When you are studying abroad, weekend trips out of the country are definitely on your mind! Studying in London has been a slight culture adjustment, but it was a bit intimidating to think about traveling to Paris and not knowing any French other than “bonjour” and “café au lait.” We went on the AIFS sponsored trip for the weekend and they made it so easy for us to see the sights and have plenty of free time to wander the city on our own. So, if you are planning on traveling to Paris, you maybe don’t know how to speak French, and you only have a short time in the city, read on to find out how to pack in all the top spots in just three days!
1. Watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle.
While many travelers prefer to avoid the touristy spots, there is something about the Eiffel Tower that never gets old. It’s pretty in the daytime in contrast to the old classic architecture of the surrounding city, it’s beautiful when it lights up gold against the night sky, but it’s magical when it starts to sparkle. It sparkles every hour on the hour after sunset, so make sure to plan a time to watch the show! Trocadero is a great viewing spot if you want the classic shot, or you can wander around the base of the Eiffel Tower in the surrounding gardens for a closer view.
2. Wander the streets of Montmartre.
One area in Paris that can get overlooked by first-time visitors is Montmartre. Being the artists’ district, this part of the city is full of creative spirit. It exudes the quintessential Parisian vibes – from the narrow-winding steep cobblestone streets, to the piano bars, to the local artists painting in the market behind the Sacré-Cœur Basilica. Trek to the hill that this basilica is perched atop of for one of the best views overlooking the entire city of Paris. It is definitely my favorite area in the city!
3. Check out the museums.
Paris is a mecca of amazing museums, especially for all the art lovers out there. If you want to see masterpieces from some of the greatest artists known to man but only have time to pick one museum, then the Louvre should be at the top of your list! Delacroix, Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio, and, of course, Leonardo da Vinci (and his ever-so-crowded Mona Lisa) are all found in this museum. You could spend days in this massive museum, so do some preliminary research on which pieces it holds so you can be sure to hit all of your favorite ones!
4. Eat all the food.
For all the foodies out there – this city will not disappoint! You could happily spend the weekend popping into the local bakeries and cafés and living off of the fresh bread, French cheeses, and macaroons. Avoid the American chains dotted around the city and check out an authentic café! Don’t be intimidated if you do not know any French and are worried about ordering – a lot of the cafés will have English translations, the items look recognizable to our language, or the waiters will often speak English. You might even learn some new phrases! We went to Café Oberkampf for some oh-so-Instagrammable avocado toast, coffee, and a fresh-baked cookie. If you’re looking for a place to eat with a view, head over to Galeries Lafayatte for their rooftop café and eat with the Eiffel Tower over your shoulder.
5. Don’t be afraid of the metro.
The Paris metro is known to have a bad reputation. Maybe it is a little smelly, but it is super efficient and easily navigable (not to mention it’s fun trying to pronounce the names of all the stops). You can buy packs of tickets that will last you the weekend for a cheap price that will beat taking a taxi or Uber everywhere. Stations are dotted all across the city. If you are still unsure of navigating the Metro system, be sure to download the Paris Metro app! It helps find your nearest station and offers a route planner for exactly how to get to your desired destination. Once you are back above ground, each area has a bundle of sights to see that you can easily walk between!
So if you are headed to Paris for the weekend and do not know any French, do not fret! Before you head into the city, make a list of places you would like to visit, see what areas they are situated in, and make your plan of attack. While it can feel intimidating to pack it all in in such a short time, it is definitely doable! Hopefully this quick list gave you some inspiration on some of the hot spots to visit. Safe travels and au revoir!