We have 3 days in Paris (one of which is the day we arrive) over the weekend of May 23-25. My list includes the Louvre, Versailles, Saint Chapelle, Orsay, RS Historic Paris Walk, a jaunt down the Champs-Elysees, a twilight cruise on the Seine, and hopefully a dusk visit to the Eiffel Tower. Too much?? Any tips for where to scale back?
Yes, too much. Skip Versailles this trip, and choose one museum max. These museums are huge and fantastic, but desire time. There is no rushing Paris. Prioritize your interests and go forward.
Don’t try for Versailles unless it is your top “must see.” Honestly, I would also drop the Louvre from your list as well.
I was leaning towards dropping Versailles and the Louvre but sticking with the Orsay. My students and I are finishing up a brief overview of Impressionists so that museum sounds more appealing.
Skip Versailles (that's a day-trip) and the Louvre (too crowded and if you're petite you won't enjoy it). Buy tickets online for Musee d'Orsay for first thing in the morning when you have the most energy, you'll enjoy it more than the Louvre. You'll pass Saint-Chapelle while taking RS Historic Paris walk and only go in if the sun is shining. If there's no sun, you won't appreciate its stain glass which is the only reason to go inside. Take RSEs Champs-Elysees walking tour and instead of taking a twilight cruise on the Seine, consider taking a Deux Chevaux Car Tour at night. Your driver will pick you up at your hotel.
Realistically- sunset is after 9.30. That means the Eiffel Tower will begin to turn on the lights nearer 10 pm and the first "twinkling" will be at 11.00. There's nothing to see on the Champs-Elysees. You can see the best of Sainte-Chapelle by going to the first evening concert. Get there when the doors open and you'll have time to walk around and admire the stained glass, and take photos, before the concert begins. Choose seats in the middle, you'll have good views of windows during the concert too. If you go during the day, there will be crowds and probably a long line for security.
A good place to be at sunset is either on a Seine cruise (Les Vedettes du Pont Neuf) or on the top of the Arc de Triomphe. A good viewing place for the Eiffel Tower is the Trocadero.
The Orsay's Impressionist collection is wonderful, but it's displayed in a group of rooms that are much too small and too few for the number of works presented. It's almost always crowded. There is a lot more art to see in the museum and most of it in spacious areas. The best plan is to have your tickets in hand, line up at the entrance for ticket-holders at least 10 minutes before opening, and make a beeline to the top floor where the Impressionists are. There are alternatives. The Orangerie has the huge water lily murals Monet painted for it, and a decent collection that includes works of these artists. The Marmottan (a little far out but well worth seeing) has a wonderful Monet collection in comfortable rooms. It's arranged chronologically, very interesting to see his development. There is also a collection of Berthe Morisot.
Versailles is not a one day trip., It takes 3 days just to get acquainted. Nevertheless, it is the # 1 sight in Paris and even 1 day should not be missed. There is no # 2. Go to Versailles. There are better collections of impressionist art in Washington DC (Nat. Gallery of Art and Phillips Gallery), Chicago, Hermitage, Amsterdam, Boston, and the Singer Museum in Western Mass than in Paris.
Its probably too late, but the best way you could have spent your 3 days in Paris would have been to go to Prague instead.
I think Chani has great advice about he Orsay and the Orangerie, which is small and not usually crowded. I have always wanted to go to the Monet Marmottan and have always missed it. I agree, Paris cannot be rushed. That would be to miss the whole point. Definitely skip Versailles and the Louvre - when I was there the staff went on strike due to the numbers of visitors allowed in at one time. I would take a jaunt through the Marais rather than the Champs-Elysees. Allow time to sit in the parks and watch the people. The time will disappear in a snap.
With your limited time, I too say your plan is to ambitious, since the places you mention all take a while to adequately see.
Thank you all for your wonderful tips and insights. I actually took my plan straight from Rick Steve’s Best of France book, but it seemed a bit lofty. Love the Prague idea, but that will have to be another trip:)
Take walks has a fantastic all day tour that goes to many of the places in your list. You begin in Montemarte and Sacre Couer, and they take you all over the city using the metro. It is very efficient, and you see and learn more than you probably could on your own. They spend two hours in the Louvre hitting the highlights (not Mona Lisa — the line is way too long) It ends at the Eiffel Tower, and they give you tickets for a boat ride down the Seine for whenever you want to take it, and you should probably do it that evening. The tour does not include the Arche de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, and St Chapelle. You can see these on your own the day you arrive, do the the tour on your second day, and your last day go to D’Orsay, Luxembourg, whatever else you have missed. I feel that Versailles should wait u til you have more time, but maybe that’s just me! https://www.takewalks.com/paris-tours/paris-city-tour/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI056mhazV5wIViaDsCh2LmwCjEAAYASACEgKFr_D_BwE
I think Chani makes excellent points. Versailles is "a bridge too far" for such a short trip. (Whether it's the #1 sight is a matter of preference, it wouldn't be for me.) The Louvre is open and not so crowded a couple of evenings each week, you might consider visiting then with a plan for seeing any specific works or periods that especially interest you. The only reason to walk down the Champs is to get from the Arc to Concorde relatively easily in good weather. It's probably faster than Metro for that purpose. Walking the other way is uphill so less enjoyable.
Start with your most important and see how it goes. I think you will have time
"I actually took my plan straight from Rick Steve’s Best of France book, but it seemed a bit lofty. "
Yes, sigh. When I'm in a museum I lose all track of time, I think Rick must plan out his highlights in advance and keep moving!
On the day you arrive, if you're jet-lagged try to do as much walking as you can to get adjusted - maybe see the outside of the Louvre, stroll to the Orangerie (Monet's Waterlilies are there), ride the ferris wheel, add Sainte Chapelle if it's sunny (and you're not too exhausted) or perhaps the Seine cruise. On the next day choose your "must see" - mine would be Versailles but you could pick a museum instead.
Marty, would you attempt Versailles on a Sunday? RS says it’s the worst day to visit. Eek. But it would be my only option as it’s closed on Monday.
Is the Ferris wheel still there?
The reason I mentioned Champs-Ulysses is because the grand finale is Arc de Triomphe, a landmark worth seeing.
My whole goal of Champs-Elysees was to see the Arc:) My husband is a major Tour de France fan, and it’s pretty iconic for him.
Then by all means - do the Arch... There is an underground passageway so you can get there easily. Make certain to do the climb to the top - it has such a great view and he will never forget (you may get tired of hearing "We were there" - every July). Not certain if you need to pre-book (there was a line for the lift). We had a Paris Pass that made the line only as long as it took for security. I climbed and DH stayed below - feet were sore that day.
"Marty, would you attempt Versailles on a Sunday? RS says it’s the worst day to visit. Eek. But it would be my only option as it’s closed on Monday."
I dunno, depends on your tolerance for crowds, I guess. Are you tall? That would help.
With three days (two plus the dreaded jet-lagged Zombie Day) I don't think I would visit Versailles. Keep telling yourself you'll be back.
Those days will go pretty quickly. I'd try something like:
Zombie day, Saturday - wander around, take a boat ride, maybe do Rick's Historic Walk on Ile St. Louis and see Sainte-Chapelle.
Sunday - Orsay for 2 or 3 hours, metro to l'Arc de Triomphe.
Monday - the Louvre for 2 or 3 hours, walk through the Tuileries to l'Orangerie
Hope this helps,
First I'd divide things into activities where you should arrive before opening to reduce the line, things to do during the day and things that can be done at night.
I would also skip Versailles unless you're willing to give an entire day just for that. By the time you train there, look around, eat lunch, look around some more and train back. It's an all day sight. If you go, start very early and figure you'll be pretty worn out by night.
Things to be early for: The Louvre. I haven't been since they started timed admission. My first visit I arrived, museum pass in hand, a little over 30 minutes before opening. I was first in the pass line and had no bags (so was waived through security). I was able to go straight to Mona Lisa and have the room to myself (and security) for a good five or ten minutes before others started filtering in. I'd rather spend 30 minutes in line when nothing is open. The line at Orsay backs up, so you could go early another day to get right in. I love the whole place but impressionists were the highlight for me.
I've always had good luck getting into the Orangerie so it's an easy add when you're walking around. The Rick Steve's historic Paris walk can be done anytime. I'd suggest visiting a big sight in the morning, eat lunch, then follow the walk. Having a museum pass in hand opens up quick visits to smaller museums you may not have on the top of your list.
Things for night: Walk Champs Elysees and end with Arc de Triomphe. The view of the Eiffel tower from either a Seine river cruise or the Arc de Triomphe at the top of the hour, after sunset, is perfect. The Eiffel Tower. An evening stroll along the seine near the center. You can also see Sainte Chappelle during an evening concert (or go before opening one morning) to avoid the long line. If you choose a concert, plan before sunset so you can experience the amazing stained glass windows with light coming through. Afterward, take the Pont Neuf Seine cruise.