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What to do in Paris?

My mom and I will be in Paris for about 5 days and aren't really sure what to do. We're big into sight seeing but not so much museums and such. We have a few things in mind-the obvious tourist attractions like Eiffel tower and the Louvre but are wondering what other cool things there are to do there? Since we have 5 days we were thinking it would be cool to also take a day trip to somewhere pretty. Any thoughts?

Posted by
1068 posts

Well to start with, the Louvre is a Big Honkin' Museum, so if you aren't that into museums, that might not be top of your list. I would encourage you to go to the (free for the permanent collections!) City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts in the Petit Palais, which is far less clogged with tourists, is in a glorious building, and has a lovely cafe. It is far less overwhelming than the Louvre. I would also suggest the Carnavalet, the museum of the history of Paris, which is in two pretty town houses in the Marais. The Carnavalet has a wild collection (free!) of wonderful old stuff, including (yes) paintings and artwork, but also perfectly preserved rooms from old houses, neat street signs, a fabulous collection of Revolutionary-era china, and more. Also less overwhelming than the Louvre, but fascinating. And it's in the Marais! The Marais (the old Jewish Quarter, BTW) is a wonderful place to explore. It has crooked old streets, superb window shopping in the many adorable and very fancy boutiques, and tons of charm. You could stop along the way and pick up a baguette, some cheese, and a bottle of wine and have a picnic in the Place des Vosges - one of the most beautiful squares of buildings in the world. The Marais also has my favorite little church, Church Saint Merri, which has cool funky art made by the congregation! If you like to shop, be sure to check out both les grands magasins (they have their own site: http://www.parisinfo.com/shopping-paris/grands-magasins/) and the "fast fashion" shops like C&A along the rue de Rivoli. You can get fashion forward clothes for petite prices, and be able to say to friends, "I got it in Paris!" More....

Posted by
3696 posts

Selena... one of my favorite things to do is to just wander the streets, window shop, take in lunch, and enjoy who I am with. A boat trip on the Siene can be fun, but nothing beats just leisurely seeing the city. The markets are also a lot of fun and you can get some picnic food and go to the Luxeomburg Gardens for a stroll. Are you going in the summer? Maybe a day trip to Giverney, or possibly Versailles (although I am glad I went, it was not a highlight for me) I also love the Montmare area and walking the streets and finding the cafes where the artists would hang out is fun. Rodin Gardens is probably my favorite museum and there was a small concert once when I was there in the gardens...it was delightful. Above all... settle in at a wonderful cafe and people watch!

Posted by
1068 posts

Hi again! Cafe hopping is a time-honored way to enjoy the city. Our favorite neighborhood to do that in is Saint-Germain-des-Prés, in the 6th arr. It's most famous for places like Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore, but we skip those as a bit pricey and touristy, and pop into la Pinte at 13 Carrefour de l'Odéon, a 5 minute walk away along the Blvd St. Germain. We also like the Cafe le Conti, at 1 rue de Buci, which is right by the most adorable stationery store in the WORLD, the Buci News, at 4 rue Grégoire de Tours. Before seeing the Eiffel Tower, how about taking a ride on the carousel at Pont d'Iena? That's fun and cool and not expensive. Great photo op, too! A Seine river boat tours - Batobus is one - are right there at Pont d'Iena, too. Check their site to see where they stop: http://www.batobus.com/english/batobus-navettes-promenade-paris-seine-escales.htm Day trips that I like that are within about a 2-hour range include Chantilly, an amazing chateau & magnificent gardens in a cute town; Fontainbleau, a spectacular chateau and grounds; Chartres, a delightful little village that happens to have a jaw-dropping cathedral; Blois, a typically French/picturesque/very OLD town on the Loire with its own superb chateau and quaint shops; and that old stand-by Versailles, which is so close to the city it is crazy. I always take the bus to Versailles because I love the up-close sightseeing along the way. Be sure to watch for the place called Speed Rabbit Pizza! More...

Posted by
13 posts

We were in Paris last May before hooking up with a Rick Steves tour. I found a company that does walking tours- Sight Seeker's Delight - (http://sightseekersdelight.com/). We took 3 of their walking tours- small group and so enjoyable- lots of walking, but well worth it. We took the Marais, the Montematre, and the Seine. Karen who owns the company is one of the guides and she is great, as were her other guides. Like the others said above...Giverny, walking around eating a crepe, Jardin Luxembourg with a picnic lunch, ride on the Seine at night....just look in Ricks book and follow his walking itineraries. And don't forget to buy your metro tickets when you get there- the metro is so easy to use. I put an app on my phone that was great. Just google Paris Metro (it's the app with an M in a blue circle). Easy, Easy to use. We also took the bus to famous cemetery - Pere Lachaise...easy to get to on the bus and you'll see the graves of very famous peeps...again check out RS book.

Posted by
1068 posts

If you enjoy strolling through a cemetery, try Père Lachaise! It's not in the white-hot tourist center, but it's amazing. The empty urn where Maria Callas's ashes were is there. Jim Morrison is there. Georges Bizet is there. Isadora Duncan is there. Heloïse, of Abelard and Heloïse, is there! Molière and Modigliani are there! If you don't like that sort of thing, I can't "sell" you, but it's glorious. The catacombs are awe-inspiring, but I hear they are currently closed? Grab a crepe at the crepe shop right by Notre Dame. A street crepe is one of life's most delicious treats. Want more off-beat? Check this cool site: http://paris-if-you-please.parissetmefree.com/2011/04/sabs-top-10-offbeat-paris-attractions.html Oh - and don't do more than stroll down the Champs-Elysées - best way is down from the Arc de Triomphe. Do not eat or shop unless you want to spend way too much to sit and shop with people from Indianapolis! :-) Paris is such a fantastic city that it is EASY to spend five days not seeing a single tourist top-ten-spot, or going into a museum. The chocolate shops and markets and bakeries alone could keep you occupied for months, if not years. Okay, now I have to get back to work. You will get lots of cool suggestions on this board, so I'll shut my trap. :-)

Posted by
1068 posts

Sorry! One last point. The Metro is super simple to use, but I love the bus in Paris. Why waste time being UNDER the ground, when what is on TOP of the ground is so magnificent! Check the bus routes that will get you from one destination to the next by whisking you place neato places to see. Now I am done. I promise.

Posted by
3696 posts

I agree with Kira about the buses..yes, they are slower, but I had so much more a sense of the city when I walked it and used the bus vs. the metro. I really don't like emerging from the underground at all the various locations...I much prefer seeing where I am going and I can also decide to hop off the bus if I see something interesting along the way. Love the Latin Quarter as well.

Posted by
23 posts

Wow, awesome suggestions!! I am writing this all down to go over with my mom!! I really appreciate all of it! It sounds like we have a lot to do:) Thank you guys!!

Posted by
70 posts

How about mother-daughter shopping? Bon Marche, for example, is unlike any mall you've been to in the US. While you say you're not into museums, you can't visit Paris without at least seeing the Louvre and the Mona Lisa.

Posted by
23 posts

Yes, we looove shopping:) That will be a must on our trip! And even though we're not into museums we will definitely be going to the Louvre and possibly a few others mentioned above. I feel like we can't really go to Paris and not go to a few! Who knows, maybe I'll turn into a museum person while I'm there!

Posted by
1873 posts

Agree with others to not miss the Louvre. Suggest you decide what interests you most, painting, statues,etc. and only focus on that area. Take the nate entrance to avoid lines. Think you can buy tickets to the tower ahead of time to avoid lines, am sure someone else can help you with that. We loved the view on a clear day from Sacre Couer, just be aware of the large amount of people trying to get you to buy bracelets,etc. That was only downside to going there. Versailles is easy day trip but would go as early as possible to avoid lines. Enjoy.

Posted by
3455 posts

If you decide to go to the Arc de Triomphe, try to be there around 6:30 pm for the daily symbolic rekindling of the eternal flame in honor of the unknown soldier(s) from WWI. We stumbled on it a few years ago and it remains one of our most memorable experiences of that visit to Paris. If you are into cathedrals, try to make time to go to St. Denis. It's a long metro ride, but it is where the tombs of most of the French kings and queens are located. It sounds really hokey, but my husband and I completely enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Seine. Seeing some of the famous buildings and bridges as it got dark was wonderful, but we also enjoyed the group of Japanese women who got a little tipsy along the way and the couples who got engaged on the boat that evening. We also enjoyed a walking tour about how Parisiens dealt with the Nazi takeover during WWII. If you are there on a Sunday, attending mass at St. Sulpice, including the phenomenal pre and post-service organ music, is delightful. For a day trip, I'd pick Giverny over Versailles any day. Wherever you are, be sure to throw caution and calories to the wind and eat, eat, eat!

Posted by
3054 posts

Selena , After having read the responses you have received to this question , I must say that there is nothing to add to the fine advice that is already here . I would like to make a fine point about one site in particular : The previous posters have all suggested the Louvre , and I am certainly of like opinion . However , depending on your knowledge of art , keep in mind , that the collections there go only through the mid nineteenth century ( Romanticism ) . Nothing at all wrong with that . But if you want , or are expecting to see the dreamy , gauzy paintings known as Impressionism ( Monet , Renoir , Signac , Cassat , Morisot etc. ) those are found at the Orsay ( Musee D'Orsay ) on the left bank across the Seine from the Louvre . Ideally you should see both , they are among the highlights of one of the world's most exquisite cities .

Posted by
2348 posts

I have to agree with Steven who suggests that the Louvre may not be for you. You may want to go to the Orangerie. It's smaller, and has newer art. And the Rodin museum is in a house, and has lovely grounds to walk around, with sculptures. Don't go to the Louvre just because people tell you to. Look at the websites of the different museums and see what art interests you.

Posted by
101 posts

Selena I spent the holidays in Paris (10 days) and would highly recommend the Paris Greeters tour. They are a group of volunteers who provide a variety of walking tours of various parts of the city. Our guide was Jean-Jacques and he was a delight. The tours are 3-4 hours. At the end of the tour you give the tour guide a donation. for the organization. One other thing to consider is the area of the city where you are living, each area has it's own unique things to do and see. It is a great city and you will have a memorable experience. I cannot find the website address, but they are on facebook. Find us on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/Parisgreeter Enjoy!

Posted by
53 posts

I enjoyed visiting the Great Mosque of Paris, which also has a lovely outdoor tea garden. Flea markets are fun, too. I've been to Marché de Porte de Vanves a couple of times. It's a smaller neighborhood weekend (Sat and Sun) flea market that doesn't seem to be flooded with tourists. Found some nice stuff there at good prices.

Posted by
1783 posts

Get the Rick Steves' Paris book and use it for sites, self guided walks and restaurants. It will give you an overview of the city and make things go much smoother.

Posted by
11450 posts

I totally disagree with those who do not know much about museums avoiding the Louvre,, its actually my kids favorite museum ,, and they have seen alot. First off, wil you have time to go to Versailles or the Loire Valley to see some palaces,, no, well then do not miss visiting Napoleons apartments in the Louvre.. You will get a lovely sample of what over the top luxury living was like in those palaces.. gold tableware, chandiliers the size of small cars, amazing ! Secondly, the Crown Jewels are amazing , all the jeweled do das, too.. lol Thirdly, the Louvre was originally a medival fort, not the palace you see today, going downstairs to the Medieval Louvre to view the excauvated ruins of the old moat walls is pretty mind blowing.. its hard to see something that old left in Paris. I think alot of people rush off to see the Impressionists because they recognize the paintings from napkins,tablecloths and umbrellas,, the familiar .. just like they rush through the Lourve trying to tick off the boxes of seeing the "big three" , The Mona Lisa ( ho hum) the Venus De Milo and the Winged Victory( now that is impressive) and they are overwhelmed but the crowds around those three sites and get discouraged. The Louvre has quiet areas, really, yes it does. Don't feel you have to see any one thing, just wander where the crowds aren't,, trust me , you could spend a day there for months on end and not see every exhibit, its that big, but most tourists just rush through some areas. Also, both my kids loved the Invalids Army Museum and the Shoah Memorial Museum. They are alot more interesting then you would think. At the Orsay my favorite parts are the decorative furniture, seriuosly, take alot , its mind blowing Dr Suess on acid stuff.

Posted by
23 posts

Amazing suggestions! I have literally written down all of your suggestions for us to do while we're there! This is so helpful! I think we will be going to the Louvre just because I feel it's something I can't miss. But I'll also be looking into some of these other museums you guys suggest as well! We're thinking a day trip would be fun, but we don't know much about Versailles- is it worth it? A few other cities that have been suggested on here look fun too! We will have to pick one! Thanks everyone!

Posted by
3054 posts

Versailles is more than worth it , If you go , make sure you go as early as possible , the chateau , the property ( even in winter ) , the Trianons and last but not least the Hameau du Reine . All fascinating and it will take a full day to see it ! Read up a bit about it so that you have some grounding about what its significance is , you will enjoy your time there much more if you do . Once you have seen this place it will help you understand and appreciate why the French had a revolution ! P.S. check opening times before you go out .

Posted by
1010 posts

The first thing we did when we got to Paris, once, was book a day tour of Paris itself. We booked it through Gray Line Tours.com. You can go to Gray Line Tours and see the list of tours. I believe they sub it out to another company. We were in a van with only six people to tour Paris. After the ful day tour, we could see everything there was to see and go back on the metro or Hop-on, Hop-off bus. We also took a half day tour out to Versailles and to Giverney (Monet's Garden and birthplace). We took a full day tour out to Mont St. Michel. It was a very long and exhausting tour. Another trip we took a tour out to Normandy. A boat tour on the Seine is lovely, especially on the evening. We enjoyed seeing the lights of Paris on a Gray Line night tour also. You will enjoy just walking around in Paris. There is so much to see. You can even visit the Lourve, go downstairs to the indoor mall, and not even go inside the museum. It is beautiful to see. We have never been inside, but love visiting the area anyway.

Posted by
262 posts

I didn't visit the Louvre until my 5th trip to Paris. I have so many favorite smaller museums that I would recommend before the Louvre. It's very big, hard to find your way and mostly very crowded. I was just in Paris this past fall and went to many smaller museums where we were one of only a few!
We did Giverny and the Luxembourg Gardens too and loved both! Happy Travels!

Posted by
4 posts

I'm am going to Paris next week for 10 days, with a couple day trips and overnight to Burgundy....I will definitely use some of these suggestions, thank you!