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First Timers Paris Itinerary - Feedback?

Hi all, I've been working on our Paris portion of our trip (DH and myself) and would love to hear your thoughts and get help with our questions. FYI, we plan to purchase the 4-day museum pass.

Tuesday Sept 22 - depart Honfleur in rental car. See Jumieges Abbey in the morning as a stop on our drive to Paris. Drop rental car at Montparnasse station. Check into our hotel (Hotel Atmospheres in LQ), hopefully around 3pm. Buy our museum pass (suggestion where?) and explore the LQ and/or maybe Le Marais areas. 8:00pm take a 3-hr walking tour "Paris with Martin" to get acquainted with Paris, includes snacks and wine.

Wednesday Sept 23 - Visit Notre Dame and go up a tower in the morning. We will plan to get in line for the tower between 9-10am since I'm guessing it will be busy. We would like to catch a concert at Saint Chappelle on Friday night -- so do we need to plan time on this day to visit it during the day or will an evening concert allow us to see it? Visit Cluny Museum early afternoon. Go back to the hotel for a nap or a break if we need it. Plan to get to the Louvre around 6 for a late evening tour until it closes or until we're done. I've downloaded a guided audio tour from the museum which seems to be great!

Thursday Sept 24 - Not sure if this is the best order...thoughts? Start our day around 9, take the metro to the Arc. Visit the Orangerie next and maybe picnic in the Jardin des Tuileries? From what I've read, it sounds like the Champs Elysees would not really appeal to us so should would it make sense to just take the metro from the Arc to the Orangerie or should we walk it? Then an afternoon visit of the Rodin museum. End the day a with a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Should we go ahead and buy our tickets ahead of time? I see that sunset is supposed to be at 7:45pm -- I would prefer to go up when there is still some of the gorgeous evening light left for photos. Does a 7pm ticket time sound reasonable? Would it work well to take a Seine boat ride from the Eiffel Tower back to Notre Dame?

Friday Sept 25 - Full day at Versailles. Thinking about the guided tour of the Private Apartments of the Kings - anyone recommend this? Also thinking about renting a bicycle for the gardens. We definitely want to see Marie Antoinette's Estate in the afternoon. Should we pack a picnic lunch for this day? Or can we get satisfactory light fare while there? We don't want to get caught in a tourist-trap lunch (bad food, high priced). We would like to catch a concert at Saint Chappelle in the evening.

Saturday Sept 26 - Take the metro up to Montmartre. Visit Sacre Coeur early in the morning. Explore the Puces de Saint-Ouen flea market for a few hours. We are contemplating taking a 3-hr "Secret Foods Tour" in Montmartre at 2:30. I dislike committing to a certain time in case I want to be free for something else but this tour sounds really fun and tasty...hard to decide. If we don't we can spend more time exploring and/or doing a little shopping. Our last evening is unplanned. I've noted that the Fete de la Gastronomie will be going on this day. Perhaps we could have a nice dinner out for our last night in Paris at a restaurant that is participating in this event?

Sunday Sept 27 - Our flight departs at 9:25am so we're planning on getting to the airport around 6:30am, via the RER stop close to our hotel.

Posted by
6670 posts

This looks like a well-thought-out plan. You're not trying to do too much each day, choosing quality over quantity. At the risk of overloading, let me make a few suggestions:

Tuesday -- No need to buy the Museum Pass this day, you won't be using it. Buy and activate it the next day at the first Pass-covered place you visit. A good afternoon and evening to walk around as you'll have been in the car most of the day. I don't know the tour but it sounds good.

Wednesday -- There will be a long line for the Notre-Dame tower. This is where you can buy the Museum Pass for the next four days. Don't forget to spend time admiring the cathedral inside and out! Ste-Chapelle will have a security line, you may want to decide about visiting today based on how bad that line looks. Also based on weather -- at an evening concert you'll miss the light coming through the stained-glass windows, and you may want to take advantage of sunshine now if you have it. Good Louvre strategy.

Thursday -- I'd walk the Champs from the Arc to Orangerie, downhill, not that far, won't tire you before visiting that small museum. Besides the ticky-tack, you'll see the Grand Palais and Petit Palais, some impressive statues, some nice park areas, and of course Place de la Concorde. The Rodin museum shouldn't take long, imho the best part is the sculpture garden which you can visit separately. I can't help you re Eiffel Tower, others will probably suggest advance tickets to avoid lines, but remember the weather variable. If you're fit and not obsessed with the very top, you could maybe take stairs to the first or second level, still get a great view without lines. Another thought (heresy to many): go to the Tour Montparnasse instead. Much less waiting and a comparable view which actually includes the ET! Re the boat ride, they only make round-trip loops so you can't use to get from ET to Notre Dame. But the loop ride is well worthwhile whenever you can work it in. Don't bother with a dinner cruise, food not that good and distracts from the scenery.

Friday -- Versailles will be crowded as you know. I haven't taken the private apts tour but it would be a way to get inside without such long lines. There's light food at kiosks in the gardens, no need to bring your own. A bike would be a good idea (again, if weather is OK). Ste-Chapelle concert would be a good experience even if you saw the place before. The music makes it better.

Saturday -- Early AM is a great idea for Sacre Coeur. Work your way downhill through Montmartre. I haven't been to the St-Ouen flea market and don't know about the foods tour, but I agree with your reluctance to commit to specific times unless necessary, especially on your last day.

Sunday -- Make sure the RER runs early enough to get you to CDG by 6:30 or so, see Paris by Train. If not, having your hotel set up a taxi in advance would be worthwhile for peace of mind. I know my wife would insist on it! ;-)

You probably know about Paris Walks, they do a great job if the scheduling works for you. Hope you have a wonderful time!

Posted by
9862 posts

I'd just underline that your plan of skipping the walk down the Champs-Elysées sounds correct to me. Zip down on the metro. It's crowded and full of overpriced cafes and chain stores. You'll see it laid out below you from the Arc and that's enough. Save your walking energy for some place that's pleasant to stroll.

Posted by
2030 posts

I agree, buy your Museum Pass at Notre Dame, don't walk down the Champs Elysee from the Arc to the Orangerie, (this is where you will find many tourist traps), and I recommend the king's apartment tour at Versailles. There are a couple of restaurants out of the grounds of Versailles near the grand canal, that are good. I would not characterize them as tourist traps -- food is decent, and they seem reasonable, and it's a fun place to sit and have lunch.

Posted by
15675 posts

Tuesday . If you are walking past the front of Notre Dame (on your way to the Marais?), you can pick up the museum pass at the TI kiosk on the plaza (far end from the church, on the right with your back to the church. Walking around the Marais sounds good.

Wednesday If you didn't pick up the pass, one of you can get it at the TI while the other waits in line for the tower and maybe picks up drinks and a snack - there are lots of options right around the corner from the line, including but not limited to crepes, pastries, and ice cream. If the line is really long, consider splitting up and taking turns waiting in line with taking photos of the exterior, shopping for souvenirs around the corner and even going into the church. There are 2 parts to the Sainte-Chapelle, upper and lower chapels. The lower chapel is not the big draw. Skip it. Instead of Sainte-Chapelle, drop in at the Conciergerie on the corner, one of the oldest buildings and where Marie Antoinette spent her last days. Allow about an hour. Sunset on Friday is about 7.45 p.m. To see the chapel well go to the 7.00 p.m. concert. Get there early - when the doors open. After choosing seats (middle price are good - don't get the expensive ones), you can walk around the chapel to view the stained glass windows until the concert begins. Perfect time.

Thursday My favorite time for the Arc de Triomphe is around sunset. It's nice to watch the city as the lights go on. Otherwise the view is not that great. A better place for daytime views is the Montparnasse Tower. But if you're going up the Eiffel Tower, it may be redundant to do either of the others. (I actually like Dick's suggestion of Montparnasse instead of the Eiffel Tower ascent) Sunset is also my favorite time for a 1-hour Seine cruise (Vedettes du Pont Neuf).

General comments: The Orangerie is so close to the Louvre, I'd do them together. Then see the Cluny and the Rodin together. Going back and forth across the Seine is wasteful. Avoid taking the metro if it means transferring trains - lots of walking, stairs, and time involved. According to the website, the Rodin Museum is not due to reopen until Sept. 27. The gardens are well worth visiting (picnic lunch opportunity), but don't expect much from the indoor temporary exhibition. If you're walking past Les Invalides, it's worth a half hour to pop in to see Napoleon's Tomb. And if you're walking past the Pantheon, that's also worth a few minutes.

Friday I would not plan on going to a Sainte-Chapelle concert after Versailles. You may not want to rush back from Versailles to be at the concert by 6.00-6.15, and you're likely to be pretty worn out after a full day there. The Seine cruise is a better idea after Versailles. It's good at sunset or after dark. You could also go to the concert Saturday evening. It's only an hour, so you'd have plenty of time for dinner afterward. Bikes are a great way to see Versailles.

Saturday I think you should take the tour. It sounds like you really want to. And since you'll surely be eating on it, you can then go to Sainte-Chapelle and have a late dinner (you won't be hungry earlier). Unless you can switch things around and take the tour on another day. I wouldn't start the day too early, as it will be a really long one. The Montmartre church is not a top sight in my opinion. You'll probably see the view (the best reason to go up there) during your tour anyway. I'd start at the flea market.

Sunday Saturday is going to be a late night. You're likely to be packing when you get back to the hotel or in the morning before you leave. There won't be traffic that early on Sunday morning. Splurge and take a taxi. Faster and a lot less hassle.

Posted by
2 posts

My son and I will be going to Paris on June 9, 2015 for 4 days and 3 nights. We will be arrive Paris on Tuesday evening June 9, 2015. I have been trying to get the tour of the Private Apartments of the Kings.
How can I reserve this?
Since we are leaving soon> How can we purchase 2 days pass for the museum in Paris? should we buy them at the airport?
Please advise. Thank You.
Any recommendation for private tour in Paris especially for the Louvre Museum? or should we just buy the pass and go in?
Thank you

Posted by
3 posts

We just were at Versailles, our solution for the tourist trap/lunch problem was buying sandwiches and apples at the Monoprix on the Versailles map in the guidebook. This added maybe 15 minutes to our trip to the Chateau. $15 fed all four of us! You do have to carry the picnic around all morning, but with our savings we paid the Angelina premium for a break from the crowds inside the Chateau.

We also used the Phebus bus stop outside the Trianon, which worked very well. Be warned: the schedule posted at the stop (and notated with a handwritten note) said the bus leaves the stop at 7 after the hour. At a quarter to, the bus pulled up, we got on, negotiated tickets, and the bus left at the top of the hour. Don't miss it! Also, our Mobilis pass did not work. You will need cash (2 euros each) or a regular t-1 Metro ticket.

Our plan was not to overdo Versailles, so we bought the Mobilis zones 1-4 one day pass, which got us back and forth from Versailles, then gave us all the rides we wanted on the Metro when we got back to Paris. As I recall, 3 rides paid for the pass (on top of the Versailles ticket).

Posted by
677 posts

Thank you everyone for your replies, especially Dick and Chani with the very detailed ones! What a wealth of information to digest.

Tuesday - I like Chani's suggestion for grabbing our MP at ND. It seems convenient to get it out of the way. If it ends up not working out, we'll grab it that next morning.

Wednesday - Chani, your talk of right/left bank has me re-thinking the itinerary. I'd love to see the Arc at night but we can't do everything in the evening since we just don't have enough days. I'm wondering if we should do either Arc-Orangerie-Louvre this day or maybe Orangerie-Arc-Louvre, the latter requires a bit of jumping around but we could get into the Orangerie at 9 in the morning and beat some of the crowds, then take the metro up to the Arc and then metro to the Louvre? It seems to me that we will have some free time in the afternoon, if we figure Orangerie 9-11ish, picnic lunch in Jardin des Tuileries 11-1ish, Arc 1-3ish, and Louvre 5/6-9ish. I'm guessing it could be some nice time to explore Paris? Just need to do some more research to see if there is anything particular that is close to the Louvre that we would like to see/shop/snack (I want to try some great pastries!).

Thursday - If we change the itinerary, this means Thursday changes, too. I found a 10am 2-hr tour of Ile de la Cite and ND, which includes a skip-the-line entry for a tower, through City Wonders. The cost seems reasonable and the reviews of that particular tour are good, plus the added benefit of what could be a substantial amount of time saved in the queue -- I think we'll book it. We would then visit the Cluny Museum, the Rodin Museum, and go up the Eiffel Tower. This seems busy but hopefully still do-able AND enjoyable. I hope we are estimating enough time for each place? 10-1 Notre Dame tour and tower, 1-1:30 lunch on the go, 1:30-3:30 Cluny Museum, 4:00-5:45 Rodin Museum. Go up Eiffel Tower at 7pm. Thank you for the suggestions about Montparnasse -- we really want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower this trip. We hope that this won't be our only trip to Paris and France so we would of course do something like that on a return trip.

Dick, good to know that we can't hop off the boat ride! For some reason I thought they had multiple stops; I didn't realize you were paying for an entire loop, but that makes sense that you can see both sides of the bank. Chani, thanks for the operator tip. I agree with you that I don't want to be in a rush to make the concert, so I think it's a good idea to switch the Seine boat ride with the concert. Do they close Saint Chapelle at the closing time (6pm) and re-open it at 7pm for the concert? I was wondering if we could plan to see it the late afternoon of the same day of the concert?

Friday - good to know about the lunch kiosks. We'll probably do that. Hopefully the weather will hold out well for us for the grounds and estate. We can go back to our hotel and freshen up after Versailles and plan on a trip on the Seine and dinner. Do we need to book our boat trip ahead of time or just hop on one?

Saturday - the reason I was thinking of going up to Sacre Coeur in the morning is because I thought the morning light might be really pretty for photography. I'm really torn on the food tour. We DO really want to go, but then I hate to pigeon-hole ourselves in for our last day in Paris in case we want to be free to do something else, like go back to an area we felt we wanted more time in. I'm thinking it may be wiser to just leave the afternoon of this day open since everything else is fairly planned out. I just need to remember the mantra of you will go back! We could plan on the concert at Saint Chapelle that evening at 7, and have an entire open afternoon for whatever we want.

Sunday - it sounds like the taxi is the way to go. I can't argue that -- nothing like not having to worry about making some kind of transportation error on a groggy, early morning!

Posted by
677 posts

Robin, FYI, since you're new here, the best way to get a response to your specific questions is to start your own thread. I'll try to help you out with what I know.

I looked online at the Versailles website: It appears that the apartment tours are booked. The same group that I was looking at for Notre Dame tours has tours for Versailles that covers the apartments. They have availability June 12, not sure if that fits your time-frame.

I downloaded the phone app from the Louvre museum. It has great audio guiding and pictures of where to walk and what you are looking at to make sure you are staying on the right course. It seems to be a great app from what I tested. Since it's so short notice you may end up wanting to do the same instead of getting a guide.

I can't tell you if you can buy the museum pass at the airport. From what I've read you can buy it at any place that is included on the pass, but it's best to go to a place with short lines first since the pass will let you skip the queue at SOME places.

Posted by
7175 posts

Paris Museums and options on how to do them with a 4 day Paris Museum Pass:

Eiffel Tower
Musee Marmottan (not included)
Musee Carnavalet (free)
Sacre Coeur & Montmartre

Wednesday (First Day of Pass)
Orangerie (Monet's waterlillies) ...opens 9am
Arc de Triomphe (must see view from top)
Les Egouts (the sewer tour) ...closed Thu, Fri
Musee Quai Branly (artifacts from Africa, Americas, Asia, Oceania)
Louvre ...closes 9.45pm Wed, Fri

St Chapelle (amazing stained glass) ...opens 9.30am (summer)
Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette imprisoned)
Musee Rodin (famous bronzes in beautiful gardens)
Invalides (Napoleons tomb)
Musee d'Orsay (Impressionism) ...closes 9.45pm Thu

Tours de Notre Dame (walk up the towers to get up close and personal with the gargoyles) ...opens 10am
Musee Cluny (museum of the middle ages)
Pantheon (dedicated to the greats of France)
Musee Picasso
Pompidou Centre (modern art collection) ...closes 9pm


Posted by
15675 posts

Wednesday - I'd love to see the Arc at night - The Arc is open until 11 p.m. Go to the Louvre a little earlier, leave by 9.30 (they start closing the galleries by then anyway) and take the metro. Half an hour to get there, an hour to climb up and down, enjoy the views, and look around the gift shop is enough time. Just need to do some more research to see if there is anything particular that is close to the Louvre that we would like to see/shop/snack (I want to try some great pastries!). Before the Louvre, you could have Angelina's famous hot chocolate and wonderful pastries, it's on Rue Rivoli across from the Tuileries between the Orangerie and the Louvre. Just a couple blocks away are several of the best chocolatiers in Paris.

Thursday - If we change the itinerary, this means Thursday changes, too. I found a 10am 2-hr tour of Ile de la Cite and ND, which includes a skip-the-line entry for a tower, through City Wonders. That's a big reason for the long wait - the tours go straight in! Do it. You'll be back late on Wednesday, so it's nice not to have to rush the next morning. We would then visit the Cluny Museum, the Rodin Museum, and go up the Eiffel Tower. This seems busy but hopefully still do-able AND enjoyable. I hope we are estimating enough time for each place? 10-1 Notre Dame tour and tower, 1-1:30 lunch on the go, 1:30-3:30 Cluny Museum, 4:00-5:45 Rodin Museum. Go up Eiffel Tower at 7pm. Sounds okay. You probably won't need so much time at the Rodin, since it's mainly the gardens so there's leeway in the schedule. There's a small cafe in the garden where you can get a drinks and snacks or a light meal.

it's a good idea to switch the Seine boat ride with the concert. Do they close Saint Chapelle at the closing time (6pm) and re-open it at 7pm for the concert? I was wondering if we could plan to see it the late afternoon of the same day of the concert? Yes, they close the chapel and then re-open it. They open the doors for the concert about 30 minutes (maybe more?) before it starts, so you'll have that time to walk around to see the stained glass (it will still be daytime), then continue to enjoy them while your seated and listening to the concert. Take opera glasses or binoculars for a really good view of them. The Pont Neuf is only a 5-7 minute walk from Sainte-Chapelle. If you go the the website, you can get a discount. Either print out the coupon and save a few euros or prepay and save a few more. When you prepay, you don't choose a date or time. You just turn up with it and take the next boat. They leave every 30 minutes.

Saturday - the reason I was thinking of going up to Sacre Coeur in the morning is because I thought the morning light might be really pretty for photography. I'm really torn on the food tour. I'll bet you'd get really good early morning pix nearer your hotel and along the Seine and of the Eiffel Tower. From Sacre Coeur, it may just be hazy. Is there any option to cancel the food tour if you book it? Is the flea market a high priority?

Posted by
677 posts

Good idea on seeing the Arc after the Louvre! I think that would be easily do-able.

Thanks for the tip on Angelina's! I haven't gotten to do much food research yet for the trip. It's on my list. I saw there are some places we should check out on Rue Mouffetard close to our hotel, but that's all the further I've made it.

Thanks for the tip on the pre-pay. Every little bit adds up. :)

I don't know if there is any option to cancel the food tour; I'd have to contact them to find out. The flea market is very high priority for me. I love vintage stuff and actually have my own vintage etsy shop. I'm super excited about spending a few hours around the market just looking and seeing everything. Maybe I'll get lucky and find a small treasure to take home. I've read that there is a very good flea market down in south central Paris, Puces des Vanves, but since I had originally been thinking to see Montmartre and Sacre Coeur that day, I picked the one in Montmartre.

Posted by
42 posts

In April 2015 I took the Paris and Northern France tour (fantastic tour!) and because I didn't have data access I missed having google maps available on my phone. I did not have a web connection except when in my hotel. My solution at the time was to search for locations in google maps when I did have web access and take screen shots on the phone. I have since found google maps can be used in off-line mode but probably a better solution is to use an offline GPS app. Besides all the important landmarks, I used my screen shots to keep track of the Carrefour convenience stores and the Marks and Spencer convenience food shops. Carrefour is pretty good and Marks and Spencer is fantastic. Both help a traveller stay hydrated and energized conveniently and quickly.

Posted by
703 posts

Looks wonderful. You've gotten some great suggestions. I would only concur with the TAXI to CDG suggestion. We did it this year and I would never do it any other way again. So so easy, they pick you up at your door (in our case an apartment) and drop you off at the correct terminal for your flight. I highly recommend this. Well worth the extra euros. We used Inter Service Prestige at a cost of 50 euros. Money very well spent. Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
703 posts

I am not sure if anyone has mentioned this yet, but we make a point of doing the RS city walking tour on our phones, we have completed a lot of them in lots of cities now. we did the Paris one last year and found them great as a good start to exploring the city. download the app to your phone , ipad/ipod etc for free !! I listen to them ( and the other podcasts) long before we actually get to the city as part of organising our trips. we have done another 7 of them in the last few weeks.

they must be one of the best ways of saving money when you are a tourist and with your earplugs in walking around the city you look less like a tourist then when carrying around a travel book or map.

Posted by
677 posts

Greg, it sounds like Google Maps will be going offline later this year! Which will be fantastic for travelers as long as you're in an area where they are offline.

Glenn, thanks for the tip on the RS audio walk. We haven't used any of those yet. We'll have to look into those for our trip. I'm really excited for the app I found for the Louvre, it looks great.

Posted by
677 posts

I have ironed out our car return details which has given us a little more time in Paris our first day. We have decided to return our car in Versailles, so I'm thinking we should get into Paris about 1pm at the metro close to our hotel on Tuesday afternoon and hopefully be checked in and settled in our hotel by 2pm. At first I thought we could use the time for sight-seeing but then I think it would be nice for just exploring and wandering Paris...

My times listed below are just a general guideline for planning. I'm guessing it will be a give and take kind of thing, some places may take longer, others less. I've changed up our plans a little bit based off feedback and more research.

Tuesday 22nd
- starting 2pm-ish, walk to Pantheon and purchase Museum Pass there
- explore Rue Mouffetard, shop and eat
- walk through St Germain neighborhood and explore, visit Luxembourg gardens
- either walk or metro to Ecole Militaire stop (meeting point for Paris by Martin tour)
- walking tour 8pm - 11pm

Wednesday 23rd
- guided Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame tour, 10-12
- skip the line access from previous tour for ND tower, 12-1
- lunch somewhere close, ice cream at Berthillon
- short visit at St Severin church
- visit Cluny Museum with audioguide, 2:30-4:30
- Louvre museum with downloaded app tour, 5-9
- dinner
- metro to Arc de Triomphe, go up and metro back to hotel

Thursday 24th
- visit Orangerie Museum, 10-12
- visit Opera Garnier, 12-1:30
- lunch
- a drink or pastry at Le Déli-Cieux on top of Printemps Haussman for views of Paris
- visit Musee Rodin via metro, 3:30-5:30
- Eiffel tower with tickets up at 8pm (it seems you can't purchase tickets online for 7pm like I wanted)
- dinner

Friday 25th
- all day at Versailles, guided Private Apartments of the King Tour, 9:30am
- dinner
- Seine river tour (Vedettes du Pont Neuf)

Saturday 26th
- explore Puces de Saint-Ouen Flea Market just north of Montmartre, 9-2
- lunch
- shop Place du Tertre Art Market for a piece of street art (I'd love something with Paris scenery)
- explore Montmartre
- late evening/sunset views from hilltop Sacre Coeur
- concert at Saint Chapelle, 8:30-10
- dinner at restaurant participating Fete de la Gastronomie

Sunday 27th
- taxi to CDG at 5:30am for flight at 9:25am

Since it is recommended to taxi to CDG for our flight out, do you think 5:30am pick up time is appropriate on a Sunday morning to give us enough time?

Should we use our evening time on Saturday for viewing the windows at Saint Chapelle or should we use it for hanging out and watching the sun set from Sacre Coeur? I have been tossing around the idea of visiting Saint Chapelle on Tuesday when we arrive just to make sure we don't miss the windows.

Why does the Eiffel tower website have a gap in tickets available for the evening? I was hoping to buy at 7pm but it does not look like we'll be able to do so.

Thank you all so much for your help...I really think our itinerary is coming together very nicely, so much because of your great information and tips!

Posted by
11294 posts

I did not enjoy seeing the city from Sacre Coeur at night, as the people who were there were a rather scuzzy bunch (more interested in drinking beer). I loved my night view of the city from the Trocadero (free) and the top of the Arc de Triomphe (included in the Museum Pass) - so much that I did each twice! While there are lots of souvenir vendors at the Trocadero, it didn't feel unpleasant; they left me alone.