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leslieq Jan 2nd, 2014 09:04 PM

4 Days in Paris May 2014 - Can we do all this?
We only have 4 days in Paris and would like to make the most of the short time we have. It would help us to get some advice on how to best organize the things we would like to do. We are staying very centrally at the Hotel Saint-Louis en L'Isle. We like to balance indoor museum visits with outdoor gardens, etc.

MARAIS: We love to walk and love interesting neighborhoods. I'm particularly interested in the Marais and would appreciate any advice on specifically where to walk to see some of the old winding streets we've read about.

CHURCH CONCERTS: We would love to attend any evening concerts in cathedrals. I've had a hard time finding specifics, in spite of several great threads with links. There is a concert at Notre Dame mentioned on one site, but when I click the link to buy tickets it says nothing is scheduled that night.

Does the following make sense? This is our first trip to Paris.


(arrive CDG 9:40 am; drop off bags at hotel and walk locally)

Isle D'Cite walk:
Notre Dame
St Chapelle

Evening: walk along Seine or boat cruise (Vedettes de Paris?)


Tuileries Gardens
Champs Elysees
Arc d'Triumphe
Eiffel Tower
Evening: church concert?


Musee D'Orsay
OR Musee de Cluny (medieval)
St Sulplice
Grande Mosque for tea
Luxemborg Gardens
Evening: Cantigas de Sancta maria concert NotreDame (how to get tickets?)


Marais walk
Picasso Museum
Place des Vosges
Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Memorial de la Shoa
Evening: Evensong at Notre Dame 5:45 pm
OR Louvre open until 9:45 pm Wednesday night

Any other general advice would be most welcome. I have spent hours searching the Forum and have gotten so much great information already from many of you.

Merci! Leslie

cathies Jan 2nd, 2014 10:32 PM

Because st Chapelle has security bag checks, the queues to get in can be very, very long and slow. A couple of suggestions are: visit it much later in the day when the queues are shorter OR combine it with an evening concert and kill 2 birds with one stone. We saw a concert there in May 2006 and it was magical listening to beautiful music and taking in the beautiful glass at the same time.

If you're anything like me by the time you want to go to The Louvre in the evening you will be very tired and your feet will be killing you and those floors in The Louvre are very unforgiving.

You haven't mentioned Musee Rodin which is one of my favourites and the gardens will be beautiful in May. It's only small and if you don't fancy the house, the gardens are worth a stroll to see the sculptures.

bvlenci Jan 3rd, 2014 01:04 AM

It's a very ambitious schedule, and you should be prepared to cut many things, unless you don't mind being totally exhausted by the end of your trip. You can play it by ear, and cut things as you go along. I know I wouldn't be awake for any evening concerts with days like those.

The Musée d'Orsay is much larger than the Musée de Cluny; of the two, I would greatly prefer the first, and I'm quite interested in medieval art and architecture.

You could easily spend four hours in the Louvre, and you might not want to do anything else the rest of the day. I myself wouldn't bother going to the Eiffel Tower; you can see it from many parts of the city, and climbing it doesn't interest me very much.

I agree that the Rodin Museum is very nice; the entrance fee to visit the gardens only is much less than that for the museum and the gardens. There are many sculptures in the garden, although I do think it's worth visiting the museum as well.

In a city like Paris, you should allow plenty of time just to experience the city rather than "see" things. Less is more.

cathies Jan 3rd, 2014 01:30 AM

Bvlenci, I loved the interior of Musee Rodin, but we had 9 days to explore Paris on that particular trip thank goodness.

I agree with you that the OP's itinerary will be a case of ticking things off a list if they don't slow it down a bit.

Gretchen Jan 3rd, 2014 03:47 AM

I suggest for your seeing the Champs (if you must) then take the bus that goes from the Arc down the Champs to Pl. Concorde.
To start paring, Picasso museum, Pantheon, and Pere Lachaise.
We have loved the Ste. Chapelle concerts. While the windows are beautiful any time, daytime is preferable for looking at them in particular.
Maybe have a picnic on the Champs de Mars and just take in the Eiffel Tower and don't go up.
As others have said in a way, Paris is more than just ticking off the sites.

nytraveler Jan 3rd, 2014 04:08 AM

You have lots of stuff and not very much time for exploring cute neighborhoods and/or sitting in a cafe for an hour watching the world go by. I urge you to fit in some time to relax and not run around so much.

Also - you might note it is Ile de la Cite (sorry can't get accents here) - which will make finding it on the Metro, bus and street signage easier.

isabel Jan 3rd, 2014 04:45 AM

I don't think your itinerary is too ambitious at all. It looks very doable. You have things nicely grouped geographically and a nice mix. Unless you plan on spending hours and hours in the museums. Obviously you could spend four days in the Louvre alone, but most people find a couple hours is more than enough.

Standing in lines to get into things can eat up time. Do you know the tricks about the Louvre (don't wait on the line outside the pyramid, either go down the stairs next to the small Arc - as you are heading toward the Tuileries, or enter from the side on Rue du Rivoli - in either of these cases the security line is much shorter). Do as suggested above for St Chappelle. For Musée d'Orsay go very early, if there is still a huge line do the Cluny instead. I also wouldn't bother waiting in line to up the Eiffel Tower or the Arc d'Triumphe. They are both great viewed from below.

Here are my photos of Paris, I have labeled most of the pic with specific street names, etc. You might get some ideas as to which areas you want to take walks in.

There are many books with descriptions of walks in Paris. Type in "Paris Walks" in amazon. These give descriptions of neighborhoods and walks rather than just the big sites that most people concentrate on.

mamcalice Jan 3rd, 2014 05:00 AM

I agree that your trip is very busy and doesn't allow much time for "experiencing" Paris. As recommended, skip the Pantheon and Pere Lachaise. Also skip the Picasso Museum which, I believe, is still closed for renovation. Skip the Conciergerie.

Given a choice between the Musee D'Orsay and the Cluny, I highly recommend the Musee D'Orsay. For a river cruise we like the Vedettes du Pont Neuf which leaves from and returns to the Pont Neuf. Take the trip just before dusk so that you can see the lights come on all over Paris.

To avoid waiting in line at museums, etc., get a Museum Pass which normally allows you to avoid the longest lines. An exception is Ste. Chapelle for which you must go through a security line.

Have a wonderful time! May is a lovely time to visit.

adrienne Jan 3rd, 2014 05:29 AM

You only have 3.5 days in Paris. It will be noon on day 1 before you check into your hotel.

Marais - you can't miss the small winding streets - they're everywhere in the Marais. You might consider a Paris Walks walking tour. There is a Marais walk every Tuesday and Thursday and there may be more in May.

Church concerts: There is a concert at Notre Dame on May 6.

I would buy tickets when you get to Paris. There is an information booth inside the church, to the right.

From the Notre Dame web site: Ticket sale at the reception desk of the Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, every day from 9.30 am to 6 pm and on concert evenings at 8 pm.

The ticket purchase site doesn't seem to be working. The church is so large that you will have no problems getting a last minute ticket.

Ste Chapelle has concerts most nights. You can try this site for tickets. It seems that the May schedule has not been loaded yet so take a look in a month.

St-Julian-le-Pauvre also has lots of concerts.

Sunday: Itinerary looks fine - not too much to do. You might want to have a couple of other things to do that are leisurely such as the Luxembourg Gardens or Ile-St-Louis (next to Ile-de-la-Cite).

Monday: Packed. You won't get through all that and still be able to do a church concert in the evening. I would take off the Arch of Triumph and the Champs Elysees - not at all interesting.

Tuesday - I would go into the Mosque as well as having tea in the garden. It doesn't take long and is interesting. Walk along rue Mouffetard - a market street which is actually the best on Sundays.

In the Luxembourg Gardens don't miss the statue of Liberty and the 9/11 Memorial (very small) at the southern end.

Wednesday - the Picasso museum is not scheduled to reopen until June. I would skip the cemetery as it's large and beautiful and requires a couple of hours plus the time to get there and back. Since you're very interested in the Marais, I would focus on that area. The Carnavalet Museum is free and there's a lovely garden in front of it. It's large but you can walk in and spend a bit of time there. Don't miss the Stravinsky Fountain. If you're interested in Jewish history, the Jewish Museum is wonderful. You should also visit the Deportation Memorial behind Notre Dame. Allow a good hour for the museum but the memorial won't take long.

To find the Deportation Memorial walk behind Notre Dame and either alongside the back garden or through it, cross the small street and look for the gate in the fence. Go down the steps. There's a smallish sign low to the ground marking the entrance.

Evensong - this is Protestant! The Catholic version is Vespers.

When you get to Paris stop at any newspaper kiosk to see if there are copies of Pariscope which comes out on Wednesdays (if I remember correctly) and lists events going on for the week. There's a large listing of concerts.

TPAYT Jan 3rd, 2014 05:58 AM

Your schedule is full but Paris is so exciting you'll probably keep moving. Here's a few of my thoughts on our favorite city.

Lux. Gardens is great every day but best on Sunday---usually music, etc. Cute cafe to relax a bit.
Carnavalet Museum in the Marais is my favorite--small,easy to navigate, pretty garden & building.
Biggest disappointment--walking the Champs E. take a bus to the Arch
Vedettes? Yes. Take it late on the 1/2 hr. so you're at the Eiffel when it glows.
Love "L'ilot Vache" restaurant on ISL--great lamb chops if you like
Love the pedestrian streets near St. Michel left bank
Love "Lereminet" restaurant, left bank across from N. Dame, book on The Fork and get a discount
See the Louvre courtyard (stunning) skip inside for now--too overwhelming.

See Paris once and you will want to return. After many trips we still have things left on our list.

LibbyLuv Jan 3rd, 2014 07:00 AM

We've gone to Paris twice. The first time we ran ourselves ragged as I never thought I'd get there again. We still didn't get everything done on the list. The second time got "B" list things - some of which I enjoyed more than "A" list items the first time around. While we still hoofed it, there was more time to relax and enjoy Paris. I strongly urge you to slow down and just be in Paris, as everyone does. All that being said, your list to me looks doable. We didn't run into long lines at St. Chappelle (we went in late Aug-early Sept when we went to that stunning site). I would take a tuk-tuk (a motorized contraption with seating in the back for two - catch it at Place de la Concorde) down to the Arc. Personally, we love going to the top of every structure, so I would go to the top of Eiffel and the Arc. And Notre Dame. Fantastic to have been on top of that beautiful building. Have Berthillon ice cream in a seat at the window at Soleil D'Or, just down from Notre Dame (near Place Saint Michel, where there are beautiful little streets to explore). Find the Passages throughout the City and explore them. Montmartre and Sacre Coeur are not to be missed. The I Love You wall and The Man Who Could Walk Through Walls sculpture in Montmartre are fun. Have a falafel in the Marais District. I personally didn't find much at the Place des Vosges to see, and the little streets are prettier around Place St. Michel and Montmartre in my opinion. You could skip Marais and get a falafel at Moaz, in the Latin Quarter (or thereabouts). Musee D'Orsay gets my vote, altho I loved the Cluny, too. We enjoyed Pere Lachaise cemetery - take a map of your highlighted spots to see. It's a ways from everything else. Paris at twilight is unlike anywhere else on earth. I'm so envious of your trip and hope you post details upon your return. Wear comfortable shoes!

leslieq Jan 3rd, 2014 10:54 PM

Fantastic responses...just what I had hoped. Didn't know the Picasso Museum was closed, thanks for that info.

Musee Rodin - several mentioned this. I didn't have it on the list as I work at Stanford University and we have an incredible Rodin sculpture garden that I walk to often.

In spite of what it might seem, we are definitely not "list checkers," and the list was more to see what might be possible and how to group things. The comments above help me sort this out. We start out and if we enjoy something, we stay with it and don't get to the rest of the "list."

We don't plan on going up the Eiffel Tower and I would personally skip Champs and Arc de Triumphe, but hubby wanted to see it. Several posters above made great suggestions about how best to see this.

Based on the comments above:

- Maybe do either the Louvre or Orsay, but perhaps not both to get more time to just walk around and enjoy the neighborhoods.
- Skip the Conciergie and the Pantheon.
- Come back to St Chapelle if the lines are too long (we're staying on the Isle)
- Look into the Museum Pass
- Check out Carnavelet Museum in Marais; maybe skip the Place des Vosges
- See if hubby will skip Champs!

For the evening concerts: Funny, I copied the Notre Dame Evensong comment from a guidebook. I had wanted to get tickets to the May 6 concert in advance, so thanks for the reassurance that we can do this when we get to Paris. Sounds like I don't have to stress about getting church concert tickets in advance anywhere else, but check in Pariscope?

We're hikers and used to walking, so sitting in an evening concert will be relaxing and not exhausting. We did this in Florence after hours of walking and loved it.

I can't skip Pere Lachaise! Am obsessed with historical cemeteries and have been interested in this one for a long time. I don't care about Jim Morrison, BTW! Am going to research what I'd like to see and spend a few hours there. Looks gorgeous and atmospheric. Maybe I should plan this after lunch after a morning museum visit? If I saw the Louvre all morning and the Pere Lachaise in the afternoon that would make a great day.

For the Louvre and Orsay, also plan to map out what most interests us and concentrate on that only. We spent four hours in the Uffizi in Florence last year and didn't regret a minute.

We've been hesitant to visit France due to not speaking French (we're working on getting some basics, though). I speak German and hubby Spanish, so we've been more inclined to visit places where we can use those languages. Reading through previous posts on this subject makes me realize we shouldn't worry about this.

Merci to everyone who responded. This forum is invaluable and your comments much appreciated.

cathies Jan 4th, 2014 12:41 AM

Depending on whether you have a preference for a particular art period, I would suggest musee d'orsay. It's smaller and you will be able to see more of that collection. The Louvre is fantastic, but it's huge!

I love the place des Vosges, it's great for people watching for a little while, and the trees are so pretty. Victor Hugo's house is there and that's worth a quick look while you are in the area (it's free).

The Champs Elysées is very touristy, that's true. But I love the walk up it with the Arc du triomphe getting closer and closer. If you do that, then go to the top of the du Triomphe, the queues are short and the view is excellent.

opaldog Jan 4th, 2014 02:03 AM

If you are walking in the Marais, don't skip Place des Vosges and do visit the Victor Hugo house. The Carnavalet is a good Paris history/art museum in the Marais and free. I wouldn't try to do so many museums, but would include the Carnavalet if you do any.

Our first trip to Paris was 4 nights and we had a wonderful time, but didn't see half of what we thought we would. We have been back a dozen times since and still find something new to see on every trip. Now we have the luxury of just taking in the atmosphere of Paris and rent apartments and try to "live" in the city when we are there.

annhig Jan 4th, 2014 02:11 AM

lots of what i would have said has been said already, but i couldn't resist seconding the suggestion about going to Victor Hugo's house. it's as if he just stepped outside!

Gretchen Jan 4th, 2014 03:51 AM

I'll expand on what is said about the Carnavalet--it is the history of Paris in art and an opportunity to see Paris of 1500 through the eyes of an artist of the time--or 1920, etc. it is fascinating. I particularly enjoy the French Revolution "cartoons" of the time.
Don't entirely miss the Louvre. Get the Michelin Green Guide and pick a wing or part. Actually the basement is pretty interesting for seeing how the chateau was constructed.
No one has asked, but why do you have only 4 days? What is the remainder of your trip?

TPAYT Jan 4th, 2014 05:44 AM

I also will chime in again and say don't miss Place Vosges. Just sit in the sq. awhile and enjoy the architecture or have lunch or a quick coffee in one of the cafes.
Victor Hugo's house is a quick see and The Carnavalet is very close by.

leslieq Jan 4th, 2014 07:01 PM

Again based on the latest comments, think we'll visit the Musee d'Orsay instead of the Louvre this time. After looking more into the collections, see that this is where hubby can see the Van Gogh that won't be in Provence (our last stop in our two week trip).

Have not run into suggestions about the Victor Hugo house...sounds great. Will try to see this when walking around in the Marais.

Fantastic! Am so happy with the responses all of you have so kindly given us.

leslieq Feb 13th, 2014 07:02 PM

Just an update for those of you kind enough to give me your advice...we decided to cancel our two night stay at the Chateau de la Caze (I'm very sad about this) in order to have one more day in Paris. I could tell our stay was just too rushed. We'll have another day to just wander around.

Instead I'm taking Stu Dudley's advice and heading to Provence via Carcasonne (from the Dordogne area, our next stop after Paris). Going to plan another trip to the Gorges du Tarn when we can stay awhile.

Thanks again. Leslie

StCirq Feb 13th, 2014 07:07 PM

I hope you have plenty of time in the Dordogne, with a car.

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