As such a large, beautiful and exciting city, there are so many things to do and places in Paris to see. But what should you do if you only have a short time in Paris? In an attempt to answer this question, I have put together a short itinerary of what I would do with 4-5 days in Paris, including places to stay, things to do and most importantly, the best places in Paris to see.
If you go to Paris and have only 4 or 5 days, this is what you should do:
Make sure you stay in a nice boutique hotel in a popular neighborhood like Latin Quarter or Le Marais. They will be within walking distance of the Seine River, museums and Notre Dame. As far as museums go, don’t miss Musee’ d Orsay. The famous paintings by Renoir, Degas, Monet, Mother Whistler, etc. are all on the 5th floor of this museum. The cafes in this building also serve very good food at a faster pace than restaurants nearby. The Louvre is far too big and would take a couple of days to do justice.
A favorite church was the Basilica de Sacre Couer on top of the hill in Montmartre. Montmartre, Le Marais and Latin Quarter are absolute don’t miss neighborhoods. For getting around, the Metro is preferred and clean/safe. Once you master it, it is far quicker than taking the famous hop on/off buses. Also, if you plan on going to Versailles Palace or Chartres Cathedral, you do not need to pay for a tour package on one of those charter buses. You will get there fine taking the RER train (part of the Metro subway system). And you will be on your own, not being herded along with a group. Enjoy being in charge with his audio guided self-tours.
As far as Eiffel tower goes, people from all over the world come to go up it and take pictures. Be warned the lines are like 3 to 4 hours long (depending on the time of year and time of day), there are gypsy pickpockets all around and on a cloudy day, you won’t see anything once you are up it. Do what like locals do and go to the Montparnasse Tower, the other tallest building but be warned it lacks the mystique and grandeur of seeing Paris from one of the most iconic buildings in the world. There are restaurants and a bar atop it. You have a great view of the city with Eiffel included in the view! You can take pictures of Eiffel against the backdrop of the city. And the restaurant at Eiffel is presently closed for renovations (fall 2007) and is quite expensive with reservations required in advance. No problems getting reservations at Montparnasse.
Other choices for “view” include the top of Notre Dame where you will be nose-to-nose with the famous gargoyles (and also have a view of the Eiffel tower), the top of the Arc de Triomphe and the top of La Defense. Note: Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe require climbing a significant number of steps.
If you love photography, a good way to visit many sites and take great photos is to sign up for a photo tour. Tour companies include Better Paris Photos and Photo Tours of Paris, where not only you will see sites that only the local, resident guides can show you but you will improve your camera skills and come back home with great souvenirs.
Restaurants – in Paris, they have a popular prix fixe menu option everywhere. You get 3 or 4 courses for anywhere from 9 euros to 21 euros. Cafes, bistros and brasseries: Brasserie is a café doubling as a restaurant with a relaxed setting, which serves single dishes and other meals. It can be expected to have professional service and printed menus (unlike a bistro which may have neither). Cafes just serve beverages and possibly sandwiches. Do NOT mix the experience of eating or drinking outside on sidewalk cafes! The items may cost a little more for the privilege.
3 day Paris Viste pass is more expensive than the 1 week Carte Orange pass and they fail to work after a couple of days (ask for at the counter, 16 euros) or you can get a carnet of 10 tickets for 10.70 euros. For the Carte Orange (weekly pass) you will need a small passport-like photo (available at the ubiquitous photo booths located in many metro stations).
Do see Musee’ d Orsay, Musee’ Cluny, Musée Guimet, Le Catacombs, Paris sewers (Les Egouts), Place Maubert in Latin Quarter. Don’t miss a stroll through le Marais whatever your plans are; the
Jewish Quarter, Medieval palaces and great cafes and designer shops all in one cobblestoned neighborhood!
Place des Vosges, Groovy art and antique shops line the square with its lovely little park. Great for an afternoon, you can shop in le Marais and then relax here afterwards.
Rue Mouffetard in the 5 district, walk around Le Marais, sit and relax at Jardin du Luxembourg, walk along the seine, take the evening boat rides at Pont Neuf and look at the passing public on Pont des arts.