Just My Destination Guide: Paris – Part Two (Things To Do)
Just My Destination Guide – Paris, France
This is Part Two of my guide to Paris. If you missed Part One feel free to pop back and read it now, in this part I will explore some of the parts of Paris that I have visited and things that I think a first-timer to Paris should do.
Part Two: Things to Do in Paris
Things to See
Arc De Triomphe & Champs Élysées
Perhaps one of the most famous streets in the world and one of the most famous landmarks. The Arc de Triomphe (Arch of Triumph) stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle. It honours those who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Standing 50 meters high it is one of the tallest “triumphal arches” in existence. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Solider from World War I. It has an eternal flame which burns in memory of the dead who were never identified.
The Arc also stands in the middle of what is often regarded as the craziest roundabout in the world. A feat of pure insanity – somehow the traffic knows what to do and things “work”. To avoid making life any harder for the cars you are best to access the Arc via the underpass located at the Champs Élysées – the closest Metro Station is Charles de Gaulle – Étoile station. However if you are willing to take a bit of a walk I recommend exiting at the Metro – Concorde station at the start of the Champs-Élysées this will then let you get a great view all the way up to the Arc and to walk the length of the street to experience all the shops and sights. It is also worth taking a wander around at night, the Champs-Élysées lit up is a magical sight.
The Champs-Élysées – located in the 8th Arrondissement is the most famous street in the world and a destination for some of the most expensive shopping in the world. If you have a wallet full of unlimited credit cards you will really be able to got to town!
Unless you enjoy spending a lot of money it might be wise to avoid eating at any restaurants around this area – it is designed for people with way too much money (well by my standards anyway!)
Paris Art Galleries
Full disclosure – I am not an art expert or museum buff – I enjoy the work of the “majors” but I really don’t know a lot about it. That said there is scarcely another place on earth better to start your art education. Finding a museum in Paris will not be a problem – with over 60 of them scattered around the city – the main problem will be deciding which ones you are going to visit. If you are into art chances are you already have a mental list of places you want to visit, but if you are only a casual observer here are my Top 2 Museums to visit.
The Musee d’Orsay sits on the banks of the Seine, and was once the site of the Orsay railway station built around 1900. It displays art from the period 1848 to 1914. The Musee offers a diverse range of art including Painting Collections, Sculpture Collections, Photographic Collections and Architecture. The painting collection includes such famous artists as; Vincent van Gogh, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, and Claude Monet. That list is by no means exhaustive the museum is said to house the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world.
I have read that there is now a photography ban in place throughout the museum which means you will at least have time to enjoy the works without people taking endless pictures. The museum is open from 9:30am to 6pm daily which gives you plenty of time to work through the building. We went after lunch so had a few hours to wander around. Entrance fee is €11 per adult (concessions are available).
There are some amazing pieces of work in the Musee d’Orsay – including 86 paintings by Claude Money. My level of art education was 2 semesters in high school when it was compulsory to do “art”. The painting by Van Gogh – Bedroom in Arles was my nemesis, we were required to produce a copy. Suffice to say there was no risk of ever confusing mine for the original, that said however it has been permanently burned into my memory.
The crowds were not too bad the day we visited, during the busy periods however there can be quite a line to get in the door. The facility is quite large a building so can handle a fair crowd. Well worth a couple of hours – and thankfully with a photography ban now, just focus on enjoying the artwork and don’t worry about taking pictures of every piece (as some people did around us).
Getting to the Musee d’Orsay
The nearest Metro stop is likely Solferino, however it might be a nice walk to get off around Tuileries or even walk up the River Seine from Cite (Notre-Dame) and Pont Neuf.
If you want to avoid the ticket queues you can book your tickets only – there is a dedicated entrance for advance ticket holders – check out the Musee website for details.
Musee Du Louvre
This place is the big daddy of Paris Museums, the worlds largest and most-visited, with nearly 10 million people each year. The Louvre has over 73,000 sqm of exhibits so make sure you give yourself time and a comfy pair of shoes. There are collections here covering Egyptian Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities, Paintings, Sculptures and decorative arts It is said there are approximately 35,000 artworks on display.
The museum is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9am to 6pm. On the first Sunday of the Month admission is free at other times entry is €16 for Adults and is actually Free for visitors under the age of 18.
When we visited Paris we were on a pretty short timeline so didn’t really have the time to adequately explore and enjoy the Museum – it is definitely on our must visit list for next time – check out the following blog by DailyInt The Ten Best Things About The Louvre it perfectly explains why you need to find time in your schedule to check out the Louvre.
Situated right next to the Metro Station – Palais-Royal-Musee du Louvre station (line 1), it is pretty hard to miss the iconic Glass Pyramids and the spectacular architecture.
For more information and to explore the collections visit the Louvre website and plan your trip.
Notre-Dame de Paris
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is a Catholic cathedral – widely regarded as one of the greatest examples of French Gothic architecture, and is one of the most well known church buildings in the world. Notre-Dame is at the top of every “must see” list of Paris. Construction of the Cathedral started back in 1163 with the final elements added in 1345.
Entrance to the cathedral is free for visitors and as a Catholic Church you can also attend various services and liturgies throughout the week. Depending on when you are planning your visit the cathedral can be extremely busy but crowds usually move through quickly.
The Notre-Dame cathedral is located on the Ile de la Cite and the closest Metro would be Station Cite (Line 4). It is however central to many of the main sights of Paris so I can assure you that you will not miss it. Spend some time in the area to explore the streets surrounding the cathedral.
Sacre Coeur & Montmarte
If you are ready to explore a little bit more of Paris my next recommendation is to head up to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris (commonly known as Sacre-Coeur). Sitting atop the summit of Montmarte it is the highest point in the city of Paris and affords a stunning view of the city.
The easiest way to get to the Basilica is to catch the Metro to Anvers station and walk up Rue de Steinkerque towards the Funicular. If you are not keen on taking all the stairs the Furnicular is well worth the ride. The basilica offers amazing views day and night so make sure to visit in the evening as well.
While you are in the area why not explore the streets of Montmartre and nearby Pigalle. Pigalle was and is home to many of the Cabaret and topless shows, home to “Paris-by-night” – and the famous – Moulin Rouge. Yep that is the same place immortalised in the Baz Luhrmann moive of the same name. The famouse Paris Cabaret club is certainly a tourist trap, tickets to shows here are not particularly cheap running at approximately 150 Euro.
The Moulin Rouge has been a Paris icon since 1889 when it was founded by Charles Zidler, the iconic Red Windmill out the front is also one of the most photographed icons of Paris. The nearest Metro station is Blanche.
Le tour Eiffel (The Eiffel Tower)
Welcome to the most recognisable landmark in the world – the tallest structure in Paris – the most visited paid monument in the world – The Eiffel Tower. Yes this is one of THE most touristy things to do in Paris but with an average of 6-7 million people a year ascending it you wont be alone! The Eiffel Tower has stood alongside the River Seine on the Champ de Mars in Paris since 1889. It was erected as the entrance way to the 1889 World’s Fair and stands over 324 metres high.
During the busy summer months the lines to get up the tower can be quite long, I recommend getting there early in the morning so that you can be one of the first up when the tower opens at 9am. Alternatively go late in the afternoon (the last entry is at 11pm) the tower doesn’t close till around Midnight.
The tower has got a bad reputation over the years as being a haven for pickpockets – and to a point this is true. That said any place where you bring over 20,000 people per day together will tend to attract the unsavoury characters. The other problem of course are travellers who have no concept of their own personal safety, leaving bags on the ground whilst in line and not being aware of your circumstances tends to attract trouble. Just maintain your normal vigilance and you won’t run into any trouble.
To avoid the lines buy your tickets online direct from the Eiffel Tower website – the cost per adult is €15.50 which gives you lift access to the very top.
How to Get there
The closest Metro station to the tower is Bir-Hakeim which is on Line 6. Alternatively you can also get to the tower from the station Trocadero the walk down to the tower from here provides a fantastic view.
An alternative is to get off at Ecole Militaire Metro station and walk through the landscape park of Champ de Mars. A little further to walk but a really spectacular view of the tower.
Probably not something on the MUST-VISIT list for many visitors to Paris, for those with young children or just those “young-at-heart” a visit to Disneyland Paris (EuroDisney) is well worth a day of your time.
Located approximately 32km outside of Paris, Disneyland Paris offers over 4,800 acres of timeless childhood fun and memories. Following a familiar layout to many of the Disney properties worldwide the park is laid out as 5 unique “lands” with the central point being the spectacular Sleeping Beauty Castle.
Tickets to the park run at about €62 – €84 per adult and €55 – €77 per child. So definitely not a cheap day by any stretch. Also you will want to factor in the train journey.
The park does get EXTREMELY busy during peak periods – even when we visited which was a cold December day it was seriously busy. Some rides had over a 90 minute wait so definitely pack some comfy shoes.
My best advice for the day is have a plan – your hit list of top attractions you want to see. Check out the official Disney website for maps and lists of attractions.
How to get there
The easiest way to get to the park is via train – the RER Train will take you to Marne-la-Vallee – Chessy station in approximately 40-45minutes and tickets are about €7.60 per person.
Walk along the Seine
Lastly I just wanted to suggest one of the best ways to see Paris and experience its magic. And that is a walk along the banks of the River Seine. Just wander slowly along the river enjoying the bridges and artists along the way. Paris is a city best enjoyed at a leisurely pace – sure have your list of MUST-DOs but also allow yourself time to just enjoy life and enjoy Paris.
Get off the Metro somewhere central such as Saint-Michel and just wander around the districts.
So that is my Paris guide – I don’t for a moment claim it to be a definitive list of where to go or what to do but hope that it helps to pique your interest and give you some ideas to explore. Let me know what you thought or my guide in the comments below – also what is your favourite place in Paris? I would love to know.