150 Things to Love about Paris
Leah Walker December 15, 2014

Paris is intoxicating. Like a drug, she seeps into my veins, leaving me in a state of euphoria. That feeling never fully fades, lingering even after I’ve gone. When asked my favorite place in the world, Paris rolls off my tongue without hesitation. For those who have also been infected with the same Parisian affliction, no additional words are needed. While others, who either haven’t had the pleasure of meeting Paris, or probably ticked off the quintessential sites from the back of a double-decker bus, require further explanation.

Why do you love Paris?

 

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While naming my favorite place is simple, actually explaining the allure of it is quite complex. For me, Paris has a calming effect, as strange as that sounds. But being in the city settles my soul. Absent is the nagging pull that keeps me constantly on the move. Instead, I ache knowing that with each setting sun, I have one less day in a city that couldn’t be fully discovered with a lifetime of sunrises. I suppose I’ve simply substituted one longing for another.

“And if travel is like love, it is, in the end, mostly because it’s a heightened state of awareness, in which we are mindful, receptive, in dimmed by familiarity and ready to be transformed. That is why the best trips, like the best love affairs, never really end.” –Pico Iyer, novelist and essayist

I’m fully aware of my tendency to become complacent, taking for granted the familiar. Thus, in September on a United flight somewhere between Newark and Paris, I made a conscious decision to write down all the things that I love about Paris. Not wanting to forget the most minute detail, I carried a pen and little, black notebook most everywhere I went. On the metro and in parks, I scribbled nonstop. Pages and pages were filled, some of which I now can’t decipher. Nothing was too ordinary. If it made me take notice, chances are I wrote it down. It was my sloppy, misspelled love letter to Paris.

Although I wrote this down for myself, I decided to clean it up and post it here. Thus, here is an abbreviated {and correctly spelled} version of my many things to love about Paris.

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1. Café hopping in Saint-Germain-des-Prés

2.  Place Vendôme

3.   Men in custom-tailored suits

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4.   Real books and people who read them

5.   Cheeky advertisements that would never fly in the USA

6.   Street musicians with pets

7.   Haussmann architecture

8.   Walks at dusk in Bois de Vincennes

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9.   Green lounge chairs at Jardin du Luxembourg

10.  Walking in the rain

11.  Proud Parisians who know {and share} the city’s history

12.  Carved doors

13. Fromageries

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14.  Flamme de la Liberté and the tributes to Princess Diana

15.  Fresh flowers placed on World War II memorial plaques

16.  Cherubs and light posts of Pont Alexandre III

17.  Symmetrical gardens

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18.  Modern architecture of La Défense

19.  Late-night Sunday strolls

20.  Montmartre on a lively Friday night

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21.  Montmartre on an empty Sunday morning

22.  Walking from Place de Concorde to the Louvre

23.  Tiny elevators

24.  Hermés windows on rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré

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25. Arc de Triomphe roundabout

26.  Coins that amount to substantial money

27.  Specialty shops for everything

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28.  Parc Monceau on a sunny Saturday

29.  Statues and the French who actually know their significance

30.  Lazy Sundays

31.  Dijon mustard

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32.  Fountains at Hotel Du Ville

33.  Quietness of Square Jean-XXIII, between Notre Dame and the Seine River

34.  Madness of Colette

35.  Beef tartare

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36.  Angular shadows created on a sunny day on the terraces of Foundation Louis Vuitton

37.  Absence of baseball caps

38.  Camembert cheese

39.  Meeting the ghosts of art and literature past

40.  Publicis Drugstore

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41.  Kooky staircase outside the Centre Georges Pompidou

42.  Angelina’s L’African Hot Chocolate

43.  Secret cocktail bars behind pizza parlors

44.  Clock at Musée d’Orsay

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45.  Picnics along the Seine

46.  Gare Montparnasse

47.  Falafel in the Marais

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48.  Generational family businesses

49.  Writing at Place de Vosges

50.  Love and the propensity to fall in it

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51.  Colorful sex shops along Place de Clichy

52.  Long walks late at night

53.  Seeing the city from the back of a motorcycle

54.  Heineken sellers at Sacré-Cœur

55.  Old books sold from green boxes along the Seine River

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56.  Black and white pillars of Palais Royal

57.  Absolute silence in a packed metro

58.  Rotating markets with seasonal fruits and vegetables

59.  Mornings on rue Montorgueil

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60.  Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen tiled on the Concorde station

61.  Glass dome of the Grand Palais

62.  Gargoyles of Notre Dame

63.  Champagne just because

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64.  Concerts in front of Opera Garnier

65.  Carousels

66.  Boulangeries

67.  Students smoking in between classes in the Latin Quarter

68.  Polite beggars on the metro

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69.  Unexpected glimpses of the Eiffel Tower

70.  Wine with dinner

71.  Wine with lunch

72.  Wine for breakfast

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73.  Stained glass at the American Church

74.  Real butter croissants

75.  Hidden gardens

76. Palace hotels

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77.  Artists in Montmartre

78.  L’église de la Madeleine

79.  Random odes to American pop culture

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80.  Jardin d’Acclimatation

81.  The 360-degree view from the 8th floor of Printemps

82.  Ever-changing metro advertisement posters

83.  Velvet ropes and lines in front of Louis Vuitton

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84.  Marché Paul Bert

85.  Learning French from the metro stop announcements

86.  Windows at Galeries Lafayette

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87.  Cognac, armagnac, St. Germain, and calvados

88.  Late mornings and later dinners

89.  Unpasteurized cheese

90.  :55 nighttime sparkling Eiffel Tower shows

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91.  Beautiful and historically significant cemeteries

92.  Dogs in cafés

93.  Men in scarves

94.  Corner florists

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95.  Buskers in the metro

96.  Glistening streets after the rain

97.  Gourmet yogurt in glass jars

98.  Flower boxes

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99.  Café terraces on a warm any day

100. Windmills in Montmartre

101. Goats in the Jardin des Tuileries

102. Bullet holes along rue de Rivoli from the Liberation of Paris

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103. Red light in the Louvre pyramid

104. Weathered wooden and mosaic floors

105. Ornate iron drinking fountains

106. Croque-madame

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107. Stairs in front of Sacré-Cœur

108. Eating a hamburger with a knife and fork

109. Vintage postcards of Paris

110. Skateboarders at Palais de Tokyo

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111. Pierre Hermé white truffle macaroons

112. Flowers at Four Seasons George V

113. Quiet, well-behaved children

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114. Park benches

115. Nutella crepes

116. Electronic cigarettes

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117. Canal St. Martin

118. Traditional baguettes

119. The sound of your name with a French accent {Leee-ahhhh–so very sexy}

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120. Illuminated Arc du Carrousel on a pitch-black night

121.  Soccer freestyler, Iya Traoré, at Sacré Cœur

122. Neon green crosses above pharmacies

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123. Saint-Honoré pastry at Le Meurice

124. Melodic sounds of French being spoken

125. Butter sandwiches with ham

126. Giant bottles of Badoit sparkling water for the table

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127. Statue of Joan of Arc during the golden hour

128. Awe-struck people on Champ de Mars

129. Double cheek kiss

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130. Technicolor skies

131. No discernible painted traffic lanes

132. Crossing Pont Neuf from the Right to the Left Bank

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133. Busy bookstores

134. Rooftop view of Notre Dame from the Arab World Institute

135. French onion soup

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136. Cheese for dinner

137. Dreamy and picturesque Villa Léandre

138. Flat listings prominently displayed in real estate office windows

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139. Cobblestone streets

140. Post-meal espresso

141. Boutique shopping in the Marais

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142. Artisan chocolate shops

143. Quietness of Île Saint-Louis after dark

144. An empty Trocadéro

145. Sound of police and ambulance sirens

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146.  Rolling hills of Parc des Buttes-Chaumont

147. Window shopping in Galerie Vivienne and Passage Jouffroy

148. Standing in the immigration line at Charles de Gaulle

149. The intoxicating euphoria felt when discovering something new

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150. The welcoming, thoughtful, and all-around beautiful Parisians who have consistently taken in this stray American

I limited myself to 150, but could have waxed poetically for ages. Tell me, what do you love about Paris?

150 things to Love about Paris by Leah Walker

Leah Walker

Leah's a luxury travel and food writer who has as many stories as she does shoes. She documents her experiences whether that's in the lap of luxury or riding through a swamp in an airboat. Leah freelances and has contributor/editor roles with The Daily Meal, The Daily Basics, Bonjour Paris, France Today, Luxe Beat Magazine, Four Seasons Magazine, Forbes Travel Guide, and is a travel ambassador for Atout France USA. Leah's thrilled to call Paris home after being awarded the coveted three-year Compétences & Talents visa from France, though her talents don't extend to speaking French. Yet.

21 Comments

  1. I’m taking this with me in the Spring. It’s as good a travel guide as I’ve seen. The Museums are one thing, the everyday life is something else and you’ve captured the emotional connection that wandering can provide. This is a magical city and the best thing is if you just let it unfold rather than expect. Thank you so much for compiling and sharing.

  2. That was a wonderful list for someone that has never been to Paris and for somone that has been there many times. The pictures were also particularly good, and I was able identify most of them while scrolling down slowly to avoid the caption until I made my guess. Thank you, if was delightful.

  3. Our children are well-behaved, and our beggars polite? Wow, you must really be in love 😉
    Anyway, always nice to be reminded by others what a great city we got: thanks!

    1. I am always shocked at how well behaved and quiet the French children are, especially compared to the USA and a couple of other countries that will remain nameless. And the beggars on and in the metro are so much more polite than in the USA, though not as creative/funny. I was called a “white bitch” in downtown LA more than once because I didn’t hand over my money. And in Houston and Austin, I’ve gotten the finger more times than I can count. 🙂

  4. Wow, I loved reading this and all the cool and kooky places to visit in the city – I need to go back soon and you shared some wonderful places to revisit in Paris, C’est Magnific!

  5. what a great idea, so many of these made me smile….I need to return to Paris one day…. as for this exercise…i am not sure if i need to do this for New York or for Mexico or both….but it is magical all the things you can be thankful for… thanks for opening my eyes to another level of gratitude. merci.

    stay thankful, Craig

  6. Great list and a solid reminder of our 6 days back in May (first time). I’d like to add (or maybe I missed them) Le Bastille, drive in courtyards that would only fit a small car or horse and carriage, stand-up coffee, bateau mouche and the Gare de Lyon clocktower. And, as you mentioned, so many more.

  7. Thanks so much for this! We recently went back to Paris for the first time since 1998 and I fell in love all over again. It was my fourth trip but definitely not my last. I’d add the moment you hit the top step at Sainte Chapelle and the stained glass comes into view. Never gets old.

    #22 made me laugh because, thanks to me, we made that exact walk which made us late for our wine tasting. I thought my wife would never speak to me again. Since it had been so long since we’d been I forgot that getting off the metro early and walking the rest of the way isn’t always a great idea.

  8. I had a conversation just today with co-workers about Paris. On the surface (and according to many of the items you’ve listed here), I would LOVE Paris (that’s right, I’ve never been). However, I just have not felt drawn there. I can’t explain it. I know I’ll get there someday; just not in any hurry to do so.

  9. Leah, loved this list! Sadly, I found it AFTER returning this week from a fast trip to Paris. But what it tells me, quite clearly, is that I will be returning, over and over again as there is so much to LIVE in that beautiful city. Luckily, I only live 2 hours away now in Croatia and the journey is not so far… wishing you better health and glorious days.

  10. I find myself on a solo trip in Paris as I come upon this fantastic list. It is beautiful inspiration. The Trocadero certainly won’t be empty right now, but a nighttime photo of the sparkling la Tour will more than make up for it! Bon soir e merci a vous!

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