Paris Tour Recommendations

Aug 6th, 2016, 07:49 AM
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Paris Tour Recommendations

Hello Fellow Fodors - My wife and I are wrapping up our booking for our Paris trip for mid-September (just over a month away). We have Flight and hotel for 4 nights before we embark to Italy. We are now looking at tours. We will be in Paris for 4 full days. I've heard from "you can see all attractions without any tour guide" to "it's better to have a tour guide for certain attractions to get a better understanding on the history, etc.." We are interested in knowing about the history of attractions that are worth knowing about.

My wife and I have never been tor Paris, so we're looking forward to recommendations. We know we will most likely not go up on the Eiffel Tower as the lines can be nuts. What tours/guided tours/audio tours are worth taking part in? If you know the prices and how long the tours are, we would appreciate that information as well, as well as any other information you'd like to provide.

Thank you all! We look forward to your recommendations.
armando0176 is offline  
Aug 6th, 2016, 08:56 AM
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If you insist on a guided tour then engage a private guide--there are many onliine with their prices. Bus tours are worthless. Michael Osman is an excellent guide and VERY reasonable as they go, but you have waited too long to even try to get him.
Get a Michelin Green guide and design your own tour. You have a very short time
Don't forget to just sit in a cafe and enjoy the passersby.
Gretchen is online now  
Aug 6th, 2016, 10:35 AM
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We go to Paris often and always do things on our own. We did take an English tour of the Opera Garnier that we still talk about to this day. That was one site that we were very glad to have had a tour guide. It was fantastic. Here is the site we used.

Another thing we really enjoyed was a Vivaldi concert at St. Chapelle. Near Notre Dame. I wouldn't call it a tour as such but hearing that gorgeous music in those gorgeous surroundings was something special. You'll probably go to St. Chapelle during the day to take in the stunning stained glass windows. At night for the concert was just another way to appreciate the structure.

You can try for tickets right there at the last minute (cheaper but not guaranteed to get in) or pay a little more and book on line. By doing that you enter before the last minute people and we sat in the 4th row----worth the extra cost.
TPAYT is offline  
Aug 6th, 2016, 10:51 AM
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This is the site we used for the St. Chapelle concert.

Most of our trips to Paris have been in mid. Sept. ----also this year.
The weather is usually beautiful, flowers all still in bloom, warm enough to comfortably walk around day & night.

Make sure you do a boat ride in the evening. If you get the Vedettes boat from the Pont Neuf on the 1/2 hour you will get to the Eiffel just as it lights up. Last trip I believe is 10:30 but check the site to make sure. Also lots of different boats from The Eiffel site but we prefer Vedettes.

Even though we have been to Paris often I don't claim to be an expert. There are many Fodorites who can claim that and I'm sure they will help you out.

BTW, welcome to the Fodors Forums-----best information from people who love to talk travel.
TPAYT is offline  
Aug 7th, 2016, 12:43 PM
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I have not taken a specific tour for anything in Paris (and have never gone up in the Eiffel Tower, as it is just not important to me). Paris is quite easy to get around in.

The only tour I have taken was a wonderful food/wine tour with Paris by Mouth that was very enjoyable and a great way to sample types of cheeses & other foods I would not even know exist.

Most museums offer audio guides that can be quite helpful. I like the convenience of the Paris Museum pass to bypass ticket lines (you will still need to go through security lines but it will still save you time). I don't think it will save you money unless you really visit a lot of museums, but I love not having to get tickets at every place we want to visit. You do need to use on consecutive days so consider that when deciding how many days to purchase- 2, 4 or 6 days. You don't need to buy before getting to it a small less busy museum or site. The website shows all the places in and around Paris that accept the pass. You can also map out the sites that interest you with the interactive map. The pass covers most but not all museums/sites...Eiffel Tower is not part of the program.
denisea is offline  
Aug 7th, 2016, 02:17 PM
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As noted on your thread about Itally, I prefer to use a guidebook to learn about places in advance and then use audioguides on site, as that strategy lets me proceed at my own pace. Your call.
kja is offline  
Aug 7th, 2016, 02:31 PM
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In addition to regulsr guidebooks there are various books about walks in Paris.
jubilada is online now  
Aug 18th, 2016, 10:53 AM
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Having just been there and not doing a tour, or any audiotours, I'm in the camp of "do it yourself"

Your time in Paris is precious. We saw so many roving hoardes of American tourists on tours, and you're locked into that pace for that time. Buy Rick Steves Paris guidebook and read it cover to cover and you'll now everything you need to know. Then just get out into the city and enjoy it.

Pick one thing you want to do each day, and do it, and then work your way back to your hotel over the day. Sit at a cafe, wander into a bookstore, buy some macaroons, then buy a bottle of wine, then the next park that comes along, sit down and eat and drink.

My best recommendation would be to go to the website for Cooking with Class, a cooking and culinary spot near Notre Dame. They do a three hour gourmet tour taking you through street markets and eating and explaining french foods. That's something I don't mind blocking out 3 hours for.

Also, as cheesy as it sounds, the dinner cruise le calife was extraodinary, not cheap, but amazing and once in a lifetime splurge.
hkramb is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 12:05 PM
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We go to Paris often and generally tour on our own. However upon occassion we have taken a tour and definitely enjoyed the knoweldge of a good guide. We've always followed the advice of Fodorites. We have gone on Paris Walks which are inexpensive and very informative. They are ~2 hours and you can always leave if you aren't enjoying it.

The other one I would recommend is Paris Greeters. These are run by locals who volunteer to show people the city they love. So after uncountable trips to Paris we did one and it was great! We went to La Defense and a woman who had lived there for ~20 years fascinated us with stories of its developement and the architecture in the area. Paris Greeters

So while I agree that Paris is very easy to see on your own and there are lots of books and online resources -- its entirely possible for an excellent guide to enhance your experience.
yestravel is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 01:59 PM
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This is such a helpful thread. Armando, you'll find a wealth of information on this website. Have a great trip!

Thank you for the recommendation of the concert at La Sainte Chappelle. We'll be in Paris next week, and I just purchased tickets. It looks wonderful!
cybertraveler is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 05:35 PM
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On our first trip to Paris, many years ago, we did the 2 day Hop on Hop off bus tour, which gave us a good overview of Paris.

On a subsequent trip, we were staying along the 69 bus route and did that. You can Google the 69 bus route, which runs from the Eiffel Tower all the way to Pere LaChaise cemetery. It traverses many popular tourist sites. You need only pay the bus fare. We found buses to be a great way to see much scenery. You should invest some time, so you know which routes interest you, and get the history behind the sites. You will save a lot of money over HOHO or other tours.
LBloom is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 06:51 PM
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Yes, the 69 bus is great and you will see the famous landmarks. Great way to get an overview of the city.
yestravel is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 08:32 PM
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TPAYT: The site you recommended for ordering concert tickets was very helpful. I just ordered tickets for a New Year's concert at St. Chappelle for December 30. In all my years of travelling to Paris, I am ashamed to say that I have never been there, so I'm thrilled to be going to enjoy both the venue and the music!

Thank you for your recommendation!
burta is offline  
Aug 18th, 2016, 09:24 PM
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armando0176: Like Lbloom I also recommend the Hop On, Hop Off bus tour for an overview of the city since this is your first trip to Paris. You don't have much time in this very large, historic city, so you need to see as much as you can efficiently. After your overview, you can go back to the sights that pique your interest, as well as the most important sights in your guidebook. We have been on these bus tours in many cities -- Shanghai, Montreal, Quebec, Chicago, New York, Boston, and Barcelona. Some are better than others, but the concept is the same. In my opinion, if you follow your guidebook and try to see things on your own, you will not be able to see nearly as much as if you have some guidance. You don't have the luxury of time on this trip.
burta is offline  
Aug 19th, 2016, 12:25 AM
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I've been on a few Context Travel tours, which are led by experts in architecture, art, culture, etc. These are very small group tours for people who are interested in more in-depth learning than just walking around and being entertained. Prices around 90 per person, so not cheap, but the tour guides are very personable and know their stuff.
There is a variety of tours available on their website:
fuzzbucket is offline  
Aug 21st, 2016, 05:31 PM
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Thank you all. Being that we arrive at 9:30am to Paris on Friday, September 16th and leave on Tuesday, September 20th after breakfast, do you all think it's doable to go to Versailles? My wife really wants to go but I'm not sure we have enough time knowing there is enough to do in Paris itself. Thoughts? If we go to Versailles, is it better on a weekday, such as the Monday that we will be in Paris? We thought we would go early to get there around 8:30am (if we go) Also, do you recommend audio tours, group tours. I don't want to break the bank unless it's really worth spending on a certain tour. Not sure what I should expect to pay. I know general admission is about $12 USD. Look forward to your thoughts.
armando0176 is offline  
Aug 21st, 2016, 05:46 PM
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I would also recommend the Paris walks tours. We took the French Revolution walk and found it very informative.
Going to Versailles is a personal matter. There is certainly more than enough to do in Paris and Versailles is a whole day trip... but it is your vacation.
Either way, enjoy!
giro is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2016, 05:00 AM
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Versailles is closed on Mondays.

If it's important to you, go. Yes, get there early. The 1st time we were there the weather was beautiful so after touring the palace on our own we spent a lot of time in the gardens, had lunch, and visited Marie A's little houses....... Our favorite part.

If the weather isn't good just seeing the palace will be enough and not take up the whole day. Audio tour or guided tour....your choice. It depends how much info you want. For us, going on our own worked.
TPAYT is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2016, 05:48 AM
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If you really want to get the full effect of Versailles and its gardens, you should expect to spend at least 8 hours there, plus travel time of about an hour or so. Since you can't go on Monday, you should know that weekends will be enormously crowded, since September is a very busy month.

You'll have to purchase 2 tickets per person for the RER (1 ticket each way per person), which cost 3.55 EU per ticket, so add 14.20 EU to the cost of going to Versailles.
fuzzbucket is offline  
Aug 22nd, 2016, 06:18 AM
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No need to decide about Versailles now. Leave it as an option when you're on your trip and decide then.

In fact that's my general approach to city touring. Make a list of possibilities (with open days and times). Then just do what you feel like and what the weather dictates.
Mimar is offline  

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