As a study abroad student in one of the most beautiful cities in the world, I am privileged to have several friends coming to visit me this semester. But as much as I would like to flatter myself, I know that Paris is the real attraction. Here is my list for affordable must-dos in Paris. Each day has a certain theme, combining some hidden gems with well-known sites—all planned with a student budget in mind!
Day 1: This Is Paris
Start the day at the Louvre. Pop in to see the Mona Lisa and other famous Renaissance works. If your friends are studying abroad in another EU country and have a student ID and a document showing their age (e.g., passport), admission is free.
Walk up the rue de Rivoli to Angelina for the most decadent hot chocolate in Paris. While 8 euros may seem pricey for a hot chocolate, you are paying for a classic experience, and it is truly the most decadent substance I have ever tasted.
Enter the Tuileries across the street from Angelina. Stroll through the gardens toward the Champs Elysées. As you continue toward the Champs Elysées, you will pass the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais.
Start your walk on the left side of the Champs. On this side you will pass Abercrombie and Fitch, notable for its extremely ornate gateway and entry line, Ladurée and Louis Vuitton. Inside Louis Vuitton, ask a sales associate if you can visit the private museum; exhibitions and hours may vary, but it is worth asking about.
At the end of the Champs you will see a set of stairs leading below street level. Follow these to make your way out to the Arc de Triomphe. Be sure to look at the Grande Arche de la Défense. It’s a beautiful juxtaposition between contemporary and classic Paris.
Hop on the metro and get off at Bir Hakeim to see the famous Eiffel Tower. Keeping your budget in mind, you and your guests can decide whether to go up to the top. I would suggest waiting until later to get your big view of Paris (details to follow).
After all your sightseeing and walking, you’ll probably need an afternoon pick-me-up, so head to Pierre Hermé for the best macarons in Paris. If you picked some up at Ladurée, you can do a taste test!
Head over to le Relais de l’Entrecôte when you are ready for a classic meal with steak frites. Your friends can go to bed knowing that they hit several famous must-dos in Paris, leaving you to fill the next two days with some lesser-known but equally fabulous sites and activities.
Day 2: Hidden History: Les Catacombes and the Marais
Begin your day with a coffee and a croissant. Then head to Les Catacombes de Paris, right off the Denfert Rochereau metro stop. Les Catacombes are municipal ossuaries: underground tunnels for depositing bones. This slightly creepy yet totally hidden secret of Paris is well worth a visit. Please note that a visit to les Catacombes involves walking up and down a lengthy spiral staircase, so it’s not advised for visitors with claustrophobia!
Above ground, head over to the Marais for some shopping, food and culture. Favorite stores include Repetto, Diwali, Abou d’Abi Bazar, Zadig et Voltaire and Carhartt. Pop in and out of stores while exploring the old Jewish quarter of Paris.
Once you have worked up an appetite, head to l’As du Fallafel https://www.girlsguidetoparis.com/insider/view.php?list=restaurants&restaurantID=47 on the rue des Rosiers. It is the falafel place with the green awning and most likely has a line outside. It is worth the wait; do not be tempted by the other falafel places nearby. If you need a break, you can sit inside, otherwise grab your falafel from the window and enjoy it on the street.
After eating, stroll over to Place des Vosges to see Victor Hugo’s former home. If your visitors are history buffs, take them to the Archives Nationales, where they can view the Edict of Nantes, Treaty of Westphalia and the Declaration of Human Rights.
Round out your afternoon with a visit to the Centre Pompidou. It’s best to go in the late afternoon; otherwise, the entry lines to the museum can be very long. Finish the day with a drink at Georges, the museum’s rooftop restaurant/terrace with an excellent view over Paris.
If the falafel has not left you too full, I recommend le Comptoir des Archives for dinner. It’s a spot that’s always lively, and the staff is incredibly accommodating to English speakers.
Day 3: Artistic Paris
Paris has long been a center of intellectual and artistic life. Share this with your friends by starting your morning with a visit to the beautiful Musée Rodin or Musée Marmottan Monet, two smaller museums that feel totally accessible and easy to enjoy at your own pace.
Now it’s time to visit an iconic literary site in Paris, Shakespeare and Company. Opened by Sylvia Beach, this bookshop and lending library was a haven to famous authors such as Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Stroll around the store, and if you make a purchase, be sure to get it stamped.
Head up to Montmartre (in the 18th Arrondissement). This part of the city is nestled on a hill and has a long history as an artist community. Stroll around the winding streets and find a café that suits you. Settle down for a leisurely lunch filled with people watching.
After refueling, you’ll be ready to take on the stairs required to get to the Sacré Coeur basilica. After taking some photos of the stunning architecture, head down to the ticket booth and purchase a ticket to head up to the dome. This dome offers a stunning panoramic view of the city for only 6 euros. Beware: there are about 300 winding stairs to get to the top, so wear good shoes and watch your step! The view is breathtaking, allowing you to get a full panoramic view of Paris, with an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower.
Spend some time walking around the square and side streets exploring the artists’ booths. Great street art can be found here for extremely reasonable prices. Then make your way down to the infamous Moulin Rouge. Celebrated in popular culture through Toulouse-Lautrec’s art, the song “Lady Marmalade” and the movie starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, it’s a colorful site that’s well worth a visit.
For dinner, head over to le Refuge des Fondues. At this eclectic place, the staff will pull out the communal tables for you to climb over to the other side. Once settled (rather unconventionally), you can order white or red wine, which is served in baby bottles! Your dinner selection is also limited to two choices: cheese or meat fondue. Go with a group that’s willing to share, so you can have a bit of both! Le Refuge des Fondues has a friendly atmosphere that’s a bit more boisterous than your typical Parisian restaurant. It’s a great way to end a visit!
Paris has so much to offer, and even after living here for a few months, I feel as if I am constantly making new discoveries. This list includes my must-dos in Paris for study abroad students—the little places that make Paris unique—and it’s a perfect balance of history, shopping, culture and, of course, food!
185, rue de Vaugirard, in the 15th Arrondissement; see website for other locations.
Le Relais de l’Entrecôte
Multiple locations; choose whichever is closest to where you are staying.
Les Catacombes de Paris
26, rue du Temple, in the 4th Arrondissement; see website for other locations.
Abou d’Abi Bazar
33, rue du Temple, in the 4th Arrondissement; see website for other locations.
Zadig et Voltaire
3, rue des Rosiers, in the 4th Arrondissement; see website for other locations.
57, rue du Temple, in the 4th Arrondissement; see website for other locations.
L’As du Fallafel
34, rue des Rosiers, in the 4th Arrondissement.
Le Comptoir des Archives
41, rue des Archives, in the 4th Arrondissement.
Musée Marmottan Monet
Shakespeare and Company
The Sacré Coeur basilica
Le Refuge des Fondues
17, rue des Trois Frères , in the 18th Arrondissement.
As a study abroad student in Paris, Victoria Hardy has had plenty of learning experiences both in and out of the classroom! Her interests include international relations (the “study” part of her abroad semester), French history (especially Marie Antoinette’s era), discovering the gardens of Paris (one has to work off all the croissants somewhere), shopping (mainly window-shopping—student budgets are tough) and tasting as many new foods as possible!
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