Whether your first exposure to Paris was An American in Paris (1951) or Emily in Paris (2020), you probably have a romanticized view of the City of Light. While many of us may project a fantasy onto Paris (croissants! crepes! berets!), the reality is that it is one of the few places in the world that 100% lives up to its hype. The food really is that good. The fashion really is that good. The architecture, the museums, the wine… really are all that good.
Paris is broken up into 20 arrondissements, or neighborhoods, and your best bet is to pick one or two to explore deeply on your trip. Trying to see all of Paris in one trip is just setting yourself up for exhaustion and burnout. Instead, take it all in slowly and leisurely like the French do. Enjoy your food, letting yourself linger at the bistros and brasseries for hours. Drink your coffee sitting at a sidewalk cafe instead of on the go. And walk everywhere — the best of Paris is seen on the street, between here and there, instead of at any specific destination.
We’d recommend spending most of your time in Le Marais (mostly 3rd arrondissement), Bastille (11th arrondissement), and Montmartre (18th arrondissement.) Le Marais is full of vintage shops and design shops, whereas Bastille is the best place to find small wine bars and bistros that are ritzy without being too expensive. My friend who lives in Paris said, “Montmartre is everyone’s favorite; even I can’t completely resist the Amélie charm of the quaint streets and the grittiness of Pigalle at night.”
Your best bet is to visit Paris in the spring or early fall — not too hot, but warm enough to stroll around the cobblestone streets and people-watch from one of the cafes while drinking wine. Just try to avoid visiting in August when most locals are away on holiday and the city is overrun with tourists!