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Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

washington, dc
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Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

Hi - we're planning on our first trip to Paris. We have 5 full days there, and i'm trying to plan some general itineraries, and i'm completely lost! We are going to be at the Paris Marriott on the Champs Elysees for the first 3 days, and then at the Renaissance La Defense for the next 2 days. We have no idea how to even start an itinerary - we get there at 7am on Dec 27th and leave the morning of Jan 1. Any suggestions? I've gone through tons of message posts suggesting itineraries and must see's, but have no idea what are good itineraries or not. PLEASE HELP!!!!!

London, UK
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1. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

Why bother with an itinerary? Why not just pick the things you want to see and decide on the day where to go. It is a holiday after all, not regimented army training.

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2. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

I suggest making a list of things that you want to see in Paris - the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame etc. and working out your schedule from that using a good city map.

Otherwise, look at the Fodors or Frommer guides to Paris as they both have detailed itineraries for different lengths of stay. I found the Fodors guide very useful during my first couple of stays in Paris.

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3. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

1. buy a guidebook and a map

2. make a list of places / museums, etc you want to see

(note: if you don't have time for a book, go to "Destinations" section of Fodors.com and Frommers.com and print the sightseeing list, or the "if you have 5 days in Paris" list...)

3. find them on the map

4. group them in logical geographic areas

5. check for 'closed' days for any museums

6. now - clean up the list. You don't want to do more than 2 museums per day. You may not want to do more than 3 or so total for your entire trip. Of those, try to choose museums with very different exhibits.

7. make a list of activities, such as 'Seine cruise', 'climb Eiffel', etc.

8. put one or two of those (at most) on each day, espec. if they "fit" with the area you've planned

9. make a short list of restaurants that sound good (plenty of recs. on this forum; ask your hotel to make some recommendations

10. Don't try to squeeze in too much. The purpose of the above steps is to save time on your trip so you don't say 'what do you want to do now?' .... 'I don't know, what do YOU want to do?'...

Just know that you might not see everything or go everywhere you planned. It's ok, happens all the time.

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

The above post is dead on! Before my wife and I went to Paris in August (for five days), I was frantically looking for itineraries. TRUST ME....The best thing to do is just as the other poster (travelnutty) said...pick areas...designate one per day...and then just get lost. I know that that is hard to commit to, but it is completely worth it. You know that you're going to want to see the eiffel tower, so plan a half day in the 7th, and then wonder up the Camps Elysees for the rest. Don't walk around with your face in a guide book...Paris is far too beautiful for that. The more free time you have to wonder, the happier you'll be.

I would also suggest finding a couple of restaurants in each of these areas just in case, but one of the most fun things to do is to meander through the latin quarter and find a restaurant all on your own.

You will have an amazing trip!

For five days...here's kind of what we did..

1- 7th and Champs Elysees

2- Opera and Louvre

3- The islands (Notre Dame) and the latin Quarter

4- Marais and the right bank

5- Montmarte

Taunton, Somerset...
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5. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

Was in exactly the same posistion several years ago. As for an itinerary. I fully understand the need for forward planning. I found the Dorling Kinersley book on paris excellant. Saved my wife and I travelling across Paris only to return as we missed something. Pick a quarter in Paris and work out what you want to visit in that area. Be sure that you take time out to actually sit and enjoy Paris street life.

A few quiet hours in Pere Lacaise is truely memorable. Don't overdo it...just injoy Paris and plan a return trip to catch the things you missed. Try and take too much in and you've wasted a trip to the most romantic city in the world.

Adrian, Michigan
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6. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

Without an itinerary or any sort of plan, you have the distinct advantage of staying in a hotel for your first three days that will make your life really easy....exit out the front door and turn right and you'll eventually run into the Arc of Triomphe. Turn left out the entrance and you'll eventually bump into the Louvre. On the way, in either direction, you'll pass all kinds of interesting places, including great museums, shops and places to eat. You could quite honestly spend all three of your days at the Marriott doing this and you won't run out of things to do, and you won't even have to stray from the Champs Elysees....although you could....just to explore....

Atlanta, Georgia
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7. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

Travelnutty's advice is great! Make sure you leave time to just walk and explore different neighborhoods, such as the Latin Quarter, St. Germain des Pres and the Marais (good on a Sunday because most stores are open there).

Paris is such a walking city, and I find the greatest experiences not in the museums but in exploring neighborhoods. It may be cold, but just bundle up, and you should be fine.

Simi Valley, CA
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8. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

I know you have only 5 days to visit this wonderous city and you probably want to 'do it all', but I believe the best advice to give is strongly suggest you do not overplan. Don't try to cram too much into your itinerary. If you do, you will most likely find yourself checking your watch and worried about catching the next activity instead of enjoying what is in front of you.

You probably have a pretty good idea of the major sites/activities you want to partake in, so I won't bother with any suggestions. Chances are, whatever you do or see will be a great choice. But again, don't try to overdo it. It could very well have the exact opposite effect of what you're seeking, and what I assume you're seeking by visiting Paris for the first time is to walk away feeling you 've just had a once-in-a lifetime experience.

And that's the way it should be.

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9. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

If you read through some trip reports on Paris, Rome or Venice etc, 2 words stands out (these are in jclayton's post in this thread too), namely, GET LOST. Getting lost sharpens your senses, forces you to look at the architecture, neighbourhoods, churches, markets, parks incl cemetries, listen to children's laughs in playgrounds, let your nose lead you to the local bistro when you are hungry. Wander and discover, your adventure in Paris is what you want to put into your memory. Don't be afraid of missing this or that. You'll not be able to complete a worthy list in 50 days let alone 5.

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10. Re: Planning for Paris 1st time - overwhelmed, please help!

I agree. I have gotten lost here in Paris so far a few times and I always end up turning a corner and going whoah! check that out. I agree get lost.