Aaaaah, Paris. The City of Lights is legit one of the best places to be. The food is insanely delicious, the people are elegant and sophisticated, and OH MY GOSH the scenery.
Don’t even get me started on the scenery. This city is the prettiest.
If you’re headed to Paris this season—or even if you’re just dreaming of visiting the City of Lights sometime soon—you’ll have more than enough to see and do. From the Louvre to la Tour Eiffel, the usual tourist spots are plentiful and genuinely awesome. As a former resident of this glorious city myself, I pretty much never got tired of the tourist beat, no matter how many times I played tour guide for visiting friends and family.
If you’re looking for a more unique site seeing adventure, or if you just plain old want to skip the crowds—that line to the Eiffel Tower is intense, folks—then you’ve come to the right place. For a taste of Paris’s bohemian, artsy culture, sans crowds, head to la Rive Droite.
La Rive Droite is essentially the Northern half of the city, and it’s wildly underrated. You won’t find many tourists up here, especially once you’ve cleared the few (lesser known) main attractions in the area. Instead, you’ll find winding streets filled with local shops, cafés, and quiet gardens. Plus, this neighborhood used to be home to Gertrude Stein, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, Edith Piaf, and more—so if you want to check out their former homes and haunts, you’ve come to the right place.
Intrigued? Merveilleux! Here’s your guide to a single, perfect day à la Rive Droite. You can thank me later.
Start your day at the Musée d’Orsay.
Get up early and hit this oft-neglected museum first thing in the morning. It opens at 9:30am every day—except Mondays, when it’s closed—and if you get there early enough, you might be able to beat the line. Bonus points if you go on a weekday.
The Musée d’Orsay is a truly amazing museum set up in a converted train station. Sure, it’s technically part of la Rive Gauche—it sits just on the opposite side of the River Seine, Paris’s dividing boundary between North and South—but there’s no better place to get a sense of la Rive Droite’s cultural history.
Inside, you’ll find works of art by many of the artists whose homes and hangouts you’ll be strolling by later in the day. The highlights include Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Van Gogh, Lautrec, and Seurat, but you’ll see incredible paintings and sculptures by French artists that span all through the turn of the century.
Spend the morning here, enjoying the art and getting some context about what Paris was like during la Rive Droite’s heyday. You’ll work up some major excitement to head north later in the day and see the neighborhood where these artists lived and worked.
Have lunch on the rue des Martyrs.After a morning of art, you’ll start to work up an appetite. Head out of the museum and hop on the number 12 metro line at Assemblée Nationale headed towards Porte de la Chapelle, and get off at the Notre-Dame-de-Lorette stop.
From here, you’ll start climbing the famous Butte de Montmartre—a.k.a the epic hill that defines this neighborhood. Three cheers for the buns of steel you’ll have by the end of the day!
Walk straight up la rue des Martyrs, which extends directly behind this metro stop, and you’ll find an epic assortment of lunch options. There are cafés, restos, and about 10 different bakeries where you can find delicious sandwiches on fresh, French baguettes, along with a variety of pastries.
Fun fact! I used to live on this street. My favorite bakery during my days as a vraie Parisienne was the one nearest to the metro, Mme. Dheuilly’s. Eat some chocolate éclairs for me, would you please?
Head up to Sacré Cœur.
Now that you’re refueled, keep trekking up that hill towards the gorgeous landmark church, Sacré Coeur. You’ll see it perched above you at all times, so using your city map isn’t totally necessary. Just keep walking up, and you’ll find yourself there in no time.
Sacré Cœur is the only domed, Roman-style church in Paris—all the others are gothic cathedrals, à la Notre Dame. Why is this one different? It was built on the site of the Paris Commune, a socialist experiment that took place in the city back in the 1870s. No one’s ever actually worshipped at Sacré Cœur —it has no congregation and doesn’t host religious services—but it’s gorgeous and completely unique.
Once you’ve explored the inside of the church, which features breathtaking mosaic artwork, head to the top to see an even more amazing view of the city below. From there, explore the square that surrounds Sacré Cœur atop its Montmartre hill. You’ll find artists, street performers, desserts, and knick knacks galore.
Take a Montmartre walking tour.
Whether you pay for an organized tour or map out your own route, going on a walking tour in Montmartre is a must. After finishing up at Sacre Cœur, swing by Picasso’s studio, visit the hangouts and homes of the artists whose work you admired earlier at the Musée d’Orsay—including Lautrec, Renoir, and Van Gogh—and you can even stop for a snack at the famed café from the movie Amélie.
There’s so much art and pop cultural history in Montmartre, the walking tour is by far the best part. Allons-y!
End the night at the Moulin Rouge.
Yep, the Moulin Rouge is not just a weepy movie starring Nicole Kidman. It’s a real place, and it’s still running the crazy cabaret shows that made it famous back in the day. Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec got famous painting the dancers at the Moulin Rouge back during the turn of the century—and if you’re so inclined, you can see them in real life!
If you’d prefer a more budget conscious cabaret experience, there are plenty of other venues in the area. But if you’re looking for the quintessential Montmartre experience, the glitter of Moulin Rouge is where it’s at.
Voilà! Your perfect day à la Rive Droite. Will you be heading to Montmartre on your next trip to Paris? Dites-nous in the comments!