I am bringing a friend to Paris for the first time and I am trying to figure out what would give her the best first view of the City. We arrive at CDG in the morning and rather than just take the metro and pop out in a street I was hoping to plan a place that would provide a more dramatic "first view"
Steps of Sacre Coeur if there's not much haze.
If there is haze, metro to Arc. Pop out and go right up, she'll be staring it in the face before she knows what's going on.
Take the Air France bus from CDG to CDG-Etoile and the first view would be Arc d'Triomphe and Champs-Elysees.
My favorite view of Paris is from the roof at Printemps
Tyson's idea is great!
I don't go in stores and had no idea you could get to the roof, but that sure is right in the middle of things.
What about taking the metro to the Montparnasse Station and go up to the Montparnasse Tower? It's a pretty dramatic view of the city.
I'm guessing that you are thinking about the first sightseeing destination of the trip - not the trip in from the airport.
The Montparnasse idea is a good one.
Another dramatic destination would be Charles de Gaulle-l'Étoile Metro station and then exit up to the Place de l'Étoile.
There's actually a cafe on the top of Printemps. My French teacher in 1984 told me about it and we stop there whenever we are in Paris.
Just take the escalators up to the top floor. It's free to look around and a great place to have a cup of coffee or tea for 1.50 euro.
Also the toilets on the first floor are something to behold. It will cost you a euro to use them but it's well worth it just to see them
While I agree the view from the Montparnasse tower is fantastic, I don't think the area it's in is that impressive, and the building itself is not pretty at all. I would not recommend going out there for a first major view of Paris. For a first view I would start at the beginning -- the Ile de la Cite and Notre Dame -- see the islands, the Seine, the bridges -- Incomperable. Possibly take a cruise of the Seine -- which will bring you by the Eiffel Tower -- day of night it's fantastic. I have taken shuttle vans and the Air France bus into Paris, and while not particularly scenic ride until you get into the city -- I always find it interesting.
All of the suggestions are good ones for views of Paris, but they will not be your first. From CDG take the RER to Place St. Michel. Instead of transferring to the Metro to get to your hotel, take the exit (sortie) to Pont St. Michel. Look south into the Place, it's fountain, cafes, students and tourists. Look over your left shoulder to see Notre Dame and the Seine. Across the street is the typical looking French cafe, Le Depart Saint Michel, (ignore the Ben and Jerry's umbrellas) in front of which is a taxi stand (you can get to your hotel for 5-10 euros). You will know immediately that you are not in Minnesota anymore.
I like Douglas' suggestion, yes that's a wonderful introduction to Paris. I also once arrived on an Air France bus to the Arc de Triomphe just as the sun had risen and it was lovely too. Couldn't resist dropping my bags and fishing for my camera.
As our airplane approched Paris on our last visit I thought, 'what the heck' and looked out of the window from my aisle seat.
Yep, the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. And it looked absolutely huge (tall) compared to the rest of the city. I wouldn't at all say I'm jaded, but I've seen the Tower a few times and just never expected my reaction to be what it was. (I worked really hard to use my 'indoor voice' as I squealed...) Let the approach be your first shot at a dramatic view. Then if you're on the 'wrong' side of the plane, go to Plan B, C, D,... on the ground. I think most people get a little excited every time they catch a glimpse of the Tower as they walk around the city. It's Paris - you can't lose!
To clarify one of the posts above.
Trocadero is a park, not a buidling. The old Trocadero Palace was torn down about a hundred years ago.
The present structure with two unconnected wings is the Palais de Chaillot. It's roof can't be more than a couple of hundred feet high. The top of the Eiffel Tower is something over a thousand feet. One obviously cannot overlook the ET from the top of the Palace.
I also suggest that once you get settled in, take the metro to the Etoille/Charles DeGaulle stop and exit. We are putting together a trip for next spring with someone who has never been to Paris and that's my plan. The sight of the Arc hitting you as you go up the escalator is such a rush. When I see that, then I truly know that I am back in Paris. Then, go to the TI on the Champs, cross the street and walk down one of the most interesting streets in Europe. Happy Travels!
Mary perfectly described the unexpected thrill of viewing the Eiffel Tower in the Paris skyline from the plane, when approaching Charles De Gaulle.
I totally agree with BG and Douglas and was thinking exactly the same thing...RER to Place St. Michel. As you come up from underground you see the Seine, the beautiful buildings and Notre Dame...priceless.
We just did this, and have done it many, many times and it always takes my breath away.
To beat a dead horse for the sake of accuracy:
The post containing the words 'Right, top of the park' remains incorrect. There is no top of the park except for the fact that the park was built on top of the Chaillot hill in the distant past -- maybe the early 1800's. The park is green. It has statues and not much else.
The hand-of-god photo was taken from the esplanade of human rights (or something similar) located between the two wings of the Palais de Chaillot. The esplanade is part of the palace, not part of the park.
The Varsovie fountain in the foreground is part of the park.
Assuming this is not a surprise, show her pictures of the three Paris icons (ET, Arc, Notre Dame) and ask her to quickly point to the one that says "Paris" the loudest. She will probably point to the ET--in which case go with Steve's Trocadero Viewpoint.(see his photo) IMHO that is the best daytime viewpoint and it's the one I would have picked. From there, it's an easy walk across the Seine to get a close up view.
If she picks one of the others, then go with the suggestion for that viewpoint.
Paris - my favorite city and I remember my first trip there (at 36 so I wasn't a hosteling student) I thought, "What the heck?" as we came in by cab from CDG - it looked nothing like what I pictured. Paris is a working city and so the airport is out of town aways. However, once you get into the city proper it becomes the Paris you dream of. I say this as it seems to me that - even taking the train or bus into the city center - you may see less than picturesque neighborhoods. However, hang in there - as I said at the top of this post, it has become my favorite place. I have been back 5 times. Enjoy!!
I'm agreeing with Sampa....for the best first view of the city take the Air France bus to Etoile....good direct service;;;and then you can start messing around with the Metro and /or walk down the Champs d'Elysees for a coffee at Lauderee....Just hope you don't bring too much luggage....jet lag and dragging bags can spoil any first impression
For those really fascinated by the history of Paris, the Trocadero metro station was named after the Battle of Trocadero, as were a handful of other stations named after battles. It was not named after the old palace.
The battle, obliquely referenced in an earlier post as 'a 1823 battle in Spain', is not of much interest to Americans .......except maybe in passing since it's what got the Monroe Doctrine going.
Edit: for the record, Steve has changed his last post from 'after the old palace' to 'like the old palace'.
Wow- a lot of good advice. Now I just need to decide whether to pick an icon, aerial view or street view. I intend to use all of this advice at some point during the trip. I really like the idea of staying underground until we are encapsulated by the city proper.
Thanks again everyone and feel free to add more to the list as I don't leave until Oct.
Thank you for the lovely story. It makes me wish I could go right back to Paris and we have only been home since July 4.
I'll continue ganging up on the Eiffel Tower with a personal story. Several years ago, my mother-in-law and I went to Paris by ourselves. I had been before; she hadn't. I had a plan, and we were both rewarded with "dramatic" - we started at Les Invalides (pop up at Metro:La Tour-Maubourg - Using Google Street View, I don't see the Tower) and walked down rue de Grenelle towards Parc du Champs de Mars. (Just taking a stroll to stretch our legs after the long flight ;-D ) I like that area for the mix of businesses/restaurants/apartments, but it's a little two-lane road, not a boulevard. Cozy (a bit of that 'real Paris' that people look for), pretty, and no mobs of tourists. Due to the six- to eight-storied buildings all around and the way the street curves, you can't see, ahem, anything tall and pointy sticking up into the air (!). When we got to the end of the road, at the edge of the park, I told her to 'look around and tell me what you see'. Well, she started spinning slowly the 'wrong' way. I was going to correct her, then decided to prolong the anticipation. At the end of her 360 degree spin, she saw it. If you could have seen her face and heard the gasp! Now, I'd known her for 25 years and had seen her excited before; this was a religious experience. You know what I mean - the first time you saw David, the Leaning Tower, shook hands with that movie star you're ga-ga over - how surprised you are at your intensely goofy-silly, child-like reaction. You feel a little foolish, maybe? That was her, and me the first time I saw the Eiffel Tower on the Air France bus many years earlier - not as romantic, but it worked!
The wonderful thing is, Paris is a dramatic view each and every step you take! When you've seen it all in the daylight, do it all again at night. Completely different.
Now, you know you're going to have to report back what happens...
Right -- I loved Mary's ET story also, and know the feeling well. I returned from my 8th trip to Paris in April -- never get enough.
Thank you, Mary, for sharing your wonderful story! I am looking forward to revisiting the city again next week.
Sacre Couer sounds nince
Sacre Coeur does it for my husband...Oh, la, la...As soon as we get into the city we have to go to the cafe at the base of the hill. Poor us.
I just got all caught up in my Eiffel Tower-ness there for a minute! Tower = Mom, Sacre Coeur = son.
Also, any sidewalk cafe where you can hear 'Parisien-type' music that lets you know you're not at home anymore and that you HAVE ARRIVED IN PARIS (ohmygosh!), sitting in those oh-so-typical Parisien parks (allees of trees and pea gravel paths and green park benches) and getting your legs 'under you', so to speak, heck anywhere will be a great impression.
I second the idea of the shutle buses from the airport. We always took the RER until this last trip when most of the RER route was closed due to construction. I think we're hooked on the bus, now! (Roissybus) You see a cross-section of Paris; it's like a mini-tour line. It was a much more enjoyable (re-)intro to Paris than watching the, umm, unsavory types that can show up on the RER. Ya know, the ones staring at your luggage, etc.? And the buses have A/C and heat, and cushy seats! And that strange European music genre I call EuroEnglish - very European-sounding pop music with gibberish English lyrics...If you've ever been in a taxi or a clothing store, you've heard it! (the rambling has ended)
The sooner you can get out of the metro ant tunnels, the better. After that, everything is icing.
My first "view" was the Latin Quarter. It was amazing. I'd say that or the Sacre Coeur.