Valentine’s Day weekend in Paris? Yes, please. While we had planned to spend our 5th anniversary in Paris, those plans got cancelled when I had hip surgery last summer. In October, a fare sale popped up on American Airlines (thanks CheapDFW!) and we snagged tickets to Paris for a long winter weekend that would fall over Valentine’s Day (and President’s Day!). Though we spent part of our honeymoon in Paris (and even extended our stay!), it still was not enough time. This is my fourth trip to Paris, and I still have not scratched the surface of the city.
I have updated this post with additional recommendations from our Christmas trip to Paris.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links for tours and products I love at no additional cost to you. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
A Quick Note about Safety in Paris:
When we first booked our anniversary trip to Paris, I felt a little nervous because of the things that have happened since 2015. When Mackenzie went to Paris, I reached out to her and she said that it felt safe. Realistically, I know things can happen anywhere. During our weekend in Paris, the yellow vests were (and are still) protesting. A few metro stops were closed, and we were not able to walk along the Seine River towards the Eiffel Tower after visiting the L’Orangerie. We just headed the opposite direction and spent the evening around Notre Dame. It was fine; we were fine. In fact, I was shocked to see the images from Paris later that evening. All that being said, I still feel safer in Europe than I do in the United States.
Further, I cannot say enough about how hospitable I found the Parisians to be on this trip. Maybe they are excited for the de-thawing of winter. Or, maybe they are not seeing as many tourists. Maybe they appreciate our attempts to speak French. But, I think the stereotypes of the unpleasant Parisian needs to die. Every single person we encountered and interacted with was patient, kind, and welcoming.
Maximizing Your Weekend in Paris
RER & The Metro
Our flight landed an hour late and I was eager to get to Paris. We took the RER to the city center and connected to the Metro. It cost 10.60 euro per person and it took the same amount of time that our taxi took on our previous trip to Paris. We also used the metro and the RER to get to and from Versailles for our tour. It costs 3.65 euro each way. Such a deal. Much cheaper than adding transportation to our tour. We used the metro so constantly and consistently that two of our credit cards were deactivated for possible fraud.
In retrospect, we should have purchased a day pass to save time and money. The metro is an easy way to get around Paris. We love to walk, but 10 miles per day is pushing it. Take the metro for longer distances and save your legs for the scenic walks. This is my favorite book of Paris walks for walks in Paris.
The Paris Museum Pass
Of all the tips for a weekend in Paris, the first and best is to purchase the Paris Museum Pass. This pass allows you to skip the line at many attractions and museums. Since this would be a shorter trip for us, I felt that the Paris Pass would give us the ultimate flexibility in terms of visiting attractions. L’Orangerie, Saint Chapelle, and the Musee d’Orsay are all places where we benefitted from the pass. We also used it to visit the Arc de Triomphe, where we fortuitously visited as the Eiffel Tower started to sparkle. I would have liked to re-visit the Hotel des Invalides, which we visited on our honeymoon, and the Louvre.
Whether its your first time (or your fourth time), the Paris Museum pass provides the ultimate flexibility to visit as many cultural hot spots as your heart desires. We would not have been able to do as much as we did without the pass.
Our Paris Itinerary Highlights: What to Do in Paris
We hit some of the main Paris sights during our honeymoon in Paris, so we tried to do different things on this trip. That being said, I highly recommend booking a photo session with L’Amour de Paris for the best souvenirs of your trip. I haven’t been feeling at my best so I didn’t book an anniversary shoot on this trip, but I wish I could have!
Check out this post for a few more things to do in Paris.
Much how St. Vitus in Prague takes my breath away, Saint Chapelle is no exception. I only thought that the stained glass in Notre Dame blew me away. Saint Chapelle is tucked away from the main road and it is absolutely stunning. When we mentioned to our hotel that we were thinking of visiting Saint Chapelle on our first afternoon in Paris, they encouraged us to do it because it was a beautiful, sunny day. They are not wrong with that recommendation. Definitely visit Saint Chapelle on a sunny day. Saint Chapelle in the mid-afternoon sun is gorgeous. I could have sat there all day. What I appreciate most about it (beyond the stained glass) is how you can sit and take it all in from every angle. At Notre Dame and Sacre Coeur, I feel rushed to keep moving. Saint Chapelle, however, does not have the same feeling of being a Paris “checklist” stop. (It should be though!)
Croissant and Baguette Cooking Class
I didn’t even know I liked croissants until we took this class. (This might be a theme of this trip that scandalized one of my coworkers.) We made our way to Le Petit Mitron on day one to learn all about the delicious flaky French pastries. (The best ones take 3 days! THREE DAYS.) We were the only attendees in Chef Dider’s Friday morning class, and through an interpreter, he led us through creating croissants, pain et chocolat, baguettes, and more. Between the two of us, Tom is the more precise pastry chef and my French is better than I expected.
Bonus #1: You will take home several baguettes.
Bonus #2: If you give them your email address, they will send you the recipes!
Night Tour of the Louvre
They say that the best time to visit the Louvre is in the evenings. Allegedly, it is less crowded. I don’t enjoy being herded through museums, so this tour seemed like the best option to visit. Ivan weaves through the Lourve like a true Parisian (because he is one). This evening tour breaks the museum collections into a manageable visit and leaves you wanting to see more than the “big” works. My best recommendation is to start by seeing the original footprint (and walls) of the castle before it became the Louvre and a world class museum. While I prefer the Musee d’Orsay and L’Orangerie, I think Ivan’s tour is the best way to jump into a visit to the Louvre.
My best tip is to ignore the crowds around the Mona Lisa and focus on The Wedding at Cana. I think it’s such an under appreciated masterpiece. The size alone is daunting. (Art is something that truly amazes me. I do not have those skills.)
Musee d’Orsay Tour
I cannot recommend this walking tour of the Musee d’Orsay enough! When coupled with a free walking tour of Montematre, you will be able to put together the history of the impressionist movement and better understand the art world in Paris at the time. Jessica oscillated between the scandalous history of the Impressionist painters and providing a contextual framework how the impressionist technique came to be. This is an easy, in-depth tour of one of my most favorite museums, but it is also a fabulous introduction for people who aren’t “into” art.
Paris Arrondissements Walking Tours
This walking tour of Paris takes you from the Madeline Church to Le Marais and walks you through Parisian history. (Entrance to the Madeleine Church is free so you should visit it before your tour!) Our guide led us through secret alleyways and quiet courtyards to reach the “main” attractions from the Place de la Concorde, the Tuileries, through Les Halles, and finally ending the tour at the Centre Pompidou. We stopped at Laduree for macarons (the hazelnut chocolate was incredible!) and stopped at a restaurant to enjoy cheese and conversation.
Palace of Versailles
This tour is a great introduction to Versailles. I was not sure if I should book it without travel included, but we had no problem using the RER to get out to Versailles. (It takes approximately 45 minutes or so and it costs 3.60 euro per person.) Part of the palace is under construction, but we were able to see Louis’s apartments, the Hall of Mirrors, and part of the gardens in two hours. My only regret is that the gardens aren’t in full bloom in February and the fountains are still covered. The weather was really nice though. Don’t let the winter months keep you from visiting Versailles. It’s worth it (and the lines were still long on a Saturday).
Watch the Sunset over Paris
Whether you choose Trocadero, Galeries Lafayette, Notre Dame, or the Louvre, there is no shortage of beautiful vantage points to enjoy the end of the day in Paris. One of the most classic Paris moments is watching (with everyone else) the Eiffel Tower light up from Trocadero. There is a rooftop bar and courtyard at the Galeries Lafayette that offers fantastic views of the Eiffel Tower and the Opera Garnier. I’ve never not enjoyed watching the sunset from the banks of the Seine nor watching blue hour descend upon the floodlit Notre Dame. And, our first two evenings in Paris were watching the sunset from the Louvre courtyard. You can see all the way down the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe on a clear day. It’s a beautiful sight line.
See the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
I’ve done this from Trocadero, but on this last trip, we used our Paris pass and headed to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. (There are only stairs. No elevator. Be prepared; we were not.) We ended up on the viewing deck a few minutes before the top of the hour, so we lucked out on seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle from there. It’s a fantastic angle and is far less crowded than Trocadero. This is another one of those times when the Paris pass is definitely worth the money.
Eating in Paris
While I try to keep my posts updated after subsequent visits, I also have another Paris restaurant post that can help you with planning your meals in Paris! I’ve also tried to list out of some of my favorite foods to try in Paris!
Every single morning of weekend in Paris should include pastries from Eric Kayser. I opted for the almond croissant. (They also have a version that includes chocolate, but I am happy with the original.) Tom opted for the pain et chocolat before discovering the pain aux fromage. Once he discovered that bread, our days included afternoons with bread and olive oil and basalmic olive oil from Monoprix. My favorite is the torsade aux olives.
Marais Food Tour
This food tour ensures you won’t go hungry and introduces you to all of Paris’ best cuisine. The tour starts with cheese and wine at a market tucked away from the main streets. From there, we experienced delicious pastries at Popelini (I loved the caramel apple), different types of jam (where I missed my dad terribly), delicacies from Provence (definitely brought some home), macarons from Pierre Herme, a traditional Corsican lunch, falafel at one of Paris’ oldest restaurants, and the most incredible chocolate. I don’t even think we ate anything else after this tour. It was an incredibly delicious and filling way to spend a Sunday morning.
After walking from Vendome to Moulin Rouge, taking the metro to Sacre Coeur, and making our way down, I was ready for a filling dinner. I realized that we were near Sacree Fleur, so we popped in to see if we could get a table. The waiter sized us up, judged our French, and decided to give us the last table available. The restaurant is small, cozy, and romantic. (It was perfect for a romantic weekend in Paris.)
Tom was prepared to get the duck confit, but when they brought the steak to the table next to us, it was over. We had steak for two, which included fries and three sauces. The sauces are au poivre pepper sauce, a sweeter shallot sauce, and a blue cheese sauce. I alternated between the au poivre (my favorite) and the shallot sauce.
On Valentine’s Day, we did not have reservations and we were not sure what we were going to do. We had watched the sunset over the Louvre and were walking back to our hotel when we started trying to figure out dinner. I checked our restaurant list and Gambino was very close to our hotel and on the route home. (Fortunately, Gail had recently posted about it so it was on my mind!) The host was making jokes with all of us who did not have reservations, but thankfully, he accommodated us.
I opted for prosciutto raviolini with white truffle and asparagus. It is the most complicated flavored dish I have experienced, and I loved it. Tom opted for the lasagna and we ordered a house red. Everything was delicious and we definitely bon appetite’d our neighbors’ dinner choices. Be aware: the portions are huge. I finished (maybe) half of my pasta before giving up. Tom couldn’t finish his lasagna either I was amazed at how reasonable everything was, given that it’s in the heart of the Place Vendome.
12/2019 Update: We went back to Gambino. Get the Genovese pizza. It will change your life. The combination of flavors is one of the most complex and delicious things I’ve ever tasted.
Right down the street from the Park Hyatt Paris is Bistrot Richelieu. You wouldn’t think that a cafe in the shadow of the Louvre could be this good, but it is. They offer happy hour specials on drinks. Try the French IPA – our waiter recommended it and Tom loves it. Everything is fresh and they have daily specials. We enjoyed the onion soup (French onion soup?) as an appetizer. I enjoyed the steak au poivre (green peppercorn sauce) and I let the waiter recommend how it should be cooked. It was rare and delicious. Tom opted for the bolognese but wished he had gotten the duck.
Waitstaff was very friendly with a good attitude. Anyone who makes a joke about “freedom fries” can be friends with me, especially when the fries are as delicious as these are. Desserts looked delicious but I ate too much. Drinks, soup, and two entrees set us back less than 60 euro. Don’t miss this one.
Bistrot des Victories
After we finished visiting the Louvre, I was famished. We decided to walk to a couple restaurants on our list to check out the menus. Since it was a Friday night, we did not know where we would be able to get in. Bistrot des Victories is a classic French cafe, looking like it is straight out of the 1920s. I half expected to find Ernest Hemingway there. They were very busy but happy to let us slide into a table for two.
Our waiter was phenomenal, offering to speak French, English or Spanish with us. Once we settled on English, he inquired about our plans in Paris. He was more than happy to share his favorite places, advise us on how to skip the lines at Versailles, and really seemed interested in ensuring that we had a great trip to his beautiful city. He was so proud of his city – and so kind to us. (All of the Parisians we encountered were delightful, but he was especially helpful.)
Tom enjoyed his first duck confit in Paris and I went with steak frites. (The duck was better.) This is a delightfully cozy restaurant that is made even better by the fabulous staff.
After climbing the Arc de Triomphe and walking to Trocadero, our appetites were famished. We headed under the Eiffel Tower in hopes of finding Alfio, a late night pizzeria. Unfortunately, we failed and it was already closed. We started walking towards a metro station to head back to a restaurant on the Champs Elysees, but with every step, I started to worry that it would also be closed. Growing hangry, we started checking the menus of the restaurants we passed. Su Misura was one of few restaurants that was still open on a Sunday night. It was fairly empty, but they were willing to give us a table. (Thank goodness because I was really getting hangry.)
It turns out, Su Misura was exactly what we needed. My husband loved the cheesy butter served with the bread. (I was just happy to have food.) Torn between chicken and veal, I ultimately chose lasagna. Tom opted for the pizza margarita. The service was friendly and efficient, despite the fact that we were one of the last tables of the evening. We enjoyed a cozy meal within a stone’s throw of the Eiffel Tower. Neither one of us were disappointed; neither one of us went to bed hungry. It was a good reminder that (sometimes) you can find good food without a restaurant list.
Park Hyatt Paris
We stayed at the Renaissance Arc de Triomphe on our honeymoon, which was perfectly nice, but I truly enjoy the Park Hyatt Paris and the 9th arrondissement so much more. There is no more beautiful square in Paris than the Place Vendome. Every night, we would emerge from the metro and say goodnight to the Opera Garnier. (Next time, I will take a tour of it and see the beautiful Chagall dome – covered by the Paris Pass!)
Out of all the hotels that we have stayed at, this might be the most efficiently designed room. I was nervous about how small the room would be from a square-footage standpoint, but it is expertly designed to maximize space. From the pocket doors to the use of mirrors, this hotel does everything it can to make the rooms feel spacious. I am truly impressed at how they included everything from a closet and dresser to a second sink without compromising the space. Even the minibar and safe are built into the design of the room and don’t take away from the living space.
The most impressive attribute to the room is how the blackout curtains are electric and completely seamless. We like to rest during the middle of the day, and the blackout shade made it possible for the room to be completely dark. I want to install these at home!
Our room had a large balcony that overlooked the inside courtyard. We did not take advantage of it (much to Tom’s dismay), but it would be particularly enjoyable for enjoying wine or champagne. Speaking of champagne, the hotel delivered champagne and macarons to our room on the evening of our arrival. What a treat!
The hotel staff is incredibly friendly. I attempted to use my French language skills to check in, and they went with me on it until we had to switch to English. Further, they didn’t even judge Tom’s “bonsoir” first thing in the morning. Every single stay we’ve had since our first Valentine’s Day has been perfect. Check out my full room review of the Park Hyatt Paris if you’re curious about the other rooms we’ve had! If the Park Hyatt isn’t in the cards, check out our rooms at the Hotel du Louvre, Hotel Dress Code, or the Paris Hyatt Etoile – a few other excellent hotels in Paris!
Le Spa: The La Mer Spa
After enjoying my massage at the Iridium Suites spa at the St. Regis Florence, I knew that a spa visit would be part of my weekend in Paris itinerary. Little did I know that it would be a La Mer spa. I booked the Energizing Body Treatment, which is essentially a massage that uses the La Mer body cream. I love the fresh and clean smell of this lotion and I’ve been using it on my hands for years.
The massage was so wonderful that I booked a custom facial for the following day. I was particularly interested to see if they would recommend different products than my current (and longstanding) skincare regime. They recommended slight changes, but there was no pressure to purchase the products. I enjoyed this facial because my skin didn’t feel smothered by products and the scents weren’t overwhelming. At the end, it felt smooth and very clean.
The only disappointing part of the spa is that we weren’t able to use the vitality pool. It was too hot one night and it was being reheated the following day. The spa and sauna rooms are open until 10:00 every night though, so that’s a great perk.
Weekend in Paris: Wrap Up and Highlight Video
Whew. This concludes my weekend in Paris blog. It is far more extensive than my honeymoon in Paris post, lol. I think it does a good job of illustrating why we spend a few days in a place on an initial trip. It allows us to whet our appetite and decide if it is somewhere we want to return. Paris is somewhere we absolutely want to return. My husband is already talking about our next trip and making a list of what he wants to see.
One thing to know is that if you are considering going to Paris in the winter, you should go. I know we are luckier than most when it comes to weather, but February is beautiful. I remember reading something about how Paris is magical in February because cafes are starting to unthaw, the gardens are reawakening, and the promise of spring awaits. That is absolutely our experience. Despite our initial trepidation, a February weekend in Paris ended up being absolutely perfect. I hope this post alleviates any fear you might have about visiting and inspires you to book.
So – if you’ve been to Paris – what should we see next? If you have not been to Paris, what is holding you back? If you have any questions, drop me a line. I am always happy to share more about our experiences and answer questions.