If I had to pick one place to visit again in Paris, it would be Sainte-Chapelle. I can imagine sitting in this chapel and staring at the stained glass all day. When the light streams through a window and hits the colors just right, the stained glass is absolutely breathtaking.
Sainte-Chapelle is just down the street from Notre Dame, so plan to see both while you are in the neighborhood. You might also plan on grabbing breakfast or lunch to take with you to munch on as you stand in line as both places can have long lines to enter.
The lines at Notre Dame can be really long. Bring Rick Steves’ Paris guide book and read about the cathedral as you stand outside. It will make the wait more interesting. Be sure and cover your shoulders and knees to enter this cathedral. When we visited, people in tank tops were not allowed in, so bring a scarf, shawl, sweater, etc. to cover up as needed.
After you leave Notre Dame, take a stroll along the Seine River on the Left Bank and wind your way through the Latin Quarter in search of a cafe, boulangerie, or chocolatier.
Arc de Triomphe & Champs-Elysees
Follow Rick Steves’ Paris guide for the Champs-Elysees Walk. Start at the Arc de Triomphe and end at Place de la Concorde area. We enjoyed the grandeur of Grand Palais, Petite Palais, & surprisingly, Abercrombie & Fitch.
The Eiffel Tower is the icon of Paris. It is a must see during the day and at night. You will have a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower as you gaze around Paris from the roof of the Arc de Triomphe. Don’t miss the Eiffel Tower sparkling with lights at night. For more details, read 12 Things you Need to Know about Visiting the Eiffel Tower.
I thought the Louvre would be my favorite museum, and while it was amazing, my first choice would be to go back to Musée d’Orsay. Maybe it’s because I am more familiar with Impressionism and the art from that time period. The work of artists like Monet, Degas, Renoir, and Van Gogh hang in the galleries. The museum is housed in the former Orsay train station, and the domed interior is a work of art in itself. Orsay is not nearly as large as the Louvre, so you can spend the morning here and be at a restaurant in time for your lunch reservation.
Plan to spend a day here so you don’t have to rush. The Louvre is extensive so plan which wings you want to visit in advance to ensure you don’t miss your favorites. The highlights for us were the Mona Lisa and other paintings by da Vinci, Winged Victory of Samothrace, enormous paintings such as The Marriage at Cana, and The Cour Marly.
Versailles is vast and beautiful, so plan to spend a day here. Try to visit when the weather is good since you will spend a majority of your time outside. Start early as it is a 35 minute metro ride from Paris. Once you arrive, turn right out of the station, then left at the first boulevard. Walk another 10 minutes and you will see the palace looming before you. You must wait in the security line even with a pass. Once inside the gate, tour the Château first then stroll through the Gardens of Versailles in the afternoon. Spectacle Days are the best when the fountains come to life and classical music plays in the background. Pack a picnic lunch to fuel your walk to the end of the gardens to the Trianon Palaces and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette.
Paris at Night
Paris absolutely glitters after dark. Major sights such as the Eiffel Tower (light show every hour on the hour for 5 minutes until 1am), Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Louvre, and Notre Dame are lit up at night. You can see all the sights by metro hopping from stop to stop, but keep in mind that the metro closes at 1:15 or 2:15am depending on the day of the week. Ride the metro to the sight that is furthest from where you are staying and work your way back or have a plan to take a taxi or Uber back if the metro closes and you are still out in the city.
Follow Rick Steves’ Montmartre walk in his Paris guide book. You will start by visiting the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. The highlights for us were walking in Renoir’s garden on the grounds of the Musée de Montmartre while someone played the outdoor piano, watching street musicians play a lively tune while people crowded around to clap and dance, standing outside Picasso’s studio and Van Gogh’s house, and seeing the Moulin Rouge.
Other places we visited and enjoyed were Napoleon’s Tomb and War Museum, Palais Garnier opera house and Rodin Museum. The best things about Paris are the delicious food, incredible history, amazing architecture, and something to discover around every corner. Walk around and let Paris surprise you.