France - things to see

Hello
On our way back from a 17-day trip in Italy, we will stop 4 days in Paris. In a 3-day agenda, what should be the things/places to see? I know 3 days is short but still, we need your recommendations. Thank you for your help and advice

Posted by Southam
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
916 posts

One size does not fit all, and one set of "sights" won't please everybody. For a conventional list, look at Rick Steves' advice on France and other sites run by guidebooks. Google will turn up lots of official and private tourist authorities for Paris. After havine a look-around you can pose questions that indicate your interests; your chances of getting appropriate advice will soar after you do some homework.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

For a start, here's Rick's recommendations: http://www.ricksteves.com/plan/destinations/france/parisitin.htm. You can look at other guidebooks (in print or on-line) to get their opinions. Then, see what interests you. I actually think Rick's 3 days suggestions for Paris are not as good as his suggestions for many other places. For instance, I'm not a castle person so I've never been to Versailles despite multiple trips to Paris. I loved going up in the Arc de Triomphe, but consider the Champs-Elysee skippable on a short visit. And I didn't like the Montmartre area near Scare Coeur at all (too scuzzy for my taste). I do agree with his "heart of Paris" walk, the evening at the Trocadero (I'd skip the ride up the tower), a boat ride on the Seine, and his recommended museums. Of course, if you're not a "museum person," time would be better spent elsewhere. You see the problems: only you know what interests you, and you won't know what you like until you see it. So, read about the recommended "highlights," then choose based on your own interests. Whatever you choose to see, remember that a lot of the enjoyment of Paris comes from just soaking in the atmosphere (walks along the Seine, sitting in cafes, etc). Of course you should see the "sights," but also allow time to see the "Paris."

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

I disagree with a lot of Rick's recs and his order of importance based on how many days. One of my top favorites are the Luxembourg Gardens... a wonderful park where you can walk and relax and be around other Parisians enjoying themselves (Rick's always talking about "living like a local" yet he never mentions this aspect of the LG). There are two cafes, restrooms, comfy chairs, music some days, fun to watch local guys playing bocce ball or chess plus lots more... I love to walk all around Ile St. Louis, Ile de la Cite, then along the river to Place de la Concorde, cross the river and walk back to Notre Dame and through the 5th and 6th arrondissement ending at the Luxembourg Gardens. Perfect day for me! My list of sights to see/experience: Notre Dame (including climbing stairs to top), Eiffel Tower, Invalides/Napoleon's Tomb, Arc de Triomphe (climb stairs to top), Luxembourg Gardens, nighttime river cruise, Hop On Hop Off Bus (not for transportation but to rest and still see the city), Nissim de Camondo House/Museum, Andre Jacquemart House, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, Louvre, Orsay, Rodin's House/Gardens, Conciergerie, Fat Tire Bike Tour, outdoor markets, neighborhood walks, sitting outside at cafes eating or drinking coffee and people watching... Day Trips (if you have time, but even 3 days isn't enough for just Paris): Versailles (rent bikes for the gardens), Fontainebleau, Vaux-le-Vicomte, Malmaison, Chantilly, Giverny, Chartres Places in Paris I don't like: Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, Champs Elysees

Posted by Gail
Downingtown, USA
1562 posts

We have only been to Paris off season so have not had to wait on line for the tower, louvre, etc. but since you have such short time to see Paris, suggest that you see if you can get advance tickets to those two places if you plan to visit. I understand there can be very long lines at both. There is an alternate entrance to the Louvre so you can bypass the long lines. I agree with the area around Sacre Coeur, very seedy and far too many people trying to sell you things, bracelets, etc., very pushy. Am glad we went though especially as it was very beautiful clear day. Enjoy.

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

Best time to visit Louvre imo is when it's open late on Wed and Fri (getting there around 5:00) when it's much less crowded.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

Susan, Rick's Historic Paris Walk does include the Ile St-Louis. I blush to admit that I haven't spent time in the Luxembourg Gardens, but they do look wonderful. Next time!

Posted by Susan
Sausalito, California
3209 posts

Thank you Harold! I clicked on your link and it wasn't listed. I'll change my post above.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
3511 posts

Hi Denis, I would look at the sights included in the Paris Museum Pass (there's an official website). That has most of the important and/or popular sights as well as some oddballs. Make a list of the ones that sound interesting to you, including the days they are open and the hours (especially evening hours). Then group them by area. You can just go each day where the muse leads you. Do not go to the Louvre because it's the Louvre - go if there are works that you want to see. If you do go, it's best in the evenings (Wed and Fri) when there are usually few people. Do not go up the Eiffel Tower because it's there. There are other places in the city with nice views from above that aren't so crowded and don't have long lines. It is nice to be there in the evening when it twinkles on the hour, but you don't have to go up it to enjoy it. Some of the best hours in Paris are spent exploring back streets, strolling in the gardens, people-watching in tiny gardens and sidewalk cafes, seeing the city's old old buildings and fountains illuminated at night. Every church is an art museum. Two of my very favorites in Paris are the Carnavalet Museum (not in the museum pass, because it's FREE) which is a combination of history (of Paris) and art housed in a palace and the Paris Walks Chocolate Tour. Book in advance, it's only offered a few times a month, so it may not be while you are there. You will never ever see it all, so just relax and enjoy what you do see.

Posted by June
Edmonton, Alberta
250 posts

I agree that each of us has our fave sights. For me, Notre Dame, go early to avoid crowds. Cluny Museum, the tapestries are unbelievable. Viewing the Eiffel tower from across the Seine. Go up the Montparnasse tower, great views of the city including the Eiffel tower. Walking along the Seine, taking in the gorgeous bridges. One bridge has padlocks all long each side, quite lovely. A river cruise, in best photography light, early or right around sunset. I love Paris. Open air markets are also fabulous. Have a great trip.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

With a short time, I'd pick a handful of must see sits and make sure I spend some time soaking up atmosphere by walking, eating in cafes, etc. You won't be able to see everything in that time, nor should you try. Also, look up Paris Walks if you are interested in walking tours at all.

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1410 posts

Assuming this will be your first time in Paris. What you do depends on your interests, but this is what I would do: Walk the Ile de la Cite and St. Louis. Go into Notre Dame. If you are interested visit Ste. Chappelle. Stroll the banks of the Seine many beautiful photo opportunities here. From the islands, walk to right or left bank either direction is good, and have fascinating neighborhoods. Right bank, See Hotel de Ville. If you like to shop, the BHV department store across the street is good. From here short walk to Pompidou museum. The museum building is amazing, and the Stravinsky Fountain outside it is fun for people watching. Walk to Louvre, just visit the courtyard (if you don't want to go inside, it's great of course, but can be overwhelming) On left bank, Musee D'Orsay, the first art gallery I recommend going into. to be continued ....

Posted by BG
Albany, CA, USA
1410 posts

more ... From the Louvre, walk down the Tuileries garden to Place de Concorde. Tuileries is another great park for strolling, sitting and people watching, right in center of town. Orangerie museum is here too - 2nd one I recommend for wonderful art in a small museum. From here you can see the Arche de Triomphe. Take nearby metro to it. Walk to the Arche, climb to top if you wish. (You can skip the overwhelmingly commercial Champs Elysee, though it can be an interesting people-watching experience too). Of course you have to see the Eiffel Tower. Whether you choose to spend the time taking elevator to go up is up to you, (go to 2nd level) but to me the elevator is an amazing engineering marvel. But the tower is impressive any way you see it. The 10-minute hourly light show on the tower at night should not be missed. I'd have drinks or coffee at outdoor table at any cafe that interested me. I love Cafe de Flore and Deux Magots in St. Germain area -- worth the price for the people-watching show. The impressive St. Germain des Pres church is right next door. Walk around the Marais, shop, have a drink at the Lizard Lounge, or a falafel at L'as du Falafel (only). The Carnavalet museum is here, and free and very good. Touristy though they are, on a nice day the Seine River cruise is a treat. I have been to Paris many times and never tire of doing these things.

Posted by LeAnn
Seattle, WA
35 posts

I found a Segway tour was terrific for getting an overview of central Paris. Much like a bus tour but way more fun. You can cover a lot more ground than walking, and you're above ground, unlike the Metro. You can note places you'd like to return to, and it ends at the Eiffel Tower, where the timing got us there just on the hour for the twinkle.

Posted by Sue Ann
Seattle, WA, USA
18 posts

I agree with others who have said that it really depends on your interests. I would like to add that, if you go to Notre Dame, I love the underground museum right in front of it that shows the ruins that have been excavated under the Cathedral. You'll have to pick and choose if you like museums: for such a short visit, I would prefer going to a couple of smaller ones and really seeing them (like Musée Rodin, for example, depending on your interests) rather than running through the Louvre, which would take a month to see well! If you do go to the Louvre, you might pick out a few works that you'd like to see and just hunt for those. Sometimes you can visit a venue for a performance, which is a different way of seeing it and without the crowds. We did this by attending a concert at Sainte Chapelle, and it was a wonderful way to experience it. Pick a few sites, relax, and enjoy! Bon Voyage!