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4 day Paris itinerary- feedback please

Hi,

My adult daughter and I will be in Paris from Sat Aug 3 (arriving at 8am) until mid - day Wednesday August 7th (flying to Munich from CDG at 6pm) and we will be staying in the Latin Quarter. Being unfamiliar with the distances between each site, the options for getting to and from them (walk vs metro) and how much time to allow to visit each one, I would be very grateful for suggestions on how to arrange our itinerary. We were hoping to try and see the following (in loose order of priority):

  • Notre Dame (don’t need to climb the dome)
  • Catacombs
  • Louvre (using RS audioguide)
  • Moulin Rouge (daughter has heart set on this) on August 5th for her birthday
  • Cimeterie du Pere Lachaise
  • Monmartre (sacre couer, place du tetre)
  • Wander rue cremeiux and rue montotgeil
  • Wander around Ile St Louis
  • Hang out on the plages
  • Canal St Martin
  • Jardins du Luxembourg
  • Eiffel Tower (daughter wants to go to the very top)
  • Floodlit evening tour
  • Deportation memorial
  • Galerie Vivienne
  • Arc du Triomph
  • Champs Elysee
  • Rick’s bus # 69 tour
  • Mosquee de Paris with tea room
  • Opera Garnier (tour the lobby)
  • Versailles (time permitting. We’ll see castles/palaces in Bavaria later)
  • Galleries Lafayette
  • Pantheon

I suspect that it won't be possible to see it all in just 4 days and am trying to be mindful not to jam every second of every day, as we want to experience café culture and not rush from site to site.

Thank you in advance for your input and suggestions.

Posted by
776 posts

For starters you ought to find a map of Paris and locate on it all the places you want to see. That will give you some idea. You'll be better able to note things that are close to each other and plan accordingly. Many guide books will give you ideas for 3 and 4 day itineraries that you can adjust to meet your needs.

Posted by
11178 posts

Being unfamiliar with the distances between each site, the options for getting to and from them (walk vs metro) and how much time to allow to visit each one

There is an article here, on this site about planning your time in Paris, which can give you a start, but I truly believe there is no substitute for reading a good guidebook and getting all that detail like how long it might take to tour a certain site.

I would say to stay outdoors on arrival day as much as possible as you will be jetlagged and museums are a bit of a drag when in that state. Maybe Rick's Historic Paris Walk for that day? I personally would skip Versailles as in August it will be crowded and miserable.

Posted by
349 posts

Hi,

Thanks for the feedback. I feel like I have done a lot of research so far ( I have read at least 5 guidebooks) have used maps to see where things are in relation to each other, I’m just not sure how to factor in travel time to, from & between them & how much time to allot for the various sites so that we’re not rushing through them.I understand that security lines can be long, even when you have a skip the line pass & have no idea how much time it takes to “do” Monmarte or stroll the Champs Elysee for example.

The problem I keep running into with pre fab itineraries is that they always seem to include things that we' re not interested in doing. For example, Rick's lists doing the Louvre on day one, but we will be exhausted after our flight. On day 2, he suggests seeing the Orsay, Rodin museum and Napoleon's tomb, but we don's have any interest in those.

I'm really not trying to be lazy ( I love the planning part), it just that when I factor in the advice about days to avoid due to crowds and closures it gets a bit overwhelming. Maybe I just have planning fatigue and need to step back from it for a bit.

Posted by
1025 posts

I agree with the previous poster about mapping out the attractions. You have limited time to sightsee, and a lot of places on your wishlist.

Be aware that some of these sites take a lot of time and some are okay with a brief overview. For example, Versailles takes a huge chunk of time; the Louvre takes a few hours to do it justice, as does the Orsay (I know it's not on your list, but it should be, along with the Orangerie). The catacombs are a two hour event, not counting any time getting there and queuing up. If you are climbing the Arc du Triomph, it takes time, but if you just want to see it, you can take your pics in a short time. The Eiffel Tower takes a couple hours to get up to the top and back down, not counting wait times. The Pantheon is a quickie unless you want to spend some time in the crypts. Pere Lachaise takes a few hours to find your "favorite" Parisians' resting places, including Jim Morrison, Honore de Balzac, Isadora Duncan, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Delacroix, and others--otherwise, what's the point of going there? Be aware that the #69 bus "tour" is not a tour in the strictest sense but a bus ride. The Champs Elysee takes as long as it takes. Think Fifth Avenue in New York, only gaudier, and if you decide to go into the stores, add that shopping time to your estimates.

I would also use Rick's or another guide to get an idea of what sights to see and how long to budget for x number of days. Paris really is a "moveable feast" but you need a plan that will balance the famous places with relaxing downtime, and crisscrossing the City is counterproductive.

BTW, the Moulin Rouge is an R-rated cabaret and last time I visited, I was bored out of my skin. I am informed that the dinner show does not provide the best dining experience, so your daughter may prefer the non-dining experience. Las Vegas has totally eclipsed the cabaret experience that France used to corner. With that said, the MR may be amusing.

As a suggestion, have your daughter plan this trip with you, and seek her input on which places or events are her first choices.

Posted by
823 posts

That’s a big list, but you can do a lot if you utilize the Metro. All the major sites are usually sitting on a Metro stop, though connecting can involve a fair amount of walking on its own. Some of your high-priority sights are time consuming, be sure to follow RS guidebook tips for beating the crowds. Having a big list just means you can be flexible. You may find you just don’t have the appetite for walking around Pere Lachaise on a hot August day.

Just an opinion here, but since it keeps popping up: There’s nothing to see on Champs Elysee. It’s just a long, long street with a ton of cars. It’s the least interesting street in a city of interesting streets. Canal St. Martin is kind of neat, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it. Late in the day the Canal is swarmed with young folks hanging out and drinking, it can be a bit overwhelming. Also, I’ll upvote a visit to Opera Garnier with a quick stop in Galleria Lafayette.

Posted by
3998 posts

Google Maps can suggest routes and transportation. The Paris transit system has a complete website with interactive maps at https://www.ratp.fr/en
Then start cutting. I can't do more than two major sites in a day, given all the eating and drinking that is available in Paris. Better, as you suggest, to experience some of the culture and then start planning for a return trip.

Posted by
11178 posts

Try this. Make a chart for each day (I use Excel) and plan an activity for each day part, morning, afternoon, and evening, trying to keep morning and afternoon activities in reasonable proximity to each other.

So for example, one morning take the #69 tour from its start all the way to Pere Lachaise and tour the cemetery using Rick’s walk. Go have a leisurely lunch somewhere on the Canal St. Martin, which you can get to easily by Metro. Then plan something for afternoon that is an easy ride from where you have lunch, take a rest, then do one of your evening activities like the floodlit evening tour.

Plot each day this way. I assume no more than two hours in a museum because that is about all I can take. You can use Google Maps to get directions with walking times or public transport times.

Posted by
11507 posts

Skip Versailles.. its going to be insanely crowded.. and even with ticket in hand lines can be very long for security.. and to do the whole estate justice it takes the better part of the day.. and you havent actually any great interest specifically in it.. To get a vague idea of what the inside of a french palace looks like be sure to visit Napoleons Apartments which inside the Louvre anyways!

Champs Elysees is a waste of time.. the post card of the view is the best way to see it.. lol

Make sure you buy your ET tickets in advance..

Honestly I would narrow your list of MUST dos to two to three sites a day max.. and I mix it up .. one big sight ( ie Louvre) and a few less demanding ones.. its likely going to be hot , you really should not run yourself dry.

Its a shame your daughter is so into Moulin Rouge.. i think you may be disapoointed .. however at least convince her to have dinner somewhere else then go to show.. the dinner will not impress her..

You actually just have way too many things on your list.. sure some things will only take 15-30 minutes ( Deportation monument ) but as you say.. you have to travel between sights..

The Catacombs ( get tickets in advance or prepare to wait hours ) take about an hour as I recall( once inside) , its a longish walk with no short cuts... but at least it will be cool !

Posted by
101 posts

I will only add this advice. Don't rush yourself. You've set out a lofty wishlist of places to see. And as others have mentioned - there are items on you list that should be given a fair amount of time. Versailles is basically a day. The Louvre, Orangerie (I know its not on your list - but its well worth seeing) and the d'Orsay combined would be a really full day. As for the Opera Garnier - I'd suggest buying a ticket and taking the tour. Its not a long tour and its fairly informative. And if your ticket is for 2 hours from when you buy it - walk around to the back of the Opera and you're right at the Galleries Lafayette.

Basically - my advice would be to not run yourself crazy making sure you 'see' the sites without experiencing them. And one of the great things about Paris is just being able to wander along the Seine or through neighborhoods to truly get a feel for the city. There are other sites I'd add to your list while removing others - but things one person wants to see may not be another person's cup of tea.

As someone mentioned earlier - the metro is a great way to get around Paris. Especially to/from Montmartre.

But whatever you do and decide to see - enjoy the trip!

Posted by
349 posts

Wbfey1: thanks for the input on budgeting time for those attractions. I think we’ll skip the Champs. I am planning with my daughter, which is so much fun, but this is her first trip to Europe, so she doesn’t have a sense of just how cool museums, art galleries and architecture is. I have no desire to go to Moulin Rouge, but it will be my daughter’s birthday and that how she really wants to spend it. She LOVES Vegas. If anything, I’d go to the Lido instead. We will definitely go elsewhere for dinner.

Awrzesinski: My questions about walking vs metro stems from having been in Rome last year and walked absolutely everywhere. I am getting the sense that this isn’t as practical in Paris. Great point about the size of my wish list giving me added flexibility 😊. Thanks for the tips re: canal St. Martin.

Southam: thanks for the link to the transit system site. I think you’re right about sticking to 2 big attractions/day. I have a tendency to want to see it all.

Laurel: Great ideas about the chart! I think I was just getting paralyzed with information overload when I posted yesterday, so thanks for bringing me back down.

Pat: based on what you and a few others have said, I think we’ll take Versailles out.

Dave: you are absolutely right about seeing vs experiencing. Thanks for the reminder and idea about how to visit the Opera.

Thanks again, everyone, for your feedback. I do love this part of European travel and am grateful to have access to such a wonderful resource here.

Posted by
589 posts

To give you an idea about how many attractions you can actually fit into a day, read some of the Paris trip reports (mine, for example, is here: https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/trip-reports/april-in-paris-1e48a51b-4933-490e-9e0d-e8bdf1035b47)

I agree with the suggestion to plan one morning and one afternoon activity, ideally in the same general area. I didn't plan out how long each metro trip would take getting to and from the sites of the day - that just got folded into the half day along with breaks and of course meals.

If someone else didn't mention it, you will need to book the Eiffel Tower in advance and take your chances that the weather will be nice. Keep your list of things you don't have time to fit in just in case something is unexpectedly closed or you're running ahead of schedule or it rains and you need an indoor activity.

And if you can't fit it all in, then you have a reason to return!

Posted by
589 posts

Forgot to mention that I'm so old-school I've done my plotting using a map and those small thin colored sticky notes. You and your daughter could write the names of the must-sees on one sticky note each, then stick on the map. Limit yourself to 1 or 2 per day. Then see what's nearby to fill out the schedule. Or if you already have scheduled events use a different color for each day of the week instead. For example, if you're visiting the Eiffel Tower on Tuesday put a green sticker on it, then pick something else for a green sticker that's nearby.

Posted by
8293 posts

If your daughter LOVES Vegas, she will sniff at the Moulin Rouge, but at least she will be able to say she went there and will be one up on most of her friends.

Posted by
349 posts

OK, using your suggestions, google maps, and RS Paris guidebook, I think I have it figured out now. I realize that the days will be busy, but hope that it's still do-able:

Sat Aug.3 (arrival day ):
- Arrive CDG 0800, take RER to hotel in Latin Quarter ( 1 hour)
- Drop off luggage at hotel and head to Ile St. Louis for breakfast somewhere (ideally crepes)
- Walk to Hotel de Ville
- Walk to Stravinsky fountain
- Walk to the Plages on the Right Bank for some down time and people watching
- Walk to Notre Dame to see the exterior
- Walk or metro to Jardin du Luxembourg for more down time and people watching
- Back to hotel

Sun Aug 3:
- Catacombs
- Take metro to Canal St. Martin
- Take metro to Pere Lachaise
- Take metro to Garnier Opera and do guided tour at 2:30, or the new escape game at 3:30 (daugher loves those)
- Walk back to hotel via scenic route (45 min)
- Floodlit evening tour

Mon. Aug 5 ( daughter's birthday):
- Metro to Monmartre (sacre couer, Place du Tertre)
- Walk to Galleries Lafayette
- Metro to Eiffel Tower for evening viewing
- Metro back to hotel
- Taxi to Moulin Rouge (for 11 pm show

Tues Aug. 6:

  • Jardin de plantes
  • Rue cremieux
  • Versailles

Wed. Aug 7 ( have to catch flight at CDG at 6pm):
- Louvre in the am

As always, I appreciate any feedback and suggestions.

Posted by
11178 posts

Great job with a day-by-day plan! Don’t hesitate to jettison something if you encounter something more appealing. 😉

On the day you go to Versailles, beware the heat! You may want to go early and make that your only outing, or skip it in favor of the other sites planned for that day or something else you may have missed.

Posted by
202 posts

I've used the map in the Rick Steves guidebook and actually highlighted the places I wanted to see. It helped me group my days geographically and helped build an itinerary. Pick your top 4 destinations and think of those as morning stops, then build in slightly lesser desired stops for the afternoon. You're right not to pick the most important stops for Day 1, when you'll be jet-lagged. I'd do those on days 2-3. If your heart's not set on Versailles, you might skip it - it will take a full day to get out there, see it and get back

Posted by
11507 posts

I think you will find you will still do some eliminating when there.. for instance.. on the sunday.. when will you eat lunch.. Pere Chaise is huge.. and not central..so by time you are done the Catacombs( they open at 10.. assuming you get in promptly , which means being in line an hour before opening or getting a timed entry ticket , you wont be done till about 11.30.. then you want to visit the canal area.. perhaps you will have lunch there. ( so an hour ) .. then take metro to PC.. visiting there takes at least an hour.. then metro back.. you likely wont make the 2.30 appt for the Opera tour.

Posted by
349 posts

Thank you, Pat. Those are exactly the kinds of details that I’m looking for feedback on.

Posted by
8293 posts

Re Pere Lachaise Cemetery: There is an excellent article in the latest Bonjour Paris newsletter about the grave of Jim Morrison and the struggle to prevent fans from desecrating graves in the vicinity. A web search will probably bring up the article. What surprised me was that apparently permission to bury him at Pere Lachaise was gained through lies. I had never heard of the man (tsk) when I first saw his grave and I was appalled at the grafitti, wine bottles, cig. butts, etc, that littered his grave and others nearby.

Posted by
3197 posts

If you've already taken the Metro to Canal St. Martin, you don't need to take the Metro to Pere Lachaise - it's a fairly easy stroll. We stayed in the 10th Arr. in 2015 and did just that.

Personally, I really enjoyed just walking through the lanes of the cemetery without looking for specific graves.

Posted by
349 posts

Traylaparks, thanks for the info about the metro. We are also just looking to wander around what I’m told is a beautiful cemetery & see who we come across along the way.

Posted by
3197 posts

That's exactly how we approached it. The memorials to Holocaust victims were especially moving to me. You see many memorials to all Holocaust victims - but seeing these memorials erected by the families of individual victims hit me at a whole other level.