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Paris in 3 1/2 days - feedback on itinerary

My husband and I will be travelling to France at the end of May for 2 weeks and have 3.5 days to spend in Paris when we arrive. I have been there once before, but he has not, so I have some idea about where things are located and distances between them. I am hoping for some feedback on my proposed plan, as I do tend to be an ambitious planner (but we are ambitious travellers). There are many more things I'd like to do, but I am trying not to cram too much in and things being closed on Mondays makes it more challenging.

Day 1 (Sat): arrive at CDG at 0800, RER train to hotel in St. Germain des Pres (Hotel des Deux Continents) and drop off luggage. We will likely be pretty jet lagged, so spending the first day walking around the immediate (ish) area should help keep us awake and help me to cover some of my must see spots. If we are getting really tired, we can go back to the hotel.

Walk from hotel to Medici fountain in Luxembourg Garden, hopefully picking up fixings for a picnic lunch somewhere along the way (suggestions appreciated). After lunch, walk to the Pantheon (will go inside), then stop at Shakespeare and Co before heading to Notre Dame. Stop in at Berthillon for ice cream, then walk to the Pompidou (outside only), Stravinsky fountain, Hotel de Ville and finally back to the hotel via pont neuf. Dinner near to hotel (suggestions appreciated. Nothing fancy as we will be too exhausted to appreciate it).

Day 2 (Sun): Metro to the catacombs for 1000 timed ticket entry. Afterwards, take bus to musee d'Orsay for 1200 timed entry ticket. Spend 2 hours or so here, then grab a velib bike and some picnic fare and ride along les plages to the Eiffel tower, stopping to eat lunch along the way. Eiifel tower tour with timed entry tickets at 5 pm. Spend the evening on either Place de Trocadero or Champs des Mars, then dinner nearby (suggestions appreciated) then either take boat cruise or walk back to hotel.

Day 3 (Mon): - Monmartre in the morning, self guided tour of the Opera Garnier in the afternoon, dinner near hotel, cab to the Lido for a 9pm show.

Day 4 (Tues): Leaving for Avignon via TGV at 3:30 from Gare de Lyon. After checking out in am, drop luggage at train station, the take metro to Pere Lachaise for self guided tour. Head back to Gare de Lyon and, time permitting, walk around rue cremeux then grab drinks at Le Train Bleu before boarding the train.

Thank you in advance to all that take the time to read through, think about and comment on this.

Posted by
857 posts

I doubt you'll make Orsay for noon from the Catacombs. 1 pm? Maybe.

Shakespeare & Co frequently has a line for entry (not sure if that will change with some Covid restrictions presumably lifting by May)

Posted by
73 posts

My personal feeling is this is all pretty ambitious. I like to have 2 big things a day scheduled in Paris, one for the am and one for the afternoon. Leave yourself plenty of time to eat and relax between.

Sunday seems like you're setting yourself up to be pretty hungry and cranky at MdO--why not push it back a few hours and grab lunch after the catacombs before the museum? It's pretty tight to think that you can see the catacombs and get over the MdO in 2 hours, plus you're setting yourself up to start looking for food at 2pm, leaving you much fewer options than at 12, especially on a Sunday. I generally suggest people time their Eiffel Tower visit around sunset to see Paris by day and night, putting it after dinner, but that's a personal preference thing I suppose. I like to do a picnic on Champs de Mars and then climb the tower after and watch the lights come on. If you can manage to be on the tower at sunset it's pretty cool.

I'd suggest this as a rough itinerary for Sun:
10-2: catacombs
12-2: lunch
2-5: musee D'Orsay, coffee break
5-6: gather picnic supplies, bike to ET
6-8: picnic on Champs de Mars
8:30-10: Eiffel Tower

Posted by
14269 posts

Agree with Momo on timing for your Catacomb/Orsay day.

I have a suggestion on Day 1. There is a nice cafe with outdoor seating in the Lux Gardens. This may be easier than a picnic unless you pass a boulangerie with easy to pick up sandwiches. Although thinking of the cafe, they may have a window where you can buy sandwiches there. Are you fans of the movie Midnight in Paris? Gil (Owen Wilson) gets picked up in the time traveling taxi from the side steps at Saint-Etienne-du-Mont which is right behind the Pantheon. It would be easy to walk by there on your way down to the Shakespeare and Co shop. If you have an interest in church architecture, the interior of this church has a very cool and unusual carved double spiral rood screen at the altar. There is also a shrine to Sainte-Genevieve, patron Saint of Paris.

On the sidewalk outside of Shakespeare and Co in October, this was one of the few places I saw the “petition girls”. These are women (often Roma, I think) who pretend to be deaf mutes and want you to sign some kind of dumb petition they have on clipboards. They will push these into your stomach to distract you while they or an accomplice tries to pick your pocket. Ignore them or tell them No if they get close to you. When you drop off your luggage at your hotel, go into their bathroom and put on money belts, transfer your valuables (credit/debit cards, passport) and then tuck these safely under your clothing. You’ll be jetlagged and not as sharp as you might usually be. The sidewalk there is usually congested so the confusion works to the petition girls advantage.

Have a wonderful time!

Posted by
355 posts

skunklet1771: Thank you. Google maps is showing the Orsay as a 15-20 min metro ride away from the Catacombs. Is that off do you think? Rick says to allot about an hour for the catacombs, which fits with how I spent the time there last trip. I personally would skip it, but hubby wants to go. Thank you for the tip about Shakespeare and Co. I hadn’t factored in line ups, which I imagine are common on a Sat even without COVID restrictions.

momo516: Thank you. I love your suggested outline for the day. I also try to keep things to 2 main activities a day. I wish we had one more day in Paris and that they didn’t close major sites one day a week ( what is with that???). Fortunately, we are early risers and neither of us are foodies, but very good point about getting hangry on Sunday around lunch time. Great idea about planning for lunch between the Catacombs and the Orsay and very good point about trying to find something to eat at 2:00. I forgot they close many places between lunch and dinner. I was also trying to plan to do the Eiffel at dusk to be able to catch the sunset and the twinkling lights. When I did it last time it was August and a 5:30 ticket was perfect. Not sure about sunset times at the end of May, but I love your suggestion to flip the picnic plan from lunch along the Seine to dinner at the base of the tower. Rick’s guide book says the Place du Trocadero is happening at night time as well.

Pam: thank you for the feedback. A café might be easier than a picnic on Sat. I fell absolutely in love with the Medici fountain last time I was there ( it’s the image on my phone home screen) and need to soak it up again. I wonder if the cafes in Paris will still be take out oriented due to COVID. I do love Midnight in Paris. Thanks for the tip about the church and the scam. Being from Toronto, for better or for worse, we are very used to saying a firm “no” to people on the street that want our attention. I had to deal with a very aggressive guy on the steps of Sacre Couer last time. He actually grabbed my arm but backed away quickly when I said an angry “ne touche pas!!”.

Thank you very much for the feedback everyone.

Posted by
4066 posts

Picnics are not allowed on some Paris lawns. Check with your hotel. The Trocadero is across the river and elevated so should offer a good view of the tower. Heads up for skateboarders.
The Lyon station is a big maze. Look for luggage lockers on the bottom floor. By reputation, they can fill up. Here is a guide:
An alternative is a commercial service outside the station; try Google.

Posted by
14269 posts

"I wonder if the cafes in Paris will still be take out oriented due to COVID."

They were mostly fully open in October but still doing some take out.

The cafe I was thinking of was La Terrasse de Madame. Here's a link to their FB page and their last post which was today says they have takeaway drinks and snacks.

Here is a googlemap of the relationship between the Medici Fountain and the Cafe - pretty close. Ignore the googlemaps walking route which it didn't actually pick up.

Glad you like Midnight in Paris! It's just a fun little diversion around to the back of the Pantheon and will then make you happy every time you watch that film.

And yes, glad you've got Toronto street sense. Living in North Idaho I do not have street sense, lol!!

Posted by
38 posts

Day 1: make sure your hotel is willing to take your luggage so early. I am sure asking nicely will get you what you need but just make sure to check ahead. If you would like a link to a self guided walking tour of St Germain:
I think you might be surprised at how little time this will probably take you to do this loop. This part of the city is really accessible.
Since it will be a Saturday I would actually suggest to maybe make reservations somewhere for dinner. Fridays and Saturdays are pretty tough to walk in so unless you want to do street food (which I also highly encourage). Church of Saint-Sulpice is worth a visit.

Food recommendations near you:

  • Near the Luxembourg garden there is Treize au Jardin. AMAZING cocktails, coffee and food. Cute little terrace to rest your feet.
  • Kodawari Ramen
  • Hebe
  • Cosi
  • Cul De Cochon
  • L'Avant Comptoir du Marche
  • Les Antiquaires
  • Chez la Libanais
  • Poilane
  • Didon
  • Pizzeria Arrivederci

Rue Montorgueil is really close to the Pompidou and is a good food street if you want to expand your walking loop.

Day 2: I don't know how you will be feeling after the catacombs but personally I need more than 2 hours in Musee D'Orsay. It's just amazing and well worth as many hours that you can give it. But it looks like you have a few hours of flexibility in case you get lost in impressionism. You wont find much food around Place de Trocadero so I'd suggest maybe a later (more Parian timed) dinner after or before your cruise? Most of the great food will be a little away from the Eiffel Tower and more toward your hotel or north of the Louvre (also a very nice walk at night). To be honest, I think you will enjoy your views of the Eiffel tower from the cruise much more than the trip up the tower itself. If you want to cut something, I'd consider cutting going up and just admiring it from other views.

Day 3: Monmartre is amazing in the early morning. Pigalle has some great food so if you walk down towards the opera make sure to hit Rue Des Martyrs and some of the nearby surrounding streets.

Food near Pigalle/Monmartre:

  • Le Bon Georges
  • Poni
  • Le Poulbot
  • Buvette Gastrotheque
  • Frenchie Pigalle

It seems like you have a lot of room to explore! Enjoy Paris!

Posted by
140 posts

Be aware there is a chance some or all of the Trocadero will be closed off due to construction— that area is being re-imagined ahead of the Olympics. Hard to know what the status will be in May, but good to have it in mind as a possible issue.

Posted by
355 posts

LorenH: Thanks so much for the detailed response. GPS my City looks like a fabulous resource for trip planning. Will come in handy I think for when we move on to Marseilles later. Thank you also for the restaurant suggestions. Much appreciated.

I agree about seeing the Eiffel tower from afar, but have already been up to the top, so will have to do that one more time so hubby can experience it.

Ecetera: thanks for the heads up about the Trocadero. Will be ready to switch to the Champs de Mars if needed.

Posted by
54 posts

Full blown picnicking on lawns is indeed mostly not allowed -- beware the pelouse police -- but Luxembourg Gardens has plenty of chairs where you can enjoy a nice "picnic" experience. Maison Mulot on rue de Seine is our favorite place near Luxembourg Gardens to gather tasty food for such things. It's a "traiteur" establishment so you can get great baguettes (or jambon beurre sandwiches) and an assortment of sweet and savory treats. (Love their little croque monsieurs). That stretch of rue de Seine also has a couple of first-rate sweets/chocolate shops worth a visit.

Posted by
14269 posts

I thought about you yesterday when I was catching up on video walks from "France with Vero". She just posted this one a couple of weeks ago and was in Luxembourg Gardens walking to the Medici Fountain, and went right past the cafe I mentioned, lol.

Posted by
355 posts

Pam: Thanks for posting the link. I love Vero’s videos.

Didan: thanks for the tip about Maison Mulot. It’s very near the hotel we will be staying in. Will be on the lookout for the chocolate and sweet shops 😊

Southam: I will check the options for baggage storage around Gare de Lyon. I have heard it is a bit overwhelming in there.