Paris was not love at first sight. Not even at second. Actually, we are still not sure how we feel about Paris. They say that people either love or hate Paris, but I think we have a love & hate relationship with it. It shocked us on our first day. Then we started liking it. Then it shocked us again. Then it amazed us. Then we got a bit tired of it. Then we realized we have a bond with it. All these emotions during 4 days? Well, you know, love & hate relationships are quite intense – that’s what psychologists say at least.
Paris is such a big city and offers so many things that everyone can find something to love. Here’s how we explored Paris, what we loved and what we didn’t love so much.
1st day: hunting the icons
We wanted to start our sightseeing with the icons. Well, tough job – what is not an icon in Paris? Anyway, we started at Sacre-Coeur Basilica which is a giant and beautiful church built in Roman-Byzantine style. Its interior is equally giant and beautiful and – as most of the churches in Paris – it’s free to enter.
From the stairs of Sacre-Coeur there’s a nice view of the city and there’s a small park, too… I wish I could say that it’s a nice place to relax, because it’s a nice place, but the truth is that all the street sellers were so pushy that we couldn’t have a quiet moment together in that park. Mostly this is why you can’t feel the enthusiasm from my description about Sacre-Coeur. It was very crowded and though we appreciated its beauty, we couldn’t really enjoy it.
But here’s our tip: walk to the back of the building! That’s somehow not part of the ‘tourist route’, so the crowd just magically disappears. But the basilica is impressive from every angle, plus there’s a small and peaceful park behind it (I looked up its name afterwards: Square Marcel Bleustein Blanchet).
The church of Saint Pierre de Montmartre is right next to Sacre-Coeur and though it’s not so impressive as Sacre-Coeur, we enjoyed visiting it because there was peace and quiet (and only a few tourists as you guess) – kind of the atmosphere what we expect from a church.
Montmartre and Canal St. Martin
Then came Montmartre. Walking on the charming streets of Montmartre quarter was high on our list, but it disappointed: so many people like it and we didn’t. That’s life, not everyone is the same (fortunately).
In the afternoon we walked along Canal St. Martin and then to the bank of River Seine through Place de la Bastille. Another disappointment, but the last one for our first day. We just didn’t find it special or even nice. At that time we already felt bad. How could we not like Paris? The rain started pouring. Is this an answer? No, we couldn’t accept that.
The lovely small island in the middle of Seine with the majestic cathedral of Notre-Dame has suddenly changed our feelings. We were sitting in the church and on the square before it for quite a while as we were staring at this wonderful giant in awe. Was it not crowded? It was. Probably we just got used to it. Or it was the magic of Notre-Dame. Or we are just capricious. Who knows. Who cares. Notre-Dame is the most stunning cathedral we’ve ever seen.
From Notre-Dame we walked further on the bank of Seine in the late afternoon sun and our last goal for the day was Eiffel Tower. This was a long walk, but we didn’t hurry rather we enjoyed the riverside panorama.
It was after sunset that we reached Eiffel Tower and it was already lit up. It’s so huge. And in our opinion it’s the most beautiful at night when it looks like gold. Beware of the big crowd though and expect that every second person will try to sell you a miniature Eiffel Tower. Or a selfie stick. Or a glass of champagne.
2nd day: Château de Versailles
We are fond of castles so much that we were more excited about visiting Versailles than anything else in Paris! We spent our whole second day there and it was our most memorable day. Unbelievable wealth and beauty and elegance. Fascinating fountains shows. Horrible crowd. But I plan to tell you about it in a different post, so stay tuned!
3rd day: gardens, bridges and THE view
On our third day we mostly explored the area north of Seine: between Louvre and Arc de Triomphe. Our favorite way of exploring a city is on foot and it was no different in Paris. Once we got into the city center by metro we mostly walked. The center is full of amazing architecture! Palais Garnier, the opera looks like a palace and Le Palais Royal is actually a palace with its lovely garden open to the public.
Louvre and the must do-s
Then there was Louvre. We know what everyone says… it’s a MUST. We haven’t visited and we don’t regret. We didn’t want to spend hours waiting in the line instead of enjoying Paris. And we can’t stare at paintings for hours no matter how amazing they are. We admire them, but it’s just not our thing. The view from the top of Eiffel Tower would have probably been our thing, but we decided to skip that as well because of the incredibly long line. No regrets. We still had our perfect view – but more on that later.
Though we didn’t visit Louvre, we walked around the building and explored its garden which was still a nice experience. And I guess we enjoyed it more than we would have enjoyed the paintings and the crowd inside.
Stunning parks and Arc de Triomphe
Right next to Louvre is the Tuileries Garden. Have I already mentioned that Paris is full of wonderful gardens? Tuileries Garden is maybe our favorite. Or Luxembourg Garden.
The tons of bridges over Seine are lovely, too. Elegant Pont Alexandre III is our favorite of those and this we can state without any uncertainty.
In the afternoon we strolled through the avenue of Champs-Élysées until we reached the famous Arc de Triomphe. (Our photo tip: There’s two pedestrian crossings with a good view of Arc de Triomphe, one is in front of it and one is behind. Though the building looks exactly the same from behind, everyone was busy taking pictures from the front. So we walked an extra 2 minutes and had our pictures without tons of other tourists in it.)
Then we headed to Bois de Boulogne, a huge park which definitely doesn’t look like a castle garden, but there’s picnic areas, lakes and the building of Fondation Louis Vuitton which is a stunning piece of modern architecture. This park is a bit of out the center which means there’s very few tourists, we were mostly surrounded by locals who go there for walking, running and outdoor family parties.
The best view of Paris: Montparnasse Tower
We planned something special for the evening: enjoying the sunset while overlooking the city and its most famous icon, Eiffel Tower. From the observation deck of Montparnasse Tower. You never heard of it? See, that’s why there’s no queue. We spent 0 minutes waiting in line and had a fascinating panorama from the top!
Is it better than the view from Eiffel Tower? We don’t know. But you see the Eiffel Tower, too, which is definitely not the case if you go to the top of it. We were quite satisfied and spent almost 2 hours up there enjoying the sunset colors then the night panorama.
4th day: falling in love?
We had quite a loose agenda for our last day so we had time to simply wander around or visit again the places we loved the most. There were only two mandatory items on our list: Luxembourg Garden and Sainte-Chapelle. We really wanted to see them, but didn’t have time for them on the previous days.
I already mentioned that Luxembourg Garden is one of our favorite parks in Paris. It’s another elegant castle garden where we felt like it was designed for romantic walks. Maybe not, but let us be young, silly and romantic. 🙂
Sainte-Chapelle is located on the same island as Notre-Dame and it has amazed us immediately. That’s the only church (actually, a chapel) where we had to pay entrance fee, but it was absolutely worth it!
Can you imagine a stained glass window spreading over an area of 640 square meters? We felt like the whole chapel is built from these beautifully colored glass mosaics. We were almost right: the windows are 15.5 meters high while the ceiling is 20.5 meters. What is even more unbelievable is that all the shapes are different for every window and every piece of glass tells a different story from the Bible.
As we strolled on the island of Notre-Dame again in the afternoon we realized that we are sorry to leave Paris the next day. On the other hand, this 4 days was enough of this huge, vibrant and crowded city for a while and we were ready to experience the peace and charm of the French countryside.
Where we stayed
Options for accommodation are countless. I mean, it’s Paris! We were looking for cheap rooms and we ended up booking our room at ibis budget Porte D’Orleans. It’s very close to the metro station and we were quite happy we could find this cheap but still nice, clean and comfy place.
Summary of the highlights
Finally, if you want to see everything in one place, here’s the highlights summarized.
Park of Le Palais Royal
Champ de Mars (view of the Eiffel Tower)
Jardins du Trocadéro (view of the Eiffel Tower)
Bois de Boulogne
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
St. Pierre de Montmartre
Église de la Madeleine
Arc de Triomphe
Pont Alexandre III bridge
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Le Palais Royal
Famous streets and squares:
Place de la Concorde
Place des Invalides
Montparnasse Tower Observation Deck
From the top of Eiffel Tower
From the stairs of Sacre-Coeur Basilica
Have you been to Paris? How did you like it?
Disclosure: We paid for this trip ourselves and our hotel stay was not sponsored either. However affiliate links are used in this post, and at no additional cost to you, we earn a commission if you make a purchase. If you are ready to book your trip and would like to support this website in some way, here’s your chance. Thank you! 🙂