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Paris for the First Time – Need Suggestions for a Non-touristy Experience

Paris for the First Time – Need Suggestions for a Non-touristy Experience

Nov 19th, 2014, 06:16 PM
Join Date: Nov 2013
Posts: 251
go to Luxembourg Gardens and stroll around, watch the French kids play with the boats in the pond. Also, for a less crowded museum check out the Cluny museum aka the Museum of the Middle Ages.
sanderskn is offline  
Nov 19th, 2014, 08:15 PM
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Ditto on the Carnavalet Museum and Basilique St-Denis...two of my favorites in Paris and usually not crowded at all.

ssander is offline  
Nov 19th, 2014, 09:09 PM
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Last time I rented an apartment while on vacation I also thought I would cook a lot of meals (I love to cook), we found ourselves out and about till very late every day. The thought of going back to the apartment to cook, eat and clean then go BACK out for sightseeing did not appeal to us. Once we got "home" it was foot rubs and jammie time!

Too much to see and do, the city was alive and we wanted to be part of it, not stuck back at the apartment (and it was a lovely, comfortable, quiet little oasis!). We also love street food and I plan on eating lots of it in Paris! The only formal sit down meals we may have are dinners.

SOOO with that being said...I downloaded some podcast using the Rick Steves app and he has some great ideas for secret gardens to explore and out of the way sights. Have fun!
CaliGurl is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 04:25 AM
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You are already avoiding a lot of tourist activity by your choice of neighborhood. Congratulations!

Some of the major sites are touristed for a good reason; Notre Dame is certainly one and Ste Chapelle on a sunny day or for a concert, but St Julien-le-Pauvre is Worth It and less crowded and also has concerts.

Some iconic places have lots of tourists AND lots of Parisians: Luxembourg Gardens, Tuileries, Palais Royal, Place des Vosges.

Some places are famous like the Place de la Concorde and absolutely not worth it unless you are a WW II student, in which case it is essential. Ditto the Champs Elysées unless there is a wreath-laying at the Arc de Triomphe and a military parade.

The best view of the Eiffel Tower is from the Trocadero across the river. The view of Paris is better from the Tour Montparnasse and Sacre Couer than from the Eiffel.

Follow Kerouac's advice on markets. I differ from Caligurl on eating out and eating in. I like Real Breakfast, and the French don't, so I like eating breakfast at the apartment. I like lunch out because it is too much trouble to go back for lunch, and it is interesting to watch office workers eating lunches that would make American cardiologists and nutritionists faint. If I have toured hard, dinner from market stalls or traiteurs is great. Otherwise out. You have the choice.

There are a lot of gems recommended here, and you won't have time to do them all. Oh, good, you have an excuse to go back!
Ackislander is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 04:55 AM
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Excellent suggestions from people with more experience in Paris than I have. Here's a couple things:

I found this Louvre in 3 hours "tour" somewhere in Fodors; students and I rushed but did almost all this in less than 3 hours. It is a good guide to see highlights. And I would not want to go to the Louvre without some sort of "plan"! But definitely go. Our plan (mine and hubby's) to avoid crowds by going one of the open-late evenings did not help! It was at least as crowded as when I was there the week before with students in the morning.

We got museum passes at a small museum one evening and then used it to bypass lines at 3 or 4 places--nice and worth it!!!

Definitely include Sainte Chapelle--just schedule to go to it first thing one morning arriving at or before opening time. Passes don't let you bypass the security line, but at least you already have ticket purchased.

We did manage to go up the Eiffel Tower AND the Arch and enjoyed both views; the Eiffel Tower was a mad house on a cold and rainy summer morning even when we arrived 30 minutes before opening. So whether you spend your time doing that is up to you. The Arch was also a mad house, on the streets, but it was really cool to see that crazy circle without having to drive in it! and the views were good. We went late one day and the crowds were quite minimal.

Notre Dame too is worth the effort; again the earlier the better for something like this probably.
texasbookworm is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 05:59 AM
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I guess one point would be that the "tourist" things are parts of Paris history--why not enjoy them.
The Carnavalet is one of my favorite museums, particularly the floor for the French Revolution-- and the Cluny also.
The street markets will be crowded--with Parisians--as will the "market streets" like rue de Buci or rue Cler (Rick Steves not withstanding).
The Arab museum is really interesting, particularly the window irises that open and close with the light.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 07:50 AM
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If it's your first time in Paris, you really ought to do one of the "most-touristy" things there is...a Seine River cruise.

Search this message board for recommendations/tips.

ssander is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 08:00 AM
Join Date: Jan 2010
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I disagree with the suggestion to go to the larger museums an hour or so after they open. We were just there a few weeks ago (not our first time) & with our museum pass were in the museum pass (fast lane) well before opening time at the d'Orsay. Once inside we made a beeline for the top floor (Impressionists) where we had a blissful 15-20 minutes virtually alone, until almost in an instant the place was full. A magical 15-20 minutes! If we had waited an hour the entire place would have been jammed.
The Louvre will be crowded all the time. As others have suggested, figure out ahead of time what you really want to see and concentrate on that.
Have a great time in this wonderful city!
el13207 is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 10:45 AM
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<< The Louvre will be crowded all the time. >>

Not so. There are few people waiting for entrance after 3:00 on Wednesdays and much of the museum is empty as so many people crowd around 10 works.
adrienne is offline  
Nov 20th, 2014, 12:12 PM
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This thread might be of interest

jamikins is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2014, 06:30 PM
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I also vote St Denis . Two smaller, less crowded museums that are worth a look, Musee Marmottan and L'Orangerie.
denisea is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2014, 08:00 AM
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You might find that, in Paris, the "touristy" things are often well worth your time. Of course they attract tourists because they are exceptional. We just spent two weeks in Paris, our 9th visit, and returned to many of our favorites. Don't miss Ste. Chapelle, the Luxembourg Gardens, a cruise on the Seine at dusk ( we like the Vedettes de Pont Neuf), the Orangerie, the Place de Vosges, the Picasso Museum, St. Denis, the Ile St. Louis, the Parc Monceau and many other wonderful destinations. If you like gardens, visit Monet's house and gardens at Giverny - fabulous! And don't miss some of the delicious bistros and restaurants.

We stayed in an apartment for 2 weeks and planned to cook there often. However, we cooked only once because the restaurants were so enticing.

Enjoy Paris for what makes it a special and fabulous city. Don't spend a lot of time seeking non-touristy things. You can do that at home
mamcalice is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2014, 11:00 AM
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OH, thank you, MamAlice.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2014, 11:15 AM
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You might find that, in Paris, the "touristy" things are often well worth your time. Of course they attract tourists because they are exceptional

You've got that right, Mam! I think the very word "touristy" should be banned from this forum. We are all "tourists" once we roam from home to a place we have never been. Get over it!
tower is offline  
Nov 23rd, 2014, 01:57 PM
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When in Paris, I always get my hair cut. I sometimes get a rec from concierge or Time Out, but usually find a cool-looking place and just walk in. A very non-touristy experience. Not only does your hair look great for months, but as a result I have been invited by other customers to runway shows and gallery openings.
crosscheck is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 02:53 AM
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Most of my favorite places have been covered above except one. On my first visit to Paris my boyfriend and guide took me to Galleries LaFayette department store. Great old building with stained glass domes and actual shopping areas on the mezzanine. A stairway leads to the roof with fabulous views--the store welcomes tourist. We revisited for the view on our last trip in April. Also across from Oprea Garnier.

We also enjoyed the Carnavalet Museum. It felt like the old attic of Paris. Lots of interesting things to see.

Enjoy your first visit. We'll be back in September.
texasdebb is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 04:18 AM
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I "think" you are describing the now gone/closed Samarataine department store, which was a true jewel for all the description given. You can go to the roof of the Galeries Lafayette for a view of the city also.
To expand on the Carnavalet description, it IS the museum of the city of Paris--its art depicts Paris of the time of the artist which I have found fascinating--see the pont ______ when there were buildings on it; Paris in the 20s, etc.
Gretchen is offline  
Nov 24th, 2014, 04:40 AM
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Oh, just remembered to add--I was in Paris 2 times briefly last June, for my first times--once as teacher with students on a tour and later, after kids went home and hubby met me in Paris, with husband. The trip with students was 2 days and generally a few touristy-highlights. The trip with hubby was also a bit over 2 days and generally just a few of the typical places. But, one of the spots I hadn't planned to visit was a passage, a covered shopping arcade area. Our tour guide showed us one of these and it was so fun I took hubby back later--the other things we "did" were in general touristy highlights we wanted to do our first trip but the passages were a real unscheduled treat. I am glad we "did" the big-name things we did, but we enjoy about as much just walking around and seeing things like passages off the typical path (they were crowded, but not so much with "tourists"--which I am not ashamed to be--it's just a different experience to be among any city's people, of course.)
There's plenty about them on the internet--here's just one link to give you idea http://www.theguardian.com/travel/20...shopping-shops

I also made a point to go to Shakespeare and Company bookshop and while that wasn't un-touristy by any stretch, it was maybe not typical for a first visit--and walking around the neighborhood around it was terrific.
texasbookworm is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 08:48 AM
Original Poster
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Posts: 104
Thank you for all of the great responses so far! This is very helpful. I plan to visit the Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triomphe but not go inside if the lines are very long. I would like to plan to go inside of Notre Dame and up to the top of the tower. I would like to visit the Palace of Versailles. How much time should I plan to spend at Versailles? I plan to spend a few hours to a half a day at the Louvre, but I will do research with my wife to determine what we would like to see beforehand. I’ll get multi day museum pass at one of the less crowded museums and visit a couple of them as well.

As far as our interest goes, I love history, beautiful architecture, trying new foods and experiencing local culture. I know that my wife would love the gardens, romance, local bakeries and markets. Any other suggestions not yet mentioned based on our interests? It will be my wife’s second time in Europe (first time was in Germany and Austria). I have been to Europe several times but this is my first trip to France (aside from connecting at the airport in Paris). Is there any cultural or general advice that we should keep in mind while in Paris?

Thanks again!
VeeDubb is offline  
Nov 25th, 2014, 09:50 AM
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One Parisian place I recommend you avoid is the Avenue des Champs-Elysees. It is so commercially tacky and crowded with tourists, we were really disappointed.

Loved the Louvre, for its architecture, as much as the art on the walls. Have a map so you know where the pieces are that you want to see in particular. And look at the walls, the ceilings, the staircases. It's extraordinary architecture.

Definitely try the Batobus, hop-on-hop-off boat on the Seine. It's inexpensive to get a multi-day pass, and gives you a place to sit and rest during your day, and watch the city glide by. It doesn't run really late at night, but you can do it when the sun goes down. Paris after dark, seen from the Seine = gorgeous.

Wander around the Latin Quarter, and visit the Luxembourg Gardens.
Tabernash2 is offline  

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