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Paris in 4 Days

Well it'll be more like 3.5 days considering we land on a Wednesday around noon. I need help! I normally love planning for trips and know exactly what to expect but Paris is really overwhelming me (probably because our time there is so short I suppose). Anyways, like I said we'll land on a Wednesday around lunch time and our hotel is the Le Marais district. We'll fly out that following Sunday morning. We have a list of things we want to do and I'm trying to group them by area and visit the different areas each day. Below are the places we want to see. I understand it's a long list for a short time so we're definitely willing to cut some places. (Our interests include: museums, shopping, hole in the wall shops/restaurants)

I'd love advice on what is worth skipping and any tips to visit each of them!

Arc de Triomphe - should we go up?

Champs Elyees

Orangerie Museum

Palais Garnier - Don't need to spend too much time here but husband loves Phantom of the Opera so want to at least see if doable.

Louvre - how much time should we realistically plan to spend here?

Pompidou Center - really excited about this one!

Picasso Museum

Deportation Museum

Notre Dame Cathedral - I realize it's closed but we still want to make time to walk by.

Saint Chappelle

Orsay Museum

Luxemborg Garden

Rodin Museum

Army Museum

Rue Cler

Eiffel Tower - is it worth going up? Should we just go up the Arc de Triomphe instead?

Monet Museum - on the outskirts of the central Paris area so wondering if it's worth going to?

I'd also like to mainly walk each place as I really think you experience the location so much more this way but willing to uber/take transportation when it makes the most sense.
When I know exactly where we want to go, I'll decide if the museum pass is worth it.

Thanks in advance for any tips, tricks, advice!

Posted by
4371 posts

I don't like to shop, at all, so I can't help you there. I will say I enjoyed walking the Champs de Elysees, yes there are a bunch of chain stores, but its also a historical street. I enjoyed going up the Arch de triomphe and with the Paris Museum Pass, I didn't have to wait in any lines. From the Arch you get nice views of Paris including the Eiffel Tower. I've been to Paris five times now, I always go see the Eiffel Tower, day and night, but I've never felt the need to go up it.

The Opera House requires a tour, to see the Chagall ceiling and I didn't have the time for it. You can walk around the outside. Also, I went into the gift shop to get some views of the lobby.

Pompidou museum is not my thing, but its a nice approachable size and the views at dusk and sunset are incredible. For me, the Orsay is a don't miss and I usually spend at least 5 hours, and I would miss the Orangerie. It really is quite special about seeing the huge water lily paintings. The Louvre was also a palace, its wonderful just to view it in that way. The info desk employees are awesome at the Louvre, they will circle certain pieces that many like to see as well as provide directions to other works that you might be interested in. The Napoleon rooms are interesting if you like to see period furnishing.

I love Luxembourg Garden. Rue Cler is nice, there are other nice markets that are interested. Sainte Chapelle is AMAZING. I got there at opening.

Posted by
290 posts

I'm guessing for the Monet museum you may be thinking of the Marmottan. I'm a big fan, BUT I think your time will be better served by doing the Musée d'Orsay and Orangerie. It's a long ride out.

You can get an excellent and free view of Notre Dame and the skyline in general from the balcony of the Arab World Institute. Perhaps you could group that with Sainte-Chapelle and the Luxembourg Garden.

I'd pick maybe one other thing to "go up" - between the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, it'd be the Arc de Triomphe for me. Spending time on the Champs Élysées is usually not as exciting as people expect it might be. Particularly for shopping, you might enjoy the Marais much more, especially since you're already based there.

Posted by
5151 posts

nstinch17: Is this your first trip to Paris? Have you seen any of these things before? Any likelihood of returning in the future?

I would keep most of the museums, and dump Rue Cler (even though we usually stay in that area) and Champs Elysées. I would definitely see the Orsay, the Marmottan (that's the Monet museum on the edge of town), and probably the Orangerie.

If I'd never been to the Louvre, I would go, but I would plan my time there carefully. I love the Italian art, and we enjoy the sculpture and the Egyptian section.

We enjoyed the Picasso Museum, and it's fairly small. A plus when you're on a short time leash.

The Deportation Museum is another one that is worthwhile, but doesn't take too much time. I'd savor my time there, though, and plan some reflective "down time" afterward.

Please allow plenty of time for just strolling, enjoying a coffee or an aperitif in a quiet bar. Meals, unless you get them from a bakery or sidewalk stand, tend to be slowly savored. Allot time for them, as well.

Paris will still be there in a few years. Don't try to cram in all the sights in these three days. (I'm not counting the first 1/2 day; you'll be getting to your hotel, checking in, getting oriented, and may be hit with jet lag.)

A Giverny excursion could take the better part of a day, so unless you are a die-hard Monet fan, I'd advise skipping it this time.

Posted by
1958 posts

You list museums and shopping as your top interests so consider adding the Musee Carnavalet
http://www.carnavalet.paris.fr/en/museum-carnavalet
but start on the top floor and work your way down

and also consider the MUSÉE DES ARTS DÉCORATIFS
and the Palais Galliera (if it's open).
Walking around that area -- along Boulevard Woodrow Wilson -- is one of my favorite areas outside the Marais, especially if you catch the farmers' market days.

The contrast between these and the Pompidou or the Rodin, which are great but attract a worldwide audience, is remarkable.

Posted by
532 posts

Are you museum people? Why do you want to go to the Louvre? Just to see Mona Lisa, or to wander the entire museum? The museum is huge.

If you like museums, I would focus on the smaller ones: Picasso, Musee d'Orsay, and skip Louvre.

I agree that Monet/Giverny is out of town, but in my opinion, well worth a visit.

Posted by
2929 posts

People enjoy different things about Paris. I'm an art history person, but I would not attempt to see all those museums in 3.5 days. For me the ambiance of Paris comes in by walking the neighborhoods and window shopping each fromagerie, patisserie, boulangerie, etc. I would include the Champs Elysee, because of the historical events that occurred there, and yes, go up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. I can always picture the Germans marching in, and then the Allies later. Don't waste your time in Rue Cler, unless you are staying there, as there are too many Americans in the neighborhood. For your first trip, unless there is something specific you want to see there, I'd skip the Louvre. Pick smaller museums or at least limit you museums to two per day, and don't spend more than two hours (or even less) in each. Get out in Paris instead! Walk, walk, walk. Look, look, look. Eat, eat, eat. And to get between neighborhoods take the bus or the metro, not an Uber.

I'd add Sacre Coeur and Mont Martre to your list, remove the army museum, the Louvre, Orangerie Museum, and Picasso Museum. Don't bother going up the Eiffel tower. Again, this is my viewpoint as only you know your interests. It was about my 4th or 5th visit before I went up the Eiffel Tower and it was hardly worth the time or the crowd. Go over to Trocadero and look back at the Eiffel Tower, that's a nice view, as is Sacre Coeur and Arch. YMMV

Posted by
15053 posts

The best aerial views of Paris are from the top of Montparnasse (easy enough to get to by metro). With so little time, I would not bother with the Arc de Triomphe (or the Champs Elysees) or going up the Eiffel Tower, though it's definitely worth going there to see it, either from the Champs de Mars or from the Trocadero.

Consider a tour of the Palais Garnier, it's beautiful.

The Marmottan Museum has a collection of Monet's works in chronological order, showing his development from his earliest to his latest works. The rooms are well-lit, with benches well-placed to contemplate many of the paintings, and it's delightfully uncrowded. Whether to take the time to visit (it's a pleasant 10-15 minute walk from the metro station) depends mostly on how much you are a Monet fan.

The Louvre is a question of endurance, not interest. The best plan is to decide in advance what parts you most want to see and map out your route. Their website has self-guided walking tours (written, not audio) called Thematic Trails. You may want to choose one and use that as your plan. I recommend getting the audio guide, as you will see much on your exploration that you want to know more about.

To get the most out of your time, consider going to a concert at Sainte-Chapelle instead of a daytime visit. You'll avoid the lines and crowds and have plenty of time to sit and enjoy the stained glass windows while listening to the music. If you arrive early, you'll be able to walk around and take photos before the concert begins.

Posted by
5151 posts

Chani, I love your idea of a concert at Sainte-Chapelle! And Wray's suggestion to walk, walk, walk.

Posted by
4684 posts

The Carnavalet is closed until the end of this year.

Posted by
5697 posts

If you DO go to the Louvre (this or a later trip) don't forget to look up at the incredible ceilings and woodwork -- it was a palace before it became a museum.
Orangerie usually has shorter lines and the amazing waterlilies murals -- great place to just sit and absorb Monet.

Posted by
9928 posts

When are you traveling?

Right now the only thing open in the Orangerie are the Water lilies. The downstairs galleries are closed for reno although on Monday I walked downstairs to the bathroom, lol.

I agree with Jane about Rue Cler. I, too, stay in the area and enjoy it but it’s not really a destination.

I love the Army Museum but I suggest a targeted visit. I got to d’Orsay yesterday later than I’d planned and the line for the Museum Pass entry was blocks long. I left and headed to the Army Museum where there were no lines. If you have an interest in WWI and WWII I’d suggest those galleries.

If time is short then pop in to the Rodin which is across the street and just do the garden area. That’s where the sculptures are.

Posted by
682 posts

Dont think the OP listed Giverny? The only reason i go to the Orangerie is for the waterlilies, which are amazing, so down stairs being closed would not be a problem!

Posted by
613 posts

Arc de Triomphe - should we go up? No. Better view from the arch at La Defense.

Monet: his style radically changed toward the end of his life, and the Monet Museum is largely his later works. Very different from most Monet's you've seen. We've been there 3-4 times and still can't decide if we like it, but it is essential.

Overall: too much time in Paris. Take 2 days and go see the Route de Vin Alsace. Or, even better, skip Paris and go to Prague.

Posted by
5151 posts

kb1942, there's no such thing as "too much time in Paris."

Posted by
257 posts

I don’t see any reason to “skip” the Champs-Élysées (as someone suggested) if you’re going to the Louvre and you’re going to the Arc de Triomphe, since that’s the route you take to walk from one to the other! Yeah, you could take the bus or Metro and technically skip the Champs-Élysées, but why do that since it only takes about 30 minutes to walk it if you don’t stop and shop too much along the way.

As for the Louvre and how long you will “realistically” spend there, plan for the better part of a day if you want to see a good bit of it. The last time I was there (and that was the LAST time I’ll ever be there!) I was there for six hours until I finally just gave up. And that was rushing through many of the galleries since you simply cannot see it all in one visit. I’ve been there many times, and I’m finally feel ready to skip it from now on (I’m in Paris right now, and the Louvre is not on my list.)

I know you didn’t ask for suggestions of things to ADD to your list, but if you’re going to go to the Jardin du Luxembourg, maybe consider visiting the Pantheon which is nearby. Also you don’t mention Montmartre and Sacre Coeur which is worth visiting if only for the view of Paris from up on the hill. And Père Lachaise Cemetery is a must-see in my book, but it’s not everyone’s cup of tea (but then again I couldn’t care less about the Pompidou Center after I saw it for the first time in 1980. Different strokes for different folks!)

Posted by
284 posts

Agree HUGELY with what other poster said: Please allow plenty of time for just strolling, enjoying a coffee or an aperitif in a quiet bar (or at a sidewalk cafe). That's what you'll remember and sigh over!

Some other thoughts: Don't try to walk too much - Paris is a large city and you can use up your precious time by walking between different areas of the city. Believe me, you'll be walking a lot anyway! Use the metro (that's an experience too!).

On Ile de la Cite, you can start with Saint Chapelle - do it during daylight to see the amazing windows - and then walk down past Notre Dame to the nearby Deportation Memorial at the tip of island. Then walk on a bridge down to the romantic Ile Saint Louis and stroll around (this would be a good stop for a glass of wine at a cafe!).

Since you said you love museums, you can group the Pompidou with the Picasso Museum (easy since you're staying in the Marais). I'd skip the Louvre for this trip since your time is limited but do visit the Orsay (get tickets online ahead of time).

You can group a tour of the Palais Garnier with a visit to the Galeries Lafayette department store nearby (you said you like to shop). It's a gorgeous store with an incredibly beautiful glass dome.

Since this is your first trip, I'd schedule a trip up to the Eiffel Tower. Sure, it's touristy but hey, you're a tourist!

Enjoy! You'll always have Paris, and you can return!

Posted by
9928 posts

Someone just mentioned Pantheon if you do Luxembourg Gardens.

I’ll also add if you are a fan of the movie Midnight In Paris, the church steps Gil sits on when he’s picked up by taxi are at Saint-Etienne-du-Mont which is just behind the Pantheon. When you walk toward the front they are the steps on the left side of the church.

I know you don’t need to add to the list!

I’d not take any time away from Paris. There is never enough time to see everything!!

Posted by
284 posts

Changed my mind about the Eiffel Tower - I agree with another poster that the top of the Arc de Triomphe would be a better idea, picturing the Germans marching in, then the Allies later. Always gives me goose bumps. (Maybe watch Casablanca before you go?) And seeing all the avenues radiating from the Arc is very cool!

Posted by
13 posts

Wow! Thank you all so much for the thoughtful responses!! We leave three weeks from yesterday so this is pretty much all I can think about.

Jane: this is our first trip to Paris! We'd definitely like to go back but it will be a while before we do so as there are many other places on our list. Thanks for the tip on "downtime" after the Deportation Memorial! I've already made note of that. We will probably skip Giverny this time because the trip out there will take up time we don't have on this trip. I also agree, there's no such thing as too much time in Paris!

Wray: i so appreciate your advice on the Arc and Champs Elysee. What a cool perspective to view Paris from! Are there any specific reasons you'd remove the Army, Louvre, Orangerie and Picasso museums? Added Trocadero to my list!!

Pam: we'll be traveling this month but I think that since we have the museum pass we'll still take time to just see the lilies. I'd like to stroll through Rue Cler on our way to the Eiffel Tower to get food to have a picnic there (although it might be too cool, I can't imagine colder temps right now since it's currently 90 here ha!) but would you suggest somewhere else in that area where we could pick up those things that might be better to walk through that Rue Cler? Good note on the garden area at Rodin too.

Lisalu910: I'm debating right now on the Jardin du Luxembourg but I think my husband would love the Pantheon so it might be worth adding that to our schedule instead of something else. I also hadn't originally included Montmarte but would like to find some time to go there! Again just need to figure out what I'm going to cut. Maybe the Louvre?

Dorothy: thanks for the advice! we'll probably do that exact thing on Ile de la Cite and good to know about Ile Saint Louis. Definitely adding Galeries Lafayette while we're by the Palais Garnier. I've read about it a bit.

It looks like with all the places we want to see that we'll definitely be getting a museum pass. I think this will help us if we walk into a museum and decide we don't want to spend a lot of time there that we won't feel bad leaving! When we travel we really love to spend as much time exploring on our own as we do exploring the tourist sites. Since we are so short on time, it'll be interesting to see what actually wins out when we get there as I could see us making either one the priority. So with all that said, I want to at least have a general outline of what we want to do each day with flexibility in mind.

This is what I'm broadly thinking:

Day 1

I'm trying to be realistic about how much we'll want to do after we land but still making use of this time.

  • Land around lunchtime
  • Check-in and drop off bags at the hotel
  • Eat
  • Picasso Museum before it closes
  • Explore Le Marais area

Day 2

  • Saint Chappelle (get there at opening)
  • Notre Dame (walk by, sadly)
  • Deportation Memorial
  • Eat
  • D'Orsay
  • Walk Champs Elysees
  • Eat dinner
  • Go up in Arc de Triomphe

Day 3

Could we fit Montmarte/Sacre Coeur in this day? I hadn't originally planned on it but think we might enjoy it. Maybe we just nix the Louvre totally?

  • Pompidou
  • Palais Garnier
  • Place Vendome (specifically going to Goyard, if anyone has any experience there)
  • Eat
  • The Louvre (they are open till 9:45 on this day so hoping to take advantage of that.)(my husband is more committed to the Louvre than I am so still deciding on this one)

Day 4

  • Orangerie
  • Rodin Museum
  • Army Museum
  • Rue Clur (pick up food for picnic at Eiffel Tower)
  • Eiffel Tower (picnic, not go up)
  • Trocadero?

These are my other questions/thoughts:

  • We plan on just grabbing a taxi from the airport to the hotel vs the bus/metro in an effort to save time. Are taxis fairly easy to grab?
  • Once I have a better idea of our days, I'd like to utilize the metro whenever it makes the most sense
Posted by
9928 posts

Your modified itinerary looks good.

TBH, I’m in Paris right now and it’s not really picnic weather. This afternoon I was sitting reading in one of the little side parks by Les Invalides in mid-afternoon and got so cold I headed back to the hotel to get a hot drink to warm up. Just eat at one of the restaurants along Rue Cler. Le Petit Cler serves all day as do many on the street. They have nice food, charming atmosphere and serve pretty quickly for Paris.

Many of the locals are wearing their wool coats. I’ve got on a SS tee with a LS DriFit quarter-zip and have my waterproof jacket off and on. I did have the jacket on this afternoon when I got cold. I also live in N Idaho and am pretty cold tolerant. I’ve not pulled out my down vest but it would have felt good this afternoon!

In 3 weeks I’d expect it to be chillier so doubt a picnic will be comfortable.

Taxis from the airport are very easy. Go directly to the sign over the door indicating “Taxi”. Do not go with anyone who comes up and asks if you want a taxi. Ignore anyone who says that line doesn’t go to Paris. Have your address typed out on a card to give to the driver. Much easier that way.

Posted by
13 posts

Pam: Thank you! This is great to know and will definitely help with packing. Hope you're having a wonderful trip!!!

Posted by
9928 posts

It’s Paris! I’m having a wonderful time!!

Just edited my prior post about taxis.

And yes Metro is very easy even for me who has never lived where there is public transport.

Posted by
257 posts

Like Pam, I’m in Paris right now. This evening we walked up to Sacre Coeur right after sunset and the view with the sliver of a moon hanging over the shining Eiffel Tower was sublime. The most perfect Evening in Paris you can imagine. And from the bottom of the hill, looking up at the glowing white cathedral against the midnight blue sky was stunning. It’s not to be missed! (Skip the Louvre if you have to, but don’t miss this!)

Also, we went to the Jardin du Plantes yesterday evening just before sunset and it was gorgeous, much more beautiful to me than the Jardin du Luxembourg (it is more what we would call a Botanical Garden.) There are still gorgeous flowers blooming and then we were treated to a sudden cloudburst which had the handful of folks in the garden diving into a little tunnel to get out of the rain and exclaiming “j’adore, j’adore!” (The locals apparently really love the rain.).

Not to take anything away from your schedule, because some people like to know where they will be from minute to minute on vacation, but moments like those you CAN’T plan for, they just happen. So leave a little wiggle room in the schedule and maybe wander off and go where the spirit leads from time time. I spent the last two days in Paris without any schedule whatsoever, and I’ve had a blast (but to be fair, I’ve spent months here in the past, and I’ve already seen the “tourist” sites, and I know my way around pretty well.)

Posted by
13 posts

Lisalu910: thanks for the advice! I mostly just want to have a general idea of what we want to do each day but I am also very committed to nixing anything on this list once we're there because we just want to explore! Being in Paris without a schedule for two full days sounds like a dream!! Also, we're taking your advice and skipping the Louvre so we can spend time in Montmarte and the Sacre Coeur and we are PUMPED!

Fourfinleys: I've looked into boat tours but didn't want to commit yet and I think this water shuttle might be just the answer we were looking for. Thanks!

Posted by
366 posts

The Pompidou Center was by far the single worst place we visited on our trip to Paris.
1) I'm not into modern 'art' [sic]
2) My wife likes modern 'art' and she was disappointed.

However, she claims that it would have been ok if some wing was open which had been closed.
Hope springs eternal.

Posted by
13 posts

Evan: good to know to keep our expectations in check! Considering we'll have the museum pass and it's close to our hotel, it seems like it's a no-lose to at least check it out.