I think I fell in love with Paris before I ever arrived.Shamefully, I must admit that Paris is perfect for a hopeless romantic such as myself. The bustle of people heading down the metro steps each morning, the smell of freshly baked bread wafting down the street, and the way the sun hits the Seine at sunset make Paris simply magical.
Of course, a city as well-known as Paris can easily get overshadowed by the expectations that precede it. Eiffel Tour. Louvre. Notre Dame. Ladurée. If you are making a checklist for your trip to Paris, these are essentials, but none held a candle to what I believe make Paris live up to its name.
Here are the things you shouldn’t skip (in my humble opinion):
- Visit Sainte-Chapelle: Situated near Notre Dame on the Ile de la Cite, Sainte-Chapelle may not be as well-known its recently charred neighbor, but is worth touring. This exquisite chapel (and reliquary) verifies the beauty of Gothic-style architecture. However, what makes Sainte-Chapelle so marvelous are its stained glass windows. Wall to wall stained glass windows depict stories from each book of the Bible and give you the sense of seeing the world through a new lens – or perhaps more accurately, a kaleidoscope. It is simply breathtaking, and undeniably one of my favorite sights we visited.
- Yves Saint Laurent Museum: I am officially a YSL devotee after visiting the Musée Yves Saint Laurent! Even if you are not a YSL junkie, as soon as you enter the designer’s once atelier, you’ll understand what makes the museum so unique. Filled with one-of-a-kind haute couture pieces from each decade of the designer’s prolific career, my jaw quite literally fell to the floor as I came within inches of each feathered, beaded, and silken masterpiece. Not to mention, the atelier provides an intimate and historic setting that makes the experience irrefutably unlike any other museum experience you’ll have.
- Visit St. Germain: If you love to shop, but find the Champs Elysses overwhelming, you’ll fall in love with St. Germain. Louis Vuitton, Kenzo, Zadig & Voltaire, and many other well-known designer names that line St. Germain’s streets. More notably though, St. Germain is charming in the way one dreams Paris would be. The quaint precinct boasts of textile shops, tea houses, and everything in between. Not to mention, the restaurant scene is second to none, with plenty of adorable bistros and even a Ladurée within arm’s reach if you find that you haven’t met daily macaron quota for the day when you arrive.
- The Musée d’Orsay: If you are convinced that you could have been an impressionist painter in your past life, you must see the Musée d’Orsay. And you still must even if you may have been a circus carny or cat in your past life. The museum truly lives up to its name with mazes of paintings and sculptures by some of the most acclaimed artists including Renoir, Van Gogh, and Degas just to name a few. While I wouldn’t advise anyone to skip the Louvre (because that would be crazy talk), I would be remiss not to encourage everyone traveling to Paris to see the Musée d’Orsay.
- See the Peninsula (and the Ritz): No, it is not a historical landmark, but the Peninsula Hotel encapsulates all the glitz and glamour one associates with Paris. From the moment I walked in, I felt the world slow as I took in the breathtaking grandeur of the hotel. From the chandeliers to the service, everything about the experience was impeccable. We dined in their Cantonese restaurant Lili, which was undeniably one of the best meals I’ve ever had and by the time we left, I was considering booking a room (even though that probably would not have been well received by my professors….or in my budget). If you have the chance, you should also visit the Ritz, which is much acclaimed for its Hemingway Bar. While a mere mortal such as myself did not earn a coveted table in the bar, the Ritz Bar 10 feet across from it did not disappoint!
When it comes to all that there is to do in Paris, this is just the tip of the iceberg, but I hope you take the opportunity to visit these less conventional gems when you visit the City of Lights!