Paris is one of the most visited cities, by enthusiasts, by families, by lovers, by artists and by anybody and everybody who loves to travel. This is Paris, one of the top european destinations flocked by tourists from all over the world. This is a city that radiates energy. Situated on the river Seine, this city has a variety of museums, theaters, monuments and architectural styles.
Places you just cannot miss:
Cathedral Notre Dame, Eiffel Tower, River Seine, Louvre Museum (& The Mona Lisa Picture), Palace of Versailles, The Arc De Triomphe, Champs Elysees, Basilica of the Sacre Coeur.
Make sure to find some time to just roam around on the city streets. That’s the best way to explore Paris in general. Walk the bridges over River Seine. Oh and… always beware of pickpockets. It is for sure very prominent. Despite being incredibly careful, we did get pick-pocketed once on the RER subway train (Fortunately the kid threw the wallet back to us after taking away the cash, but imagine losing your ID and credit cards in a foreign country).
We visited Paris in the month of October from 5th to the 9th, 2013. Of course there was a lot of planning that went in to make sure it was the perfect trip, that we would be able to tour around the city like tourists and making sure we covered the right amount of things in the time we had on our hand, that we would also not miss out on experiencing the Parisian life like the locals. After all the research, this is how we spent the 5 days in Paris.
5 day Itinerary:
- We flew into Paris Charles De Gaulle (CDG) airport from San Francisco on the morning of 5th at about 9AM. Reached the hotel at around 11AM after finishing the airport formalities and figuring out which metro/RER train to take to get to the hotel. We took the RER-B line and then switched to metro to get off at St Mitchel station near our hotel (Abbatial Saint Germain) which was only a few blocks away from Notre Dame.
- After freshening up at the hotel, we decided to get out and explore the nearby locations. Notre Dame being only a few blocks away was an easy pick. Had some lovely banana-nutella crepes on one of the streets around Notre Dame.
- Walked around the bridges over river Seine. Simply Beautiful. This city has so much to offer.
- Eiffel tower in the morning/noon. We had the 11:00 AM slot so we went a little early and roamed around in the green garden on the south end of Eiffel tower taking in the beauty of that majestic structure standing perfectly tall right in front of us. You have to line up to go to the top 30 min before your actual time. Beware that the elevator lines are long may it be going from ground to top or vice versa. Louvre in the afternoon. Be prepared to get exhausted. Louvre is humongous. Be sure to checkout the picture of Mona Lisa. Took the rest of the day easy after that and just went exploring around the hotel area which was in the center of the city (something we try to do, being at the center of the city has so many advantages – trust me)
- Secret tip: There are usually long lines to enter the Louvre museum from main entrance (which can sometimes be a ~2 to 3 hour wait or more). There is a secret tip though. There is another entrance to Louvre that has shortest line and a ticket counter too: Porte des Lions Entrance. That is the one we knew about so we took that and our wait time was about 10 minutes even when the wait time at the main entrance was around 2.5 – 3 hours. There are other entrances too that would save you a lot of time because of the shorter lines.
Here is a picture we took of the main entrance line from inside the museum after we entered through the secret entrance.
- Basilica of the Sacre Coeur in the morning. Returned back to the city center around Noon. Then went up to The Arc De Triomphe and walked the main street of Champs Elysees (Louis Vuitton Flagship store is right there). In the evening we went back to cherish the standing beauty AGAIN – Tour De Eiffel. This time it was from the North end (River Seine end).
- Mainly consisted of the visit to Chateau of Versailles (Take the train). This palace is awesome. The gardens are incredible. I’d recommend renting the golf cart to visit the gardens. That way u’d be able to tour the garden more better than you’d be able to on foot.
- On the last day of the Paris trip, we took an hour long river Seine sightseeing cruise. The tour guide mainly focussed on the history of Paris, history and significance of each bridge over the river. If you have time, this is definitely something you should not miss. After the cruise, we just strolled in the city, down and around the bridges, exploring the local markets the true Parisian way.
Tips for visiting Eiffel Tower:
- If possible, buy your tickets before the start of your trip. Pick one of those services that let you print the tickets at home or send it to your mobile device and not the ones that say you would have to pick up your tickets from certain locations after you arrive in Paris because Paris is vast and these locations are usually very far. Buying tickets in advance will also help you beat the long ticket lines at the Eiffel tower which usually are about 2 hours long. If you already have the ticket, all you have to do is reach 30 min before your slated time and line up and you are through the entrance right away.
- Also do go to the very top floor of the Eiffel tower. It gives you a “surely not to miss” view of the city and the river Seine.
- Beware that the lines for the elevators to go from 2nd floor to the top floor could be long and wait times could be about 40 min to 1 hour. But it’s worth the wait. 🙂
- Take your time up there to observe the city and take pictures.
- On your way back down, take the elevator from top to the second floor (there is no option there). But the elevator wait times from 2nd floor to the ground floor can be huge. We just took the stairs from 2nd to ground. It’s not bad. Easy, quick and you’ll get some never seen before views from those stairs. Took about 10-15 min to come down if i remember it correctly if you do it non-stop.
Transportation: Metros and subways are the best ways to explore and travel around in the city.
If you are visiting Sacre Coeur, beware of these people who will surround you to tie something on your wrist. I just felt it weird. Also you’ll see people on the streets around there asking you to put money/bet on a game. DON’T get attracted. We lost 50 Euros there. Saved many more 😉
While visiting The Arc De Triomphe, be ready to climb 250-300 stairs without ever stopping till you are up there. There is no rest area and the staircase is spiral. Beneath its vault lies the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
The rooms are not very big, but the hotel has great reviews and is very conveniently located in the heart of the city just 2 blocks from Notre Dame and subway/metro stops within walking distance. We loved the location.
We were there the first week of October i.e. 5th Oct to 9th Oct, and the weather was not too warm not too chilly. You would be okay with a good one layer. It got warm when the sun was around but as soon as the sun dropped, it started to get cooler.
Boulangerie La Parisienne: This place has great macarons. Delicious & yummy.
Rim Cafe: This place has great vegetarian options if you are a vegetarian. Also the food is extraordinary. We ended up going to this place more than once in our 5 days trip. Minestrone soup, pesto pasta with pine nuts and pizza margarita were awesome.
Cafe Panis: This place is amazing. Awesome food, great location right across Notre Dame with fantastic views of the same. We had the continental breakfast with coffee, croissant with jam and butter and orange juice. Heavenly. This place has the best Creme Brulee. Definitely a must try. French Onion soup was not to our taste.
Le Metro Cafe: We ordered veg. ravioli. Horrible. It was kind of frozen with whatsoever no gravy of any form. We just could not eat. The Hot chocolate was good though. Served in a different way with hot milk and melted chocolate on the side.
Shopping: While in Paris, don’t forget to checkout stuff by L’oreal at any of the convenience stores. You’ll find more varieties for all these products it being local which are not available here in the United States. Also visit the Louis Vuitton flagship store on Champs Elysees.
Learn to speak: Bonjour (Hello, Good morning) and Merci (pronounced as Mehci, meaning Thank You) and Oui (meaning: Yes)
The street side cafes are to die for. Rich architecture, prominent fashion is sure not to be missed. Tour De Eiffel, the way she stands tall – breathtaking. Each time of the days offers a fresh new look to the Eiffel tower. There are places where nothing but french is understood. Overall, this city is amazingly beautiful, vibrant and lively. Fall in love.