Hi friends. We will be in Paris for 4 days in late October - our first time - and would love to hear suggestions on the "must see" places/activities. We love to walk and plan to spend at least 2 nights in the Latin Quarter. Of course, the Louvre is on the list...we have also heard about and are interested in taking a cruise on the river and a tour of the catacombs. We would appreciate any info/tips on tours etc. we can book ahead of time! Thanks to everyone for your experience and great advice!
Start with the info on this website, like here. Maybe check out a guidebook like Lonely Planet or Rick Steves from the library. RS' Pocket Paris has a lot of good info for a small price and is light and compact for your travels. Your other post indicates that you'll be finishing a tour in Paris, and your guide(s) will certainly have ideas. Look at the potential sites and your own interests and decide what your priorities are.
The Louvre is an enormous museum, well worth the visit if you have enough time. Decide what you want to see there and head for it (them) rather than wandering around which could fill all your four days. (Is that four full days, or four nights with three full days in the city?) The river cruises are easy, take about 90 minutes, require no reservations. I like the Vedettes de Pont Neuf but there are other companies too. You could do this during the day or at night when the monuments and buildings are lit -- or both. The Catacombs can require a long wait in line, and will require a lot of walking underground -- would not be a priority for me on such a short first-time visit, but maybe you're into rows of medieval skulls. (I certainly appreciated them at age 19 many years ago.)
Paris Walks offers high-quality, low-cost two-hour walks around various parts of the city. No reservations are needed. A good way to see historic places (from the outside) in interesting neighborhoods. Don't try to see Versailles or other out-of-city sights in such a short visit, unless they're really important to you. Paris alone has enough to fill weeks with no difficulty. Be sure to spend time strolling, café sitting, park sitting, people watching, and all that.
Walking Paris is wonderful, especially in the evenings. I would highly recommend an evening stroll around Ile Saint-Louis, which is not far from the Latin Quarter. Charming, quiet (at night anyway) village Paris on an island in the Seine a moments from floodlit Notre Dame, with beautiful old apartment buildings, cafes and narrow streets. As for things to book ahead, just know that the Paris Museum Pass is a good option for someone in town for 4 days (you can purchase 2, 4 0r 6 days passes). It means you don't have to book in advance for a lot of places, as you'll be able to get in quickly or immediately for places like Musee d'Orsay (better than the Louvre in my opinion), Musee de l'Orangerie (Monet water lilies are amazing), Musee Rodin (wonderful outdoor sculpture garden), Sainte-Chapelle, and yes the Musee du Louvre. There's lots of places you'd never go in without the pass that you'll walk by and see has no line and seems worth 30 minutes, which is fun too. It does not include the Eiffel Tower, however. If you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, you can try to get tickets in advance online (sometimes hard to do as they sell out quickly), visit at a time when you expect the lines to be short, or just don't climb the tower itself and admire it from the ground (the last option being what my wife and I did on our only trip to Paris so far). Bon voyage!
Your question is too general to answer without writing a book, so that's where you should start. Not only will books have information about various sights, they will have answers to questions you haven't even though to ask, but will need to know.
I really do think Rick's books are best for a first-timer, as they have lots of detail about nitty-gritty - exactly where to catch a bus, etc. However, you should look at as many sources as possible, to learn about things Rick doesn't cover.
I agree with Harold, the Rick Steves Paris guidebook should be your "bible" for research and planning. It will tell you everything you need to know.
I would also add that you should look up Paris Greets. This is a volunteer organization that hooks you up with a local resident of Paris and they give you a tour of their neighborhood based on your interests which could be architecture, food or even shopping. When we were in Paris this past June, we walked around Paris Saint Germaine with Fransoise and it was one of the highlights of our trip.
Are you considering a trip to Versailles?
What are your arrival & departure plans?
I would agree with Steve. My husband and I just returned from a late-May trip to Paris. This was our second trip. We had done the Paris Museum pass on the first trip......a GREAT idea.....and I agree with all of his opinions on the museums he visited. We took a day to do Versailles and loved that but it did take a day to do it right. On this last trip we stayed on the Ile Saint Louis, (Hotel Lutece), and loved this location. Because of our close proximity to the center of town we never had to take the Metro....you cannot believe how much easier that made the trip for us. For the first time we so enjoyed walking the Marais neighborhood, sitting at a cafe across the street from Notre Dame and eating breakfast as we watched the rain, and savoring the French life. I think you could go to Paris 10 times and see something different every time! Though the Eiffel tower is a must see get ready to face the pickpockets there and the crowds. We had a night tour and realized it was the best time as the lights were flickering as we were on it and the sun was setting as well. It is magical but you will have to get ready to combat the crowds....its just a popular place!
On this website find and watch the videos that Rick has filmed in Paris. And watch the travel talk by Steve Smith about Paris itineraries etc. It is a good way to get an idea of what interests you as far as neighborhoods and museums.