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Glamourous, confident, fashionable and memorable, Paris is one of the most inspiring cities in Europe and the perfect destination for short city break. Its bohemian style and cosmopolitan charm will reel you in and make it almost impossible to leave. Believe me, I speak from experience! Having come to Paris for a 2 month workshop, I would never have imagined that I’d be living here as a local almost 5 years later. Paris is like a never-ending weekend, there are countless things to see and do, no matter what you’re into. For those wondering “is 2 days in Paris enough?”, the answer is absolutely! Follow my 2 days in Paris guide for the ultimate mix of fun, food, culture, art, history and so much more! Discover Paris like a local with my tips on the best way to see Paris in 2 days.
For Parisians, the day hasn’t really started until you’ve had your first coffee. So do as the locals do and start your day with coffee and croissants at La Caféotheque in Le Marais. Whether you’re a coffee connoisseur or just somebody who takes pleasure in a great cup of coffee in the morning, you’ve got to try this place. Although not particularly fancy, this café’s charming interior and lively cosmopolitan atmosphere perfectly mirrors the capital’s style. And with only 48 hours in Paris, I have to make sure you’re getting the very best coffee! La Caféotheque has a huge variety of a very high quality and delicious coffee from all over the world as well as a full selection of fresh pastries and cakes. My advice is to order the coffee of the day, it’s always good and it saves having to choose from all the different varieties when there’s a queue behind you! Then take your coffee and warm, flaky croissant to the ‘tropical room’ and soak up the chilled vibes whilst looking out onto the Seine.
Photo credit: lescafesdottilie.fr
After breakfast, set aside some time to simply wander around the narrow and quaint streets of Paris’ most loved neighbourhood, and my personal favourite, Le Marais. Often referred to as “Old Paris”, Le Marais oozes old-world charm whilst simultaneously maintaining its modern-day dynamic soul. Spend your morning exploring the dizzying maze of picturesque side streets and enchanting courtyards. Walk past typical French bistros, gaze at the sweet treats in pretty boulangeries, browse the quirky boutique-style shops and rehydrate at a trendy café.
You’ve probably worked up an appetite by now, so it’s time to eat! You might be surprised to know that Paris is home to some of the best falafel in the world, specifically the Israeli-style sandwich which we have the Marais’ Jewish community to thank for. I love falafel and as a vegetarian living in the land of charcuterie, coq au vin and steak-frites, I was particularly grateful to discover this foodie fact. My favourite place to get my falafel fix is Chez Marianne (2 rue des Hospitaliéres St. Gervais), in the old Jewish quarter. Open from 12 until 12 every day, this humble middle-eastern eatery serves up some of best falafel sandwiches loaded with soft chickpea balls, crunchy salad and garlicky hummus. Find a table inside and get stuck in, devour yours on-the-go or find a quiet spot on a bench or in a nearby garden and take your time whilst you watch the world go by. Eat it however you want, just make sure you try falafel during your 2 day trip to Paris!
Just a short walk away from our lunch stop is Le Centre Pompidou which houses the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Europe’s largest modern art museum, as well as a free public library, a children’s gallery and other multi-use shared spaces. The building itself is somewhat controversial - you'll either love it or hate it. Inside however, you'll find the most wonderful collection of modern and contemporary art. For me, the Centre Pompidou epitomises what Paris’ cultural identity is all about. This place is a social and cultural hub open to all which creates and hosts countless initiatives all year round such as free exhibitions, pop-up book shops, concerts, children’s activities and so on. There’s even a bar area, a cinema and best of all – a rooftop viewing point offering spectacular views of the City of Lights below. The Centre Pompidou is open daily 9am-11pm except for Tuesdays when it is closed. You can either pay a few euros to see just the permanent collection or a few more to see all the special exhibitions as well (well worth the money if you ask me!).
Photo credit: www.parismalanders.com
A great spot for dinner during your two days in Paris is Place du Marché Saint Honoré and its surrounding area. On one hand, this neighbourhood exudes luxury with its regal architecture and high end stores scattered along the streets between Place Vendôme and Avenue de l’Opéra, while on the other hand its extensive selection of good quality and affordable bistros, bars and restaurants welcome an eclectic mix of families, friends, businessmen as well as tourists. In the evenings, this area really comes alive and that’s why it merits a place on my 2 days in Paris itinerary. For traditional French cuisine at average prices, try Le Zinc d’Honoré (6 Place du Marché Saint-Honoré) – a lively late evening brasserie with outdoor seating. Not only is the food delicious, but the restaurant itself is well lit (not easy to find in Paris!) and I love the art-deco interior. This place is always busy, even on weekdays so don’t be surprised if you arrive in front of a packed-out terrace full of diners engaged in animated conversations and surrounded by small clouds of cigarette smoke. If that doesn’t appeal to you then just wait to be seated inside but I personally love the atmosphere of a typical Parisian terrace where time seems to stand still for an hour or two.
End your first day with one of my favourite evening activities – a walk along the beautiful Seine. City life can sometimes get a bit hectic and you can often forget to appreciate your surroundings. When I’ve had a busy day or I’m feeling like I need to wind down, I like to take a walk by the Seine at dusk to realign my thoughts. The colours at this time of day are magnificent and I love the way the light from the sky and the illuminated buildings reflect on the water as the sun goes down. On your way home from dinner, try to find a route that takes you along part of the river and simply take a moment to reflect on your busy first day of sightseeing in Paris.
Day 2 begins in the popular district of Montmartre. This famous district is a far cry from the glitz and glamour of the Champs Élysées for which Paris is so well-known. It is an energetic jumble of cultures, colours and styles which changes with every turn you take. To me, Montmartre is the epitome of Paris – yes, even more so than the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre! – and a must on your list of things to do in Paris in 2 days. Start your Montmarte visit at the Coquelicot bakery (24 Rue des Abesses) with a taste of Paris’ second favourite pastry, the pain au chocolat. This gorgeous little bakery is an ideal spot for a Parisian petit déjeuner, the bowls of coffee are warm and inviting, and the fresh pain au chocolats are baked to perfection. The view overlooking the busy Rue D’Abbesses is a lovely distraction. Make sure to stop at the newspaper stand outside the metro for a Parisian Vogue to read while you eat
After breakfast, spend the rest of the morning exploring this dynamic corner of Paris. Visit the divine Sacré-Coeur perched on top of the hill and admire the breathtaking views of the city from the monument’s base. Marvel at the work of the local artists working in the squares, visit the Red Light district and the iconic Moulin Rouge, take a selfie with your loved ones in front of the I Love You Wall and simply lose yourself in the tangle of colourful, old-style cobbled streets and pretty little alleys.
Curiously, some of the best food in Paris is in fact not French food. Some of the best places I’ve eaten are restaurants and cafés serving up international food from all over world. One of my personal favourites is Casero (9 Rue Biot), a family-run Argentinian restaurant which makes the best empanadas in the city! With big portions and purse-friendly prices, this place is great value for money and the perfect lunch time pit-stop.
Although Paris is home to a number of world-class historical museums and monuments, I like to do things a bit differently by taking my visiting friends and family to the Montparnasse Cemetery to delve deep into the city’s rich history! Although not as big and high profile as Père Lachaise or Montmartre cemeteries, there are a large number of noteworthy French intellectual and artistic luminaries of the 20th century buried here including Gisele Freund, Man Ray, Charles Baudeliere, Dreyfus, Saint-Saëns and of course Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre. It’s definitely worth taking time to walk through the cemetery to learn a bit more about these important people in French history and to and admire the very old, ornate and sometimes unusual crypts and headstones. Tip: Be sure to pick up one of the laminated maps hanging at the entrance that show who is buried where (and return it when you’re done).
One of the most important parts of French culture, often overlooked by tourists, is the simple but significant ritual of l’apéro – relaxed drinks and nibbles shared amongst friends and families before a late dinner. When I first moved to Paris almost 5 years ago this habit struck me as quite odd but it has since become part of my everyday life and something that I always enjoy. To me, there’s nothing better than a chilled glass of wine and a bowl of salted cashews shared with friends to help me unwind at the end of the day! One of my regular spots for apéro is Le Tournesol (9 Rue de la Gaité). This gem has an extensive selection of wines, beers and cocktails and the food is delicious. The chic decor is striking yet the atmosphere is relaxed and fun. After your drinks you can grab a table over in the dining area and indulge in a late evening dinner like a local. On you way home, try to catch a glimpse of France’s beloved national monument lit up in all its glory. The Eiffel Tower is adorned with a sea of golden lights every hour from sunset until 1 or 2am and goes on twinkling for approximately 5 minutes each time.
Edited by Emma White
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