A scenic train ride from Lucerne, Switzerland took me and my sister to Paris, the City of Love, at 1.30pm.
When my sister and I were planning our Europe adventures via expert navigation of Google Docs, Whatsapp, and Facetime, my sister wasn’t keen on adding Paris to the itinerary. I know. A girl not in love with Paris? Unheard of!
I’m proud to say I might’ve made her a Paris-convert.
Anyhow, I cited the Louvre and Estate of Versailles as great reasons to visit. Because they are! And they were. In fact, I can’t wait to return to Paris so I can explore them again.
After we dumped our things at our Airbnb (sign up using link to get $35 credit!), we rushed to the Louvre via Metro, hoping to squeeze as much time in as we could. We stayed in La Plaine – Stade de France, a residential city that is only a 15 minute metro ride from Paris via RER-C.
Disclaimer: Paris metro can seem daunting at first. I should know – I spent an entire day figuring out the metro system. Why so many colors? What is RER-C and RER-B? How are they different from the Metro?
Relax. Go to the app store and download the official Paris Metro app. Watch your confusion fade away.
Or simply use Google Maps and save yourself a ton of headache.
On Day 1, we had a crash course of the Louvre before walking to the Arc de Triomphe via Champs-Elysees, and then to the Eiffel Tower. Day 2 was dedicated to the Palace of Versailles, easily a full-day affair. LOVED IT. Click here for my complete guide to Versailles.
Since we arrived late (2-3pm), it didn’t take hours to enter the Louvre via the Pyramid entrance. In fact, it took minutes. But I don’t recommend arriving so late! There’s too much to see! Don’t do it! Come at the crack of dawn if you must. Just kidding. It doesn’t open that early.
It was easy finding our way to the Mona Lisa, the Louvre’s most famous artwork. Idiot-proof really. There were signs everywhere. Expect crowds – even in the afternoon, the Mona Lisa room was rows deep with people.
We squeezed to the front to take selfies, of course. Because it’s fun to play tourist.
Museum Goers walked around toting Nintendo 3DS XLs. Wait a second – I knew those game consoles are popular, but they can’t be that popular. That’s when I realized they were actually Audio Guides. Available in multiple languages, it consists of a map on the top screen and extra info of each art piece on the bottom screen. Rent one for only 5 Euros. I wish we knew they existed, and that we had time to utilize them and enrich our Louvre experience. You can also download the My Visit to the Louvre app and customize your visit.
If you want to be extra geeky, the Louvre website also has a ton of content and videos about their exhibits, including a 1.5 hour video about Da Vinci code: Between Fiction and Fact. This way you don’t even have to visit the Louvre to learn about the exhibits.
One of the most impressive (and my favorite) statues was the Winged Victory of Samothrace, displayed prominently at the top of a staircase. This Hellenistic statue, made of Parian marble, is thought to celebrate a naval victory.
Most of the information is available only in French, which is why the audio guide or app will come in handy in understanding the exhibits.
Seeing that we had some time before the Louvre closed, we wandered into the Egyptian Antiquities section. The exhibits were housed in modern glass casings that provide a nice contrast with the ancient pieces of art.
Near closing, the staff started ushering people out of the museum. It was a sad farewell indeed. Though we did manage to catch glimpses of other exhibits on our way out:
I wish we had more time at the Louvre. There was so much we didn’t see. This is why I suggest you arrive early at the Louvre. The Louvre is so large that it would take 100 days to look at every piece of art for 30 seconds.
Exit into the Louvre Mall and you will find an upside down pyramid. This is also where the alternative (less crowded) entrance is located. There is a souvenir store, several luxury stores, and a food court.
The food court is located at the end of the Mall and consists of several food stalls and a McDonalds that sells macarons. Ooooh, fancy.
Next on the Itinerary was the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Since we wanted to see more of the city (and we were on a budget!) we decided to walk to the two landmarks.
The Gardens outside the Louvre were quite beautiful and peppered with gorgeous statues.
The walk to the Arc de Triomphe gave us plenty to see. We walked down Champs-Elysees and saw this gorgeous Disney store:
Most. Elegant. Disney. Store. Ever. In fact, it looks like a Disney Villain’s store. Unfortunately we didn’t have time to explore, but we’re definitely coming back next time.
Arc de Triomphe
When we got to the Arc de Triomphe, we
risked our lives took selfies in the middle of the traffic intersection. There is a small area between the two busy roads where tourists flock to take pictures like these. It was quite unnerving but worth it.
We weren’t the craziest tourists. In fact, we watched, slack-jawed, as a group of young girls hopped off a cab and, encouraged by their cab driver, ran across the road to have their picture taken with the famous landmark. D:
The Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary Wars and Napoleonic Wars. You can climb up to the top for a nice view of Paris if you don’t mind paying a small fee.
The walk to Eiffel Tower wasn’t as scenic as the walk to Arc de Triomphe, but as the Eiffel Tower loomed into view, we started getting really excited.
We passed a small souvenir store with all sorts of Eiffel Tower-related paraphernalia:
And then finally we arrived at Paris’ famous landmark. The one, the only – the Eiffel Tower!!
And then, surprise surprise, the Tower started sparkling!
Turns out the Eiffel Tower sparkles during the first 5 minutes after nightfall every hour until 2AM (1AM in the winter.) It takes 20,000 lights flashing on and off to produce this effect! Wait for it – it’s really cool!
After passing security, we walked around the Eiffel Tower park for a bit. Through sheer dumb luck, we entered through the back entrance. It was a breeze. Au contraire, the entrance by the park was packed. So now you know: do not use the park entrance.
If you have the budget, take a trip up the Tower, and maybe even feast at the restaurant in the air. Lucky you.
It was a long day of walking in Paris, and we finally headed back to our Airbnb for much-needed Zzzs to prepare ourselves for the long day of walking at Versailles tomorrow.
I have decided to split this into 2 posts, so you’ll find the dedicated Palace of Versailles post here! Because it’s worth it’s own post.
With only 1 day to spend in the city of Paris, there were so many things we didn’t get to see or do. My top to-dos for my next trip to Paris are:
- Explore Louvre with interactive guide
- Go up the Eiffel Tower
- Visit the Catacombs
- Notre Dame Cathedral
Onwards to the Estate of Versailles!
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