Tag Archives: paris

Things to do in Paris

I originally wrote this for my mother, but thought if other people are travelling, and are looking at things to do, then they might find this information useful.

The Palace of Versailles

There are trains that go directly to Versailles from the centre of Paris and are clearly identified at the station.  It’s a short walk from Versailles station to the palace itself, and I cannot recommend highly enough buying a return ticket in Paris because the queue at the end of the day to buy tickets back to Paris are very long.

Entry to the palace, the gardens and Marie Antionette’s estate are 18 Euros.  This will take an entire day.

The website above has an FAQ about the best days of the week and best times to go and see the palace.

You can prebook your tickets and print them out before you leave and this is highly recommended to avoid queues.

Musee d’Orsay

This is Paris’s home to Impressionist art.  It is massively big, and James and I didn’t finish the entire museum in half a day.  You might be quicker than us, or plan your trip better, but you should spend at least half a day here if you are interested. This is in the middle of Paris, so easy to get to from just about everywhere.

Tickets cost 11 Euros and can be prepurchased and printed ahead of time (a surcharge applies, but you avoid all the queues which is important).

Notre Dame

On the island of Il de la Cite on the Seine, the Cathedral is famous and huge.  There will probably be a queue to enter, it’s free, but the queue moves quickly the the times I’ve been there.  There are also free public toilets just outside the Cathedral, and there is often a queue for them too, but they have helpful attendants who make sure the queue moves and that the toilets are clean (toilets are underground).

The Cathedral has King Louis’ (one of them) dedication of France to God inside, and a lovely statue of Joan d’Arc (and a story about how that Cathedral fought for her to be sainted and her name to be cleared).  There are also three HUGE rose windows in the church.

Depending on how long the queue is and stuff, this probably only takes an hour.

Church of Saint Severin

Just across from Notre Dame is this small, and usually not visited church.  It is incredibly old, it comes with it’s own well, and is actually rather pretty.  This won’t take long at all to visit.

Musee d’Orangerie

This museum hosts Claude Monet’s lillies and if you like Monet’s work, then I highly recommend visiting.  There is also some other art held at this museum, but the main attraction is Monet’s waterlillies, hosted in circular rooms and beautifully lit.  It is easy to spend an hour looking at just the lillies before wandering off to visit the rest of the collection.

This museum is related to the Musee d’Orsay, and when we visited a couple of years ago, you could buy one ticket for both.  This museum can easily be done in half a day.

Tickets are 16 Euros if you are buying a ticket together for the Musee d’Orsay, but as far as I know cannot be purchased online together.  Otherwise the ticket is 9 Euros.

The Basilica of Sacre Coeur

A little outside the main city of Paris, but served well by public transport, Sacre Coeur sits on one of the highest points of the city.  Using the Paris visitor pass (see below) you can catch the Funicular up the hill (there are WAY too many stairs) and see inside the church.  Entry to the church is free, but if you want to see the crypt below (interesting, but not creepy), you have to pay a small fee.

Jardin du Luxumbourg

This is a large formal garden in the heart of Paris, an easy walk from the Latin Quarter.  Entry is free and in the Parisian tradition, if you find an empty seat, you can take it to wherever you’d like to sit in the garden (under a tree, by that fountain, over in that patch of sun).  It’s a very pretty garden and as the website says, there are a range of activities you can do in it.

The Louvre

I cannot stress how important it is to prepurchase your tickets for the Louvre.  The queue often snakes around the courtyard the Louvre entry is in, and if you have a ticket, you can just walk through.

This gallery is massive.  You cannot complete it in one day, and it is really important to decide on what collections you are most interested in and take the time to go and see those.  We fit two and a half collections in a bit over half a day.  I highly recommend the Assyrian and Babylonian exhibition, and the sculpture exhibition (though sometimes a bit macabre) is pretty amazing (that’s where I took the photo of the sleeping knight).

If you are purchasing tickets online, I recommend using FNAC as they have two offices near The Louvre, which will make ticket collection easier.    This holds for all tickets that you have to collect.  Tickets are 13.60 Euros when purchased online.

Le Tour Eiffel

If you are interested in going to the Eiffel Tower (and it is pretty spectacular), you should buy your tickets today (or at least very soon).  Don’t queue because you can queue for 3 hours, and that’s 3 hours you can spend doing other things.  You can do what I’ve done many times and that is wander around the base of the tower and have a look at just how massive it is.  That bit is free.  Prebooking your ticket is pretty cheap, so if you have firm and agreed upon dates (or as soon as you do), and you want to go up the tower, then book as soon as you can.  Access to the tower extends close to midnight in summer.

Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

If you’re interested in seeing where Oscar Wilde, Chopin and Jim Morrison (or a host of others), this is the place to go.  It’s massive, and big, and full of interesting monuments to famous and infamous dead people.  Also lots of monuments to those who died in WW2, which makes it quite sad at times.  It’s somewhere very interesting (and touching) to spend a day.  It’s free, though there are people selling maps outside for 2 Euros with clear notation of where the buried famous people are.

The Latin Quarter

This is the area to find a good meal in.  There are lots of restaurants, with cuisines of all the different cultures that make up France.  Lots of good and cheap food to be found here.

Paris Visite pass

I highly recommend getting one of these to travel around the city.  It makes using the metro a breeze and covers all forms of public transport within the circular ring road of the city.  It’ll probably cost you around 26.50 Euros, and is worth every cent (zones 1 – 3). The ticket to Versaille will be additional to this.

Paris Passport/Paris Museum Pass

I don’t recommend one of these.  To make them worthwhile you have to rush between all the attractions, and you really don’t get to see enough to enjoy yourself.  Plan what you want to do, when you want to do it, and go from there.

Speaking the language

It’s recommended to have some basic French at your disposal, greetings, farewells, please, thank you, sorry, hey you, excuse me, etc.  It also helps to have a little bit extra for restaurants, but most of the ones we went to (including the suburban not tourist ones) had some English and we got by.  Free French lessons can be obtained at Duolingo.

Once you greet someone in French, it is often ok to then ask if they speak English.  Parisians appreciate the effort.

Lonely Planet Paris Guide

I can’t recommend this book highly enough, it has a street map of central Paris, a Metro map, and lots of information about things to see and do.  I’ve only listed a few things here, and really you could stay in Paris for a month, and do something different every day and still not get everything done.

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I am in Paris, I have successfully communicated in French (though not well), and I have explored this fine city (which must suck for those who require mobility aids), and taken a stack of photos.

I’ve had some odd and funny moments while here, which I shall share because leaving that hanging would be a bit unfair.

The first was when we were being shown how to take better photos and use our cameras better as part of Randy Harris’s Photo Tours.  Our guide, Rachael, was born in the US and moved to Paris a few years ago, and now as well as being a photographic artist, she shows people how to take better photos for a living.  She was a great teacher, thought that James and I were weird and funny (which we are), and we had a really great time.

James mentioned at some point late in the lessons/tour, something to do with violent crime.  Rachael replied that Paris is a safe city, and has very little violent crime (which was nice to hear), but the violent crime that does exists is mainly in the immigrant communities.  I almost said, “What, like you?” but didn’t and the moment passed.  I wish I had though.

The other funny thing happened today when James and I were wandering Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, we had stopped at a grave for someone from Guatemala, who clearly was important (though we’d not heard of him and didn’t take his name down so can’t look him up now), and James and I both said “Guatemala” several times.  I then overheard a girl of about 10 or so correct us with “Guatemaya”, and her dad hushed her.  I told James, who hadn’t heard it, and he thought it was the funniest thing he’d heard all day.



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