Every time we think we’ve written or read it all about Paris, the French capital turns a slightly different profile, enchanting us all over again. One of the world’s most visited cities, it can be a challenge in high season to remember you’re on vacation. Of course, you want to see it all on your Paris vacation! The problem is, so do many of the other 16 million visitors Paris gets each year. High season queues are long, and local tempers have been known to fray.
If it is your first time in the City of Lights, consider one of these perfect Paris days to fill in your day at leisure. They’ve been designed to let you take in the city a bit at a time, still ensuring you see as many of the highlights as possible. If an attraction doesn’t pique your interest, skip it!
Grand Boulevards, Icons, and Shopping Streets
Arrive early at the Eiffel Tower, with pre-booked elevator tickets in hand if you want to go up. Then jump aboard a Seine Cruise to take in many of the city’s most famous landmarks from the river, a great way to get acquainted with the city in a short time, or inspire the rest of your sightseeing. Stroll through the Champs de Mars before paying your respects to Napoleon at Les Invalides, the former army hospital turned museum of French army history.
Right next door is Musee Rodin, where you can admire many of the master’s works. It goes without saying, don’t miss the sculpture garden, even in winter. A short walk over the Pont Alexandre III brings you to the incredible Grand Palais and Petit Palais. Take your time gawking at the architecture before reaching the famous Champs Elysees. Arguably the world’s most famous shopping street, strolling this grand boulevard is a Paris must-do on your France vacation.
Try to reach the Arc de Triomphe for sunset if you can, and watch the City of Lights come alive one neighbourhood at a time from the observation deck. The climb will double as your exercise for the day! If you have time after dinner, swing around to Place du Trocadero to admire the Eiffel Tower once more, this time shining in its evening finery.
Genius and Charm on the Left Bank
Start the day at Musee d’Orsay before things get too busy. Many come away remembering it as their favourite museum on their Paris vacation, packed with great – mostly French – modern masters, yet small enough to navigate in a single morning. Afterwards, stroll the banks of the Seine back to the Latin Quarter, keeping your eyes peeled for a not-too-touristy brasserie for lunch. Alternatively, pick up some wine, cheese, and bread from a local grocer and take your picnic to Luxembourg Gardens.
The Latin Quarter rewards aimless wandering, though it’s definitely worth swinging by the Pantheon. Just be sure to leave time for the Towers of Notre Dame. The inside of Paris’ grand dame cathedral is beautiful, but it’s the history and view from the rooftop that lift it into legend. If you still have time, take in the stained glass windows of Sainte Chapelle, a short walk away.
In the evening, take your pick of the abundant pre-fixe menus and cocktails in the Latin Quarter, or the Marais.
The Glamour and Artistry of Paris
Arrive early at The Louvre and try to see its star attractions first, before the crowds swarm in. Nobody sees it all in one go, so don’t push yourself so hard you leave tired and grumpy. One popular strategy is to follow a roundabout route that visits both the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, then leave. This may lose you the respect of hardcore art fanatics everywhere, but it will take you by hundreds and hundreds of astonishing pieces, and give you an appreciation of The Louvre itself, while ensuring you don’t miss its two biggest attractions on your Paris vacation.
In the afternoon, head to the Palais Garnier, Paris’ exquisite opera house. It’s found within a block of famed department store Galeries Lafayette, if you feel like more shopping. Spend the balance of the afternoon exploring Bohemian Montmartre. A walking tour is ideal, since this will reveal sides to the neighbourhood you’re likely to miss as a visitor.
Take in the sunset view from Sacre Coeur steps and roam Place du Tertre, before choosing from countless local dinner options. Locals strongly suggest getting away from the main square and streets and looking for family-run restaurants. Book tickets for the Moulin Rouge if you really want to splurge.
Offbeat and Creative Paris
Head to The Catacombs of Paris this morning. With luck, you should get straight in, if on a trip to Paris during low season. If not, take a timed entry ticket and fill in your wait exploring the attractive surrounding neighbourhood. When you’re done looking in on Paris’ 6 million subterranean deceased, hop the metro to Pere Lachaise Cemetery, where you can pay your respects to its biggest stars – either by birth or association – including Maria Callas, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison.
Spend the afternoon in Le Marais, a trendy and popular district containing several museums including the National Museum of Modern Art in the mind-bending Pompidou Centre. Picasso fans will want to head to the Picasso National Museum instead – or as well. If you haven’t paid them a visit already, you’re a stone’s throw here from Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle.
As with your “Left Bank” day on your Paris vacation, spend the evening enjoying dinner and drinks in the Marais (also the heart of LGBT Paris) or across the Seine in the Latin Quarter.
Four Perfect Days for Your London Vacation