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Paris Orientation Tours

I usually do a bus, walking, or boat tour of any new city when I arrive to help orient me. Can anybody suggest a great tour for a Paris first-timer? Thanks!

Posted by
754 posts

We went last November and all I can say is L'Open tour was horrible. We paid in advance for 2 days. It was ok as transportation but the commentary on the headsets was infantile and USELESS. I felt so ripped off. After an hour of hearing jabber that would have been better suited to a group of 10 year olds, I took off my headset as I could not stand the horrible canned music anymore.

They would say on the left if a statue of so and so......well, not until at least a block further. No announcements on what stop is coming up....Unless you sit where you can see the stops on the side of the road, you have no idea if you are near where you want to get off or not.

We wanted to get off at Tracedero. Well, The bus stopped a few blocks before it and once you pass it, you go back to the Eiffel tower side with no chance of getting off. We were in a hurry so had to take a taxi back over the river. HORRIBLE. Worst hop on hop off I have ever taken.

I have done some in Ottawa, Miami, Las Vegas, Luxembourg City and Savannah and those were all FAR superior to the L'open.

On our last day because of the attacks, we had nothing open so we went on a Bateau Mouche tour.....was very relaxing to see the city from the boat.

Posted by
6 posts

Thank you! That's very helpful. I'm sorry you had a poor experience but hope the rest of the trip was wonderful!

Posted by
15365 posts

If you can ride a bike, take a Fat Tire bike tour. The tours are very good and it's the fastest way to get around the city so you'll see the all the major sites. They also have Segway tours - lots of fun but pricey.

Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf have a good Seine cruise (1 hour), great thing while you're in Paris but not necessarily the best for orientation, just because it's limited to the river. The sights are too spread out for a walking tour for that purpose. Paris Walks has lots of 2-hour tours for different "bits" of the city. I've never taken the HOHO bus in Paris, but I've been stuck in traffic on buses or in taxis enough to wonder if it's a good idea.

Posted by
2353 posts

Second the Fat Tire Bike Tour - great overview of the city and wonderful folks.

Posted by
5897 posts

I agree with Chani -- Vedettes de Pont Neuf (or Bateaux Mouches) for the river, Paris Walks for neighborhoods or topics of interest. Paris is too spread out for any kind of useful walking tour that would orient you to the whole city, so for that you might try a HOHO bus -- perhaps not the one photobears found so bad. Or you could try the public bus route #69, running between the Eiffel Tower and Pere Lachaise Cemetery, recommended in the RS guide. Other bus routes he recommends are 24 (Gare St-Lazare to Gare de Lyon), 63 (Marmottan Museum to Gare de Lyon), and 87 (Eiffel Tower to Vincennes). They all cross the river and make numerous stops. As I recall, for the price of a Metro ticket (which works on a bus) you can travel one way for an hour and a half, making stops without charge as long as you keep going in the same direction.

Don't know about the bike tour, it's above my fitness pay grade.

Posted by
2466 posts

It's always a good idea to do advance research on where the HOHO buses stop and how long before the next one arrives, which is available on the official websites. You should come with a map and should co-ordinate the stops with the attractions you want to visit - do this before you arrive, so you won't be left stranded.

The OpenTour bus stops have been remodeled, and most of them look like the new city bus shelters - but they are clearly marked "Open Tour". Where this was not possible, the old turquoise sign on a pole is not easy to recognize.

I never use audio guides on bus or boat tours, because they are usually poorly-produced, not synchronized, and you can't hear them over the noise of the traffic, anyway. But if you have a map with the attractions marked, or a good guidebook (and have marked the route you'll be taking), you can read along as you ride. If the weather's nice, it's a nice way to have an overview of the city, though not meant for efficient transportation.

The HOHO bus is a much better alternative than using the city bus system. Unless you can manage to get on at the beginning of the line and get a regular seat, you won't see much. Normally, you end up standing in the aisles where you can't look out the windows - and you should never stand or sit in the areas reserved for strollers or people with mobility issues. A lot of people don't seem to be aware that the large open section in the middle of the bus is made for wheelchairs and strollers, and half the seats in the front of the bus are marked with diagrams of a person with a cane. If someone needs these areas or seats, you must get up and move, if you don't fit the category.