Please sign in to post.

BoE 21-Day Tour: Paris Itinerary Advice?

I'll be taking my first trip to Europe this September as part of the 21-day Best of Europe tour. I'm hoping that others who have been on this tour (or another Rick Steves tour that includes Paris) can give me some itinerary feedback based on your experiences. I did some searching and couldn't find anything specific related to my questions, so apologies if this has already been discussed.

My dilemma at the moment is this: I would really like to make it to Versailles while I'm in Paris. I know that the recommendation is to take a full day after the conclusion of the tour to see the chateau and grounds, but unfortunately my tour ends on a Monday (when the chateau is closed), and because I have to get back to work, my flight home is on Tuesday morning. I'm trying to figure out what my best option would be to fit this in on another day. There is a full-day bike tour that looks really lovely and would be my first choice of how to see Versailles. To do that, however, I would have to skip any daytime group activities on Sunday--namely the group tour of the Louvre. I know that I could see the Louvre on my own on Monday with the audio guide, but based on your experiences, would I really be missing out if I went without the group?

If so, what about going and trying to see as much of Versailles as possible on Sunday afternoon, after the Louvre tour is finished? Would this be worth it, or too crowded/rushed? I know Sundays are supposed to be very crowded.

Finally, the site for the bike tour says that the tour returns to Paris at approximately 6:00 pm. Does anyone remember what time their farewell dinner was, and would a 6:00 pm return have me back in time? (I will most likely contact the Rick Steves staff to ask about this point, but while I'm posting, I thought I'd mention it).

Thanks in advance for any help you can provide!

Posted by
22 posts

Hi Melissa,

We recently did the 14-day BOE which included a local guided tour of the Louvre. While I thought the local guide was great and we did get a lot out of it, it isn't possible to cover much of the Louvre during a ~3 hour guided tour. That is, you'll cover a few pieces in depth, but not see much else. I liked it a lot, but you are listening to your guide through a headset, so not much group interaction really going on.

Just my opinion, but given your circumstances I'd probably go with option A -- skip the guided Louvre on Sunday in favor of Versailles, then do the audio guided Louvre on Monday and spend as much time there as you want. We did audio-guided self tours in lots of museums during free time and thought they worked well. Still prefer "real" guides, but audio guides are a reasonable substitute.

Posted by
51 posts

I've done the Rick Steves audio tour of the Louvre and it was very good. I think you will be fine with it. Whenever you go the Louvre is extremely crowded and unless you go off the beaten path to explore other areas it is probably one of those touristy things you have to do, but probably won't be the highlight of your trip. However, if you really want to see Versailles, it could be one of the highlights of your trip. Also if you are concerned about getting back at a certain time, why not do Versailles on your own? By the time you get to Paris you will be an experienced traveler and it is really not a hard trip if you look at the guide books. You could rent a bike there and explore the grounds yourself. If you go early you will be able to see all of Versailles and the grounds and get back in plenty of time for your dinner. Plus it might be good after 21 days of a tour to see if you can be an independent traveler.

Posted by
9692 posts

I did the 21 day BOE last Sept. Each guide may do it differently but I am sure we were on our way to the farewell dinner by 545 or 6. Please don't miss this. I was surprised how bonded the group was after 3weeks and this dinner was a wonderful ending. One couple in our group opted for Versailles but went on their own and were back in time.

I would suggest you not do a tour that gets back at 6 but take the RER to Versailles on your own. Your guide will help you figure out the ticket purchase.

As for missing the Louvre, it's all a trade off as the time is short in Paris. I suspect you will decide you need to make a trip back to Paris! & Switzerland! & Italy! Lol!!

Posted by
3 posts

Wow, thanks for your quick responses! That info helps a lot. Sounds like the way to go is to rent a bike for the day and create my own tour. Time to hit the books, I guess!

Posted by
9692 posts

I just wanted to add that on some Sundays the fountains are running. I do not know if it is every Sunday or just one Sunday a month. I'm traveling right now and just have my phone so can't check for you but it should be easy too find out if that will be on "your" Sunday.

Posted by
333 posts

I took the 21BOE in May. You don't want to miss the farewell dinner. In my case, after the dinner, we went as a group to the Eiffel Tower and had champagne and a wonderful evening watching the tower light up. None of us wanted to leave. We were there for a couple of hours. Even then, several of us bought limoncello on the way home and ended up spending time together until about 3AM! You don't want to miss out on that. You really do bond with everybody by then. In my opinion half the fun of the RS tours are about the people you meet and bond with.

My suggestion (and it's only a suggestion) is to leave your Louvre day as is with the (possibility) of maybe or maybe not seeing Versailles. We had a great guide at the Lourve and it is your last tour experience with your group. You don't want to miss that. Have a half day Versailles tour in mind or the information you need to explore Versailles yourself/ves with an audio guide. You might find other tour members who want to go with you and share the experience. Or, you might find yourself wanting to spend your final hours with them doing whatever. Unless Versailles is a big dream, you might have to make the decision on what you want more, to keep making memories with new friends and miss Versailles, or see Versailles and miss out on other memories with new friends? That's a question you probably won't be able to answer until you're heading into France. I had bought a ticket for Versailles for the day my tour ended (ended on Sunday morning), But because I stayed up until 3AM the night before (which I don't regret at all) and because I wanted to hang out with everybody as long as possible after breakfast. I made the painful decision to not take my tour. After so many weeks of travel, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I took a lovely nap instead!

It's difficult because you want to cram everything into your days in Europe. Rick crams them for you on the tour and you want to cram the days before and after. But it's exhausting. The tour itself is exhausting (though wonderfully so) and by the end, you might just find yourself willing to sacrifice something big for something relaxing- like a casual stroll in Paris with friends, or a lovely nap!

Posted by
5 posts

Are you on the BOE 21 day tour beginning 8/15? I ask because I am on that tour and my tour ends on a Monday. I am staying on in Paris to see Versailles. The bike ride sounds great. I may try it when I go. You will be with the group for so many other experiences. One skip to get to see something as important as Versailles seems a small price to pay. Go for it!

Posted by
62 posts

Hi Melissa - I've been to Paris on my own (and saw the Louvre without a guide) as well as on the BOE 14 day tour in June (where we saw the Louvre with a guide). My advice - you CAN see the "must sees" at the Louvre without a guide, but having a guide was really nice - I did see much more, in a shorter period of time, with the RS guide than we did on our own. That said, I can't imagine you need more than 1/2 day at Versailles (I'm sure there are plenty of folks on this forum that would disagree with me). When my daughters and I were in Paris, we took the RER out to Versailles, walked through the palace, saw the gardens (admittedly did not visit Le Hameau) in a full morning. After a late lunch, we took the RER back to Paris, in time to visit the Latin Quarter before a late dinner. Regardless of which option you choose, think like Rick - you'll be back someday - so if you miss something this time, you'll see it later. BTW, highly recommend Le Limousin in Versailles for lunch :) Oh, and just as an fyi, I agree with those who say you don't want to miss the farewell dinner. We were only together for 14 days, but I wouldn't have wanted to miss that opportunity to say good bye to my new tour friends.

Posted by
14898 posts

After reading the responses, going to Versailles and seeing the Louvre independently sounds like the better choice. but only if you can join the farewell dinner.

To make it work:
1. You need to know (ask with the bike tour company) where and when you get back to Paris. Is there an option to leave the tour before the end and return to Paris on your own.
2. You need to know (ask RS) if you can go join the dinner late. You will want to go back to the hotel to freshen up and change after a day riding a bike and drop your day pack.

If that doesn't fly, then I would choose to visit Versailles independently.

Posted by
3 posts

Hi everyone,

Thanks for continuing to give input and your own experiences.

To sfin: no, my tour starts 9/8. I hope you enjoy your experience, including the bike tour if you go that route!

Posted by
5 posts

Thanks, Melissa. Have a wonderful vacation whatever your choices!

Posted by
57 posts

Do the Louvre on your own - there's no real need to do it with a group. There are a number of options, including a 90 minute guided "greatest hits" tour that should work well, if Versailles is truly a can't miss for you.

Posted by
11 posts

DO the Louvre on your own with the help of the free RS app. It covers the highlights. I visited the Louvre with the RS tour group a few years ago, and the guide was very good, but this year I went back on my own and used the app. It was great. That way you can go to Versailles. A group of us on the Heart of France tour did visit Versailles after the tour, and you can get back by 6pm if you do it on your own.