Paris is a city that I've always wanted to visit, and everyone has always told me I'd love. It seemed like a natural addition to my travel bucket list as it boasts not only an incredible food and fashion scene, stunning architecture and enviable views from many of the main monuments but also sits a mere 35-minute train journey from Disneyland Paris.
You may remember that I booked Paddy a trip to Berlin for his 21st birthday and he returned the gesture when my 21st birthday rolled around by surprising me with a trip to the city I'd had my sights set on for a good while now. A little over two weeks after my birthday we flew out to the city from Edinburgh and I finally got to see what all the fuss was about.
When we arrived on Sunday evening we were in the mood for something low-key after a day of travelling, so we headed up one of the many hundreds of staircases in Paris to the stunning Sacre Coeur which was luckily just a few minutes walk from our hotel. The church sits atop Montmartre and the steps in front of the building, whilst packed with tourists at peak times, benefit from a stunning view over the city. Around the church, you'll find little cobbled streets packed with street artists and cosy restaurants, as well as plenty of gift shops and patisseries. We spent our first evening wandering around the area before settling in for dinner and drinks in the jam-packed Place Du Tertre which has numerous restaurants to choose from.
The steps at Sacre Coeur soon became one of my favourite spots, especially after we started our first full day in Paris enjoying pastries and coffee from a nearby bakery on the steps that were slightly quieter than the evening before. We looked out over the city as a local street performer played the harp, which made for a slightly surreal moment. After we finished our breakfast we pottered off down the hill towards the Pigalle district - more commonly known to tourists as the red light district - to find a bus tour and see what Paris had to offer.
Guided tours might not be everyone's cup of tea, but in a city as large as Paris it seemed like the best option to tick off a whole host of sights in one day. We decided to book our tour with Big Bus Tours and opted to add a boat tour on to our ticket too. The hop-on, hop-off bus has two main routes to cover both the main city sights as well as a line around the Montmartre area. Our closest stop was on the Montmartre line which we continued with until the changeover point - the Louvre - meaning we got to see more of the area we were staying in. What I love about guided tours is that you actually get to find out a bit more about the relevance and history of the sights you're seeing, instead of just walking past them blindly.
After ticking off the first few sights which included the ever impressive Gard Du Nord (yes, I find train stations impressive), iconic cultural hubs, cinemas and the opera house that inspired the classic Phantom of the Opera we left the bus to spend a short while wandering around the exterior of the Louvre. Visiting the exhibits inside the Louvre didn't rank particularly high on our list of things to see in Paris, especially after we saw the size of the queue, so after a spot of sun worshiping in the Jardin Des Tuileries directly opposite we rejoined the bus tour to head towards our next spot, Notre Dame. After taking in the impressive size of the cathedral we found a table facing the street at a little cafe facing the courtyard and refuelled for the rest of the day whilst having our fill of people watching at the same time.
After our little stop for lunch we hopped back on the bus once again and headed for two of the spots I was most excited for - the Champs Elysees and the Arc De Triomphe. Both are pretty iconic sights when it comes to Paris, so I was keen to tick them off on my trip. Being under 25 and European nationals allowed us both free entry to climb the Arc De Triomphe and enjoy the views from the top - after climbing hundreds of steps that is. Despite being left very out of breath from the combination of my shocking stamina levels and the summer heat I couldn't help but be amazed by the incredible panoramic views from the top level, especially with it being the closest view I'd had of the infamous Eiffel Tower by that point on the trip.
Eventually, we decided to head back down and grab a cocktail on the Champs Elysees to aid our recovery from both the exertion from the steps and the heat. Sitting with a Pina Colada in hand, looking up to the Arc De Triomphe and watching tourists and residents alike wander along this more-than-slightly impressive street was the perfect way to relax for half an hour or so before continuing our journey on to the main event - the Eiffel Tower.
The route to the Eiffel Tower included stops at landmarks such as the Grand and Petit Palais, Trocadero and the Palais De Chaillot which provided us with just a small glimpse at the sheer amount of history Paris has to offer. It's an incredibly diverse city, with so many different districts and styles, which makes it something you really have to experience at some point or another.
As we expected, the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower was jam packed with fellow tourists and street vendors trying to make you buy neon replicas of the tower or a selfie stick, so we searched out a shady spot in the surrounding gardens and gazed up at the towering structure in awe. I'd seen hundreds upon thousands of pictures of the tower, but seeing it for myself was something else entirely.
After we'd had our fill of the bus tour for the day we headed back to the hotel for a quick change before returning to the Eiffel Tower to catch our boat tour. The tours ran every half hour and we had no set time in mind, but by sheer luck, we managed to time our trip perfectly with the stunning sunset which made for one hell of an evening. Watching the fiery sunset whilst cruising along the Seine, taking in all the sights on the banks and seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up for the evening was an experience I won't be forgetting anytime soon.