City of Dreams

It’s perfect for a short city break or part of a longer French holiday.
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Paris is truly a city of dreams; one of the most visited cities in the world for so many good reasons. It’s perfect for a short city break or part of a longer French holiday.

 
I’m Bryan Bonnah, one of G/Hardy’s most experienced Tour Directors, with an extensive knowledge of countries and cities across Europe but a particular passion for one of my favourite places on Earth — Paris. With over thirty years of travel experience, I am always eager to share my passion and love for the City of Lights. Read on for some insider tips and insights on why Paris is such an incredible destination. 


Essential Experiences

I think Paris is the greatest capital of food, wine, art and culture in the world! There are so many stunningly beautiful places and unique experiences to be had in Paris. Many are well known, such as the Eiffel Tower, (which I love to see lit up at night), the Seine River, and the stunning Notre Dame Cathedral (slowly being rebuilt after the disastrous fire in 2019). From the art world, see collections of masterpieces in the Louvre and Musee D’Orsay. These are absolutely essential for first timers, but read on for how to experience Paris like a local!

While many of the most famous sites in Paris are found along the Seine, moving outward from the river’s edges is a wonderful way to experience Paris. For example, a climb up to the stunning Basilica Sacré-Coeur de Montmartre for a well-known place to enjoy incredible views across the city and a spectacular sunset. Personally, when I want a view of the city, I go to the Galeries Lafayette department store with its free-of-charge roof-top terrace overlooking the Opera Garnier – I especially love going at night to see the city lights and the Eiffel Tower twinkling brilliantly in the night sky).

Best Places to Eat

With so many incredible restaurants, bistros and cafes across the city, there are options at every price point. From fabulous haute cuisine, to tempting street food, Paris really has it all. Locals particularly enjoy the outdoor street markets, both for grocery shopping and catching up with friends over aperitifs. Market streets are a great place to pick up an iconic French pastry, some delicious local cheeses, a fresh baguette, and of course a bottle of French wine.
I love to wander, pick up a light meal and then improvise a picnic in a local park. Some of my favourites market streets include Rue Cler (7eme) near the Eiffel Tower, Rue de Lévis (17e) in the hip and happening Les Batignolles area (17e arrondissement), and the smaller Rue Cadet (9eme) near the heart of Les Grands Boulevards. The famous Marché Bastille (11e) is one of the largest open air markets and another wonderful option (although it’s only open on Thursdays and Sundays).
 
After a morning visiting one of the incredible galleries or museums across the city, a great option for an inexpensive lunch is to visit a traditional crêperie for a savoury galette bretonne (a folded crepe from Brittany made with buckwheat flour). There are many traditional toppings available and they are often served with a fresh, simple salad making a perfect option for a light and nutritious lunch… and perhaps to be enjoyed as Parisians would with a glass of cider.

Shopping in Paris

Of course you’ve heard of the Champs-Élysées, with its countless international brands, or the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré bursting with Parisian ateliers. But be sure not to miss the vintage treasures hidden under the beautiful covered porticos of the Palais Royale, or discover independent boutiques in Le Marais and trendy Les Batignolles. I love to wander the “passages couverts” – historic, covered walkways lined with shops, such as The Galerie Vivienne, Passage Jouffroy, and Passage Verdeau, offering everything from precious stones and vintage jewelry, to antique media, cameras and even furniture. Finally, the massive Marchés aux Puces de Paris Saint-Ouen is a treasure trove of antiques, vintage finds, and high-end collectibles.


Getting Around

When arriving to Paris, GHardy Tours always recommends having a driver waiting for you. If you’re jet lagged and managing your luggage, having a professional ready to lead you to a waiting, air conditioned vehicle is a welcome sight. In high season, the lineups for taxis can be lengthy.

Alternatively, if you are willing to navigate major transportation hubs, the RER Metro train line “B” (Blue) departs from Paris CDG with stops at Gare du Nord, Châtelet–Les Halles, and on the Left Bank the Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame station.

 

For day-to-day exploring, Paris has a comprehensive, clean, and modern Metro subway system. Individual journey tickets can be purchased for €2.10. You can buy daily passes or groups of ten tickets. Known as “carnet”, these packages of ten tickets provide discounted fares for each journey and are the best value if you plan to use the Metro frequently. Of course, taxis and ride-share services are also readily available.

If you want the pedestrian views coupled with a faster pace, look for one of the many rentable e-scooters parked on the sidewalk. Be careful though, the roads are crowded and scooters aren’t allowed to be driven on the sidewalk.
As a true Francophile, I love sharing the best of the City of Lights and a blog just can’t do it enough justice. If you want to learn more about the city, have specific questions, or would like to share some of your favourite experiences I would love to hear from you! Send me an email at [email protected]
About Bryan Bonnah
With more than twenty years of experience developing and leading experiential learning opportunities around the world, Bryan works with GHardy Travel to craft custom tours for educators from the inspiration phase to post tour follow-up. Bryan’s love of the arts includes opera, classical music, and film. He’s attended multiple music festivals across the UK and Europe, while in Toronto he is a passionate supporter of the Canadian Opera Company (COC) and the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF).

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