Departures is published by Meredith Corp. and owned by American Express. While American Express Card Member benefits are highlighted in this publication, including through the links indicated below, the content of this article was independently written by the editorial staff at Meredith. Other Departures content paid for by American Express is explicitly marked as such.
Where is the beauty of Paris best seen? Some would argue that the answer is from on high, at the top of the Eiffel Tower. Others would say that you can’t do better than taking Paris in from the banks of the Seine—the view from the right bank looking up toward the gold-trimmed, lantern-lined bridge, Pont Alexandre III, is particularly majestic. Seeing the city from Paris’ famous bridges allows you to behold the beauty on all sides, because the best sights in Paris are visible from the Seine River. From Pont Neuf, you can see the Latin Quarter, Notre-Dame, and where the Seine splits to make way for Île de la Cité.
All this to say, there is not just one perfect vantage point in Paris. The best way to see the city is to walk it, because few things compare to strolling the Champs-Élysées or the Jardin des Tuileries. Use this guide for your self-directed walking tour in Paris.
Stop 1: Jardin du Luxembourg
You’ll start your day at Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris. No matter the season, these gardens are a must-visit when in the romantic city. If you’d like to take the metro to Jardin du Luxembourg, you’ll get off at Odéon (which we’d highly recommend because it’s the under-the-radar best spot in the Latin Quarter), Vavin, or Notre-dame-des-champs. Take Rue Tournon up from Luxembourg to the St. Germain-des-Prés area, where you’ll find Boulangerie Josephine on Rue Jacob. Stop in for a croissant, a café au lait, and perhaps a pain au chocolat, too—pourquoi pas?
Stop 2: The Latin Quarter, Shakespeare and Company, and Notre-Dame
From the boulangerie, head up Rue Bonaparte until it hits Quai Malaquais. In front of you, you’ll see the famous Pont des Arts, which was once adorned with padlocks sealing proclamations of love, before the locks had to be removed. Don’t cross the bridge—instead, follow the left bank of the Seine along Quai Malaquais into the heart of the Latin Quarter. You’ll be walking toward Notre-Dame, in full view of the cathedral. After about 10 minutes of walking, you’ll come to Shakespeare and Company, the renowned English-language bookstore. Browse the selection (be sure to go upstairs), then cross Pont St. Michel to Île de la Cité, the island on which Notre-Dame sits.
Once you’ve walked through Notre-Dame, you’ll want to take the bridge at the very end of Île de la Cité—Pont Neuf—to the right bank of the Seine. You’ll essentially end up on the other side of the river from Shakespeare and Co. From Pont Neuf, take a left on Quai du Louvre, and after a few minutes on foot, cut away from the Seine on Rue de l'Amiral de Coligny, which will bring you to the courtyard of the Louvre.
Stop 3: Musée du Louvre and Tuileries
The Musée du Louvre and the Tuileries are two of the most-visited areas in Paris—for good reason. Once at the Louvre, whether you want to marvel at the glass-and-metal pyramid, designed by architect Ming Pei with the exact same proportions as the Pyramid of Giza, or spend a few hours in the Louvre’s Egyptian wing, is entirely your call. Just beyond the Louvre’s courtyard, the magnificent Jardin des Tuileries unfolds in front of you. On a nice day, you can take up residence one of the Tuileries’ green chairs and people watch for hours.
Stop 4: Lunch at Angelina
Just off the Tuileries on Rue du Rivoli is Angelina, your lunch spot and known home of the world’s very best cup of hot chocolate. For lunch, order a Croque Monsieur or perhaps an onion soup off their savory menu, and their signature pastry, the Mont Blanc, for dessert. Alternately, enjoy Angelina’s full-fledged tea service, with teas or their rich hot chocolate, and classic, seasonal pastries.
Stop 5: Place de la Concorde and the Champs-Élysées
After lunch comes a choice: How much more walking are you really up for? If the answer is that you’re game for infinite miles, take a quick detour to the Palais Garnier, also known as the Opéra Garnier. From Rue du Rivoli, take a left on Rue de la Paix, and follow it for about half a mile before you land smack in front of the luxurious, gold-trimmed building.
If you’d rather skip the mile detour, continue on Rue du Rivoli and you’ll wind up in Place de la Concorde a few moments later. Place de la Concorde sits in the middle of l’axe historique, a line of perspective running through some of Paris’ most famous landmarks. Standing at the Egyptian obelisk at Place de la Concorde, you can see a straight line down the Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (the small arch in the Louvre courtyard) looking southeast. Look northwest and you’ll see that line continue all the way up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Et voilà, time to walk the Champs-Élysées and fulfill all of your Parisian shopping dreams as you meander toward the majestic Arc de Triomphe.
Stop 6: Trocadéro
One of your longest walks, though entirely on the right bank, will be from the Arc de Triomphe to Trocadéro. Fortunately, Paris is smaller than most even realize, so this walk is actually just over a mile—you’ll head away from the Arc and the Champs-Élysées on Avenue Kléber, then Rue Lubeck. Trocadéro is a famous Eiffel Tower viewing platform, and the perfect place to conclude your Parisian walking tour.
Stop 7: Le Relais d'Entrecôte
From Trocadéro, you’ll follow Avenue du Président Wilson to Avenue Pierre 1er de Serbie, which brings you to a neighborhood off the Champs-Élysées, home to many of the best hotels in Paris. Felicitations! You’ve made it to dinner. Le Relais d'Entrecôte needs no introduction—it’s arguably the most famous steak-frites restaurant in the world and an absolute must for both Paris neophytes and returning visitors.
Where to Stay
Hôtel Plaza Athénée, an American Express Fine Hotels & Resorts property, is nestled on the chic Avenue Montaigne, close to both the Champs-Élysées and the Seine, down the street from Le Relais d'Entrecôte, and next to a Bottega Veneta and a Maison Valentino. The five-star luxury Paris hotel has been a celebrity magnet since its opening in 1913—and the legendary facade features no fewer than 1,900 red geraniums.