It is a truth universally acknowledged that a student studying abroad in France must be in want of a trip to Paris.

Okay, that’s not quite how Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice begins but it very well could, were it set in modern France— There’s a predictable plot for the next Netflix series set in Paris!

I’ve been eager to return to the busy City of Lights after a brief three-day trip there back in 2017, so my week-long vacation in February was the perfect opportunity. Even better, my mother and brother were able to join me in exploring the French capital!

We covered a lot of cobblestone streets in a few days, let me tell you. Heed my words of advice before you hop on a TGV (Trains à Grande Vitesse) or plane to Paris: pack VERY comfortable shoes. Walking is the best way to save on subway fares and sightsee, so invest in shoes that won’t feel like bricks while you’re traipsing past the river Seine or through a gallery of Italian paintings.

Speaking of paintings, our first stop in Paris was The Louvre. A classic tourist destination, I know, but a worthwhile one. Despite drawing huge daily crowds, we discovered that the upper levels of the museum are pleasantly empty (perhaps due to the number of stairs it takes to get there!). Another bonus: tickets to The Louvre, like many museums in France, are free for those under 18 and for students ages 18-25. What a deal!

The Louvre is massive— it wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say that you need three full days to see everything it has to offer. My family and I didn’t have days to spend admiring antiques, however, so we focused on viewing the French and Italian paintings, as well as the halls of Greek and Roman sculptures.

Though we only made it through maybe a fourth of the maze that makes up The Louvre, my recommendation from that fourth is to visit Les Salles Rouges (The Red Rooms). Home to the largest French paintings in the museum, such as Eugène Delacroix’s La Liberté guidant le peuple, the sheer size of the paintings combined with the incredible level of detail will leave you in awe.

The Galerie des Antiques on the lower level is another of my favorite exhibits. The Greek and Roman sculptures are incredibly lifelike and it’s fascinating to learn about which god or warrior they were meant to represent.

I suppose one can’t discuss The Louvre without mentioning The Mona Lisa. Well, I don’t want to gossip behind her back, but— between you and me— I wouldn’t say she’s quite worth all of the hype. (Don’t tell her I said that!) But for all that history and fame, I suppose you should see her at least once. More than The Mona Lisa, I recommend viewing the many Italian paintings in the gorgeous Grande Galerie. In fact, The Mona Lisa is in a room just off of the Grande Galerie, so you can easily see both! Just prepare for The Mona Lisa’s long line of admirers.

My last Louvre tip: Keep your head up. No, really— tilt your head up and take in the ceiling! It’s sure to be breathtaking.

Published by rachael.grochowski

Class of 2022 English Literature and Japanese Studies Double Major, French Minor IES Nantes, France

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