Earlier this month James and I had an amazing few days in France. We travelled on the Saturday, spent the day at Parc Asterix on the Sunday (blog post coming soon) and then three days sightseeing in Paris. Here is our experiences and my suggestions to those looking to do the same. Please keep in mind this is from September mid-week, and the experiences during a busier period may differ very much.
Day One: Buy three day tickets for a Parisian hop-on hop-off bus tour. We had a lot of talk about whether to buy these or use the metro but decided on the tour bus as we would see all the sights, rather than pop up out of a metro station. Plus the tour we chose included recorded commentary and included 4 different lines, and one bus stop was a fifteen minute walk from our hotel.
Head to the Arc de Triomphe and climb to the very top. It is awesome to see the sights from the top of this impressive building. In every direction there is a road heading toward you, and the traffic running around the roundabout beneath you is entertaining itself.
Then head over to the Palais de Chaillot for an awesome photo op of the Eiffel Tower. From here we took the boat trip included with our Bus Tour tickets all the way to Notre Dame. (Do some extra research here, we were not impressed with the boat tour, it wasn’t open top and the plastic sheeting above you is covered in their adverts so spoilt the view.) Once at Notre Dame we took a bus tour to the catacombs. Next tip, check with each site that it is open on the day you decide to visit! (Catacombs is closed on Mondays, our entire visit was not pre-determined).
We decided to walk back the bus route to visit the Jardin Du Luxembourg where we sat and chilled for a while after all the walking of the day.
Day Two: We took the bus to the Musee d’Orsay and spent all morning looking at the galleries. We saw Van Gogh exhibition and the impressionist exhibition. We were shocked to see people taking photos, and even selfies with the art. This was Tuesday morning, we got there just after opening time, and the queue was maybe 10-15 minutes. If you’re under 26 you get a reduced rate too, along with many other sights in Paris!
We found a nice little place to pick up a panini and cake and sat by the Seine and ate our lunch. Unfortunately a gang of wasps joined us too. From here we took the bus to the Eiffel Tower and climbed up the first two tiers. You cannot walk to the top tier, but it is so high it would take so long! We enjoyed the sights of the first two tiers then joined the queue for the lift to the top. This took nearly 2 hours, be prepared to wait. Once we reached the 2nd tier was decided to join the queue straight away and enjoyed the view while we waited. It gets quite cramped when you get to the front, and there seemed to be 2 queues merging into one. The lift took about a minute and a half, then your have plenty of space to observe Paris beneath you. You can even see the actual top of the tower:
Be prepared to queue to get down again too!
Day Three: We headed straight to the catacombs as I had read there were long queues to get in. By heading straight there, I still mean we got there a good half hour after it opened and the queue was already very long. They only allow a set number of people in, and as you spend roughly 45 minutes exploring it the queue will always take a long time. We queued for 2 hours, and this was from the 2nd entrance to the park. I don’t know why the area smelt so weird too. There is a McDonalds near by if you want to pick up a drink while you wait, plus it has a toilet (but not a very nice one).
Once inside the catacombs I would strongly suggest purchasing the audio guide. You can put two headphones in so you can share. Then head down the very long staircase into the tunnels.
There was a lot to learn in the tombs and the guide was very informative. On exiting the catacombs turn right and right again to walk back to the entrance (in case you’re confused about where you’ve left!). It is about a 20 minute walk back, which we hadn’t factored into our busy day.
We took the bus back and spent the next hour taking the blue bus line around the contemporary side of Paris.
Finally we headed to the Louvre for the evening. On Wednesdays the museum stays open late, so this fits perfectly into our schedule. At this time of day the queue was almost non-existent. And how I wish we had bought the audio-guide, as to be expected with the world’s biggest museum there was so much to see! We spent a lot of time in the ancient Egyptian exhibition, plus the Greek, the sculpture and the paintings exhibitions. You can also purchase a 3ds guide to the Louvre, I really felt I missed out by not having a guide so do consider it!
On reflection there isn’t too much I would do differently. Perhaps a little online research to purchase advanced tickets like we did for Rome. But this also kills some of the excitement of exploring a new city for the first time. I wouldn’t be so nervous about restaurants either, we had some amazing meals I didn’t even go into here. The audio guide at the Louvre would be on my list, I do find it odd you cannot get one once you’re inside.
In conclusion, this was an amazing trip, even better than I had expected. It restored my faith in city holidays and cannot wait for our next one.