Flying for an airline affords me many amazing opportunities to travel the world. I utilize each and every trip and don’t take it for granted that I will return. Other crew members feel differently about layovers. After the crew arrives at our layover hotel and room keys are distributed, we all head toward the elevator to our floor. In a line, we trudge down the hall with our suitcases in tow. There is a distinct, memorable sound that echoes down the hallway. It’s a symphony of clanking and clicking sounds. Listen and you will hear the hotel doors open, close, and wait for it. Wait… “Slam-click”. The sound of a fellow crew member deadbolting their hotel door, indicating they won’t be going out on their layover.
Not me — I use my layovers to search, shop, eat, and explore the amazing cities where I travel. Come along with me to the 7th arrondissement of Paris, as I spend a layover in this relaxed, sophisticated, and desirable neighborhood! I typically map out my day and try to hit every spot in a systematic pattern from start to finish. Let’s go!
While on layovers, I usually focus on touring smaller areas of a city. Exploring smaller areas allows me to see much more of the neighborhood, much like a local would. I usually do a lot of research before my trip, so I have a plan of attack to maximize my time. In Paris, our hotel is literally 300 feet from the Eiffel Tower. This is where we will start and finish our tour of the 7th arrondissement.
Seven Is A Lucky Number
Our hotel’s close proximity to the Eiffel Tower makes this a perfect starting point to begin our tour of the 7th arrondissement. Paris is comprised of 20 arrondissements, or administrative districts; I think of them as mini-neighborhoods. The 7th arr., also called the Invalides Area, is rich with culture, restaurants, and iconic sites that intertwine with posh local neighborhoods and the Seine River. This arrisdonment’s location is best known as an area of French Nobility since the 1700s, and its current real estate market still reflects the affluent prices. This region oozes wealth and charm, all the while being quaint and sophisticated.
Want to stay near the Eiffel Tower? Our editors recommend these 10 Fantastic Paris Rentals With Amazing Eiffel Tower Views.
La Grand Dame En Fer
The Eiffel Tower, also known as The Iron Lady, anchors a perfect spot to start and finish your day while she peeks at you above the Paris skyline throughout our tour of the Invalides area. The iconic Eiffel Tower has a few tour options to choose from. Take a walk around her, or walk up to the second floor and see the new glass flooring being installed, consider reserving a fancy table at Le Jules Verne, or buy tickets to take a lift to the top. There are loads upon loads of historical information about this famous landmark and the symbology that it represents to the French people.
At the footsteps of the Eiffel Tower is the bank of the Seine River. Steps away is one of the most photographed stone bridges, which affords spectacular views of the tower. Quite a famous spot amongst social media users is the Point d’léna Bridge. A fabulous place to soak up the architecture and stunning views of the Eiffel tower. Napoleon Bonaparte had the bridge built to connect the École Militaire and the Trocadéro gardens over the Seine.
Have A Seat
On the southeast side of the Eiffel tower is a very large grassy area called the Champs de Mars. Take a stroll and sit on the benches that surround the park or sprawl out on the green grass. Whatever you decide to do here, it is a wonderful place to sit under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.
Pro Tip: Stop by a grocery store, and grab a fresh baguette, cold cuts, and cheese to have an impromptu picnic. Every hour, on the hour after sunset, a spectacular 20,000 twinkling light show sparkles from the tower in the night sky. Sitting on the grass is one of the best viewing spots to see the lights. Notice the temporary Grand Palais Éphémère hall at the end of the park, which will host exhibits until after the Summer Olympics end in 2024.
The Coolest Street In Town
Rue Saint Dominique spans the width of the 7th arr., connecting all the historical sites. Enjoy some of the newest local French designers that have opened shops on this lovely street. Not only can you shop and bring home some of the coolest French-designed clothes, you can also pop into a bakery lickety-split. Parisians love their bread and sweets! You’ll never be more than a three-minute walk away from one of the eight bakeries within a four-block radius. This is where the locals shop. The area has everything from nail salons to boutiques, bakeries, and restaurants. I wonder in places such as this, Could I live here? The colors, sights, ambiance, and vibe convince me I could! The street runs like an artery joining the major sites connecting each landmark to the next.
Pro Tip: During the school year, when elementary school lets out, the narrow streets are crowded with the infectious sounds of children, moms and dads, and loads of lines to get the freshest baked delights at the bakeries.
Not To Be Outdone
If you want to “Picnic like a Parisian,” as Rick Steves once said, head just beyond Rue Saint Dominique to Rue Cler — a charming cobblestone street that is a burst of color, sight, and smell. The locals shop in this gastronomic heaven for a few reasons. Refrigerators are small and the French palette is accustomed to eating the freshest of food, so shopping is a social event. The variety and freshness of the many foods offered is something not to miss. I recommend strolling the entire street and making mental notes, circling back, and sitting for a treat. There are fabulous stores where you can buy scrumptious food, like foie gras, paté, cassoulet, and confit de canard (different types of meat). There are many types of cafes to choose from, from casual standup cafes to sit-down upscale bistros. So many choices. Pick a place to sit, relax, and have some fabulous food.
If you are curious about French fromage (cheese), be sure to go to La Fromagerie, 31 Rue Cler, which offers hundreds of different types of cheese, plus free samples and vacuum-packed shipping. The staff will even assist you in English, if you wish. Ask to enter the back room and see the big, 170-pound wheels of cheese.
Pro Tip: Remember, always say Bonjour or Bonsoir (good morning or good evening) when you enter a shop or restaurant!
The entire complex of the École Militaire area is a feast for the eye if you are a military or history enthusiast. The history of the monuments and the Esplanade des Invalides is deep and profound to the lives of the French people. The school, École Militaire, should not be confused with Musée de l’Armée — Napoleon’s final resting place. There are many tour options available.
Pro Tip: At the eastern edge of the 7th arr. is The Pont Alexandre III, one of the most photographed ornate stone bridges in Paris. Another great spot to catch the Iron Lady winking at you over the Seine River. Walk down around the bridge, and wrap up your city walk tour with an easy 20-minute stroll back to the Eiffel Tower along the path next to the river.
Row, Row, Row Your Boat
I really enjoy short, informative boat rides when I travel. The boat tour Vedettes de Paris, which takes off from just below the Eiffel Tower, offers an hourly, guided, round-trip tour of Paris from the river in English for about 18 euros. A great moment to rest while soaking up knowledge about the greater city of Paris.
Pro Tip: Take an evening dinner cruise and see the city from the water, dining on delicious french cuisine and sipping Champagne.
Looking Chic In The City Of Love
Ooh la la — seasons and clothing matter in Paris. Winters in the City of Love can be windy, chilly, and wet at times. Wearing the right clothes and bringing the perfect bag filled with goodies can make a day of exploration a great success. During winter I bring a great packable travel backpack from Kipling, a knit cap, a down jacket that reaches my thighs, comfortable ankle boots, thick socks, a scarf, and gloves. I always have a bottle of water, bandaids, kleenex, iPhone, bags of nuts, and chapstick. I try to always wear one color: Black, I think it makes me look less like a tourist and I can really blend in, plus it’s stylish.
And To All A Good Night
After I tour this amazing area, I walk toward my hotel area and pop into a local cafe to finish the evening with a delicious local dinner. I prefer to eat at a local cafe instead of the hotel restaurant to really soak up the local vibe. Most cafes offer prix fixe menus, typically, a different daily offering of a three-course meal for a very reasonable price. I can relax, sip some champagne, and scroll through my pictures of the day!