It's no secret that Paris is my favourite place in the world. Over the years, I've found myself here again and again, until, finally, in Autumn 2018, I finally decided to stay. Eighteen months later, I feel I by now know Paris well enough to be able to recommend a few must-see places; here in my essential itinerary for a long weekend or three days in Paris.
Day one is for the must-sees.
Begin in central Paris, in Saint Michel, 5e. As you exit Saint Michel metro/train station, your first sight of Paris will be Notre Dame. The fire of April 2019 devastated the cathedral, and it is of course closed to the public for the foreseeable future, but I still believe that a trip to Paris requires a visit to see the exterior, scarred and covered in scaffolding though it may be. Take a moment.
From there, cross the road to the left bank. Tucked away in Rue de la Bûcherie is the famous Shakespeare & Company bookshop, a place very special to my heart, as not only have I worked there, but before finding work on their team, I was fortunate enough to live within its walls for a few months. An English bookshop, spend some time browsing the shelves; new books can be found inside, while second-hand books are shelved outside, on the terrace, and in the cafe next door. If you're looking for something extra special, you can find rare and first edition books in the neighbouring S&Co antiquarian bookshop. I highly recommend the coffee at Shakespeare & Company's neighbouring cafe (which includes some vegan and gluten-free options), supplied by the popular Cafe Lomi in 18e, and their gluten-free chocolate muffins, though not available every day, are delicious.
From Shakespeare & Company, walk three minutes to Place Saint-Michel, a public square with a beautiful fountain; Fontaine Saint-Michel. If you're hungry, I recommend grabbing a crepe from Culture Crepes in nearby Rue Saint Andre des Arts. Gluten-free crepes are available, as is an option to takeaway. They have a 'specials' menu featuring various crepes named after famous artists associated with Paris. While the specials tend to be less suitable for takeaway, if you have time to stop for a bite, the 'Salvador Dali' is excellent; raspberries, chantilly cream, hazelnuts, and dark chocolate. Yum!
Hunger satisfied, head west to the museums. On the RER C line, Musée d'Orsay is just one stop away, but personally, I would walk, or rent one of the many rent-a-bikes/scooters scattered around the city. I recommend booking all museum tickets in advance, because Paris' top attractions, of course, can be extremely busy. The main museums often have a double-queuing system; one for those who have pre-bought their tickets, and an even longer queue for those who haven't. That said, Musée d'Orsay, in particular, is well worth the queuing time, the architecture being as beautiful as the exhibits. Highlights include Van Gogh's Starry Night, Renoir's Bal du Moulin de la Galette and Manet's Luncheon on the Grass. Take a moment to pause for a photo on the top floor in front of one of the clock windows. The d'Orsay should take up the majority of your day.
Time for lunch. Splash out at the rooftop restaurant in Musée d'Orsay, or else, there are plenty of lovely cafes, bistros and restaurants in the area. This is a pricier neighbourhood, and so personally I tend to head to Mozza & Co, a slightly-hipster, very chic food van on the banks of the Seine specialising in delicious Italian cuisine.
Cross the river at the Passerelle Léopold Sédar-Senghor bridge and walk west through Jardin des Tuileries to Musée de l'Orangerie. This is a much smaller museum compared to d'Orsay, and the main attraction is Monet's Water Lilies, displayed in two rooms, built in a beautifully tranquil figure-of-eight design. I've never seen queues for Musée de l'Orangerie anywhere near as long as those for d'Orsay, even though they more strictly limit entrants at a time in order to maintain a peaceful atmosphere. I love just to sit and drink in every detail of these beautiful paintings.
Head west towards the Eiffel Tower. It's most beautiful to view from Trocadero square on the right bank during sunset, though also you can expect it at this time to be particularly busy (tip: if you want to avoid the crowds, head to Trocadero at sunrise. You'll be sharing the space with couples on photoshoots, but it will still be considerably quieter). Watch the sunset, and I recommend booking dinner on one of the many riverboats. The Eiffel Tower sparkles with lights on the hour, every hour, and what better way is there to spend your evening than passing under the tower by boat, sipping champagne and enjoying a beautifully cooked meal?
Depending on where you are staying in Paris, begin your day with a morning walk in the park; Jardin du Luxembourg in 6e on the left bank is one of the most beautiful and well-known parks in Paris, while Jardin des Plants in 5e is a wonderful botanical garden and Parc Montsouris in 14e, south of Paris, is a large, lesser-known park popular with students at the nearby universities and families. On the right bank, Buttes-Chaumont in 19e is a stunning park, a popular space for picnics, and the park even features a 30ft waterfall, while Parc Monceau in 8e are arguably some of Paris' most elegant gardens.
Stop off at Merci second-hand book cafe in 3e for a wonderful breakfast. I especially recommend the rosemary, butter and jam scones.
Head back to the Eiffel Tower, and take the elevator up to the top floor for beautiful views of Paris. Again, I recommend booking in advance.
Hop on the metro north to Montmartre; the picturesque village famous for its arts scene can be found behind the beautiful Sacre Coeur cathedral, though make sure to admire the view from the steps leading to the entrance of the cathedral. A visit to the basilica is free, though there is a small fee to climb the tower; totally worth it, in my opinion. Roam the winding streets of Montmartre village, and pause to allow one of the many street-artists to capture your portrait. The Dali Museum is another wonderful gem of Paris, and tends to be quite quiet.
There are plenty of wonderful restaurants in Montmartre to stop for lunch, but it is quite a touristy neighbourhood, so be prepared to pay premium prices for a sit-down meal. Personally, I recommend Soul Kitchen; their menu offers plenty of vegetarian options, and savory meals including soups, pizzas and couscous dishes.
Catch the metro back into central Paris, catching line 4 between Château Rouge and Strasbourg Saint-Denis. Change onto line 8 and get off at Saint-Sébastien Froissart. Spend some time exploring Musée Picasso, and roaming the Marais, a neighbourhood renowned for its independent boutiques and restaurants.
Stop for dinner at Chez Marianne in 4e for Mediterranean food, before heading back in the direction of Saint Michel. Caveau de la Huchette is one of the best jazz bars in Paris, even if it has become a little too popular with tourists. This jazz bar has an amazing history, its cellars having once been a meeting place for the Knights Templar and, later, the Freemasons, while the upper floor has long been a bar, serving the likes of Danton and Robespierre in the 18th century. Spend the night dancing in this basement bar to live music, mixing with tourists and locals alike.
If you're not by now tired of museums, today is a day dedicated to the Louvre, a museum so vast that you can spend several hours within its walls and not see everything. Expect to queue to see the Mona Lisa, but there are countless gems to see, including the Vénus de Milo, Victoire de Samothrace, Delacroix's La Liberté Guidant le Peuple and the French crown jewels. Don't forget to pause for a selfie with the Louvre's famous glass pyramids.
Depending on how much time you dedicate to the Louvre, head east to the Arc de Triomphe, enjoying a view of the Champs Elysses - a great place to stop for lunch.
Spend your final evening in Paris at a wine tasting; even better if you opt for a wine and cheese pairing tour. Great courses can be found here and here, while there's a great wine and chocolate tour here.
Finally, I always like to spend my final night in Paris simply walking around my favourite neighbourhoods; the 4e, 5e and 6e, because, in my opinion, Paris is most beautiful at night, and that is when the city really breathes.