48 Hours in Paris, France

I’ve always heard that Paris in the fall is beautiful, so I decided to check it out for myself. 

This previous weekend, I headed off on a two-hour flight to Paris with two friends; Naia and Aubrey. Having been there and done that all around the city, here is the low down on (what I believe is) the perfect Paris itinerary.

The Metro System

Maybe it’s not your ideal “tourist destination” but getting some tickets is definitely necessary. Paris is very spread out and there are certain areas that aren’t as safe as others, especially at night. Upon arriving, I got a book of 10 tickets for $12 which lasted me the whole trip. This is not to say you won’t be walking profusely, as we generally averaged 10 miles a day. The Paris metro system is obviously levels above any US system, although many believe it’s not as good as other cities in Europe. I had no problems with it though as it always got me where I needed to be.

Trocadero Gardens

The best place, in my opinion, to see the Eiffel Tower. In the daylight, the Eiffel Tower honestly isn’t that impressive up close. However in the gardens with flowers and fountains in the foreground and the Eiffel Tower in the background– that is an impressive daytime view. The gardens are located right across from the Eiffel Tower, and there is another building atop its hill that was closed during our visit.

Seine River

There are boat tours you can take down the river to see more in a shorter amount of time, but really any runner’s trail down the river will do just fine – especially if the Eiffel Tower is in the background. This was the first place I headed to upon waking up Friday morning in Paris. With the trees and their fall colors, the river was perfectly contrasted and held a beauty I had seen few times before.

FREE ‘P’ STAR Thrift

Almost everyone likes to get at least a small souvenir when they travel to another city, and there are souvenir shops all over the city for that. I like to do something different though. In every city I visit, I try to find a thrift store and buy a unique piece of clothing. This shop was recommended to me by someone who grew up in Paris, and I was definitely successful in my mission. I should not be surprised the store was so full and adequate, Paris is the fashion capital of the world after all.

Shakespeare and Company

Visiting this bookstore was Naia’s first and only major aspiration of the trip. The bookstore was made famous when it became the first in the world to sell the entire “Ulysses” when nobody else would. It has housed world-renowned authors such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. It’s been said that modern-day authors know they’ve made it when they have a book signing at Shakespeare and Company. For such a famous bookstore that generally has a line out the front, the books were reasonably cheap and came with a big “Shakespeare and Company” stamp right inside the front cover. If you’re in the area, it’s definitely a shop worth seeing.

The Louvre

That famous glass pyramid, do we even need to discuss? The Louvre is so big, you could walk around for two weeks and still not see the whole thing (so sayeth a tour guide I overheard). Most famously, it houses the Mona Lisa. Many are shocked to find out how small the actual Mona Lisa painting is, as it only hangs at 77 x 53 cm. Although it is small, there is no doubt that as soon as you step in the room, you can feel the eyes follow you everywhere.

Across from the Mona Lisa hangs “The Wedding at Cana”. In stark contrast to da Vinci’s, the painting takes up the entire wall at 6.77 m x 9.9 m. Upon seeing it in the museum, I swore I had seen it before. I have never taken an art history class before though, and couldn’t put a finger on why it was so familiar. I was a bit embarrassed to be told I recognized it because it is a Logic album cover, and not because I’m a secret art buff.

Eiffel Tower (at night)

Objectively better than the Eiffel Tower during the day. Lit up in all its glory, it’s understandable why millions flock every year to the Parisian tower. Any view of the tower is a good one, especially at the hour. Each hour, the Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes.

If you’re trying to get close to the Eiffel Tower at night, it’s especially important to be aware of your surroundings. Paris, as a whole, is a relatively safe city however pickpocketing runs rampant. If someone stops you and asks for help, there is a good chance they are trying to rob you. It might seem rude at first, but the best way to deal with this situation is to ignore anyone trying to speak to you. Either they are a pickpocketer and realize you know the game, or they’re another tourist who believes you don’t speak the same language or didn’t hear them. If you’re a woman, it would be best to stay around a group of people and be extra cautious.

Le Village Montmartre by Hiphophostels

This was one of my favorite hostels, which is quite odd given its scarcity. If you’re looking for luxury, this hostel definitely isn’t for you. At all the other hostels I’ve stayed at, they were set up as if purposefully built to be a hostel. These rooms felt more like a vacation with extended family. There weren’t outlets near the bed, there were no drawers or cubbies to lock your things, and there was an overall sense that you were simply staying in someone’s bedroom for a few nights. It’s curious as to why I loved the experience so much, but I believe I just got extremely lucky with my hostelmates for the weekend. They were super friendly, had been to Paris many times before so gave me tips, and I felt safe leaving my things in the room. I do always travel with a suitcase that locks and made sure to put my passport and all other important things in there, although I don’t believe I needed to.

The first night I arrived, I asked if either of them wanted to go out to dinner. They immediately told me that the surrounding area wasn’t safe at night, and should be a bit cautious even during the day. One girl had stayed at this hostel before and had a man grab her while walking up the subway even though she was with three of her male friends. Instead of going out to eat, I walked two doors down to the grocery store and ate at the hostel’s public terrace. Being late, I could hear rowdiness going on in the streets below, and was very glad I was warned. I returned to my hostel late at night the following night by myself. I didn’t get into any trouble, but it’s important to walk with a purpose, don’t make it obvious you’re getting directions off your phone, and keep your gaze forwards instead of looking at the people on the sidewalks.

The breakfast did leave a bit to be desired, although we were in France, and what says Paris more than a breakfast of four pieces of bread? They also had coffee and yogurt in the mornings, all for 9 euros.

Sacre Coeur
I made it to the Sacre Coeur without even realizing it. I was supposed to meet Naia and Aubrey there at 10 am, as they were making a 30-minute commute from their hotel. The famous basilica is only a seven-minute walk from the hostel, but don’t let the single-digit number fool you. There are 300 stairs to get to the church at the top of the hill.

I left my hostel early, wanting to explore the area in the daylight before meeting with them. I came across a giant hill with stairs leading up to the top and wanted to climb it to see the view. Upon arriving at the peek, I took pictures of the city from above and walked around the neighborhood only to find out that the building atop the hill was the Sacre Coeur.

Even though we strictly visited the basilica to reenact the scene that sets the Selena Gomez movie, “Monte Carlo”, into action, it is obvious as to why they were captivated by its beauty in the movie. Having been raised Catholic I’ve been to a lot of gorgeous churches, but there’s nothing like lighting a candle for your family in a famous basilica in Paris.

Place du Tertre

This was probably my favorite place in all of Paris. I was so enamored with the plaza and everything happening inside of it that I didn’t think to pull out my camera until we were gone. 

Just past the Sacre Coeur, there is a small, famous plaza filled with artists. Selling their work, but also doing art right in front of you. You can buy to have your portrait done right on the spot by one of the talented artists, whether it be in charcoal, pencil, or paint. There were many young children getting their portraits done for their parents.

For artists to sell their work here, they have to submit an official portfolio to the city and be approved. Needless to say, you won’t be disappointed in the quality of art when visiting Place de Tertre.

Paul Art & Design

Man’s best friend is good for more than just long walks and companionship. Paul is the owner of a small store dedicated solely to the art he makes of his dog. From coasters to prints to tote bags, you see the adventures of Paul and his best friend.

The prices are very reasonable, which is dangerous when it comes to items surrounding dogs. I won’t return home to the states until December 23rd which means I need to get Christmas shopping done while abroad. This was the perfect place to buy my dog-loving mom her special Parisian Christmas gift.

La Villa des Abbesses

Right when we needed it, La Villa des Abbesses appeared, and it appeared plentifully. It was 12pm and we had not yet eaten, but right down the hill from Paul’s was this cafe. Each of us ordered the same breakfast meal – for $13 you got coffee, orange juice, two pieces of bread, an omelet, breakfast pudding, and a special Madeline cake.

Naia, Aubrey, and I might not be absolute foodies, but as college students living abroad – we know an absolute steal when we see one. The enormity of the food filled us up so much we didn’t even stop for lunch.

Orsay Museum

From fifth grade to my freshman year of college, I attended a small and exclusive art school in my hometown during the summer. Two days a week, I would rise at 8 am and spend the day there. We all started with pencil, and if you wanted to work with different mediums you had to pass certain tests. To work with watercolors, one of my favorite mediums, you had to pass the Monet test. Copy the painting “Pond of Water Lilies” to absolute perfection.

The Orsay Museum has an impressive collection of Monet paintings, which is how I found myself face to face with the real Pond of Water Lilies painting. It was surreal, really. I slaved over my painting for weeks before finally getting approved and doing thousands of other watercolor paintings, and now here was the painting that started it all. I stood in front of the painting for a good five minutes, taking in every different texture that proved it was real.

Other than the personal aspect, I have a Provocative Calihan Opinion that the Orsay Museum is better than the Louvre. The Louvre housed more dark and religious work while the Orsay had lighter work, such as Monet. However both museums are must-sees while in Paris.

If you’re under 26 and can prove you live or go to school in Europe, your admittance is free to all the publicly owned museums in Paris. My friends and I simply had to present staff with our Madrid student ID and a license to prove it was us before getting into the Louvre and Orsay for free.

Av. des Champs-Élysées

It seemed wrong of me to go to Paris without seeing the stores of all the luxury brands, something we definitely don’t have in the Midwest. Av. des Champs-Élysées is famous for having all of the major designers on one avenue. Louis Vuitton, Dior, Balenciaga, Marc Jacobs, Gucci, Chanel… even though I would never be able to purchase something in these stores at the moment, I like to walk slowly by them and imagine when I’ll be back in Paris for work.

Élysée Montmartre

If there’s one thing you must know about me, it’s that I will never say no to a concert, even if I’ve never heard of them before. The Vendredi Sur Mer concert at Élysée Montmartre was the catalyst for our trip to Paris. Naia has been listening to the French singer since she studied French in high school and figured she would come over to Paris for a concert while living in Madrid. Never having listened to her music before and not knowing a lick of French, I agreed to go just because I heard ‘concert’.

The Élysée Montmartre is the epitome of my favorite kind of venue. Everyone buys a cheap general admission ticket, you wait outside in line, and the inside is just a stage and a big space for people to stand. 

The venue was only two blocks away from my hostel. Although it isn’t the safest place, Élysée Montmartre is located on a busy street and there’s always lots of security outside on nights of concerts.

Les Oiseaux

It was midnight and our brunch was no longer fueling us after the concert. Les Oiseaux was the only place around the concert venue and was packed for a family birthday party. Unfortunately, it was also packed with some pretty creepy people. The restaurant was in the same skeptical part of town as my hostel, although with the big groups of people we felt safe inside. The entire time we were eating though, there was a man staring at us from the bar. When he realized we were almost done eating, he came over closer and continue to just stare. Fortunately, he left but as we were trying to pay there was a group of boys that seemed as though they were going to follow us out the door. 

Naia and Aubrey walked me back to my hostel and ordered an Uber from there. The food was delicious and, again, exactly what we needed, but I was definitely glad I wasn’t alone.

After spending almost a week in Venice and not totally loving the experience, admittedly I was worried I wouldn’t enjoy Paris either.

As soon as I entered the city center while driving in from the airport, I knew I was going to love the city. The streets were wider, there were far fewer tourists, and there were more signs of life. Paris is definitely my runner-up to Madrid, and I can say with pure confidence I will be back very soon.

Yours truly,



One response to “48 Hours in Paris, France”

  1. […] We did the big and important Paris Things that everyone must see when they travel to the city. A lot of times the big tourist attractions in various cities get a bad rap. It’s similar to being a fan of an artist, but not wanting to admit that your favorite song is the artist’s most popular song. It’s almost as if your love can be validated by how deep on the album your favorite song it. In reality, it’s the most popular and the most visited for a reason. The Eiffel Tower at night is a scene like no other and The Louvre is big enough you could walk for two weeks without seeing all of the exhibits. Maybe they’re the top two items on any TripAdvisor list, but maybe we can all just learn to acknowledge TripAdvisor might be right. […]


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