WHAT TO SEE
Known for breathtaking art and architecture, Paris is an amazing city to explore by foot. Just a stroll through the streets offers some of the best sightseeing in the world. You can spend days checking out the unbelievable museums or enjoying a simple afternoon picnic at one of the city’s magnificent gardens. Whether you want to settle in for a romantic bistro dinner or party until the wee hours at a Parisian nightclub, there are scores of affordable options for an unforgettable trip.
The Louvre, formerly the palace of Louis XIV, is famously vast and houses such works of art as the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Venus De Milo, Gabrielle d’Estrees and a gazillion others. The building itself is art. Les Tuileries (Gardens) at the base of the Louvre is a stunning place to stage a picnic.
Musee D’Orsay is overflowing with Monet, Manet, Picasso, Van Gogh, Degas, Delacroix and Seurat, to mention only a few. At the Rodin Museum and Gardens, you can view celebrated works of art such as The Thinker and Gates of Hell.
The Pompidou Centre, located in the Marais, has a large collection of modern, abstract and avant-garde art including works by Henri Matisse, Man Ray and Picasso. You can’t miss the building itself which is designed of bright yellow tube-like structures. The Jewish Art Museum houses Chagall, Rembrandt, and objects d’art, and is also located in the Marais.
Both the Victor Hugo and Edith Piaf Museums contain memorabilia for these famous French artistes. The Hugo also includes the artist’s many illustrations and drawings.
For those who want to spend at least a few days looking at art, you can purchase a pass for several museums online at parismuseumpass.com. This pass gives you no-wait access to almost every museum in Paris within a two-day period. Get the pass as the lines can be endless. Before choosing a two- or four-day pass, think about how long you may need in each museum. Many of these museums are within walking distance of each other. Remember: Wear comfortable shoes!
A two-day hop-on hop-off bus that includes the popular sights and museums is also available for 24 Euros and while that may not be considered living on the cheap, it saves both time and your feet.
Sacré-Coeur is a beautiful church at the top of Montmartre with stunning views both inside and out. There is a tour choo-choo train at the entrance of the Metro that will get you to the very top for 5 Euros.
There are two islands that sit in the middle of the Seine River between the left and right banks of the city: Île de la Cité and the Île St-Louis. Wander through Ile St-Louis and be sure to visit one of the famous ice cream shops located on this picturesque island. While you eat your cone you might also run into some of the many street musicians who spend their days playing for tourists.
The line for the Eiffel Tower can be extremely long and admission a bit pricey, but the extraordinary view is worth it. As an alternative you can just walk through the plaza, under the tower and take a lot of pictures. Food sold by the Tower can be expensive, so stop by a sandwich shop in the morning. Get your bottled water in advance too, but you can refill that bottle for free when you head to Notre Dame, located on the Île de la Cité. The church’s impressive, classical style, stained-glass windows and religious art make it a place you’ll want to spend some time in. Lighting a candle for someone will cost you a Euro. Sometimes, there are free concerts as well, but admission to both the crypt and tower are not free.
Just across the Seine is the Palais du Chaillot, an architecturally gorgeous place to relax on a grassy area or stick your poor, burning feet into the lovely fountain.
Although the Chateau Versailles can be crowded with tour groups, the gardens are worth the short trip out of Paris. You can also rent rowboats on the man-made canals that were built under the direction of Marie Antoinette. The rowboats are relatively inexpensive and an incredibly fun and scenic way to view the famous gardens.
Also, aside from the Tuilleries gardens there are several other beautiful and free gardens, such as le jardin du Luxembourg, le parc Montsouris.
WHERE TO EAT
Paris is famous for its amazing cuisine and there are numerous choices to fit any budget. Restaurants have both Prix fixes and à la carte menus and while the portions are generally smaller, they’re filling.
Le 3ème Lieu (62, rue Quincampoix) is a restaurant/bar/club that’s usually teeming with lesbians snacking on delicious food in their cantina-style dining room. It’s a great place for an appetizer and some drinks before going out and the girls there are cute and cruisey. (Note: the street isn’t very easy to find—but you can ask any Parisian—it’s pronounced, can-comp-wa).
L’as du Falafel (34 Rue des Rosier) is the place for falafel, super cheap and super tasty. Or check out the inexpensive Vietnamese restaurant Minh Chau (10, Rue Verrerie, in the Marais). Le Gai Moulin (10 Rue Saint-Merri), has a piano bar downstairs and Le Bidule (2, Rue Faidherbe) is another inexpensive French bistro with great salads. Au Petit Fer à Cheval (28 Rue Vielle du Temple) is a fine place to people watch, eat and drink among the locals.
Caffe Boboli (13 Rue Roi de Sicile) is perfect for a romantic date, with homemade pasta, meats and cheeses, accompanied by perfectly paired wine. Le Montegrosso (6 Rue de L’échelle) is a romantic Italian restaurant with very good antipasti.
Swann et Vincent (7 rue Saint Nicolas) in the 12e arrondissement, is a bit more expensive, but has excellent cuisine and good wine. Located among high-end luxury shops, Ladurée (75 ave Champs-Elyées) is famous for their macaroons.
WHERE TO SHOP
Spend a day window shopping in the 8th arrondissement, where you’ll fund such high end boutiques as Chanel, Christian Lacroix and Givenchy.
If you’re looking for unique, playful souvenirs, try Pylones (13 Rue Ste Croix La Bretonnerie, pylones.com). For more romantic gifts, visit Dollhouse (24, rue du roi de Sicile), an extremely LGBT-friendly lingerie and toy store or indulge at Legay Choc (45 rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnereie), a highly creative, scrumptious bakery. Some of the best shopping can be found at Galeries Lafayette (40, Boulevard Haussmann), which is located near Place de l’Opéra, and surrounded by big label boutiques.
WHERE TO PARTY
At times, lesbian bars in Paris can be a little slow, but there are some amazing weekly and monthly parties that live up to the legend of Parisian dance-until-dawn nightlife. The cover charges at some of these parties can be a bit steep (10–20 euros), but they usually include a drink. The parties start late, usually not opening before 11 and you will be disappointed if you get there before 12:30! Also, at Le 3ème Lieu or Le 3W Kafé any English-speaking locals can tell you the dates and locations of some of the more elusive monthly parties. And you can always ask a bartender!
Friday nights check out Babydoll (myspace.com/babydollvanina). This party has become a staple of the Paris scene with rotating DJs spinning Electro Techno and performance. This is a good bet if you want to begin the weekend dancing. Check the website for details.
Don’t miss La SameSex (diablessclubbing.com). The promoters Diabless Clubbing have created this huge party for gay boys and girls, where hot lesbians dance all night to techno/electronica/pop remixes alongside dressed-to-the nines drag queens. Check the site for details and locations because dates and venues vary.
The promoters at Pinkyboat (pinkyboat.com/) throw incredibly fun and unique parties around Paris. Their monthly Lucious Decadence party is full of hot girls and dance-y pop music. Before your trip go to the Pinkyboat website site and sign up for their mailing list to get the latest info on dates and venues as they can be a little hard to track down. The website is in French but you’ll get the gist of dates/times/addresses.
Eve’nt (parisenrose.com/) is a monthly party on a boat/club called Nix Nox (Port de la gare, 75013 Paris). It’s usually packed with girls, some even dressed as sailors! See their website for more up-to-date information.
Blue Square (8, rue Brantome) is usually a boys bar but on Sunday evenings the girls take over for a raucous T-Dance starting at 6pm.
For those women not really into the hard-core clubbing scene, the gay bar Tango (13, rue Au Maire, boite-a-frissons.fr/) is an awesome place to dance on the weekends. Before 12:30am you’ll find older gay and lesbian couples dancing in pairs to swing and ballroom and doing the foxtrot, impressing the younger, clubbier crowd that starts to trickle in as the night wears on! More traditional pop and club music after 12:30am.
Le 3W Kafé (8 rue des Ecouffes) is a lesbian bar with caves downstairs where you can dance. It’s a good place to have a drink before going out.
For up-to-date weekly lesbian nightlife listings, visit barbieturix.com (site is in French, but the calendar is easy to read)
WHERE TO STAY
Hotels in the Marais, the Old city and Gay Mecca, typically run from 90–145 Euros. The Hotel Du 7e Art (20, rue Saint-Paul, paris-hotel-7art.com), has small, clean rooms up several flights with a good view of the Marais. It’s also centrally located and there’s a nice café downstairs as well. Rooms there cost around 90 Euros.
For slightly more upscale accomodations, try the charming Hotel de la Bretonnerie (22, Rue Ste Croix la Bretonnerie, hotelbretonnerie.com) which has carved stone walls or Hôtel Beaubourg (11, Rue Simon Le Franc, beaubourg-paris-hotel.com), which is right around the corner from the Pompidou Centre. Located between the Marais and Beaubourd areas, The Hotel Duo (11 Rue Du Temple) combines relaxed luxury and contemporary French. Apartment rentals are also an option, check out frenchyrentals.com, parismarais.com or pad-a-terre.com.
For more information about gay-friendly Paris, go to paris-gay.com.