Four days in Paris, what to do?

Dec 23rd, 2011, 06:32 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Dec 2011
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Four days in Paris, what to do?

I have never been, but wanted to go for years. I'd appreciate input on what to focus on. I feel overwhelmed with options! My mom and I are going in early June and are fairly active, but not too touristy. L,oohing for a "real" slice of Parisian life.
lalecture is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 06:42 AM
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I'm sure people will have suggestions but there are literally thousands of things you could do in Paris. You could spend weeks in Paris and still not see everything. You really need to start with some guidebooks. Also, mentioning what your specific interests are will get you better responses. The only things to focus on are those things that interest you. I would also suggest scouring this and other travel forums.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 07:07 AM
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I'd strongly encourage you to do a little research on your own to get a sense of what might interest you and then to ask "is this better or is that" here. Definitely buy a Paris guidebook. I know it's overwhelming, but try to identify three or four major interests that you have: shopping? dining? museums? cafes? historic sights? What is it about Paris that has drawn you all these years? Why are you making this trip, and what do you hope to get out of it?

It's very hard for any tourist to experience the "real" Paris in just a few days time, so rather focus on a few major sights you want to see and then try exploring several less tourist neighborhoods on foot. I always enjoy going into local shops to see what is being sold, particularly food. Definitely plan on a few picnics if the weather is good. Buy a baguette in a boulangerie, some cheese in a fromagerie, and a nice bottle of wine in a wine store. Buy something exotic and upscale at Fauchon like pate de foie gras. Indulge yourself and discover what it is about French cuisine that you might enjoy. Then have your lunch on the banks of the Seine or in a park.

I'd also try to make it to Pere Lachaise cemetary and stroll among the famous and not so famous folk buried there. It's a nice, quiet place to reflect. I've done it in the sun and in the rain, and it's always enjoyable and peaceful, even when it's busy (and it is fairly busy).

The Marais is both a real neighborhood and a tourist destination, but it's filled with interesting shops (though many are chain stores). But it's very walkable. I usually stay around there when I visit.
doug_stallings is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 07:13 AM
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I would agree with FMT. I like to look at the guidebooks to see what they recommend. Most of them include a section "If you only have one day, two days, three days...." For your first trip hit the high points. You'll have time for a day to travel off the tourist path if you so choose. My wife and I have been to Paris a number of times. We try and schedule a few days going back to the places we really enjoy and a few days going off the beaten path or doing new things. Last year, we took a full day's photography tour which we both really enjoyed, but we would not have wanted to do that on our first trip because it took up a whole day.
bumper is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 07:16 AM
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Doug's suggestions are excellent. As a matter of fact, they make me want to head to the airport for the next flight to Paris!
bumper is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 08:28 AM
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I just accompanied my sister on her first trip to Paris, and my #1 suggestion is to buy a Paris Museum Pass. It will save you money, plus hours of standing in lines at major sights. Suggestion #2 would be to buy a couple of "carnets" of Metro tickets. Go online and familiarize yourself with the Paris Metro (it's very easy). It's a great way to get around quickly.
azzure is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 09:47 AM
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Good suggestions above. I would add that it's not really necessary to always have a plan and it's not necessary to have to see this or that. I think the best way to experience Paris is to just stroll on the streets and enjoy the ambiance of the beauty that surrounds you. When you get a bit tired hit a café, sit out on a terrace and do some people watching. If you want a quick overview of the city to get you oriented do a Hop On Hop Off bus tour. Do one of the river cruises on the Seine. I also think you should buy a really detailed map of the city to help you get oriented. The good maps will show where all the museums, famous sites, gardens, parks and other attractions are as well as where the métro and RER stops are located. I know you said you don't want to do real touristy things but as a first time visitor you really shouldn't miss some of the touristy sites and attractions that make Paris the most touristic city on the planet. Stroll through the streets in The Latin Quarter and The Marais. Explore the islands Île-de-la-Cité (where Notre dame is located) and the adjacent Île-Saint-Louis. Walk through the courtyard at The Louvre to see the pyramid and then stroll through the adjacent Tuileries Gardens to Place de la Concorde. Walking anywhere along the Seine river is always scenic. I'm sure you'll get plenty of other tips and suggestions but go get your guidebooks and a detailed map and start your research. Best of luck.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 10:46 AM
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FMT hit the nail on the head in saying "it's not necessary to see this or that."

Following the advice to walk around, to poke into shops, to stop for coffee (or to sit in a park), will help you feel Paris as much as see it. If you rush about to all the things people will put on your bucket list, in a year you will remember nothing but the rush.

Four days in Paris is not a lot, and you can't "do it all," but you can do a lot by concentrating on four days worth of what is important to you.

For a start, DON'T buy a Paris Museum Pass. It will cut some lines, but it won't pay unless you see a lot of museums in a short time, and your time doesn't go with that. In many cases, it's possible to avoid the line by buying on-line. Works for Musee d'Orsay, Eiffel Tower and more. Do a little reading and pick the museum(s) that interest you most...not necessarily the most famous.

Consider a short-term apartment rental instead of a hotel. It gives you more of a working neighborhood feel, and you can actually cook and eat some of the wonderful finds in the markets and local stores. Renting through an agency can be a paperwork bother, but not impossible; lately I've been using AirBnB with good success and less fuss. plan to be back. Paris will call you!
PHeymont is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:02 AM
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For first timer with less than a week of time, I'd suggest the following -

World Famous Landmarks
vivace98 is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:13 AM
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World Famous Landmarks (in order of my personal preference)
1. Eiffel tower (go up if possible, but once is enough)
2. Arc de Triomphe (definitely need to climb up to the top, the view is worth the effort)
3. Champs Elysees (grandest blvd, also get some shopping done)

1. Louvre (at least to see the few staple art works)
2. Orsay (less intimidating than the Louvre for the less art history educated)
3. Rodin (small in size, very easy to navigate)

1. Pere Lachaise cemetary ***my personal favorite*** I highly recommend it. It's a combination of history, art, culture all wrapped in one mystical place. Not to miss on a sunny day!

2. Montmartre (super touristy but still a beautiful/interesting area to visit)

3. Cafes/people watching..

Hope this helps!
vivace98 is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 11:28 AM
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Hi la,

Have you looked up Paris under "Destinations"?

ira is offline  
Dec 23rd, 2011, 12:06 PM
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Well, I certainly disagree with you, PHeymont, about the necessity of the Museum Pass. First time visitors will want to see the Louvre, the Orsay, climb the Arc, possibly climb the Notre Dame towers, see St. Chapelle, the Rodin, the Conciergerie, and maybe even Versailles. All of these would be covered by a 50 euro 4 day pass.

The Eiffel Tower is not included but there are other ways (i.e. Behind the Scenes tours) to skip lines there.

Using the pass to see the more heavily touristed sites will free up more time for strolling and savoring the city.
azzure is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 01:27 AM
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Well, we all have our itineraries, and they will all differ according to our interests. Mine are hugely different from vivace98's, but that doesn't mean they are better.

It would be helpful to know your interests and especially where you are staying, but are a few:

St Michel metro to Ste Julien-le-Pauvre to Notre Dame to the Ile St Louis to the Place des Vosges to rue des Rosiers via rue des Francs Bourgeois. If you need a museum, you could start with the Cluny or end with the Carnavalet (Paris History) or stop at the Victor Hugo house in the Place des Vosges. Emphasis on history, architecture, the old city, boutiques, and Jewish Paris.

St Michel metro to St Germain via rue St Andre des Arts and rue de Buci, pass the Deux Magot and go on to Sevres Babylone via the rue des Sts Peres. Rue du Sevre to Bon Marche department store (the first ever) and down the rue du Bac to rue de Varenne to the Rodin Museum and garden, passing the Matignon palais on your way. It will be discrete, but notice the armed guards on corners and in doorways. After a refreshing rest in the Rodin garden or its cafe, you can cross the street to the Invalides. Fabulous shopping all along this route.

Starting at St Germain metro, explore the streets between there and the Seine, all full of galleries and very high end antique shops. Cross the Seine to the Louvre. Turn right to visit the Louvre, left to visit the Tuileries garden. From the arch opposite the Louvre, you can see all the way down the Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe, which is about as close as I have ever needed to come to either. Good views of the Eiffel Tower as well. After the Louvre, walk to the Palais Royale, just past the Comedie Francaise, and collapse in the garden.

An easy day with literary associations: from Metro Vavin out Blvd Montparnasse past the great literary cafes (from Hemingway to "Breathless") to the rue de l'Observatoire. Turn left and walk through the incredible series of parks ending at the Palais du Luxembourg. It is all gently downhill, but stop frequently and explore the features in the groves to either side of the main axis. Wander downhill all the way to the Seine through the warren of streets. Get lost, but keep going generally down hill. Find the Pont Neuf. Take a ride on one of the vedettes (river sightseeing boats) based there. Rub your feet.
Ackislander is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 04:42 AM
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A big advantage of the Museum Pass that almost nobody talks about is that it gives you the ability to pop into one of its locations when either nature calls or you just need an easy break.

Here is a short URL link to a GoogleMap my daughter put together of about 50+ sites in Paris. Each location has an associated MP3 audio file describing the site and its history.
daveesl is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 05:01 AM
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Looking for a "real" slice of Parisian life ? Just go in the 20th, 11th, 10th and 18th district in Paris. It's the real Paris !
Johana28 is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 05:15 AM
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I'll repeat my point about the Museum Pass: It's not a good deal for anyone who is not planning to visit a lot of museums in a short time...and the original poster wants the flavor of lived-in Paris, not only a list of places visited rapidly. Vivace98s list would barely fit into a hectic week, much less into four days.

You can no more meaningfully cram all of Paris into four days than you can pack ten pounds of sugar in a five-pound sack. You need to consider what is most important to you, and what can fit without exhaustion and blur...and plan to return later with a larger sack.
PHeymont is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 05:36 AM
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My family spent 7 nights in Paris this past July and we had a daily itinerary of places and sights we wanted to see. If you make a list, tear it in half and then cross out the rest!

We ended up doing a lot of wandering, long lunches, playgrounds for the kids. I never made it to the D'Orsay, Sacre Coeur, Luxembourg Gardens or inside the Palace of Versailles. We made it to Versailles after taking the wrong train and only had time to wander the gardens and have lunch.

Even missing the things I had dreamed about for years it was still an amazing place to be. I hope I can return one day and see the art and architecture I missed.
trvlgirlmq is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 07:54 AM
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Now we're talkin'. Let's throw in the 19th for good measure (or any other outer arrondissement).
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 08:03 AM
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there will be as many ideas of how to spend 4 days in Paris as there are posters, if not more.

for what they are worth, here are my tips:

stay somewhere reasonably central. what this may cost you by way of extra for a hotel you will save on time and shoe-leather. you want to be able to stroll along the seine, look at the Eiffel Tower illuminated at night, wander along the Champs Elysee, explore Notre Dame etc. etc. without its being miles from your accommodation. this will hep you to feel part of Paris.

buy a carnet [mentioned above]. you get 10 metro/bus tickets and as well as saving a few €s [onpy a few], it will encourage you to use the public transport so that you can see more.

try to get hold of a copy of the Michelin green guide to Paris - there are loads of ideas for how to fill 3-4 days in Paris. of course you don't have to follow any of them, but along with all the excellent suggestions above, they might help to start your planning.
annhig is offline  
Dec 24th, 2011, 08:07 AM
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What little we know of the OP's interests points not to museums and museum passes but to, I confess, how I like to spend my time in Paris. Mostly wandering, sometimes in neighborhoods I know, sometimes discovering new ones. The assumptions here are rampant regarding what makes a few days in Paris good.

I agree wholeheartedly with PHeymont, maybe go the occasional big sight but mostly do as you've hinted, see the neighborhoods, have lunch at a no-name bistro, coffee standing at a workingman's bar, wander and take it all in. Having lived and worked in Paris in my youth the things I welcome most when I return every time are the smells, go figure, not a list of museums. I think lalecture already has the right idea.
joannay is offline  

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