Paris was the first international city that I set foot in, the city which kick-started my 15 day Europe trip. My excitement levels were sky-rocketing. For me, stepping on foreign soil was a big deal then. And to top it, it was Paris, one of the most popular destinations in the world, a bucket list item ready to be ticked off. I had about 2 days to explore this beautiful city, before I headed to Belgium.
The fashion capital of the world was like any first-world metro was expected to be – highly organized with its world class infrastructure and highly advanced transportation systems with its TGV’s and metro lines. But as I discovered in the subsequent days, while Paris was an epitome of modernity, it had lost none of its old – worldly charm. Sadly I din’t have enough time to immerse myself in this charming city.
So like me, if you just have 48 hours to absorb the best of Paris, here are the best places to visit. Feel free to stitch this list the way you like.
1. Sacre Coeur Basilica – Montmartre
The Sacre Coeur Basilica is a cathedral situated atop the summit of Montmartre, a hill in the northern part of the city.
The top of the hill provides magnificent views of the Paris city line; You can even see the Eiffel tower from here. Unfortunately it was raining the day we went. It was windy on the summit and even holding an umbrella was getting difficult. But despite the irritating weather, i couldn’t stop admiring the architectural beauty that stood beside me.
The moment I entered the church, I was transfixed by what I saw. There was a large mosaic of Jesus Christ, one of the most exquisite works of art that I have ever seen. It looked more like a painting from a distance. The domes were just as impressive from the inside.
But more than being an architectural marvel, it was a place that exuded tranquility. After walking inside the church for a bit, we just sat facing the crypt for some time. It was one of those times where you just pause and absorb the peacefulness of the moment.
I wanted to bask in the calmness of the place for more time, but a tight itinerary meant we had to cut short on peace time.
Note: There are stairs which lead to the church and alternatively, there is an automatic funicular railway which ferries passengers to the top of the hill. I would recommend taking the stairs.
Other things you can do in Montmartre
2. Shop in Montmartre
There are multiple winding alleys which to lead to the base of Sacre Coeur Basilica, each of them lined with tonnes of shops. This is the probably the best place to buy souvenirs in Paris.
3. Get a caricature done by a real artist
The main street Place du Tertre is teeming with artists. You can get a caricature or a silhouette done by one of these. It would make for a cool souvenir to take back home. And although they may ask around 20 Euros for it, you can always bargain to get it done cheaper.
4. Moulin Rouge
Moulin Rouge needs no introduction. Known as the birthplace of can-can, the seductive dance, this cabaret makes for some great night time entertainment.
5. Notre Dame Paris
Our tour in Paris started in the evening, when the city of lights was in its full glory. We went to visit the Notre Dame, one of the most famed cathedrals in France.
It was superbly lit and under a moonlit sky, looked straight out of a portrait. We just sat facing the entrance to the Notre Dame watching people go about their business.
Other things you can see around Notre Dame
6. Lock Bridge
Near the cathedral lies the Lock Bridge whose sides are filled with thousands of locks tied by couples in hopes of immortalizing their love.
Note: Tying locks is no longer permitted
7. Walk along River Seine
Walking along the river Seine was one of my favourite experiences in Paris. After passing the lock bridge, we took the stairs that led to the promenade along river Seine. And just sat there watching the reflections of the city lights on the still water, occasionally disturbed by a canal cruise.
A cool December breeze was blowing and there was silence all around making it feel like you are miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Note: You can also go for a cruise along the river Seine and see the city’s attractions at close quarters. Since I had done a canal cruise in Amsterdam, I skipped this one.
8. Shakespeare and Company
If you are an avid reader, this book store is a must-visit. Besides being a popular store, having featured in the movie “Before Sunset”, it’s a great place to find second-hand, antique books. It also acts a free reading library
9. Ride the Paris Metro
The Paris metro is undoubtedly one of the most efficient transport systems in the world. I used the metro extensively and i don’t remember waiting for more than 3-4 minutes at any point during my travel.
The metro is also where you get to see the diverse populace of France going about their daily routine. I also saw for the first time, pet dogs following their masters literally everywhere. We usually had our furry friends for company in the metro and I was actually surprised by how well – behaved they were.
The sight of a trained helper dog guiding a visually impaired lady out of the train is going to remain an unforgettable memory.
10. Eiffel Tower
A trip to Paris would be incomplete without a visit to one of the most romanticized structures known to man.
The first time I saw the Eiffel tower, was from a distance. It was evening and already dark. The Eiffel was completely lit up and glittering. We walked closer towards it till we were standing almost beneath it. It looked resplendent in its golden uniform, but I was not fascinated.
The reputation it had earned seemed over hyped at that point of time. We spent some time walking in the nearby lawns and when we were about to leave, we witnessed a light show for a few seconds when the Eiffel started sparkling. I went back ticking an item off my checklist.
The next morning, my cousin said we should pay another visit to the Eiffel Tower before embarking on our ten day round trip from Paris. We took the metro and got down at Trocadero, the metro station closest to the tower.
We walked for about 50 meters, took a left turn and then stood mesmerized by what lay before us. It was the same Eiffel tower that I had seen the night before, but against a clear blue sky marked by jet streaks, with dawn just about to descend on the city, it had acquired a beauty of its own. It was only a silhouette eclipsed by the forces of nature, yet it emanated a soulful charm.
Like my cousin succinctly put it, in isolation the Eiffel tower is an ordinary structure, but it is the sky, the sun and the river Seine flowing alongside that lends it the magical look it is renowned for.
Other places you can visit in Paris
11. The Louvre
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum and also one of the most visited ones in the world. In the pecking order, I guess it comes only second to the Eiffel tower.
It would take a lot of time to cover, so if you are short on time, just click some photos of the famed pyramid at centre (This is precisely what I did). Unless of course, you are a connoisseur of art.
12. Walk down Champs Elysees
Champs Elysées is considered to be one of the most beautiful avenues in the world. Lined by trees on both sides, it’s one of the roads that leads to the Arc de Triomphe, another popular landmark in Paris. Champs Elysees is also the house of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Cartier.
I went during christmas and the entire street was teeming with stalls selling exotic stuff. It’s almost like Disneyland for the shopaholics. There is something for everyone.