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Paris in 2 days (Jul) with Teen Boys

Family of 4 with two boys (15 and 13) will be in Paris for 2 days. Below is a rough start of our plans. Feedback is welcome, not sure where we are staying yet. Jul 5 arrive via Eurostar in the evening Jul 6 Louve, Histroic city walk, Trocadero, Eiffel Tower
Jul 7 Versailles, Aquaboulevard water park, Seine Cruise Jul 8 11am train to Frankfurt.

Posted by
635 posts

This is obviously the continuation of your London trip. Two days in Paris? You'll make some here cry. I'm not sure of the Paris Museum Pass rules for minors so check them out. If applicable buy two day passes so you can skip or minimize your time in line even if they may not be economically justified. If the passes can't be used to cover children of their ages, I suspect you will be spending a lot of time in line. A "sprint" through the Louve will take 2 or 3 hours in the July crowds. At best, you'll get to blow by the highlights. It opens at 9 so be there. The historic city walk will take 3 hours or more if you actually look at things and then only briefly. Trocadero and Eiffel Tower will depend on the crowds especially to get into the ET. Jul 6 is very tight but probably doable. Versailles will be crowded. I can't imagine you doing it in half of a day which is what you'll need to get back for the water park. Again, be there when it opens at 9 am. Verify my times. My memory may be off. There's so much of Paris you're missing. Your boys may enjoy the Army Museum/Nappy's Tomb and the Maritime Museum. Europe will still be there next year. Consider slowing down and covering less dirt and more of each area.

Posted by
2982 posts

I don't see the problem with short visits if you want to go somewhere but don't have a lot of time. As long as you're not trying to see EVERYTHING there's no reason not to pop in somewhere and see a little bit. That said, for summer your schedule is pretty hectic. Versailles is crazy crowded and can be a bit of a hassle to get to from Paris with train connection times. One thing that pops into my head to consider with teenage boys is the catacombs. The lines start early and get long, but it is blessedly cool inside and boys like skeletons. It's fun.

Posted by
27709 posts

Ken, the only problem with the early starts, with which I concur, is that David and family are, by their own admission, not great in the morning. My concerns are that with the late evenings by the time they get to places the crowds and lines will have built up, slowing the blitz through down.

Posted by
107 posts

Ken, thanks. Yep, leg 2 of the trip fur shure. I posted the overall guidelines in the general forum and am using the regional forums for the different legs (I hope that is ok). And yes, I heard much weeping and gnashing of teeth when we settled on 2 days in Paris (LOL). I will try to use every tip and trick to skip lines (museum passes, advanced registration, guided tours if needed, being there early, etc). I have the RS guide books and maps for everywhere we are going (am reading way late into the night and will have to re-read several areas that we settle on I am sure). For the water park we only need a few hours so I expect most of the day will be at Versailles. I am basing my days on a suggested trip by RS (of course modified) but he has the trip as a ½ day (tour the château and sample the gardens). But that is why I am asking here to get good feedback on times and such. I know there is much we are missing but that will be true on every leg. For some 3, 4, 5, even 6 days wouldn't be enough. We have two planned so we're aiming to make the most of those two. We've opted for the more high speed buffet rather than the more in depth sit down. In a way, we've adopted the slogan, we'll be back. I understand most don't do it this way and that's fine with me, the feedback is still invaluable and I appreciate every comment posted. Sarah thanks, I'll have to see when the catacombs are open.

Posted by
355 posts

If you are arriving early enough in the evening, you could do the Seine Cruise on the 5th. I prefer taking the cruise at night. It's really beautiful. Unless you really have your heart set on seeing Versailles, I personally would not try to do it in 1/2 a day. When you consider the time it is going to take to get to the metro, get acclimated to the system, purchase tickets, make connections, you could be looking at 3 hours or more of travel time. If it were me, I would save Versailles for the next trip and spend your time in the city. The catacombs, Notre Dame Tower (to see the gargoyles) or a Segway Tour might be fun for teenage boys...

Posted by
2349 posts

Save Versailles for another trip. Also, I know the benefit of blowing off steam and cooling off, but do you have to do the water park? Your time is too short in Paris as it is.

Posted by
524 posts

Dave As a mother of 3 boys, I come with creds for giving advice on travel! I agree with others who suggested the Catacombs and ping Versailles. My guess is that the boys will not be interested in the inside of the Palace unless they are really into architecture or history. Boring was my boys response. Also agree about taking the Seine Cruise at night. You could start the Seine Cruise at the Eiffel Tower (round trip) and do Eiffel Tower and Trocadero at the same time. Although other than a great view of the Eiffel Tower, I don't think there is a good reason to go to the Trocadero. Fat Tire Bike Tours (cheaper then Segway) gather below the Eiffel Tower. Great way to get an overview of the city, get you off your feet and provide a different kind of exercise. They have both day and night tours. A walk along the Seine on the Quais and doing the Islands is awesome. Go to the deli, the bakery, and the grocery shop and you have the makings for a good cheap lunch. Suggest you stay in the 5th or 6th Arrondisement (administrative district), near all of the main sights and a fun lively area. Good luck on your itinerary. Bobbie

Posted by
1668 posts

If you decide to skip Versailles but would still enjoy a dose of over-the-top opulence, consider a quick visit to Opera Garnier. They offer English tours, but I believe you can also just "self-tour." We don't particularly enjoy opera, but the opera house is fascinating architecture..........With such a limited amount of time, I would skip going up the Eiffel Tower, but instead go over there in the evening with a picnic, sit on the grass, and enjoy the sparkling lights on the tower which are 5-10 minutes every hour on the hour.......Your other evening, go about the same time to the Notre Dame plaza and enjoy the street performers who gather there in the very heart of Paris.

Posted by
11450 posts

I totally support seeing the Catacombs, both my sons ( who were eacth 14 at the time of their visits) loved them, considered them a highlight. I also think the Fat Tire Bike tours are GREAT,, look up their website,the boys will love them and you will too,, they are easy and fun!! If you decide to do the Lovure and Versailles ,, get the 2 day museum pass, you only need two,, the boys get in free at both places with you.And you skip lines.
They are not accepted at the Eiffel Tower ,, so definately get your tickets for that online ahead of time,, otherwise you will possibilbly wait for hours.

Posted by
893 posts

I'm have to agree with everyone about the 7th - I think you either have to pick Versailles or Aquaboulevard. Your boys might pick Vesailles once they realize they have to wear a European style swimsuit (ie tight fitting - doesn't have to be as skimpy as a Speedo, but can't be like shorts). No skirted suits for the ladies, either. (Unless it has changed in the past year.) If you don't do Versailles, then you could get a bit of a chateau feel from Napolean's Apartments in the Louvre.

Posted by
774 posts

I agree that with two full days, plus your arrival evening and departure morning, Versailles might not be the most efficient way to spend your time. We've taken our son to Paris twice (when he was 10yo and 12yo) and our daughter once (when she was 11yo), and we still haven't made our way to Versailles, because there's always so much to do within Paris. (We adults did visit Versailles on previous trips.) But if your family has discussed it, and really wants to see Versailles, then that decision works for you. What our kids loved: museums; they're big museum lovers, obviously not true of any kid/teen/adult. My son loves the Pompidou the most; my daughter, the Louvre. Also enjoy the Musee d'Orsay, the Picasso Museum, the Orangerie, Musee Marmottan. For non-museums, Notre Dame's towers. Us adults love Sainte-Chappelle; neither kid has been charmed. Arc de Triomphe, not climbing it, just standing there and watching the cars go round and round the 12-road roundabout (it's near the Eiffel Tower). They liked Sacre Couer, son liked the Pantheon, because Victor Hugo (and the Curies) are buried there. Son also liked the street market on rue Mouffetard. Definitely a night-time Seine cruise. We prefer Bateaux les Vedettes du Pont Neuf.

Posted by
5455 posts

I don't know which days it happens, but the best thing about our most recent Arc de Triomphe visit was the parade of bridal couples (every possible ethnicity) and their photographer taking pictures at the base. Sort of a "Rick Steves" moment. They were probably going all around the city for a portfolio.

Posted by
228 posts

David, Skip Versailles... definately! It is a huge sinkhole of time and money. Do not feel guilty about crossing this one off your list. Seine Cruise can be the Bato-bus instead; exact same route without the cost. Walk from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomph to get a feel of Paris.
The Louvre can take up a huge amount of time... days for the fanatics. Consider spending a few hours then calling it quits to spend time outside where Paris is. Eiffel Tower, a must see but you ABSOLUTELY must buy your tickets ahead of time... or else you'll be in line for hours just to get in... imagine Disney X100 here. I have a challenge for you. Did you see the movie Eat, Pray Love? Rent it and fast foward to the scene where in Italy the men are in the Barber shop explaining to Julia Roberts the Italian 'La Dolce Far Niente". The challenge, are you planning so much because your family needs to be 'entertained' by this whirlwind in order to feel satisfied... or can your family enjoy meandering 1-2 mile walks along roads between lunch and dinner... stopping in at shops and gardens to poke around... slowly taking everything in and remembering Paris' non-tourist sites... perhaps the real Paris? I hope this doesn't come across as offensive... we were just there in Sept 2011 for the first time and the whirlwind moments are now blurs, and the walks from Notre Dame to Eiffel Tower are what I remember so vividly!

Posted by
228 posts

Oh, and one last Idea. I know you'll love it too. In the late evening (10-11 p.m.) get your family to the Latin Quarter for a great time! Follow the crowds over to St Michel - Notre Dame Metro stop, cross the street and follow the music/laughter/lights into the brightly lit alleys. It is a caucauphony of sounds... almost like a State Fair at night... only Parisian style without Ferris Wheels. Walk the streets until you're half done. Then make your way over to the Notre Dame cathedral plaza for more. The World is gathered there.... you'll see ehat I mean. You and your boys will remember this evening forever!

Posted by
8387 posts

Actually, now that Jean Paul has brought up the night scene, I'll add about the picnics along the banks of the Seine on the Isle St. Louis. There are thousands in small groups around meals spread out on blankets. Some have brought candelabras for their "tables", others have portable tables and chairs, but it's groups of friends and families picnicking every summer night. The garbage men posted there all evening change the bags out of the cans as quickly as they fill. It starts before dark and carries on into the night.

Posted by
9110 posts

To refine some of J-P's ideas in his first post: The batobus doesn't run after dark in the summer. The walk from the Louver to the Arc is up the Champs - - 'up' being uphill. You can take the metro to right under the Arc and walk downhill toward the Louvre/Tuileries. There's really not much use in humping the couple of miles in either direction unless you want to enjoy a batch of cheap chain stores. If you go to the Louver a couple of hours before it closes, you can duck in, see the big three, and be back out in way less than an hour. If you buy your ET tickets ahead of time, you risk being snockered by the weather. If you go a couple of hours before it closes, it'd be odd if you had to wait twenty minutes - - plus the view is more impressive at night. He doesn't say what route he took from Notre Dame to the ET, but the best view is to go along the left bank quai. The view from the right bank is more restrictive and if you try to go in a straight line (further south), you're mostly wiggling between unimpressive buidlings except for the area around St Germain and a couple of other short stretches.

Posted by
11450 posts

My personal opinion is zipping into the Louvre to see the "big three" is a waste of time and money. No wonder I hear so many complaints about the Louvre being too big or too overwhelming, guess it might be like that if one is just popping in to beeline through crowds to tick three seperate exhibits off a list. Like a scavenger hunt. Teen boys may be interested in going downstairs to the Medieval Louvre,, where they can see the excavated ruins of the original fort walls,, have them look on the stones for the stone cutters brands. In those days stone cutters were paid by the stone, so they all marked their stones with carved in "brands", something you will almost never see as the stonemasons face the part of the stone with the marks on them out of site,, but since this part of the fort was originally under the moat , so not viewable, the stone masons were not as careful, and you can see the marks on some stones!

Posted by
9110 posts

Yo, Pat. The people only have two days to do the whole darn town. They can't camp out in one museum for a quarter of the time. Plus, they want to get out to Versailles. And to everwhat the water park is - - if that's the gizmo out by the heliport, it's bound to be a half hour each way from center ville. Those two big events are going to gobble the bulk of each day - - they've got to squish anything else in during the waning, left over, bits of each day. I'm a brute, but I don't think I could tromp a museum for hours and hours after hiking Versailles or busting my hump all day in the water. Alternatively, they might enjoy the archaeological crypt in front of Notre Dame, but I don't know how long it's open.

Posted by
18 posts

Here's a really cool idea. One of the things we thought was fantastic about Paris was our second night there, when we went to bed at 10:30 and awoke at 1am wide awake..I mean WIDE awake. We dressed and went outside to find the city mostly asleep with one fantastic exception. The bikes that the city rents...they are in racks all over town and you will need a credit card with one of those chips in it (most american card companies don't offer them but you could get a cash card when you get there) to rent one. Well, I personally wouldn't touch those bikes during the day...easy to find them...harder to find a parking place to put them back many times...but the traffic makes it dangerous to try it if you are not very familiar with Paris traffic....the big exception was late at night. We saw many people riding those bikes down the middle of the city streets all through the Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, Latin Quarter and La Marais. laughing and smiling, with almost no traffic to contend with. We sorrowfully mourned (ok redundant) the fact that we did not have the appropriate credit card to be able to rent one...I bet your boys would LOVE doing that. We are going back next May and will definitely do that. Have fun!

Posted by
18 posts

Regarding J.P. (and my) walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel tower (or the Arc, we did both) as mentioned by Ed, we actually did not plan a route and that was the beauty of it. We meandered along streets, with a general understanding of the direction...ducking into shops and alleys as we saw fit...admittedly it took a while (not sure but probably 2-3 hours) but boy did we enjoy it. Also, regarding the walk to the Arc from Notre Dame area, it too is long but I did not even notice an incline. We never walk anywhere quickly so that may be the note...we meander and go where we feel like going. I will say this...we walked almost everywhere for the first 3 days...after doing about 4-6 miles a day we began taking the Batobus....(ed is correct, it is great but it stops running at 7pm), and the metro everywhere and saved our feet for climbing the sacre coeur, arc de triumph etc. My personal advice..depending on what you enjoy..is that the goal should be to take home a general feeling of what Paris IS, if you simply walk around and SEE the city and feel the people you will get a much better enjoyment of Paris than if you try to hit too many sites.

Posted by
9110 posts

Normand: AE, never leave home without it. Problem is, I don't know what it's good for except car insurance and Paris bikes.

Posted by
18 posts

Oh, regarding the trip to Versailles...we left from the Metro at our apartment near the Hotel de Ville and it took 45 minutes to get there, then another 15-20 minutes in line to get a ticket, then figure another 30 or so in line at the palace...ok, that is ....check my addition. 1.5 hours plus or minus just to get there....then come home (and that is from the Notre Dame area...longer if you are closer to the ET. It really is almost a whole day thing. I have to say it would have taken us much longer but we were told by our ticket agent to jump the line (of about a hundred people) and just walk to the front and go in..not sure if that was right but they told us to do it and we did. We got our tickets at some little tourism office, not at the palace.

Posted by
8984 posts

"...The bikes that the city rents...they are in racks all over town and you will need a credit card with one of those chips in it (most american card companies don't offer them but you could get a cash card when you get there) to rent one..." The kiosks accept magnetic strip cards...but only American Express as they are a sponsor. If you only have MC or Visa you can get around this by renting via the website: http://en.velib.paris.fr/

Posted by
3580 posts

Really, it's ok to go to Paris and not visit the Louvre or Versailles.

Posted by
107 posts

Thanks All. Sounds like the water park might be out. I thought a few hours of play time might be nice but it sounds like we may want to do something else. The Louvre is a must, even if it's only a few hours. Very high on the priority list. My boys can do a few hours but not all day by any stretch of the imigination. Versailles still has high interest, maybe we skip the guardens. The plan would to be there when they open. The Sein Cruise is a night cruise. That would give us a few hours on the 7th to do something in the City (maybe some of the walks suggested) before the cruise. A bike tour might be the right thing too.

Posted by
11450 posts

David I wouldn't skip the gardens at Versailles,, the boys can rent bikes there by the 1/2 hour and burn some energy riding around the canal,, its safe to do on their own,, my 14 yr old did it by himself while I took a break at the cafe right by the bike rental place. And for most younger folks they enjoy seeing Marie Antionettes estate, hopefuly they know the history behind that,, makes it more interesting. Instead of waterpark suggest you and boys take a Fat Tire Bike Tour,, they are easy and fun for anyone,, great way to see a bit of alot in Paris, you don't need to prebook either, ( except for the all day out trips) ,, I think the Night Tour is the best one,, you get a cruise on the Seine included.. the kids will enjoy it, the tour guides are younger and make it all fun. You literally just show up at the south foot of the Eiffel Tower at seven pm( as I recall, check their website to confirm) , eat before as they only stop for ice cream,, its a great way to spend an evening in Paris ,, kids don't want to go to bed at 9,, and even museums close by 9 or 930,, and seeing a show like moulin rouge is EXPENSIVE and not very good( in my opinion). They also do Segeway tours, but those cost more. As for bike tour( again, i know, but they are fun and kids will really enjoy them) please do not hesitate based on any fears of it being "hard".. its not, the first time I did one I hadn't even been on a bike in over 25 years,, and Paris is pretty flat.

Posted by
107 posts

The Fat Tire Night Bike Tour appears to be a hit with the family (there was some concern over the length and time with my wife but I showed her your comments Pat, thanks). The Seine cruise is a bonus too. So we are looking at this now Jul 5 Eurostar in (afternoon/evening) Jul 6 Versaille, ET, Fat Tire Bike Tour/Seine Cruise (7pm) Jul 7 Louve, Historic Paris Walk, Notre Dame, Catacombs (I'm still working on this day, what to do, what is close to each other etc, as always - feedback is welcome. I have the city map I just haven't had time to plot all the spots on it yet.)
Jul8 11am train to Frankfurt I might have a hotel in the 10e Arr(?) area. Would that be an OK location (for incoming/outgoing trains, metro stops, etc)?

Posted by
1668 posts

If you feel you need another site for July 7, walk over and enjoy the Luxembourg Gardens. I think they are less than a mile from Notre Dame. Also near there is the Cluny museum with the famous unicorn tapestries and many other interesting exhibits.......Perhaps you already know this, but for walking distances, you can use the "walking" feature on google maps.

Posted by
638 posts

I agree with Jean-Paul about trying to walk around the Latin Quarter at night, I finally did it my last trip there (after several trips) and it was a lot of fun. Also ate there, good food, not too expensive, but I can't remember the name. Just check the menu for prices. I too would say skip Versailles, unless someone is DYING to go there. Too much to do in the city proper, esp if you want to do the water park, which while some say is silly, I think is great cuz you need to have something the boys will love. Don't buy tickets for the ET ahead of time, in case the weather is crappy, but I'd be there at least 30 minutes before it opens, you'll stand in line but hopefully not as long, and it'll be cooler. I just noticed you plan on taking the 11AM train to Frankfurt, maybe consider a later train so you have most of 8 July?

Posted by
2349 posts

I think the decision about the water park could be made quickly beforehand by taking them to try on European swim suits. My son at that age would have run screaming from the store.

Posted by
27709 posts

I frequently go to various European leisure centres and spas. The pools are generally textile mandatory so I have seen quite a few European suits (swimming costume as we call it). There are all sorts worn by all sorts. I have seen very few "budgie smugglers". In Germany, France and Switzerland I have usually seen the long shorts type most. That's what I wear.

Posted by
923 posts

Here's a different way to see Versailles. Don't go first thing in the morning. Arrive around 4:00. You'll see all the tour buses headed out, the parking lots emptying and people streaming out the gate. We walked right in, no lines, and had the place virtually to ourselves. We could SEE the mirrors in the Hall of Mirrors. We could read all the signs. We could backtrack in and out of rooms instead of marching shoulder to shoulder with the herd. We had two hours before it closed at 6:00 and that was just right. Strolled around the gardens for a bit, had dinner in the town at a fabulous restaurant (Le Tire Bouchon - The Corkscrew), then made our way back to Paris. This was in mid-July, peak season. We did the same with the Louvre - it's open two nights a week. Less crowded, we could actually see the art, not the taller people looking at the art. Then we climbed the Arc de Triomphe shortly before closing to see the City of Lights in all its glory. Tip: you can see the light show of the Eiffel Tower much better when you're not standing inside it! This left days free for wandering the streets and gardens (do the Rodin gardens) and soaking up the ambiance where the crowds weren't so dense. We had teenagers with us too and they preferred this schedule. They're not so good at early mornings, though!

Posted by
923 posts

And for recreation instead of the water park - we all loved the Fat Tire Bike Tour. Combine sightseeing with the adrenaline rush of riding bikes six abreast down major boulevards. The guides are usually energetic American college students. Very good at safely maneuvering tourists around on bikes, not French history experts but knowledgeable enough. Lots of fun and the risks are well-managed. You'll see more of Paris than you could on foot.

Posted by
1 posts

I was in Paris with my teens last June. I would skip Versailles. As a palace, it was less interesting than many other palaces in Europe and it was the least interesting part of our entire Paris trip for my teens. The time to travel out to Versailles, wait in the endless lines, tour the palace would leave little time for our favorite part, exploring the gardens, Petit Trianon and Marie Antoinette's hamlet. The key to a great trip with teens is to let them make some of the sight ions. Instead, you might consider taking allocating a half day to explore the Cite des Sciences et de L'industrie, a great hands-on science museum that is designed for older kids. (We have found that science and technology museums provide a good respite for our kids when we are doing a lot of touring.) We also all enjoyed the Pantheon because going through it provided a great sense of the legends and people who helped shape the city. Also, the view of the city from the dome cannot be beat. The church that is adjacent is worth a quick look inside, as well. The catacombs and all of the armor in Musee de L'Armee also were kid-pleasers.

Posted by
963 posts

David, have you compared this waterpark to Schlitterbahn? I'd have to say a hotel pool in one of your other stops might be a better tradeoff for time. Sometimes an hour playing minigolf or playing in the pool is sufficient. Remember it will be light till 9 or 10 so you will have plenty of time to sightsee.

Posted by
11450 posts

May, sorry your teens didn't get to enjoy Versailles, but some of your observations and experiences could have been avoided. Allowing it as a full day trip, instead of a half day outing does give one alot of time to enjoy the other parts of the estate, my son even rented a bike and rode around the canal, and when I went with my daughter we spent an hour just wandering around the grounds of Marie Antionettes estate. Waiting in the legendary long lines can be avoided also, pre purchasing of tickets online, or using the Paris Museum pass allow you to skip the ticket line and just go to the security line for pass holders. My son was 14 when I took him ,, and had just covered the French Revolution in school, so he was interested in Versailles, my daugher was only 11 , so I had purchased some books for her written for her age level , about Marie Antionette, plus we watched the movie "Marie Antionette" with Kirsten Dunst.
I think the more one researches what they are seeing the more they enjoy it.. and any hints one can pick up on forums( this one , but there are also other very good ones) can make anything easier. Unfortunately ,, crowds inside the Palace seem to be impossible to avoid, although once I went later in the day and found the crowds less,, must be that the tour buses leave earlier?

Posted by
107 posts

I can't fit in the Catacombs very well and I can't be at every atraction when it opens so here's what we've got. Jul 5 arrive 5:15 Paris Nord Jul 6 9am Versailles, ET and dinner, 7:30pm Fat Tire Bike and Boat tour Jul 7 9am Notre Dame, 10am tower climb, rest of Historic Walk, Louve in the afternoon, Latin Quarter
Jul 8 11am train to Frankfurt

Posted by
107 posts

Now that I re-read my notes, I'm wondering if I shouldn't flip the days. Do the Louve on Friday when it's open late and the Versailles on Sat when the garden waters are flowing?