Ah Paris, the city of light, love, food, and amazing style. My first trip to Paris was when I was twelve and only lasted about four days, but that was all it took for me to fall in love. I have been lucky enough to return to that magical city twice since that initial visit, including spending eight weeks studying and living on the rive gauche this summer.
The Food: Where to begin? Maybe with the bread – yes, it is just as wonderful as you might have imagined and tastes delicious with cheese (which is criminally cheap at the grocery stores), and yes people do really walk around the streets carrying baguettes. If you are planning on visiting Paris, do yourself a favor and leave your diet at home. Indulge in the pastries, the carbs, and the rich sauces, and cherish every moment of it. The food around the center (where you will take all of your classes if you are studying abroad there) and Cité Universitaire (where you will live) is only okay, so get out and explore the city. And don’t feel obliged to stick with French food just because you are in Paris (although there is quite a lot of amazing French food to be had), one of my best meals was at a Spanish restaurant. The felafel in the Marais is amazing, particularly L’As de Falafel. The line is out the door to actually sit down, so customers tend to get theirs to go and then find a stoop or a bench in the windy backstreets of this hopping shopping district
But my all time favorite meal was probably at La Biche Au Bois, a fairly priced French bistro located in the 12th. I ate there with my mom while she was visiting and for $76 (yes dollars not euros), we each got a glass of wine and an excellent four course meal. Deviled Eggs are not most people’s first thought when they think about an excellent meal, but trust me, the ones at Biche Au Bois are spectacular. And there paté is absolutely delicious, and I don’t usually like paté (and I can say that even after trying many of Paris’ options).
The food in Paris isn’t cheap though, so my suggestion is to cook your own dinner Monday-Thursday and then indulge on the weekends. There are a number of dirt cheap grocery stores around the Cité, most of which are clustered around the Porte D’Orleans metro stop on Ligne 4. My favorite was Vingt Quatre, located on Avenue du Général Leclerc about half a block away from the metro station. My weekday meals, including my daily coffee and croissant, usually came in between 50 euro and 75 euro, leaving extra money for restaurants with real cooks on the weekends.
And how can I discuss food in Paris without mentioning the macaroons. They are the perfect sweet fix because they are small enough that you don’t feel guilty afterwards, and that you don’t even really need to be that hungry to eat one, and they come in enough flavors that there is always one to fit your mood. I sampled more than my fair share of macaroons while I was there this summer but my three favorites were Pierre Hermé’s (a favorite of Gossip Girl fans), Printemp’s, and Laudurée.
Studying: As much as it pains me to say this, I was in Paris to ultimately take courses and learn, which meant that studying was a necessary evil. But just because there will be days when you have to spend all day on your laptop doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of all Paris has to offer. The countless sidewalk cafés and public parks (my personal favorite: Luxembourg Gardens) offer a more lively option.
But if all of the people watching is just too distracting head over to La Bibliotheque Sainte-Genevieve in the Latin Quarter. All you need is a form of identification and a french address and you can be studying at one of the most beautiful spots in Paris. It is located about two blocks uphill from the Maubert Mutualité metro stop, directly across the street from the Panthéon. And the best part? There is a delicious market that sometimes pops up right outside of the metro station, and a strip of stores that sell everything from fish, to pastries, to cheese, so you can stalk up on your groceries (and study snacks!) on your way to the library. But be weary because tables and outlets can fill up quickly, even during the summer, so get there early!
Shopping: Oh the shopping, how my wallet hates you. The best time to shop in Paris is during the sales: twice a year, once in July and once in January or February, every single store in Paris holds a month long sale, with discounts ranging from 25% to 75% off. Unless you want to wait in long lines for chain stores avoid the Champs Élysée. Instead head over to the Marais for back streets full of adorable French boutique stores. Montmarte also has a good selection of small clothing stores. For nick-knacks and cheap scarves head over to the area around the Louvre, especially around the Seine.
Markets: You really can’t visit Paris without going to at least a couple of Markets. Every weekend markets spring up all over the city selling everything from fresh fruit to prepared sandwiches to antiques and everything in between. But make sure to get there early because most of them start shutting down around noon, and the good stuff goes quickly at the antique markets. Head over to the Isle de Saint Louis on a Sunday morning to see the bird market, you probably won’t buy anything but it makes for great pictures! For more information check out Emily’s post from earlier this year.
As home to the most study abroad programs, it is one of the most popular destinations for study abroad. Students will live in single rooms at the Cité Universitaire and study at the University of Chicago’s center in Paris. The neighborhood around the center, which is where you will usually wind up eating lunch, is filled with salad/sandwich type places. Since the Center is located next door to a university most of the restaurants in the area are pretty affordable and many of them offer student discounts. Keiser is located about a block away from the Center and has delicious madelines and bread. Press Café is about two door down from the Center and a great place to get your morning coffee and croissant, as well as sandwiches and salads at lunch time. Across the street from the Cité Universitaire is a park which is definitely worth exploring. There is a delicious crêpe stand at the back next to the pond that is perfect for when you are craving something sweet but don’t want to go very far! The neighborhood around the Porte D’Orleans metro stop (two stops on the tram or about a ten or fifteen minute walk) is filled with cheap grocery stores and bakeries. It isn’t the hippest neighborhood but it has good access to public transportation and everything you need to live off of. For nights when you need a little drink before conquering that massive pile of readings head to Le Fleurus, the drinks are cheap (or at least cheap for Paris) and the staff is wonderful.
And finally a list of all the touristy stuff (and some not so touristy stuff) that is completely worth the trip: Paris is famous for the Louvre but for museums I prefer le Musée D’Orsay, le Musée D’Orangerie, and le Musée Rodin. Take your student ID with you everywhere you go, the city of Paris is wonderful about student discounts and students can get into most museums, churches, and tourists spots for free or almost nothing. For churches I suggest Sainte Chapelle, located on the Isle de Saint Louis right next to Notre Damne. It is smaller and usually less crowded than the other famous churches, and the stained glass is absolutely beautiful! The old opera house is one of the most gorgeous buildings in Paris, it no longer hosts shows but is still open to tours.
My final recommendation is to just go out and see the city. Pick a neighborhood, jump on the metro, and explore without a plan. Let yourself discover a hidden church, or a neighborhood cheese shop, or a secret park. My favorite days were when I walked without a destination or a plan, so bon chance and bon voyage!