Paris Recap & Travel Guide

Finally, the Paris recap & travel guide is here! If you missed my London travel guide, it’s linked here. For those who don’t know, I recently travelled to London and Paris with my family for a total of ten days (five in each city). This was our summer vacation and my high school graduation gift. I have posted a few outfits from my time in Paris including this outfit for exploring Versalles and this outfit, which is my take on the Parisian effortless chic style. Now, let’s get into the recap!

Day 1

The view from our hotel room! 

After hours of flight delays, we made it to Paris. Since we arrived so much later than anticipated, we didn’t have much time to explore the city. We quickly checked into our hotel, The Hyatt Regency Paris Étoile, and headed to dinner.

We found an adorable little Italian place right near our hotel. I had gnocchi which was so delicious. After dinner, we walked to the Arc de Triomphe. While we never got the chance to go inside the Arc for the great views of the city, it was still cool to see it. Definitely one of the “have to do’s” while in Paris, but a fun way to end the night!

Once we got back to our hotel, we went to the top floor bar and cafe for amazing views of the city. Since our hotel was in the 18th arrondissement, it was allowed to be taller than most other hotels and buildings in Paris, which gave us the most incredible views of the city! The first two photos are the views from our hotel room. Unbelievable, right?!

Day 2

We started our first full day in Paris at the Eiffel Tower (after a French breakfast of croissants and cafés aux laits of course). We booked our tickets in advance to go up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We got there a little early, making for the perfect photoshoot opportunity. Even though we had reservations, there were still lines to get on the elevators and to the top, but it was SO worth the wait.

The view at the top was absolutely spectacular. We got so lucky because it was the clearest day- the sky was so blue and it wasn’t super hot. If you plan on going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, I don’t recommend wearing a skirt or dress because it gets very windy up there!

After that, we headed to lunch at Le Petit Cler, a recommendation courtesy of Jessica of Bows & Sequins. If you’re traveling to Paris, I really recommend taking a look at her travel guide. It’s so thorough and was full of great places to visit and eat. Le Petit Cler was delicious; everyone loved their meals. It was really the typical Parisian cafe.

Next was the Musée d’Orsay, which is the museum that holds most of the impressionist works including Monet, Degas, Manet and Renoir. Impressionism is my favorite, so this museum was a “must-visit” for us. I loved walking around and seeing all the beautiful paintings, especially Degas’ ballerinas, which is one of my favorites.

Another cool thing about the Musée d’Orsay is that it used to be a train station and was remodeled into a museum. The inside of the building is so different than a typical museum and absolutely looks like an old train station which gives a very cool ambiance to the museum. Also, there is a roof deck that overlooks the Seine River for the most beautiful views of the city. Not quite the Eiffel Tower, but certainly stunning!

After the museum, we started heading back in the direction of our hotel. We crossed one of the bridges over the Seine and walked down the Champs Élysées for a while until we stumbled upon Cafe le Deauville, the perfect spot for a rest and crêpes (we were getting a little #hangry…). It was so magical to walk down the Champs Élysées, even though I didn’t get to shop much. It was also cool to see everything getting set up for the Tour de France because the following day, the bikers were finishing the race in Paris!

From there, we went back to our hotel and freshened up for dinner. Again, we stayed pretty close to our hotel and found another Italian restaurant, La Famiglia, which was amazing. I had veal with a lemon sauce and a side of pasta. Then for dessert, we walked a few blocks to a street cafe and had cappuccinos with a side of people watching. The cafes and people watching were definitely some of my favorite things about Paris. I loved eating outdoors and watching the city move. 

Day 3

For our third day in Paris, we were up early and on the Metro en route to Versailles. As I mentioned earlier, this was the day that the Tour de France was coming through Paris, so we thought it would be the perfect time to escape the crowds and visit Versailles. Well, I think every other tourist group was thinking the exact same thing because the crowds at Versailles were CRAZY. We got there around 11:30 am and the line just to get in (with pre-purchased tickets) was hours long. After talking to someone at the information desk, she suggested that we visit the gardens first and then the chateau in the afternoon because the lines should calm down. 

The gardens weren’t crowded at all- we basically walked right in. Our friends had recommended renting a golf cart to see the gardens. Since they’re so big, it’s almost impossible to see everything just by walking in half a day. It wasn’t very expensive (maybe $30 Euro/hour or so) and was SO worth it. We got to see Le Petit Trianon and Le Grand Trianon, which were little guest houses in the gardens. We also saw Marie Antoinette’s chateau. 

We joked around at how “lame” these buildings were in comparison to the giant Versailles mansion, but in reality, these homes were very large and absolutely beautiful. They each had their own gardens in their yards. My favorite was the Grand Trianon. We drove around some more and saw more of the gardens, including the fountains and a water show. 

After that, we returned the golf cart and went to lunch at the cafe in the garden. We figured it was going to be a Disney World type of place with a limited menu, high prices and mediocre quality, but we were so wrong. It was a very extensive menu that was reasonably priced and delicious. I had a roast chicken and french fries and then my sister and I shared a Nutella crêpe for dessert. It was the perfect break in between touring the gardens and the chateau. 

The Versailles chateau was unreal. As we were walking around, I kept having to remind myself that this was all for one person. The rooms just went on and on and on. There were separate rooms for the closet, getting ready and getting dressed. Imagine having three rooms just to get dressed- crazy! Even though it was super crowded, it was definitely worth the trip to see. I truly cannot begin to explain how huge the mansion actually was; it’s really something you have to see in person to believe. 

After taking the Metro back to the city, we went to dinner at Le Boeuf Maillot, a cafe near our hotel. It was so great, especially the desserts! I got a Belgian waffle with berries and ice cream, which is definitely not a typical dessert but so delicious (I would have loved it with some Nutella, though). 

Day 4 

We started our day with a quick grab-and-go breakfast at Paul right near the Louvre. My mom snapped this hilarious candid of my sister and I eating our croissants. That smile on my sister’s face is 100% genuine- the croissants were really that good. There’s truly nothing like a real French croissant.

First, we walked through the Louvre. We saw the Mona Lisa, of course, but the crowds surrounding the painting were ridiculous! People were just trying to snap a picture on their phone and get out, which I didn’t understand. It’s like they just wanted to go to say that they saw it, rather than going to actually see and appreciate it. Personally, I’m not sure what all the hype is about. Of course, it is a spectacular painting and da Vinci was extremely talented, but compared to some of the incredibly detailed murals that were hanging in the same room, I don’t get the hype. 

We also walked through the Egyptian artifacts, which I loved. As I mentioned in my London recap post when I talked about the British Museum, I love Egyptian history. Ever since elementary school, I have been absolutely fascinated with their history and ancient culture. Seeing some of the artifacts from the Egyptian cities was so awesome and I learned so much about the culture. 

After the Louvre, we were hungry (of course), so we headed to lunch at a little cafe a few blocks away from the museum. My mom and I shared a pasta dish and a burger which turned out to be the perfect meal. I had been craving a good burger and this one hit the spot. Plus, the pasta was also so good, despite the fact that I’d been eating so much pasta on this trip (all the carbs, please).

After lunch, we walked through the Tuileries gardens to go to the Musée de l’Orangerie, a smaller museum with more impressionist works. A few friends recommended these gardens to me, but honestly, after seeing Versailles, Tuileries was kind of a let down. A lot of the flowers and grass were borderline dying actually, which is why we weren’t really impressed. Even still, it was a nice walk over to the museum. I would have loved to see the gardens when everything was living and in full bloom! 

I absolutely loved the Musée de l’Orangerie. My favorite was Monet’s Water Lilies. Seeing the four panels in that room was completely breathtaking. The scope of the painting alone is unbelievable, let alone all the details and beauty in each stroke. I even bought a few postcards of the different panels for my dorm room bulletin board or something. 

After the museum, we were walking back through Tuileries to get to a few stores I wanted to go to when we saw a fair of sorts. There were a few rides, including the swings. After making a few jokes, my family and I decided we had to go on the swings. It was so much fun! We were laughing the whole time and actually got the greatest view of the city and of the Eiffel Tower. Definitely tourist-y, but so worth it. 

After swinging, we headed towards Rue de Saint Honoré for some shopping. First on my list was Colette. Colette is comparable to Dover Street Market, a high end concept store. They had everything from magazines, tech accessories, books and music to high end clothes and shoes. Even though I couldn’t afford any of the clothes, it was awesome to walk through and see the visual merchandising (I’m a fashion nerd, I guess) and all the different products. I ended up purchasing Business of Fashion magazine, since I am a BOF website reader but can never get the magazine in the US. 

After that, I needed to go to a store where I could actually shop and buy things, so we went to ZARA. Let me tell you, I love American ZARA, but European ZARA’s are 10000x better. This ZARA was organized, neat and all the merchandise was so trendy and cute. I tried on probably 15 things and loved most of them, but only bought a few (I hate the 50lb. suitcase rule on airlines- ruining all my shopping fun!). 

One of my favorite things I bought was a pair of black and white vertical striped culottes. I had been seeing Parisian women wearing culottes our entire trip and was feeling inspired, so I went for it! I am so glad I bought them because I love them and always feel a little bit Parisian whenever I wear them 🙂 

After all that shopping, we needed a snack, so we stopped at Laudrée for macarons, then went to a cafe for drinks and crêpes. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I love the Parisian way of life. Just sitting at an outdoor cafe, sipping my cappuccino and eating my crêpe, people watching everyone as they walk by. It was such a nice way to relax after a day of exploring and shopping.

After stopping back at the hotel to change, we went to La Piccolina for dinner. We were planning on doing an evening boat cruise on the Seine that night, but it didn’t work out which ended up being for the best. Our dinner was delicious. We shared a Margherita pizza and I got a pomodoro penne pasta dish (yes, I ate even more pasta). For dessert, just a cappuccino. As I mentioned in this post, I had to sit at an outdoor cafe and sip a cappuccino while I was in Paris, and this was the perfect night for it.

As we were leaving the restaurant, we started taking some pictures and the Eiffel Tower started sparkling. Every night at 11pm, the tower sparkles and it is one of the most magical things I’ve ever seen. We were in the perfect location and had so much fun taking it all in and snapping pictures! Once the sparkling was over, we headed back to our hotel and called it a night.

Day 5

For our last day in Paris, we started with breakfast at Chez Clement, a bed & breakfast type place right near our hotel. We had been searching for an authentic French breakfast all week and we finally got it. Croissant, baguette & jam/butter, fruit and a latté. It was so delicious. Bread + coffee: two of my favorite things. Guys, this is why breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. Not to mention the ambiance of the restaurant was adorable.

Next, we headed back over the Seine to go to the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, the museum of fashion and textiles, which is something I had been dying to do our entire trip. As I posted about here, I had recently visited the Met’s Costume Institute Exhibit, Manus x Machina, which I thought (and still think) was a brilliantly curated exhibit with a very special point of view and collection of garments. With that said, I think that the main exhibit in the the Musée des Arts Decoratifs, “Fashion Forward: Three Centuries of Fashion” was so comprehensive and absolutely incredible. While a very straightforward idea, it was thoroughly curated and displayed in a way that illustrated the culture and time period of each garment, showing the larger significance of the clothes.

I am planning on doing an entire post devoted to really analyzing and sharing my experience at this museum, but as you can probably tell, I loved it! The other exhibit in the museum was “Barbie”, a display completely devoted to the history, evolution and significance of the Barbie doll. Unsure of what to expect, I was completely blown away. Again, I am doing an entire post devoted to the museum, but had to share a few pictures and sneak peaks here.

After spending our whole morning in the museum, we went to lunch at a little cafe nearby, Café Palais Royal. I had beef bourguignon, which was so delicious, as was every other meal I’ve recounted so far. We really never had a bad meal! After a morning devoted to “my” museum, we headed to Le Musée Gormand: Choco-Story, the chocolate museum, for my sister. She’s the sweet tooth and foodie of the family, so we had to make a stop here for her. She’s not really a museum person, but made an exception for a museum devoted to chocolate.

It ended up being a very cool museum. At first, there was a lot about the history of chocolate. There were tons of little signs with a few paragraphs each explaining the evolution of the chocolate we know and love today, so to make it a little more interesting, I read all the signs in French to test my skills after taking it for seven years. Turns out, I’m not too bad! Plus it kept me interested and engaged, because if I had been reading in English, I think reading about the different types of tools they used to make chocolate in the 18th century would have bored me.

After the whole history portion of the museum, there was a demonstration and chocolate tasting! We tried a few different kind of dark chocolate and then afterwards went to a hot chocolate tasting. I kept it simple and just got the plain old milk chocolate flavor, but it was my favorite out of all of them. While we were hoping to get to a few more things on our last day, we spent so much time at the fashion museum (not complaining!!), after the chocolate museum, it was already time to get back to our hotel to get ready for dinner.

We had an early dinner at Pasco before going on an evening cruise on the Seine. We enjoyed our last night of al fresco dining with perfect weather and a tasty meal. I got a steak dish, which I loved. We got two orders of profiteroles for dessert which were unlike anything I’ve ever had before. They were hands down one of the best desserts I’ve EVER had, and I eat a lot of dessert 😉 I would do anything to have those again right now!

Nothing like a family selfie to end a great vacation! 

From there, we walked to the Eiffel Tower, then down to the Seine to hop on our cruise. We picked the perfect time to go because the sun was just starting to set as we left so we got to see the city of lights as the sun was setting and then by the time we turned around heading back towards the Eiffel Tower, it was lit up and as beautiful as ever! The cruise was such a great way to see the city. Again, definitely tourist-y, but a lot of fun and since it was included in our Paris Pass, we figured we might as well.

Minutes after we got off the boat, the Eiffel Tower started sparkling since it was 11pm. We watched it each night but it never got any less magical. I could watch it every night and still be absolutely amazed. I definitely miss that view every night! That was the perfect way to end our last night in Paris: sitting on the Seine watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle and shine. It was like something out of a movie, that’s how perfect it was.

I am so in love with the city of Paris; I am already thinking about my next trip back (study abroad, maybe?). There are so many more monuments, places, stores and restaurants I wish we could have gone to but I think in the five (really, four) days we were there, we accomplished and saw a lot while still being able to enjoy and appreciate everything we did.

The next morning, we were up and out on a flight back home to New Jersey. Overall, it was the most wonderful ten days. I am so thankful for such amazing parents who took me on this dream-come-true of a vacation. It was such a special way to celebrate my high school graduation as I get ready to move to college in a few weeks.

For anyone traveling to Paris in the future- please feel free to reach out with any questions about my trip, itinerary or anything. I’d be more than happy to try my best to help out. I know this post was super long- so if you’re still reading, thanks for sticking around!

Have you ever been to Paris? Comment below, I’d love to hear about your trip! XO, Nicole

17 thoughts on “Paris Recap & Travel Guide

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