Oh Paris, how I love thee. Even before the obnoxious yet addictive Netflix show Emily in Paris®, Paris has been one of my favorite cities. Unlike the wealthy, privileged, idealistic Emily, my experience in Paris has always been on a modest budget and unfortunately never included forbidden love, designer clothes, or fancy parties.
However, I personally find the dreaminess of the city one thing that the show portrays quite accurately (although, you cannot overlook how touristy and commercial the city is). I understand, like many cities, Paris has many issues such as homelessness, litter, and crime. It’s also hard to ignore that many of the Black & Brown faces you come across in the touristy parts of Paris are those of staff or pushy souvenir sellers at the base of the Eiffel Tower. However, if you go to La Goutte d’Or you’ll find the ratio much higher as it’s known for its large number of African residents. This is all made worse when you think about France’s colonial history and its beyond questionable anti-race policies. However, like in most of my travels, I have to be able to suspend reality a bit if I am ever going to enjoy myself.
In general, the city itself gets mixed reviews from many. I’ve heard everything from “Paris is the most beautiful place in the world” to“Paris is dirty and isn’t even the nicest city in France”. Now, I have not been to any other part of France myself and maybe all that is true, but for me, the city oozes the romance, culture, and beauty it’s known for. I can’t help but feel the magic the city so often gets praised for.
I’ve been to Paris three times, and I’ll never forget my first trip there in January 2019. I stayed in the 3rd arrondissement, which was a perfect place for me since I love to be able to walk a city. I spent the first day alone and was later joined by a college friend for my last few days there. Walking the city alone that first day, I thought to myself, “Wow, this is exactly what I expected it to be”. I have traveled quite a bit and have been disappointed by places before, not understanding the hype. But here, I instantly understood why Paris is considered the city of light and love.
On that first adventure to Paris, I did all the touristy things: the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, the Panthéon, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Les Champs-Elysées and Notre Dame just a few months before the historic cathedral caught fire in April 2019. It was a fantastic experience and though cold, was still magical.
As a former student of art and architecture, Paris is just a dream. While I enjoyed my time in the Louvre, it is far too big to take in in one go. I could go back for years and never get through it. Truthfully, the Musée d’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie are worth seeing far more than the quick glimpse of the Mona Lisa around herds of tourists in the Louvre. I also believe the view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is much better than that atop the Eiffel Tower. But to me, the most underrated thing to do in the city is simply walking along the Seine. I love moseying along the river from the Louvre to the Eiffel Tower in the morning and taking in the scenery. But my favorite thing to do is sit in the beautiful Tuileries Garden and people-watch.
After moving to London, going to Paris became far too easy. Almost every time someone asks if I want to go, I say yes. During my most recent visit there, in March of 2022, we were blessed with an unusual heat wave that brought beautiful warm days and cool, but not bitter-cold nights. It was my first time there where I was able to expose a little skin and take in the budding of Spring.
There’s so much to recommend in the city. For dinner in Paris, it must be Café de l’Industrie. Every time I have been I’ve gone there at least once and have returned specifically for the crispy duck with honey drizzle that is to die for. The best hotel I’ve stayed at has been Roi de Sicile – Rivoli in Le Marais in the 4th arrondissement. This boutique hotel includes cute, clean, well-decorated, apartment-style rooms and even has a small but vibey cocktail bar in the basement. The staff was friendly and accommodating and even indulged us by providing a picnic basket for us when we decided to be true basic Instagram girls and picnic at the base of the Eiffel Tower one sunny day. If you’re looking to get some ink or piercings done while in Paris, check out Aemina. This super moody and sleek tattoo and piercing parlor feels more like a spa or a fancy jewelry store and the artists are all friendly and accommodating. They were super sweet and let us play our own music during our tattoo session to help calm us down and drown out the sound of the needle.
Of all the truly iconic things to experience in Paris, watching the Eiffel Tower light up at night is a must. There is something about it that never gets old. It’s a big part of Paris’s romantic image and I totally get it. I’ve never been to Paris with a significant other, but I can imagine it’s hard not to fall even more in love with each other in Paris. I mean there’s a reason why no matter how cliche it is, people continue to go there to propose. There’s just something about it.
So yes, Paris may be basic and even overrated, but it’s a bucket list city that I’ll return to over and over when given a chance and a place I’d tell people is worth seeing in your life if even just to make up your mind about it yourself.