48 hours in Paris? Here's how to make it count.
It’s been an unbelievable seven years since my last visit to Paris – and even longer for Ryan. When I realized that our round-the-world trip included a proper stopover in neighbouring Belgium, I lobbied for a quick jaunt to Paris. I just couldn't imagine being so close to a city I love so much and not stopping in to say hello!
We will arrive in Paris 11:00 am on Sunday and leave early Tuesday morning, giving us just under 48 hours in the City of Lights.
On Day 1, we’re looking forward to a guided tour of the Louvre with our partners My Parisian Tour in the afternoon. We've both been to the Louvre before, but it’s been a long time and we've never experienced it under expert guidance. In the evening, we’re proud to be partnering with Viator to do a coach tour to see the city illuminated at night, followed by a short cruise on the Seine, and ending with a group dinner at a Champs Elysees restaurant. After being away from the city for so long, we’re looking forward to having a recap of all the major sites and getting an overview of the city.
Confession time: We’re hoping that an evening activity on Day 1 will also help us beat jet lag – no sneaking off to bed early for us!
In the morning of Day 2, we’re partnering with Fat Tire Bike Tours to do a cycling tour of the city, followed by a tour of the Eiffel Tower with My Parisian Tour in the afternoon.
Our time in Paris has been booked solidly – we have only the morning/early afternoon on Day 1 and the evening of Day 2 for free time.
I've made a list of my Parisian must-dos (my favorite bakery, bar, sandwich shop and bookstore), as well as a list of would-love-to-do activities so we can organize our short amount of time.
Leaving to Chance:
I've never experienced an amazing, romantic, memorable meal in Paris and I’d love to have one on Night 2. But we’re leaving it to chance, hoping that Parisian serendipity wins out, just like in the movies!
Our time in Paris is short and I don’t want to waste any time waiting in line. That’s why I’m happy to be part of tour programs that include an automatic “skip the line” perk.
We’re taking a walk down memory lane by visiting my favourite bakery (okay: bakeries!) and my favourite sandwich shop. They are proof that Parisian culinary delights don’t’ have to cost a lot. We also booked our high-speed train from Brussels to Paris well in advance – in fact, as early as we possibly could. Doing so saved us nearly 100 Euros!
Splurges and Souvenirs:
Our hotel is modest by Parisian standards of luxury, but still a bit of a splurge for us. It’s central and convenient and will offer us a lot of options in case jet lag means one person is wide awake and wants to go explore while the other person remains fast asleep.
SOOOO..... How Did It Go?
Ah Paris. We entered exhausted, we left exhausted, and had a fantastic, jam packed time in between!
Happily, our flight to Brussels arrived on time but we were exhausted after our full day in New York and we didn't get much sleep overnight. Stumbling through the airport we quickly spent 11 Euros on mediocre coffees and pastries, only to later discover there was a full service grocery store in the arrivals area (plus a mini store in the Relay shop, which was fully stocked with hummus, chorizo, and wine. How strange! Who wants to go grocery shopping in the airport? With these thoughts puzzling in our minds, we caught the rapid Thalys train to Paris. We were thrilled to have booked these tickets so far in advance - we easily saved over 50 Euro.
Checking into our St Germain hotel a bit early (read about it here!), we were so happy to have some early access to a hot shower. Why does plane travel always make me feel so grubby? Heading out to explore, our first stop was Cosi sandwich shop on Rue de Seine.
Cosi has been a favourite of mine since my very first visit to Paris almost 13 years ago. Their homemade bread is a hot, fluffy cross between a pita and focaccia and it is absolutely scrumptious. You can pick and choose your own toppings or select from a list of their favourite combos. I had turkey tandoori with creamy coleslaw and chives while Ryan had curried turkey with apple at a cost of 6.50 Euro each. There are tons of options for vegetarians, a bit of a rarity in meat obsessed Paris.
Heartily fuelled, we slowly made our way to the Louvre, stopping along the way to browse at the Seine-side book sellers stalls. We had a fantastic 3 hour tour of the Louvre with My Parisian Tours that was by far the most comprehensive visit I've ever had of this legendary museum.
I have to admit I was dead on my feet by the end of the tour but we still had hours to go. We made an impromptu stop at the Cafe de la Comedie in Rue Saint Honore. For the first time ever, I had the classic Paris experience of sitting outside a cafe (under heat lamps - Paris was so cold!). The hot chocolate was thick, rich, and delicious. The crepes were fresh and tasty, stuffed with Nutella, banana, and cream. It made for the perfect pre-dinner snack and for 16.60 Euro (including an Americano for Ryan) it represented a fairly good value considering the neighbourhood.
At the cafe and throughout every aspect of our trip, we found Parisians to be very friendly and didn't encounter any of the infamous snobbishness. Day one ended with an evening bus tour, boat tour, and Champs Élysées dinner with Viator. Our waiter at Chez Clement was so personable - he even called his wife to get a recommendation on her favourite restaurant for Indian food in Paris! Looks like our memorable Parisian dinner was happening on night one instead of night two! Catching one of the last metros home, we were finally able to sleep for the first time in 2 days.
Waking up after 8 hours of sleep surprisingly did NOT feel good. The jetlag was unbelievable! We dragged ourselves out to meet with our tour partners at Fat Tire Bike Tour (see our review here!) and we were soon waking up as the brusque Parisian air made our cheeks rosy as we cycled around the city.
Logistics didn't work out for our second tour, most regrettably, but we still made most of our time, taking the metro north to Montmartre for a short visit of the neighbourhood and a stop to admire Sacre Coeur Basilica. Arriving back to the city centre, another brief stop was made to my favourite bookstore in the world- Shakespeare and Company. With a huge effort I avoided making any purchases as the heavy books would not help my back over the next few weeks!
We walked back through the Latin Quarter and finally collapsed at the hotel. I was so exhausted after our long day of fresh air and exercise that I barely had the strength to visit a bakery to stock up on macaroons and pistachio tarts! Fortunately, Ryan recovered a second wind to go out again and visit with a friend, but the best I could muster was a quiet night in of writing and a bit of packing. I felt guilty for not pushing myself out the door but I didn't want to miss out on anything on route to Bruges in the morning!
Looking back at our trip, and enjoying our photos once more, I realize that we really did have two incredible days and we covered a lot of ground, but I'm not 100% satisfied. I want to see more of Paris, taste more of Paris, and get to know Paris better. I want time to discover all the bakeries, see all the galleries, and drink all the wine! I think we need to visit again, at least for two weeks, but I could really imagine spending an entire month, exploring every nook and cranny.
Previous: Day 1 - New York City
Next Stop: Day 4 - Bruges
Related Articles: Review Fat Tire Bike Tour
Secrets of the Louvre for the Savvy Traveler
Hotel Review: Hotel Academie
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