What should I do with a day in Paris?
If you’re headed to the City of Light and wondering what to do there, you’ve come to the right place. The Traveling Flâneuse is here to tell you about all her favorite Paris/France spots! But since I have such a long list of wonderful places to go in Paris, this is just the first post in what will likely be a long a series.
It’s been almost two years (le sigh) since I was pattering away on the cobblestones of France, and you can bet that I’m craving my picturesque Parisian strolls, dreaming of French pastries, and missing the conversations with friends. So, let’s pretend some magical fairy godmother decides to poof me overseas to Paris. This is what my free day in Paris would look like.
[Note: Useful links are bolded.]
Let’s pretend I’m staying in 13th arrondissement (and that it’s a weekday because c’est la France, and I don’t want to deal with weekend crowds and (non) hours). In the morning, I take the tiny elevator down to the rez-de-chaussée and walk around the corner to get North African bricks and pastillas (brik/b’stilla) at Le P’tit Souk (86, Rue de Patay, 75013). I’d never had either dish before trying them here in 2015, but fell in love with them. The lady who works/owns the store (Meryem?) is such a lovely person. There’s often lighthearted banter shared at the shop counter.
[My boyfriend and I were staying in an Airbnb nearby during one of my vacations (the French school system has many 2-week long vacations built in throughout the school year) and after a couple days of visiting the shop, she would already joke around and say, “I know what you’re going to order! You like the pastilla!” One time, her friend was sitting behind the counter with her and she would tell her, “These two eat pastilla every morning! They come in every day!” Her friend was also intent on telling my boyfriend that he was “beautiful.” It was a hilarious interaction :D]
Back to my hypothetical day in Paris! After nomming on deliciousness, I bus/metro to the Jardin des Plantes and people watch while flâning through the park/garden. In the spring and summertime, there are beautiful flowers blooming and it’s lovely weather for walking (or not – it does rain frequently in Paris, so hopefully I’d have a parapluie in my bag!). There are also beautiful greenhouses that showcase spectacular flowers and plants as well as a natural history museum and even a small zoo.
I continue through the jardin, with my trusty camera in hand, and eventually make my way down Quai Saint-Bernard, across the Pont de la Tournelle and meander the small streets of Île Saint-Louis. I debate whether I want the delicious (but definitely too pricey) scoop of heavenly ice cream that is Berthillon. Though my stomach wants some of their delicious marron glacé (this might be an autumn special) or strawberry ice cream, I have just enough will power to resist. I also know that there’s a gelato place that I might encounter later in the day that has bigger scoops…
Though my plan is to head directly towards the Marais neighborhood, I can’t help but cross one of my favorite little bridges (Pont Saint-Louis) and visit the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent hours in, on (there are tours up the towers!) and around the magnificent architectural specimen, but I love the Paris Notre Dame. Even the hordes of tourists can’t keep me away (though they will keep me from going inside).
[Tip: If you’re able to climb stairs, go up the towers. There is always a line, but right before sunset, it tends to be a little less crowded. You’ll get to see the sunset from atop the Notre Dame!]
With my little detour complete, I now ready to head to the Marais! My favorite quartier de Paris 🙂 Near the Saint-Paul metro station, there’s a Georges Larnicol (there are several branches in Paris, but I consistently went to this one) where they sell scrumptious chocolates (get the mussel shaped ones!! so good if you like hazelnut praliné) and kouignettes (mini kouign amanns). I always buy a little bag of the chocolates and pick up two kouignettes (nature & chocolat) to eat the next day.
I’m plenty hungry at this point (the walk from the Jardin des Plantes probably took a little over an hour with my detour + my photo snapping), so I head to King Falafel on the famous Rue des Rosiers to get myself a huge falafel pita for déjeuner. I make sure to ask for extra sauce piquante (spicy) because otherwise they just drizzle a teensy bit. For about 6 or 7 euros, this is a fabulously filling lunch.
[Pro-tip: L’As du Fallafel, while popular and fine, doesn’t really taste different from the
other neighboring Falafel shops. It might actually be worse. I always liked King Falafel because there was rarely a line, and it felt like they were more generous with the fried eggplant pieces, which everyone knows is the best part.]
I eat my falafel at the Square Charles-Victor Langlois, because there’s no way to dig into a falafel gracefully while walking when you’ve got a large bag (always. my bag is always too large). This square is pretty reliable for an open seat on a bench – just be prepared for young children + mothers (sometimes fathers) to be playing on the play structure and pingpong table. You’ll witness some painfully funny toddler face plants into the floor. There’s a nice little church right next to the square, which makes for a nice atmosphere as well 🙂
13h30 (woo hoo military time)
Did you think I was done eating? Nope, not yet! [Maybe I should have named this blog the Hungry Flaneuse.] I’m thinking of window shopping around the quartier so I reason with myself that it is now perfeectly acceptable to get a delicious rose-petal-shaped gelato cone from Amorino. Yes, it’s a chain, but it is damn delicious. My favorites parfums are the dark chocolate sorbet and the grapefruit sorbet (everything’s good, though).
Armed with my frozen treat, I go visit my favorite brands (Maje and Comptoir des Cotonniers) while discovering the smaller boutiques that I didn’t see in previous visits. The Marais tends to be pricey though (like most of Paris), so I peruse the racks but remind myself that my wallet has already suffered, and will continue to suffer, from my gastronomical pursuits of the day.
With my gelato long gone, I decide to visit one of my favorite museums: Le musée Carnavalet but….. *gasp* it’s closed! And until 2019 (!!!) for renovations. Alas, even the perfect day would have some hiccups, it wouldn’t be Paris otherwise.
[This is a reminder that no matter what you read, on my site or elsewhere, Paris is known for their strikes, random closures, holidays and closures due to renovations. In order to avoid these, make sure to take the time to Google your plans before you set out for the day!].
Instead of the Carnavalet, I look up a nearby bookstore on my phone, find a book to read (maybe something by Patrick Modiano? I recently read Rue des Boutiques Obscures/Missing Person and really liked it) and take it to the Place des Vosges – it might be crowded, but let’s say I find a spot on a bench.
After a few hours of reading, people watching, and taking photos, I hop onto the Line 1 metro, hop off at Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre and go to the evening hours at the Louvre (using the Carrousel entrance). I always try to go during off hours when are fewer tour groups. Depending on my mood, I might go visit the Egyptian sarcophagi, paying my respects to the coffins I wrote about in my Egyptology class at the Sorbonne. Or, I might go visit some of the large French paintings (like the famous one by Delacroix).
Walking around the Louvre can be absolutely tiring (it was a palace after all, so it’s huge, walk around for a while and you can skip the gym 😉 ) so I getting hungry (again. I used to joke with friends that I needed to eat every hour). I call it a day and head back towards the 13th arrondissement (hopping on the Line 7, getting off at Tolbiac) and go to my favorite Vietnamese restaurant in Paris: Pho Mui. After my lovely teacher friend Agathe (who is French/Vietnamese) recommended it to me, and I’ve never gone anywhere else for pho! I’ve tried many pho places, but this is hands down the best. To give you an idea of just how much I like this place: my boyfriend came to visit for 14 days. We went to Pho Mui at least 5 times. 🙂
[The pho you find in Paris is often different from those you find in the US (it might be a North/South Vietnam difference, I’m not quite sure). It has a stronger presence of spices (cinnamon?) and comes with more herbs (yay mint!) and bird’s eye chilis. At Pho Mui, they also serve you a side of pickled onions to add into your bowl and it is the best thing ever. I completely admit that I have a pho addiction, and I probably eat a bowl at least every other week. But even in the US where there are many pho places to choose from, I dream of Pho Mui! The restaurant people (both employees/owners and customers) are super nice and funny.]
With a full stomach, a handbag stuffed with kouignettes for tomorrow’s breakfast and a camera full of newly captured moments, I walk back to my Airbnb content with my lovely day in Paris.
I hope you enjoyed this hypothetical day in Paris as much as I did! 🙂 Happy reading, traveling and (day)dreaming! And as always, comment below or leave me a message! What’s your idea of a perfect day in Paris?
In the future, expect more posts with recommendations on museums, foods, shops, and places to see!