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How do you organize your days in Paris?

How do you organize your days in Paris?

There are so many worthwhile sights. I'm leaning toward getting a museum pass then walk (or bike) geographic areas, stopping along the way at places that seem interesting and are covered by the museum pass (probably skipping most of the sights that aren't covered by the pass).

Personal interests for me are history (especially prior to the 1600's), art (up to impressionism, not modern), architecture (pre baroque), music performances (a full range from classical/opera to currently popular). I don't hate the big tourist sites but find lesser known sites to be more rewarding.

I'm also thinking about a daytrip, probably not two, but I'm strongly thinking Fontainebleau rather than Versailles to avoid the crowd.

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Posted by
784 posts

First, get a good guidebook - Rick's Paris book is excellent. Then get a good detailed map. Since you are interested in lesser sights, another good guide would be the Michilin Green Guide. Study the walking tours detailed in the guides, make a list of your priorities and group them geographically according to your map. There is a website for the Paris museum pass that lists all of the covered museums and sights - google it. Be sure to allow plenty of time for cafe sitting and enjoying the parks and gardens. Your idea of going to Fontainebleau rather than Versailles is a good one.

Posted by
10344 posts

Hi Brad,
Good to see you going to Europe again (Brad is an old-timer here). I'm going to Paris, too, in a few months. The museum pass looks like a good thing to do and I'm planning on using it the same way you are.
You're going to love my favorite art museum, the Orsay, maybe the best collection of Impressionist art on the planet.
I'm with you on Versailles, these days the crowds and the security line detract from the enjoyment. However, I've seen it before, if I hadn't, I don't know whether I could pass it up, visiting there was more fun before the security line got so long.
Fontainebleau would be a good day trip.

Posted by
3488 posts

Brad ,a couple of suggestions based on your comments - Basilique St Denis just north of the Peripherique on the # 13 Metro is magnificent . The French kings , while crowned in Reims , are buried here , and the funerary sculptures are well worth the time . Also , the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny have returned after a protracted absence while the gallery was renovated . The Musee Jacquemart - Andre , in the 8th , is an intimate place with a very tasteful collection which you might find much to your liking

Posted by
776 posts

You have received much great advice. I agree that you should group activites by area so that time is not wasted. Consider going to some churches early. On my last trip, I visited Notre Dame cathedral just before 8 am, when they were opening the doors. A few devout people were attending a small service and only a handful of tourists were present. While is was a cloudy day and the windows were not in best light, just to be there without a crowd was one of the highlights of my trip.

I have been to the Marmottan museum, featuring Monet. It is a bit farther out via metro, but it was a lovely walk. It is a fabulous museum, but the Orangerie with the oval room and the large canvases of Monet's gardens is the best, imho.

I also enjoy the Cluny. I have visited it at least 3 times. It is easy to get to. The Luxemburg Gardens are so lovely, I would highly recommend it for some peace and grand plantings. It is a busy park, joggers, families, chess players, all marvelous to watch. In November 2014, the small museum on the edge of the gardens had an additional exhibit with many Renoir. Another highlight. The Angelina hot chocolate, in the small restaurant right next to the museum is heavenly but pricy.

I love to walk along the Seine in early morning and near sunset. The bridges are works of art as are some of the buildings. And the view of the Eiffel tower from across the Seine in the Trocadero at sunset is another one of my faborite things.

I am addicted to Paris! Have a great trip.

Posted by
3488 posts

One other thought , given your architectural tastes - Eglise Saint Severin , just near St Michel , a stunning late Gothic church - walking through the ambulatory is like wandering in a dense forest .

Posted by
2057 posts

Another vote for St. Denis. This was a real treat and well worth the metro journey. Also, we very much enjoyed the Musée de la Marine in Paris. Chartres for your day trip?

Posted by
2284 posts

My favorite site in Paris is Sainte-Chapelle. I believe it's covered by the museum pass, but you still have to go through the security line, so go early. It is a riot of stained glass and stunningly beautiful. I would also recommend going there in the evening for a concert. I had a hard time convincing myself to do it because it's kind of expensive and I am not extremely into music, but I did it because so many people on this forum recommended it. I absolutely loved it - just magical. Should you go in the daytime if you'll be going to a concert in the evening? I say yes, other wise you will miss going to the lower chapel, which I loved. But if you're pressed for time, maybe not.

I also loved the Cluny. It's just a lovely small museum.

We've never used the metro in Paris; we enjoy walking, and there is so much to look at in Paris. I especially like the Latin Quarter and Marais. Be sure to spend some time in Luxembourg Gardens -- beautiful and charming. There seem to be frequent concerts on the weekends -- nothing that draws a huge crowd (at least not in September), but very pleasant and excellent museums.

As for organizing your days, if you have a museum pass, you pretty much have to hit all the museums on the days you have the pass. Other than that, I do it by looking on a map and identifying things in one walkable area.

I have not been to Fontainebleau, but I can tell you Chartres makes a wonderful day trip. The cathedral is beautiful (better than Notre Dames), and the town is quite charming as well.

Posted by
733 posts

You might want to check out the Michelin green guide to Paris. I have an old copy. It is organized by walks in different areas. Not sure if it is still organized that way. I still use my 30+ year old copy when I go to Paris. Michelin is very detailed.

Posted by
11978 posts

Yes, I am a total noob when it comes to France. I've spent months in Germany (an exchange with the German Air Force), Austria, Italy, England, Scotland, Ireland, Scandinavia, Finland, Russia and Spain, even Poland and Estonia (as well a couple years in Asia and Australia) - but have never been to France (I also have yet to visit Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Israel, the Dalmatian Coast area and more.)

Not because I didn't want to see France but because I don't cross borders just to say I've been somewhere. I see France as a place that will take four good visits, roughly NW, SW, NE, and SE to do justice to. So much to see, so little time.

In September the plan is to make my first foray into France with a loop through Paris, Normandy, Brittany, and the Loire.

Regarding seeing Paris. I've read Rick Steves' France as well as Rough Guide and Lonely Planet so far. Normally I plan to see two big sights per day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon and keep a list of lesser sights to fill in whatever time, energy and motivation remains.

Paris is different. There are so many things I'd like to see it would take me more than a month seeing only two a day. I'm leaning toward breaking things up geographically to reduce unnecessary travel between sights and make more, but shorter, stops at smaller sights along with only a few major sights.

I still expect to skip a lot on this trip. The NE loop plan, probably two years away, will likely start and end in Paris also, so I'll have another decent visit then.

Posted by
8515 posts

A third endorsement for the Michelin Green Guide to Paris.

Posted by
11978 posts

I'm expecting to see Chartres, as a day stop, on the way back from Orleans at the end of the loop. I'll see Rouen as a day stop on the way out of Paris toward Normandy. The idea now, plan is still gelling, is to train to Rouen, pick up a car for Normandy and Brittany, trade the car for bicycles in the Loire, and ultimately train back into Paris from Orleans (with a stop in Chartres).

This will only be a two and a half week trip for me but I expect to spend 7 to 9 nights on the loop and the rest in Paris.

Posted by
11978 posts

I'll definitely pick up the Michelin Guide. My last big trip was to Spain. I carried the Rick Steves guide (cut into applicable chapters) and the Green Guide.

Posted by
10344 posts

"In September the plan is to make my first foray into France with a loop through Paris, Normandy, Brittany, and the Loire. "

That's exactly what I did on one of my first trips to France--that exact itinerary, except I went clockwise (Paris, Loire, Brittany, and Normandy). Either direction works.
Picked up the rental car at CDG upon departing Paris.

I also recommend the Michelin guidebooks for France, Michelin specializes in France (in its guidebook series), and the bad news :) is that there's a separate Michelin guide for the Loire Valley, one for Brittany, and one for Normandy. The books are relatively light-weight, and I bought all four, for me they were worth hauling. But I'm a guidebook book person, like to understand what I'm seeing.
You sound like you might be a book person, too. You can "ook inside" the books at Amazon. If you want to buy any, probably best to buy them here, because buying the English versions in Paris will eat up time. Rick describes the Michelin books as "scholarly" but "dry." (we won't tell him if you buy any of them, if you buy his book, too).

Posted by
11978 posts

Good idea Kent. I've got a gift card for Amazon that's needs to be spent on something worthwhile.

Posted by
9930 posts

I don't know if you have an interest in Asian art, but I went with a friend to the Musee Guimet and thoroughly enjoyed it. I do not believe it is covered by the museum pass, but it is well worth the admission fee.

Posted by
1691 posts

I can suggest a visit to the UNESCO listed medieval centre of Provins east of Paris. Château d´Ecouen with it´s Musée National de la Renaissance and the Abbey of Royaumont, both just north of Paris.

Parts of the Château de Vincennes like the donjon in Paris are still medieval remains, however not visited the place yet, nevertheless worth a visit to my opinion. The ruines of Château Gaillard near Andelys along the Seine, more for the spectacular view.

My vote for Saint-Denis too and all those wonderful gothic cathedrals of Northern France (+ Chartres ofcourse) like Amiens, Beauvais, Reims etc. The latter combine it with a visit to Palais du Tau. Not to forget to mention the numerous little churches you can find everywhere.

Posted by
2284 posts

In my comments on Luxembourg Gardens, I meant to say excellent musicians, not museums. (Can't figure out how to edit posts on my phone.)

Posted by
2349 posts

Too many important things to do and see in Paris-that's the problem. You can get so busy trying to see everything that you miss the most wonderful thing in Paris-just doing nothing. If you rush around and see lots of sites then you are left a little empty, wishing you had sat in more cafes and done more strolling. But if you take it easier, you wish you'd gone to this museum or that cathedral. The only solution is more trips.

On two different 1 week trips, I bought the 4 day museum pass. Next time I'll buy the 6 day. It's only 13 euro more. I probably wouldn't see much more, but I wouldn't feel the need to "organize" so much, or try to fit it all into the 4 days.

On my most recent trip this last October, my husband went with me for the first time. He has a limit of about one activity per day. My limit's a lot higher. So I researched when markets were open (our top priority) and the days/hours museums were open. I kept a list but didn't make a specific itinerary. If he was up to going to two places, great. If not, I'd get him back to the hotel and go off on my own. (This makes him sound like he's 90 with a rug nestled over his knees. He's not. He just has a much slower vacation pace.)

Pay attention to "last admission" times, as they are earlier than the closing times.

Since you like art, architecture, and history, read Ina Caro's "Paris to the Past."

Posted by
15075 posts

Paris is my favorite city so I have lots of ideas.

The first thing that struck me is that you will be there in September. September is a huge month for trade fairs so expect most hotels to be fully booked well in advance. This doesn't impact tourist sites much, they aren't any more crowded that usual. The other thing about September is the Journees de Patrimoine (heritage days) which are usually the 3rd weekend in Paris (most European countries celebrate, but some at different times). You can choose to avoid Paris then or take advantage of these special days. Besides the usual (e.g., most museums are free) the government opens buildings to the general public that are usually restricted to those with authorization: the ones I saw were the National Assembly, the Senat (aka the Luxembourg Palace) and the Hotel de Ville - these were all palaces and they are beautiful. The longest I waited in line was an hour, once inside you are free to take your time (and your photos) for as long as you like. Most other governments offices were open as well as some of the embassies (also in palaces, of course). I visited the Russian Embassy which had a special exhibition on the Romanovs (and lots of Faberge) for the event.

The main advantage to the museum pass for me is that I don't feel I have to spend a lot of time in a sight to justify the entrance price or skip a sight because it may not be worth the money.

I start with a spreadsheet of all the sights that sound good to me. The museum pass website is a good start to build the list. I list the hours (especially any evening hours), if they're included in the pass, and the arrondissement (its the last 2 digits of the zip code). For some places it saves waiting in line - another bonus.

I always walk my legs off in Paris, so I ride the bus or metro as much as possible. The most economical and convenient option is the Navigo pass, which is weekly from Monday-Sunday. If you get 5 consecutive days it's usually money-saving, at 3-4 days you are around break-even, depending on how much you'll use it. It's good for both buses and metro. You need one per person and there's an initial fee of €5 each, but the pass is then good forever. So if you can be flexible with your days in Paris, plan to arrive early in the week for maximum savings on local transport.

One of my favorite museums is the Carnavalet in the Marais Quarter. Please don't skip it. It's the history of Paris, very interesting, beautiful building. Probably the reason it isn't included in the museum pass is because it's free.

To avoid crowds as much as possible:
Louvre enter through the Carousel, not the Pyramid, entrance. Visit from late afternoon on one of the late nights, Wednesday and Friday. If you want to rent an audio guide, remember which kiosk you get it from, so you can get your driver's license back when you return it.
Orsay I think the museum is too small for the collections. It always seems crowded. My best advice is to get there when they open and start at the top. It's where most of the "best stuff" is and most people work there up so it will be relatively empty.
Sainte Chapelle The security line can be really long, because it is also the entrance to the law courts. Also when I was last there, they were closing the entrance for about an hour at lunch time! The best way to see this is to get tickets for a concert. It's usually light classical - Vivaldi's Four Seasons is a standard. There are often two concerts an evening, get the one around sunset - the best time to be see the stained glass. Be among the first to arrive and you'll have lots of time to get good seats, then wander around looking at the windows (and taking photos) before the concert begins. You don't get to see the lower part of the chapel, but the upper part is what everyone goes to see anyway.

Posted by
15075 posts

Versailles There really is no substitute, partly because of the beautiful grounds and the outlying buildings. I don't think it is as crowded in September, except on weekends, and probably the later the date, the less the crowds. I think on Tuesdays the fountains are turned on in September, which would draw more crowds that other days, but still likely to be less than the weekend.
Notre Dame I think there's always a line to climb the tower. The best is to arrive early, before they open. Be prepared to wait for an hour to start the climb. There's no way to avoid it.

Views I think going up the Eiffel Tower is overrated; I did it twice year many years ago because my tripmate wanted to, and before there were mile-long lines. There are nice views from the Pantheon (you have to pay extra for the tour that climbs the dome, but it's not a lot), the Arc de Triomphe (around sunset is nice) and Montmartre. There's a good view of Notre Dame from the roof of the Grand Mosque (no entrance fee, go to the restaurant). The outside elevator at the Pompidou Centre has a nice view.

The best museum for "early" history is the Cluny (one of my personal faves). Another must would be the Conciergerie. Basilique St-Denis dates back the the 12th century, it's an easy metro ride to get there. Cite de l'Architecture et du Patrimoine is the museum for architecture in Paris. http://www.citechaillot.fr/en/infos_pratiques/opening_hours_access_tickets/

Music There are usually free organ recitals in Notre Dame around 4 p.m. on Sundays. My notes say there's a Gregorian chant mass at Notre Dame on Sundays around 10.00 a.m. and at St. Sulpice "at 11:30 to 12:00 between masses is a 30 minute organ concert by a masterful pipe organist". St. Germaine-des-Pres has great acoustics, maybe there's a concert scheduled during your stay. And of course the Opera

Posted by
11978 posts

Wow, great notes Chani! I really appreciate everyone who has contributed so far. Even if each of us has slightly different preferences, getting an idea what someone liked really helps sort things out. St. Denis hadn't been on my radar for this trip but I think it needs to be.

Thanks,

Brad

Posted by
11978 posts

Regarding the open buildings in September.

I was in Koln one September. They open part of the old city hall (very rarely) to exhibit what they call the "treasures", the original remnants of Koln that survived the massive WWII bombings - most things you see are recreated rather than just restored and the originals are kept in a vault.

Part of the day was visiting the OberBurgermeister in his office. I don't remember his name but his ego is something I still laugh about. He was giving out 5x7 autographed photos (of himself) and Koln style beer glasses with a cartoon version of his photo and autograph on them.

I had asked my aide, back in the states, what she wanted me to bring her from Germany and she said, "A man," - so I gave her the two autographed items when I got home.

Posted by
11978 posts

Thinking of Chani's notes on views, I'm settled on only seeing the Eiffel Tower from a distance rather than fight crowds for a view. If I go for a view it will be either from Montparnasse or the Arc de Triomphe (hadn't considered the Pantheon).

Anyone think I'll be missing out or have ideas about best views (both where and when)?

Posted by
11450 posts

I love the view from the Arc.. you see the Eiffel Tower to one side.. and on the other side.. high on a hillside.. Sacre Coeur..

I also think St Denis is wonderful.. be sure to visit the crypts.
I also love museums.. so always visit several of the bigger ones again and again.. Louvre, Orsay. and Invalids Army Museum ( this one is so peaceful and uncrowded.. that alone makes it a relief after shoulder to shoulder masses in some of the other popular museums) .. I also recommend the Shoah Museum, and the Cluny.

I would also consider visiting Chantilly if you like art.. it contains the Conde Museum , whos painting collection is second only to that in the Louvre( for era) and no crowds.. plus awesome Royal Stables, Horse Museum, and of course.. Chantilly cream desserts offered in a small outdoor café in the peaceful grounds.. an awesome break from Paris crowds. And enough gilt to satisfy yourself that choosing to miss the crowds at Versailles was not a mistake.

Posted by
2349 posts

You don't have to go up the Eiffel tower, but you should see it up close.

I went to Versailles in October three years ago. While I had some "wow!" moments, I had way more "wow, it's too crowded" moments. I may try again sometime, but it was too unpleasant.

Try to fit in one of the Paris Walks tours. It's a great way to learn about a neighborhood or time period.

Posted by
15075 posts

Brad, the architecture museum, and another one as well, are in the Trocadero. From the huge balcony there's a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower with the Champ de March behind it. There are a few places to sit and lots of standing room for the view - and lots of hawkers with all kinds of trinkets too. The other good viewing place is on the Champ de March. Either way, do walk down to the base to have a close-up look. And remember, it twinkles on the hour after dark.

I was going to suggest starting your Paris visit with a bike or segway (more expensive but fun) tour to get a little orientation. Fat Tire Bikes have good tours and the meeting point is under the Eiffel Tower.

Try to fit in at least one Paris Walk. The best is the chocolate walk, but it's only a couple of times a month. You need to reserve this one in advance - there's a reason it is always full! Lots of history and anecdotes, plus some superb chocolate.

Posted by
8293 posts

If you have an interest in the city planning and architecture of Paris, Pavillon de l'Arsenal is the place to go. And it's free.

Posted by
2251 posts

The sewers tour is worthwhile too. And Brad, I've been reading David Downie's book Paris, Paris. It's quite an interesting book to understand some Paris history in small bites.

Posted by
13026 posts

Hi,

"Paris is different." So very true.

Since you're interested particularly in history "prior to the 1600s," seeing Fontainebleau is a much better choice and more historically accurate than going to Versailles. Fontainebleau is older than Versailles. You'll recognise that immediately. Between the two I saw Versailles first. I didn't have time for both places on that first visit to Paris, and looking back I wasn't really ready for Fontainebleau anyway until my second trip France in 1977. Then I made it point to see Fontainebleau.

Posted by
11978 posts

Regarding walks, the two I'm considering now are Paris walks, maybe one or two, and Paris Greeters, maybe one when I arrive. What were you're favorite walks?

Regarding renting bikes. I believe with a chip and pin credit card you can rent the city bikes. I plan to have USAA send me a chip and pin card before my trip; up til now I never felt I needed one. Since I haven't been to Paris, however, I have no idea whether they are prevalent and in good repair. We have city bikes in DC that are very handy and a bargain (but you need to ride mostly on sidewalks to avoid the traffic). Does anyone have experience with these?

Thanks,

Brad

Posted by
11978 posts

Regarding lodging. I'm a budget traveler and am perfectly happy with anything clean and quiet. I spend so much time out and about that hotels serve only as a place to sleep, shower and sometimes eat breakfast. Convenient walking distance to sights is a definite plus. Right now, the Marais area seems great.

This trip looks like it will include another Lt. Col. in the Air National Guard (like me) and possibly other friends (including an Air Guard Major and her boyfriend). They have suggested the French Officers Quarters. It's close to Gare Saint-Lazare. Does any one have any experience with either the French Officers' Quarters or the area?

Posted by
809 posts

I too think skipping Versailles is the right choice. I've been twice and both times just got the feeling that it was designed to make people feel insignificant, overwhelmed by the might of the king. Also there are too many people, as others have noted.

You've gotten a recommendation for one Ina Caro book; I also suggest her book The Road From the Past, which takes you around France in chronological order; she ends with a section of historic sights around Paris. We used this book for our Provence/Languedoc trip in 2013 and our Loire trip last fall; lots of good information and a very conversational writing style. You might also be interested in Alistair Horne's Seven Ages of Paris; I found it a fascinating history of the city.
Have a great trip!

Posted by
2251 posts

You can sign up for Velib Bikes at the link below, scroll down to "short term user" and it gives you a choice for a 1-day or 7-day "ticket", good for under 30 minute rides. More than than and it'll cost you a bit, not bad though. As I recall you get a pin number for use at the stands. There are lots of pickup and drop off spots, in fact there are apps available that will show which stations have how many bikes. At times it can be dependent on timing whether a bike in good order is there when you need it.
Sometimes there are not many choices, as here in the 16th on a Sunday afternoon.

http://en.velib.paris.fr/Subscriptions-and-fees

Posted by
3696 posts

Looks like you have all the 'must see' sights covered, but I have to agree with Karen.... leave yourself a day to just wander around, hang out in cafes, possibly visit a market and enjoy Parisian life. Maybe spend some extra time in Luxembourg Gardens with a picnic. I also spend tons of time walking the city and really find that I prefer riding the bus vs. the metro. It gives me a great view of the city and easier to be oriented. Also a nice place to spend a few hours is the Rodin Gardens. Last time I was there they were having a wonderful outdoor concert. It was perfect...
I also did not care for Versailles... I was there in Dec, so there were no crowds, however it was an overload of opulence. I would have rather been sitting in a café in Montmare.

Posted by
1135 posts

I'm one of those people who likes to manage my days pretty well. I usually pick one or two larger destinations (such as a museum) and then supplement it with whatever is in the area. I like to have my lunch and dinner destinations picked out in advance as well so as not to make a poor judgment based on the fact that I am starving.

I generally have the places in mind and the night before I map out how to get to each place and write it down. That way I can eat my breakfast and run out the door in the morning. I only pick a few activities so that I can a) do them well and b) if I find something along the way, I have time to indulge.

Best of luck to you!

Posted by
4624 posts

Hi Brad,

Don't skip the Eiffel Tower; just skip the line. Reservations are at http://ticket.toureiffel.fr/index-css5-sete-pg1-lgen.html We saved a couple of hours and were able to walk right up to head to the elevator. Reserve your tickets months ahead. We enjoyed going up before sunset and watching the City of Lights change after sunset.

Another highlight is to take an evening cruise down the Seine. It's fairly inexpensive and so beautiful to see all of the architecture lit up at night.

How do we organize our days in Paris? Select the few "must do's" & some "could do's". We limit ourselves to no more than 2 indoor activities a day, and plan to walk around & enjoy the city. We don't stay in one section because it's easy to move around with the Metro, and we like the variety of beginning the day in one area and moving to another by afternoon. We accomplish our "must do's" and leave the rest of our time open to see what interests us - the "could do's" or something we're experiencing as we walk around the city. I really enjoyed my second time to Paris when the mood was more to take the moments to enjoy the city, not just see the sites.

No one's mentioned food. I also mark that on our map ~a great bakery, etc. and plan to stop at one each day - edible art!

Posted by
117 posts

Brad, we bought Rick's Paris Guide and mostly planned our sightseeing around his suggested city walks, keying in on the major sights and going from there. We only allowed time for one museum this time around. Will do more next time for sure.

Our first day we went to the Eiffel Tower, reserved a time in advance, and went up. I highly recommend doing it once. I think the views from all levels are fantastic. I would also suggest trying to reserve a time just before sunset, go to the top and enjoy the view and the experience, while you still have some light. Then descend to the second level and watch the lights come on as the sun sets. Then we walked to the Arc de Triomphe and enjoyed the view down the Champs Elysees and the Eiffel Tower from the top of the Arc. Then down the Champs Elysees and eventually back to the Marais.

The next day we started at Notre Dame, took the bus out past Pere Lachaise, and slowly followed Rick's Marais walk taking the rest of the day to see the sights, eat, and shop. The Victor Hugo House (apartment) at Place des Vosges, was small, but cool. And the falafels at L'as Du Falafel were delicious.

Day three started at Sainte Chapelle. Starting early at both Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame worked well for us with regards to avoiding lines. Then we did a modified Latin Quarter / Left Bank Walk, visited Sainte Sulpice (the church in the Da Vinci Code), took the bus to Montmartre, did most of Rick's walk there, took the bus back down to Galeries Lafayette and the Opera area, and finshed up with an evening tour of the Louvre, following Rick's audio tour. We also followed the previously mentioned suggestion and accessed the museum via the Carrousel entrance. No line.

We walked a lot and chose buses instead of the metro so that we could still see the city while traveling. It was a busy three days and we barely scratched the surface.

Posted by
1131 posts

Brad, I was just in Paris this past October and I too am a USAA card member. I requested my CC be switched to the Chip one without any issues. The daily rental bikes were in good condition and easy to use. As a matter of fact my hotel had a stand just outside of it, made it easy to pick one up and go as well as return with it if I wish to. Nice part is being able to leave at any of the other rental stations. I plan on heading to Paris again and Colmar myself in 2016 at the end of May beginning of June timeframe, want to enjoy the spring season. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
11978 posts

So the bikes are almost exactly the same as Citybikeshare in DC. You get a short term membership (I think it's $7 a day now) and all rides under 30 minutes are free. The wise person maps things out and uses the bikes to get from sight to sight, turning the bike in while there and picking up another bike to get to the next spot. It works really well for DC, because the walks between sights start adding up quickly and can sap all your energy (especially on a hot summer day).

One of my quirks as a tourist is that I'm horrible at reserving ahead - mainly because I don't finalize plans until late in the game. I have a list of places, sights and potential lodging choices that I spend weeks developing at home, but on the road it's treated like only a rough outline. If I want to spend an extra day somewhere I do; if I'm ready to move on, I do. If I'm burned out on a particular type of sight (museum, castle, church), I'll skip those and do something else. I did get reservations for the Uffizi and Academy in Florence (October), but not until about 48 hours before we arrived. I didn't get reservations for the Alhambra (April) because I wasn't sure when I would get to Grenada until maybe a day before - I ended up trying all of Rick's suggestions (eventually successfully) to get tickets.

For this trip, I'm not sure how soon I'll decide where in the trip to put days in Paris? I'm expecting to spend my first day there to fight jet lag. The day would be geared primarily to walking, biking, parks, general orientation - maybe a Paris Walks or Paris Greeters. The rest of my time may be either at the start of my trip, returning just in time to catch my flight home at CDG, at the end of the trip, leaving Paris after one day to head toward the loop, or a third option of some days at the start and more days at the end. The advantage of lumping the days together is more time to see and do the sights of Paris and buying one longer museum pass. The advantage of splitting them is added flexibility for people I'm traveling with to arrive later and meet up in Paris and or head home earlier while doing the loop as a group.

I also won't finalize my travel dates until probably two months out; that's when I generally book my airline ticket (but even that can change if I spot a great deal before that). I always include flexibility when I shop for my plane ticket. If I save a few hundred dollars by moving my start and end dates by up to a week, I'll do it.

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341 posts

I'm expecting to see Chartres, as a day stop, on the way back from Orleans at the end of the loop

I suggest avoiding it on a Sunday or Monday when most of the shops in town are closed. The cathedral will be open, but unless that's all you want to do in town other days to visit would be better. Malcolm Miller gives a wonderful talk in the cathedral, BTW.

I have the USAA card. Just so you know, they have it set up to only use the PIN feature when you can't sign (as at an automated machine). See https://communities.usaa.com/t5/Other/Why-do-quot-CHIP-amp-PIN-quot-cards-default-to-quot-Signature/td-p/41518

We have done several of the Paris Walks tours. All have been wonderful. Look at their schedule and go on any that sound interesting, you won't be disappointed!

We take the metro a lot. The metro has a free map that shows streets as well as the lines. Be sure to ask (in french, of course!) for the big map with streets to get it. Maybe everyone else knows this, but we figured out that by looking at the map and the direction we were taking the line we would know which way we wanted to go when we left the station (eg left or right). Otherwise you pop out onto the street and aren't sure which way to go.

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15075 posts

Check if there are Velib stands near the sights you expect to visit and near your hotel.

I can't think of anything you'd have to reserve well in advance except opera tickets, should you choose to do that. If you want to take a Seine cruise, you can buy tickets in advance online (Vedettes du Pont Neuf) at considerable savings (you later choose the time and date you want), or you can print out a coupon for a small discount. Best around sunset!

I once went with a friend who biked and we rented by the hour for a lovely afternoon in the Bois de Boulogne. We also rented bikes to get around the grounds of Versailles. Now I believe there's some kind of shuttle there.

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120 posts

If you like the unusual things that most tourists don't see, check out tomsguidetoparis online.
His "interesting walks"are really good.

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11978 posts

Chani,

I'd love to see an Opera, but likely won't - having to reserve well in advance almost always eliminates something from my itinerary. I'm more the Leicester Square 1/2 price ticket booth, "What do you have that's good for tonight?" kind of person.

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4125 posts

Leave a little time for serendipity.

I'm not saying not to plan like a demon--far from it. But walk along the canal St. Martin or across the city; grab breakfast at a cafe on the Rue de Buci during the street market (super expensive coffee to sit on the terrasse, but worth every euro).

If you need permission to do this while the Orsay beckons tell yourself you are going to take some great photos or bring your journal or something, but that is optional.

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4 posts

You can see the development of the city of Paris in the archaeological crypt underground in front of Notre Dame.
Another museum I'd recommend is the Musee de Nissim de Camondo. A beautiful private house of French 18th decorative arts with a tragic story behind it.

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32 posts

We enjoyed our visit to Musee Carnavalet, which covers the history of the city in art and architecture. And it is free.
Here is a quote from their website:

In a remarkable architectural setting (twotown houses in the Marais district) the story of Paris unfolds in one hundred rooms or so and also colourful gardens, that are the home to some thousand thriving plant species.

As visitors wander through re-creations of rooms in styles ranging from the 17th to the 20th century, they can follow developments in Parisian interior design, immerse themselves in revolutionary history from the French Revolution to the Paris Commune, and also enter into the private lives of famous Parisians, imagining for example, the Marquise de Sévigné at her Chinese laquerwork desk penning her famous letters, or even Marcel Proust in his bedroom, dividing his time between his brass bed and his little table covered in pens, ink and notebooks…

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650 posts

I loved the velib bikes. I used my debit card online and was given a pin to unlock the bikes. They weren't that expensive and there was a stand across from Ile Saint Louis where I stayed last September. One of the joys of my time there was just biking everywhere with my friend, with no set plans just discovering Paris. I think we used them for 3 days and biked everywhere from our hotel: Latin Quarter, Marais, along the river to the Eiffel Tower, across the river to the Louvre and Place de la Concorde, To the Champs Elysees and back. I had one incident though. On the last full day I returned my bike that night and made sure it was locked in. I went to rent for a quick trip the next morning and it said my bike was missing, even though I knew I returned it. I was on my way to catch a train to Switzerland, so I didn't have the opportunity to check back with them. They charged my debit card like $40 so I am assuming they found the bike somewhere after a couple of days. I disputed with my bank and they removed the fees. Just be careful and make sure the bike is securely returned.

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11 posts

If you like music, try getting a ticket to a 45-60 minute concert at St. Chapelle. You can look at the schedule and buy a ticket online. One of my best experiences in my last trip to Paris in Nov. 2014.

Also, I really enjoyed the Musee Marmottan, 2 Rue Louis Boilly, in the 16th. In addition to the regular galleries, there is an entire wing dedicated to Monet's private collection -- 137 works of art, including many murals of Les Nymphes -- the water lilies -- almost makes the d'Orsay anticlimactic.

If you like pre-1600s history, see the Cluny Museum near the Sorbonne.

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11978 posts

I think Chani also mentioned Ste Chapel. It's on my list now. Combines classical music with a great sight and the best way to get around long lines - exactly my style! ;-)