a variety of churches and there are 2 worth checking out around Boulevard Haussmann. One of them being L’église de la Madeleine. This monolith in the middle of the city is along the way to Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, the street where major luxury boutiques are to be found. Experience white gloved service in these stores and feast your eyes on the fashion trends here. Though be prepared to spend and swipe at these stores. Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré is also close to the Place de la Concorde, the largest public square fronting the Louvre. It is akin to Tiananmen in Beijing.
That long walk and shopping throughout the afternoon would be sure to tire many travellers and this would be a great time to get a seat at the numerous pâtisseries around Paris, grabbing an eclair or two.
An even better way to enjoy the afternoon might be to have a bite at Café de la Paix located inside the InterContinental Le Grand Hotel. With the Opera Garnier just across from the café, it might even be possible to get a view of this ornate landmark while enjoying fine pastries and desserts. For music lovers, they might even catch a performance inside the Opera itself!
Around the Opera neighbourhood, I was given a suggestion by the concierge at W Hotel to head to Le Chenin. This small bistro located along Rue le Peletier and within walking distance from the Opera. Unlike some French restaurants which can be snooty, the friendly hosts of this establishment welcomes travellers from around the world while serving classic French dishes like foie gras terrine and duck confit. During peak dining hours, reservations are recommended since it is a small restaurant but it has a very charming interior and one of the walls is even decorated with currency notes from around the world – a testament to its popularity amongst travellers.
I attribute the popularity of Le Chenin to its generous portion and tasty dishes along with reasonable prices. French food is not exactly expensive and it is only made to be pricey due to the Michelin-starred restaurants.
Staying around the Opera area has another perk since many of the buildings in this area are beautifully lit up at night. Avenue des Champs-Élysées is probably another place travellers want to stay near to enjoy the night lights of this city. After all why visit the City of Lights if you do not enjoy the sparkles when the sun sets?
I made sure not to stay up too late the previous night, and woke up early to have a jog along the Avenue de l’Opéra to head to the Louvre. This allowed me to enjoy the serenity of the glass pyramid and the architecture of the old palace buildings before the crowds arrive. Soak in the sounds of the rush hour in the city and enjoy the golden glow of the sunrise on the river Seine afterwards.
Continuing the jog past the Louvre along the Seine marks a highlight to any morning in Paris. The numerous bridges are lit up in the sunrise and it casts a warm glow over the city. Sunrise and sunset certainly illuminates the river and the city making it even more wondrous!
On the way back to the hotel, grab a croissant and a coffee for breakfast and that makes a great start to this morning. After a shower, there might be some time to enjoy a last sight of Paris.
Travellers could either visit one of the numerous museums around the city or check out some contemporary architecture amidst all the classical buildings. For a photographer and a foodie, I opted to take the Metro to Abbesses stop in Montmartre where the attraction is Sacré-Cœur. This white church is even visible from the Arc de Triomphe due to its located atop a small hill. In addition to providing visitors with a bird’s eye view over Paris, the church itself is worth visiting for its architecture. And not to mention, there are numerous creperies in Montmartre to enjoy yet again another classic French delicacy!
Two days might not be adequate to fully explore Paris but as I have shown here, 48 hours can be used for a teaser for the first time traveller. And when they re-visit the city, they can perhaps know better what they are looking for in what is perhaps everyone’s favourite big city in Europe.