Paris: five days in the City of Light

Despite its expensive reputation, explores the best of France’s chic capital on a budget

Image: Seren Hughes

Last Summer, my friend and I spent five incredible days in Paris. Paris is notorious for being expensive as well as beautiful, but we went for it and booked a cheap Airbnb and the Eurostar, and surprisingly, the trip was doable on a student budget.

Paris is famous for its iconic attractions such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. However, these main sites are packed with people, which can feel incredibly claustrophobic. Because of this, there is nothing I can advocate more than seeing Paris on foot. We arrived at the Louvre before its opening at 9am and the queues were already building up. Luckily, as EU citizens under 26 (making use of this while it lasts!) we had free entry into most museums and sights.

In my opinion, the Orangerie Museum is more worth a visit. It is a small museum which is home to Monet’s enormous paintings of lilies. There are three rooms, each with four paintings of scenes of the water in Monet’s gardens and the surrounding flora and fauna. His impressionistic style, the pastel colours, and the natural subject of his work creates a sense of peace and calm. His work is a celebration of the beauty and simple movement of nature.

We visited many spectacular churches and cathedrals, including Notre Dame and Sacre-Coeur, but none were as impressive as Sainte-Chapelle. It is covered in stained glass windows stretching from oor to ceiling. The sun shines through the reds and blues of the glass, drowning you in a breathtaking spectacle of light.

During the day, we often walked past the miles of small iconic green stalls along the river. These vendors are called Bouquinistes, and they sell anything: newspapers dating to the Occupation, postcards, New Wave film, Beatles Paris Tour posters, and much more.

Image: Seren Hughes

At night, we would stop on a bridge to watch the sunset over the Seine before making our way to our favourite spot, the Square du Vert-Galant, a small park on the Ile de la Cité bounded on both sides by the Seine. We would grab a bottle of wine each (even cheap wine tastes good in France) and join the groups of locals either sitting on the river banks, dangling our legs over the water and watching the boats go by or on the grass in the park listening to some live music.

The sights are not the only reason to visit Paris: French food is to die for. Unfortunately, Paris prices are extortionate and we found it difficult to find dinner for less than €15. Luckily, with a bit of effort, down side streets and in less touristy areas, you can still find a steak tartare for a good price! Each morning, we would pick up a croissant for breakfast and a baguette for lunch from the local boulangerie or patisserie, then head to the fruit and veg grocers and the supermarché for sausages and cheese. Our trip also included Les Invalides, with the tomb of Napoleon, and the peaceful Jardin de Tuileries.

Our five days in Paris were packed with places to see, things to do, delicacies to eat, and French to speak. Helpfully, the Parisians are incredibly lovely. They often approached us and were thrilled when we talked to them in French. I fell in love with the city and would be delighted by an opportunity to return.

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