A Day in Paris: How to Live it up in the City of Lights

Paris is a beautiful, historic city that boasts thousands of churches, museums, and other attractions. With so many options it can be overwhelming what to do on a free day. Follow some tips from this guide and you can’t go wrong spending your day in Paris.

Petit Dejeuner:

Begin your day as the Parisians do with petit dejeuner, or breakfast, at a sidewalk café. Parisians love to eat outside, so even in the winter restaurants will set up tables and chairs outside with heaters so that people can enjoy the ambiance of the city during any season. A typical breakfast will consist of a croissant, baguette, espresso, and fruit juice – a lot more bread than we are used to in the United States but the freshness and taste cannot be beaten.

Journey to Versailles:

Once fortified with a delicious breakfast, the next stop is the Chateau de Versailles. Although outside of the city of Paris, Versailles is an unmissable destination. It can be accessed using a variety of methods of transportation, including train, taxi, and ride-sharing applications such as Uber. The least expensive and most convenient option is taking the train; there are two stations within a 15 to 20-minute walk to the Palace, Versailles Rive Gauche and Versailles Chantiers.

It is imperative to purchase entrance tickets to the Palace and Gardens ahead of time to avoid the general admission line. Waiting in this line can take hours of valuable time that you could spend exploring the Palace and Gardens. Once inside the Palace, prepare to be blown away by the opulence of the principal royal residence of France under King Louis XIV. The most beautiful room is the Hall of Mirrors, a breathtaking room covered in mirrors at the back of the palace overlooking the gardens. To add to its significance, many historic events have taken place within the Hall including the signing of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 to end World War I.

Afternoon espresso:

After taking in the palace, grab a baguette at a local boulangerie, or bakery, before heading back to spend the rest of my day in Paris. Once back in the city, stroll through the streets until the need strikes for an espresso. Many Parisians pause during the afternoon for a coffee and a pastry. This is a great opportunity to sit back, take in the city, and reflect on the day’s activities before going onto the next exciting part of the adventure.

Evening River cruise on the River Seine:

There is nothing likes seeing Paris at night. The River Seine is where Paris had its beginnings and is still the central artery of the city. A river the perfect way to admire the glow from the windows of houses and museums. After all, it is called the city of lights. It is even possible to glimpse the Notre Dame, and although it is currently under construction, the cathedral is still breathtaking.

Dinner at a Brasserie:

The best way to finish to great day is an even better dinner. Look for a local French brasserie where you can settle in for a leisurely dinner. Unlike restaurants in the United States where we try to finish our meals as quickly as possible, it is common to spend several hours with friends and family eating, drinking wine, and talking. This is the perfect opportunity to try French delicacies such as duck, escargot (snails), or steak tartare. Trust me, although some of these foods may sound strange to you, they are all delicious.

Reflect on the day:

Once back in the hotel, spend some time writing about the day in a journal, even if it’s just a few quick lines. I have found this is helpful when friends and family ask what you did while abroad. It can also be a fun way of looking back on the experience and remembering your favorite parts of the trip. I attended the Winter Two seminar where I traveled to Paris and London in 11 days!

Natasha Pate

School: University of North Carolina, Wilmington

"Traveling is not a way to escape your life, it’s how to make sure your life doesn’t escape you."

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