Paris is a beautiful experience at any time of year, but visiting Paris in the winter allows you to see the city as a local. This guide goes beyond the well-known sights to give you a taste of the city that few travelers see, organized in two days: historic Paris, artistic Paris, and local Paris. Perfect for a weekend away as part of a lengthier winter break when staying at the Marriott´s village d´ile de France which is just a stone’s throw away from the world famous Disneyland!
Opera National de Paris
Start your Historic Paris day off in a grand fashion at the gorgeous opera house. Dripping in Belle-Epoque style, Opéra Garnier rivals Versailles for opulence. Do a quick tour of the opera house. Even if the theater itself is closed for a rehearsal, you can imagine yourself in “Phantom of the Opera” while strolling the regal public spaces.
One of the few remaining bits of medieval Paris, the chapel is breathtakingly beautiful. The chapel is tucked behind some government buildings, so it can be a bit hard to find. After you do find it, climb up the spiral staircase and you arrive in the upper level surrounded by original stained glass – gorgeous!
Notre-Dame de Paris is an obligatory stop while in the city- no visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to this breathtaking piece of architecture! Notre-Dame is a perfect counterpoint to the Sainte-Chapelle just down the road: grand vs intimate. In my opinion, the exterior of the cathedral is actually more impressive than the interior, with beautifully carved sculptures and delicate embellishments. Be sure not to miss one of the best parts of the cathedral, the back side where you can see the gothic flying buttresses in all their glory.
Ile Saint-Louis is just off the tip of Ile de la Cité behind Notre-Dame. The island is one of the most expensive and desired neighborhoods in the city, so come here for a little bit of luxury. Shop some of its pretty boutiques, have a fancy lunch here, or just grab a crêpe to go and stroll the tiny island’s pretty lanes.
The Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter, just across the river from Ile de la Cité and Notre-Dame, is worth a stroll even in winter. While it’s not a deal-breaker if you miss the Latin Quarter and the area is fairly touristy now, there are some nice shops and pretty buildings in the area.
Musee de Cluny
The museum is one of the most underrated and fascinating in the city. Part of the Cluny building contains ruins of the ancient Roman bath complex built here, and another part shows the abbey built on top of the ruins. The museum is filled with medieval art – much more interesting than it sounds, trust me. The highlight is definitely the stunning “Lady and the Unicorn” tapestries, which alone are worth the price of admission.
Cafe Les Deux Magots
All the sightseeing so far, will have left you hungry for a delicious Parisian lunch. The Café les Deux Magots is a quintessential Paris café where Sartre and Hemingway once dined. Today it’s much more touristy, but a meal here is more about the experience and the history.
Finish the day with a visit to the world famous tour d´Eiffel. Be sure to walk up close to the tower to see its impressive engineering. The complex crossbars and pretty iron embellishments are actually incredibly interesting (although to be honest I could take or leave the tower in other respects). The tower always has long lines to ride the elevator up, but you can buy tickets ahead of time online (book a week in advance at least).
Musee du Louvre
Choose one of the following for your second morning: the Louvre, the Orsay, or the Centre Pompidou. One of the world’s greatest museums, the Louvre is a must-see your first time in Paris. The art and artifacts here cover just about every country and time period up to the 19th century. It can be an exhausting visit, though, so you should devote an entire morning or afternoon here. Although you could see something new every time you visit, if it’s not your first time in the city maybe try one of the smaller, less-overwhelming art museums.
Break up your day by visiting the neighborhood historically populated by Bohemians, artists, and free-thinkers. Away from the strip clubs and cheesy trinket shops, Montmartre is actually a charming neighborhood to explore. Just wander around the backstreets and enjoy the charming squares with artists painting and doing caricatures for the tourists. Maybe you’ll even come across the only remaining windmill in the city.
Sacre-Coeur is Montmartre’s top sight, and it’s a must-see while in Paris. The exterior of the basilica is nice enough, but the interior is the really special sight: the whole ceiling is covered in a glittering Byzantine-style mosaic. It’s simply stunning and well worth the hike up the several hundred stairs, for those of you who opt not to take the funicular.
Cafe de Deux Moulins
Sit down and enjoy a well deserved drink at the bar featured in the movie “Amelie” it is low key and relaxed- perfect after a long day of sightseeing!
A weekend visit to Paris is the perfect way to inject some romance and culture into a break away at Disneyland, or the French countryside with the kids. Contact us for more information on renting your Marriott timeshare, to experience the best of both worlds!