I am often asked what to do with three days in Paris. I’m not a tour guide and I don’t have hotel recommendations, but I can share some tips on how I like to enjoy the City of Lights. Try this:
First thing, after checking into your lodgings, is to hit the city. If you’ve got three days only, it’s your duty to soak up as much as possible. Jet lag be damned.
Start with a visit to the nearest patisserie and indulge in a French pastry of your choice. Might as well start off sweet. I prefer the croissant aux amandes, a flat, alligator-shaped croissant stuffed with marzipan and dusted with confectioner’s sugar. Mmmmmm.
Then wander. My favorite thing to do is just walk around a city. I’ve enjoyed San Francisco, New York, Lisbon, Amsterdam, Paris and London this way. Okay, the London cross-city slog took five hours and I had no money. Call it life-changing, but I wouldn’t do it again. That’s a whole other story.
Get a map and pick a destination across the city and head that way. My favorite neighborhoods to walk in: The Marais (4th), St- Germain (6th) and the Bastille area (11th), along the Canal St. Martin. I try to avoid the Pompidou Center and Les Halles at night. Every time I go to Paris, I like to discover a new neighborhood.
For lunch, get French picnic foods – the usual baguette, cheese and bottle of wine, and head over to the Pont des Arts (across from the Louvre) for a picnic. Or, find a small park and picnic there. I favor the Luxembourg Gardens, which figure prominently in my novel. Or, head to a brasserie like the Deux Magots and get a salad and glass of wine and relish your perfect Parisian moment.
As a two-three hour focal point for each day, I’d pick a museum. I would go (in this order) to the Picasso Museum, the Musée D’Orsay and the Musée Jacquemart-Andre. If you go to this last museum, please make sure to have lunch in the restaurant, which is the dining hall of this splendid French mansion-turned museum.
If you’re going to Paris to shop, you won’t have any problem finding booty to bring home. If you have no interest in shopping, Paris will change that. Bring extra cash and luggage. You’ll need it, despite all your good intentions to be on a budget. Forget it. you’re in Paris.
I’m not one for haute couture or fancy stuff. A spree like that would consume more than my annual income, so I like to keep it modest and to my taste.
That means I’m buying scarves, cheap jewelry at Kazana, notebooks, postcards and fleur de sel, which I get at the local supermarket for $4.00 ($10.00 in the States).
But please, indulge in world-class shopping on the rue de Rivoli and in St-Germain.
You must have something delicious for dinner. After all that trekking, you deserve it. Try La Boissonnerie in rue de Seine or the Boullion Racine on rue Racine, both in the sixth.
For more food research, I’ve found blogs to be the best resource for up-to-date low-down on chow. For Paris, check out Chocolate and Zucchini for food posts that will make you want to cook or hop over to Paris for a foodie rampage.
David Lebovitz, the food maven of Paris, writes a great blog about living the sweet life in Paris. From those two blogs, you should be able to find more great food spots in the neighborhood where you are staying.
After dinner on your last evening, take a boat ride on the Seine. It costs about $10, and though it may seem uber touristy, it’s a great way to see the city and relax after a long day of walking. Pick the boat up at various locations along the Seine; I usually go to Pont Neuf.
You must also visit Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which is on the left bank directly across from Notre Dame. On the other side of the park there, you’ll find a charming tea house and restaurant called the Fourni Ailée. (The winged ant.)
You’ll want to visit Heather Stimmler-Hall’s Secrets of Paris site for more up-to-date info on what’s happening in Paris as well as hotel recommendations.
Be sure to pick up Pia Bijkerk’s Paris Made by Hand, a delightful guide to shops in Paris where artisans make beautiful French things.
Make notes of things you want to see in various neighborhoods. Write them in a little notebook, perhaps the Moleskine City Guide Paris, which is an adorable little blank book with maps and tabs for different categories.
At night in bed, jazzed up on the city, you can look at your guide book and add notes for new things you want to see. Or, you may be at a jazz club until the wee hours and have tossed your guide book aside for some sexy European flesh and blood guide.