Thursday, October 20, 2011

Recommendations for Paris

I'm not an expert on Paris, but while the trip is fresh in my brain, I thought it might make sense to distill the trip for everyone and provide recommendations from our experience.

1.  Try to find a hotel in a fairly central location.  If you do this, most things in Paris are walkable, which allows you to explore even more of the city.

2.  While I loved walking around Paris, our feet would usually start protesting 3/4 through the day.  As a result, I definitely recommend walking away from your hotel all day and then just taking the Metro back.  The Paris Metro is phenomenal and easy to use.  There are stops virtually everywhere.

3.  Everyone is obsessed with buying the Museum Pass, but we skipped it.  We were there for a week and unless we wanted to do all our museum-pass heavy things in a short period, it just didn't make sense for us.  We didn't necessarily want to see every museum in Paris, and planned our trip around more casual events.  Try to figure out how you want to spend your vacation before you necessarily buy the Museum Pass.

4.  Speaking of museums, the Louvre is the most famous, and also the most heinous.  You might need to go because you are in Paris, but it will likely be overcrowded and very hot in some rooms (it was hotter in the Louvre than outside for us).  Maybe go in, see the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory and call it a day unless you are very interested in more ancient art.

5.  The Musee d'Orsay is a much more manageable museum than the Louvre, and can be strolled in a couple of hours.  It houses a lot more popular artists to modern crowds - Van Gogh, Degas, Monet, etc. - so it can be a lot more enjoyable.  It was crowded but nothing like the Louvre.

6.  Go to the Rodin Garden on a nice day.  The line at this museum is little to nonexistent, and seeing the garden only costs 1 euro.  The garden has a lot of Rodin's highlights and it is a beautiful setting to relax on a bench in between other activities.

7.  The Arc de Triomphe is an underrated place.  Of the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, this is the easiest place to get a view because the line is very short.  Notre Dame and the Arc both require hundreds of stairs, however, so make sure you consider whether you are up for that.  (We were panting by the end but didn't need to take any breaks.)

8.  Definitely do the Eiffel Tower, but make sure when you go you purchase tickets in advance for a particular entry time.  The line will otherwise be one or two hours, which is fairly unbearable.  You should go to the second platform at least, since that is where the best views are.  If you are up for it, there is almost no line to walk to the second platform instead of taking the elevator.

9.  The Champ de Mars park in front of the Eifffel Tower is the perfect place for a picnic.  Pick up your picnic supplies on the nearby Rue Cler (in between Rue de Grenelle and Av. de la Motte Piquet) and stroll over to the park.  Make sure you find a bench facing the Tower.

10.  If you are of the food-obsessed persuasion, like me, I definitely recommend visiting E. Dehilleron (old-fashioned cookware store shopped at by Julia Child and Ina Garten) and Hediard (fine ingredient store selling teas, spices, chocolates, and more).  Patrick Roger was our favorite chocolate shop.

11.  Try to walk around as many neighborhoods as possible - ideally on the less touristy streets.  We especially loved Marais and the Left Bank.  (Be sure to visit Place de Vosges if you go to Marais.)

12.  The books we used and relied upon heavily were Rick Steves' Guide to Paris and Hungry for Paris.  Rick Steves' book has walking tours of many museums and sites, and also has walking tours of some of the exceptional neighborhoods in Paris.  I highly recommend this book and carried it with us everywhere.  All the restaurants we visited from Hungry for Paris were exceptional - much better than the random lunch spots we popped into.  If you are interested in planning out your meals in Paris and going to restaurants with a purpose, this book is perfect.  (We actually didn't get a reservation until we got there, and once we did we relied upon our concierge to make them for us at the restaurants I picked out.  We couldn't get into some of my choices, but we got into most.)

13.  Last but not least, here is my map of Paris, with a detailed key of all the color-coding up top.  I will try to update it sometime to put my personal notes in there now that we've visited everything.  (HFP = Hungry for Paris and DL = David Lebovitz.)

I hope you have the opportunity to go to Paris soon.  And if you have any recommendations for how I can manage to move there, I'm all ears.


  1. i might have to go back to paris soon, since you've done all the work for me! it's been over a decade (eeps!) since i was there, tho i'm proud to say that i did hit some of your recommended spots. that might be giving me a bit too much credit, since i visited a friend who was doing her study abroad there at the time, so she obviously had some inside scoop of her own.

  2. My Dad calls it "the 5-minute Louvre"...straight to the Mona Lisa and straight back out. I think we waited in line about 2 hours to do the 5-minute Louvre.


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