Best Places to See in Paris - A Destination Wedding Photographer from California's Perspective
We are so excited to share with you our trip to Paris! Every-time I look at these photos, I am immediately filled with so much nostalgia from our trip. This is a long post so If you want the 2min highlight film with photos and some behind the scenes, scroll to the bottom! We had the most amazing time together that was filled with adventure and lots of rest. We booked this trip about six months out knowing it would be the end of our wedding season in California. As much as I am a planner, we didn’t really plan much until we landed in Paris. We had an idea of what we wanted to do but the first night we were there, we planned out our week. We hit a lot of touristy spots first like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles. Afterwards, we felt a little touristed out, so we decided to wander in some of our favorite neighborhoods and discover some hidden non-touristy gems. Our routine consisted of waking up, finding a new coffee shop, wandering through the neighborhoods for photo adventures and discovering delicious food along the way.
Paris Travel Tip 1: Stay Put
For this trip, instead of trying to travel all over the country, we decided to stay put in the city of Paris for the whole time. Ten days was the perfect amount of time to be gone and really get to know the city. We really wanted this trip to be restful so we just stayed in one place the whole time. This was so nice because we didn’t have to lug everything around and take more luggage with us to travel.
Paris Travel Tip 2: Stay Local
We had been advised by so many to stay in a location that would give you great access to plenty of sights around you. I highly recommend this AirBNB. We stayed on the Isle Saint-Louis in the 4th and 3rd arrondissements. We could see Notre Dame from our window facing the River and had plenty of great Cafe’s and bakeries to walk from in the morning. We also loved using the Bird Scooters to get around. It was much more fun than taking an Uber and when we needed a break from walking, these were the perfect method of transportation.
Along with renting an AirBNB, we highly recommend checking out some of the great AirBNB experiences. Many tour companies are on AirBNB and since we love the platform, it made it easy to pick things to do and book them instantly. We did the Paris Best Kept Secrets bike tour on the first day and LOVED our experience. Highly recommend doing this one early on in your trip as it gives you a really good overview of some of the major spots to see, as well as some insider secrets. On the electric bikes, we were able to cover a lot of ground and also visit places off the beaten path we never would have found on our own.
Paris Travel Tip 3: Stay Inspired
YouTube was also a great resource when planning. We found a great Vlogger Jay Swanson who is a photographer from Paris. He shows you all the best angles to take photography of the Eiffel Tower. His channel also has some other fun travel and living tips about the city of Paris. We also loved watching Tastemade’s Alice in Paris series which is where we got a lot of ideas of where to eat at!
For this trip Stephen and I did something really RISKY! We left our digital cameras at home! As professional photographers, you’re probably thinking WHAT?!?
Here’s the thing. We wanted this trip to be creatively inspirational. Paris is full of art and creativity wherever you look, so we decided instead of bringing our digital cameras, we would only pack our analog film cameras (and tons of rolls of medium format film). This was a really fun creative challenge and made the trip even more special looking forward to developing our film when we got home.
Paris Travel Tip 4: Stay Creative
Sometimes, to be most creative you need to limit your options. Instead of bringing a million lenses, different film stocks and cameras, we both set creative boundaries for our trip. This allowed us to focus in on how to fully use what we had in new ways. For my camera of choice, I shot color film on a Pentax 645N. Stephen on the other hand shot black and white film on a Hasselblad 500cm. The fun part about these cameras is the Hasselblad shoots square photos while the Pentax shoots rectangle. You’ll see below how these different cameras capture scenes in totally different ways.
Film is so magical and captures light and color in a way that digital cannot. This felt risky because while we trust our skills with film, it’s always a bit of a gamble because you don’t know exactly how the film will turn out until you develop it. Unlike digital where you can instantly look and adjust, you have to nail your settings the first time. This forces you to slow down and value every frame as it’s own work of art. And we had our iPhones as backups in case we needed those insta-story photos. I’m so thankful we have all the film photos we took but also thankful for the two photos of us actually together shot on our iPhone!
Paris Travel Tip 5: Stay Outside the Box
Below are as many must see non-touristy sights in Paris we found, as well as coffee shops and places to eat that I would highly recommend if visiting Paris anytime soon! On certain days, like Monday and Tuesday, we found out some restaurants are closed, so definitely check before walking there. They might say online they are open, but they’re actually closed. We found this out the hard way and went to three different places on a Monday all to find out they were closed. Check ahead and try calling on those days of the week!
Best Coffee Shops in Paris (& Breakfast Because Why Not)
Pasanger - We walked here two mornings after a recommendation from a local coffee shop Brave here in Chico. They were super nice to us, had tons of homemade food and great coffee. They also speak amazing English and the owner was truly the sweetest! Make sure
Coutume Café - Paris is actually not really known for craft coffee. Yes, you can get an okay cop of coffee at any cafe and sit and watch the world go by…but getting a decent pour over and good beans is rare. We did some research and two names kept coming up, Lomi and Coutume. Lomi was a little out of the way for us, so we opted for Coutume which has many locations throughout the city. THIS location is the best through. It was some of the best coffee and breakfast we had the whole time, wow!
HolyBelly Café - SOOO GOOD!!! Our friend Jason recommended this spot and WOW. This was our all time favorite spot for breakfast. Make this a must on your list. The address is 5 Rue Lucien Sampaix, 75010 Paris, France.
Lunch, Dinner and Other Must Try Foods in Paris
Les Bariolés de Maud - The cutest little sand-which shop. They only made a certain number each day so you might want to call ahead and make a reservation, so tasty and out of the ordinary!
Les Petits Crus - Surprisingly, there’s not a lot of places in Paris where you can get wine and cheese together like this. This spot does amazing wine and cheese pairing. You get six test-tubes full of wine and each is paired perfectly with a cheese. They give you a little book to go along with the pairing which explains where each wine and cheese is from all over France. We went here for dinner one night and it was such a fun experience. The neighborhood it’s in is also so pretty and filled with lots of great places to explore, so get there early and walk around or stay out late afterwards!
Les Petits Donuts - This was on our list and we tried to go here but it was closed, nooooo! Next time. It looked so good. Well worth checking out.
Le Rubis - If you’re looking for an authentic French dinner spot, we loved this place! It’s run by two down to earth guys and as soon as you walk in they make you feel at home. The spot is actually pretty tiny, and when we got there it was packed. Nevertheless, the owner came over and brought a French menu where he literally went down the entire menu and translated it for us. If you want to feel like a local, this is the place to go!
Eiffel Tower Photo Locations: We found this amazing YouTuber and took his suggestions for all the out of ordinary locations to see the Eiffel Tower, we loved this adventure! If you want to visit some of these angles, here’s the google maps locations.
Pre-Photo Spot - Trocadero - https://goo.gl/maps/h7KWhGF5iDM2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 1 - Ave de Camoens - https://goo.gl/maps/dxMBzsBpgH62
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 2a - Pont de Grenelle - https://goo.gl/maps/kVh6vPAYssL2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 2b - L'île aux Cygnes - https://goo.gl/maps/xQ8ZTqxUQcp
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 2c - Pont Bir Hakim (Inception Bridge) - https://goo.gl/maps/3NPvmQfBAYu
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 3 - Champ de Mars - https://goo.gl/maps/vStoihdkEvG2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 4 - https://goo.gl/maps/gmaQmWoLUEM2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 4 bonus - Restaurant - https://goo.gl/maps/uXg3DW9rCMS2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 5 bonus - Passerelle Debilly - https://goo.gl/maps/QCAev2WYTAN2
Eiffel Tower Photo Spot 5 - Palais de Tokyo - https://goo.gl/maps/sCpWg1sfbrP2
Places to Visit
Club des Poetes- This happens every Tuesday evening starting at 10pm. It definitely a locals spot and we never would have known about it if it weren’t for a friend who had visited. It’s essentially an underground poetry club, where people get up and do spoken word and poetry. It’s a tiny one room place that fills up quickly, so get there a bit early and order a bottle of wine. We only understood two poems when we were there but it was such a different experience and really made us feel like true Parisians. The neighborhood it’s in is also fun to explore at night. Not much is open and sometimes it’s just so quiet you feel like the only person on earth.
Friperies - Just google this in different neighborhoods. It’s the French word for “thrift store” or second hand stores. If you want an awesome fur coat for a tenth of the price, these are the places to find one and explore!
Montmarte - One of the first touristy spots we explored. We decided to pay the six euro to climb to the top of the Basilica and it was well worth it. The long spiral staircase going up is a little claustrophobic, but it’s over before you know it and the views are totally worth it. We went up on a clear day and got to see a great panoramic of Paris. From there, we wandered around the neighborhoods on top of the hill and loved taking photos.
Les Puces Saint Ouen - This is a flea market known around the world for it’s treasures… it’s actually where the term “flea market” originated. Take an Uber there because you’ll definitely see a different rougher side of Paris on your way there. Once you get dropped off, walk through outside vendors selling knockoffs and counterfeit everything and look for indoor warehouses. or cut offs from the main street. This is where the gold is. Antique collectors, and art collectors travel from all over the world to this spot and it’s crazy the variety of stuff you’ll find. You can buy things for $10 or upwards of $100,000+. While we were there we saw a foreign guy who looked like he was out of the Gangnam Style music video buying a gold adorned pink marble piano (and matching furniture). Needless to say, you could spend a whole day in this area no doubt.
Chill - The best part about Paris is just taking it slow. Just stop at any corner café and order a “café” (coffee) and sit outside. You can sit there as long as you want and just relax. This is what Paris is definitely known for so put your phone away and just be.
These scooters are super fun and all over the city. As of now you can only rent ONE scooter per phone, so if you don’t want to double up (which we did once or twice), download the apps ahead of time when you’re on WiFi. Bird and Lime are the most popular scooters, but we also saw WIND and BOLT out there too. For our trip Stephen added the AT&T passport to his phone so he had internet and unlimited data all the time… This came super in handy for using Google Maps to get around and Yelp to find delicious places to eat. To get the scooters to work for both of us, I would just connect to his phone’s wifi hotspot and we’d be good to go.
The Louvre is MASSIVE. Everyone told us that, but now we know. You cannot see it all. We got the $5 audio tour headphones which helped guide us along the way. They give you a Nintendo 3DS device with tracking in it so wherever you walk it’ll tell you about what you’re seeing, pretty cool!
The colorful street above is called Rue Crémieux, it’s the most colorful street in Paris where every house is a bright pastel color. We wanted to stop by to say we did, but it was super busy with everyone trying to get their Instagram shots!
The electric bikes from the Best Kept Secrets tour were actually super fun. You would start to pedal then the motors would kick in and make biking around the city a breeze. It was colder when we did the tour, but I can imagine in the summertime, this pedal assist mode is clutch to keeping everyone comfortable.
This is the famous domed Sacré-Cœur basilica at the top of Montmartre. Walk through the gorgeous cathedral, then pay extra to go to the tippy top. It’s amazing!
People say this is the most “controversial” art installation in Paris…but we couldn’t really figure out why. Maybe because it cost so much money to put in. This courtyard was a wild party spot back in the day and is actually been said where Dom Pérignon, a Benedictine monk introduced his Champaign to the world.
There’s something about Paris at night, we explored a lot at night and felt totally safe all the time. Stephen really wanted to experiment with shooting black and white film at night which is really hard to nail. He had a tiny little tripod to keep the camera steady, because even with 3200 speed film we had to keep the shutter open for a bit to let in enough light to get a proper exposure. Seeing these nighttime scans come back from being developed was a huge win!
These shots from Versailles are a really good comparison of the Pentax 645N and the Hasselblad 500cm. We love how light and airy the Pentax is (above) paired with Fuji 400 film, and how it really pulls detail out of the shadows (notice the diagonal shadow across the building, that was super harsh lighting). Yet, we love the Hasselblad’s (below) wide field of view, punchy blacks, and how the Ilford Delta 3200 film is slightly grainy and gives texture to the sky…
Which is your fav?!?
This “sticks in the water” shot was one of Stephen’s favorite’s from the trip. It was just off the side of a path at Versailles and most people would walk right past. When shooting black and white film however, it’s all about light and shadows and this ordinary scene turns into a something that makes you stop and stare.
This dog at the flea market was wearing a legit fur collar. He was sitting up watching everyone go by, but of course when I went to take a photo he took a nap.
Our Airbnb was right on the banks of the Seine, in the heart of Paris, what a find!
The only downside of the Airbnb, it was 88 winding stairs to the top. A little hard with luggage, but most days we were thankful for the brief cardio after eating baguettes and cheese all day.
And lastly, a few iPhone photos that have both of us in them : ) Because the best camera you have is the one that’s always with you.
Thanks to the random strangers for taking these photos of us!