After being in France for 2 months, I finally got a chance to take a break from classes and schedule a nice 4 day weekend in Paris, something I had been looking forward to since deciding to study abroad. Luckily for my husband, that weekend also happened to line up perfectly with the Halloween holiday, so obviously we had to schedule something spooky to do on that day. I left this decision up to him and we booked our trip to tour the Catacombs far beneath the busy streets of Paris. Other locations we visited while in Paris were The Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Paris Notre Dame Cathedral.
This was probably my favorite tour we took this whole weekend. I’ll admit it was a little morbid to think I was surrounded by 6,000,000 sets of bones, but that is also what made the experience so incredible. You can get in at a €10 fee at the door with no guide, but we bought a full tour through Viator.com at a good price in our opinion (€44 each) and we didn’t regret it. Before the tour, our guide told us all of the background stories and history surrounding the tunnels under Paris and why this section had been converted to the mass tomb known as the Catacombs. I highly recommend making this a stop for anyone touring Paris, it’s not a thing most people look forward to, but I promise, it is well worth the time and money.
I cannot begin to describe the amount of history and art this museum holds. There are 4 main sections of this museum and my husband and I only had the chance and time to go through parts of 2 of them. In all honesty, we only saw a fraction of everything there. I don’t know exact numbers, but I’ve been told that if a person were to go and spend only 1 minute at each piece in the museum, it would take a couple years to see everything there. My recommendation is to pick the things you absolutely want to see when you go and make sure you do those before exploring other areas of the museum.
The Eiffel Tower
Seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was incredible. I had truly underestimated how big it really was and I couldn’t believe it. I was so glad I had my camera with me because it was an experience I wanted to remember the rest of my life. There was a great big grass area just in front of the Eiffel tower that was also a perfect place to wander around, find a nice little food stand and sit on a bench and enjoy Paris. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to go up on this trip, but we plan to when we go back in December with family members for Christmas. I’ve been told it is best if you purchase tickets in advance to make the lines more bearable. I can’t wait to see the view from the top.
Paris Notre Dame Cathedral
We hadn’t originally planned on seeing the Notre Dame on this trip to Paris, but we found ourselves with some extra time the day we arrived in Paris and decided it was close enough to the place we were staying and we would both enjoy the trip. I’m so glad we decided to go. The line seemed very long to get into the cathedral at first glance, but it moved very quickly and there was a ton to look at to pass the time. It was fun to see all of the art students lined along the back of the courtyard in front of the cathedral with their drawing pads. I can’t even begin to imagine how they were able to capture all of the tiny details of the building. There were also a group of people with bird seed and believe me when I say the birds were everywhere; all over the ground, fences and even people. I saw a couple little kids with birds resting on their arms, shoulders and heads while the children fed them and giggled. It really was a cool atmosphere. When we got into the cathedral, we enjoyed walking around and seeing the history of the building and renovation. My favorite part of the Notre Dame was being able to climb to the top of the bell towers. We did it on a whim and the view from the top was incredible. We were told the climb was about 400 stairs up and boy did my legs feel it when we got back down to the bottom, but it was amazing.
Tips and Tricks
- Take advantage of the Metro system. It goes everywhere, it’s cheap (about €1.80/ticket) and easy to figure out. My best friend on this trip was the Visit Paris by Metro App. The one I used was for Android phones, free and very user friendly. It helps you figure out the closest metro stop to you, the closest to where you want to go, or you can search on the map. It even highlights the most popular sights like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Picasso Museum, Notre Dame and much more. I highly recommend it.
- Don’t plan too much in one day, it’s a lot to take in. My husband and I found ourselves pretty drained by the end of day 2 after seeing the Catacombs, Eiffel Tower and Louvre all in one day. If this is your only time going, then by all means, see as much as you can, just give yourself breaks in between. But if you are a student studying in France like I am, I know I will be going back, so take your time, enjoy what you see and know that you can plan more on the next trip.
- Take a Selfie-Stick! I am not normally a selfie person, but I wanted to be sure I got lots of pictures that included my husband and I without cutting out the background and I am not very comfortable handing my phone over to strangers offering to take the picture for me, so I bought a selfie-stick a couple weeks ago. Best purchase ever. I love the way my pictures came out and it was so easy to carry everywhere with me. The best picture you will want to remember later in life are going to be the ones of you in them, so be sure you have a good way to do that.
- The best way to experience Paris for what it really is: wander around and get lost! Of course, be safe about it and don’t officially get lost, but you know what I mean. Have fun!