Paris is always a good idea? You gotta pick the right time to visit Paris in spring or you might be in for a surprise. Especially the Easter weekend is the absolute worst time to come over. Be warned when you visit Paris in spring! Because everyone will have the same idea. So here’s my (cautionary) tale.
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What I Expected Paris in Spring to Be Like
It was my first time there and I enjoyed it tremendously – my feet not so much since I had the bright idea stuck into my head of putting on fancy (and so-not-sensible-shoes) to match my delusion of having to look trés chic in this city of haute couture and glamour. I soon regetted this wardrobe choice after walking from Tour d’Eiffel to the Arc de Triomphe and down Champs-Élysées.
After all, there are so many unique Paris attractions to be seen! But would that make me hold back? Non, monsieur! Remember: Nobody else is looking as glamorous as you think (so you might as well wear something comfortable).
Paris is a city full of history, of fashion and culture. But, hold it right there. Do not forget art! What would Paris be without art and its artists? What would the art world be without Monet, Degas Or Cézanne, to name just a few. Much poorer indeed. To do them justice, my main goal on the first day was to pave my way through the city sights and directly into the holy halls of the Louvre.
Should You Visit the Louvre?
The Louvre, you should know is even much grander and more amazing than you imagine (well, than I imagined it at least) and quite different. From watching the film The Da Vinci Code I falsely imagined it to just be this enormous pyramid construction and underground halls.
But alas, that were only two of many entrance areas. The actual museum is much, much bigger and older. It takes a whole day to discover and explore every detail and niche.
Be smarter: Get Louvre tickets in advance to skip the line
Therefore, I missed Dürer and Vermeer, unfortunately, but made it to the famous Mona Lisa just to discover tons of other tourists did too. The thing is, however, just when you have found this mysterious lady with just a hint of a smile, you lose her because she is a) rather small.
And consequently b) only to be viewed after having been squeezed and pushed to the front be the relentless photo crazy mob, threatening to obstruct your view with their iPhones and tablets. I was equally disappointed by the Venus of Milo. I imagined it to be bigger and well, more. (And yes, I was fully aware that the poor girl is missing her arms).
Paris in Spring or Any Other Season – Check out the Street Art
If you are looking for classic art, of course, you might feel quite at home in Paris Museums. For those more curious and eclectic in taste, I can also recommend opening your eyes to Paris street art.
There are so many hidden art works, ranging from paper prints to plastic constructions. They might not be pretty to everyone but are definitely eye catching and worth looking out for.
Be smarter: Join a guided street art tour to see the best insider spots
There are certain parts of the city where the street artists are much more active, such as around Place d’Italie in the 13th District, where you can spot a lot of Miss.Tic’s work and Urbansolid‘s plastic protheses glued to the wall in neon colours.
Make it your goal to spot even the smallest graffitis and prints. Keep your eyes open and you will even meet certain artist’s trademarks on fountains and street signs, such as puzzle pieces or octopi. Often tricky to spot but fun to look out for.
Let them eat cake!
Leaving aside historical context for the moment, it is perfectly possible to get by on sweets (a travel myth busted on the amazing World of Wanderlust blog) and so me and my friend packed yummy French chouquettes to eat in luxury among the gardens at Versailles. [Note to self: do not mix chouquette with courgette when ordering in a bakery. Might cause confusion.]
A splendid garden indeed, or shall I say half a townsize of gardens?! It really felt like miles out there and when we reached the edge we stumbled upon – wait for it – more gardens. Jep, Marie Antoinette had her own, for enjoying a little more privacy with cakes and kids and then there also is the Trianon.
If you ever to visit Versailles – especially during busy public holiday times – you can take the two-day-ticket without a bad conscience. The premises are enormous and you will need the time to stroll and take breaks (especially when in silly city shoes like I had on).
Be smarter: Pre-buy the Versailles Castle and Garden ticket and get there early.
Regarding the castle, all I can say is that people fainted because of it. Yes, it was beautiful and extremely extravagant what with all the satin, gold and marble, but apart from this abundance of splendor there was also an abundance of people.
First, filling the courtyard in rows after rows of one long queue (enourmous yet again) and then within the halls since, to ensure everyone got in before closing time, the whole crowd was allowed in at once.
More Street Art to See in Paris
There is so much more to explore in Paris (plus, I got so many more photos), I have to show you Beaubourg. I haven’t actually been inside the museum Centre Georges Pompidou (there are only so many hours in the day), but the outside and surrounding area were already splendid.
You shouldn’t be disinclined towards modern art and all forms of graffiti and colour, though. There were moving fountain figures in Miró like colours in the Stravinsky fountain, layers upon layers of graffiti with the all observing and I-know-what-you-did-last-summer look on a huge Dalí like figure towering over the street artists and amused crowds of tourists.
Be smarter: Pre arrange your visit to Pompidou Center. Tickets are presold here.
After having taking it all in, it is quite possible to stroll from one art shop into the next and discover witty shop names, such as “Mona Lisait” (Mona is reading). Now there are several choices to discover more art and vintage finds.
You could for instance stroll along the Seine and take your perfect pick of reprints, original paintings or old, dusty (and lovely looking) books in one of the various stands. Or, you could attend one of the many flea markets with lots of vintage finds.
Another possibility would be to walk up Montmartre and bask in the flair of live artistry. It quickly became one of my favourite places in Paris with all the street artists quietly absorbed in painting passing life.
What about Montmartre in Spring?
Also, the best view is to be had from Sacre Coeur, which is much nicer than Notre Dame, in my opinion. On top of that, there is not only one mill to be found, but two.
Who would have thought? Random fact on the side: Moulin Rouge can be reached on metro station Blanche (white). Who would chose the white station to get off in the red light district? Here’s the explanation.
The area used to be where gypsum was driven through and spilled, thus turning the square white. Hence, the name. There is actually a book out there that only focuses on explaining the names of the Paris metro stations. Diving into this, however, would be too much for today’s blog post. So let’s just leave it at that.
Be smarter: Actually get up on the 56th floor of Montparnasse Tower. Tickets here.
It is time to say au revoir to la belle cité. There are so many facets to it and still, it seems to remain the same, as if stuck in its own little world. Don’t get me wrong, it is splendid. You know, it will always be the Paris you imagined, only with little bits and pieces added to it but with not such a greatly changed and dynamic landscape as, for instance, cities like London. Whatever you prefer is, after all, completely up to you.