Paris is perhaps the most romanticized city in the world. For this reason, millions of travelers have set off on a pilgrimage to the City of Light. I myself am guilty of this insatiable desire for Parisian life. Because people regard the idea of Paris so highly, they are often let down when they find that Paris isn't every pure and decadent thing they had idealized. There's even a disorder called Paris Syndrome (yes, that's a thing) that afflicts tourists who discover that Paris is not the baguette-raining heaven, ridden with beret-wearing accordion players that they had dreamt up— or rather, that films and books and art had dreamt up for them.
Fear not. I'm here to prevent you from falling victim to this affliction. I present to you: My Ideal Day in Paris. Here, I have a curated list of my favorite spots in Paris and my favorite ways to spend my days there.
Note: I sometimes receive messages inquiring what I shoot on. I take most of my photos on my Sony a7rii. (You can also get the newer model here: Sony a7riii.) But I also shoot on my iPhone X on days when I don’t feel like carrying my camera and lenses around, and my photos still turn out beautifully!
1. Begin with an early morning stroll through the city streets.
I would never identify as a morning person, but when I travel, I like to begin my mornings around 5am, before a city comes alive, before its visitors and residents inundate the streets. Usually, the only people I'll encounter at that time of morning are dedicated photographers and early-morning workers. In this tranquility, I find that I connect with the city, with nature, and with myself more so than I would at any other time of day. Somehow, the city creeps its way into your bones and becomes a part of you, and you become a part of it. And there's no going back after that. It takes a part of your heart you'll never get back.
2. Shakespeare and Company
Books, warmth, coziness, and fellow bibliophiles from around the world: that is the essence of Shakespeare and Company. I could spend every day here. Famous writers and leisurely readers alike have sought shelter within its walls of new and used books, walls of stories, walls of history. But before delving into the world of whichever book you choose, you can begin your morning with a latte and slice of lemon pie at Shakespeare and Company Café, now juxtaposed to the bookshop.
Address: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris, France
3. Shop like a parisian.
You could very well shop on Avenue des Champs-Élysées, but I prefer to steer away from the over-hyped tourist areas. You'll have a more authentic French shopping experience perusing the boutiques on streets that locals frequent like those on Canal Saint Martin, The Marais, and Etienne Marcel.
4. Ramble along the Seine and stop for lunch on the riverbank.
The Seine runs all through the city. It's the heart of Paris. You could spend hours taking in its beauty. After an hour or two of people watching and taking photographs, find a moment of peace at a picturesque spot on the riverbank, lounge on a blanket with a book, and enjoy a bottle of wine with a baguette and your favorite cheese.
5. Musée d’Orsay
If you're a fan of French Impressionism and Post-Impressionist art, make sure you add Musée d’Orsay to your list. Gaze at paintings such as Claude Monet's Blue Water Lilies and Henry Fantin-Latour's La Nuit for a bit of serenity away from the bustle of the city that awaits outside the museum's walls. From Degas to Cézanne, you'll certainly get your impressionist fix.
Pro Tip: Most people aren't aware that the museum is open till 9:45 pm on Thursdays. Arrive after 6pm, to avoid crowds and that dreaded queue.
6. Café de Flore
On the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain and Rue Saint-Benoit, you'll find perhaps the most well-known cafe in Paris, Café de Flore . Renowned writers, philosophers, French intellectuals, and even artists like Pablo Picasso were once regulars at the cafe. Some may think it's over-hyped, and it does tend to have a constant flow of patrons, but it is still one of my favorite spots in Paris. Their coffee and tea are sublime, and if you're in the mood for something sweeter, order the Chocolat Viennois, a decadent hot chocolate topped with whipped cream.
Address: 172 Boulevard Saint-Germain 75006, Paris, France
7. Dinner and drinks
Begin your evening with dinner at a local cafe or restaurant. Check back in for my next post, where I'll list a few of my favorite food and dessert spots in Paris. End your night with drinks at a swanky bar like The Hemingway Bar located in the Ritz Paris. It'll cost you a pretty penny, but when in Paris, right?