Passport to Paris: Five Day Itinerary & Recap
Paris, Paris, Paris- where do I even begin! Paris is one of those cities you will always dream of and wonder what it will be like, but nothing really amounts to the real thing.
Surprisingly, I had relatively low expectations going into my five day trip to the city of love and lights. My sister borrowed my 'Miles Guide' title for the Easter long weekend and I was more than ready to go with the flow and experience as much as I could. But no matter how low my expectations were, it was virtually impossible to not be excited!
Growing up, it was hard not to be fascinated with the alluring Paris. How could you not be? As a kid, I was obsessed with 'Rugrats in Paris' and Mary-Kate and Ashley's iconic 'Passport to Paris'. As a teenager, I would get lost in countless Parisian makeup tutorials on YouTube. As a young adult, I truly felt at home living in Montréal, a city heavily influenced by French culture. Paris wasn't just a place, but an idea- of romance, effortless style and class, exquisite food...the list goes on.
After just a few days in the city, I feel like I have only experienced a sliver of all that Paris has to offer- let alone France, in general- and look forward to coming back for more and more. Paris is such an enticing city with so much to do and discover, and while the first trip to a new destination can often feel like a mission to get through the must-see main attractions, I had no complaints.
This blog post details my five magical days spent in the city- where we ate, visited, tips, tricks, what I wish I knew going into our trip and more! Enjoy and, as always, feel free to leave any recommendations for other readers and, hopefully, for my next trip.
DAY ONE: Bonjour-Hi Paris!
Our Parisian adventure kicked off on Easter Thursday on a very busy Eurostar train from London to Paris-Nord. Personally, I love to train for shorter travel distances as it's the more scenic, comfortable and sustainable travel option. The journey itself was just over two hours arriving in the heart of the city, which was ideal versus having to commute from an airport.
Upon arrival, we decided to take the Métro from the train station to our Airbnb- which I would definitely recommend if you are travelling light. In retrospect, I probably would have taken an Uber considering I had a massive suitcase (with three weeks worth of clothes) in tow and many stations are inaccessible, with only stairs to the street level.
Thankfully, our Airbnb was only a three-minute walk from our nearest Métro station. While booking through Airbnb can be a gamble, we definitely lucked out. Located in the 5th Arrondissement, our stay was in a lovely, convenient area with tons of restaurants and shops nearby- including a patisserie just a few steps out of our building. It also had a sofa bed which was perfect for the three of us and an elevator which was a blessing.
That night, we headed to dinner in the 20th Arr. Le Grand Bain is a lively restaurant tucked away on a colourful street adorned with graffiti and murals featuring a tapas-style menu with small plates perfect for sharing. The atmosphere felt very cosy and inviting, and the staff were very friendly. Our waiter was incredible and kindly translated parts (aka most) of the menu that we were unsure about.
Afterwards, we walked around the city before ending the night at Sinner, a hotel bar in Le Marais. Sinner was definitely an interesting experience...lol. This red-tinted, smoke-filled bar had its aesthetic and ambience down pat. However, the service and energy were cold and the drinks were not worth the exorbitant price. If you know me, you know that I'm a very easily pleased person- but this was a miss.
DAY TWO: Walking Around Le Marais
Friday was our first full day in the city and I was so excited to explore the city. I truly believe that simply walking around is one of the best ways to learn about and immerse yourself in a new environment- and that's exactly what we did!
We started our day at the Panthéon before walking around the 4th and 5th Arr. There were numerous enchanting shops in this area that stole my heart, many of which won me over with their locally-made crafts and clothing. A highlight was Melodies Graphiques, a picturesque stationery shop with notebooks, cards, calligraphy items and more that I could've spent hours in.
For lunch, we stopped by Breizh Café - La Crêpe Autrement for the first of many mandatory crêpes. Their menu was extensive, with both sweet and savoury options- though I opted for a chocolate and hazelnut crêpe. It was busy for a reason so I'd definitely recommend making a reservation in advance.
After a quick visit to Atelier Brancusi, the studio of famous sculptor Constantin Brancusi, we walked outside of the Louvre to see its infamous pyramids. It was surreal to finally see them in person and it made me even more excited for our visit to the museum on Monday. Since it was such a warm and sunny afternoon, we made our way to the perfectly manicured Jardin du Palais-Royal and the infamous striped columns at the Domaine National Du Palais-Royal. Nearby, we grabbed a quick drink at Café Kitsuné and basked in the weather on their patio.
That night, I ended the day with almost 18,000 steps and rewarded myself with the ultimate comfort meal. We met up for dinner with a friend from boarding school at Méjane, a restaurant close to our Airbnb, and I couldn't resist getting another crêpe- because why not?!? When in Paris!
DAY THREE: Afternoon Tea with Marie Antoinette
Saturday we had a slow start- my legs understandably cramped- before heading to Château de Versailles. We decided to Uber, which was a picturesque route that conveniently dropped us off right at the Palace gates. Honestly, I was shook. Sure, I was expecting the Palace to be grandiose but I was genuinely in awe at its splendour.
Many attractions and museums, I'm assuming because of the pandemic and crowd control, now require visitors to reserve specific time slots and pay for tickets in advance. Versailles, as well as the Louvre, was one of the few that we booked in advance. The tickets, especially because it was Easter weekend, went quickly. Even if you're a go with the flow traveller, I would highly recommend planning ahead for specific sites that you're keen on visiting.
Honestly, I'm not sure how to even describe the Palace's grandeur. The second I walked through the gates, I was blown away. It's hard to pinpoint what I loved the most, from the iconic Hall of Mirrors to the intricately painted ceilings. It was definitely worth the visit. We assumed that the gardens were included in our tickets, but we were sadly mistaken. While we could've bought tickets for the garden at the end of our tour, we were honestly exhausted and ready to head back into the city.
We took the RER back into the city, which connects the city centre to more suburban areas. Eventually, we transferred onto the Métro and hopped off in the 6th Arr. to explore. After realising that we had only eaten croissants for the day- which isn't necessarily a bad thing- we had a very late lunch at Cafe Louise. This was my favourite meal of the trip. Their handmade gnocchi was insanely delicious, featuring a parmesan cream and country ham.
On our way home, we browsed through tons of local shops in the area before walking through the gorgeous Jardin du Luxembourg. Later that evening, exhaustion caught up to us. I honestly forgot how much travelling could take out of you, though it's arguably the best tiredness to have. We decided to order in from Le Papillon, a Japanese Street Food restaurant nearby our Airbnb, and relax before heading out for drinks to ring in, Emma, my sister's birthday.
We met up with some of Emma's university friends at Uma Nota, a vibrant Brazilian-Japanese fusion restaurant that turns into a bar towards the end of the night. It's safe to say that I had a blast. The bar had tons of locals, which is always a good sign, and had exhilarating energy, with unbeatable music and unique cocktails.
DAY FOUR: A Hilly Day in Montmartre
To kick off Emma's birthday, we headed to brunch at Abattoir Végétal St Germain. This vegan bistro was the most adorable spot in the 6th Arr. with a tasty vegan brunch menu. I simply had to have their giant sweet pancakes, adorned with bananas, strawberries and agave syrup.
We planned to spend that afternoon in Montmartre, a hilly neighbourhood in Paris' 18th Arr. best-known for the iconic Sacré-Cœur, a jaw-dropping hilltop basilica overlooking the entire city. Since it was Easter Sunday, it was very busy- to the extent where you couldn't even see the iconic steps leading up the basilica. Montmartre's cobblestoned streets had many quaint local shops, such as Mademoiselle Pimpante, and really reminded me of Old Montréal and Québec City.
Later that night we celebrated Emma's day at Ober Mamma, an Italian restaurant that is part of the Big Mamma group. When we were greeted with a welcome mat that said 'Cardi B was here', I knew I was in the right place. Big Mamma's restaurants are a hit across Europe so I would highly recommend making a reservation. Their mouth-watering burrata and truffle pasta were fantastic.
Funnily enough, towards the end of the night, we started chatting with the guys seated next to our table, who were visiting from Germany and ended up grabbing drinks at Les BerThoM. Spontaneous moments like this are one of my favourite aspects of travelling. Being able to meet and connect with random strangers from across the world and share your experiences and stories is priceless.
All in all, it was an amazing day and I feel extremely grateful that I was able to spend my sister's birthday with her, celebrating a new year of life, happiness, health and success! Big up Ems.
DAY FIVE: Saving the Best for Last
Funnily enough, we saved some of Paris' most iconic tourist attractions for our final day. We booked and planned to visit The Louvre and were determined to finally visit the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower- which we had caught glimpses of in the skyline many times throughout our trip.
Our final day started off at The Louvre, ready to take in as much of the largest museum in the world as we could. I would definitely recommend using the Passage Richelieu entrance, which was significantly less crowded compared to the other entrances. There are no words to describe what it feels like to finally be in The Louvre. As an art lover, it was definitely a pinch-me moment. Some of my favourite rooms included 'Islamic Art' and 'Near Eastern Antiquities'.
Of course, the first order of business was to see the Mona Lisa, before heading to other exhibitions, since it would be the most densely crowded area. The iconic portrait is located in a massive room with other paintings, displayed on its own wall. Instead of joining the endless queue to view the painting, I chose to stand at the front right of the line which was equally as good of a view. Listen, I don't know what emotions came over me...but I cried. Moving on.
After our eventful afternoon of art, we stopped for a sweet bite at Angelina. With over a hundred years of experience, this tea room's beloved pastries and hot chocolate were heavenly and the perfect sugar rush pick me up. From here, we decided to cross off the rest of our Parisian bucket list and head over to the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower.
Both sites were truly as iconic as they're made out to be. While we decided to simply admire them from street level, they were genuinely breathtaking. With the Eiffel Tower, it took a while to find a sweet spot away from the crowds and vendors, but when we did it was magical. I honestly found myself feeling really emotional towards the end of the day and kept having to take a step back to process where I was. Maybe it was the overwhelming feelings of gratitude but it was almost cathartic to end our trip with these monuments. I felt so blessed.
Later that evening, I decided to take it easy, eat my leftover pasta from Ober Mamma and simply relax on the apartment's balcony. Listening to the sounds of the city and watching the sun set over Paris for the last time was so special and the perfect way to end my trip. The night was spent packing up my belongings, and newly cherished mementoes before getting a good night's sleep for our early start the next day.
AU REVOIR!: Reflections
Early Tuesday morning, we said Au Revoir to Paris and embarked on our next journey to Amsterdam! At first, I really didn't know what to expect from Paris but I found myself sad that our trip had come to an end. Looking back, I feel so blessed to finally experience the places that I have always dreamed of and admired on television growing up. I finally had my Mary-Kate and Ashley moment!
As always, when travelling, lessons were learned. Here are a few takeaways & tips from my trip:
∙ We all know the stereotypes surrounding Parisians being unfriendly. Personally, I did not experience this and found many locals to be kind and helpful. While my French vocabulary is very minimal, I feel like they appreciated the effort.
∙ I was warned by many about pickpockets in the city. On my trip, I was very intentional with the bags I used and would wear them crossbody or under my jacket. It's always important to have a sense of security when travelling- as you would at home.
∙ Expect to walk...a lot. We took the Métro for further distances but we still walked a considerable amount. Pack good shoes and endurance. On some days, I literally had the same amount of steps that I have on Carnival Sunday.
∙ I found it relatively easy to navigate the city. The Métro system was understandable and when in doubt, Citymapper was always there to save the day. I used the app religiously and found it way more reliable than Google Maps.
∙ Make sure to book certain attractions and museums in advance- especially popular ones- as some may require you to buy tickets online or reserve specific time slots.
∙ While it can be challenging, try to travel with low expectations- then the only way is up! Certain destinations can be hyped up so much, especially nowadays with social media, that people often feel disappointed when they arrive. 'Paris Syndrome' literally exists.
At the end of the day, have fun! Sometimes travelling can be so nonstop that it can feel exhausting and overwhelming in the moment. However, it's important not to lose track of the bigger picture. Make sure to seize every opportunity and enjoy yourself! Thankfully, it's hard not to in Paris.