Paris - Around 5 days

Hi All,
I've been planning a trip with my parents (both above 60) to Europe. I posted in the General Europe thread and got many great suggestions on this thread (https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/traveling-through-europe). Now, I am planning the things I want to see per city-in each country. I just posted in Netherlands and Belgium, now its the turn of France :).

So, here are the places that I'd like to see in France, most of them around Paris - people said France was too huge and I couldn't see it in 5 days. (27 Aug - Sep 1 - leaving for Switzerland on Sep 1 morning mostly).. so 5 full days.

List of places

Eiffel Tower Paris
Louvre Museum Paris
Versailles palace Versailles
Seine River cruise Paris
bus 69 tour :) Paris
Luxemborg gardens Paris
Ile Saint Louis shopping center Paris
Tour Montparnasse Paris
Cote D Azur South France
Marche aux Puces flea market Paris
Rue Des Martyrs Paris
Chocolate crawl Paris
Les Vergers de Champlain La Queue-en-Brie
Arc de triomphe Paris
Notre Dame Chapel Paris
Les Champs Elysees Paris
Fontainbleau Outside Paris
Aerospace Museum Paris
Chatre cathedral Outside Paris
Pont Neuf bridge Paris
Dune of Pilat Bordaeux

So as you see, a large amount of that plan is inside Paris. But there are a few trips outside Paris - Versailles, Bordeaux and CoteDAzur that I'd like to make. I think all 3 are near impossible..since they are geographically so far apart.

What do you think though? Is this a nice list of places to see in around 5 days with my parents? And what about the 3 cities outside Paris..if not those...are there any other cities close to Paris... that are unique in their own right and have something that Paris doesn't? I'd love to visit them.

Do pass on your thoughts.

Thanks
Arvind

Posted by LeeB.
211 posts

Arvind, you could spend five days in the Cote d'Azur and still not see it all. Same for Paris. I would suggest the five days be spent in Paris with a day trip to Versailles.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5660 posts

It's impossible to see all this in 5 days. You absolutely don't have time to see other areas of France. Some of the things you want to see are just places you can walk by, such as Pont Neuf. Other things can take as little time or as much time as you choose, such as the Louvre. I would stay in Paris. If you must do a day trip outside of Paris, Versailles would be the logical place.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thank You all for your helpful replies. I'll drop Cote D Azur and Bordeaux off my list completely then and do Versailles. Yes Alex, parents are the best in my opinion, mine specially (i'm biased :))..they'll never complain and always support you. I hope we get our visas and they enjoy the trip.

Within Paris though...apart from museums and parks, is there anything else (not on my list) that is unique and I can spend some time at? As long as it doesn't involve eating non-veg food and drinking :) .. anything goes really. Do let me know.

Lastly, I'd love to say at a place which embodies what France is about...but not a hostel - it might be a bit uncomfortable for my parents. I guess a B&B epitomizes this the best? Are there any other options?

Arvind

Posted by gerri
lexington, il
801 posts

Arvind,

Another lodging option would be apartments. Generally more room for less money.

Look at vacationinparis.com and cross-pollinate.com

Posted by Dick
Olympia, WA, USA
1242 posts

Most of the Paris places on your list are easily seen by just going there and looking around, need not take much time if you and your parents have the energy to keep moving. Only the two towers, Louvre, Aerospace Museum, and maybe Notre Dame will take much time. Some thoughts:

No need to visit both Eiffel and Montparnasse Towers in your limited time. Eiffel is higher, more famous, much more attractive from the ground (but you'll see it from anywhere), but also more crowded so you'll have to either buy tickets ahead or wait a long time in line. Montparnasse has a "lesser" view, is nothing to admire from below, but relatively easy to get up and down.

"Notre Dame Chapel" is really a cathedral on the Ile de la Cite. Doesn't take long to see unless you stand in line to climb the towers, which is pretty arduous for older people anyway (I speak from experience). Nearby is the beautiful Ste-Chappelle, also requiring a stair climb but only one floor. If I had to choose with limited time I'd take the Cathedral.

Go to the Louvre when it opens in the morning, or else one of the evenings it's open. You could spend all five days there, but several hours is more realistic, maybe a whole morning. I don't have the stamina to spend all day in any museum (I've tried). Look over the Louvre website and identify some pieces or art, or styles or periods, that especially interest you, and focus on those. I don't know anything about the Aerospace Museum but the same idea would apply there.

Versailles is a great and very tiring palace. Try to get tickets in advance, and arrive when it opens in the morning, or else in mid-afternoon. Don't try to get to Fontainebleau or Chartres (or especially Bordeaux or Cote d'Azur) in the time you have.

The Seine cruise will take a couple of hours, well worthwhile, from various locations on the river near other sights. You just look at the schedule and buy your tickets as you go to the boat. I don't know about the "chocolate crawl" but it sounds like something that needs scheduling.

Get a map and plot the places you want to see on it, then plan each day around a cluster of them.

An apartment is a good idea if you can get one through the services suggested (and there are others like homeaway.com, airbnb.com, etc.). It lets you spread out, sleep different hours if you want, have breakfast and some other meals "at home," maybe do laundry, etc. But a hotel provides a front desk where you can get information, make reservations, etc.

Hope that helps. Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

@Gerri: I'll look into both those sites, thank you.

@Dick: Thanks for taking the time to write that up. It has very helpful advice and I'll use every bit of it while planning stuff. Yes, I'll drop Cote DAzur and Bordaeux, and keep a day aside for Versailles.

Is there anything else that's unique in Paris? ... doesn't have to be famous or touristy... just maybe something (apart from a park, museum or monument) that someone loved?

Posted by chrisrn
1 posts

Hi Arvind, I agree that Paris with a side trip to Versailles is a good option for your five day trip. I recommend spending time on Rue Cler - an idyllic little Paris Street with lovely shops and restaurants. It's also near the Eiffel Tower, so you could do both in one day. Enjoy!

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5660 posts

It will not take all day to see the Eiffel Tower and Rue Cler. Do you plan to go up the tower or just go by to look at it? If you plan to go up, get your tickets as soon as possible. That will save you a lot of time. There are a number of market streets Paris in addition to Rue Cler. If that is an interest of yours, find one convenient to wherever you are. Rue Cler is dead on Sundays and Mondays. Don't waste your time going on either of those days.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thank you Chris and Andrea for your thoughts on Rue Cler. I'll see how to fit it in, if I can. I haven't decided if I'll go up (that really is up to Mom and Dad :)).. but if I do, I'll book it in advance. Thanks.

I'll definitely do Versailles as everyone seem to like it :)

Arvind

Posted by Donna
Cleveland, OH
618 posts

Hi Arvind, you can see a lot of Paris in 5 days but not everything that you have listed. Suggest that you talk with your parents and come up with a list of the top 5, 6 or 7 things you all want to see or do. Plan to cover those things first and figure out what amount of time you have left. Try to group the things by arrondissement (neighborhood) to use your time efficiently. You might add Montmartre, Napoleon's Tomb, the Military Museum, and the D'Orsay and Rodin museums to your discussion list. I agree with the others that 1 day outside of Paris is about all you can do in that timeframe - maybe Versailles, Giverny, or a day trip to Bayeux. Have a great trip!

Posted by Lisa
Washington DC
11 posts

Hi Arvind,
Your trip sounds wonderful!
You asked about special places in Paris? Well, MY most favorite place, oh, but there are so many... but one place I always have to see when I'm in Paris is Places des Vosges. I love that square, with all the old buildings around, and the statue in the middle. (sorry don't know all the historic stuff right now!)
You can sit on one of the many benches, have a picnic, and watch the kids play and people walk by.
It is such a peaceful place for me. It's near Bastille.
Try to get a look at it!
Bon voyage!

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

@Donna: Thanks for your thoughts. I'll look up those places too and see if they "fit" in anywhere and do them if I can and everyone concurs on it being a nice place to visit. Yes, I'll do Versailles and leave it at that and plan within Paris...per neighbourhood as you say.

@Lisa: Thank you so much. It has been very laborious, planning it end to end but I hope we all get our visas and it goes through as planned. I cant apply until the entire stay+travel+no of days is clear - as I have to give the visa officials my plan - hence so many threads at the same time in each country forum.

I'll definitely check out the Places Des Vosges and see if we'll like it. Thanks.

Posted by Leslie
Fargo, North Dako, United States
24 posts

Arvind,

Good choice to narrow your travel within France. Once you have experienced Paris you will want to return again and again!

I agree with one of the contributor's postings with the suggestion of an apartment. We choose this option in Dec. 2013 and it was a great experience. This is company we used and we were very pleased, they were very professional: http://www.parisvacationapartments.com

Another fun experience is Paris Greeter. Local Parisians volunteer to spend a few hours with you showing an area of your choosing, or you can have them show you their favorite area. This is a free service, so we usually take our greeter a small gift and take them to lunch. We use the same greeter each time we go and now have a Parisian friend. http://www.parisgreeters.fr/?lang=en

Don't forget to enjoy the outdoor Paris cafes...order a cafe creme and people watch!

Have a wonderful trip!
Leslie

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5660 posts

I will second Leslie's recommendation of the Paris Greeters experience. We had a wonderful tour of the Marais with our guide.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

@Leslie: Thanks for the tip on the apartments. I will look up that site and the others, that people have mentioned and post back.

@Leslie,Andrea: Thanks for the tip on Paris Greeters. That sounds really really cool. Now that's something unique :).

Posted by Laurel
Albany
110 posts

Don't miss the History of Paris museum, a small one near the Place des Vosgues in the Marais district. It will add dimension to the whole visit.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thanks Laurel. I'll add it to my ever expanding wait-list :)

Posted by Sherry
San Jose, CA
1766 posts

I'm not sure if this has been mentioned, but if your parents enjoy music a number of the churches have evening concerts in beautiful settings. You'll see posters all over the central area of Paris announcing church concerts. The Ste Chapelle is a particularly lovely setting for concert, and if it's a relatively early concert, you can also spend some time enjoying the stained glass.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thanks Sherry. Maybe that's something to think about after dinner some day :)

Posted by Cyn
Wheat Ridge, CO, USA
1240 posts

Hi Arvind-while you're adding to/narrowing down your list of things in/near Paris, this may or may not be something you and your parents might consider, but there are many interesting, ornate cemeteries in Paris with famous and near-famous "residents." Big locations include Pere-Lachaise and Montparnasse cemeteries (check www.pariscemeteries.com).

Also, just across the square from Notre Dame Cathedral is the Archaeological Crypt, with the remains of buildings from when Romans were in what is now Paris - very interesting and worth at least a short visit while you're in the area.

In addition to the Louvre, another great museum (especially for its outstanding Impressionist art) is the Musee d'Orsay. We've hired private guides for different musuems through Paris Muse (www.parismuse.com), who charge a fee but are are experts and can make the most of your visit to a museum.

Just as Rome has a Roma Pass that can save you money and let you skip lines at popular sights, Paris has a Paris Visite card, which you might consider.

If you like ice cream, go to one of the Berthillon ice cream places in Paris!

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3710 posts

I'm not a fan of rue Cler...way too crowded with Americans... Instead I would recommend rue Mouffetard and/or rue Montorgueil. Glad you have Luxembourg Gardens and Ile St. Louis on your list... My two favorite places.

Another great place to visit if you're into stately homes is the Nissim de Camondo museum next to Parc Monceau. It was once the home of a wealthy family and very worthwhile.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3710 posts

If you don't rent an apartment I recommend these hotels:
Hotel St. Louis en l'Isle, Hotel de Lutece, Hotel des Deux Iles, Hotel St. Jacques, Hotel du Pantheon, Hotel des Grands Hommes, Hotel des Grandes Ecoles and Hotel Jeanne d'Arc in the Marais... All are quintissentially French and charming.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thanks Cyn, Susan for those tips. I will think of those while planning. Yeah .. I've jammed this week at work - will finalize all the "stay" bits on the weekend for sure. It's getting delayed as it is :).

Posted by theneales
33 posts

sundays are busy at the chateau of versailles but if you went 8 am gardens, 9 am chateau, there is a wonderful marche ( market) close to the palace. full of locals. at lunch there are sidewalk cafes dverywhere and patisseries. all very walkable and more charming thAn paris to me.

Posted by Jean
Mill Creek, WA, USA
589 posts

Hi, be sure to plan the Seine river cruise for an evening vs. daytime. The cruise is beautiful with all of the buildings lit up at night with the Eiffel Tower being the crowning touch to your experience.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thank You theneales.. I'll keep that in mind.

Jean, good idea. That'll be a nice relaxing cruise after dinner one day maybe. Thanks :)

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5660 posts

I've ended each of my 3 trips to Paris with a Seine river cruise. It's nice to see Paris all lit up and doing it in the evening doesn't interfere with any daytime activities.

Posted by shawn
chelsea
24 posts

We've been to Paris 4 times.

My favorite things to see each time -
--stop by the Eiffel Tower…it's just so massive and cool. Only takes 30 minutes to swing by and say "hi."
--walking around your neighborhood, shopping and eating at local places
--I always look to see what special exhibits are going at the museums. We saw the wonderful Henri Cartier Bresson show at the Pompidou.
-Love to hang out and people watch at Luxembourg Gardens…so relaxing on a Saturday morning.

We've been to some of the other things on the list and they are good, too. Just depends on what you're interested in.

Enjoy. Relax, don't try to do too much! Learn some French via the Coffee Break French podcasts.

Posted by Arvind
Boston/Mumbai :)
137 posts

Thank You Shawn, Beth. I will keep your points in mind :)