Once I had booked a place to stay and my tickets to Paris all that was left to check off my list was “plan your itinerary.” This of course was the most daunting task. How to see an entire city in just five days! When I visit a city my number one goal is to see it like a local and my second goal is to see everything. Should be pretty easy, right? Ha. I loathe the tourists who visit New York City without actually seeing an ounce of its true beauty. New York is not simply Times Square just as Paris isn’t really the Champs Elysees. Since I hadn’t been to Paris in nearly a decade, I decided that for the first day of my trip maybe I should do some sort of tour to provide me with a foundation. As I searched to find a good tour company all I seemed to come across were the same cookie cutter cheeseball tours, none of which seemed to capture Paris’ true essence. But then l I came across 1 Day in Paris Tours. 1 Day in Paris tours are designed to help you truly discover the spirit of the city you are visiting and not just through museums and tourist traps. 1 Day in Paris Tours offers high quality tours – theme based or tailor-made – led by their tour guides who are passionate about sharing their knowledge of the city with you.
1 Day in Paris tours promised to help me discover the “off the beaten path” scene in Paris that only the locals know about. 1 Day Tours seemed to be exactly what I was looking for–they covered some of the major sites while at the same time sharing local knowledge and insider tips about the coolest places to visit throughout my trip.
My guide, Ludovica, arrived promptly at 9am when she was expected (of course I was five minutes late, leaving her wandering up and down the street wondering where I was). Within minutes I could tell that she was passionate about making my day unforgettable. Her English was impeccable, (which is more than I can say about my French–despite 15 years of instruction) and most importantly she was extremely friendly and pleasant and seemed very knowledgeable about the city.
Ludovica first went over our itinerary for the day to make sure that it still sounded good to us, which of course it did. But this is the first thing I really loved about this company, the itineraries are tailor-made based on what you are interested in seeing. I had many email conversations before our schedule was finalized to ensure that we made the most out of our day. For us, since this was my third time in Paris, I cared less about seeing museums that I could buy an audio guide for and more about seeing the sights and shops that only the locals knew about.
Our day started with a ferry ride along the Seine. Ludovica pointed out different buildings, museums and landmarks and made us take note of which ones we should be sure to return to on our own at some point during our trip. Take a boat ride on the Seine? Check.
Our first stop was Notre Dame, which of course speaks for itself. She did a great job giving us background and showing us around (albeit in a timely fashion so we could move on to our next stop.)
We took a short and lovely walk over a charming bridge to reach Ile Saint Louis. While nearly every tourist visits Notre Dame, far too many overlook its gorgeous little brother island, located just footsteps away. This small Parisien oasis has the feeling of a village frozen in time from a century ago. There are bakeries, cafés, and dozens of specialty boutiques like fromageries, perfumeries, and plenty of ice cream shops. Ludovica walked us around showing us her favorite haunts along the way and giving us an incredible history lesson about the island.
Before leaving Ile St. Louis we stopped into an organic wine shop, L’etiquette where a fun and charismatic owner Hervé de Bagnolet gave us an education about the organic business of wine (with some brilliant life advice as well). You could truly spend hours in here sipping on special bottles that he has discovered from lesser-known vineyards and chatting with Hervé. I highly recommend stopping in here to pick up a bottle of wine for a perfect Parisien picnic.
We made a quick stop Pont des Arts, which is another bridge where many lovers take padlocks engraved with their initials and attach them to the bridge as a romantic gesture. The site is so adorable and we couldn’t resist attaching a lock of our own! Once you’re done you then throw the key into the water as a symbol of your eternal love.
Next we took a walk through St. Germain where again our guide regaled us with history and local tips like where to eat and more importantly where not to eat. As we made our way through, we reached our next destination–Lunch!
We arrived at Un Dimanche a Paris, a chocolate themed shop, tea salon and restaurant. The owner, Mr. Pierre Cluizel is the third generation of his family to work in the chocolate business. He told us he chose the name, which translates to Sundays in Paris, because he wanted it to be a place you can come spend time your friends and family–like most do on Sundays. It is located on the most charming cobblestone street that I don’t think I ever would have found on my own, thank you 1 Day in Paris.
We settled into our table and were so happy to rest our feet. As I looked around I noticed a most interesting ambience, I soon learned that we were in fact in an old tower from 1210! Unbelievable. We did a chef’s tasting menu and let them choose what they thought we should try. The owner told us that cocoa is used in everything, even the main courses, albeit in a subtle manner. He told us that chocolate was magic! Chizam! Couldn’t agree with him more. Aside from the shop and the restaurant, Un Dimanche a Paris hosts tastings, events and cooking classes in its upstairs space. As for the food, it was delicious and the chocolate flavors were subtle indeed. I must discuss the pastries, which I had my eye on from the first moment we walked through the door. The owner told me that the desserts were pastry reimagined. They had a lighter texture than most pastries, which meant I could eat more of them (score)! We tasted macarons, tarts, and more. The espressos were exceptional but I loved what they did with the tea. They brought a little timer so that you would know exactly how long your tea bag should be steeped. Brilliant. I absolutely loved it here and was so glad that 1 Day Tours introduced me to this place.
Next, we were off to dilettantes, a champagne shop that helps its customers find independent growers that aren’t typically easy to access in Paris. Usually we only drink champagne from growers with access to large-scaled distribution. Here though, through dilettantes’ network of independent growers you can find some of the best champagnes in the world. We did a short tasting in the most charming cellar. For each champagne you taste you receive a card with the special details of the bottle you’re tasting along with a photograph of the owner. We really loved this experience as well.
Finally, for the last segment of our day, we were picked up by “Paris Authentic” a French 2 CV service. We took a ride through some of the most romantic parts of Paris like Pigalle to see the Moulin Rouge and our journey finally culminated in Montmarte for a peek at the Sacre Coeur, the perfect ending to our day before we walked back down through the artists’ square. (Our guide also pointed out where Amelie was filmed!) Our driver was wonderful and made sure to highlight the points of interest at every turn!
I enjoyed our tour enormously. Our guide was brilliant and she was able to teach us far more than any guidebook (plus we got to make a new friend and pick her brain about anything and everything!). Another bonus? You have someone to take photos of you and your loved one. I also found it extremely relaxing knowing that someone has ironed out all the details, made all of our appointments and purchased all of our tickets in advance (price included in your tour). The next day when we were on our own, we were seriously wishing that 1 Day in Paris Tours was 1 Week in Paris tours because we could have used the expert advice every day of our trip.
To learn more about booking a tour with 1 Day in Paris Tours visit their website or contact them here.
All photographs were taken by Katie Goldstein. Please contact me if you would like to use or buy them.
Prepping for a trip to Paris? Be sure to check out my Favorite Movies to Watch Before you go to Paris
Also be sure to visit our post about the Classic Things to Do in Paris
And our pick for the Best Luxury Hotel in Paris
*I received a special press rate for purposes of a potential review. You should know though that I did an immense amount of research to find this company and actively sought them out. As always opinions expressed herein are true and I am always available to answer any questions you might have*