Paris is an odd one for me. Similar to Amsterdam, it took me a while to warm up to it. This didn’t stop me though from exploring Paris’ streets and sights. Roaming the streets filled with cafés and delicious patisserie shops, I warmed up to it and learned to appreciate the city’s culture and lifestyle. Overall, my first Paris trip was good, but I had some reservations. It included some serious expectations vs reality moments. Here are my top 9 impressions from my first Paris trip:
Table of Contents
The Prestigious Louvre Museum In Paris
The art museum is impressive inside and out. Arriving at the famous pyramid and stepping into a whole new art world was an exciting experience in itself. The collection is perfectly curated and I wandered around for 4.5h. There are all sorts of treasures from Europe and afar and sometimes you have to fight for a good spot to see them.
I saw the Mona Lisa, The French Revolution and the Venus de Milo and it didn’t stop there. The museum’s wide spaces are filled from bottom to ceiling with incredible pieces. Most of the rooms are artwork themselves. I would say the detail and rich presentation resembled those of the Vatican interior. The main attractions are very busy but the rest of the museum is wide-stretched.
I would recommend buying a fast track ticket in advance to skip long queues. It’ll cost around 17€ (£15).
Did You Know: There’s free admission to the museum for any EEA resident under the age of 26.
The main area and information centre is located right under the glass pyramid. This section can also be reached from a second entrance, which is less busy than the common route via the pyramid.
TIP: Try to access the museum through the shopping centre entrance on the Rue de Rivoli. The side entrance allows you to skip the long queues at the pyramid.
Run Down Streets & Poverty
Unpopular opinion coming your way, but I found Paris scruffy. Unlike Rome, it is not picturesque and in some parts, it reminded me heavily of London. Before my Paris trip, people would rave about the city’s’ unrivalled elegance and luxury. I found it hard to see the glamour as the streets were dirty and many houses lacked interesting features.
Street after street looked the same. You may find some of the enchanting glamour around the Champs-Élysées, but apart from that the French chic and elegance that so many people told me about, seemed completely gone. Paris has some heavily neglected areas. Police patrols and constant controls dominate the everyday picture and still, I never felt 100% secure. In Rome, there are street sellers which were a bit annoying but in Paris, there are entire families living on the street. It’s very heart-breaking and intense to see but unfortunately a very, very common picture in Paris.
French Patisserie & Cakes
Paris won me over with its diverse and extensive variety of cakes – it is a paradise! There’s a patisserie waiting for you at every corner with delicious cakes, colourful macaroons, fancy profiteroles and fluffy pastries. Top addresses for exquisite Parisian treats are Café Angelina and Café Pouchkine.
Both serve top-notch quality delights and Café Angelina has the most indulgent hot chocolate I’ve ever tasted – thick and creamy, with a rich but not overpowering chocolatey taste and a smooth milky finish. The average price for the cakes are 10€ but there’s enough to share and the quality is out of this world.
I had a chocolatey treat with a heavenly filling which was handcrafted and presented stunningly. Café Pouchkine can be found with a few branches all over the city and they serve gorgeous cakes. Did I share? Erm…I don’t think so.
Dining Out In Paris Is Pricey
Whilst the food prices in European capitals seem to be similar, the quality of food varies tremendously. 25€ on average per person seems to be common. Whilst I treated myself to a 23€ dinner at a Michelin-guided restaurant in Amsterdam, for the same price I got an average and small pasta meal in Rome.
Wherever you go in Paris however, you get really nice and tasty food from an international food scene. There are Italian restaurants, street food, French cuisine, the usual fast food establishments but more importantly small cafés and hidden-away restaurants serving quality food. I was surprised how diverse and manifold the food scene was and you don’t have to worry to be starving in Paris. There’s literally food for everyone, which leads me to my next point:
Parisian Casual Dining Is Phenomenal
I found two little gems in Paris for my favourite food: Burger Joint near the Centre Pompidou is a very small place that serves goats cheeseburgers. The combination of the dominant goat’s cheese and the sweet savoury taste of a medium-rare cooked beef medallion was heavenly. The prices are very moderate as you can get a massive burger with fries and a drink for 12€ (£9).
Next on the list is Pizzeria Popolare on the Rue Réaumur, Paris’ hottest place to go out according to its long queue which regularly grows down the entire street. It’s no surprise, as its colourful display made up of booze bottles and warm lighting will attract visitors from miles away.
A place that radiates so much warmth and cosiness needs to be checked out, right? I did so on my last day as every time I walked past it before, the long queue told me to come back later. The place gets really busy around lunchtime (come before 12pm) and shortly after 6pm.
I managed to get a seat without waiting too long and I saw why this place is so popular. It is a super cosy restaurant with a vibrant atmosphere. They serve traditional Italian food with prices as little as 5€ (for pizza and 18€ for pasta) and the plates are loaded with goodness. The service was super friendly and quick which allows a high turn around and people actually don’t have to wait too long to be seated. On your way out you should check out the bathrooms which have a quirky touch and a photo booth!
Walking Around Paris Feels Like A Marathon
Paris is spacious and there seems to be no clear structure. The sights are widespread in all directions, some are in random places like the Eiffel Tower, so you should be prepared for very long walking distances. I made it to an impressive 75 miles over a 5 day period on top of my Amsterdam mileage. After a while, you’re just knackered so you decide to use the tube system which is pretty chaotic.
Pure Chaos: The Parisian Tube System
The map is all over the place and I felt lost a few times. To me, the lines made no sense and it took me a good while to figure out where everything was and where to go.
I heard a lot of people raving about the incredible art nouveau style of the Parisian underground but I felt most of its charm and glamour had gone. The stations felt monotonous and uniform. There are long distances to walk when interchanging (similar to the Bank/Monument walk) and there are barely escalators to speed things up.
A quick trip to the Eiffel Tower becomes then a ten stop journey, which is half of my daily commute in London and keep in mind you’re still in zone 1 of Paris! The tickets are cheaper though. A single one-way fare came 1.45€ which is not too bad given the fact it is valid for one hour after validation.
The Eiffel Tower At Night
The highlight of my Paris trip was seeing the Eiffel Tower at Night. The building is alright in the daytime, but it becomes impressive as soon as it gets dark and all the lights come on. When I went to see it, it was a warm (summer) night with no breeze but a clear sky and the moon to its fullest. Some stars shone brightly and the view from the Seine was spectacular. It was a great atmosphere standing there and just taking it all in. A beautiful moment and I can only imagine how stunning the Tower must look from afar.
Explore Cemeteries & Neighbourhoods
My journey through the city brought me to different areas which showed me a diverse face of Paris. The north is worth exploring. I stayed at the hotel Best Western Opera Faubourg which wasn’t too far from Moulin Rouge. One day I decided to walk to Moulin Rouge and saw it from the outside. I decided to continue walking and ended up at the Montmartre Cemetery. This is one of the big four cemeteries of Paris where famous physicians, composers and scientists rest in peace.
It was a beautiful sunny day and exploring the grounds gave me a little chill down my spine. The cemetery is free to visit and wandering through the old mausoleums and crypts was a unique experience. The place itself is impressive and atmospheric. Whilst you wander around you’ll find inscriptions or plates and learn more about the people who are buried here. If you have the chance please don’t miss out on this unique and haunting experience.
Just a short 15 minute walk uphill to the northwest, you’ll find the impressive Sacre Coeur church. The area with its narrow streets is filled with life: there are cute little cafés to sit down on the street and watch life go by.
It is a bit touristy but it has flair as if you found one of the long-lost Parisian boroughs that still maintained their French vibe and character. There are street sellers, artists and handcrafts to purchase. You walk past little vineyards and chic French houses before you can walk up the many stairs of the church and appreciate the magnificent views of the city.
Another area that I liked, but is located in the touristy part of Paris is the area Les Halles. This is an area popular for shopping but very nice and full of life. The Rue Montorgueil is a food mile with lots of restaurants and unique little places which I can recommend strolling along.
Near the station, Les Halles is the church La Pointe Saint Eustache which is equally as stunning as Notre Dame. There’s also a big underground shopping centre hosting a Sephora and two of my recent discoveries, NafNaf and Oysho. Only a little walk to the west you’ll find the Centre Pompidou (stop at Burger Joint) and walk afterwards towards the South to pass Notre Dame. It is a very nice area, especially on a sunny day with an ice cream in your handmade for a treasuring memory.
My first Paris trip was ok and it has certainly left an impression on me. I don’t think Paris is “my city”. I can’t point my finger on it why, but I would be open to learning more about Paris and come back one day. I think Paris advertises itself really well as this glamourous city when it is not. I guess the really cool corners are off the beaten path and in the nearby arrondisments. as I often felt its vibe was a bit off and my energies weren’t being off. So I doubt I’ll rush to come back here any time soon. However, I’ve given the city a chance and its cake culture resonated deeply with me. I’m open to hearing your suggestions and impressions from your Paris trip.
Thanks for reading, if you’d like to support the blog & my research you can do so via Buy Me a Coffee.
Till next time,
You may also enjoy reading: