Some Things to Do in Paris
A friend of mine is going to go to Paris for the first time in October of this year. He asked if I could make some suggestions for his trip. I am not sure if my tastes will fit his needs , but I was not reluctant to give my picks for a first visit.
For first timers, there are some must see/do sites. I've given them *s, in most cases, to indicate my feelings about importance.
***The Louvre (Paris Museum Pass): I think of this a must do. I've have been there numerous times and never tire of visiting. Rent the audio tour; you can go at your own pace.
***Musée d'Orsay (Paris Museum Pass): I think of this a must do. Ditto everything I said about the Louvre.
**Musée de l’Orangerie des Tuileries (Paris Museum Pass): Small but nice museum with some very large Monet water lily paintings-actually an entire room.
*Musée Rodin (Paris Museum Pass): Go if you are a Rodin fan.
*Picasso Museum (Paris Museum Pass): Go if you are a Picasso fan. It is a seemingly endless history of his work from the beginning to the end.
**Centre Pompidou,or the Pompidou Centre(Paris Museum Pass): It is a unique building (worth a look if you are nearby) and large, active square. The museum pass is for the Musée National d'Art Moderne which is housed in the building and is the largest museum for modern art in Europe. If you like modern art, go here.
***Notre-Dame: A must see church; a trip to Paris is not complete without a visit.
*Notre-Dame – Towers & Crypt (Paris Museum Pass): The tower is the better of the two.
***Sainte Chapelle (Paris Museum Pass): An amazing building not far from Notre Dame, but often missed by first time visitors.
**St-Germain-des-Prés: On La Rive Gauche, The Left Bank, have a coffee or other beverage at Les Deux Magots (across the street from the church).
Les Deux Magots
Rooftops with the Eiffel Tower in the distance
***Eiffel Tower: Yes you must go and, at minimum, walk around its base. If time allows, take the elevator up to the higher observation deck. I've done the steps, but it is quite an effort. In the past, I would have suggested having lunch in the Jules Verne restaurant located on the tower. Alas, it has been taken over by the Alain Ducasse restaurant group and the prices have doubled (it was already pricey).
View from the lounge in the Jules Verne
(pre-Alain Ducasse restaurant group)
***Arc de Triomphe (Paris Museum Pass): Climb to the top to get a great view of Paris and the Champs-Élysées.
**Pere Lachaise Cemetery in the eastern part of Paris. Honoré de Balzac, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Marcel Marceau, Yves Montand, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Simone Signoret, Oscar Wilde, and many, many more.
*Catacombes de Paris, The Catacombs: near Pere Lachaise. The ossuaries holds the remains of about six million people mainly from Paris cemeteries. Fairly bizarre. You might want to bring a flash light for improved viewing.
**Les Invalides , or the Invalides is where you will find Napoleon’s tomb. It was and is a retirement home for soldiers/veterans. It houses some historic and military museums.
**The Place de la Concorde is one of the major public squares in Paris; it is the largest square in Paris at the eastern end of the Champs-Élysées.
**The Conciergerie (Paris Museum Pass): A former prison in Paris, France, located on the west of the Île de la Cité (same island as Notre Dame). It was part of the former royal palace and the Palais de Justice. During the French Revolution, prisoners were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. Marie Antoinette was one of them.
Other things to do
**Walk the Champs-Élysées from The Tuileries (gardens in front of the Louvre) to the Arc de Triomphe. Stop for a drink at Le Fouquet’s (it was a favorite of Charlie Chaplin, Marlene Dietrich, Winston Churchill, Jackie Onassis and many others. Meals are very pricey. Nice view of the arc and the Champs-Élysées.
From the Arc de Triomphe
***Bateau Mouche: boat ride on the Seine, it gives a totally different view of Paris. I would not suggest the lunch trip, but for something special, take the dinner cruise to see Paris night lights from the river. There are 2 menu options for 99 euros or 149 euros. Go for the 99 euro trip. The food is good but not great. I’ve taken the dinner cruise twice.
*Walk around the Ile St-Louis (an island behind the Ile de la Cité which is where Notre Dame is located). Have an ice cream or eat some lunch. It’s a unique neighborhood.
*Walk around the Marais which is the Old Jewish Quarter which has some good delis and the “most symmetrical” plaza in the world, the Place des Vosges. It is amazingly symmetrical. Victor Hugo lived on the Place des Vosges.
**Walk around La Rive Gauche, The Left Bank. This is the former hangout of artists and writers. Visit St-Germain-des-Prés and have a coffee or other beverage at Les Deux Magots (across the street from the church) which was a favorite hangout for Surrealist artists and intellectuals/writers/artists such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, and James Joyce.
Shopping the book stalls
*Walk around La Rive Droite, The Right Bank. This is the area containing the Louvre, walk toward the east and you will find all the book stalls you see in movies along the river.
**Walk around Montmartre which is the highest area of the city. This is where you will find Sacré-Coeur, the Sacred Heart Basilica. This area was an artist hangout and continues to have artists mainly around one of its squares near Sacré-Coeur.
**Go to a show at the Moulin Rouge. It’s kind of touristy but it is a Paris experience. It is not cheap, about 185 to 215 euros for dinner and the show or 100 to 115 euros for the show only. We've done it once, pricey but we had fun. The Lido is even more expensive; we have never seen that show.
Restaurants, some I've been to and others are from foodie friends that often go to Paris. I've opted to avoid using *s for this group of suggestions.
Le Hangar, 12 Impasse Berthaud, 75003 Paris: Small, excellent but not cheap. No Credit cards.
La Perla, 5 Rue Montorgueil, 75001 Paris: If you feel like Italian.
A La Biche Au Bois, 45 Avenue Ledru-Rollin, 75012 Paris: Locals like this place.
L'As Du Fallafel, 32-34 Rue des Rosiers, 75004 Paris: this is a middle eastern place in the Marais.
Au Petit Sud Ouest, 46 Avenue de la Bourdonnais, 75007 Paris: Eiffel Tower area, food from the south east of France.
L'Affineur' Affine, 51, rue Notre Dame de Lorette, 75009 Paris: Mainly a cheese and wine restaurant with tarts and things to accompany cheese. In the Pigalle/Moulon Rouge area. Lunch or light dinner.
Café de Mars, 11 rue Augereau, 75007 Paris: The Eiffel Tower area; moderately priced menu.
La Fermette Marbeuf, 5,rue Marbeuf, Paris: The Champs-Élysées area. A favorite place for my French colleagues to send Americans. I’ve eaten there several times, but not for a long time.
Au Pied de Cochon, 6,rue Coquilliere, 75001 Paris: Not too far from the Louvre. An old brasserie, the name means pig’s foot. We have often met friends there when in Paris.
Cafe at the Musée National d'Art Moderne
Note: As for restaurants in general, I like to just keep my eyes open during the day, check menus and go for something that looks good. Be aware that many restaurants have a fixed price menu with a more limited selection. This is often my choice. Distance from your hotel may come into play as well. You may not be up for trekking around the city in search of dinner. Lunch for me could be a baguette sandwich or pizza.
Irish pub: try Carr's, 1 Rue du Mont Thabor, 75001 Paris: A block off of Rue Rivoli near the Louvre and Place Vendome. A place for a pint and a respite from speaking French. The food isn't anything to write home about, so-so at best.
The Museum Pass is a good deal if you plan on a few of the places that accept the pass. A 2 day pass is about 42 euros. This is a deal if you do about 4 attractions; it also gives you priority entry at most of the museums. Options beyond 2 day passes are available.
My preferred travel book for Paris (and most of Europe) is the ***Michelin tourist guide. It is the tall, thin, green book. They have one for Paris. It has many walks outlined which will take you by many of the sites mentioned above.
Besides walking, we use the Metro (subway) extensively, day and night. The Michelin guide has a Metro map. For the Metro, buying a 1, 2 or 3 day pass is worthwhile if you use the Metro to get around. A single ticket is about 1.70 euros while a 3 day is about 25 euros (within Paris). You will need your passport to buy a 3 day tourist pass. The Metro doesn't run all night; the last train get to their end points at around 1 PM. That means it leaves its starting point at about 11:30 to midnight. When taking the Metro, knowing the start and end point for a given train is important; this will be of great help when trying to determine which platform to use to board the train.
Changing money at money changing booths around town can be a challenge if you have limited French. I prefer to use ATMs or change at the hotel even though the rate at the hotel may not be as good.
The quays on La Rive Droite
This is what I suggested to my first time in Paris friend. This is more than I would care to do in the 3 days he has to visit. So, my suggestion is to pick and choose; save the rest for the next trip. Good luck – bon chance!