Paris – Timeless, Magical and Full of History

In creative arts and pop culture, Paris has repeatedly been painted as a timeless, magical place with an amazing history. Whenever friends and family returned from Paris and told me about all the amazing sites they saw, I knew it was a place I needed to explore. For most, one trip was seemingly never enough.  

I often wondered if Paris would live up to the hype, or if everyone’s stories and experiences were merely a romanticized version of a magical city they had merely fallen in love with the idea of.  I quickly learned that Paris was an amazing city and it did not disappoint.

In 2013, my mom and I flew to Paris on our way to Portugal.  We had just shy of 3 days to explore the city before we had to fly out to Portugal.  The great news is that my mom and I are fantastic self guided power tourists.  Our mission, to pack in as many Parisian historical sites as possible, and do it all by foot. 

Paris Sunrise to Sunset

My mom and I flew from Seattle to Paris on a direct flight overnight, landing at the break of dawn, 5 a.m.  As we were driving to our hotel, the sun was coming up.  It was an amazing site.  When we arrived at our hotel, I was so excited!  It was beautiful. We stayed at the Hotel Bradford Elysees, a charming, authentic Haussman-style hotel with a modern touch.  Our room was on the 7th floor and we had a view of the Eiffel Tower from our window.  Since the hotel was only a few blocks from the Eiffel Tower, L’Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, so we cleaned up a little bit, loosely mapped out our route, and started exploring the city.

This is a pictorial review of our route in case you decide to follow in our footsteps.

Paris Day 1

L’Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, standing at the western end of the Champs-Élysées at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle.

The Arc de Triomphe should not be confused with a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.

Passerelle Debilly (Debilly Footbridge)

You get a nice view of the Eiffel Tower from the Passerelle Debilly.  Something to be aware of in Paris are the gypsies.  We really only ran across some gypsies while crossing the bridge, and even then, we weren’t bothered too much.  I do recall a man walking up to me saying I dropped my necklace.  1) he came from the other direction and 2) I don’t wear necklaces or jewelry when traveling.  Sorry buddy, I don’t think so!  

Liberty flame

This bronze sculpture, a replica of the one topping the Statue of Liberty, and was placed here in 1987 as a symbol of friendship between France and the USA. More famous is its location, above the place d’Alma tunnel where, on August 31, 1997, Diana, Princess of Wales, was killed in a car accident.

 

Eiffel Tower

We then made our way to the Eiffel Tower, which was surprisingly not as big as I thought it would be, but an amazing structure nonetheless.

  

Champs-Élysées

After the Eiffel Tower, we made our way along the River Seine and back towards the the Champs-Élysées admiring the architecture and doing a little bit of shopping.  We then grabbed some dinner and headed back to the hotel for some much needed rest.  The view of the Eiffel Tower at night was beautiful.  I had no idea the whole tower lit up and sparkled each night until midnight!

Google map of our walking route Day 1

Paris Day 2

Total walking distance (including the Louvre was almost 15 miles)

We woke up early with a solid game plan.  First stop, tour the Louvre.  From our hotel, it was about a 2 mile walk to the Louvre.  On our way, we were able to view the majestic architecture Paris is known for.  

Before reaching the Louvre, we passed through the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel.

Arrival at the Louvre

Plan for touring the Louvre:  

  1. Arrive right at opening
  2. Head straight for the Mona Lisa
  3. Tour the rest of the museum.

It is surprisingly larger than expected.  Because the Louvre is so huge, to walk the perimeter of the Louvre you would have to walk 3 miles/4.8 kilometer, you have to walk and walk and walk to finally get to the Mona Lisa.

Sure everybody appreciates art differently, but when you finally manage to be in front of the Mona Lisa, there is no jolt of amazement or a sudden instant of wonder, she just looks exactly like she does in the art books. What I also found surprising was the fact that the size of the painting isn’t very impressive either, it’s only 31 inches by 21 inches. Even the reprints they sell in the Louvre gift shop are bigger.  I can now say I saw the Mona Lisa though.

Once we checked the Mona Lisa off our list, we were then able to tour the Louvre at a slower pace and take in all the beauty the art had to offer.  By starting our day early and having a game plan going in, we were able to miss the lines and business.  When we passed the Mona Lisa on our way through, the room that was empty when I was there was now jam packed. 

In all, we spent a few hours in the Louvre, and then continued our exploration of the city. 

Ma Salle à Manger

The next stop was to grab some food.  We made our way to the small island called the Ile de la Cite in the middle of river Seine.  This is where the Cathedral Notre Dame is, so it just made sense to move in this direction.  

Unfortunately in school I studied Spanish instead of French, and the two languages are completely different.  The restaurants in this part of town were few and far between, and most of the restaurants we ran across only had menu boards in French.  When we passed Ma Salle à Manger, I recognized salmon and decided since my mom is a little bit of a picky eater, this was our spot.    I ordered the paella with roasted chicken on top, and my mom ordered the house smoked salmon.   It did not disappoint.  Granted, when my mom ordered the smoked salmon, we didn’t realize smoked salmon in France was raw.  My mom doesn’t have a palate for raw fish, but I do, so we traded dishes.  Everyone was happy and the food was wonderful! 

Sainte Chappel

After lunch, our energy levels were restored, our feet were rested and we were ready to continue on.  Next on our list was a tour of the Sainte Chappel.  I have never seen something so beautiful in my life. 

This Gothic chapel was built in just seven years, and was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis.  The stained glass was a true thing of beauty. Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 metres high, the stained glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris.

Cathedral Notre Dame  (850th Anniversary Year)

Notre Dame Cathedral which can also be called “our lady” is still in use today by the Roman Catholic Church for mass and it is the seat of the Archbishop of Paris.

There was a mass going on while we were touring, which was awesome to experience.

Also inside the Notre Dame Cathedral, among so many historical artifacts, is the notable 17th century organ with all of its parts still functional.  Fun fact, there are also drawings, plans and engravings which showed the old and hidden mysteries of several of the church developments and how the city of Paris came into being.

A statue of Joan of Arc can also be found inside the Cathedral Notre Dame.

Le Comptoir de L’Artoise

With it nearing late afternoon, we knew we had a long walk back to the hotel, so we made our way back and also found a quaint restaurant for dinner that was just around the corner from our hotel,  Le Comptoir de L’Artoise.  It’s a local French restaurant with good pricing and the owner was hilarious and very welcoming. I’m pretty sure he tried to marry me off to his son.  Too funny!

Google map of our walking route Day 2.

Paris Day 3

After all of our waking the past couple of days, we decided that we should go do something a little unconventional, we decided to visit Disneyland Paris!  I grew up in California and going to Disneyland, so I needed to see the park.  We walked down to the train station and boarded the train to Disneyland.  It was about a 45 minute train ride to the park and we got to see some beautiful scenery on our way there. 

Disneyland Paris

When we arrived at Disneyland Paris, it was the 20th anniversary.  While the tourists seemed very similar to Disneyland California, there were some fantastic differences with Disneyland Paris.  The most unexpected surprise was that Space Mountain was more of a true roller coaster in the dark, looping upside down and all!  I’m glad we didn’t know ahead of time or my mom may not have gone with me.  We had a blast!  We spent all day at the park and then took the train back to our hotel.   

Thoughts on Paris

While Paris is not magical in the sense that you can see things you wouldn’t believe were possible, what you do find is a city with unique, distinctive character, as manifested through its architecture, culture, cuisine and so on. For real magic, head to Disneyland Paris.

Looking back on my short visit, there is so much more left to see and I look forward to my next visit back to Paris.

Stay tuned for my blog post on Portugal shortly. 

Happy travels!

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30 Comments

  • Reply Laura Lynch January 23, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    Paris is so magical! I’ve been a number of times already, but now that we’re living in London we’ll obviously be going more often. It’s so close now! I’m excited to continue exploring it because it’s so huge and I’ve barely scratched the surface.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com January 23, 2017 at 10:14 pm

      I definitely need to go back! Europe has SO much history. It’s fascinating to me. I need to spend at least 3 weeks next time for sure. Loved it!

  • Reply veronica February 2, 2017 at 2:56 am

    I took my mum to Paris for her birthday for the Day (live in london so took the eurostar in the morning and returned in the evening). Definitely not enough time to explore this city. I have promised myself I will go back….There is to much t see, do and EAT <3 . Thanks for the guide 🙂

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:49 pm

      Completely agree! A trip back is necessary for me as well. The history is amazing in itself. Throw the food in and it’s perfect!

  • Reply Kristen Duke February 2, 2017 at 3:24 am

    When I visited France we only spent a day and a half in Paris so I definitely want to make it back some day to explore more! Your 3 days look and sounds like they were amazing!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:50 pm

      Thanks Kristen. It was. I love short trips since you really have to use your time wisely. I can’t wait to go back and continue the exploration.

  • Reply Danielle February 2, 2017 at 6:54 am

    These are great itineraries for getting to Paris’ most famous attractions and it was a great idea to include maps of the walking routes. One little thing, though – it looks like you accidentally posted the same map twice! All the same, I’m sure this will be a really helpful post to first-time visitors.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:52 pm

      OMG, thanks for the insight Danielle. I’ll take a look at it. 🙂 Appreciate the feedback. It was fun going back to the hotel and seeing the routes we took along with just how far we walked. Crazy!

  • Reply Rimsha February 2, 2017 at 7:16 am

    I only had two days in Paris and I covered almost all the same places that you did! I had so much fun reading your post because it brought back sooo many memories. Also, Disneyland Paris was magical! 😀

  • Reply Jollies and Jaunts February 2, 2017 at 8:28 am

    You managed to fit so much in in such a short amount of time! It’s been a while since I visited Paris but I loved Disneyland when I went but sadly didn’t get much chance to explore very much of the city (other than the Eiffel Tower).

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:53 pm

      A trip back is definitely needed. It’s an amazing city. You can totally fit in a ton just by walking the streets. Love finding restaurants along the way too. So fun to explore.

  • Reply Sophie February 2, 2017 at 9:40 am

    Even if I lived there I could never see enough of Paris. The first time I went I had just bought a Paris via the Metro and hopped on and off all week long using that book as a guide. The second time I went I walked everywhere, walked my feet off, and loved it. Great guide for getting to know the city, bookmarking that last restaurant you mentioned for future reference!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:54 pm

      Thanks Sophie! The Metro would be a great way to see the city! You definitely have to have great walking shoes in that city. SO much to do and see that can all be done by foot…super cheap that way too!

  • Reply Ro from The Travel Captain February 2, 2017 at 10:29 am

    You’ve highlighted some wonderful spots in Paris to visit! You and your Mom are beautiful! 🙂 I havent been there for some years but your post jogged great memories.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:58 pm

      Thank you so much! It was such a wonderful trip with fantastic memories. My mom makes a great travel buddy. I need to make a trip back since I had such fun writing about our trip. 🙂

  • Reply Flo @ Yoga, Wine & Travel February 2, 2017 at 10:30 am

    Holy moly, you guys covered so much ground in 3 days! I’ve been to Paris a handful of times and I think you guys managed to see more than I had managed previously – big props to you and your momma! The Louvre is one of my all-time favourite museums in the world, glad you guys had fun!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:48 pm

      The Louvre was amazing! Could have spent a couple of days in there alone. We have mastered the art of power touring. Haha! Can’t wait to return and see more sites. So much history.

  • Reply Lara February 2, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    It sounds like you definitely hit all of the iconic sights! Paris really is so unique from any other city. Hope you have a great time in Portugal!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:47 pm

      Thanks Lara. I absolutely loved Paris but Portugal definitely did not disappoint. The post will be up shortly.

  • Reply Ha @ Expatolife February 3, 2017 at 10:46 am

    Perfect article for me! I will be in Paris within a week and it’s my first time to visit this lovely city! Save and follow your advice when I go there! Thank you for sharing

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:46 pm

      This is great to hear. So happy to help! I can’t wait to go back and share it with my husband. So much more to explore. Enjoy your trip!

  • Reply Shortcut Travel Guide to Paris | Savored Journeys February 9, 2017 at 9:16 pm

    […] might also like our country guide to France or this 3-day walking guide of […]

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com February 12, 2017 at 11:59 pm

      Awesome guide Laura! Thanks!!!

  • Reply Kat March 8, 2017 at 5:03 pm

    I feel like no matter how long I’ve stayed in Paris, I’m never there for long enough to see and do everything. I totally understand what you mean about the Mona Lisa. For some reason I always thought that it would be much bigger than it really is – probably because the reproductions in books give that impression.
    Plus the Louvre is absolutely gigantic so there’s no way that you can see everything in there.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:29 am

      The Louvre was HUGE! Haha. So much distance was covered that day. Yes, I think you’re right, history gives us the impression it’s like the size of a wall, when in reality it’s a tiny portrait.

  • Reply Kristof March 8, 2017 at 9:21 pm

    Great guide on covering Paris’ essentials! The city does have something unique and I also love the architecture and food! We’ll be visiting Paris again soon so it’s a good recap on what we should definitely see!

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:30 am

      Thank you! Yes, I need to go back. I had fun writing this post and talking with my husband about what we should visit when I travel back with him. SO much to see and do.

  • Reply Viajar pela história - Catarina Leonardo March 12, 2017 at 12:47 am

    I´m from Portugal and i´m happy that you came here. Hope you liked! Paris it´s a amazing place with so many things to see. I think you made good choices in Paris, and walking is a excellent choice! The best way to know a city.

    • Reply westbyswtravels@gmail.com March 20, 2017 at 3:20 am

      That’s awesome! I’m writing my post about some of the day trips I took from Sintra. What an amazing country. I feel like walking Paris was the best choice. It allowed so much freedom and was also inexpensive.

  • Reply Shortcut Travel Guide to Paris | Savored Journeys April 22, 2017 at 10:23 am

    […] might also like our country guide to France or this 3-day walking guide of Paris. Read about a wine pairing dinner you can attend at O Chateau Wine Bar in the 1st […]

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