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Help! Two days in Paris!

Ok, so I'm going to Paris with my daughter and her family in late November of this year. We will be staying near Disneyland Paris as my daughter's family go there quite often. It's my first trip to Europe and we will be in Paris proper for one day to see the Louvre and then I'm staying overnight by myself in the main area, not sure where, but centrally located.

I'll have one full day on my own, in Paris and I've made a list of the things I want to see and do:
See the Eiffel Tower (don't need to go up at all)
See Arc De Triumphe
Musee D'Orsay
Atelier des Lumières Van Gogh
Sacre Coeur
Champs Elysee (may see that the day before)
Moulin Rouge (not going in)

Bottom line, I have no French other than very basic phrases. I'm concerned about getting around on my own...I've watched videos so I know how to get to these places on the rail system. I had also heard that there are a bunch of street thugs around Sacre Coeur that may harass lone sightseers....

Is Sacre Coeur or Moulin Rouge worth a visit? It seems somewhat far from everything else.
Also, is a river cruise worth it or not?
Anything that I am missing?

Posted by
5265 posts

You can see the Eiffel Tower from many places in Paris, one of the iconic views is from Trocadero right across the river. Or you could see it, and much more, from the top of the Arc de Triomphe (a stair climb but not too high). Walking from the Arc downhill on the Champs Elysees will be easier than the reverse, and will put you close to the Orsay.

I hadn't heard of the Atelier but I see it's on the east side of the city and you can reach by Metro or bus. I'd recommend going up to Sacre Coeur if time allows, especially late in the day, not so much for the basilica as for the views from in front. There will be pickpockets and scamsters, so keep your stuff secure and ignore or firmly decline any "offers." Don't worry about your personal safety though. I've seen the Moulin Rouge from the outside and wouldn't cross the street to do so again.

A river cruise would be a good addition if the weather's OK. Some boats leave from near the Eiffel Tower, others from the Pont Neuf closer to Notre Dame. You don't need to reserve and it takes about an hour, daytime or evening. A good way to rest your feet for awhile too.

You've got a busy day planned but it should be doable. Rather than the Ateliers I'd want to spend more time looking at the actual Van Goghs in the Orsay.

Posted by
676 posts

I love Musée D'Orsay, don't get me wrong. But with two days in Paris, and spending one of them already going to the Louvre, I'd be hesitant to spend several hours of the second day in another museum—particularly on your first trip to Paris (or Europe). Only you can determine if seeing that much artwork is worth missing out on a lot of other wonderful things to see in Paris (maybe it is, as you also reference wanting to go see the Atelier des Lumières Van Gogh). Other things to do include just sitting in a cafe and soaking up the ambience, visiting a nice public garden, or seeing one of the notable cemeteries. If a second museum is a must, and if you like Impressionist paintings, I'd suggest a trip to the Musée de l'Orangerie. It is smaller, has much shorter lines, and is right next to the Jardin des Touleries—which is also a nice place to walk through.

As far as the rest of your list, there is really nothing to see of note on the Champs Elysee anymore (other than to just say you were there). It is now just a collection of large, statement, international retail stores. The view from Arc de Triumph is great. But buy your ticket ahead of time or be prepared to waste some of your few precious hours in an underground ticket line. I can't speak to Sacré Cour of the Moulin Rouge!, as I haven't made my way to either in my nine visits to Paris. A river cruise is a nice way to spend an hour seeing the city from the river, but best is you do it at night when everything is lit up.

Don't worry about not speaking French. It won't be an issue in Paris near the tourist sights. Do watch you bags, wallet and phone; and be wary of anything or persons that causes a distraction to this attentiveness. If you're reasonably fit, you can walk between all of these sights. Just get a decent map ahead of time. If you must use public transport, learn about the buses ahead of time. They're a much nicer way to weave your way through the city while actually seeing it, rather than tunneling underground on the metro and missing the sights.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1024 posts

The Moulin Rouge is a cabaret show, much on the scale of how Las Vegas used to be. If you like extravaganzas, I think Vegas does them better. Personally, I think the Moulin Rouge is way overrated. The Sacre Coeur is a pleasant church, better from a distance, which is located on the hill atop Montmartre, which has an elevator from the church to most of Montmartre below. It's pleasant, but forgettable.

Disneyland Paris is rather far from the city center, but to each his own. Many of us prefer staying in Paris proper, especially in the Left Bank or Marais areas. Because Paris is a walking city, it is pleasant to become a temporary citizen of the place, rather than commuting from amusement park to city center, which is about one hour each way.

The Champs-Elysses is a big shopping street and culminates at the Arc de Triomphe. If you like window shopping, the walk up the Champs is fun. Most of the stores are ones with which you are already familiar, albeit with over the top displays.

If you don't already have a good guidebook to assist you in familiarizing yourself with the Metro and other transportation options, that should be your first priority. It's easy to travel, but there are tricks.

Posted by
76 posts

You will see Champs-Elysees when you see the Arc de Triomphe or vice versa, so if you might see the champs elysee the day before, you will see it at the end of the street in the round about.

The Sacre Coeur is worth it as is the area nearby it which is nice to walk around. There are often 'string men' on the steps from the bottom to the top but it's not as bad as it used to be. I know it can still be an experience for tourists - they focus on the stairs because it's difficult for the police and they have you at a slow speed. If they hassle you, just walk on. The best tip I have is to avoid the steps entirely and take the funiculaire (inclined railway that goes from the base to the top) or just go up the other sides. You need to be aware in Paris in general and take appropriate precautions. The embassy has good tips on how not to get pickpocketed or scammed. Number one for american women is bring a purse that zips shut. As far as transit, get yourself a day/multiday pass so you can use all the trains, buses, funiculaire, etc. If the period you will be there is inside a regular week, ie, Monday - Sunday, Tuesday - Saturday, the navigo decouverte pass will be cheapest.

Moulin Rouge isn't really worth a visit just for it alone. You could get off at the metro stop, take a picture, and then head to the funiculaire to go up the hill to sacre coeur/montmartre.

Not being able to speak french is not a problem. In shops, restaurants, etc, say bonjour since it's polite. Then go on about what you want.

Put citymapper on your phone if you're going to have data service. It's the best for Paris transit. Otherwise, put google maps in offline mode beforehand (you can download a boxed in area) so that you can navigate.

Posted by
1255 posts

An artist friend of mine who has often gone to Paris always makes sure to visit to the Musee Rodin. Be sure to watch the movie "Amilee" before you go. Also there are a greater number of "Unfortunates" living on the streets of Paris now.

Posted by
6732 posts

With so little time Sacre Coeur is not IMHO worth the trip for a closer look nor is Moulin Rouge. See the former at a distant where it is looking its best and bag the MR -- look at a picture on line.

Atelier Lumiere requires tickets in advance and sells out so book that well ahead and use the timing to plan around. Musee d'Orsay -- get tickets in advance which are good for 3 mos and will allow you to use Door C which often has no security line at all -- and if one, then generally much shorter than the main line.

for Champs Elysees -- I suggest walking from Concord up the Champs to the Grand Palais and turning left and crossing Pont Alexandre, the ornate bridge seen in Midnight in Paris -- do it at night after dark, top of the hour when the ET is sparkling for a 5 minutes. Return to the Champs and walk up towards the Arc -- killing that bird on the walk. Then head for Trocadero which has the best view of the ET -- spectacular at night. The Tower is lit and does its sparkle till about 1 am.