Sometime soon after we got engaged, Johnny and I decided that we wanted to take a trip just the two of us, to celebrate and soak in this fun moment in time in our relationship. We wanted somewhere that we could fly to directly from New York City, but that would be romantic and beautiful in late winter/early spring… and Paris was the first to come to mind and the most perfect fit for the occasion!
I usually divide up my travel guides based on where we stayed, what we did, and where we ate during a trip, but for this one I thought I’d walk you through our exact itinerary, since we planned most of our activities and meals based on which part of Paris they were located in. This helped us to really maximize and make the most of the four days that we were there!
Hopefully outlining our trip like this will help you to do the same, and make sure you’re seeing as many different parts of the city as possible, because they all have their own unique characteristics and history that are so worth spending time experiencing!
Getting There/Covid Protocols
We flew overnight direct from JFK to CDG via Delta on the way there, and AirFrance on the way back. As of mid-March 2022, we didn’t need to get a Covid test before going to France— we only had to fill out a PLF form and show our proof of vaccination (we have our booster shot as well). In all it was the easiest international travel experience I’ve had since the pandemic began.
On the way back into the United States, we had to get a Covid test the day before traveling and show proof of it being negative, in addition to our attestation form, which our airline sent to us via email before our flight. We got our test at a pharmacy right around the corner from the second hotel we stayed in, the Ritz, (more on that below!) and it seemed like most pharmacies were administering them. We didn’t have to wait for the test at all either— the whole experience took about five minutes!
Both going to Paris and back wasn’t a nuisance at all with the current protocols, and either way we’re always more than happy to take a precautionary Covid test before traveling. But as I always recommend when traveling, make sure to look up the travel regulations yourself before the trip (this site was helpful!) because they’re constantly changing.
So let’s get into our day-by-day itinerary!
- Checked in at Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon (stayed there the first three nights!)— We landed around 11 AM CET and Ubered to the first hotel we stayed in, Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon. This is actually the hotel that I stayed at with my mom, and our close family friends, when I went to Paris years ago for my 13th birthday! My mom found it then (she went back with my sister when she turned 13 too!) and it’s truly a GEM. It’s a tiny boutique hotel tucked back on a side street in Saint-Germain, which is easily our favorite neighborhood in Paris. In that neighborhood we found the best fresh bread and cheese, tons of adorable stores, and the most quaint side streets that wind around and feel exactly you picture Paris should. We were in room #14, which we absolutely loved. Forewarning that it’s small (it barely fit both of our suitcases laid open on the floor) but I swooned over the pink and green decor (the floral drapes!!) and it was impeccably clean with an updated bathroom. The real star of the room however was the little terrace (it felt more like a small courtyard!) that our room opened up to for our personal use. We sat outside around the table there for hours each afternoon we stayed in the hotel and played cards and drank wine. With our jackets on and a cashmere wrap on my lap (lol) it was perfect in the 60 degree weather! We paid around $300 for the room each night, so the value was exceptional (especially with their breakfast buffet included), which they served in a lush cave-type atmosphere in the hotel’s cellar.
- Lunch & Shopping in Marais— After we checked in we freshened up quickly and Ubered to Marais, a neighborhood in Paris, where we had a late lunch at Bistrot des Vosges, which was a very quaint and seemingly less touristy spot (they didn’t even have menus in English). We had read about their French onion soup and their sausage aligot… both of which were to die for! The French onion soup was some of the best I’ve ever had and the sausage aligot was basically a sausage with a side of aligot— which is like cheese fondue meets grits meets melt-in-your-mouth mashed potatoes… um YUM. This was the perfect spot to have a cozy and authentically French meal! From there we walked down Rue des Francs Bourgeois which has a bunch of adorable boutiques and vintage shops. I popped into a Bobbi Brown to pick up eyeliner since I forgot to pack mine.
- Walk from Marais to Saint-Germain— We walked all the way back to Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon, which took a little under an hour and was a lovely way to see a lot of the city and walk off our lunch. We picked up a bottle of champagne at a random market along the way and enjoyed that on our patio and while we unpacked a little.
- Dinner at Le Saint Germain— For dinner we walked around the corner from our hotel to Le Saint Germain, which was an adorable spot on the corner with French cuisine and yummy cocktails. We sat outside underneath the heaters which was warm and delightful!
- Photoshoot— We woke up early on our second day, to have a photoshoot with Gabi Alves, a local Parisian professional photographer. I know this isn’t usually something people do on trips, but since I blog and share all of our travels, I like to do at least one professional photoshoot every trip, to make sure I have some high quality photos to share with you all, and relieve Johnny of photography duties for the most part. 😉 But since this was also our post-engagement trip, we decided to do our official engagement pictures there as well, so we knocked those out in an hour and a half that morning (I’ll share them in another post)! If you’re another couple, or a blogger/influencer, or even just looking for some show-stopping pics from your trip, Gabi is the absolute best. She knew all of the best spots for our photos, and made us feel so comfortable and at ease the whole time, considering Johnny doesn’t do photoshoots in the middle of the street as much as I do 😂. It was also just so cool to get to talk to Gabi, and her assistant, about their personal favorite spots and recommendations in Paris! After our shoot we had breakfast back at our hotel (it was included in our stay) and changed before heading back out.
- Visited The Louvre— We then walked to The Louvre, where we had bought tickets for a 11:00 AM entry. We purchased the audio guides inside as well, which were key during our entire time there. They game with Gameboys that we could use to navigate the Louvre and map out what we wanted to see, since it’s so ginormous and you could literally spend days going through each exhibit! The Gameboy showed some of the most famous pieces, so that helped us narrow down what we wanted to visit. Then we could listen on our headphones and learn more about each one. Johnny is a huge history buff so he really liked this aspect of it. Some of our favorites were the Egyptian Sphinx, the Coronation of Napoleon, the Raft of Medusa, Liberty Leading the People, the Mona Lisa (of course), and the French Crown jewels (including a 140-carat diamond omg).
- Lunch at Les Deux Magots— We spent about three hours at the Louvre (which is definitely not enough in the scheme of all that’s there, but we had had an early morning and were fading!) and then walked back across the Seine to Saint-Germain, the neighborhood where our hotel was located, to have lunch at Les Deux Magots. I had read about this cafe being a good alternative to Café de Flore, which is literally right down the street from it, but is a bit more touristy and sometimes has a line outside. Les Deux Magots proved to be a bustling spot with delicious croque madame and inexpensive wine! It was fun to sit in the middle of one of the busiest spots in Saint-Germain, especially since our hotel was located in such a quiet area!
- Wedding Dress Appointment— Afterwards I actually went to try on a wedding dress I had found on Instagram and was only available in Paris to try on… call it fate that I saw this dress on Instagram three weeks before our trip?! I had this really strong feeling that it could be The One (our time in Paris was too short for me to be wasting any of it if I had felt otherwise!) and my appointment at this designer’s showroom ended up being one of the coolest experiences I’ve ever had. Spoiler alert, this dress I had in mind was even better in person… and after Facetiming in my cohorts (my mom and sister!!) and then sleeping on it, I decided that it was The Dress, without a doubt in my mind. Long story short but I scooped the best ‘engagement-moon’ souvenir I could find… my wedding dress. 😊 I won’t be sharing any more details on it for now, but I promise it will be worth the wait and you all will see it shortly after I put it on the day of our wedding. In the meantime, the designer is making one design change to it and then it will be shipped to NYC to start the minor alteration adjustments (I’m pretty sure they have every measurement of my body down to my wrists lol).
- Local cheese, baguette, and sausage— After that I met back up with Johnny at the Duc de Saint-Simon (obviously he couldn’t come with me when I tried on the wedding dress!) and we celebrated on our patio. He had been busy while I was at the dress appointment and had picked up the most incredible baguette, soft goat cheese, and mini salami sausages I’ve ever had in my whole life. And I eat a LOT of all of those three foods. 😂 Definitely remember these for if you’re ever in Saint-Germain— go to Fromagerie Laurent Dubois for the cheese, La Maison d’Isabelle for baguettes (right next to the cheese market!) and Viandas de Salamonca for mini ‘saucissons’ (located right down the street from both the cheese and bread shop… we got the ones in the cones that are coated in white and taste like salami). We went back twice to these three markets and both agree that the cheese/baguette/sausage combo was the best food we ate the whole trip!
- Dinner at Hotel Costes— That morning we asked our hotel concierge to call the Hotel Costes restaurant right at 9:00 AM, because we heard that they only take reservations the same day. Our concierge was able to get us a 8:00 PM reservation there, which seems later by American standards but the restaurant scene didn’t really hit its peak business until after 9… so next time I would see if we could get an even later reservation, and also ask to sit in the courtyard of the restaurant because that seemed to have the best energy! Nonetheless we loved the swanky vibes and menu options there! I’d recommend the mushroom pasta and the eclair for dessert… the eclair was one of the top three best things I ate the whole trip!! I read about the pasta through Katie’s Bliss’s Paris blog posts, which were SO helpful with recommendations and tips. This is definitely a fancier, more expensive spot so it would make a fun final dinner of your trip too.
- Visited Versailles— This was my third time visiting Paris, but I hadn’t been there since college, and didn’t visit Versailles then (I did when I went to Paris for my 13th birthday though!) but I wanted to visit again so it was fresh in my memory. Johnny hadn’t been since he had studied abroad and visited Paris, so we were both eager to go back. We got an Uber there, which took under 40 minutes and was no more expensive than taking an Uber from the Upper East Side to downtown in NYC. We bought tickets online ahead of time and opted to do the audio tour when we were there, which we both thought was so helpful for the history of the palace. Each room we saw had its own unique heritage, use, and artwork that was so incredible to learn about. We spent a few hours there and enjoyed walking around the grounds as well! Visiting also led me down a rabbit hole of reading about King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, which is a fascinating tale that Versailles brings to life.
- Scootered to Montmartre— After we visited Versailles we took an Uber back to Saint-Germain, picked up the fresh cheese, baguette, and sausages had loved so much from the day before, and walked back to the Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon. We snacked on everything while playing cards on our patio, took a quick nap (the early wake-up from our photoshoot the day before, coupled with the jet leg, had hit us!), and then we decided to rent electric scooters via Uber and ride them over to Montmartre, where we were going on a food and wine tour. I’m not sure I would necessarily recommend this if you don’t scooter often (spoiler alert: I don’t). It was a really fun and unique way to get around the city, but we ended up having to carry our scooters up steps and I got nervous with all of the cars, motorists, and bicycles about too.
- Secret Food Tours in Montmartre— Johnny found this food and wine tour and we literally got there just in time (no thanks to the scooters 😂). In sum, I would say this was the highlight activity of our trip! We had an incredibly enthusiastic and knowledgable guide, Theo, who was born and raised in Paris but spoke English perfectly and toured us around Montmartre with eight other people, who we got to know as well. He explained the history of Montmartre, walked us around to some of the most prominent street art in the area, and then had us stop into a cheese shop, a meat market, a macaroon/chocolate shop, and a hole-in-the-wall (literally) creperie! We picked up goodies and learned about the foods at each stop (like where everything came from, their standard for everything, and the history of the foods in Paris), and then we went to the Secret Food Tours office where they have a wine cellar/tasting room. We sat around a big table and Theo guided us through trying out everything that we picked up, along with a number of wines as well. We spent about two or three hours doing that, and learning about each type of cheese, meat, and wine, and really enjoyed the whole experience! It was fun being with the group (they were hysterical and all so nice!) and that’s coming from my introverted self who usually never chooses group activities like that 😂. If you like cheese, meats, wine, and local history at all, definitely go on this tour!!
- Drinks at Café du Trocadero— After the tour we were stuffed, but wanted a nightcap and a view of the Eiffel Tower at night, and this cafe was the perfect spot for just that. We found a seat outside underneath the heaters and ordered a cosmo and a margarita to enjoy while we sat there for over an hour and caught the Eiffel Tower sparkle twice (it does so for five minutes at the top of every hour at night!). It was definitely a more touristy spot, though there were a bunch of French people around us and it was a downright dreamy view of the Eiffel Tower at night!!
- Brunch at Loulou’s Friendly Diner— After we got our luggage together and checked out of Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon, we left our luggage with the Concierge and walked to Loulou’s Friendly Diner, which was the cutest pink and green cafe-meets-diner with Australian/American cuisine! It’s located along Saint-Germain Boulevard, which contains dozens of busy cafes, stores, and markets, and is a sight to walk down anytime. I found this particularly spot through Carly Hill’s Paris food and drink guide (an exceptional guide— it looks like there are so many yummy spots in there), and it was a refreshing change from all of the more traditional French food we had been eating. They had an iced chai and a fresh green juice on the menu— both of which I hadn’t seen anywhere else! They also offered coffee to-go, in the cutest pink cups, which is kind of a rarity in Paris, so that was good to know as well.
- Checked in at The Ritz (stayed there the final night!)—I’ll just come out and say that this is in the top three best, most exquisite hotels I’ve ever seen or stayed at in my life. We totally splurged to stay here (hence why it was only one night!) and it was worth every penny. From the moment they picked us up from our previous hotel and ushered us into the grand lobby it was a completely personalized, friendly experience with no detail left spared. I booked the room with my American Express Platinum card (use that link for additional bonus rewards!), and since the hotel is affiliated with American Express’s Fine Hotels + Resorts program, that allowed us to get free roundtrip car service to and from the hotel, a free room upgrade, and free breakfast. We actually ended up getting a double room upgrade so we were put in a suite two levels above what we had booked and paid for. When I tell you that our jaws dropped when we walked into it… 😂 The kind concierge who had given us a tour of the hotel and then a tour of our suite (which he referred to as ‘an apartment’) said that it reminded him of Marie Antoinette’s bedroom… he wasn’t wrong. We immediately popped the champagne that was waiting for us (again, this was a perk of booking with my AmEx Platinum!) and sat outside on the balcony, played cards (can you tell we were addicted to this game throughout our trip), and took in the views of the Eiffel Tower peeking between buildings. We had the absolute best time throughout our (sadly short!) stay there, and I basically had to be dragged out when the time came to leave the next day.
- Got our Covid tests—After we checked in and sat on our balcony for a bit, we walked around the corner to a French pharmacy where we got our Covid tests for our flights the next day. It took all of five minutes and they emailed us the results ten minutes later (obviously we were both negative but I’d be lying if there wasn’t a part of me that wanted to be quarantined to our hotel suite…).
- Drinks at Bar Hemingway— That afternoon we got ready for drinks and dinner and went to the famous Bar Hemingway in the Ritz, which our concierge from earlier the day had told us to go to at 4:45 PM to get in line for when it opened. Thank goodness we did because a line formed fast and we were just lucky enough to get a table for the first seating. It has just 25 seats and is truly one of the most old-school, classic bars I’ve ever been in. It opened in 1921 and hasn’t changed much since then— and became Ernest Hemingway’s favorite bar in Paris in 1925, hence the name. However, it started out as a bar for women at a time when they couldn’t frequent bars with men (I loved this fact that I read on the menu!). Each drink is expertly crafted, and we both got martinis that we loved! We sat at a small table, but from what I could hear the bartenders had some iconic stories, so I would try to sit at the bar next time.
- Dinner at L’Avenue— After our drink at the Bar Hemingway we had another one in our room (it’s the kind of room you just want to sit in and stare), and then took a cab over to L’Avenue, in which we sat outside and had a beautiful peek of the Eiffel Tower! I didn’t realize that this restaurant is owned by the same group that towns the restaurant at Hotel Costes, so the menus were basically the same, but the view was worth it and I also got another opportunity to have the eclair that I loved at Hotel Costes so much! L’Avenue also had the best escargot I’ve probably ever had.
- Breakfast at The Ritz— We enjoyed the ‘American Breakfast’ in one of the Ritz’s stunning ballrooms the morning before checked out, and though at this point in the trip I was pretty much perpetually full from all we had eaten, it was a delicious way to fuel up before a long travel day. Also every single room in the Ritz is so breathtaking that I’d be happy to sit in any and just sip a latte or tea!
- Visited the Ritz’s pool— After breakfast we explored the hotel a bit more and looked in at their indoor pool, which was truly spectacular and we made a mental note to enjoy in the future!
- Flew out— Then we took their car service back to the airport where we departed for JFK on a flight at 3:40 PM CET. We stayed up on the flight and got home around 8:30 PM EST, which was an ideal time to call it a (long!) day!
A Hotel Comparison
Johnny and I are already scheming of how we can go back sometime soon! We talked about it at length and think that staying on the Left Bank in Saint-Germain for the majority of the trip definitely works best for that, as that area feels quaint, more ‘local’, and authentically Parisian. The Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon couldn’t be more charming, conveniently located, or affordable for the accommodations as well!
However, the Ritz is an experience in itself. We will 1000% be splurging to stay there again, even though we don’t prefer its location as much— it’s on the Right Bank in a much busier high end shopping and dining district.
They are basically opposites in terms of location and accommodations (I’m pretty sure that our room at the Ritz could fit four of our rooms at the Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon and one night at the Ritz cost more than three nights at Hotel Duc de Saint-Simon), but there were pros and special details personal to both properties that made it so much fun to experience both in one trip!
What We’d Do Next Time
On our next trip I want to visit Musée d’Orsay to see the French impressionist paintings, walk down Rue de l’Université, Rue Benjamin Franklin, and past Place Dalida and La Maison Rosefor for photo ops, go back to Hotel Costes for the eclair and ask to sit in the courtyard for dinner (I believe they only seat that after 9:00 pm), go to Odette in Saint-Germain for coffee and a cream puff (I had that written down to try!), eat at Cafe de L’Esplande for a Parisian lunch near the Eiffel Tower, and try out Le Refugedes Fondus for a fondue dinner!
Oh, and make sure we stop by the same cheese, bread, and sausage shops I mentioned in Day 2!! They will definitely be our first stop. 😉