1. Pay to take the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower
Like many famous tourist attractions, it’s better to get there early and already have a ticket. We arrived in the late afternoon and had to wait in the ticket line and security line for two hours. You can walk all the way up (but we were not conditioned for that kind of exercise) or take the elevator to just the second floor. But you really can’t beat a €12,50 ticket for young adults that takes you all the way up and back down. In total, it took us three hours – by the time we first stood in line and when we reached the ground. If we were to do it again, we’d go in the early morning with tickets in our hands. But it was still SO worth it! Purchase Eiffel Tower tickets here.
Once you’re back on land, head to the nearest grocery store to grab a cheap bottle of wine. We found one that was a five minute walk away and bought a bottle for €3. Sit on the lawn beside the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the view as the sun goes down and the tower gradually lights up. Once it’s lit, it twinkles for 5 minutes. It really is a show.
Things to note:
- The second floor is where you’ll find the restaurant if you want an extraordinary Eiffel Tower experience.
- You can’t bring any alcohol with you up to the top and security makes you remove everything from your bag, so it’s not worth the attempt.
2. Get lost in the Lourve
This place is so big that it’s impossible to NOT get lost. Seriously, this is what happened to us! Our strategy was to see all the Roman statues, Egyptian artifacts, and other rooms first and then find the Mona Lisa last. However, I suggest doing this first. Even with a hand-held map and the guidance of the maps on the walls, we got completely lost. We ended up having to go back down to the lower floor where the entrance is and follow the signs for the Mona Lisa. You will know it’s the correct room because you will see hoards of people shoved together with selfie sticks (no joke).
It was pretty cool and I’m glad I got to see such a historic painting in person, but like others, I don’t completely understand the obsession. But one thing is for sure — it was quite an entertaining adventure, one that Brianna and I still laugh about months later.
Note: We went to the Lourve in the late morning and didn’t face a long line at all. We purchased our tickets upon arriving there and it was a breeze.
3. Spend half a day exploring Palace of Versailles
I recommend booking this in advance and going early because there is much to see. Not to mention that it is not directly in Paris — to get there, you have to take a 40-minute train to Versailles Château Rive Gauche. We got our tickets in advance for a 9 a.m. slot, but we still had to wait in a line of a couple hundred people that took about 20-30 minutes to file through.
The Palace has 700 rooms and 230 acres of gardens, which were unbelievable and breathtaking. Everywhere we looked made our jaws drop. We spent about four hours there and we wish we had more time, but we had a full itinerary of other things we wanted to see.
4. Take a stroll through the Luxembourg Garden.
After a long day of walking, this is the perfect place to sit, relax by a fountain and people watch. Be aware though — a whistle will be blown at you if you sit on the grass. We learned that first hand…oops.
5. Eat a crepe
I mean, this is mandatory, isn’t it? There are food vendors that sell them all over Paris, especially in touristy areas.
Other Words of Wisdom
- Fly into a major airport. Why? Because the start to our trip somewhat nerve-wracking. Honestly, we did not have the greatest start to Paris. Looking back, Brianna and I can now laugh about the situation. But at the time, we were pretty worried and slightly scared. Here’s what happened…
We flew into Beauvais–Tillé Airport. Although its location was labeled as Paris when we were searching flights, it was in fact not close to Paris in any regard. When we got off the plane around 9 p.m., Brianna looked up transportation to Paris. It said 8-10 hours. HOURS. Which meant we would be spending a few hours of the early morning stuck in a metro waiting for it to reopen.
We walked to the exit and realized just how tiny this airport was. There was no sign for public transportation anywhere. Thankfully, we saw a line outside across the street, so we wandered over and asked the man in the ticket window if a bus was going to Paris. It turns out it was the last bus going to Paris that night and luckily, we were able to grab two of the very few remaining seats left on the bus.On our way to Paris, I saw that we had landed at an airport in the middle of nowhere. For miles and miles, the scenery was farmland.
The bus dropped us off somewhere in downtown Paris, but we had no idea where we were and by this point, we had one hour left to check into our hostel. Sounds like a lot of time, but when you’re taking public transportation, it always takes longer than expected. We followed some of the crowd to a metro and through Google Maps, figured out a metro line that would take us closer to our hostel. From there, Brianna hailed her first taxi (when in Paris) and we made it to our hostel with 10 minutes to spare. They best part was that they upgraded us to a beautiful private room with a balcony and seating — shoutout to Vintage Hostel Gare du Nord for hookin’ us up!
Thankfully we knew to flew out of Charles de Gaulle upon leaving.
- Be aware at night. No, I am not saying this because Taken was filmed there. But because Brianna and I noticed how eerily quiet it was around the Eiffel Tower. We were there on a Friday and Saturday in July, so it was peak season. One of the nights we were walking to a metro along the river, a man literally walked out from behind a bush and followed us for a couple minutes. We were already walking fast, were not distracted by our cell phones and I think because of that, he eventually stopped and turned around.
- Find a hostel close to the city center if you’re going to have jam-packed days. I thought that Vintage Hostel was great, but for everything that we were trying to cram into two days, it would have been much more convenient to be closer to the city center.
Author: Lauren Taylar
Lauren Taylar is a digital marketer and blogger. She is a graduate of the State University of New York at Oswego, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in public relations. When she’s not volunteering her time with Make-A-Wish, you can find her reading a travel magazine and sipping a glass of hard cider or wine.