Planning a Paris trip

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Paris! Almost everyone has Paris on top of their mind while making a wish list of cities to visit in Europe. It is ideal to visit as a student, as a couple, with your family, if you love fashion, if you love architecture, if you love history, if you love monumental buildings, if you want to taste the much celebrated french cuisine and above all just because Paree is spectacular!!

One thing to understand is covering everything that Paris offers in a short trip is almost impossible. It offers several experiences and places to explore that one has to make choices when one plans a Paris trip. So, one has to customize their trip according to their preferences at the end of the day. Here is an itinerary of our family trip.

Things to consider for our trip

Choice of Airport and airport transfer is something you can consider while booking the tickets. Paris – CDG (Charles de Gaulle) is largest international airport in France and second largest in Europe. While booking the tickets, be aware Paris-Orly airport can also appear in choices and that you are booking the ticket from your preferred choice. Select the airport transfer based on your accommodation as well as nearest train station.

Modes of Transport and Airport transfer Paris is well connected via metro, bus, trams,taxis and RER regional trains. Since airports are away from the city. RER trains are easiest way to travel to city.

For eg. one way ticket using RER B (blue) line from CDG airport to Gare du Nord will cost 10.30 euros and require 40 minutes. But, if you are a family of four with luggage, taxis will cost you also about 50 euros for similar time span. Hence, choose your transport according to convenience.

There are seven major train stations in Paris with Gare Du Nord, Gare de l’est and Gare de Lyon being the most used ones. A single journey within Paris city will cost only 1.90 euro per person by metro, train, tram or RER. More info can be found on this website.

Place of accommodation should be affordable yet well located – Paris is huge yet well connected, stay close to train/ metro stations at least to minimize the time in travel.

We stayed at IBIS Paris Gare du Nord Chateau Landon 10ème Hotel and found it very convenient to move about for the three day stay.

If I remember right, we got a SAS deal with our flight booking which was very helpful. Keep an eye on combined air flight+hotel offers as well, they can be helpful sometimes.

Total trip days 3 days! Ideal number of days to spend your Easter holidays or part of your summer holidays. There is no right or wrong number to explore Paris, as I said there is so much to see that one has to revisit to explore more.

Itinerary of our trip

Day 1: Open Bus tour and a boat ride + explored Notre-Dame + exploring Paris by night (boat ride)

Day 2: Eiffel tower tour and Louvre Museum

Day 3: Time spent at Sacré-Cœur , Montmartre and Place du Tertre

Option 1: If you are a family, may be your kids want to visit Disneyland then it would take a day trip outside the actual city of Paris. Hence, Day 3 can be dedicated for this activity. I have heard not even an entire day is enough for this tour. RER A train from Paris Gare de Lyon will take around 40 minutes to Gare de Marne la Vallée Chessy station nearest to Disneyland.

Option 2: On the other hand if you are a student visiting with friends just planning a weekend trip then I would prioritize Eiffel tower, Arch de Triomphe, Louvre Museum and Notre-Dame,

Booking an open bus tour

Open bus tours are a wonderful way to explore Paris. These bus tours have multiple bus lines covering every corner of the city. We booked Le Open tour (now called as Open tour bus) for a day along with the combination of an hour long boat ride with Bateaux Mouches. It costed 39 euros. There are other bus companies like the Red Bus which had higher ticket prices. Red bus tickets are also available as part of Paris Pass.

We enjoyed a wonderful time exploring Paris on a sunny day, we got off the bus when we wanted to explore or change routes. Your bus ticket is provided with a map which shows different color (blue, green, yellow) routes it covers and earphones to hear the guided tour while travelling on that route. These hop-on hop-off buses are very convenient as they cover almost all everything to see within Paris. Cons of such bus tours is waiting for the bus if they are crowded and getting upper deck seat. Start early morning to make the most of these bus tour tickets. These tickets can be booked online in advance. Show the booking QR code on the bus, the actual tickets will be handed to you and thus begins the day of bus travel.

Booking for Eiffel tower

  • To avoid the massive lines to visit Eiffel tower, book your ticket online. Remember to bring the printed version of the ticket or a ticket on phone with clear visible bar code. It is convenient, has a separate entrance for online ticket owners.
  • Water bottles are not allowed, so don’t carry them they will be thrown out by the security. Buy the bottles within the premises.
  • There is free WiFi available on the tower after entering your email address.
  • Prices of the tour had changed from 14 euros (2012) to 17 euros (2016) and now are as high as 25 euros to reach the extreme top since January 2019.
Photography from the Trocadero gardens
One of the views from the top of Eiffel tower

Louvre Museum

  • Louvre museum is a time consuming place to be, allocate enough time for it’s visit. For them online ticket is expensive compared to the ‘on-the-spot ticket’, which is different than most monuments.
  • Tickets are valid for a specific day and time to enter the museum.
  • Louvre museum has ground plus two floors as well as the underground floor to explore.
  • Each floor has different sets of sculptures, antiques and paintings. Mona Lisa was situated on 1st floor (at least back in 2012). You will be surprised to see how small the actual painting looks! 🙂 Nearest Metro station to reach Louvre is Palais Royal- Musee du Louvr

Arc de Triomphe and Champs Elysees

Walk on Champs Elysees avenue towards Arc de Triomphe is a leisurely thing to do, specially because it is a 2 km walk spanning from Place de la Concorde on one end and Arc de Triomphe on the other. This avenue has cafes, luxury shops, museums, theatres and restaurants. Rightly called as a Shopper’s paradise – all well known luxury brands have their shops on this avenue hence a shopping heaven for the luxury shoppers! One can also climb Arc de Triomphe which gives a spectacular view of Champs Elysees and the Paris city.

Don’t plan this one on the day you take a bus tour, may be couple it with any other half day activity like exploring Eiffel tower which will be less hectic. Don’t plan a Louvre and Champs Elysees together.

Arc de Triomphe –

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

15 to 20 minutes minute wait is worth the time required to enter this masterpiece of french Gothic architecture. There are no entry fees for this Cathedral, but the lines are long to enter. As I said earlier we covered this on the day of Bus tour, we stopped at this spot, explored the cathedral, had lunch in nearby restaurants and continued with a new bus line. The ambiance around the cathedral is lively as a river lies close to it and you can see tourists and locals just hanging on the banks of river. The architecture, intricate details of rose windows, stained glass figures, outer facades give ample opportunity to picture this amazing architecture.

This is comparatively a fast visit, will take hardly an hour or so, you can combine this with any other time consuming activity of Paris. In fact we completed this on the day of our bus tour with our lunch break.

North Rose window

Sacré-Cœur , Montmartre and Place du Tertre

Montmartre is a hill in Paris which can be climbed using a funicular or using the stairs. On top of the hill is Sacré-Cœur Basilica, second most viewed monument in Paris. Also close to this Basilica is Place du Tertre, a square where several artists display live paintings, caricatures and artwork. It’s definitely worth a visit. The entire Montmartre area is filled with cafes, restaurants, chocolate shops, cute shops and there is plenty to explore.

We had personally kept a calm day for this part, it took us easily 3 to 4 hours after our breakfast, to reach here, climb the hill, explore the shops, eat lunch, enjoy the artistic work, visit Sacre Coeur and return to the city.

Sacré-Cœur
Artists of Place du Tertre

Points to remember

  • Pick up a few french words to flaunt in shops, hotels and cafes with a smile for an even better experience.
  • Check the mood of the city few days before you reach, it’s better to be aware of upcoming strikes or disturbances.
  • Beware of pickpockets, always keep a track of your luggage/purses even when in crowded metros.
  • Street vendors can be persuasive, practice your sweet yet firm ‘No’ if you don’t want to buy.
  • Remember to pamper your sweet tooth (macaron, crepes, Eclair au chocolat, authentic croissants). There are plenty of street vendors, when you have so much to cover in a single day, they are a very welcome respite.
  • It is crowded city, so give enough time for each activity. Everything takes time.

Plan your Paris trip in advance and enjoy at least few of the most popular locations to create memories forever. At the end of the day, have a great experience in Paris and just be assured That’s What Makes Paris Paree’.

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