Paris is one of my favourite cities in the world. The culture, the history, the shopping… I could spend hours wandering around the shops and even having been there multiple times, there’s still so many things I want to discover la prochaine fois. While in London recently, I decided to take a weekend trip to Paris accompanied by my mother who had never been to Paris before. We share similar interests – shopping and wine – and she wanted to seed as much as she could of Paris in the 48 hours we would spend there together. So I put together a whirlwind Parisian visit which captures some of my favourite places and thought it might inspire or help some of you plan your own Parisian adventure.
Wake up, open the windows of your hotel room which typically open wide over the Parisian streets. I love to do this as soon as I get to the hotel and even sleep with them open (if I’m not on the rez-de-chaussee, or main floor) as the sounds of the street appeal to me. Get dressed for the day with comfortable shoes you can walk in all day and head to the concierge to recommend a small café nearby for un café et un pain au chocolat. Side note – this tour does not account for calories. You’re in Paris! Live!
We first started our morning at the world famous Galeries Lafayette. Built in 1912, calling this legendary Department Store just a store does not do it justice. The glass domed ceilings and adorned center area are impressive even if you (gasp) aren’t there to shop. We wound up spending several hours in the store going through the large selections of pretty much everything you can imagine: scarves, avant garde designers, perfumes… This store is so large that the mens and children’s stores are in separate buildings.
Refined Recommendation: Check out the Kusmi The boutique on the 4th floor which has, in my opinion, some of the best teas in the world. They offer tastings and are super friendly helping you pick out the perfect tea for you. Also check out the Galeries Lafayette in-house clothing line which offers some unique pieces at very affordable prices for that “This? Oh, I got this in Paris” conversation.
Refined Recommendation: Be sure to also check out the Diptyque counter, a well-known favourite of mine! I have recently discovered the hanging oil closet scents which I hang in my closet at home and every time I open the doors I am reminded of my favourite smell – and my clothes have a very slight lingering scent which makes me feel oh so chic.
Next, you’ll need to hop on the metro and head over to another famous shopping street, the Champs Elysée. While not my cup of tea (it’s gone relatively mainstream since allowing some chains to open) it’s still an experience to stroll down the legendary street with the beautiful Arc de Triomphe at the end. The best place to get a picture of the Arc is actually while crossing the street, the street has a median in the middle of the two directions and you can stop there to get an unobstructed view. If you’re new to Paris, check out the Annick Goutal shop for unique perfumes that are almost unheard of in North America.
This took us to mid-afternoon and lunch became a pressing priority but I knew exactly where I wanted to go, the Ladurée shop. If you’ve not heard of Ladurée, it’s a Parisian shop specializing in macarons – a delicious French dessert.
Refined Recommendation: Don’t just grab a macaron (or their beautiful boxes) to go – stop and have a lunch in the dining room. If possible, check if there are seats upstairs where you will feel like you’re in a French palace… Or at least imagine you are. We toasted our morning’s successes with champagne while having a delicious lunch and, of course, macarons for dessert.
After lunch, we walked the two blocks over to what is my idea of a great afternoon shopping – the Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Filled with every high-end boutique and designer you can dream of, this little street is where the rich and famous come to shop Hermes, Dior and more right next door to the French Presidential Palace. If you have the money to spend, it’s a dream and if you don’t, it’s still a fabulous way to spend an afternoon window shopping. There are even some small consignment boutiques in the neighbourhood that offer vintage pieces for resale – although don’t expect to find a steal… The women in these stores know exactly how much everything is worth and will try and sell it for more.
Approaching late afternoon to early evening, we hopped back on the metro and took it over to the tourist-filled Eiffel Tower, an absolute must-see for anyone who has not been to Paris. The statue is remarkable and I would love to actually take the time at one point to relaxingly sit on the huge Champs de Mars in front of the Tower and read a book. If you plan on going up in the tower, be prepared to wait possibly several hours in line to do so… Even just to climb the stairs. Since time is of the essence on this trip, we took the required photos, took a moment to soak in the view and headed back on the metro towards our hotel.
Refined Recommendation: If you have energy remaining, make a small detour over to Réciproque, a world-famous consignment store in the same arrondissement as the Eiffel Tower. It’s stockpile of designer wares is without comparison. Again, remember that there are few deals to be found and if you want a vintage Chanel jacket, you will be paying vintage Chanel jacket price. But still a great deal for those who collect pieces or just want something unique to add to their wardrobe.
Since that morning, we realized several things at the massive Galeries Lafayette we wanted to look at again so we returned there briefly before it closed. Word of warning – check the closing hours for stores carefully, they are not open nearly as long as in other parts of the world – many are closed entirely on Sundays! Dinner was a delicious French meal at a nearby restaurant with a bottle of the house wine- which even as an amateur wine snob, is out of this world in Paris. Dinner is a slow, often multiple course affair in France and it’s meant to be savoured and enjoyed. Say oui when the nice waiters offer you champagne as a pre-dinner drink, and savour the tiny bubbles. Say oui when they ask if more wine is needed for the table. And save room for the Creme Brulée. You’ll thank me later.
Remember how I said dinner was a slow affair in France? We didn’t leave the restaurant until well after 1am and made our way back to our hotel, profoundly exhausted and with dreams of creme brulées dancing in our heads. Side note – I have a slight creme brûlée obsession. Could you tell?
Good morning sunshine! Are you ready for the arts and culture part of your trip? Since Day 2 on this weekend adventure is a Sunday and the majority of stores are all closed you’ll be spending your day today soaking up some culture.
Can you think of a more cultured place than the Louvre museum? It’s also a must-see for a Parisian visitor as having an audience with the Mona Lisa is tops in every list of things to do in Paris. The entrance to the museum can be quite crowded with tourists, so try to arrive early and take full advantage of the maps inside to plot out your path. There are even directions which will take you from the front entrance to the most common “big” permanent exhibits – the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory. If you can spare any time at all, do. The art is simply spectacular and I’ve actually found a painting that lives near the Mona Lisa that I absolutely love- without any rhyme or reason why. That’s the beauty of art, is it not? You could probably spend the better part of a week in the Louvre and still not see everything, so we acknowledged the fact and moved on. The outside of the museum is quite spectacular as well as an old chateau.
Refined Recommendation: The Jardin de Tuileries are right outside the Louvre and are amongst the prettiest places I’ve seen. Take a quick stroll or, better yet, grab a bite from a café around and have a quick lunch enjoying the gardens.
Next up on our whirlwind tour? We need to see Notre-Dame! Another quick metro ride will take you close to Ile-de-la-Cite, which houses the impressive church. Another Parisian “must-see”, Notre-Dame will have flocks of tourists around it. Walk towards the water towards the Quartier Latin ensuring you walk past the side of the gorgeous church. You’ll wind up at one of the most interesting places in Paris – the Pont de l’Archeveche, otherwise known as the Lover Lock Bridge. Lovers lock a padlock onto the bridge to symbolize their eternal love and then throw the key into the river below. If you didn’t get lunch at the Jardin de Tuileries, head towards the Quartier Latin and enjoy one of my favourite French dishes – Mussels! Known as moules in french, they are often served with frites (fries) and are most absolutely delicious.
As we approach the mid-afternoon, head back on the metro and get off at the Palais Garnier, Paris’s absolutely spectacular Opera House. I had heard lots of stories, read great reviews but my first trip left me astounded. It’s a must-see for the interior architecture alone – the fabulous staircases and the absolutely breathtaking room at the front of the building. I’ve added attending an opera here on my bucket list. If you’ve got time before jetting back to the Eurostar or off to Charles de Gaulle, there is a cute cafe attached to the Opera House (and a great little store if you’re interested in a collectible or two) which serves divine little amuse-bouches and a great variety of premium champagnes by the glass.
So there you have it – Paris in 48 Hours. I’m aware that there are hundreds if not thousands of things I’ve missed off the list, but for someone interested in shopping and seeing as much of Paris as possible in a short time frame, it’s a very realistic way to see lots of Paris while whetting your appetite to come back. And really, is going back to Paris ever a bad idea? The old saying is true… Paris is always a good idea.