“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a movable feast.” –Ernest Hemingway
48 Hours in Paris — Often dubbed as the “City of Light,” Paris is a cosmopolitan cradle of luxury, fashion, intellectualism, and romance, bisected by the River Seine and filled with hidden cultural and historical gems buried in every corner of the city. Traditionally, the north bank of the river was considered the more affluent part, while the south bank had a more avant-garde flair, however, with time, that marked divide has significantly blurred. And today, all 20 arrondisements exude their own unique appeal and warrant a special visit. Start in the center of the city in the 1starrondisement, and spiral your way out clockwise through all 20 areas. Paris is not only considered the political capital of France, but it is also the cultural and commercial epicenter of the country. It is as international as it is fundamentally French.
Paris is overwhelmingly luxurious and savoring every delight, no matter how petit is part of the experience. Dotted with cafés, patisseries, and boulangeries at every corner, Paris is not only a vast haven of gourmet food, but it also serves as the headquarters of some of the world’s most exclusive fashion boutiques. The illuminated city is also a tribute to the intellectual preeminence of notables such as Hemingway, Voltaire, Dali, Stravinsky, and Picasso who have used Paris as a common gathering place over the centuries and left their indelible marks on not only French society, but also the world at large.
Though transportation by the expansive underground metro is superb, to enjoy more versatility, try renting a bike or roaming the city by foot. And if the weather permits, take an evening boat tour along the River Seine and witness the city lights captivate your heart.
1) Treat yourself to a luxurious breakfast at La Tartine in the Marais district, the ancient Jewish quarter. Today, it oozes with flamboyance and charm, lined with narrow alleyways and trendy cafes, and is home to budding artists, aspiring fashion designers, and a growing gay presence.
2) Marvel at the modern, colorful architecture of the Center Georges Pompidou (Musée National d’Art Moderne).
3) Go shopping on Rue de Rivoli and Châtelet/Les Halles until you land on the doorstep of one of world’s largest and most famous museums, Musée du Louvre. Pose in front of the dazzling glass pyramids, gawk at Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and appreciate the never-ending galleries of historical relics spanning multiple centuries.
4) After perusing the endless corridors of the Louvre, take a short afternoon break at a nearby tearoom called Angelina, where you can find perhaps, the best and most decadent cup of hot chocolate in Paris. It’s almost like a melted chocolate bar in a glass that would have even Willy Wonka begging for seconds!
5) Stroll along Pont Neuf, the oldest standing bridge in Paris that dates back to the 17th century.
6) After an authentic French lunch at the famous Les Deux Magots café in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, head over to the Latin Quarter and the Pantheon, a secular mausoleum that houses luminaries such as Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, and Alexandre Dumas. It is also regarded as one of the most striking examples of neoclassical architecture.
7) The Jardin du Luxembourg is the largest public park and serves as the garden of the French Senate, which is housed in the Luxembourg Palace.
8) Nestled in the St. Michel district and considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture, the Notre Dame cathedral is one of the crowning attractions of the Île de la Cité, one of the two islands in the Seine. Look for the bronze star in the pavement in front of the entrance of the Notre Dame; it’s France’s official geographical center.
9) To the east of the Notre Dame is the Place de la Bastille, the former venue of the infamous Bastille prison until its destruction after the “Storming of the Bastille” during the French Revolution. Today, it bears symbolic significance and is often used for political demonstrations.
10) Escape the hustle and bustle of the city and dine at the ultra trendy Buddha Bar restaurant, a classic in Paris’ dining scene. Tantalize your taste buds with one of the many Asia-inspired cocktails and admire the visually stunning décor around you. Be sure to make reservations in advance!
11) For a real taste of the Parisian nightlife, grab a drink at the gorgeously low-lit speakeasy-styled lounge, the Experimental Cocktail Club Bar or sway to the latest tunes at L’Arc Paris.
1) Start your busy day at the quintessential Parisian tea salon: Ladurée, known as the creator of the double-decker macarons. Sample the exquisite pastries and walk away with a box of macaroons, at the very least.
2) Sashay down the Champs-Élysées —the most beautiful boulevard in the world and the famed mecca of French style and haute couture—and shop ‘till you drop! Start on the west end by paying homage to all the soldiers of the French Revolution that are immortalized in the Arc de Triomphe and end at the Place de la Concorde with the Obelisk of Luxor at its center. The Place de la Concorde, which literally translates to “the square of harmony” also marks the site where Marie Antoinette and countless others were guillotined during the French Revolution. Word of advice: go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for stunning views of the city!
3) View Napoleon’s tomb, an important remnant of France’s past at Les Invalides, a complex of buildings all related to the military history of France.
4) A trip to Paris is incomplete without visiting the iconic Eiffel Tower. If the weather permits, the best way to experience the beautiful landmark is by bringing your own wine, baguettes, and cheese and having a picnic on the lawn in front! A word of advice if you want to go up to the top: go early in the morning to avoid the hours-long queues and stampedes of trudging tourists.
5) Take a midday break and indulge in a sweet crêpe—a typical French dessert—with dollops of nutella and fresh bananas. Complement your dessert with a Parisian staple, café au lait and a side of people watching!
6) Roam Boulevard Haussmann, home to the glorious Galeries Lafayette, a 10-story department store and a Parisian fashion institution. Lodged in an Art Nouveau building, Galeries Lafayette is every fashionista’s paradise and every foodie’s heaven. It’s the perfect place to get lost in Paris.
7) Adjacent to the beautiful Galeries Lafayette is the Opera Garnier, an architectural treasure and home to the Paris ballet.
8) Perched atop a hill at 130 meters high, Montmarte is known for hosting the beautiful, white-domed Basilica of the Sacré Cœur at its summit and being an upcoming nightclub district. Climb the cobbled streets and enjoy heavenly views of the city, and if the slog up the steep steps does not leave you breathless, the stunning panoramic views from the top will do the trick! At the foot of Montmarte, you will find yourself in Pigalle, the infamous red-light district of Paris and home to the celebrated Moulin Rouge cabaret.
9) Pay your respects to literary geniuses like Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust at the Père Lachaise cemetery, the largest cemetery in Paris.
10) Wind down with an intimate dinner at Le Chateaubriand and indulge in a prix-fixe French meal, complemented by a glass, or bottle of French wine. Bon appétit!
11) Consummate the glorious 48 hours with a flute of champagne or a signature cocktail at the classic Bar Hemingway at the Ritz Hotel. Voted as the best bar in the world by Forbes Magazine, the Bar Hemingway is the former haunt of the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce and has been restored to reflect its rich literary history with lush wood-paneled walls covered with black and white photos of Mr. Hemingway himself. Perhaps, now you’ll understand what Hemingway meant by “a moveable feast.”
Soaking up the beauty of Paris is not a pleasure that can be hurried, so slow down and indulge a la a true Parisian. With almost 150 museums scattered throughout the city, it is virtually impossible to visit them all in the span of two days, so some planning and prioritizing will be helpful.
On your next trip to Paris, be sure to visit the charming French countryside, known for its chateaus, champagne, and gardens.
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I’m Nyssa. I started The Cultureur in August 2012, almost a decade after contracting the travel bug while on a Model United Nations conference in Russia and Finland.
And from there, when I took the first step in solo international travel and decided to study abroad in college,
there was no looking back, and I ended up living, studying, working, and volunteering in 6 countries (the U.S., the UK, France, Iceland, India, and Germany) and traveling to 50+ others.