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Paris in 4 Days

Map tips: each color represents a different day. Click a marker to learn more about the spot, and click the star in the map header to save the entire map under Your Places in Google Maps.

Day 1

  • Sacre Coeur Cathedral
  • Moulin Rouge

Took the RER from de Gaulle airport into the city center.  Depending on where you’re going in Paris, it could take 30-50 minutes but the RER is the cheapest way to get there from the airport. We stayed in a hotel right across the street from the Porte d’Orleans metro stop. Took the metro to Sacre Couer and Moulin Rouge (both are pretty far away from everything else). Sacre Coeur is beautiful, take some time to go in and also enjoy the view from the steps. Had dinner and called it an early day because we were pretty tired.

Day 2

  • Eiffel Tower
  • Hôtel des Invalides
  • Champs-Élysées
  • Arc de Triomphe

Started out the day at the Eiffel Tower. We climbed to the second level and didn’t go all the way up. I don’t think the view up top and the longer wait is worth it to be honest; the view from the second level is great because it’s open air and not fenced off.  Also, it looks cool to take a picture looking up the tower and walking through one of the “legs” is neat.  My recommendation is to save time and money and climb up to the second level.  We went past the Hotel des Invalides, which I think is a cool building but not necessary if going out of the way.

We then went to the Champs-Elysees, took a little break to people-watch at one of the street side cafes.  Ended the evening on the Arc de Triomphe (which is at the end of Champs-Elysees) – I think this has some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, especially at night when it’s all lit up.

Day 3

  • Louvre Museum
  • Sainte-Chapelle
  • Latin Quarter
  • Montparnasse Tower

Went to the Louvre even though we didn’t go in (neither of us are huge art fans). The pyramid and surrounding architecture are picture-worthy. We went to Sainte-Chapelle, which is one of my favorite things in Paris. The inside is simply beautiful, and there’s more glass than there is stone to support the roof. Make sure to check on restoration efforts, because if there’s a lot of scaffolding inside, might not be worth going in.

From there, we walked down La Seine (the river), took some pictures of the back of Notre Dame which is a great view that shouldn’t be missed. Ate in the Latin Quarter, which is another must-do, and then caught the subway to Montparnasse to go up the tower for the view at night. It’s kind of out of the way and expensive, so it’s hard to say it’s worth it. But the view is pretty nice.

Day 4: Notre Dame

Went to Notre Dame and went inside and climbed the tower. The view from up there is my favorite view of Paris and the gargoyles are awesome. Ate in the Latin Quarter again and had to take the RER back to the airport area for an early morning flight. Could have stayed longer in the city, but preferred to be closer to the airport so we didn’t have the train in addition to the long flight home the same day.

Final thoughts

I’d been to Paris quite a few times and I love the city – this was my wife’s first time there. You can get pretty much anywhere in Paris with public transportation, and I’d look into buying multi-day passes for that as well as the museums and attractions. Paris is huge, so you’ll waste a lot of time if you plan on walking everywhere. It was the end of December, so we had coats, hats and gloves but it wasn’t freezing by any means.

We had originally planned on only doing 3 days in Paris and would have gone up Notre Dame the day prior since it’s so close to Sainte-Chapelle and where we were, but the flights didn’t look good to get home so we knew we had an extra day and could go to Montparnasse that night. I would suggest doing Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame on the same day because of their proximity – those two, the Latin Quarter and maybe the Louvre (depending on how much time you plan on spending there) is a great day. Sacre Couer is definitely worth the detour, Moulin Rouge is close but it’s more of a “why not?” than something you need to spend time on. There’s a LOT to do in Paris and it’s a huge city, but I would say the absolute minimum is 3 days. There really isn’t a maximum, especially if you’re a fan of art.  Versailles is about an hour away by train and is a very nice day trip, and the Catacombs are worth it too if you have the time (maybe 2 hours or so).

I speak the language so it’s pretty easy for us to get around and I’ve never encountered the anti-Americanism that others report (that’s not to say it doesn’t exist). The food in France is pretty good – have to try a croque-monsieur and some of the French pastries, other than that we love the Latin Quarter because you can get any type of cuisine for a decent price.  Overall Paris is a bit expensive, but we stayed further from all the attractions to offset some of the cost.  And it’s worth it.

Traveled in December 2009

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