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Help from all fellow Paris travelers

I'm trying to set up an itinerary for our 3 1/2 days end of May in Paris. Would love some advise, suggestions or approvals on the general plan I've come up with. Here's some back story to help in the decisions:

My husband & I fly into Paris at 9:40 am. We have decided to stay the day & nite in Paris and take an early train to our next destination but will return 8 days later to spend the next 3 days before flying home. We will be purchasing the 2 day Museum Pass and a couple carnets. The museum pass will only be good for the Fri. & Sat. sites. I haven't assigned any times because I don't want to rush but enjoy as we go, stopping when hungry to eat, or to enjoy some drinks at a street cafe. We don't want to spend a lot of time in the art museums but do want to see the important things. We do love history though. Here is our plan:

Thurs....
arrive 9:40, RER to Paris,
drop off luggage at hotel located in the Latin Quarter,
Do the Historic Paris Walk including going into Notre Dame,
Stopping for lunch on ILE St Louis,
Check into hotel,
Montparnasse Tower for view

Friday (8 days later)....
Arc de Triomphe (top),
Champ-Elysees,
Orangerie Museum (water lilies),
Orsay Museum,
Louvre-open late (Mona Lisa, Venus De Milo)

Saturday....
Sainte Chapelle,
Conciergerie,
Cluny Museum (tapestries),
Rodin Museum (garden),
Eiffel Tower to top at sunset (7 or 8pm reservation)

Sunday.....
Sacre Coeur,
Montmartre Walk,
Trocadero,
Late Dinner Cruise on Seine for light show

Sure would appreciate any input any of you have regarding this plan. Merci!

Posted by
31522 posts

Linda,

My first impression is that your touring plans are far too ambitious and may be difficult to accomplish. I was tired after just reading about your plans. If your intention is just to breeze through these sites in an hour or two, that may be feasible. However, if you want to actually see the sites and appreciate what you're seeing, I'm not sure that will be possible. For example, visiting the Louvre and Musée d'Orsay on the same day (as wel as the others that you have planned that day) seems especially ambitious. Keep in mind that you also have to consider the time it will take to get from one sight to the next.

Of course, I could be wrong and I'll defer to the consensus on the forum on that.

Posted by
693 posts

I agree with Ken. Three major galleries in one day...can only mean a rush.

My suggestion would be to factor in one major gallery a day. With the limited time you have I would personally drop your day three activities and allow yourself that extra day to do everything planned for days one and two. I would also consider dropping the conciergerie if you run low on time.

Posted by
389 posts

Thank you, Ken. You might be right but my husband & I really are not interested in seeing a lot of art. When I say "going to the Louvre", it's just to sneak in to see the two items I mentioned and then move on. That goes for the other museums where I mention only one or two items. I'm sure a lot of people will think we're crazy not to see more while we're in the museums, but we're more interested in the outside of Paris than the inside.

Posted by
16941 posts

You can always change the plan on the spot, but it is always good to have a plan to start with.

Posted by
15053 posts

Friday There's not much joy in walking along the Champs Elysees from the Arc de Triomphe. Just take the metro from the Arc to Concorde and save your time and feet for the museums and/or the walk through the Tuileries. The Arc is open till late, plan to do it at the end, not the beginning of the day. The Orangerie is small. It's usually best to be there when they open, not so many people in the galleries then. Do not underestimate how long it will take you to visit the Orsay and the Louvre. The Orsay has a somewhat one-way path, with the Impressionist paintings on the top floor at the end. Last time I went, I started with the Impressionists and while it was pretty easy to get to the "end" it was like a maze to find my way down to the other galleries and I wasted a good bit of time. I was at the "end" about an hour after opening, on a weekday in April and the Impressionist galleries were very crowded. The Louvre may not be as crowded, but it is huge, so seeing even a few works can take hours of walking - and it's hard to just walk past so much other great works. I have to say the if you only want to see the 2 pieces you mention, skip the Mona Lisa - it's small, there'll probably be a crowd around it, and it's roped off so you can't get close. Venus is quite a distance from Mona.

Saturday The Cluny isn't small and, like the other museums, you have to go through a lot of rooms with a lot of interesting exhibits before you reach the tapestries. It's a pretty busy day, but doable. Sunset is at 9.45.

Sunday The Trocadero is near the Eiffel Tower. Dinner cruise dinners are usually much more expensive and not nearly as good as meals on land. Also, while you're eating you don't really spend much time looking at the view. Sunset is still at 9.45. Have a nice dinner, then take a 9.30 cruise (Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf are good).

Missing from your itinerary: Notre Dame Cathedral. There are often free organ recitals around 4-5 p.m. on Sundays. Get there early to get seats.

Posted by
13703 posts

I'd vote with Chani to skip the Champs - and uninteresting stretch of street - and save the Arc until a late afternoon or evening when other things are closed.

If you are staying in the Latin Quarter, you'll be close to Jardin du Luxembourg. If you're interested in 'outdoor' Paris, this should be on your list. I'd do that one on Sat. morning versus the Champs/Arc - although I think it'll be most lively on a weekend afternoon if the weather is nice. The Tuileries, as also mentioned, is also advised.

Which brings me to the next point: the weather. It may not cooperate for all of your outdoor walks and planned viewing from the Eiffel, Montparnasse, etc. so flexibility is advised. If it's pouring buckets, you may want to spend more time at indoor attractions than planned. Sunsets aren't a given at the Eiffel if it's cloudy, foggy or raining.

IMHO, Mona Lisa - and the Venus as well - are two of the LEAST interesting pieces in the Louvre, and they keep you so far away from Mona that you cannot see the brushstrokes. Not a highlight, or wasn't for us, anyway. We spent the better part of a day there, and went back twice more over a week in the city, and discovered so many other works which were more engaging!

The thing about art museums - and I'm a little surprised that you have quite so many of those on your list if they're not high on the interest list - is not to go see what everyone else thinks you should or what the masses consider the Top 10. Give them enough time to discover pieces that appeal to YOU: you may find that you'll enjoy the experience a lot more. If you know for sure that you just do not have an interest in art at all, don't go; find other things to do. Just because they're recommended in every Paris travel book and website doesn't mean you HAVE to do them. Go see some of the churches, parks, cemeteries, pieces of Paris' history, other sorts of museums (if the weather is lousy) etc. For instance, the Carnavalet is free (donation suggested) and offers a lesson in the history of Paris that you might find more interesting than the Rodin?

Posted by
5531 posts

I really enjoyed bicycling along the river in Paris. It is easy to rent a bike from the stands that are located every few blocks. Just go online and set up an account.

Posted by
13215 posts

You will be in Paris during the Roland Garros tennis tournament, aka the French Open--- one of the four big Grand Slam tennis events worldwide. I don't know if this will make the Paris tourist attractions more or less crowded at this time, but it may make lodging more expensive and some restaurants harder to get into. And Le Metro more crowded.

Have you already booked your lodging?

Posted by
389 posts

Oh my Lola, didn't realize that...ugh:-(. Fortunately, we do have our hotel already booked. But am afraid about crowded restaurants, & worse, the Metro. Oh well, will have to deal and try to plan ahead with reservations at restaurants for dinner.

Carol, if weather is pleasant, biking is something that we would probably enjoy. Will keep it in mind.

Kathy, Chani and Sam, I've made a couple changes based on what you all suggested. Of course, weather plays a big part on what I'm planning but that is the case no matter where or what one plans. But you've made me decide on things to do if weather interferes with these plans...

Thurs. the same except if rainy or cloudy, then take Bus 69 to tour Paris under cover, instead of going to Montparnasse Tower. Then see if we can squeeze in at another "sunny" time.

Friday, changed to this order...Orangerie Museum to see Water Lilies, Orsay Museum, The Tuileries as a break, Arc De Triomphe (top), Louvre (but not going inside).

Sat. the same, but if weather is grand, cut out a museum and go to Jardin du Luxembourg. Since I have to reserve the Eiffel Tower, I still choose just before sunset and hope for the best. Would like to see Paris light up from there.

Sun. the same except I like your idea, Chani, and will eat dinner on land and take the 9:30 cruise providing it ends at the Eiffel Tower when the lights go on. Then go to Trocadero (does anyone know when it closes (RS does not address this. He only says go there at night.). Also Chani, I do cover Notre Dame on the first day doing the Historic Paris Walk.

Thank you everyone that commented on my itinerary....appreciate it so much😊

Posted by
341 posts

People are different. This is your vacation, and if you just want to see a famous painting or two per museum I'd say do what makes you happy. That said, I think your daily itinerary is ambitious because 1) you need to get to all these places which involves a good deal of walking thru unfamiliar streets and/or public transit and finding the entrances and your way once exiting 2) even with a museum pass there can be lines for pass holders, and not everything you want to see is covered on the pass so there may be a wait to get tix 3) each site can take 30-60 minutes for even a cursory visit once inside. The list may be possible by moving at a continual pace, which is at odds with your desire "don't want to rush but enjoy as we go". Now this is based on my experience of having been to Paris and visiting most of these sites.

What I do suggest is use your itinerary above as a "want" list but don't become tied to it as "must do" or you can end up being miserable trying to do it. Give yourself the freedom each day to prioritize what you do and skip some if you decide you'd rather spend more time in one place or it just looks like they all won't get done that day.

Posted by
389 posts

Totally agree Bill! Travelled around Rome with a quite an aggressive list knowing some things just won't get seen. The weather will dictate what and how much time at each site we'll use. But like Sam said, the plan can always get changed on the spot, but still need a plan to start with. Thank you!

Posted by
430 posts

Linda,

It's your vacation. I'm on the side of you and your husband doing museums (or Paris) the way you want to. I love museums, never seem to have "enough," but there's nothing wrong with your having specific "must see" targets instead of spending a lot of time browsing. To each her own. And while I don't want to walk along the Champs Elysee, you two might enjoy it.

Despite that, this seems like an overly ambitious schedule. It take time to get to each item on the list. It takes time to get in once you've arrived. It even takes time simply to walk from the Louvre entrance to the Mona Lisa, work your way through the crowd to where you can actually see it, then additional time to walk to the Venus De Milo and then back out of the Louvre again. On top of that you "don't want to rush but enjoy as we go, stopping when hungry to eat, or to enjoy some drinks at a street cafe." Sounds like fun.

But your preference for leisurely walking and "just because" stops will also take time. I think you should prioritize your list for each day, then make sure you see the top ones, even if it means skipping some of the others.

And sure, allow for weather contingencies, but when it's rained on us, my wife smiles and says, "yes, but it's French rain."

I hesitate to give you my advice about which items on your list are best, which less so. That's very much a matter of individual taste. I like gardens but have never been impressed with the Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens, although many others like them.

Do your own research and then take your best shot, doing it the way you like doing it. If you're anything like us, you'll like some things more than you thought you would, and some less.

It's Paris. You can hardly go wrong. I hope you enjoy yourselves

Posted by
9928 posts

I will just add a couple of suggestions.

-When you walk thru the Tuileries, note that they are located between the Orangerie and the Louvre, so if you are going to look at the Louvre from the outside, then while you are in the Tuileries seems a logical time to do it instead of coming back after you do the Arc de Triomphe. You can also see the Arc de Triomphe from the center gate (on Place de la Concorde) that enters the gardens near the Orangerie as well as from the Louvre end of the Tuileries. I'm assuming you plan to cross back to the Tuileries after your visit to the d'Orsay.

-The Water Lilies panels in the Orangerie are on the same level as the entrance. There are more galleries downstairs but huge canvases of the Water Lilies are all on that main entry level.

-I have had the same problem as Chani in the d'Orsay and the first time in there I managed to get myself totally confused and hiked up a jillion stairs. If your main interest is in the Impressionists Galleries, from the front entrance walk directly straight back to the far end of the hall. There are escalators that will take you to the 5th floor which is where the Impressionists are. Then you can work your way back down. You come out on 5 by a gift shop but do take the time to look outside thru the clock just across from the shop!

Posted by
4784 posts

Linda,

Then go to Trocadero (does anyone know when it closes (RS does not
address this. He only says go there at night.)

Trocadéro is an area in Paris right across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. This is a great spot for taking photos of the tower.

You can get there by taking the Metro to the Trocadéro stop.

The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower was from this very spot & I was mesmerized by the amazing views!

This was way back in the 80's when the Eiffel Tower was green!

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
105 posts

Hi Linda,
You might want to consider the yellow Open Tours Hop On/Off bus on one of your days. You could use it as your transportation to the places you want to see that are the farthest from where you are staying. It also gives you a great overview of Paris. Glad you changed your mind about the river dinner cruise. I found it to be an expensive tourist trap & you can definitely get a better dinner on land.

Posted by
4684 posts

The Trocadero is a location in Paris. The balcony from where you get a good view of the Eiffel Tower should be open at all times as it's public space. The actual building on the site is the Palace de Chaillot, which includes museums of ethnology, French architecture, and sea transport and the navy.

Posted by
13703 posts

Ken, that's so funny (but so true)!

And Linda, I didn't mean to imply that there was a thing wrong with wanting to see Mona and Venus. My suggestion to rethink the museum plan was based on an itinerary which looked awfully busy and awfully full of museums which you "didn't want to spend a lot of time in." Paris is such a wonderful city to just walk and look (weather permitting) that it just didn't seem necessary to take time away from something you KNEW you'd enjoy for things you possibly wouldn't, if that makes sense?

It IS your trip and you should do exactly what you want to do with. It's just perfectly fine not to feel that you 'had' to do art museums if there are other attractions or activities which would be more fun for you. :O)

The Trocadero at night is lovely, and doesn't "close" so no worries there.

Posted by
15053 posts

Linda, don't worry about the impact of Roland Garros. I was in Paris about 5 years ago during the tournament and the only noticeable impact was in front of the Hotel de Ville - they put up a huge screen to broadcast the matches live, and there were places to sit on faux grass and bleachers. There was also a small clay tennis court that people could play on. Great fun but no problem for tourists not interested in tennis.

Posted by
389 posts

Wow, thank you Bob, Pam, Priscella, Ashley, Philip, Ken, Kathy, And Chani!! So great that you all took time to send me such valuable info.

Bob, love the idea of "French Rain"...will remember that :-)).

Ashley, have done on/off buses in other cities, and yes, they are a great way to see a city....will consider.

Ken, I sure appreciated the site you sent me to...haha. Made me realize what I would be missing...not much. And if the weather is beautiful, would never want to give up the streets & parks of Paris for hours spent to see a work of art from that vantage point.

Chani, so relieved to hear the tennis tournament won't effect our trip as much as I had thought.

Also, I have a keen sense of direction and with a good map of the streets, metro, and bus system, I'm sure we will get to sights a lot faster than most. We covered so much in Rome in just our 3 days there....but found time to do street cafes and enjoy the local scenes too. I am aware that schedules are needed but far from feeling that you have to stick to them. That's the fun of adventure.

I have taken all that has been said and will put it to good use...thank you all!!

Posted by
2047 posts

I have been in Paris numbers times during the Tennis Tournament. Unless you are going to the tournament you won't notice. Things are not more crowded, but then it's generally crowded in tourist Paris :)

Posted by
1845 posts

My suggestion is to choose your top "absolute must see" sites. Do one a day, after that anything else you plan will be great. Everything always takes longer than you realize! Sometimes you get lost, it takes longer than expected etc. so plan your day, star the important one, and then take it easy and go from there.

Posted by
7139 posts

You need to do Orsay on a different day to the Louvre. I would add the Pantheon and Invalides at the expense of your Conciergerie visit (where an outside view is enough). Don't forget the Marais, perhaps even on your first Thursday if time is working for you.

Friday
Sainte Chapelle
Cluny
Pantheon
Luxembourg Gardens
Louvre

Saturday
Orangerie+Tuileries
Orsay
Rodin
Invalides (Naploeons Tomb)
Seine Cruise for lights

Sunday
Le Marais (Place des Vosges)
Sacre Coeur+Montmartre
Champs Élysées+Arc de Triomphe (brief stop)
Eiffel Tower for sunset

Posted by
31522 posts

Linda,

It is possible to work your way up to the front to get an clear view of La Gioconda, but it will take a few minutes. If you want to requisite photo in front of the painting, you might want to try to position yourself to the side as that will eliminate some of the glare off the bullet-proof glass. Be sure to wear a Money Belt, as there WILL be pickpockets in the "scrum". I conducted an experiment on my last visit there, and I was "probed" while there. In order to exit that mob, I used "bulldozer mode" and that worked well (sometimes it helps being "larger").

Posted by
389 posts

Thank you Carol, Susan, Monte and David!

David, your order does make more sense, but one problem, I only have 2 days with the Museum Pass. As so many have said, it's too ambitious. So will look over the itinerary again and try to regroup the sites in order to their location. Then will follow it only as the weather predicts. If sunny, skip museum sites if there isn't enough time. Bad weather, see the museums and drop the parks. Either way, stopping in cafes for drinks, food, and people watching will always hold most importance.
Thanks all! Linda

Posted by
389 posts

Thanks Ken...good suggestion! And yes, money belt always 👍

Posted by
15053 posts

You are spending thousands for this trip, don't stress trying to save a few euros and don't let the Museum Pass dictate a poor itinerary. Also consider spending €14 more (each) for the 4-day pass.

Posted by
7139 posts

With the places I list, only Friday and Saturday include Paris Museum Pass sights, all grouped by location. So you would still only need a 2 day pass, with no entry and ascent of the Arc de Triomphe on Sunday, just a visit to the base.

Posted by
2 posts

I agree with many of the other comments. Everything takes longer than you think it will... Have been to Paris several times and have been to most of the same sites you list. The Paris Museum Pass is wonderful to avoid the ADMISSION line, but does nothing to avoid the SECURITY line. We waited well over an hour at St. Chappelle to get thru security and we were there when they opened... 30+ minutes for L'Orngerie security line. Same with Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Notre Dame is another wait to get in, then it is so crowded you really need to just shuffle thru... Although this is much better if you are there when they open or for an evening concert, as another poster suggests.

In regard to the Louvre, it is HUGE.... Maps provided are confusing, there is no good way to get directly from point A to point B without multiple turns and up and down stairs. It took us an hour just to find the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo.... The Orsay is the same, as another person has commented, what you come to see is furthest from the door....

Great idea for the top of the Arc, especially at night, a stellar view of the Eiffel Tower light show if you time it at the top of the hour, keep in mind, its only accessible by stair for the able bodied, so (at least for me ☺️ This added considerable time). If you decide to walk the Champs Elysees, start near the Arc and walk back down.... If you start at the other end it's all up hill.... We found this was fun at night, not crowded at all and plenty of time to window shop.

Last year, we were there during the French Open and didn't experience any problems at all with transport or dinner plans.

We have used the Metro for transport, and it's great, but this last trip we were pressed for time, so used taxis quite a bit and found them economical and quick, which may help you complete your itinerary... You are on your own schedule and are dropped at the door of your choice, no extra walking or finding your way thru stations. We never paid more than €10-15 for any trip and we went between the Latin Quarter, Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Les Halles, Gare du Nord and Montparnasse. Just know you have to get them at designated taxi stands a "T" in a blue circle on your map....

We are in our mid 40s, active and fit. We found that on average, even with taxis and Metro we walked 5-8 miles per day and were more than happy to sacrifice some sighseeing to sit with a drink and rest our feet at a sidewalk cafe :) which is a HUGE part of the Paris experience.

Posted by
5151 posts

Reading Linda's plan for the Louvre reminded me of a great piece Art Buchwald (RIP) used to do called "The 5-Minute Louvre." The gist is that tourists compete to see how quickly they can get through the Louvre, but they have to see the Venus di Milo and the Mona Lisa. And at the Mona Lisa they must stop and say something. His friend, who mastered the 5-minute Louvre, said as he paused: "I know the guy that has the original."