Looking back: A must-see-and-do list for Paris.

My friend Jessie was heading to Paris and asked if I had any advice on where to stay, what to see, and the must-do items I learned from my travels, so I created this list.

(Of course they are far more things to see/do than this list, but here are a few things to get you started! And remember, I was there from June-August so this is a ‘summer list’.)

First and foremost:
Get this Paris offline map on your phone!!
Download this bit of brilliance to your phone. I have found it indispensable- you don’t need to be connected to wifi and it doesn’t use data roaming to work– you can find the nearest metro, a Starbucks (if you need wifi), a grocery store (like a ‘franprix’ or ‘carrefour’), museums, galleries, (and many other things), and always find where you are and which direction you are facing. It’s free. And awesome.
(There is also the same kind of free app for Amsterdam, London, Prague… Etc)
IMG_5013The Sunken Chip
-delicious fish and chips, UK style. And if weather permits, taking it over to the banks of the Canal St Martin to eat it.
(Nearest metro: Chateau D’Eau (line 4) or Jacques Bonsergent (line 5)
IMG_3436The Artazart bookstore and boutique by the canal St Martin- honestly the coolest selection of books ever. Plus other cool things, but dear god the books. I could have bought a dozen.
(Nearest metro: Chateau D’Eau (line 4) or Jacques Bonsergent (line 5)
IMG_1971The Loire Dans La Théière:
A busy little tea shop with unbelievable desserts. In the Marais area, where there are all sorts of other fantastic eats. Laptops not allowed.
(Nearest metro: St-Paul (line 1)
The Musée des arts et Métiers:
Full of inventions, toys, design, engineering and architecture, it’s extremely cool to check out.
(Nearest metro: Arts et Métiers (line 3 or line 11)
IMG_5094The Pere Lachaise Cemetery
This place is huge and remarkable. I liked it best on a cloudy day; you can spend hours here exploring ancient gravestones and famous resting places. I was interested in this place far more for the beauty than the celebrities.
I know there are numerous art gallery/museums that will be recommended to you so this shall be mine. This beautiful gallery has a lower level of many artists, and my favourite part on the main floor: two rooms with wrapping floor-to-ceiling paintings of Monet’s water lilies like you’ve never seen them.
You can also walk through the Jardin De Tuilleries afterwards, on your way to the Louvre or towards the Marais area.
Nearest metro: Concorde (line 1, 12 or 8)
IMG_5765Rent ‘Velib’ bikes – if it isn’t too cold or rainy, this is a great way to get across town quickly and leisurely.
You can rent a bicycle online or at a velib station with a credit card- it’s 1.70€ for 24 hours, and you can use a bike for up to 30 minutes at a time (as many times as you want) for no extra charge, so it’s great to get places a little quicker, or enjoy a ride along the Seine. We found it perfect in the evening- the least amount of traffic on the roads. The roads often have bike lanes and we always felt comfortable on the roads here- drivers and cyclists cooperate. The stations are all over the place, and there’s an app for that as well.
IMG_2974Have a picnic. (Just about anywhere):
There is nothing like buying some good cheese, a baguette, grabbing a bottle of wine and finding an outdoor spot to eat. Way cheaper than a restaurant and you can enjoy the beautiful evenings that Paris often has. Three of my favourite places are: along the Seine (by the Musee D’Orsay, or at Pont Neuf), in Champs Des Mars- the park at the base of the Eiffel Tower, or the Jardin du Luxembourg.
IMG_1719Speaking of the Jardin du Luxembourg: go there. 🙂 It’s huge, beautiful, and a fabulous place to walk through, or sit and people watch. My favourite place in the garden is by the Medici Fountain.
(Nearest train line RER B- Luxembourg, or Metro: Notre-Dame-Des-Champs)- you can also walk here from the Odeon station.
IMG_5242Parc de la Villette
This was a very late discovery and we went there to check out their outdoor movie festival, but the park and area have even more to offer than that. In addition to all the pathways and walkways and playgrounds and artwork here, there is the largest Science Museum in Europe, The City of Music museum, IMAX theatre (in La Géode, pictured above), and numerous venues for music and events.
You can walk a lot in Paris, but if you take the metro, my suggestion is to buy a pack of ten tickets. I think you can use the same ticket for 60 minutes (any direction) on the metro but don’t quote me on that. I don’t know the bus system very well aside from the fact you need tickets (or exact change) for buses too.
In terms of food, there are endless possibilities. Crèpe stands are all over and the price is often very reasonable, boulangeries (bakeries) are common and amazing, and fruit stands (even sometimes in the metro stations!) often have the absolute best fruit you’ve ever had. If you want the most concentrated restaurant options, get off the Metro at Saint-Michel(just southwest of Nortre Dame) and head south. There are a lot of cool restaurants in the Marais area, just west of the Etienne Marcel metro stop, and Rue Mouffetard (right by the Place Monge Metro stop) is another awesome spot for a variety of options. There are markets all over, and they happen regularly, often on a schedule like Sunday/Wednesday/Friday or Monday/Saturday. Fun to wander through and amazing selections of food, flowers, and sometimes housewares and crafts.
Festivals abound, but some I got to and loved:
1) Fête de La Musique (3rd Saturday in June)  (Free music festival with concerts galore!)
2) La Plage Sur La Seine (August)

An Eiffel Tower statue made out of metal lawn chairs

3) En Plein Air (Outdoor Cinema Festival) @ Parc De La Villette (July-August)


Bring a picnic dinner, drinks, and your own blankets (or rent chairs and blankets for a reasonable price) and enjoy!

There are new exhibits and events going on all the time, so check out TimeOut www.timeout.com/Paris/en for their ‘hot list’- a list of things to do and see each week. I found this site really useful.

Hope this list has some things you find helpful. Let me know what you have found and would suggest! I’d love to learn about more must-see things for my next visit there! 🙂

Culture shock, I guess

Many people asked if I had reverse culture shock coming back from Europe to Canada after 3 months, or if there were any major things I noticed.

I would say there were two things in particular that were hugely apparent right away.

ONE: While in Paris I never spent one minute in a car.   I did not drive for three months. In Paris I took the metro almost every day, walked, cycled, and had a couple trips on bus or train. There was one week in July where we rented a car in Avignon and drove around Provence (and for that week my sister and mom did all the driving).

My first day home in Calgary, I got in my car in order to meet a friend for a coffee. The day after that, I did some errands, and went out for dinner with my mom.   And I proceeded to use a car every. single. day. after. that.

Now, I don’t live downtown- I live in the suburbs. But very few of my friends are centrally located either. We drive to meet each other. It ensures we have more time to see each other, and spend less time waiting and waiting for inconsistent buses and avoiding rush hour LRT chaos.

TWO: In Canada we have so much SPACE. And we spread out like crepe batter. 😉 IMG_6151

Not only are the cities sprawled out but so many people here expect to have large front and back yards, a two car garage, and big house with parks and pathways and man-made lakes nearby. And suburbia reigns.

There have been attempts to create more concentrated housing in repurposed and more central up-and-coming neighborhoods in Calgary. The idea is for semi-detached housing in tall, narrow homes, and smaller lots. Sort of like townhouses, but without the condo boards. I see it as a wonderful opportunity to create a community with your neighbors, and some of the designs are beautiful and classic in design. I’d love to live in a place like this!   In several cases, the citizens of our great city have come up against the builders and have demanded more lawn space, larger square footage, and separate dwellings with larger garages.

In Paris, so many people live in tiny apartments with no yards, no garages and often they don’t even own cars. They walk or take transit or bike to get around. They share courtyards or small gardens and patios with neighbors. They spend their money on quality food and entertainment. They meet at local cafes and restaurants that are around every corner. They don’t sit at home watching giant tvs in giant living rooms and spend any time watering or mowing giant lawns.

My front ‘lawn’ aka door, in the Latin Quarter.


I have a new appreciation for our space here. The skies of Paris and France reminded me of our Alberta blue but I missed the mountain-edged horizon, the pathways around the reservoir, and the fact that the streets are only jam-packed with tourists ten days every year. Car keys in hand or not, I am happy to be home.  🙂