There is so much to excite your travel senses in Paris it is hard to know where to begin. After five visits there, I have narrowed it down to a top ten list of things to do, that I have actually done, not just dreamed about.
1. Try a Hop-On Hop-Off Bus tour. Get a perspective of the city from the height of a double-decker bus. Unless you are really pressed for time, don’t get off at any of the stops until you have done a whole circuit. Then get off at your preferred sites on your second time around. This will take up a whole day. There are several companies offering theses with slight variations of routes. I always check out Viator’s version as you can print out the voucher before you leave home.
2. A Bateaux Mouches tour is an alternative way to see the city from the deck of a river cruiser, while listening to the tourist information in many different languages. Board at Pont de l’Alma for a cruise east past Notre Dame Cathedral and Île Saint-Louis and then return as far as The Eiffel Tower and the Palais de Chaillot before disembarking again at Pont de l’Alma.
3. Instead of trying to access the Eiffel Tower on the bus trip, take a tour that combines skip the line access with dinner in one of the restaurants. Other wise the queues for the elevators can be very long and tiring. Or if you are very fit you could try walking up all those stairs. There’s not much competition for that! Some tour versions also include a night cruise on the Seine, or a show at the Moulin Rouge – which we did.
4. Visit a couple of galleries or museums. Try the Louvre on a Sunday when it’s free to enter. There will be a long line but if you get there early it should help. Set aside the best part of the day to see it all. There are some cafes inside where you can take a lunch break and rest your weary feet. One of my favourite galleries is the Musée D’Orsay on the other side of the Seine. It houses the bulk of the Impressionists’ work and is an interesting building still displaying its original train station architecture.
5. Take your life in your hands and try driving in Paris! Start with the Périphérique for an exciting circuit of the city, then try driving on the roads along the Seine. Watch out for the Gendarme vehicles when they put on their sirens and force their way through the traffic, even when it would seem to the sane driver that there is not enough room! Especially try negotiating the roundabout at Place de L’Étoile where eight roads converge on the Arc de Triomphe. It takes nerves of steel the first time, to set your course for the street exit that you need and then to ignore the drivers behind you while indicating your turn and gradually move the car across the wide expanse of unmarked lanes. It took me a few goes before I realised that the other drivers could be trusted to avoid me! But just a hint – stay in the outside lane and watch out for the cars on your left that will cut you off!
6. Wander the Grand Boulevards – the Champs Élysées and Rue St Honoré – or the arcades of the 2nd arrondissement, for example. People-watching and window-shopping are the things to do in Paris, particularly near the fashion houses in St Honoré. If you are an enthusiastic shopper, then Galeries Lafayette is for you, or the Printemps store. Then stop for a restorative coffee or hot chocolate on the Boulevard Saint Germain at famous (read expensive) cafés such as Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots.
7. See the graves and monuments of the famous in Père Lachaise Cemetery . Put a rose on the tomb of Edith Piaf or James Morrison, two of the most visited sites. If you are still in this somewhat macabre mood, try a walk through the underground tunnels of the Catacombs, nearby. Thousands of graves in cemeteries all over Paris and its suburbs were exhumed and the remains of the dead are neatly arranged here with skulls and femurs creating the walls and all the other bones tossed carelessly behind.
8. Take a walk in the Paris streets at night. The Latin Quarter is not to be missed. The arrondissement throbs with excitement venues compete for clientele, who begin the evening with an aperitif and some people watching from their tables in front of the bars and progress to dining in the many and varied restaurants nearby. The area of Pigalle not only has the Moulin Rouge, which is worth the visit, but also the Lido and various other adult experience venues and shops. Women are best accompanied by a male friend here. Finish with a view of the Eiffel Tower at midnight when it puts forth a brief but spectacular light show.
9. Visit the churches of Notre Dame and Sacré Coeur. The many steps up to Sacré Coeur are worth the effort, or you could take the funicular, and be rewarded with fantastic views over the city. It is possible to climb one of the towers of Notre Dame for good views too, or simply wander around inside the cathedral, even if Mass is on, as long as you are quiet and discreet with photos. Out the back is a cute little garden where we stopped for a rest and a picnic, with supplies bought from the little shops on the neighbouring Île Saint-Louis across the bridge.
10. While you’re at the top of the Sacré Coeur hill, why not pop over to see the street artists in Place du Tertre, Montmartre? Some are busy at their easels, while others roam the square propositioning tourists to have their portraits sketched, for a small fee. Most are pretty good. The area also houses some interesting cafés and restaurants such as the Lapin Agile, the haunt of the artists who lived in the area in the early 1900s, and Paris’ very own vineyard, Clos Montmartre.
- France – Five Favourite Places to See (aroundtheworldwithliz.com)
- Paris City Guide – Lonely Planet Travel Video (http://aroundtheworldwithliz.com/videos/)
- Photographer proves that the Eiffel Tower is beautiful, no matter where you see it (lostateminor.com)
Paris L’Open Hop-On-Hop-Off Tour – $34.47
See Paris at your own pace on a one-day or two-day hop-on hop-off tour. With four interconnected routes, this tour is the easiest way to get around Paris and see all the sights. Get a bird’s eye view of the cobbled streets of the Left Bank, the Napoleonic splendor of the Ecole Militaire and the structure they thought wouldn’t last more than a few years – the Eiffel Tower! Take time out to explore the Paris you’ve been looking for: historical, romantic, fashionable, fun and shopper friendly.
Eiffel Tower Dinner, Seine River Cruise and Moulin Rouge Show by Minivan – $360.91
Dine at 58 Tour Eiffel on the 1st floor of the Eiffel Tower to enjoy panoramic views of Paris followed by a romantic Seine river cruise. Finish the evening with a cabaret show at the famous Moulin Rouge.