We headed to Paris for my golden birthday celebration, and it was even better than I’d ever imagined it could be. Many people dream of visiting “the city of light,” but Paris was never very high on my travel list. Having gone there out of curiosity and an intense desire to see the world’s most extensive garden and the legendary works of art within the Louvre Museum, I can’t believe Paris, France, wasn’t higher on my priorities list. I immediately fell in love with the city and all there was to do here, and we are already planning our next visit. I honestly can’t say enough wonderful things about this incredible place. If you’re wondering if you should visit Paris, I’ll tell you exactly what I tell people who ask if they should visit Tokyo, LA, London, or Edinburgh – Go, you’re going to love it! I hope this Paris luxury travel guide helps you plan the visit of your dreams.
Paris is a city that needs no introduction. Famed for its romantic sightseeing, incredible world-class fine dining scene, incomparable artworks, and museums, and widely regarded as one of the world’s fashion capitals, Paris, France, has something for everyone. I could spend an entire year here and never see or do everything I wanted to accomplish. I could spend an entire year walking through the city’s neighborhoods, photographing the alcoves, gardens, doors, windows, and exteriors, and never get bored, even if I did nothing else. The architecture of Paris is breathtaking, and there’s nowhere else like it.
I can understand a decent amount of French and speak a little too, but nearly everyone we spoke with wanted to ‘practice’ their English with us. I put the word practice in quotations because many Parisians speak better English than the average American, but that’s thanks to their stellar school system that allows them to begin learning English in elementary school. Regardless, everyone we spoke with was helpful, friendly, and not at all what we expected. I’d heard Parisians could be borderline cruel to those who don’t speak French fluently, but that wasn’t the case. Many people thought we were French as they started talking to us in French right out of the gate, which was more than okay with us. After all, we were in France!
How to Get to Paris
We took a train from Munich to Paris, which took about six hours. Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport has flights from every major city in the world. Of course, one could also drive, take a train, or bus from other European cities to get to Paris, but the airport is the most direct approach.
How to Get Around Paris
Paris is a very walkable city, but it’s also massive. It has 20 arrondissements or neighborhoods, which spiral out from the city center. Because of this, a person could waste a good portion of their visit hiking back and forth if they tried to walk everywhere. While I encourage you to put on your best walking shoes and see as much as possible on foot, sometimes public transportation is the only viable option (unless you prefer to drive or use a rideshare service).
To use the public transportation (namely the city trains and subway) as much as we wanted to without paying every single time, we purchased Navigo Découverte cards that are very similar to what the locals use (the découverte cards are for those who don’t live or work in Paris). They are transit cards covering all of the Metro Paris area (including Disneyland Paris and the Palace of Versailles). They can be used on the Paris Metro subway, RER trains (including the Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport train, Disneyland Paris, and the Palace of Versailles), buses like the Orly airport buses, Transilien trains, and trams. If you need to pay to ride it, this card lets you hop on and hop off for one flat fee for one week!
The Navigo pass cost us €35 each for an entire week (Monday to Sunday night), and we purchased them at a train ticket window. They’re sold at almost every single Metro, RER, Billets Paris et Ile-de-France train ticket window with a person. Be aware that the price is the same no matter what point in the week you buy it, so aim to buy as close to Monday morning as possible to make it even more worthwhile. They’re well worth the cost!
When navigating the train system, we used Google Maps on our phones with an international data plan. Google Maps never once led us astray, and it told us exactly which trains and subways to take and when to switch trains if necessary, and the walking directions never once failed us. This made getting around a breeze, and when we didn’t want to use the trains, or we were moving our luggage from one hotel to the next, we just used Uber or Lyft and had great experiences.
Best Time to Visit Paris
We visited in early autumn, and we had a gorgeous time. Many of the flowers were still in bloom, the air was warm but not too hot, and the city wasn’t bustling. Even the most popular attractions in the city weren’t bustling. It was the perfect time of year.
Spring and summer are busier and hotter, but the city is alive with endless events, pop-ups, festivals, and other exciting goings on. If you want to dine outside, see the city in full bloom, wear warm weather clothing, or prefer warm weather, this is the ideal time to visit.
Winter in Paris has a charm all its own. It doesn’t snow much in Paris, but it’s beautiful when the city is dusted. If you prefer dressing in layers, if most of what you want to do in Paris is indoors, and if you don’t mind the cold, this is a great time to visit. Hotels are often cheaper, reservations for in-demand restaurants are more plentiful, and the crowds on the streets may be less dense. Be aware that everyone else will want to be indoors when it’s cold too!
Where to Stay
We stayed in two gorgeous hotels in Paris during our visit. Each was fantastic in every way, and I would highly recommend either of them. Both have a very different feel. The Hotel Raphael is far more stately and elegant, whereas Hotel Monsieur Aristide is very laid-back and garden-esque. The staff at both the room size and the feeling of each hotel was terrific, so you can’t go wrong!
We stayed in a gorgeous garden suite with a private garden, vintage rattan and wicker, and live houseplants. The hotel itself is in a great part of Montmarte, and it was so much fun to walk around Paris from here. This hotel had a youthful, fun, and tropical vibe. That’s not to say everyone who stayed here was young. That wasn’t the case, but it did seem very energetic, yet our room was completely silent, tranquil, and peaceful. It was like living inside a garden!
Hotel Raphael was elegant and more formal than Hotel Monsieur Aristide, but we love staying in hotels like this. Many other guests here had private security, and people spoke numerous languages in the lobby, from French and English to Farsi, Catalan, and Mandarin. Hence, the guests here definitely seemed to be more international. This hotel was incredible, and we had a great view of the Eiffel Tower from our signature suite, plus the rooftop garden and restaurant also had a fantastic view of the nearby Arc de Triomphe. Staying here made us feel like royalty.
Where to Eat
Paris is one of the best cities in the world to enjoy a great meal. Many of our excellent dinners didn’t allow photography inside, which was fine because I was too busy stuffing my face and being amazed by how delicious everything was anyway, haha. Still, here are some great cafés to check out while in Paris. Explore the Michelin guide to find the best of the best fine dining, and be prepared to make your reservations at least three months in advance. Unless you have some really great friends who can help get you great chef’s table experiences at the last minute (we are so grateful for you, Stephanie!)
This café was such a fun spot for very instagrammable food. It was almost too pretty to eat, but eat it we did, and it was utterly delicious.
This was another very delicious café. However, it was more of a bakery than anything else. They only had a few gluten-free options, but what wasn’t gluten-free, my husband said, was phenomenal. This had some of the prettiest desserts we have seen in Paris!
Sir Winston’s Speakeasy & Brasserie
This speakeasy felt at once very intimate and very frenetic, and it was a great spot to grab an after-dinner cocktail. I was invited back the next day to photograph the café before it opened, and it was even prettier in the daytime! If you’re looking for great drinks, great food, and a great tropical atmosphere, this is a place you won’t want to miss!
What to Do In & Around Paris
I don’t know that I’ve ever had more fun and been more in awe of a city than in Paris. There is so much to do, and so many things I’ve always dreamt of doing, like seeing the art inside the Louvre Museum and walking the Gardens of Versailles, were a million times better than I’d imagined. Even shopping was more fun in Paris!
Arc de Triomphe
I knew the Arc de Triomphe was monumental, but I wasn’t prepared for just how huge it was. Standing beneath it made me feel like an ant in the forest, but standing atop its roof made me feel like I was on top of the world. The view from the top is absolutely, unequivocally worth the 284 steps to the top!
I didn’t set out to explore every Disney park in the world, but after exploring Disneyland in California, Walt Disney World in Orlando, and Tokyo DisneySea in Tokyo, it almost felt wrong not to visit. I was disappointed that nearly all the signs, merchandise, and audio were in English because this would have been a fantastic place to practice our French. However, it was still an enjoyable day trip that I highly recommend to anyone who likes Disney Parks!
Waking up to views of the Eiffel Tower from our suite at Hotel Raphael was a dream come true, and seeing it up close was even more impressive. Just like the Palace of Westminster in London and the giant torii gate in Hakone, Japan, that was under construction during our visit; the Eiffel Tower was not only under construction, but it wasn’t possible to go to the top during our time in Paris, which wasn’t mentioned anywhere on its website. Still, it was cool to see up close, although the security at the base of the tower nearly broke my camera as they quite literally tossed my $10,000 camera body and lens through the metal detector and into a bin on the other side. I’m still so mad about that! The moral of the story is don’t bring valuables here, I guess, haha.
Fine Dining & Michelin-Starred Restaurants
Paris is one of the best cities in the world for lovers of French cuisine. Michelin stars started in France, so it’s no wonder this city is home to 118 Michelin-starred restaurants as of 2023. Many Michelin-starred restaurants don’t allow photography inside, but they are well worth a visit for some of the very best meals you’ll ever eat! We particularly loved L’Ambroisie and Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen.
The Louvre Museum
Several of my all-time favorite works of art, like the sculpture Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Venus de Milo (we had a replica of this outside my dorm room at Martha Cook all girl’s dorm at the University of Michigan!), and the painting The Entombment of Atala which was one of many very tragic paintings in the Louvre. The museum itself is an incredible work of art, and I could have spent an entire day appreciating the building itself and the numerous intricate gold leaf frames that hung on the walls of the museum. An entire day from opening to closing wasn’t enough time to explore this place!
See my guide to visiting the Louvre here.
Palace of Versailles and The Gardens of Versailles
The Gardens of Versailles are the largest gardens in the world, and if you’re a fan of gardens, gardening, or landscape architecture, you cannot skip this place. It’s so incredible and mind-bogglingly massive that walking through it felt like we were ants in a forest, yet again! In fact, a lot of things in France were tremendous in size… The Palace of Versailles was huge too! I can’t believe how massive this place was, and the amount of gold leaf and gold paint inside is unreal.
Paris is one of the best places to shop, whether you want to hit up designer flagship stores or check out the second-hand thrift stores that Paris is famous for. You won’t find a better city to shop in anywhere in France!
Walk the City
Simply strolling through Paris is a treat. I could have spent our entire trip just walking and admiring the architecture, flower boxes, gardens, unique doors, and storefronts. Everything in Paris is lovely, and exploring on foot allows you to go at your own pace. Plus, you can stop to take photos whenever you’d like!
We never once felt unsafe in Paris, France. Everyone we met was very kind, friendly, and patient as we attempted to speak French with them. Our concierge cautioned us to watch out for pickpockets and not to flash valuables around Paris. Use common sense, read my Safer Travel Series, and don’t watch the movie Taken with Liam Neeson before you go, and you’ll be fine!