A Backpacker’s Guide to Paris

Ahhh Paris, j’adore…my dream city ever since I can remember. I had some mixed feelings about coming to Paris, since it was somewhere I’d always dreamed of going, and I wondered if it would feel much different traveling here than if I hadn’t already backpacked around remote parts of the exciting developing worlds of India, Nepal, and SE Asia. I wasn’t going to let any past travel experiences get in the way of me having a new and wonderful experience, so I decided to go with an open heart and mind.

Where to start? After a 15 hour overnight bus journey plus ferry from London (Less than half the cost of taking the Eurostar train), I got off the bus on the other side of the English channel and made my way straight to Sacre Coeur while it was still dark out. I recommend climbing to the top of the hill so you can catch the breathtaking sunrise. The deep mahoganies and bright reds slowly illuminate the old buildings, making all the gargoyles and people come back to life.


Day 1 


Haunting Sacre Coeur



Blood red sunset at the top of the hill – Sacre Coeur


When the cathedral at Sacre Coeur finally opens at 8, it’s worth it to take a walk through and see all the beautiful chapels dedicated to all the various saints. Then take a walk around to see the outside of the cathedral half illuminated by the sun as you make your way along the shadowy cobblestone streets past leering gargoyle heads on your way to the eclectic Monetmart street. Here you’ll find avante garde artists sitting around painting, and small boulangeries to grab yourself a class pain au chocolate (Croissant with chocolate, probably one of the cheapest things you can get in Paris) and a petit café au lait (Coffee with milk).





From here you can cross the sublime Seine river and head over to the Louvre, mother of all museums in Paris (Although I thought the Mona Lisa was definitely overrated!). Don’t miss out on stopping for a view of the giant Egyptian obelisk basking in the sun as you cross the river. For just 15 euros, you can admire some of the greatest works of art of all time by masters such as Michaelangelo, Da Vinci, and Raphael, to name just a few. The Louvre is the biggest art museum in the world, so don’t spend lots of time on every little detail (Unless you plan on being here the entire day!). You just can’t miss out on the galleries of these master Italian and Spanish painters. Also, don’t miss seeing ancient Egypt, Rome, and Greece, including the divine statue of Venus.



Beautiful arc near the Tulieres gardens



Tulieres gardens 


Take a quiet stroll through the Tuilieres gardens and see the many hauntingly beautiful statues while sipping a hot cafe au lait. In less than 10 minutes you can walk across the bridge and explore some of the highly underrated smaller museums, such as Musee d’Orsay and Musee l’Orangerie, if you have time. The Musee d’Orsay is packed with jaw dropping works by Degas, Picasso, Titian, and many more, and the plus side is that it won’t take you all day to see everything.



Tuilleires gardens on a crisp winter day


 Day 2


On the second day you can visit the towering Arc de Triomphe in the morning and stroll down the iconic Champs-Elyssees street, while avoiding the overpriced touristy food of course. The Arc de Triomphe is the largest monument of its kind in the world, located in the center of a busy roundabout with motorbikes and traffic zipping around it from all directions. Walking under the arc makes you feel so tiny, with its larger than life carvings of horses and angels playing trumpets. Don’t forget to check out the Notre Dame cathedral, with its sprawling Gothic architecture and beautiful glowing stained glass windows. It’s free entry for all and you can spend as much time as you want walking around gazing at the towering painted ceilings and mysterious chapels. From here I recommend going to the Pantheon with its enormous columns and tombs of famous people, including Voltaire.



Arc de Triomphe – The largest monument of its kind in the world


Notre Dame 


The Eiffel tower is a bit ugly during the day


Beautiful sunset on the lazy Seine


Supernatural streets at night


I thought the Eiffel tower is extremely ugly and overrated to see during the day time. During the day it looks like a rusted out cage filled with air. The real magic happens at night when the glittering lights shimmer and make the tower look as if its covered in diamonds. Take the tube over to Trocodoro station and walk 5 minutes to get to the best viewpoint to see the Eiffel tower. Just be careful of the organized pick pocketers who are professionals at what they do and are just sitting around to rob tourists. They work in gangs and not only gangs but diverse groups that are sometimes made up of Americans, Algerians, Morroccans, and French all working together in the same group to rob tourists. Don’t let anyone take your photo here, no matter what. I was pickpocketed at this spot my phone got stolen, and no amount of bribing with euros could get it back.




Glittering diamonds

Top 5 Tips for Roaming Paris


Paris is NOTORIOUS for pick pocketers and petty thieves of all kinds. They will steal anything from you, even if it isn’t valuable. Never carry anything on you that you wouldn’t want stolen. I mean it. I backpacked in India and SE Asia for 8 months and had nothing stolen, but it took just 2 days and one small slip up and my phone was stolen at the Eiffel tower viewpoint at Trocodoro. Be careful at this viewpoint and don’t let anyone take any photos of you and don’t take photos for them. Don’t ever set your bag down to take a photo and always keep it held tightly in front of you if you go to this viewpoint to take photos. Be especially careful in the metro and keep your bag held tight to your body or in front. Make sure it has zippers also and is completely sealed shut. These organized criminals are pathetic and really good at what they do, so be firm and don’t trust anyone as a tourist in Paris.


1) The best place to find cheap yet quality food is in the bakeries where you can get breads such as pain au chocolat and other baked foods for cheap (Just pray you don’t have a gluten intolerance)

2) Try speaking as much French as you can. Parisians really appreciate this, and even if they do know some English they may not prefer to speak it

3) The best way to get around is by the metro. I recommend buying a bundle of 14 one way tickets (It’s much less costly than buying a full day package).

4)Take the Hop On Hop Off boat if you have the time. It’s only 13 euros for a 2 days pass and you can visit all the major sights easily and capture special sights you can only see from the Seine river.

5) Don’t ever put your bag down, even if it’s just a few feet away from you. Ever. I put my small suitcase off to the side to take some photos, and within minutes a dozen French legionnaires armed with AK 47s walked up to me all at once and asked if the suitcase was mine. They told me in French to keep it in my hands at all times. Since the recent attacks in Paris, the police have gotten stricter and won’t allow anyone to set their bags down and walk away, even for a minute.

Lastly, whether you have a negative experience or not, Paris is a city you simply can’t help but fall in love with, even if at times you detest it. I didn’t let the few negative experiences I had in Paris spoil my enthusiasm, and the chances of me going back there are really high. If you don’t fall for it, it’ll fall for you.


Top 5 Must Sees in Paris


1) Sacre Coeur – Make it here before sunrise

2) Eiffel tower at night – The best views are at night at Trocodoro station

3) Picasso Museum – Brilliant, simplistic, one of the best museums I’ve ever been to

4) Tuileries Gardens – Hauntingly beautiful marble statues scattered throughout

5) Louvre Museum- There are many other great works to see by Raphael, Michaelangelo, and other great masters that, in my opinion, top the Mona Lisa


So, there you have it! Those were my top tips on the best things to do in Paris as a solo traveler! I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments about what experiences you’ve had while traveling in Paris! I hope this article was helpful to you in some way. Let me know what you think in the comments below. Feel free to like and share my article with the social media links. I’d love to keep giving you tips and advice so feel free to follow me by clicking on the Follow Box below. Don’t forget you can follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Youtube!

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