The Art of the Chilled Out Trip to Paris

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Paris is a city that I return to again and again. The city feels like home to me — and for that reason, my more recent visits are less about sightseeing and more about chilling out. For me, what I enjoy most is the feeling of being in Paris. You can’t get that anywhere else. And I know that sounds rather obvious, but seriously, you can get a bit of a New York feeling in parts of Boston, or vice versa. Same thing with London and Rome, or Bangkok and Hong Kong. Paris, however, has no equal.

Planning a trip? Check out 100 Travel Tips for Paris

If it’s your first time, by all means you should see all the sights you want to see. But also block out some time just to wander, sit in cafes, and feel the city envelope you. That’s how I plan my trips nowadays. Think less time in museums, more time sitting in cafes. Fewer group tours, more self-guided photo walks. It’s all about feeling good, you know? And as a result, I got some of my best Paris photos of all time on my most recent trip last October. I hope you enjoy them. Here are scenes from a relaxed, chilled out trip to Paris. Life lesson to you all: befriend a portrait photographer and invite him to come hang out in Paris! My friend Jiyang Chen is an amazing portrait photographer based in New York — check out his work here — and he took a ton of fabulous shots of me in Paris. All photos of me in this post were taken by him. This one was in Père Lachaise cemetery. (J: “So where’s your next trip?” K: “Eh, a lot of places. A conference in Scotland, a trip to Wales, then I’ve got this conference in Germany but I think I can fit in Slovakia and Poland in between, then something else, maybe Luxembourg or Alsace, then a full week in Paris. I love Paris. I can’t stay away from Paris.” J: “Cool.” K: “…Wanna come?” J: “Okay.” *Books flight 15 minutes later.*) My favorite discovery of this trip was Rue Montorgueil, a street in the 2eme filled with amazing food shops. And it’s not overrun with tourists, either! This is one of my favorite buildings on Rue Montorgueil. I think I might frame this one for my house. One thing not enough people talk about is that Paris often has gray and overcast weather. Cloudy days are the norm; I once visited in August and it poured buckets every day. Make peace with the fact that the weather won’t be sunny every day, bring an umbrella whenever you go out, and you’ll be fine. Then again, you could be lucky. Don’t forget to relish the sun when it comes out! I love you, cheese. Jumping for joy outside the Louvre — and hoping to go inside for some macarons. And, um, a public bathroom (it’s before the ticketed area). Yeah, this is what it’s actually like at the Mona Lisa. Pastries, stop being so beautiful!! Ever seen the Sinking House before? It’s on Montmartre, close to the Sacré Coeur. The hill is actually at an angle, so if you shoot with the hill straight, it makes the building look like the Titanic! Oh, Paris at night. Even seemingly boring side streets can have the view of the century. Love locks cover the Pont des Arts, but beware — locks today are frequently removed to preserve the bridge. Ile Saint-Louis, the other little island in the Seine, has a village-like feel to it. It also has nice views of Notre-Dame from behind. I’m a huge fan of Cobblestone Paris Rentals — it’s a rental company owned by two of my friends whom I met while traveling. Their apartments are gorgeous, luxurious, and SO Parisian. And when you check in, their guides give you the most thorough and detailed introduction to the apartment and the neighborhood, even giving you a list of things to do that you won’t find in any guidebook. I’ve never had that good customer service at any other hotel or rental company. You can learn more about Cobblestone in my Paris accommodation post. This apartment was La Charme du Marais. I love the details — the chandeliers. The mirror. The perfectly coordinated pillows and blankets. And it comes with a balcony! A wraparound balcony! One day we headed to one of my favorite bakeries, Du Pains et Des Idées, only to find out it was closed for the weekend. We instead ended up at a sidewalk cafe eating the flakiest, most buttery croissants ever, and people-watching. If you want to shop, check out Galeries Lafayette. It’s super busy with tourists, but the atrium is a stunning sight. Ah, Paris. I love that you can order a salad and be proud of yourself for being healthy, then it comes with a mound of fried, melty goat cheese on top. On a somewhat related note, I’m glad I’ve lost 15 pounds or so since these photos were taken, but I really miss looking like this from behind. (You should see some of the other pics. They’re borderline Kardashian-esque.) I think our single best photo shoot of the trip was on top of the Sacré Coeur at sunset. This was right when the light began to change. Also, fuck the Montparnasse Tower. It’s that ugly black tower on the left that ruins the cityscape. (Ask Jiyang how many times I cursed at the Montparnasse Tower on this trip.) I am completely in love with this photo, taken on top of the Sacré Coeur. You can see a few more on Instagram with the #loveisus hashtag. Jiyang captures a photo-ception! A selfie-caption? JUST LOOK at that view and those colors. Staying for blue hour on top of the Sacré Coeur was worth it. (Sorry we kept you waiting so long, Edna! I still feel guilty about that.) Chartier is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris. It’s got character for days, the food is delicious, and everything is shockingly cheap for Paris. Definitely go here but be prepared to wait in line. I can’t go to Paris without having escargots at least once. Sure, restaurants and cafes are great, but you need to have at least one dinner like this in Paris. A bottle of local wine, whatever fruit is in season, some cheeses, and some pastries. Magnifique. Père Lachaise is famous for its graves — Jim Morrison, Frederic Chopin, Oscar Wilde, Gertrude Stein, Molière — but it’s also a nice place to enjoy a quiet walk. Hot chocolate at Angelina was one of the suggestions of our Cobblestone guide. It’s worth every bit of hype. Have some and go window-shopping for designer jewelry in Place Vendôme afterwards. And finally, meet one of my new favorite spots to photograph the sunset: the rooftop of the Printemps department store on 64 Boulevard Haussman in the 9eme. The rooftop at Galeries Lafayette is another great option nearby, but I think the view at Printemps is slightly better. How could you not fall in love with Paris while looking at that view? More on Paris:
Essential Info: Paris is one of the cities I know best and I’ve created lots of flagship content to help you plan your trip. Definitely bring a Paris guidebook! Two that I recommend are Lonely Planet: Paris and Rick Steves: Paris. For the best hotel rates in Paris, compare hotels here. Don’t even think of going to Paris without travel insurance. Whether you cut yourself and need to go to the hospital for stitches, or your phone gets stolen on the metro, or an injury means you need to cancel all or part of your trip, travel insurance will help you out. I use and recommend World Nomads as travel insurance for trips to Paris.

Have you been to Paris? Is it your dream destination? Share away!

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43 thoughts on “The Art of the Chilled Out Trip to Paris”

  1. Great post, Kate! My number one tip for friends visiting Paris is don’t try to do it all – just try to soak up the ambiance, and of course eat some great food. And I totally agree about Tour Montparnasse – I’ve photoshopped it out of photos before because it’s just so ugly.

    That first picture of you is gorgeous, by the way!

  2. It’s been 14 years since I’ve been to Paris, and that was only a day trip! I would love to see it again — especially with someone who really knows the city. Oh, and “J: ‘Okay.’ *Books flight 15 minutes later.*” <– This is exactly why we need to live near an airport hub when we're no longer chained to the Air Force. This week I thought about booking a last-minute getaway to St. Lucia to snag a deal at the boutique where we honeymooned, but airfare costs killed the dream.

  3. So beautiful! I’ve only had the chance to visit Paris once but it was the perfect introduction to the city. It was late February so the city was relatively free of tourists (for Paris, that is) and spring was just starting to arrive. I visited only a couple of sights but spent most of my time just wandering the streets, ducking into cafes when the rain came. I’d love to go back do the same again – but with more cheese! Always more cheese.

  4. Paris was the first worldcapital I visited abroad and I loved it!
    I havent been there in years but I hope I will get to it in the next year or so. So thanks for your tips.

  5. Thanks Kate, just what I needed on a cold May Friday morning in Chicago!

    I am headed to Paris in October for my fourth trip and I agree wholeheartedly about relaxing and soaking up the ambiance! There truly is no where else in the world that feeds the soul like Paris does. This trip I am staying at the Encore on the Square and am very excited about that! I love having a kitchen in Paris!

  6. Reading your post reminds me of all the reasons why I love Paris so much. Your picture of the Mona Lisa gave me a good laugh–captures the moment perfectly. And I will definitely be checking out those rentals the next time I’m there. They look so cozy.

  7. DAMN. This post GRABBED me. Paris was my first ‘study abroad,’ in 2003 (before the next semester in Madrid) and it was misery personified. I resented Paris for many reasons (mostly bc how RICH it was, while I was a very, VERY poor student, and how many tourists existed in the world – as I had never traveled before), but I learned it like the back of my hand. Then I went back last year, for the first time since 2003, as a proper adult (and with much more reality-based expectations), and Paris became everything I always wanted it to be. And I just got back from Paris 10 days ago, from a trip that was that perfect combo of the chilled out time, just EXPERIENCING Paris, combined with the rush of re-discovery that I got from bringing along a friend* who’s never been there. My next Paris trip is not till year-end, and I cannot believe I am itching for it to come sooner – when years ago I couldn’t wait to leave.

    *FUCK THE MONTPARNASSE TOWER indeed. I have spent the trip apologizing to my friend for the MPT existing to ruin every panoramic shot.

  8. We are like you in that we love Paris and go there to just chill out and soak in the ambiance. Love this post and these photos are making want to book a flight to CDG asap!

  9. I spent a year in Paris, five years ago, and this summer I’ve got a free week between two months in Germany and ten days in Yorkshire. PARIS!!!

  10. I love this post and your pics are fantastic! I haven’t been yet but hope to soon! I never heard of that leaning house wow!!

    Ps: pretty awesome style you have also !

  11. I feel like Paris changes a little every time I visit, whether it’s the different light, blooming gardens or new cafes, every street you take is a different experience and there’s always something new to see! I’m living in the south of France at the moment so try to visit whenever I need a city break 🙂

  12. Kate –
    Can’t agree with you more. Wandering around Paris is divine. Loved your photos and I desperately want to stay in that adorable apartment. Also loved the “reality” shot of the Mona Lisa. I mean…..

  13. hey Kate, I’ve never been to Paris. But it looks so nice and dreamy through your photographs. As i reading the post and gazing the pics i feels that i really wandering the Paris with you. Thanks for sharing such a nice information. Plz keep sharing something like that……….

  14. Your article brought me back. I had A week getting lost in Paris is perfection and I hope to return again soon to repeat my own experience again!

  15. I just went to Paris for Christmas again! What I loved was any place I rented out, those gorgeous boxes of flowers were always on the window sil. Thanks for sharing that magic!

  16. Love this, I recently look at going to Paris because the flights are so cheap from England but I found the accommodation is so expensive I switched to Berlin! Do you mind me asking how much you apartment was per night?

  17. Kate! So many gorgeous pictures! We’re leaving/moving from Sicily in Feb of next year and still haven’t been to Paris yet. Totally trying to fit in a trip this summer or early Fall with our kids. Thanks for the travel advice (again).

  18. These pictures are breathtaking! Your such a great photographer! France is so beautiful, I studied in the south of france in college, just beautiful!

  19. Paris is a city that never lets up. Just like you, I return to it again and again and there is always something fantastic to experience. World-famous landmarks and museums mixed with chic shopping, cafe life, gastronomic blowouts and strolls along the banks of the glorious River Seine. Your photos really catch the spirit.

  20. Amazing pictures, Paris is still on the waiting list for me. Will see it soon. I loved all your pictures. can’t wait to go there and explore it myself.

  21. Hey Kate,
    Like you, a lover of Paris. We’ve been many times.

    A couple of thoughts for your readers. Before you go, spend some time with a map of the city to understand where the 20 arrondissements are and get an overall idea of what is in which arrondissement. It also helps you locate restaurants and shops because the last two numbers in the “zip codes” for Paris always give you the arrondissement. So, when you see a restaurant address that says Paris 75005, you know it’s in the 5th which is on the left bank, specifically the Latin quarter.

    Also, although Paris is very walkable (and you really should bring good walking shoes), it’s still a big city. So, for example, don’t confuse the Montmartre neighbourhood with Montparnasse. A long way apart….

    Anyway, it’s Portugal next for us, but somehow we keep talking about Paris!



  22. I just went on a school trip to London (my first time in Europe) and we went to Paris for a day…I fell in love with the city!

  23. Went there for our honeymoon. Planning to visit again for our 10th wedding anniversary later this year. Can’t wait to wander around in the city and relive our memories. Last time we missed it but will definitely visit Père Lachaise this time.

  24. Yes, yes, yes, to everything – Paris as home, the quite walks, not being a tourist, the hot chocolate, and everything else. This was my goal during my trip in September of this year, and my days spent “living” there were blissful. I did see some sights with friends, but my favorite days were rambling around with no particular destination. It’s one of my long-term goals to be able to go for a longer and longer time each year.

  25. Great post Kate – I am currently planning my next trip to Paris so always looking for tips. This will be my 5th visit to my favourite city in the world. Love Paris and will never stop going back. Keep the posts coming!

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