Top five must dos in Paris

Apr 8th, 2007, 01:37 PM
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Top five must dos in Paris

My wife and I are thinking about visiting Paris in August. We realize we might not get a chance to get back to France again. Therefore, what are your top five things you would suggest we must do while there? By the way, airfare from Boston right now is over $1000. Is that normal? Thanks for any replies.
Kraig is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 01:40 PM
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Hi K,

August is peak season, airfares are higher than in April or Nov.

>Top five must dos in Paris

You could start by looking up Paris under "Destinations".

ira is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 01:59 PM
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degas is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 02:19 PM
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Don't know your interests, but some things to see:

Notre Dame
Ste. Chappelle
Montmartre/Sacre Coeur
Many other churches

Eiffel Tower
Arc de Triomphe
Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore on the Seine

The Louvre


Cafes for people watching

Walking in different areas; e.g., St. Germain des Pres

Boat ride on the Seine

carolyn is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 02:37 PM
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Here's a walking tour I've put together that I call "The Heart of Paris."

This is an orientation tour you can take your first day upon arriving in Paris. Even though you may be jet-lagged, it’s best to stay awake until after dinner, and the best way to do that is to get some exercise. Walking is the best! Leave your bags at the hotel, and head to the nearest point on the following tour. The route takes you in a circle. Feel free to stop anywhere along the way for a light lunch, or spend some time sitting at a sidewalk cafe.

1. The Jardin des Tuileries is a large formal garden in the center of Paris featuring straight rows of trees, fountains, flower gardens, and people enjoying the lawns and benches. There’s even an operating ferris wheel in the summer. Go to the center of the garden to get your bearings. You will see, past the east end of the garden, the Louvre with the glass pyramid in front. Beyond the west end of the garden is the Place de la Concorde.

2. Head west to the Place de la Concorde. This is the largest square in Paris. Though the traffic can be very busy, cross to the obelisk in the center (if you dare!). This is square where, during the French Revolution, the guillotine beheaded numerous members of the French aristocracy. The 75-foot tall, 230 ton Obelisk of Luxor in the center of the square originally marked the entrance to the Amon temple at Luxor. It was given to France by the viceroy of Egypt.

+ Look to the west. Between the twin “Horses of Marly” you will see the beginning of the Champs Elysees, the broad avenue heading up to the Arc du Triomphe.

+ Looking to the north, you will see twin hotels on either side of the rue Royale, the five-star Hotel Crillon to the left and the matching Naval Ministry to the right, framing the Eglise de la Madeleine.

+ Looking to the south, you will see the Pont de la Concorde and, on the other side of the river, the Palais Bourbon, the home of the Assemblée Nationale de France.

+ Looking to the east, at either corner of the Tuilleries, you will see, on the left, the Jeu de Paume which formerly housed a great collection of Impressionist art and, on the right, the Orangerie, formerly the home of Monet’s Water Lilies.

3. Walk back through the Jardin des Tuilleries on the pathway closest to the Seine. You will come to a pedestrian walkway on the right, the Passerelle Solferino. Use it to cross the Seine to the “left bank.” Turn left, and begin walking to the east. Across the street is the Musee d’Orsay. Formerly the Gare d’Orsay, this large train station was converted into a large museum that holds the world’s greatest collection of modern French art dating from 1848 to 1914, featuring especially the works of the French Impressionists, Claude Monet, Eduard Manet, August Renoir, and Edgar Degas.

4. As you continue to walk along the Seine, notice the bookinistes, stands that sell used books, posters, postcards, and other merchandise. These are a Parisian institution.

5. After walking about a half mile, you will come to the Pont Neuf (the “new bridge”). Despite its name, it is actually the oldest bridge in Paris. Construction started in 1578 and was finished in 1606.

6. Keep walking along the Seine. You will pass the pont St Michel, the Petit Pont, and come finally to the pont au Double. Cross the street (le quai de Montebello) and turn left. Look for Shakespeare & Company at 37 rue de la Bucherie. This is a bookstore that sells English literature. If you need to stock up on reading material for your flight back home, there are bookshelves of used paperbacks at bargain prices outside the store (in good weather). This is the bookstore in which a scene from Before Sunset was filmed.

7. Walk to the right and behind the bookstore. You will come to the Square Rene-Viviani, a shady small park graced with lime trees, lilac bushes, and a false acacia planted in 1601. It is said to be the oldest tree in Paris. The square offers a superb view of Notre-Dame.

Go into the small church on the south side of the square, St-Julien-le-Pauvre. In the sixth century, this was the busiest intersection in Paris. The church now standing in this location was finished about the same time as Notre-Dame and, like its big sister across the Seine, marks a transition from Romanesque to Gothic architecture. In Romanesque architecture, buildings are supported by massive load-bearing walls. The interiors, as a consequence, are quite dark. You can identify Romanesque churches by their rounded Roman arches. Because Gothic architecture provides a completely different support system, large stained glass windows can be placed in the walls of churches. This allows much more light to come in. You can identify Gothic churches by their pointed arches.

8. Go back to the Seine and cross over to the Ile de la Cite. Walk towards Notre-Dame and go into the cathedral. Sit for awhile in one of the back pews, letting your eyes appreciate the upward thrust of the arches. Notice how they draw your vision upward, and let the architecture of the building do for you what the original architect intended: give you a sense of the transcendent. Walk through the church and admire the windows and the carvings.

9. When you leave the church, go around to the east side (behind the chancel). This is a beautiful small park called Square Jean XXIII, named after Pope John 23. Enjoy the park for awhile.

10. Then cross the street, quai de l’Archeveche, and go down the stone steps to the right. Here, at the eastern tip of the island, is an impressive memorial to the French victims of the Holocaust, Memorial des Martyrs Français de la Deportation. There is a moving display of 200,000 quartz pebbles commemorating the 200,000 French deported by the Nazis.

11. Time for an ice cream break! When you come back up the steps, turn to the right and cross the Pont St-Louis, going over to the other small island in the center of the Seine, Ile St-Louis. You will find a Berthillon ice cream stand at the first intersection you come to. Get a chocolate ice cream cone. Trust me. It’s the best ice cream you’ve ever had.

12. Cross back over the Pont St-Louis to the Ile de la Cite. Walk along the north side of Notre-Dame. In the block just past the cathedral, you will see the Hotel Dieu de Cite. Built in neo-Florentine style, this is the main hospital for central Paris. Go inside, and take a break in the courtyard within the complex. This is a beautiful, peaceful garden that very few tourists ever find.

13. Walk all the way to the western tip of the island. There is another beautiful small park here, the Place Dauphine. Enjoy the view of the Seine and of Paris.

14. Leave the Ile de la Cité by walking north on the Pont Neuf over to the “right bank,” and turn left. You will come to the Louvre, Napoleon’s palace, now a huge museum.

• Tip: when you plan to visit the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay, get a Museum Pass. One of the benefits is avoiding the long queues to buy tickets. Pass holders have a special entrance to the Louvre. It is to the north of the Pyramid in the Passage Richelieu.

• Another tip: Forget about the Mona Lisa (La Jaconde). All you’ll see is an immense group of tourists crowding around a tiny, plexi-glass covered painting. The best exhibit is the 19th century decorative arts on the first floor in the Richelieu wing. You can see the apartments of Napoleon III and other exhibits that display the [decadent] lifestyle that the wealthy of that time enjoyed.

15. Leave the Louvre on the north side, and continue your walk west along the rue de Rivoli. You will come back to the Jardin des Tuileries, where your tour of the heart of Paris began.

Hope you enjoyed your first day in Paris!

You can download a .pdf file of this tour at
travelhorizons is online now  
Apr 8th, 2007, 03:36 PM
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..the biggest must do is not to do! You cant hit what you think you should on a 1 day bus tour..and have the photos to prove it BUT instead pick something that interests you go and then walk or wander home...If you want the usual must do list see a video..The beauty of Paris is to buy Pariscope go to an exhibtion/concert of interest and the discover your own special memories.
travelbunny is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 03:37 PM
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..should read can
travelbunny is offline  
Apr 8th, 2007, 04:17 PM
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When I go to Paris, I choose from a menu, combining something from each of these categories:

1. Eat wonderful food. This can be done at neighborhood bistros, street markets, sidewalk cafes, ethnic restaurants, wine bars with crates of oysters stacked in front of the door, or Michelin starred restaurants. I have done all except the last.

2. See wonderful art. You have a choice of the Louvre for ancient art through the beginning of the nineteenth century, the Musee d'Orsay for the nineteenth century through the Impressionists, and the Pompidou Center for modern and contemporary works, as well as the smaller collections at the Musee Marmottan, Jaquemart-Andre (a private collection in a mansion, very good audio tour), the Orangerie (newly reopened after years of being closed), museums devoted to Picasso and Rodin and special exhibits at many museums throughout the city. Art galleries are fun, and you can find out which have openings while you are there to meet the artists.

3. Visit glorious churches. My top pick for this is Sainte Chapelle, with fabulous stained glass windows that appear to support the whole structure. Notre Dame is nearby and should be seen as well, inside and out, including the view of the rear with the flying buttresses, and it can be climbed for the views and the closeups of the gargoyles.

4. Listen to live music. See Pariscope, the weekly listings magazine on sale at news stands. There are concerts at Sainte Chapelle as well as many other churches, and you will see posters for these all over town. You can go to the opera or ballet at the old opera house (Palais Garnier) or the new one at the Bastille. There are also jazz clubs. A funky one in the Latin Quarter is Caveau des Oubliettes, in a basement under a bar with a real guillotine.

5. Shop for whatever interests you. There are antiques in several locations, flea markets, designer clothing, whatever. My favorite shopping experiences have been for sheet music, vintage decorative kitchen items, Provencal pottery, olive oil, French books and magazines, and CDs of French music.

As long as I do lots of fun and interesting things, I don't feel that I am missing anything. There is no way to see it all.

If you want specific suggestions in any of these areas, there are lots of people here with plenty of opinions.
Nikki is online now  
Apr 9th, 2007, 04:57 AM
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Kisses to Degas!

Welcome back.
SuzieCII is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 05:17 AM
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Airfares are high during the summer. Our flights to London and Athens in July are starting at around $1000 for London and around $1400 for Athens! Check the search engine periodically for cheapest flights.

Do: Take a guided highlights tour of the Louvre. It's too overwhelming for an unguided walk-through.

Do: Visit visit Musee d'Orsay

Do: Sainte-Chapelle

Do: Visit Sacre'-Coeur in the early evening

Do: The obvious...the Eiffle Tower, L'Arc de Triomphe & Notre Dame

Do: Versailles

Do: Walk, walk, walk..., eat, eat, eat..., and do it again and again....

If you have time, take a two day trip to the Loire Valley. The chateau are beautiful and the excursion into the countryside will be a nice relief from the city in August.
dgg is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 05:34 AM
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Well everybody has his or her own agenda for Paris. I think you must do what fits your set of interests.

I learned that lesson one year when I got all wrapped up in describing a strategy for the Louvre, the appeal of Musee d'Orsay, the uniqueness of the Rodin Museum, and on and on.

The laconic one sentence response to my effusive descriptions stopped me dead in my tracks: I hate art.

I got a second dose when I was prattling on to a different person about Vaux-le-Vicomte, Fontainebleau, Rambouillet, Versailles, et. al. when my "victim" asks rather sarcastically, "Got anything else?"

Ditto my description of a performance of Turandot at the Opera Bastille with Jane Eaglen, Patricia Racette, and Franco Farina. Jane who? What's a Puccini?
Some kind of pizza with mushrooms?

So I suggest reading a long list and then deciding what it is on that list you had just as soon do without.

One thing is for certain, Paris will induce you to walk.

I will make one observation about Paris and its sights. If the interior of Ste. Chapelle on a sunny day is not enough to impress you, then I think you indeed have to question why you are in Paris to begin with.

Paris has enough for just about everybody. If it doesn't, then you need not be there.
bob_brown is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 05:45 AM
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Point well taken Bob_Brown.
dgg is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 06:09 AM
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How long you and the Mrs. gonna be there, Kraig?

The reason I ask is because the Louvre is such a must-do that every traveler needs to experience it once in his/her lifetime. But man, it does eat up a day like you wouldn't believe.

And if I am to limit my 'must-dos' to a top 5, then I would round out my list with Ste. Chappelle (really pretty, trust me), Notre Dame (climb to the top!), the Opera Garnier (self-guided tour) and wandering through Monmartre up to Sacre Coure (bring a camera). All are very much worth your while.

Of course, there are at least a couple dozen other must-do's there that are almost equally worth your while. This is a good problem to have. Enjoy!
mr_go is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 06:18 AM
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Most tourists when they visit Paris miss out on "Invalides". It is the war museum (also Napoleon's tomb) and is a few minutes walk from the Metro station of the same name.

Note. Paris will be VERY busy in August with LONG queues at some places like the Eiffel Tower.
kaneda is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 06:30 AM
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Hi K,

My 0.02E worth:

Haussman designed Paris to awe and overwhelm the Rubes from the provinces.

He did it very well.

Then they added the Eiffel Tower, just in case.

One doesn't "do" Paris.

One walks around Paris and gawks.

Plan for one AM thing and for one PM thing each day. If you don't get to it, it doesn't matter.

Paris will still be Paris on your next visit, and the next, and the next...

"We will always have Paris".
ira is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 07:14 AM
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Take the Batobus at least once, preferably at sunset.

fall06 is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 08:50 AM
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My own list of "Must See" places:
• Take a night-time ride on the Seine (I highly recommend getting a pass for the Batobus, a hop-on-hop-off boat on the Seine that stops at the eight major tourist areas of Paris. It's a pretty way to get around, and a nice way to take a break between visits. It runs till about 10 p.m, but that varies by time of year. It's very inexpensive; I think out two-day unlimited adult pass was 13 EU apiece.)
•The Louvre (definitely worth it; at least a half day visit)
•Sainte-Chapelle (also worth it; an hour or so to visit, not including wait time)
•Notre Dame Cathedral (gotta see it, short visit)
•Champs-Elysees/Arc de Triomphe (again, gotta see it; disappointingly commercial street, though; investigate the other side streets for more charm)
•Sacre-Coeur (we didn't make it there)
•Sorbonne and Latin Quarter (also didn't have time to get there)
•Musee d’Orsay (definitely worth our half-day visit)
•Hotel des Invalides (didn't make it)
•Napoleon’s Tomb (didn't make it)
•Tuilerries (great for taking a quiet walk, or for a picnic)
•Ille St. Louis (great for finding little restaurants)
•The Marais area (interesting neighborhood, toured the free Musée Carnavalet, which was just ok)
•Eiffel Tower (gotta see it, preferably go to the top)

There's so much to do in Paris, you can't possibly see it all in one visit. But it's fun trying. . .
Apr 9th, 2007, 10:14 AM
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the advice given above fits my ideas of Paris and what to see.

I do, however, have one big rule that I developed about visiting Paris: Don't try to fill each day with "must see" ans "must do" items.

Allow time for Paris itself, for the city, the people, the culture, the sights and sounds. It is a city that unfolds as you go along your way. Unexpected events have a way of intervening; some of the "must sees" turn out to be more attractive than you had anticipated while others turn out to be a "why did I?"

I recall my first visit there in many years in 1999. I was determined not to repeat the mistakes of my first visit when the biggest blunder was that I didn't know what I was doing. As a result I had my list, carefully prioritized and marked on a map for geographic grouping purposes.

Well, hmm. Good idea in theory, but not so good in practice. Case in point: One Sunday we set out for the Musee d'Orsay. The idea was to arrive there early and then go on to see other sights we had so carefully listed.

Right after a bite of breakfast, we left our hotetl and walked toward Boulevard Raspail to take the bus. When we got to Raspial, we discovered a farmers' market in progresst. The result was that we spent over an hour browing the stalls of the market and got to the museum well after the line had stretched out for dozens of yards.

The destinations we had scheduled for after the Musee d'Orsay were of course crossed off the list. I am not sure now what they were, and it does not matter.

What matters is that we had long, interesting day because we let our schedule be flexible.

You will never see ALL of Paris because it keeps changing, even while you are there it seems. So, yes, have a list, but not a slavish one. Take your time, and give Paris a chance to unfold while you walk along.

One of the funniest events I recall just from ambling along occurred after we left the Musee Rodin one Sunday afternoon and were walking along Champs de Mars toward the Seine.

Some wreckless hotshot on a skateboard whizzed past us and clipped an older woman. The slight collision caused the hotshot and skatebord to become separated. The woman, who was not knocked off her feet, took temporary possession of the board and delivered a withering blast at the young guy. I could not understand anything she was saying but the meaning was perfectly clear.

At the climax of her tirade she administered a lusty kick (relatively speaking) to the skateboard and sent it sailing down some steps toward the Seine.

Lucky for the hotshot that Mia Hamm or Briana Scurry was not doing the kicking because the hotshot would have had the opportunity to go for a swim to recover his board.

Idle curiosity question: Do skakeboards float?

I hope the woman did not hurt her foot.

bob_brown is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 11:17 AM
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Hi Kraig!

I have been to Paris 3 times now and have yet to step foot into the Louvre(well, I did see the lower level where they excavated when adding the Pyramid). On my second trip there, I went to the d'Orsay to see the Impressionists and I was good for about an hour and a half! The Louvre seems so huge and, frankly, I don't want to be indoors that long when I'm in Paris. I sure I'll be "labeled" something, but I don't care! I may NEVER enter the Louvre, but the art that I have seen in the churches, shop windows, patisseries, boulangeries, people, restaurants, markets, bridges, music, food, and wine of Paris is my main focus. I do alot of walking while in Paris - have only done the Metro once or twice when with a local ... otherwise too intimidating, although my next trip, I AM going to conquer that mountain!



P.S. Just take the time to sit at a cafe and soak up the joy and life of Paris! That's a very important part of the experience.
luvparee is offline  
Apr 9th, 2007, 11:31 AM
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Great responses! I'm bookmarking - thank you.
bailey6325 is offline  

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