Back in December when I was budgeting for the year ahead of me, I booked a spontaneous weekend break for my partner’s birthday. Treating Richard is something that I’d love to be able to afford to do on a regular basis but naturally, life only allows for so many treats. Richard’s birthday happened to fall during this year’s 2-week school holiday so timing was perfect – this time of year is usually when I’d take my annual trip to France so I thought “why not kill two birds with one stone and treat Richard to something memorable for his 25thbirthday?”
Booking the trip in December was beneficial – not only was the entire trip incredibly well-priced for two people, it also meant that I had 5 months to put small amounts away to pay off the package. I booked the trip through EasyJet Holidays for 2 nights, 3 days and the total cost for the two of us was less than I paid for a similar solo trip last year.
WHERE TO STAY
Having a few friends who lived in Paris means that I was able to choose a nice looking hotel, check that the area wasn’t dangerous with aforementioned friend and then book, completely worry free. After a lot of deliberating over whether staying in Central Paris and travelling over to Disneyland was better than staying next to Disneyland, I eventually booked into the Mercure hotel located on Avenue Jean Jaurès, in the 19thArrondissement. I’ve never stayed (or even visited) the 19thbefore so wasn’t overly familiar with what was around there but I was reassured that that Avenue was pretty safe and in a good location for the metro. The metro was in a prime location across the road from the hotel itself and at no point did I feel unsafe walking around the area.
In terms of things to do in the 19th– the 19thhosts the famous Parc de la Villette as well as the Philharmonie music hall, Conservatoire national supérieur de musique and the Museum of Science and Industry. I must admit we didn’t spend much time at the hotel, what with our trip to Disneyland and exploring central Paris together so as a place to stay, it was absolutely perfect. Location wise, it was ideal – the metro into central Paris was fast and the station was quiet, meaning that our journeying into the hustle and bustle of central Paris started off calm and collected.
WHERE TO EAT
Because of our incessant need to budget, we were very sensible about where we ate our meals. As we had two full days in Paris, we spread our spending money equally across these days– our trip to Disneyland was a gift from a friend so other than food, there were no touristic outgoings. We also both happen to be under the age of 26, meaning that the vast majority of tourist attractions were free to enter upon presentation of identification. Whilst at Disney, we chose to eat in one of the restaurants during the day but when we arrived back into Paris that evening we were able to pick and choose exactly where we wanted to eat. Having perused the menus of a number of restaurants in the 4tharrondissement, we eventually settled on a pizza picnic in the park and set about finding the perfect pizzeria. Whenever I’m planning a trip, Trip Advisor is always my go to in terms of reading restaurant reviews (alongside blog posts, of course) and a quick search led us to Pizza Julia, a restaurant that is just outside the top 100 in Paris (out of tens of thousands of restaurants) and one of the top Pizza restaurants in the city.
Pizza Julia was an absolute blessing and a place we will definitely return to on our next trip into Paris. Vegetarian friendly, purse friendly and absolutely delicious, we ordered our pizza quickly and it was made right before our eyes. We ordered a prosciutto and mushroom pizza, probably one of the best pizzas I’ve ever eaten and took it off with us to enjoy in the park. We found that a lot of young people had done similarly to us and found ourselves really blending in with the locals, talking and eating with a view of the infamous Place de la Bastille.
Our lunch choice the following day was on the Avenue des Champs-Élysées – a small treat, but still relatively inexpensive. When I visited Paris last year to catch up with a friend, she introduced me to Pizza Pino. The food is nothing to cry from the mountains about but the environment is classy and sophisticated in the prime location for people-watching. Having eaten pizza the previous night, Richard and I both went for pasta dishes and our plates were piled high. With wine, beer, water for the table and two main courses, we spent a mere €40 between us.
Pizza Popolare – if you’re after cheap pizza but want a place to sit, check out Pizza Popolare. Get there half an hour before opening as the queues get incredibly long.
If you fancy something a little bit fancy (but still on a budget):
Les Ombres. With a view of the Eiffel Tower, this place is absolutely ideal for those beautiful Instagram shops. Food is tasty but the offer of a set-menu means that it is also relatively affordable.
WHERE TO VISIT
I feel like this section may well be a little bit redundant considering the vast knowledge that people have of Paris even before they actually visit but there are still a few hints and tips I can share that will make your trip less stressful.
Getting that perfect Parisian cityscape shot:
The obvious choice would be to climb the Eiffel tower to get that acclaimed shot of the city. Fair enough, if you fancy queuing up for hours and hours, but there is an alternative that cuts down the wait time and actually gives you a shot of the Eiffel Tower as well. Get a metro to the top of the Avenue des Champs Élysées and climb the Arc de Triomphe instead. The wait time, while still there, is much less and there are fewer steps to climb to the top. The view from the top is absolutely incredible, and there is a small museum inside the Arc if you need a rest-stop. Outside the Arc is the famous tomb of the unknown soldier, with the eternal flame lit above it.
Saving some money on Paris attractions:
If you’re under the age of 26 and from the EU (technically the UK hasn’t actually left the EU yet, so this still applies to us Brits) access to a lot of museums and attractions is completely free – check online for details on how this works. Otherwise, if you’re planning on visiting Paris and your inventory includes a lot of these museums – it might be worth buying a Paris Museums Pass.The pass allows you free access to over 50 museums and monuments within the city. Currently the passes are priced at 48 euros for 2 people which, considering access to the Arc de Triomphe is 12€ alone, is definitely a bargain.
Finally, if you time your trip right and arrive in Paris on the first Sunday of the month, access to the Louvre is completely free between October and March, and on Bastille Day, although I imagine crowds would be much more busy.
Paris is a beautiful city and there is so much to do. I would be here all day mentioning attractions that are worth visiting, because there really is something for everyone but my highlights include: Les Invalides, Tour Eiffel, Musée d’Orsay, Louvre, Moulin Rouge, Montmartre, Sacré Cœur Cathedral, The Shakespeare and Co Bookstore (next to Notre Dame Cathedral), Versailles and the Palais Royal.
What are you favourite tourist sites in Paris? Let me know!