Weekend Length: Short (2 days)
We spent a couple days in Paris before attending our friend’s wedding in Tuffé, France. We definitely tried to check-out a few of the more well-known spots in Paris, though we opted out of waiting in line at places such as museums and viewing decks and chose to instead explore the city.
Day 1 (first 24 hours)
- Arrived at CDG airport around noon
- Trocadéro (Eiffel Tower view)
- Walked across the park towards the Eiffel Tower and around the city
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Shakespeare and Company bookstore
- Trocadéro (dinner and dancing lights on the Eiffel Tower
Day 2 (second 24 hours)
- The Louvre plaza
- Sacré Cœur or Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris
- Institut Pasteur
- Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile
We were lucky our friend traveling with us has a cousin who lives in Paris who offered us a free place to stay during our trip. We were close to the train station and were only about a 10-minute ride from the Eiffel Tower. As expected, Paris is filled with lodging options, but accommodations within the city can be expensive. Staying outside the city center, as long as close to a train station, is the best way to go to save some money and still be able to access the city easily.
Trains and buses are plenty and efficient in Paris. We used the Google Maps app on our phone to find our transportation options. Since there were three of us and none of us wanted to purchase a pre-planned city tour package because we wanted to do our own tour, we purchased two sets of 10 train tickets per set for about 30 euros. This was our cheapest option since they were discounted (regular price at that time was 1.90 euro per ticket), shareable, and could be used for both trains and buses. Cabs and Uber are also available, though a lot more expensive than public transportation.
Since our lodging was free, we only took public transportation, and we didn’t shop much, food was our biggest expense in Paris because we wanted to eat everything we saw. Whenever we were out, we dined at small hole-in-the-wall creperies, sidewalk cafes, and sit-down-restaurants, including at one of the restaurants in Trocadero and another in Champs-Elysees (definitely overpriced). We also purchased macarons wherever we went, including from the famous Lauderee, and drank espresso whenever we got the chance. However, we rarely ate full meals outside and instead ate full meals at home so we could budget our money for many different small snacks/meals while exploring the city, instead of spending a lot on a single meal.
There are definitely ways to experience Paris without spending too much. It’s a matter of compromising and prioritizing.
- Visiting Sacré Cœur or Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris – There is a great viewing area of the city at the foot of Sacré Cœur. To avoid climbing the 300 steps, purchase a ticket (same price as a metro ticket) to ride the funicular at Montmartre that brings passengers from the bottom of the hill up to the foot of Sacré Cœur in Montmartre.
- Abbesses Metro Station – It is the deepest station in the Paris metro area at about 120 feet, so the winding steps to get outside from the platform level below are many. Take the elevators, although the art on the walls of the staircase make the climb worth it.
- Eiffel Tower – We had the best view of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro. At night, the Eiffel Tower lights twinkle for 5 minutes every hour.
- Less plastic – Grocery/convenience stores charge customers for plastic bags, so be prepared with a reusable bag or carry items individually to save a few cents and be more eco-friendly.
- Learn French – Not only did we notice that locals appreciate it whenever we made an effort to speak a little bit of French (at least enough to greet or thank or tell the person we’re talking to that we’re not French speakers), many of the words are pronounced very differently from how they’re spelled. So it helps to know a little bit, especially when listening for train/bus stops and directions.