See Paris Like a Local: My Five Favorite Off-the-Beaten Path Experiences in Paris

paris sacre coeur

One of my favorite things about living in Europe is how fast you could get to another country. A long weekend in Ireland? A city break in Barcelona? That’s something I get to do regularly – not just because everything is so close, but also because it is so easy and cheap to get to a different country, with the amount of budget airlines that are covering even smaller cities all throughout Europe. (I’ve written in detail about how to travel around Europe on the cheap). And because it is so inexpensive to travel to other another country, it is easy to visit the same places over and over again, and to really get to know them. That’s why I’ve gotten to see more of Paris over the years than most tourists, and started to see Paris like a local – beyond the famous landmarks, Paris off the beaten path.


How to Experience Paris Off the Beaten Path

Paris est toujours une bonne idée – Paris is always a good idea, Audrey Hepburn famously said, and I couldn’t agree more. I never got tired of our weekends in this stunning city, Saturday mornings with cheese and baguette picnics in Jardin d’ Luxembourg, and afternoon eclairs from patisserie L’Éclair De Génie, where you find, undoubtedly, the best eclairs in all of Paris. Strolls along the Seine, seeing new art at the Centre Pompidou art center, meandering through the streets of Montmartre, ending the day with a glass of wine at the Le Baron Rouge wine bar…  I could do it all over and over again, but I also made it a point to discover something new on each visit to one of my favorite cities in like a local

You all know about the touristy stuff in Paris, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre and Notre Dame, the Champs-Élysées and the Arc d’Triomphe. So today I wanted to share my top five experiences off the beaten path in Paris – from flea markets to street art to extraordinary city parks:

1. Canal St Martin

What the Seine is tourists, Canal St Martin is to locals. This 4.5km long canal, which winds its way through Paris northwest of the Seine River, is a favorite with Parisians who you can see sitting along the edge, enjoying a chat and a bottle of wine. If you want to see Paris like a local, join them – a good place to start your canal walk is La Villette Park.

Closest metro stations: Porte De Martin on the 5 and Corentin Cariou on the in the winter

2. La Promenade Plantée 

What the High Line is to New York, La Promenade Plantée is to Paris: a 4.7 kilometer long elevated green space, which was created, just like the High Line Park in Manhattan, on an abandoned railway line. If you are wondering which one came first: it was the Promenade Plantee, and the railroad that it is set on is the disused 19th-century Vincennes railway viaduct. The park offers a unique aerial vantage point on Paris and takes you off the beaten path in Paris. Read more about this unique place here: A magical, green walk along Paris’s Promenade Plantée

Closest metro station: Bastille on the 1, 5 and 8 lines – Walk to the staircase south of Place de la Bastille on Rue de off the beaten path

3. Belleville

This up-and-coming neighborhood is known for its multi-cultural feel and the colorful street art. Here you find Chinese grocery stores right next to African shops and French cafes. You’ll notice that the neighborhood is grittier than most of Paris’ picture-perfect neighborhoods and get to know a side of Paris only very tourists get to know – it’s one of the best ways to experience Paris like a local, and if you’re into street art, you really shouldn’t miss Rue Denoyez.

Closest metro station: Belleville on the 2 and 11 lines.

I also recommend this fantastic self-guided Paris street art tour which starts at République, goes to Belleville and then loops back to Ré off the beaten path

4. Les Puces (Saint-Ouen Flea Market)

Officially named Saint-Ouen Flea Market, but among Parisians the city’s largest flea market is known simply as Les Puces, which translates to ‘The Fleas’. The flea market, which takes place every weekend, is with over 2,500 market stalls the largest antiques market in the world and sees between 120,000 and 180,000 visitors every week. Treasure hunters, vintage lovers and souvenir shoppers can’t miss a visit to this market. I love flea markets, and wandering around the market stills with all the Parisians always makes me feel like I see Paris like a local.

Closest metro stations: Porte de Clignancourt on the 4, Garibaldi on the 13, or take the 85 bus right into the middle of it off the beaten path

5. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a giant park in northeast Paris, just north of Belleville (you can easily combine a visit to Parc des Buttes-Chaumont with a stroll through Belleville). It is so much more than just your regular city park, with stunning landscape design and sights that include a Roman Pavilion (Temple De La Sibylle), a suspension bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel, concrete cliffs and a man-made lake. Plus: incredible views over Paris! Bring a picnic, or head to Rosa Bonheur, a bar inside the park that has a gorgeous terrace.

Closest metro station: Buttes Chaumont or Botzaris on the 7BParis like a local

Experience Paris off the beaten path: Stay in an Airbnb!

There are hundreds of hotels in Paris, from small boutique hotels to every single one of the large international hotel chains. But if you want to experience Paris like a local, I recommend staying in an Airbnb. The first time I stayed in a Parisian appartement and opened the classic French window shutters in the morning and stepped out onto my tiny balcony, I truly felt like I was living the Parisian dream. During the week I spent in the Marais, which is one of my favorite neighborhoods in Paris, I found a local boulangerie (bakery), a fromagerie (cheese shop), a small local supermarket, and a patisserie (pastry shop) – and I was able to make elaborate cheese boards with local cheeses and French wine in my small kitchen. I devoured them while watching street life from my window – and I appreciated having a kitchen to make breakfast at home. Consider staying in an Airbnb when you’re visiting Paris – here are some to check out:



Save money: If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking.

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Polaroid of the week: Was Napoleon a gelato lover, too?


;polaroid of the week france corsica ajaccio napoleon gelateriaDuring our Mediterranean cruise last week we stopped at the French island of Corsica, birthplace of France’s great emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. Despite never returning to his home island of Corsica, Napoleon is still the island’s most famous son. Especially in Ajaccio, the town where his birth house can still be visited, his likeness is used to market almost anything! There are museums, monuments, statues, and not to forget all the souvenirs that carry his name or face. Hotels and restaurants also like to use his name, like the ice cream place that has him selling gelato. So did Napoleon really like Gelato? We are sure that even with his many ‘complexes’, he did!

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Paris, Je T’aime ― Mais Je Suis Raide: Visiting Paris on a Budget

paris chez marie cafe

Paris holds the key to your heart ― if only you could afford to go there. Last year, France earned top spots on multiple lists for “Most Expensive Places to Visit.” Though the Euro is not nearly at its healthiest, American travelers still pay a hefty price to see the City of Lights. But fear not: with a few simple tricks, it is possible to visit Paris on a budget!paris louvre

How to get to Paris on the cheap

Airfare will be your biggest expense on your trip to Paris, but you can use some travel hacks to find cheap flights.

If you live in the U.S., sign up for a credit card that offers travel rewards, including free flights. To get started, read my quick guide on how to start travel hacking. If there’s an airline that you use regularly, sign up for frequent flyer miles.

I also recommend signing up for the free daily secret airfare deals over at There are regularly amazing deals from major U.S. airports to Paris listed.

If you are based in Europe, use Omio or The Trainline to find cheap tickets. Omio is great for buses, flights and trains across Europe, the Trainline has the best prices for train tickets. Both websites offer discount prices if you buy train tickets in advance, so make sure to buy your tickets a few weeks in advance, not a couple of days.

paris from eiffeltower

How to get around Paris on a budget

First of all: walking! Walking is obviously the cheapest option, because it’s free, but Paris is also a very walkable city, and you can see all of the famous sights without taking public transportation or Uber / taxi. Get these steps in! Paris has so much iconic architecture to offer – you won’t get bored just wandering the streets and boulevards.

If your Airbnb or hotel is a little further away from central Paris, however, you’ll have to use public transportation. No need to fork out money for an Uber: the metro, Paris’ subway, is cheap and safe. You can also use it late at night without worrying. Just be aware that the metro does NOT run 24/7 – it stops running just before 1am (an hour later on Fridays, Saturdays and on days before a public holiday) and then starts running again around 5.30am.

I recommend downloading a map of the Paris subway system onto your smartphone.

One single ride is €1.90; and if you buy a package of 10 (a “carnet”), you’ll slightly reduce the ticket price: a carnet is €16.90. If you don’t like walking all that much and prefer getting around on public transportation, I recommend getting the Paris Visite Travel Pass, which gives you unlimited rides for the entire day for €5.80 – on subways, buses, trams and RER commuter trains.

paris metro

Where to Stay in Paris on a Budget

Though you may dream of renting a luxury suite with panoramic views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower, it’d mean forking out big bucks. In fact, staying anywhere near the tourist district is going to cost you a lot, since those rooms are highly sought-after year around. Instead, you should look to less-expensive neighborhoods, like the Latin Quarter (which is popular among students) or Le Marais. Here are your best options for cheap accommodation in Paris:

Hostels in Paris

If you are willing to stay in shared accommodation, there are plenty of hostels in Paris, and the advantage of these hostels is that they’re more centrally located than most Airbnb’s.

Here are some of the best-rated hostels in Paris:

  • Hostel Le Village Montmartre by Hiphophostels: A 1—min walk from Montmartre and Sacré Cœur Basilica. Boutique hostel with a lovely terrace, hammocks and a shared kitchen. Dorm beds in small dorms (4 beds) from US$38, double rooms from US$106 per night.
  • The Loft Hostel: Located in the 20th arrondissement, has a terrace, a bar and has both private and shared rooms. Dorm beds start at US$28 (4-bed dorm); private rooms start at US$108 per night.
  • The People Hostel: The hostel is located in the 12th Arrondissement and has a garden, a bar and a shared lounge. Dorm beds start at US$32 in a 6-bed dorm, double rooms start at US$93 per night.

Airbnb’s in Paris

Paris has plenty of Airbnb’s available in all price ranges. If you want to save money on accommodation, consider renting just a room inside an apartment, rather than the entire apartment. As you can see below, Airbnb’s can be super cheap in Paris (prices vary throughout the year), and if you don’t mind sharing a bathroom with someone else, you can find some really good deals for Airbnb’s in Paris.

Tip: If you don’t have an Airbnb account yet, use my referral code to sign up and get up to $40 off your first booking)

Budget hotels in Paris

Be aware that most of Paris’ cheaper hotels are located further away from the city center. If you prefer a budget hotel over an Airbnb, check out these excellent budget hotels in Paris. Note that breakfast (usually buffet breakfast) is available at all hotels for an extra charge, but a coffee and a croissant at a bakery will cost you less.

  • Europe Saint Severin-Paris Notre Dame Hotel: This hotel wins with regards to location: right by the Seine River in the Latin Quarter, 8 mins walking from Notre Dame, 15 mins walking from the Louvre. The hotel has a restaurant on-site and a creperie next door. Double rooms from US$108 (small room) / US$130 traditional room per night
  • Grand Hotel Francais: A small design hotel near the Place de la Nacion and a 15-min walk from Père Lachaise Cemetery. The contemporary rooms are individually designed, and the hotel has a bar. Double rooms from US$127 per night
  • Hôtel de Sévigné: Small hotel near the Arc de Triomphe (10 min walk) with modern rooms, some of which have a classic French balcony. Double rooms from US$120 / US$125 with balcony
  • La Manufacture: Budget hotel in a classic Parisian 19th century building. Some rooms have balconies. A 5-min walk from the bustling Butte aux Cailles area with many bars and restaurants. Double rooms from US$93, with balcony US$103.

paris sacre coeur

Shopping in Paris on a Budget

It is hard not to lust after French fashion, and the haute couture you’ll spot around Paris will tempt you to empty your wallet at the most expensive boutiques. However, the secret to French style is not cost, it’s creativity and control. By shopping pop-up markets instead of high-fashion districts, you can find exceptional items worth wearing, and you don’t have to take out personal loans to cover them.Paris on a budget

Eating on a Budget in Paris

Food is a major factor of Parisian culture, which fortunately makes it one of the more affordable indulgences of your trip to the City of Lights. Though luxury French cuisine will deplete your savings, you can find classic and tasty French food in cheap cafes and bistros. Check out these articles for some recommendations:

You’ll also find supermarkets throughout the city, and while they’re small, you’ll still be able to grab a few things for a picnic in the park. Look out for these three supermarkets: Franprix, Monoprix, Carrefour / Carrefour Express.

Tip: Pack a cork screw so that you can enjoy these cheap French wines with your picnic lunches! Having alcohol in public is allowed, and you’ll see many people enjoying a bottle of wine in the park or on the banks of the Seine on a budget

Paris Sightseeing On the cheap

Everyone who visits Paris goes to the top of the Eiffel Tower, sees the “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre, and tours the Palais-Royal Gardens. However, few will tell you that each of those adventures costs over $15, which means that just a single day of sight-seeing can easily break the bank.


Though there are plenty Parisian delights you cannot miss, you absolutely must plan ahead to prevent bankruptcy during your vacation. Most of the city’s museums are free on the first Sunday of the month, and there are a number of passes available at the Paris tourist office that bundle attraction tickets at a discount.Paris on a budget

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The D-Day Beaches of Normandy: Combining History and Natural Beauty in Western France


The D-Day beaches are one of the most popular day trips from Paris, especially for Americans, Brits and Canadians whose parents or grandparents fought the Germans in World War II.

The historic significance of these beaches hasn’t lessened, even nearly 80 years after Operation Overload, which was the invasion of Western Europe by the Allied Nations on 6 June 1944. On that day, over 135,000 troops landed in Normandy, unifying against the Germans. The Allied Nations (Britain, Canada and the U.S.) were each allocated a number of beaches to invade, which were codenamed:

  • Utah Beach (U.S.)
  • Omaha Beach (U.S.)
  • Juno Beach (Canada)
  • Gold Beach (Britain)
  • Sword Beach (Britain)

visit the D-Day beachesWhen visiting the Normandy coast these days, it’s almost inconceivable that one of the most important and magnificent operations against the Germans happened here, an accomplishment that would later lead to the successful victory against Hitler’s Nazi regime.

Today, you’ll pass by rolling hills, quaint little seaside towns, surrounded by lush green farmland and cattle fields. The beaches themselves are beautiful and tranquil, and it is hard to imagine that thousands of soldiers lost their lives here.

However, you cannot escape the memories of D-Day when visiting this part of France – war memorials and monuments mark where the Allies landed, there are remains of bunkers and gun emplacements left by the Germans, and most importantly, there is the Normandy American Cemetery, where 9,387 American soldiers are buried.

If you are visiting to honor family members who fought or lost their lives there, you may want to try to visit on 6 June, when a number of D-Day anniversary memorials are held.

The easiest way to visit the area is with a tour, which usually includes all the beaches plus the Memorial Church in Caen (see below for details). Here is an overview of the main sights you shouldn’t miss when visiting the D-Day beaches, including all five beaches, which still carry the names given by the Allies in preparation of the operation.

The Caen Memorial

The Caen Memorial is the best place to start your tour of the D-Day beaches. The museum was recently renovated, and in addition to detailed information on D-Day and World War II, it has plenty of material on The Battle Of Normandy, The Cold War and the search for peace.

Utah Beach

The museum at this beach, the Utah Beach Landing Museum, is housed in the remains of a German bunker. Many say that this is the best D-Day museum in the area. In the nearby village of Sainte-Mère-Eglise is the Airborne Museum, which details the aerial operations.

Arromanches Mulberry

Pointe du Hoc

Pointe Du Hoc is the highest point between Utah Beach and Omaha Beach, with a 100 feet (30 meter) cliff overlooking the English Channel. The German army had fortified this area with gun pits, bunkers, artillery and concrete casemates. Pointe du Hoc was captured by 225 U.S. rangers on D-Day after scaling the cliffs, and has become a symbol of courage of the American troops. It is one of the most significant memorials along the D-Day coast.

Omaha Beach

Omaha Beach was the stretch of beach with the most intense battles. Memorials and statues line the beach.

This is probably where you will be spending the most time of all beaches. The American Cemetery is located right above the beach, and there are two museums: the Omaha Beach Memorial Museum, which showcases personal items of soldiers, weapons and uniforms, and the Omaha D-Day Museum which details the landing on Omaha Beach.

The Gun Battery in Longues-sur-Mer between Omaha Beach and Gold Beach has a number of bunkers which were Hitler’s most important points of defense.

Gold Beach

The Gold Beach invasion was led by the British, and the most important museum here is the America Gold Beach Museum and exhibits details of the landing here as well as the three-engine Fokker America’s first airmail flight from the United States to France.

d-day beaches

Juno Beach

Juno Beach, where the invasion was under Canada’s lead, has the Juno Beach Centre, which outlines the significant role Canada played in the D-Day invasion. Nearby Bény-sur-Mer is home to the Canadian cemetery.

Sword Beach

Sword Beach is the easternmost of the five D-Day beaches. The operation here happened under British leadership, and there is a museum, the Merville Gun Battery, which details the British Airborne Operations.

The nearby Ranville War cemetery is home to 2,235 graves, most of which belong to the 6th Airborne Division.

The American Cemetery

The American Cemetery is one of the largest American war cemeteries and was the first one on European soil established during World War II. With 9,387 lives lost on D-Day and the consequent ensuing operations, it makes visitors realize the magnitude and true scale of this operation and the lives lost during it.

Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial

How to visit the D Day beaches from Paris

Paris City Vision offers a guided tour of the D-Day beaches from Paris. The trip includes, in addition to the beaches, the Caen Memorial Church, the memorial service, and a delicious lunch. You’ll leave Paris at 7am and will return around 9pm. The advantage of taking a tour is not only that it’ll bring you to all places of interest, but it also includes a knowledgeable guide who will provide background information and historical details.


You can also visit the beaches via public transportation – take the train from Paris to Caen and then hop on the local bus that connects the beaches, but be aware that buses aren’t running very often and trying to fit in all beaches, the Memorial and the American cemetery in one day would be quite a challenge.

Tip: If you book your train tickets in advance through the Omio app or website, they’ll be cheaper than buying them on your travel day at the train station. Omio offers discount train tickets for all of Europe – it helps me to travel around Europe on the cheap.

The trains to Caen leave from Paris’ St Lazare station and the journey takes around 2 hours.

If you want to rent a car and drive from Paris, the trip takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes. Having a car gives you more flexibility when you’re at the coast, making visiting all of the beaches easier than taking trains and buses. It really helps to have a guide though – this is a trip for which an organized tour makes sense, even for people who are usually independent travelers.

visit the D-Day beaches

Photo credit: All photos used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Arromanches Mulberry by Archangel12; (2) Arromanches 14 by Barry Skeates; (3) Normandy American Cemtery by Larry Uren


visit the D-Day beaches


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Paris on a Budget: Top 5 Things To Do

paris sacre coeur

paris views from eiffeltower

Have you heard that infamous urban legend that Paris is one of the most expensive cities in the world? We had, too, and we even believed it – until we booked cheap flights to Paris and booked relatively inexpensive accommodation on several occasions. In Paris, most of the major sights have free or reduced-rate visiting times and there are plenty of inexpensive bakeries or markets to pick up a baguette, some delicious French cheese and wine and have a picnic lunch for no more than 10€ ($14) for two. Paris on a budget is all about advance planning, so we have listed here our top five inexpensive things to do in Paris – read on for our best Paris budget tips:


Our Top Five Things to do in Paris

1. Explore Montmartre

Montmartre is the name of the highest hill in Paris (130meters) as well as the surrounding neighborhood. Montmartre, which has been featured in movies like Amelie or Moulin Rouge, began to attract artists in the mid-19th century. Famous painters such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Raymond Duchamp-Villon, Henri Matisse, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec have all lived in Montmartre, and the neighborhood still draws many artists. Up here on the hill, you’ll spot painters on the Place Du Tertre, stroll through the cobble-stone streets, sit down for a café au lait in one of the many cafes and listen to the street musicians playing the violin. Montmartre is also home to the Sacré-Coeur Basilica on top of the hill. The basilica features the most unique architecture of any church in Paris, combining Romanesque and Byzantine styles, and the breathtaking views over Paris are even more spectacular from the top of the church.


2. Marvel at the Eiffel Tower

Paris budget tips

Without a doubt, the city’s most iconic landmark is a must for a first-time (or tenth-time) visitor to Paris. The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 for the World Expo, and no one ever expected that this structure would continue to be the most iconic symbol of Paris with six million annual visitors over a century later.  If you’re on a tight budget, there’s no need to ride to the top of Gustav Eiffel’s masterpiece, as the whole visit feels electric just visiting tower. If you do choose to pay for the visit up to the viewing tower, the views over Paris are so worth it – both during the day as well as at night, when the City of Lights earns its romantic nickname.


3. The Louvre

There is a reason that the Louvre is the most visited art museum in the world, and it is not solely because of the Mona Lisa. This massive museum houses over 35,000 pieces of art, so make sure to plan in enough time for your visit. Plan in at least one day and wear comfortable shoes, as you’ll be traversing 652,300 square feet to visit this impressive 12th century structure.

Tip: Admission to the Louvre is free for all visitors on every first Sunday of the month, and on Friday evenings after 6pm if you’re under 26.

paris louvre

4. Sightsee on a local bus

There are plenty of tour companies that offer sightseeing bus tours in Paris, but most of them are very expensive. So here’s one of the best Paris budget tips: Scrape together just €1.30 and take the No. 29 bus from the Gare St Lazare to Bastille district. Passing through some of the most beautiful areas in Paris, the bus passes the Opera house, through the Marais district, including the beautiful square Place des Vosges and past plenty of peaceful side streets you may never otherwise spot. Alternatively, you can consider a Paris hop on hop off bus, which stops at all major sights.

Tip: If you want to see Paris beyond the main sights, here are my five favorite off the beaten path experiences in Paris. Most of them are free!

Paris budget tips

5. Stroll along the Champs-Elysées

This is one of the best things to do in Paris on a budget: stroll along Paris’ best known street. The Champs-Elysées, a long chestnut tree-lined boulevard, stretches from the Place de la Concorde and the Jardin de Tuileries to the Arc de Triomphe in what is a grand Parisian thoroughfare. The Champs-Elysées is well-known for the many designer shops that line the avenue, but it doesn’t cost a penny to peek into the many cafes, cinemas, car showrooms and hotels. Walk the nearly 2km (1.2 mi) avenue toward the Arc de Triomphe at night to witness the chestnut trees lit with sparkling white lights, and it is no question why some consider this to be the most beautiful avenue of the budget tips

Paris Budget Tip: Stay in an Airbnb

If you are visiting Paris on a budget, staying in an Airbnb will cost you a lot less than staying in a hotel. Here are some tips to make sure your Airbnb stay will be enjoyable:

1 Look up how far it is to the city center. The further away from the city center the Airbnb, the cheaper it is. But is it worth traveling on the metro an hour every day just to save a few dollars? If you’re not sure how far the Airbnb is from central Paris, message the host and ask for the name of the closest metro station. Then map out on Google Maps how long it takes to get from there to the major sights. Staying on the outskirts of Paris may safe you a lot of money, but traveling an hour into the city every day might frustrate you eventually.

2 Room vs apartment. An Airbnb is usually cheaper than a hotel room, and it offers the amenities of having a kitchen, which means you will also save money by cooking your meals instead of eating in pricey restaurants. The cheapest Airbnb offers are usually not entire apartments, however, but rooms within an apartment. Many locals rent out their spare rooms for additional income. If you’re opting for a room inside someone’s apartment, be 100% sure that you are comfortable living with a stranger. If you’re not comfortable with that, fork out the money for an entire apartment instead.

3 Read recent reviews. To make sure your Airbnb is decent, always read reviews – including the most recent ones. That’s how you’ll find out if there have been any major issues like broken ACs, WiFi problems, noise, or any other nuisances. If there’s anything written in a review that you feel unsure about, don’t book that Airbnb, and look for another one instead.



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Eight Places You Shouldn’t Miss on a Trip To The French Pyrenees

pyrenees clouds

The French Pyrenees are among the most beautiful regions in France. High mountain peaks, green valleys, stunning waterfalls, dramatic gorges, and little towns dotting the valleys – the French Pyrenees offer a photo op around every corner. In the winter months, there are plenty of ski areas, and in the summer, there is a vast network of hiking trails to be explored. To give you an idea of what to see in this mountainous area of France, I put together eight stunning places you shouldn’t miss on your Pyrenees holidays, ranging from world-famous destinations to lesser known hidden gems:

Morning in Lourdes, France 3-20-2004 019

Pay a visit to The Sanctuary of Our Lady of Lourdes in Lourdes

The small town of Lourdes is one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage destinations in the entire world, thanks to its famous healing shrine. The miraculous cures that have been said to occur after a visit to the Lady attract around six million visitors every year.

Indulge In A Luxurious Spa Treatment In Ax-les-Thermes

Ax-les-Thermes is a small town nestled in the Ariege upper valley right in the heart of the Pyrenees, close to Andorra and the border with Spain. It is famous for its thermal baths and recreational spa, but the town itself has plenty of architectural gems to offer, such as the belle-époque Casino and several medieval fountains. The nearby Orlu Valley is worth visiting for its picturesque villages and the Réserve Nationale de Faune Sauvage, a national wildlife reserve.Traffic Management - The Ax-les-Thermes Bypass, Pyrenees, France

Marvel at the Fortress of Montségur

The ruins of the Château de Montségur, a Cathar castle perched at the top of a 3,900 feet high rock formation, are a magnificent sight, and should not be missed by anyone interested in the historic Cathar castles. Many people claim that this the most remarkable Cathar Castle.

Wander The Lush Meadows Of Col du Puymorens

The Col de Puymorens is a famous Tour de France climb in the France – Spain – Andorra triangle. Even though the climb, which was first used for the famous bike race in 1913, hasn’t been used for the Tour de France since 1993, it is still a popular place with cycle tourists and road trippers. You can start the drive in Ax-les-Thermes, and if you take a right turn 2.8 kilometers before the summit, you reach the Port d’Envalira, a scenic high road in the Pyrenees.IMGP1722

Explore historic Foix – a gem of the French Pyrenees

Foix is a medieval town that dates back to 849, and its castle, the focal point of the town’s history, was even built before then. The stunning chateau sits on top of a hill looking over Foix, and is one of the most impressive historic castles in this part of France. Read more about Foix here.

Free Your Mind On A Walk Through The Green Aston Valley

The small town of Aston is famous for a number of reasons: Gudanes, a majestic château dating from the time of Louis XIV, nestled among the mountains of the Aston Valley, is the most striking sight in the Aston Valley, but the lush green valley itself, flanked by the Pyrenees and covered in wildflowers in the summer months, makes for a memorable hike. And then there is the Grotte de Lombrives, the largest cave in Europe in terms of volume, with a length of 39 kilometers, which was formed more than 20 million years ago. The caves have an immense geological and historical value, with an incredible karst network which was shaped by long glacial periods.


Marvel at the Rock Church Of Vals

Just a short 45-minute drive from Aston you find the historic village of Vals. When you approach Vals, a tiny hamlet with a population of only 86 people, you wouldn’t think that this village is home to one of the most treasured pieces of religious architecture of the Middle Ages. The church is partly carved into a giant rock and dates back to the 10th century. There are several noteworthy frescoes on the ceiling, and the third level of the church, a chapel dedicated to Saint Michel, lies in a defense tower built in the 14th century. Don’t miss the breathtaking vistas over the Pyrenees from the terrace here.

Climb the Roc of Scaramus For The Stunning Panoramic Views

This hike up to the top of the Scaramus Rock is challenging, but the panoramic mountain views over the Pyrenees make the climb worth it. When you reach the top, you’ll get to enjoy some of the most scenic views over the Pyrenees. The entire round-trip is just over six miles and can be done in about six hours, starting near the Col De Marmare cycling route. Note that this is a strenuous trek – not necessarily for beginners.
Refuge d'Espingo, French PyreneesIf you are planning a trip to the French Pyrenees, head to and create your own personalized itinerary. You can easily add all or some of the places listed above to your itinerary, or simply find more information and travel inspiration for the French Pyrenees and other regions of France, or find vacation rentals for your trip!

Photo Credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Lourdes by Bren Buenaluz; (2) Ax-Les-Thermes by Richard Allaway; (3) Col Du Puymorens by Jean-Marie Pival; (4) French Pyrenees by Richard Allaway

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The Perfect Paris Itinerary for Female Travelers

paris sacre coeur

Not sure you can see the best of Paris in only a couple of days? Don’t fret: I am here to help you maximize your time in Paris! Whether you spend as short as a day (yes, there is such a thing as a Paris in a day tour) or as long as a month, you can see all the famous sights of one of the most popular and romantic cities on the globe.

Paris has so much to offer to tourists and as a woman who is visiting Paris for the first time, you’re likely to fall for Paris just as Audrey Hepburn and so many other women. From the delicious food to the fascinating history and the breathtaking monuments, there’s something for everybody in Paris.

In this article, I am sharing the perfect Paris itinerary for female travelers. This itinerary will help you visit the major attractions in Paris without feeling overwhelmed. If you’re going to stay in Paris a little longer, don’t rush around the city – take your time and see Paris off the beaten path, too.

To make this Paris itinerary extra special, I’ve tailored it to suit the taste and finesses of any woman who wants to savor the finest of Paris. I recommend getting the Paris Pass when you arrive – this pass will give you access to over 60 popular landmark attractions in Paris, river cruise and even a public transport card, and buying the pass is much cheaper than paying for each attraction chez marie cafe

So, let’s jump right into it!

Paris itinerary

Stop #1: The Eiffel Tower

Why not start the tour of Paris strong with one of the most visited sights in Paris – the Eiffel Tower?

This wrought iron structure was named after the engineer who designed this masterpiece, Gustave Eiffel. The tower overlooks the beautiful Champ de Mars Park where you can witness marriage proposals as well as declarations of undying love pretty much every day.

You can enjoy the view of the tower from the Trocadero Gardens located across the Seine River or you can have a lovely picnic at Champ de Mars gardens while you gaze at the Eiffel Tower’s beauty. You can also check out the view of Paris from one of the floors inside the Eiffel Tower, giving you a stunning panoramic view of the City of Love.

Stop #2: Seine River

A Seine River cruise will give you an fantastic view of Paris from a unique angle. The best part of it all is that you get to see most of the iconic landmarks from the boat – without having to walk a single step.

Some of the sights you get to capture a glimpse of are the Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame Cathedral, Pont Neuf, Musée d’Orsay and Le Louvre. Going on a Seine River cruise after viewing the Eiffel Tower makes sense because the cruise ships depart near the Tower.

The tour of Paris on the Seine River is especially magical at night. So, whether you do the cruise in the day or at night you’re guaranteed to have a memorable experience. Have your camera ready!paris from eiffeltower

Stop #3: Le Louvre

You must have already spotted the glass pyramid from the Seine River. Le Louvre is one of the most famous museums in the entire world – naturally, this is a must on your Paris itinerary. It’s home to some of the most famous artwork on the planet, like Venus de Milo and of course the Mona Lisa.

If you’re not in a rush, take your time at the Louvre. The feeling of being in the midst of so much history and such magnificent art is incredible. If you don’t have much time in Paris, make sure to book your tickets in advance – the lines can get quite long, and you don’t want to waste hours waiting in a queue for tickets. If you have the Paris Pass, it includes a Skip-The-Line ticket for the Louvre. If you’re planning on staying a little longer in Paris, you can spend an entire day in the Louvre – it is a large museum that takes time to fully louvre

paris arc de triompheStop #4: Arc de Triomphe

From the Louvre, head over to the Arc de Triomphe. Not only will you walk past the gorgeous Tuilleres Gardens, but walking to the Arc will grant you the opportunity to do some shopping at the Champs Elysees before you get to the Arc de Triomphe. There you can shop for beautiful souvenirs and gifts to bring home, and window shop at the luxury brands.

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon and was the largest triumphal arch in the entire world for the longest time (North Korea built a bigger one in 1982). The monument commemorates those who died during the French revolution and celebrates its victories. You can read the names of noteworthy successes during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic periods at the top of the arch. Underneath the Arc de Triomphe is the “Tomb of the unknown soldier” – a soldier who lost his life during World War I.

There are sculptures skillfully etched in the walls of the Arc – take a moment to wander around the arch and take in the fresco, writings and . If you want another view of Paris (with the Eiffel Tower in your picture), you enjoy fantastic views from the top of the monument. However, you will have to climb about 280 stairs to the top. I say the views are worth the climb and the admission (13).

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Stop #5: Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral is another of Paris’ world famous monuments. You’ll be enthralled by the detail of architecture, the elegance of the stained-glass windows and the vastness of it all. Sadly, the cathdreal can’t be visited anymore after a devastating fire destroyed part of it in April 2019 (and it’ll be closed for at least another five to six years), but just the very sight of Notre Dame will have you in awe.

Stop #6: Musée d’Orsay

You might think that seeing one museum is enough, but if you love art, you cannot miss this museum. It’s not too far from Notre Dame (about thirty mins), so you can even walk there – it’s a lovely walk along the Seine River. The Musée d’Orsay is a masterpiece on its own – a Beau-Art building which used to be a railway station. You can see the work of some of the most celebrated painters in the world here: Monet, Renoir, Manet, Toulouse-Latrec, Degas, Cézanne, Van Gogh, Seurat, Gauguin, and Sisley. The Musée d’Orsay is one of the largest art museums in Europe, home to paintings, sculptures, photography and more, so plan in some time here. Note: Paris Pass holders can skip the line metro

paris for female travelers

Stop #7: Versailles

A trip to Paris for female travelers would be incomplete without a trip to Versailles, about 40 mins from central Paris by train. Versailles is a breathtaking palace and as you walk through it, you won’t be able to stop yourself from picturing how it would have been to live here as a royal in the 17th century.

The large halls, intricate paintings and sculptures, plus all the incredible fittings will make you wish you could move into to this opulent palace. The vast and lush gardens, which took forty years to complete, are just wonderful to behold. By the way: Versailles is included in the Paris Pass, which also includes a travel card for public transportation.

Stop #8: Department stores on Boulevard Haussmann

Your Paris itinerary wouldn’t be complete without doing a bit more shopping. Paris is not just known for being romantic. It is also known for being a fashion hub!  Which is one of the things that makes Paris great for female travelers.

Boulevard Haussmann is a long beautiful tree-lined boulevard lined that runs all the way from Boulevard Montmartre to Avenue de Friedland near the Champs-Elysées. This boulevard is known for its many department stores as well as some of the most elegant shops in all of Paris – there’s no better place for an afternoon of shopping! Don’t miss the famous Galeries Lafayette Haussmann, a department store where the architecture is almost as interesting as all the things you can buy, and where, from the terrace on the 7th floor, you can enjoy sweeping views over france

Map provided by Wanderlog, a travel planner

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5 reasons why you should visit Cannes

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Cannes – playground of the rich and famous, with its azure blue waters and palm-tree lined boulevard a picture-perfect holiday spot on the French Riviera, and must-go place for anyone planning a Cote d’Azur sojourn. Cannes is so much more than the film festival that makes into the worldwide news every year, when Hollywood stars conglomerate in France’s most sophisticated and glamorous beach destination. But what makes Cannes so special outside of the Cannes Film Festival? We’re sharing five reasons why Cannes is worth a visit:

1 La Croisette

A long, elegant, palm tree-lined boulevard that stretches along the seafront for miles, La Croisette can’t be missed on a visit to Cannes. It is here where the rich & famous shop whose yachts you can see lined up in one of Cannes’ marinas. You find plenty of upscale boutiques here, sidewalk cafes and restaurants, or you could just go for a stroll and marvel at the beautiful villas on the one side, and tourists enjoying he beaches on the other. Make sure to walk all the way down to the Old Port, Vieux Port, for the scenic views.

La Croisette

2 Iles de Lerins

The Iles de Lerins are two wooded islets just off the coast of Cannes which have been famously inhabited by monks for many centuries. The monks produce the tasty Lerina liqueur on Saint Honorat and also organize wine tastings for visitors. You can even stay in a hostel in the abbey on the island to experience the simple life the monks there are living. The other island, Saint Marguerite, is famous for its gorgeous beaches and clear waters that make you think you’re in the Caribbean instead of the Mediterranean! There are regularly boat trips to the isles from Gare Maritime hourly during the summer months (and less frequently during the winter).

Île Sainte-Marguerite

3 The beautiful beaches

Cannes stretches along the sea for over four miles (7 kilometers) – and the beaches are stunning. The beach that stretches along La Croisette Boulevard is of course the most famous one, but note that not all of Cannes’ beach front is public – there are several private beaches right in the city. Among the best public beaches are Zamenhof Beach and Mace Beach (both right by Croisette Boulevard), Moure Rouge Beach near the fishing ports and the golden sand beach La Bocca. Most of the private beaches can be visited too, by the way, but they charge up to €20 admission.

Part of Cannes Beach

4 Le Suquet: The Old Town

The Old Town raises up on the mountainside of Mont Chevalier, overlooking the entire bay. This is what used to be the original fishing village that eventually turned into what Cannes is today. The setting of this neighborhood couldn’t be more picturesque, and the views over the red roofs of Cannes and the Mediterranean from up here are breathtaking. Traffic isn’t allowed, which means you can fully enjoy the narrow alleyways and staircases, courtyards and ancient walls. Make sure to climb the 11th century Tour Du Mont watchtower from which you can see all the way out to the Lerins Islands. The streets of Le Suquet are lined with fabulous boutiques and shops, by the way – not to be missed if you’re a shopaholic! In addition to luxury shops for fashionistas, you’ll find food and flower markets as well as flea markets in Cannes’ Old Town.

le suquet - vieux cannes

5 The stunning Notre-Dame d’Esperance church

This provencal Gothic church will show you that Cannes has so much more to offer than the Film Festival. History buffs will appreciate the wood paneling that dates back to the 14th century and the collection of 19th century paintings. It’s the most significant church in town. The views from the church are also some of the most terrific ones in Cannes, given that Notre-Dame d’Esperance sits on top of the hill that is home to the Old Town.

Church Notre Dame d'Espérance, Cannes

Where to stay in Cannes

Check out Villa Les Palmes – 15 recently renovated apartments inside a traditional French Riveran-style building. The apartments are furnished in a modern, contemporary way and come with fully-equipped kitchens as well as amenities such as washing machines, dishes, WiFi and satellite TV. . The apartments are near the Croisetter and only a five-minute walk from the beach. You’re right in the middle of it all, and the apartments start at only €70 per night for two people or €75 for three people!


How to get to Cannes

The closest airport is Nice, a 30-minute bus or taxi ride away. There are plenty of shuttle services that will bring you straight from the Nice Cote d’Azur airport to Cannes. The train ride from the airport is the most scenic way to arrive since it runs right alongside the coast.

Sunset on Cannes
Photo credit: All images used via Flickr’s Creative Commons Licensing. (1) Cannes La Croisette; (2) Iles Sainte-Marguerite by Anthony Fino; (3) Cannes Beach by Paulo; (4) Le Suquet by Dominique Bergeron ; (5) Notre Dame d’Esperance Church by Sam2907; (6) Cannes by Stefan Jurca; (7) Cannes sunset by Jullen Sanine
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Exploring France by train: Our top five train rides in France

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France is one of our favorite countries in Western Europe and living in London, we were able to hop on over for a French getaway. Once we even went just for the day, leaving London in the dark, early morning in our rental car, hopped on the car ferry and docked in France just after 9am, which gave us a full day to explore the country side, enjoy some French crepes and stock up on French cheese and wine.

Our favorite way to see France, however, is by train. With one of the best rail networks in Europe, France has over 32,000 kilometers of railway, and 14,000 trains running every day. The trains are comfy and fast, especially the TGV, France’s high speed train, which hits speeds over 300 kilometers per hour, and even at those speeds it is easier to relax and take in the scenery instead of maneuvering a car and paying expensive highway tolls.  Not only is rail travel more comfortable, it is also pretty cheap – you can always find great deals for the TGV.

Here are our top five train routes in France:

Paris to Nice

The train ride from Paris to the Cote d’Azur in Southern France passes by some of the country’s most remarkable scenery, from the Rhone valley, quaint little villages dotting the countryside, and in the spring, the beautiful purple lavender fields in the Provence region, to the beaches of the Mediterranean. Many of the trains on this route are double-deck Duplex TGVs which offer the best views from the upper level.

Nimes to Clermont Ferrand

This 5.5-hour train journey takes you through the Cevennes, a mountain range in southern France, and with 106 tunnels and 1,300 bridges (including the 41-arch Chamborigaud Viaduct) it makes for a spectacular ride. Passengers can barely put their cameras down, thanks to the magnificent viaducts and bridges.The train connection has been built in 1870 – a notable construction achievement at the time. The Cevennes Railway is also known for its popular hiking path that follows the rails.

Villefranche to Latour de Carol

This train journey through the Pyrenees – the highest train tracks in France – is covered by Le Petit Train Jaune, a little yellow train that travel high up in the mountains. In the summer months open carriages are used which offer stunning mountain vistas and passengers can enjoy the impressive gorges, river valleys and viaducts along the way. The distance between Villefranche-de-Conflentand La Tour de Carol is only 63 kilometers long, but takes three hours – enough time to truly enjoy some of the country’s most spectacular scenery. There are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites along the way:  the historical town of Villefranche and Mont Luis – we recommend you get off at these two stops and wander around the beautiful mountain town and France’s highest fortress.

Train Jaune Viaduct by A1AA1A on Wikicommons

Le Petit Train des Combes

Le Petit Train des Combes is also known as the Two Valleys train and still uses steam and diesel locomotives on a 60cm narrow gauge railway. The train operators between Les Combes and Le Creusot in the Burgundy region of France. During the 1.5 hour train ride passengers can enjoy scenic views of the town and the natural park it goes through.

Nice to Digne-Les-Bains

Even though this is a very touristy train ride, it is well worth the experience since the train passes through some of France’s most marvelous scenery. It starts in Nice on the Cote d’Azur and travels 3.5 hours up the Verdon Valley to an altitude of over 1000 meters. You start with palm trees in and around Nice, later on passing through the lavender fields, vineyards and finally steep-sided mountain valleys, before pulling into Digne-Les-Bains. Most of the stations along the way are the original ones from the beginning of the 20th century, when this rail line opened.

Have you taken train rides in France? We would love to hear your recommendations for train journeys in the comments below.

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A profile of France: From vineyards and ski slopes to the bustling streets of Paris

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France is an often romanticized but truly amazing country, and the sheer volume of activities it has for visitors is nearly unparalleled. From skiing and snowboarding on fresh white snow, visits through the wine country, shopping, eating and drinking, and learning more about the long and interesting history of this beautiful country, you will not be disappointed you decided to make the trip.


You almost have to start in Paris. You’ll most likely by flying into the French capital anyway, so why not spend some time exploring this interesting and beautiful city? History appeals to those of us from relatively new countries, and you won’t be disappointed here. Not only is Paris the backdrop to some of history’s most important events, but it’s also home to some of the most unique and famous art in the world. The Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Moulin Rouge must be on your list, but do some research and you’ll find some amazing off-the-beaten-path activities that you’ll remember forever. Although it’s a bit of a cliché, Paris truly has something for everyone.

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Sacre Coeur Church in Paris

Central France

Make your way towards the South East of Paris and you’ll find yourself in beautiful Burgundy, or Bourgogne, home of delicious red wine and Dijon mustard. Between Dijon, Beaune, and Auxerre you’ll find a range of wine related activities, great shopping, and some stunning, old French architecture. The Hospices de Beaune is probably the most stunning example of Burgundian roofing, which is really distinct as it uses a number of different colors in tiles geometrically arranged. This region is fairly expensive, though, so I’d make sure that you’re very keen on wine and architecture if you’re going to visit.


A bit further south is Lyon, a beautiful city full of culture and things to do. This is a must-see if you’re fond of eating your way through a place as it’s considered the capital of French gastronomy. They also have a leading football team if you enjoy a bit of sports, and this combined with a stunning Basilica, some beautiful winding lanes and the remains of a Roman amphitheater.

Lyon by Guerrin on

South of France

I probably don’t need to convince you to visit the south of France. The epicenter of glamor, movie stars, and quintessential continental luxury! Again, there are parts of this region that are very expensive, like Cannes and Antibes, but you’ll be able to enjoy the beaches, heat and culture of this area in some neighboring towns, like Nice or a bit further west in Aix-en-Provence.

North of France

Although quite sleepy, in the North of France you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the charm of the region as a whole. As the site of the D-Day invasions, you’ll find numerous Second World War graveyards and monuments. This area is fairly inexpensive and does have a large number of markets, old buildings and small museums tucked away, and it’s one of my favorite parts of the country. Rouen, Caen, and Dieppe are particularly nice, and if you take the train, they’re all really easy to get to. Don’t forget to make a stop at Mont Saint-Michel, which is a giant fortified monastery on an Island.

Mont Saint Michel
Mont Saint Michel by Jesper Krogh on


If you love skiing, you absolutely must visit the French Alps once in your life, at least! Hugely popular with Brits and other Europeans, as well as other world travelers keen to experience the slopes in another part of the world, the range (no pun intended) of locations and mountains to explore means that whether you’re just starting to ski or you’re at an advanced level there is resort that will be just what you need. Look for a ticket to the Rhône-Alpes region in South East France, near the borders of Switzerland to the North and Italy to the East. Val d’Isère offers a range of on and off piste skiing and is well suited for advanced skiers, but will be a great experience for new or intermediate skiers as well. Another classic example of a French skiing wonderland for the experienced is Chamonix, a brilliant (but expensive) example of a French ski town. For beginners, heading for Courchevel or Morzine is a good idea as both offer intermediate terrain.

When to Go:

Depending on which cities and towns you plan to visit, some times of the year are better than others. For instance, Paris is lovely all year round but visit in the spring for a particularly special time. The summer is when they have an influx of tourists and this can make popular destinations like museums and sights really crowded. Tours of wine country are beautiful in the fall when the leaves are changing, and skiing is best in winter of course. The summer is a great time to explore the legendary beaches of Cannes, Marseille and Nice, or island of Corsica.

Getting Around:

It is so easy to get around France. The train system operates in what seems like two parts, with the TGV and the TER operating throughout the country. The TGV is the high-speed service operating all over the country, meaning you can get from one place to the next fairly quickly and easily. The TER is rail service run by the regional councils, and offers shorter services between towns. This is a cheap and brilliant way to get from one small town to another, and one of my favorite ways to discover the charm and character of the small towns and cities of France.

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Dani & Jess with a high-speed train in France


When I was in France, I didn’t feel unsafe. I was extremely careful, however, and didn’t venture out too far into the suburbs or away from main streets after dark. Like any other large, tourist friendly city, there are pick pockets in popular areas and on public transport, so stay vigilant and keep your things close to you. The French police are a visible presence in most locations like train stations, which does make you feel a bit more comfortable, but again, particularly if you’re traveling alone, avoid small lanes and dark areas at night or take a taxi, which you can find at a ‘station de taxi’, or hail.

This article was written by Rachel Gardner, a travel writer who spent six months living in France.

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