With such a diverse mix of history, culture, art and attractions, I think you could visit Paris a dozen times and still not have to see the same thing twice. It’s a city I’ve visited at least a dozen times over the past 30 years and, for me, there’s still lots to see. I’ve been here enough to have a favourite day which by no means covers everything but ticks all the boxes for me. This is my favourite day in Paris.
More by coincidence, probably the less expensive hotels, I tend to stay in the Paris Nord part of the city and so this is where my day would begin.
Coffee And Crepes
You only have to walk out on the street and walk in any direction in the centre of Paris to lose yourself in the unique atmosphere of the city. Even in the winter everyone sits outside in the terraces and street cafes. I like to spend the morning meandering through the quiet streets and boulevards towards the banks of the Seine and the island that hosts the Notre Dame Cathedral. From Gare Du Nord at a slow pace with several photo stops or just to soak up the atmosphere, the walk takes around an hour. I normally stop in one of the cafes to order a coffee and some crepes for breakfast. A common delicacy in these streets is Crepes with Nutella and, for me, it’s a typically French Breakfast that you just can’t beat. I should say at this point that one of the other distinctive features of Paris is the cuisine. Whatever you eat, wherever you eat it, from expensive restaurants to tourist street carts, it’s going to be cooked to perfection.
Crossing from the Banks of the Seine to the island in the middle, you will soon find yourself in the grounds of Notre Dame Cathedral. For my day, it’s enough to sit in the grounds, relax from the morning stroll among the bustle of people and pigeons in the shadow of the magnificent twin spires of the cathedral towering above. On previous visits I have gone into the Cathedral and even queued for about an hour to climb the spires. You can get into the cathedral itself for free but you have to buy a ticket to climb the spires. Tour tickets vary from €20 to €40 for different packages. It is definitely worth it for getting up close and personal with the gargoyles and looking down on the city. Sadly, the last time I stood in the ground of Notre Dame, she was a dark shadow in the night sky still very much damaged from the fire which ravaged her in 2019. Refurbishment work is still ongoing.
The Mona Lisa
Next stop in my day is the Musee Du Louvre back across and along the banks of the Siene. The walk from Notre Dam would take less than an hour or, if weary from walking, you can jump on the Paris Metro and get off at Louvre-Rivoli. Most famous as the home of the Mona Lisa and the Vinus De Milo the Louvre is a popular stop for anyone visiting Paris. Incredible as these two exhibits are however, I can still say without the slightest disrespect to either artist or sculptor, there is also so much more to see in this museum. I have visited here at least four times, spending three to four hours per visit and I still feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of the timeless art which is housed here. If you like religion, history or both and love feeling the emotions and seeking the soul of far away cultures and ancient times, this is the place for you. Open your eyes and there’s plenty to see. Open your heart and it’s as close as you may ever get to stepping into either a time machine or eternity. I’m not normally one for lunch myself but if you are hungry again by this point there are cafes inside and outside the Louvre where you can take a rest and get something to eat.
Sunset From The Sacre-Coeur
Before the sun sets on the city, I like to hop on the metro and travel to Anvers Station where I alight in the proximity of the Sacre-Coeur. There’s a 5 minute walk through streets and souvenir stands before you reach the foot of the large grassy expanse of the Square Willette. This is the foot of the hill on which the Sacre-Coeur stands. There is a funicular railway which can take you to the top of the hill but I prefer to walk up the paths and steps. With an Irish Pub close to the top of the hill and normally some open air music going on at the top, there’s a lot of entertainment going on before you get to the Sacre-Coeur. On reaching the top, if you turn round and look back down the hill, one of the best views of Paris you can imagine is spread out before you. To catch this view at it’s very best, turn right and walk along the Rue St Eleuthere. Among the trees which surround you, you will be able to see the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Seeing the Eiffel Tower at sunset or lighting up the night sky from this viewpoint is one of my favourite views of Paris.
Just a short walk on through the streets from the top of this hill you will see the spectacular Sacre-Coeur Basilica towering above you. This is a Catholic Church and I always enjoy stepping inside and feel the peace and silence in the most beautiful surroundings.
Back out into the streets behind the Sacre-Coeur you will find many souvenir shops, cafes and a lot of street artists who are keen to paint your portrait for a fee. It is in one or other of these cafes that I normally stop for my dinner. There’s everything here from traditional French food to pizza so most tastes are catered for. After a relaxing dinner among the street artists, it’s time for the final walk of the day.
Re-tracing my steps to the bottom of the hill, through the small streets and onto the main boulevard, turning right and following along to the Boulevard De Cliche we start to enter a place referred to as Bohemia in the Musical Moulin Rouge. Bohemia, that is, as a way of life where the people are artistic and different. Walking along the Boulevard De Clichy the appearance of Sex Shops and the occasional strip club portrays an almost tasteful red light district. Yet still the streets are busy, the people seem friendly and the atmosphere seems safe. Further along the boulevard is the photo stop I was looking for and the main reason for my visit to this part of town. Soon the world famous Moulin Rouge is sitting in front of me. A somewhat expensive live cabaret with dinner is available for those who wish to stop here and I believe the gentlemen must wear a jacket and tie. To me, it’s more than enough to take the pictures and walk along to the Irish Pub at the end of the Boulevard where I stop for a drink to pass the evening. From there it’s a short walk on to Place De Cliche Metro Station from which I can catch my train back to wherever I am staying.
Notre Dame At Night
There’s one last view I like to take in if time and proximity to my hotel allows and that is to descend the steps from the main road on the banks of the Seine and look up at the spires of Notre Dame glowing in the night sky. The scene just captures the beauty and the majesty of this ancient city especially with the waters of the Seine rippling in the foreground. Down here beneath the street, the homeless gather for shelter. I give them their space and respect as the banks of the Seine offers shelter of sorts.