Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and therefore, packed with tourists. After studying abroad in Paris, I’ve spent my fair share of time at all the top sights, waited in plenty of lines, and battled my way through selfie sticks. I’ve also spent my fair share of times at the lesser known sights, where I walk right in and have space to enjoy the city. We only had two days in Paris, so I wanted to create the perfect plan for my friends to see the best of Paris, without getting smacked in the face by a selfie stick.
Here’s what to skip in Paris and what you should do instead:
Skip: The Louvre
I hate the Louvre. I know this is a controversial opinion, but it’s too crowded to really see the art, and too big to really see everything. We did go, because Matt and Madeline hadn’t been and really wanted to go, but they saw what I meant. You have to fight your way through a crowd of people 10 deep just to get close. Every other famous piece is similarly crowded. The museum itself is also hard to get around. Stairs go down to rooms that have no way out but up. Other sections of the museum require you to leave the ticketed area. Overall, it’s not a pleasurable museum experience. If you do go, make sure you buy tickets online in advance. This is about 2 euro more expensive, but it gives you priority access. If you don’t buy in advance, skip the long line outside for a slightly shorter inside by using the entrance for underground mall, the Louvre Carousel.
Go here instead: The Orangerie
This is a very personal opinion because I love Monet. The Orangerie was built specifically to hold Monet’s waterlilies. These eight paintings are massive, and some of Monet’s most famous works of art. While the waterlilies are the main draw of this museum, there is a small exhibition gallery below featuring the works of other impressionists and a rotating exhibition hall. The Orangerie is small and takes about 45 minutes to an hour, versus the 4 hours you can easily spend at the Louvre. If you’re looking for something a little bigger, try the Orsay. The Orsay features a wide collection of Impressionist work, and is usually less crowded than the Louvre.
Skip: The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a staple of the Parisian skyline, but long lines and heavy security will easily take up a big chunk of time. Once you get to the top, the view is stunning, but Paris isn’t a very tall city, so from the top, everything is too small to make out. It’s also incredibly crowded, with people pushing you from every side. Skip the top, and instead, check out the tower from the ground. The base of the tower is fenced off for security purposes, but the grassy area in front of the tower offers a picturesque view of the tower, and is the perfect place for a picnic.
Go here instead: The Arch De Triumphe
The Arch de Triumphe is all stairs, and therefore harder to get to the top than the Eiffel Tower, but it is cheaper and the lines are significantly shorter. We waited for about 15 minutes to get a ticket then about 10 more to get into the arch itself. The top of the Arch gives you a more up close and personal view of Paris’s sights than the tower. The top of the Arch is significantly less crowded than the tower, giving you room to walk around and take in the view. It is also only 9 euro to get to the top, compared to the Eiffel Tower’s 25 euro price tag.
Here’s other must dos in Paris for a short trip:
Shakespeare and Company
This famous english bookshop is right across the Seine from Notre Dame. The shop is full floor to ceiling with all different types of books over multiple floors. Like any reputable bookstore, it also features a shop cat, who is as friendly as any cat ever is. Books themselves are a little expensive, but great if you’re starved for reading material. If your French is better than mine, consider walking along the Seine to check out the French book sellers along the water.
Another staple of Paris, this cathedral is free to get in. During the summer, the line to get in is hundreds long, but it moves quickly. We were fortunate enough to walk right in and see the famous stained glass. If you have time, head a few blocks west and check out Chartres Cathedral as well for even more impressive glass.
The home to the Sacre Coeur, this artsy hilltop neighborhood is full of cafes, boutiques, and street artists. If you’re uninterested in paying for a view of Paris, the steps in front of the Sacre Coeur offer a stunning, and free view. A short walk from the Sacre Coeur is an art market, full of street artists both selling, and creating their works. Since we only had a short time, we went to Montemartre to watch the sunset, but you can easily spend a full day exploring this neighborhood.
Paris is full of wonderful places to eat. Wander into most cafes and you’ll find delicious and traditional French food. If you want more of a restaurant vibe, head to Boullion Chartier, a traditional and affordable French restaurant. Entrees range in price from 10-13 euro. Appetizers are affordable as well, meaning you can try escargots without wasting a lot of money if you hate it (if you like garlic, you won’t hate it). The fois gras is another must try. We all decided on classic steak and fries, covered with pepper gravy. Ordering steak in Europe is a bit tricky as it’s measured by celsius. I would never order a medium steak in the U.S., but in Europe, medium is the way to go for a perfectly cooked, pink in the middle steak.
Eat a crepe
Get off the beaten track for this to avoid ridiculous prices. Most savory crepes should run you around 4 euro, sweet crepes are even cheaper. Most crepe places are pretty similar, but some are better than others. My favorite is Crepe d’Or, a small stand in the Saint Germain Des Prés area of Paris. The stand is run by one man, and sometimes his young yelper. While some crepes can get soggy and floppy, these are the perfect consistency and come with any traditional filling you want.
What is your favorite spot in Paris? Comment or let us know directly!