Paris is the city of love and every time I go, I fall for it all over again. There isn’t a street in Paris that doesn’t have some small touch of elegance, a surprising architectural detail or row of sweet patisserie gleaming through a glass windowpane. Rain or shine, every day in Paris could be classified as a perfect day. If you’re planning your next trip to this magical city on the Seine, then I’m more than excited to share some recommendations for your first day.
Where to Stay
If you are visiting Paris for only a few days, my recommendation is to stay within the city center so you can walk to many of the attractions. Paris is divided into arrondissements (local government divisions) with the first at the very center. If you are able, find a hotel in this area and you’ll have the easiest time getting around. Some of the most beautiful hotels in this area are Hôtel Costes, the Hôtel Regina Louvre, and Hôtel de Crillon. Other great areas to stay are in the Marais and in Montmartre as both have a great neighborhood feel with plenty of restaurants and shops close by.
The best petit déjeuner in Paris is a croissant and coffee, preferably enjoyed at a cafe table on a terrace. As this type of breakfast is not hard to find, I recommend simply walking a block or two from your hotel until you see a place that looks good. You’ll know a good croissant by the way it crumbles -- the more flakes, the better! If you do want a larger breakfast, reserve a table at Angelina’s near the Louvre. Indulge yourself with a pot of the best hot chocolate in the world seated within an elegant atmosphere.
I always prefer to do the most vigorous activity in the mornings when I’m traveling, which in Paris means heading to the places with the most incredible views. For some, this might lead you up the Eiffel Tower, where you can see all of Paris and snap a quintessential photo from the observation deck. For others, you might enjoy the hike up the stairs of Sacré-Coeur, the famous white basilica in Montmartre. Of course, if you prefer, both landmarks have more accessible means of reaching the top; the Eiffel has an elevator and Sacré-Coeur has a funiculaire, which is a glass automatic railway.
The best food in Paris is often the most unexpected, which is why my favorite lunch is a crêpe from one of the many street crêperies throughout the city. With your lunch in hand, you can keep moving and still save room for dessert in the afternoon. If you do wish to relax in a beautiful setting, I recommend booking lunch at Bambini at the Palais de Tokyo where you can enjoy pizza and a glass of wine on a beautiful terrace overlooking the marble entrance plaza of the museum.
If you have lunch at Bambini, then it’s a must to wander through the Palais de Tokyo for an hour or two to see the contemporary art exhibitions. There are so many museums in Paris to explore in the afternoon and they are all fantastic. If this is your first time in the city, I would recommend spending an hour or two in the Louvre, which is the largest art museum in the world. Other museums that I love to visit are the Musée D’Orsay for Impressionist paintings, Musée Rodin, the Musée de l'Orangerie, which showcases Monet’s waterlilies, and the Centre Pompidou, which is a modern and contemporary art museum. If you do visit the Pompidou, be sure to have a drink at the rooftop cafe, Georges.
After your museum visit, I would suggest strolling around the Marais district, which is one of the most magical places to shop in the city. You’ll find endless boutiques, each one unique, with everything from colorful macarons to handmade jewelry and vintage clothing. If you need a quick rest, stop for a cup of tea in the beautiful atrium of the Fondation Azzedine Alaïa.
You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to dinner in Paris. Whether you prefer Michelin star French haute cuisine or a bowl of French onion soup, you’ll be able to find culinary bliss in this city. For the former, I recommend Guy Savoy, a sophisticated three Michelin star restaurant comprised of six rooms located within the Monnaie de Paris. If you’re after a more relaxed and authentic French experience, then head to the iconic Café de Flore where artists and writers like Pablo Picasso and Albert Camus used to spend their evenings.
While it’s best to leave at least a week to fully explore this enchanting city, it’s not always possible. The beauty of Paris is that there is always more to do and more to explore, so this is just the beginning of your adventures here. No matter where your life leads you after your trip, rest assured that you’ll always have Paris.