Ever since I was very young, I have wanted to visit Paris. Ever since I left, I have wanted to go back! There are so many wonderful things to see, do, and eat. Some of my favorite memories from this trip are simply strolling with my family along the Seine, admiring this beautiful city. But I definitely have some must-sees to suggest for an active teenager.
1/Climb to the top of Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
By far, Notre Dame is the most memorable place that I have ever visited in my entire life. I know that may sound like a bit of an exaggeration, but I can say with complete honesty, there’s nothing quite like this cathedral! Just standing outside with its huge doors towering above me, I felt moved by its grandeur. My family and I were lucky enough to attend a service during our visit. As soon as I entered, I found the interior to be even more beautiful than the exterior. How was that possible? I was in awe of everything: the stained glass, the statues, the columns, the ceiling, and the lighting. I never would have expected this cathedral to have such an effect on me, but to this day, I can remember exactly what it felt like to be there - so small compared to its immense beauty.
KidTripster Tip: The very best part of visiting Notre Dame is the tower tour. You climb 387 steps to reach the south bell tower that’s guarded by the cathedral’s famous gargoyles. The views here are breathtaking; don’t forget your camera! The entrance for the tower tour is located on the side the cathedral away from the Seine. It’s a separate fee, and there’s always a line. Get there in the morning at least 30 minutes before the 10 a.m. opening.
2/Search for love locks
On several of the bridges in Paris, you’ll see locks attached. The tourist tradition is to write your name along with your significant other’s name on a lock, attach it to a bridge, and then throw the key into the river. Unfortunately, the locks get too heavy and have to be removed to prevent damage. That aside, it's a rather charming tradition.
3/Cruise the Seine
The Seine is the river that runs through the city of Paris, making a touristy boat ride a must-do. It was on this boat ride with my dad that I got my first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, which is a truly special memory for me. We also passed under many ornate bridges and saw other famous buildings from the water. The boat ride provides a wonderful perspective on an already stunning city.
4/Visit the Eiffel Tower at night
Not only is the Eiffel Tower beautiful from the water, it’s beautiful from the top! The line was really long, and it was so hard being patient, but I remember having a great time laughing with my family. After a very long night, we finally got our chance to take the elevator to the top. Every single minute that I had spent waiting was worth it. The view was incredible, and if I had missed out on an opportunity like that, I certainly would have regretted it. If you’re going to be in Paris, you must visit the Eiffel Tower.
5/Wander Shakespeare and Company
I could've spent hours wandering around Shakespeare and Company bookstore, reading the back covers of books and browsing the shelves. It was cozy and quiet, and full of books of all sorts. Although I didn't purchase anything, I really enjoyed the environment. Stop in. It’s a short walk from Notre Dame. Oh, and it has a cafe, too.
6/Eat French pastry
One of the best parts of Paris is, of course, the food. My favorites were the breads, pastries, sandwiches, and quiches, all foods that you’ll find at cafés, boulangeries (bakeries), and pâtisseries (pastry shops). We had one right next to where we stayed, so we visited it a lot! They are common, and you can't go wrong with any of them. Try a baguette or croissant (really, any pastry for that matter!). You’ll thank me.
7/Order ice cream at Berthillion Glacier
We actually spent quite a bit of time searching for the true Berthillion Glacier, a famous ice cream parlor. There are a few shops that claim to be the real one, but we eventually found it. It’s located at 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île. When I went, I decided to go with a simple vanilla, although there are lots of fun flavors such as tiramisu or mango sorbet. The ice cream was very good!
8/Explore Musée d'Orsay
Deciding the line at the Louvre would be too long, my mom and I "settled" on going the Musée d’Orsay. It’s a beautiful museum in an old train station that houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world by painters like Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. I found Van Gogh’s work to be particularly interesting. Overall, we were both glad that we visited this museum instead of the Louvre. It wasn’t as busy, and there were so many great pieces. I truly had an appreciation for the art here.
KidTripster Tip: If you do go to the Louvre, use the Port de Lions entrance; there’s typically more security guards and ticket takers, so the line moves more quickly. Once you arrive, make a beeline to the Mona Lisa. Also, remember that the Louvre is closed on Tuesday.
9/Picnic in a park
There were a few days in Paris where we had time to relax instead of rushing from one sight to the next. One day, my family and I sat in Square Jean XXIII on the grounds of Notre Dame. It’s a 17th century garden with inviting shade trees. Sitting on the benches and eating sandwiches that we had gotten from a boulangerie, we had great view of the flying buttresses that support the walls and roof of the cathedral. I highly recommend a simple picnic in the park.
10/Ride a train
We spent a lot of time in the city. But one day, my family and I ventured into the countryside on a train to Epernay. My mom works in the wine business, so she arranged for us to see where champagne is made, specifically Moёt & Chandon and Perrier-Jouёt, two very famous brands. Since my brother and I are not of drinking age, the tours and tastings weren’t all that interesting to us. My parents had a greater appreciation. However, I did like the train ride, itself. I loved looking out the window of the moving car and seeing the wide, open fields. It was a stark contrast to the narrow, crowded streets of Paris. Epernay looked old but beautiful all the same, like something in one of those paintings at the Musée d’Orsay.