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Couple celebrating anniversary, visiting France for first time- only 7 days-- advice appreciated!

I'm attempting to plan a wonderful -- but brief-- 20th anniversary trip for my husband and I this July.

We have to fly in and out of Charles de Gaulle, so my initial research, and our time constraints, are suggesting to me that we should stay in Paris the whole time and that we will have plenty to explore and enjoy. This will be our first time in Paris, or anywhere in France for that matter.

We are looking to get a sampling of the city, with possible day trips. We know we can't see everything and would like to savor our time and relax, in addition to fitting in some of the must-see sights (Eiffel Tour, Louvre, Notre Dame, Versailles are probably on our list but we are flexible!) We want to stay in a charming, authentic Parisian neighborhood that is safe and quiet-- and well-connected (via Metro) to sights (we usually book on Airbnb).

We'd love to do some romantic, off-the-beaten-path things and not just pack every single second with "touristy" activities. We love good food and wine and rambling through lovely neighborhoods and parks. We don't have any absolute musts in/around Paris in terms of sights. We appreciate art and architecture, but probably appreciate the outdoors and excellent food and wine more...

Give me your favorite couple experiences in Paris!

We have three very busy kids (8, 13, and 15) and a hectic lifestyle back home taking care of them -- and though we had a lovely family trip to the UK last summer, we are looking forward to some quality time with just the two of us on this trip and want to enjoy every minute.

Posted by
776 posts

" in addition to fitting in some of the must-see sights
We want to stay in a charming, authentic Parisian neighborhood that is safe and quiet"

Most will advise you to stay in arrondissements 1-6 in the heavily touristed center of the city close to must-see sights. This gives you minimal opportunities to visit authentic Paris neighborhoods. (but many tourists find the 1-6 authentic enough) Maybe your possible day trips could be to the "outer" arrondissements to get glimpses of "authentic Parisian neighborhoods." There are many excellent guidebooks available about off-the-beaten-path Paris.

"We appreciate art and architecture"

A trip to the 16th to look at the Art Nouveau constructions of Hector Guimard might be of interest.

Posted by
2574 posts

You would be hard pressed to find a more romantic destination! Congratulations on twenty years! Start by getting the Rick Steve’s guide to Paris. It’s new for 2018. I have an older version but Rick updates these and it’s well worth it. There will be self guided walks, day trips, suggested hotels and the like. Although it’s far from undiscovered, the Rue Cler area is worth a look. We like the neighborhood, and have found a great restaurant nearby. We’ve also stayed in the 6th arr and enjoyed the proximity to Luxembourg Park. There are also many other fine neighborhoods and others who respond will give you good suggestions. A caution about Airbnb-there is a crackdown in Paris and a few reports of folks booking only to arrive and find they don’t have a place. That’s the extent of my knowledge but do some research before you book that way. For day trips I suggest Chartes to see the magnificent cathedral and Versaille although, frankly, you could easily spend the entire week not leaving Paris.

Posted by
1199 posts

Ile Saint-Loius is the smaller island in the Seine, and has a nice, romantic, relatively quiet street of shops and restaurants (also has the famous Berthillon gelato shop), is centrally located and would be a romantic place to stay. I also like the Maris neighborhood on the right bank just across the river from Ile Saint-Louis. Near the Odeon is also a nice neighborhood. You will be a block to two from a metro stop anywhere, and the metro is very easy to navigate.

We enjoyed getting out of the central city and walking around the Pere Lachaise cemetery, and the Parc de Buttes Chaumont. This relates to the idea of getting out of the tourist center and seeing more of the 'real' Paris.

You might consider going out of Paris for 2 of those nights. Maybe Normandy. You could see a lot there in 36-48 hours. Its a 2 hour train ride from Paris from Gare Saint Lazare.

You could also google "NYT 36 hours in Paris". They have two guides, one for the left and one for the right bank

Posted by
90 posts

A caution about Airbnb-there is a crackdown in Paris and a few reports of folks booking only to arrive and find they don’t have a place

Yikes! Thanks to the posters alerting me to this. Scary... I'm seeing one listing has a license noted, but many others do not. Perhaps I should look into a rental agency instead...

Posted by
21287 posts

Be sure you have air-conditioning wherever you choose to stay.

Posted by
6720 posts

Be sure you have AC.

Paris has literally dozens of great day trips beyond the obvious of Chartres, Versailles, Vernon/Giverny and Monet's gardens and Auvers sur Oise where VanGogh lived his last days and is buried. Here are a tiny few we have done recently but there are many many more:
If you love Champagne, Reims is a great day trip and only 45 minutes away by TGV. We toured the cellars of Taittinger and it was a very interesting experience. The Cathedral and Basilica St. Remy are also well worth time in Reims. Lovely day trip.

On the Paris metro, the most overlooked amazing trip is Basilica St. Deny, the oldest Gothic church in Europe
Be sure to do a little research on restaurants; our current favorite at a modest price is L'Initial in the 5th -- 48 Euro for a 7 course meal. A few years ago we celebrated our 43rd anniversary with lunch at La Tour d'Argent which was also a wonderful experience:
Have a great anniversary

Posted by
776 posts

"Perhaps I should look into a rental agency instead..."

Dealing with a rental agency will not guarantee legality. The only thing that will is the 13 digit number starting with 75 (Paris code) posted in the ad. If the number isn't there, the apartment is not registered and therefore illegal. Paris and all of France is getting serious about this. French law is notoriously slow to move but when it does . . . .

Posted by
3651 posts

Congratulations!! Paris is a great place to celebrate an anniversary.

I totally agree that you should spend the entire time there. Seven days in Paris will just scratch the surface. Have flexible daily plans so you can switch from indoor to outdoor things depending on the weather.

You asked about a safe, quiet, well connected neighborhood. You didn't mention your budget for accommodations, but don't rule out staying in the absolute center of Paris on Ile St. Louis because you think the rates will be out of sight. Depending on their vacancies, you may find rates quite reasonable. And besides, it's your anniversary!

We've stayed at Hotel des Deux-Iles and really enjoyed the location. It's quiet with friendly and helpful front desk personnel. Very well located -- cross the river and you will be in the Marais -- cross it the other way and you'll be in The Latin Quarter. Walk to the end of the island, cross the bridge, and you'll be at Notre Dame. The Metro is near enough that getting anywhere is not a problem.

When we emailed them requesting rate and booking information we got a reply within 24 hours. We opted out of the hotel breakfast as it seemed quite expensive for what was offered. If you do stay on the island we know where you can get a great little breakfast for a good price.

If they can not accommodate you, a few doors away is their sister hotel named Hotel de Lutece. We would stay there based simply on our experience at Hotel des Deux-Iles.

There is another hotel on the island named Hôtel Saint-Louis en l´Isle. They have (I think) a dedicated shuttle that will pick you up at the airport but I'm not sure what it cost. It may be complimentary with a stay of your duration. Of course with taxis into the city from the airport now charging a flat rate that may be the way to get to any hotel.

A few minutes of googling should give you and idea if staying on the island is a possibility, or if you should rule it out.

With regard to "...rambling through lovely neighborhoods and parks...", that is a must. Several of the large garden parks are wonderful. So is a stroll along the seine. A night time cruise on the river is also great.

Posted by
43 posts

Congratulations to you, our same anniversary is in April this year and we're traveling to France as well. Great minds!

My advice, since this is your first trip, is to stay in Paris. I know it sounds a bit silly, but to me Paris gives almost everything a couple does a romantic "thing" to it. Some of our favorites are to shop market streets and then picnic. Our favorite being the Rue Mouffetard followed by a picnic, with wine and all, in the Jardin Luxembourgs.

Evening strolls after dinner along the water are wonderfully romantic. Be sure and visit Notre Dame after dark, it is absolutely gorgeous.

I agree with others suggesting the outer arrondisements for your day trips. Montmartre is lovely, and can be very romantic. The night view of the city is gorgeous and the strolls wonderful. The 16th is also quite lovely and the Bois de Bologne is beautiful. If you are fans of Monet, the Marmottan is there as well.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
308 posts

My husband and I spent 7 days in Paris for our 15th anniversary last year and had an amazing time! We stayed in the 7th arrondissement and splurged for a room with an Eiffel Tower view. We stayed in Paris the entire 7 days and never ran out of things to do.

On the spur of the moment, we grabbed takeout and ate dinner in the greenspace next to the Eiffel tower on our last night.

Our favorite activities involved climbing and walking. We loved climbing the Notre Dame tower and Arc de Triomphe and also loved wandering around Pere Lachaise cemetery.

Posted by
11973 posts

I'd stay in Paris and do no more than a day trip or two out of the city. There is more than enough to see and do.

As far as where to stay, I'd choose anywhere withing a ten to fifteen minute walking radius of Notre Dame. I like the Marais and Latin Quarter best. If you're in that area, everything will be convenient.

In July, you will want to book something with air conditioning. It's not a given in Europe. If it doesn't specifically say AC, assume it doesn't have it.

Posted by
317 posts

Happy Anniversary! We celebrated our 25th anniversary in Paris, and had a wonderful time! (Also leaving our 3 kids at home...) There are many great suggestions above, and I would definitely agree that AC is a must. We were there in a heat wave, and it was a blessed relief to cool off in our room after being out all day! Here are a few things we enjoyed...strong text

One place that we liked for a reasonably priced 2-3 course dinner was right near Luxembourg Gardens (and our hotel). It is La Cuisine de Philippe (see reviews in link). Our dinner was delicious, but the soufflés were truly special. We would have gone back there again just for different soufflés if we'd had the time another day! Make reservations, and perhaps you'll have the fun of having the chef come out and greet all the guests. We did, and from the reviews it seems to be fairly common to chat with him.

Musee Marmottan and Musee Jacquemart-André are both special places that are a little off the beaten path. There's a lovely tea room at the Jacquemart-André that I wish we'd taken the time to enjoy after our tour of the amazing treasures in the home. Next time...

We also went to the top of the Arc de Triomphe at sunset and stayed there for a long time watching the city light up, with great views of the Eiffel Tower and its light show. I would not recommend going to the top of the Tour Montparnasse unless you really want to. The open air experience was much more enjoyable on both the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower for us.

If it is raining, check out some of the covered passages on the right bank. They are lovely! If you're shopping at/near Printemps, they have a cafe on the rooftop which gives another great perspective of Paris.

Inside the Musee d'Orsay you can stand in the clock face and look out to Sacré Coeur. One of my all time favorite photos is of my daughter silhouetted there...but it would also be a great place for a couples photo! :-)

Enjoy your special trip!

Posted by
317 posts

Two more thoughts: If you get the Museum Pass, we found that going to the museums on their late nights was really nice - much less crowded and a more pleasant, relaxed experience. On the hottest days, it was also a break from the heat of the masses!

The Cluny Museum is small, manageable, and really interesting to visit. It is in the Latin Quarter/Sorbonne area, which is fun to stroll through. We didn't see it until our 3rd trip to Paris, but I wanted to mention is because it is cool with Roman ruins within, and heads from Notre Dame, and the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, stained glass from Saint Chapelle...all in one compact site. A wonderful mix of interesting things to see there!

Have fun!

Posted by
3239 posts

Since you have not made your reservations yet, you should spend one night in Chartres and see the light show. There is an inexpensive former monastery across the street from the cathedral, described in Rick's Paris book. You could consider driving from there to one of the Chateaus in the Loire and spending the night in that area. If you like concerts, book one at Sainte Chapelle in Paris.

Posted by
2466 posts

Since you are having difficulty with the AirBnB website, I would suggest a hotel, instead.
A rental agency will not help you - in fact, it might bury the registration number in the copy.

The Hotel Saint-Louis-en-Ile is in the center of Paris, and was renovated about 2 years ago.
It has air-conditioning.

The Citadines Richard Lenoir has individual air-conditioning, and is only a block or two from the Bastille open-air market, where you'll have a kitchen. It is as legal as they come, and you will have room service, to boot.
Bastille Market - Sundays @ 10h to about 1:30 PM and Thursdays from @ 10h to about 1:30 PM.
The Casino supermarket has everything else you'll need.

Edited: The Hotel Residence Henri IV is legal and has a kitchen and air-conditioning. The 6th arrondissement is what tourists think of when they think of what Paris is like.

Posted by
8293 posts

Two places not in Paris but easily reached by public transportation are Chateau Malmaison and the St Denis Basilica. Do a quick google to see if they appeal. Either would take only half a day.

For a street market, a really great Saturday morning street market, go to the one at Place de la Nation. It is way off the tourist trail but easily reached by metro or bus and an opportunity to spend time in a Parisian neighbourhood with Parisians going about their daily business. A Printemps department store is across the Cours de Vincennes from the market, should that be of interest. Many restaurants and shops, too, making a walk around Place de la Nation very interesting.

Posted by
90 posts

So many great suggestions here. Thank you!

I mentioned to an acquaintance last night that my husband and I were planning an anniversary trip to Paris (he travels quite a bit internationally for work) and he says: "Paris is NOT my favorite city! The people were rude and it smelled like urine everywhere!"

Hmmm.... I do know I shouldn't take any one person's opinion too seriously, especially because so many factors go into how you experience a particular place. He obviously had a bad experience, but if was a business trip(s), I'm not sure how extensive his experience could be to make this kind of sweeping judgement.

Posted by
5494 posts

So glad you are making this memory together! Treasure this time and feel free to indulge a little....

The dirtiest, smelliest city I have ever visited was NYC, but perhaps I visited during a bad time......

Posted by
8293 posts

Oh, yeah ........ the old "rude Parisians and urine smell" canard. Pay absolutely no attention. Do you really care what this acquaintance says (only an acquaintance, not a trusted friend) who may just be (a) jealous, (b) bloody minded (c) just a very mean person. Who goes around throwing cold water on others' travel plans? Go to Paris and when you get home be sure the acquaintance knows you had a marvellous time and want to go back.

Posted by
90 posts

Oh, yeah ........ the old "rude Parisians and urine smell" canard. Pay absolutely no attention... Who goes around throwing cold water on others' travel plans?

Good point. If someone tells you how much they love traveling to Europe and are obviously excited to go to Paris, why not keep your negative opinion to yourself? Obviously, there's a reason why Paris has the reputation as one of the most romantic cities in the world... it may not be for everyone, but if all it was was urine and rude Parisians, why do so many people love it?

I just think-- and I am no doubt stereotyping my fellow Americans -- some of us have less patience and appreciation for other cultures and just want things to be like we are used to them being... I, frankly, know that Europe is going to be quite a bit different than the US, and that is precisely what I love! I love the culture, the charm, and difference!

My husband and I honeymooned on the half-French, half-Dutch Caribbean island of St Martin and stayed on the French side. We heard a loud group of Americans drinking too much by the pool and complaining that their hair dryers didn't work because of the different current! My husband and I laid low, were respectful and enjoyed the wonderful food around two little French towns of Marigot and Grand Case. We considered it a compliment when we were mistaken as French a few times ...

Posted by
3651 posts

Have never encounter a "rude" Parisian. But then we make it a point to smile, be polite, and try to converse in French. Perhaps the acquaintance didn't and was treated the way he treated the Parisians. Have no idea where he went, but we've never encountered a urine smell anywhere in Paris. I'd completely disregard his comment.

Posted by
375 posts

Lovely! We celebrated our 25th (during our 26th...long story!) in Paris.

Decide what you want. To relax, celebrate your friendship, and eat good food?

If so, take your time. Pick out the 2-3 things you really want to see.

For us, we always to to Orsay and will check to see what the special exhibit is at the Pompidou.

We love this restaurant for a lovely dinner.

Walk along on the Seine. Walk and hang out/lunch in Luxembourg Gardens (if it's a weekend, perhaps you'll catch a concert in the gazebo."

Go the market and get your picnic supplies.

Like to shop, be sure to to Galeries Lafayette! So beautiful!

It just good to be in Paris.

Posted by
15 posts

Take some day trips. Paris in July is warm and a bit busy. The public transportation is pretty easy and a train trip outside of Paris gives you more of a French vacation. My husband and I enjoyed a meal in Place Dauphine, the little triangular space that almost seems removed from Paris. Save money by eating at some of the crepe stands. One of my favorite memories was sharing a cheese-filled crepe with my husband by Saint- Chappelle. We were hot, sweaty and hungry. We had a biere at a cafe, then decided to get a crepe. It was so good, that I now make buckwheat crepes with gruyere at home. Ramble around the Marais. Make out in the parks like everyone else. Or just kiss everytime you cross a bridge. I am not going to say what you should do in the middle of the afternoon, except: Be French. Drink wine, sing songs, make love. And maybe see some art and culture along the way.

Posted by
276 posts

We stayed at the Hotel Saint Louis en I'isle. And TC is correct they supply an airport shuttle. It costs roughly the same amount as a taxi. The RER is close by and much cheaper if you want to investigate that option. It has AC and close to two metros. And 24 hour concierge service and were wonderfully helpful. I'd stay just in Paris. You'll love just walking the different districts and enjoying the atmosphere. I was there last September and enjoyed the Parisian people very much. I had a preconceived opinion that was all wrong. You'll love the city and her people. I'd recommend getting a three day museum pass and pick your favorites. Book your Eiffel Tower lift in April. Their website is easy to navigate. Tickets sell out quickly. My favorite times were walking the parks, down small streets and eating outside under heat lamps! Course in July you might not need them. You'll have a great time.

Posted by
733 posts

Paris! Been there twice and am going back again in May......greatest city in the world! If you try to at least greet others with a little French and remember to treat them as you want to be treated you will never find a rude Parisian.
We have stayed in Hotel Empereur near the Eiffel Tower and on the Ile St Louis at Hotel Lutece.......both very different trips because of where we stayed. Hotel Empereur was near a subway station and we toured all of the Parisian sights on that trip. We loved our hotel, the nearness to Rue Cler (GREAT morning croissant bakeries and a laundry) and the close proximity to the Eiffel Tower. We got very good at catching the subway everywhere we needed to go. Took a day trip to Versailles and it was gorgeous......get a golf cart to see the grounds on the back of the property.
The second trip was on the Ile St Louis......totally different trip than the first. Because of our new central location we were able to walk everywhere (no subway this trip......lots of stress removed!) and enjoy sitting in cafes and people watching. We were to close to the Marais and loved walking its streets and eating falafels at L’Falafel.......which in my opinion is a must. We also spent 2 or 3 afternoons just sitting in the gardens behind Norte Dame and enjoying the great weather and flowers and watching children play. We paid a lot more attention on this second trip to cafes and bakeries and shops we wanted to duck in and enjoy......also it was fun really studying the stands on the Bank of the Seine.......bought a beautiful old book print at one of them of Mont St Michel and treasure it!
There is so much to do in Paris that, like us, you can take multiple trips and never see them same thing again.
Happy Anniversary.......have a great trip!

PS......both of the hotels I mentioned have AC......a must in July as we were there in a heat wave on our first trip and nearly died everyday as we walked....came back home to AC! Wish you could squeeze in a train ride to Provence to see the blooming lavender and sunflower fields in July.......a WOW for sure.

Posted by
6720 posts

there for a week you do want a kitchen and I would plan to do breakfasts in even if you eat dinners out; it is really fun to head for the nearest bakery in the morning while your spouse prepares the coffee and choose from the huge array of wonderful breakfast items. We prefer a simple baguette and wonderful French salted butter, but occasionally get a raisin snail, or a couple of tiny mini pan chocolates or chouquettes or any one of a number of interesting and often tasty pastries. I also usually buy one dessert pastry that we then have in the evening after dinner. It is nice to be able to keep your own wine and cheese and just have the option of not eating in a restaurant every meal. There is a lot of good takeout including nice roast chickens if you don't want to eat out constantly. The Citadine type aparthotel can be a good compromise with a kitchenette and AC. It is very rare for apartments to have effective AC if any; most that advertise it have portable units called 'penquino' in Italy -- we have never had one that was not musty as well as largely ineffective.