There are frequent questions about possible itineraries for just a few days in Paris. Here are some ideas.

PASSES

Museums

http://en.parismuseumpass.com  Having a pass allows you to skip the queue in most situations (not the towers of Notre Dame) and to visit so many museums even just to pop in to see one thing.

Travel

Carnets (10 tickets) allow travel on the metro and buses. In the metro you can make changes to other lines and your ticket expires only after you exit the metro system. (Keep the ticket until you exit.) One bus journey may allow a change provided you are within the 90 minute validity of the ticket.

Travellers can purchase Paris Visite Passes but they may not be worthwhile. You need more than five trips a day to make them economical. For Monday to Monday stays, try a Navigo Decouverte pass.

The buses are excellent. They all have maps of the line they serve, electronic displays of the next stop and all stops are named, so it is easy to plan and to get off at the right place. Plus you see Paris as you travel.

ITINERARIES

Day 1

Notre Dame> Ste Chapelle> Isle St Louis

If you want to climb the towers (fee or Museum Pass) of Notre Dame to be among the gargoyles, begin by lining up no later than 9am. Line forms to the left of the church. Entry begins at 10am.
Visit the church and especially admire the stained glass and rose windows, and walk behind the altar through the ambulatory to see the scenes carved in the stone.

There is a charming square behind Notre Dame, Jean XXIII. Again behind that, and at the tip of the island, is the Monument to the Deportation of Jews from Paris Very simple and moving.

In the square in front of the cathedral is the point from which all distances are measured in France. There is an underground excavation of the Crypt of Paris. Not terribly exciting, very hot. OK if you have time and can go in on a free pass.

Walk across the main square and go a bit to the right, walking through the flower and bird market and heading for the spire of Ste Chapelle. To get to Ste Chapelle you must go through the doorway of the Palais de Justice so there is a security scan and often a queue.

Ste Chapelle  (fee or Museum Pass) is an extraordinary double level church, beautifully painted and gilded below and made almost entirely of stained glass above. Built to house the “crown of thorns” by King Louis. Fabulous place for photos of the glass but also of the angels and saints. (remember to drop the exposure by a stop for the stained glass) There are music evenings in Ste Chapelle and you can buy tickets just over the road from the chapel or on-line ahead of time. It is no longer a church. Finished here you could visit the Conciergerie (fee or Museum Pass) if that appeals.

Now wander over to Isle St Louis. Time for Berthillon Ice cream. You can buy it in lots of places but the nicest is to sit in the shop itself (closed Monday/Tuesday and perhaps for all August). The fruit flavours are incredibly intense. Try the cassis and framboise.

Wander the main street. There is a chocolate shop, a foie gras shop, a cheese shop,  Pylones which sells incredible painted homewares, a very nice scarf shop, a number of galleries and jewellery and gift shops. On the streets along the quai (if you read French) you can read the blue signs on the houses that tell of famous people who lived there.

Visit the church of St Louis en L’Isle with its lacy spire and iron clock over the street. It has been recently restored and is absolutely gorgeous. Look for the organ and the delicate paintings at the back of the church.

Day 2

Arc de Triomphe > Place de la Concorde> Orangerie>Tuileries garden> Louvre> Palais Royal> Angelinas

You can start this at Etoile and visit the Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees first, but that makes a very long walk. Alternatively you can pop into the Metro at Charless de Gaulle/Etoile and out again at Concorde, taking line 1 towards Chateau de Vicennes.

If you don’t start with a walk from the Arc, begin the day at the Place de la Concorde which is one place where they used to guillotine people. The fountains are lovely if a bit kitsch, and deserve some photos. Admire the obelisk that was a gift from Egypt and has scenes on the side about how they transported it. Look also for the meridian line that runs up to it. This was to have been the 0〫meridian but it went to Greenwich instead.  Look nearby also for the Arago medallions. 135 of these run across Paris and are a memorial to François Arago who calculated the meridian. (called the Hidden Memorial)

Inside the gates and up to the right is the Orangerie Museum (fee and queue or museum pass). Inside are two huge oval rooms under natural light, each with four paintings of Monet’s waterlilies. So you sit in the middle, immersed. Stunning! Beneath is a gallery of Impressionist paintings. It feels a bit closed-in but is well worth a visit as the paintings are well curated and tell a developmental story. See how the two girls often painted by Renoir seem to grow up on the walls as you meet each new painting.

Outside, continue to walk through the gardens of the Tuileries, maybe stopping at the outdoor café, sitting by the round pond or floating a toy boat. Off to your right some glimpses of the Eiffel Tower and to the left often a ferris wheel from a small fun fair. Take the traditional photo of Diana with a ferris wheel halo.

Walk around the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and you are facing the Louvre with its entrance pyramid. If you have a pass you can enter (closed Tuesdays, free first Sundays) or you may need to queue for a ticket. You can also enter from the Carousel du Louvre and get tickets at a machine. Almost no queues that way. Have a look in the basement at the excavations of the original Louvre castle.

After the Louvre, walk to the left towards the city, across the Rue de Rivoli and past the Hotel du Louvre. Admire the wacky Metro station entrance here. Cross the next road and walk to the area of the Palais Royal. Here you will first see the art installation of striped columns by Daniel Buren. Take a photo of someone sitting on a column. Visit the garden, which looks private but is not and is absolutely beautiful. They fire a tiny cannon at midday. Again, this is on the Paris meridian. Have a rest here.

Then there is the lovely arcade of shops, including Le Grand Vefour restaurant, the first restaurant in Paris. VERY expensive. Napoleon and Josephine apparently ate here. All the rest of the shops are just so French, little jewels of places selling gorgeous things. Window shop.

This area seems to have been rather spoiled recently by the addition of a yellow wood building for the Comédie Française. It is named the Théâtre éphémère de la Comédie Française and is, thank heavens, temporary wile the original undergoes renovations.

Go back to Rue de Rivoli and turn right. Down this street is the fun fair near Rue Saint-Roche but also, at 226, Angelina’s Salon de Thé famous for its hot chocolate and its chestnut puree meringue (l’africain and mont-blanc). There may be queues but apparently they move quickly.

Further days or add ons to the other days

More a collection of things not to be missed, or fun things to look for, rather than an itinerary.

Get the metro to Trocadero and walk to the left, between the golden statues of the Palais de Chaillot. There before you is the Eiffel Tower. View from the belvedere. Then walk down through the gardens and fountains, across the bridge, to stand underneath it. A much nicer introduction than getting off at Bir Hakeim. If you want to go up, best to have booked tickets and a time in advance to avoid queues. (E13.10 to the top floor) Eiffel Tower Tickets Note that the tower twinkles for the first 10 minutes after the hour at night and that sometimes this can be the best time to meet the tower at Trocadero, especially for first time visitors.

Musee d’Orsay is AMAZING. (closed Mondays)  (fee and queue or Museum Pass) Built into an old railway station it is filled with Impressionist and post Impressionist art, everything from art deco furniture to Cezannes and Degas to a favourite, Pompon’s polar bear. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pom...  The café here is well regarded and you look out through the old railway clock to scenes of Paris. Great for photos.

The Centre Pompidou (fee or museum Pass) (Closed Tuesdays) should be seen from the outside at least. It is filled with very modern art. Great view from the external escalators and the roof. Nice plaza in front and a nice restaurant/café on the roof. Nearby is the beautiful Place des Vosges, a very large square where all the houses match. Graceful architecture and nice for a place for lunch but a bit expensive. You may picnic on the grass also, though some sections may be “resting”.

Other museums to consider are Rodin (both gardens and the house), Picasso, Marmottan (Impressionists), Cluny (The lady and the unicorn tapestries are here) The private museum of Jaquemart- André is full of things a rich person can do and buy and very worthwhile. Some are entranced by the Musée des Armées or Napoleon’s tomb at the Invalides, but others dislike it.

You may like to visit the Musée d'Arts et Métiers also (science machines), but make sure you get an audio guide. The information in the rooms is useless. Do try to see the metro for this place. Like a copper submarine. Not time for them all of course. Most are on the Museum pass.

Nearby are foodie heaven places, like a truffle shop, an Alain Senderens restaurant, Hediard the grocer to the glitterati and very rich (due to close soon), Fauchon (two stores) including the most fabulous prepared foods ready to take home and pop in the oven for your dinner, the other chocs, wines, jams. You can then wander into Place Vendome (huge column in the middle) and laugh at the prices in the jewellery shops. The Ritz is in the corner. Don’t expect to be admitted.

Other churches include St Eustache, one of the few true Gothic churches in Paris, near the old market sites of Les Halles (and quite close to Centre Pompidou). It sometimes has organ recitals. And St Sulpice, featured in The Da Vinci Code.

Visit the Arc de Triomphe. (fee or Paris Museum pass) Entry is via an underpass somewhere on the outside part of the road. You can climb the stairs to the top for a view down the Champs Elysees if you wish. There is a lift most of the way for the infirm but still stairs at the top. By all means wander down the Champs. Admire the pretty shops and the gorgeous car showrooms. Avoid all restaurants and cafes and shows as their prices are greatly inflated and the food is usually mediocre at best. An exception might be Laduree for its macaroons.

La Grande Arche de la Défense. Take the metro here and marvel at this arch, on a line to the Arc de Triomphe right down the Champs Elysees. Built of white marble, it is an office block. This is the office area of Paris. The only major high-rise inside the walls of Paris itself is the Tour Montparnasse. Some great modern architecture and photos.

The Grands Magasins, or big department stores, Galeries Lafayette and Le Printemps. Even if you don’t buy they are very beautiful. Both have domes of stained glass and the view from the roof at Le Printemps of Paris is recommended. The interior of the Palais Opera Garnier has to be seen to be believed. There are some guided tours in English, but the audioguide gives a very good account. The place is stunning with the grand foyer modelled on the hall of mirrors at Versailles.

If you have leisure time, a walk by the Canal St Martin is recommended. Rather hip and happening these days. The pretty iron bridges (remember Amelie skimming stones) and locks open for the tourist canal boats but you can get there by metro. Maybe Metro Jaures Jacques Bonsergent or Gare de l’Est.

Metro to St Michel. A very lively area, lots of young tourists and students, maybe a good place for a cheap evening meal if you want to meet up with young people. A nice view of Notre Dame across the river.

There are many parks and gardens, the nicest being perhaps Jardin du Luxembourg.  The huge Bois de Boulogne has a number of interesting areas but you have to know which bit you are heading for and public transport there is limited.

Montmartre, which has the most amazing villagey streets around the Abbesses area, great food shops and little boutiques, should really be experienced. Sacre Coeur basilica crowns the hill. The Place du Tertre nearby is over-run with tourists but is still a “must see” for some. The steps in front of Sacre Coeur are filled with people socialising and people trying to sell you stuff or put bracelets on your wrist for a fee.

If you have time, visit the monumental cemeteries such as Pere Lachaise where famous people are buried. Great for photos.

Fantastic market streets such as Rue Cler , Rue Montorgueil  and Rue Mouffetard and actual markets such as Richard Lenoir (great food and flowers) or Clignancourt (fabulous antiques as well as flea market stuff) on the days they are open, but they take a lot of time.

Market day information here http://marche.equipement.paris.fr/tou...

Take a day or night tour of the Seine. http://www.bateaux-mouches.fr/en

Warnings

Avoid Les Halles for any extended time, especially at night. The area around the centre and the park seems to have a number of vagrants. However, the shopping centre is huge and popular with young people and there are a number of cinemas. Lots of reconstruction there at the moment.

Avoid Bois du Boulogne at night, it may be unsafe as It is reputed to be the haunt of prostitutes and drug dealers at night.

Avoid anything enticing you in on the Bvd Clichy near Moulin Rouge, the Red Light district; safe enough but a rip off if you enter and very sleazy.

Steps in front of Sacre Coeur (the meringue on the hill) where people will try to put a woven bracelet on your wrist and then charge you for it or wrap a scarf around you and charge. Get used to smiling, making little eye contact and saying “Non, merci” Use the “stop” hand gesture if necessary but do not respond rudely. They are just trying to make a living. Same with the gold ring scam or the “Do you speak English?”, the petition girls or the small toy placed on your table to buy. Just say “Non, merci”.

St Dennis is the site of the burial of French Kings and is a lovely cathedral to visit, but the area might feel a little precarious at night and there were riots nearby at one stage. Be happy to visit but avoid at night.

Keep bags protected in the Metro. Think how safe they will be if your hands are suddenly occupied to balance yourself or protect yourself and secure your valuables accordingly. It is usually recommend to have two barriers between an opportunistic thief and your wallet or iphone. You are unlikely to physically accosted but yell if you are. And don’t put bags on chairs or the floor when eating. Secure them with a chair leg under the table and keep between your feet.

 

SOME MORE INFORMATION

Hidden things

 Look for the hidden things of Paris.

·       The Arago  medallions, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paris_Me...

·       The Covered Passages www.frommers.com/articles/6441.html

·       The space invader mosaics that people put up on buildings http://tinyurl.com/7983ks5

·       The dragon sculpture at Place Augusta Holmes http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Ddf...  

·       The paintings on houses in unexpected places, like this  http://kishaniperera.com/wp-content/u...