With the number of things to do in Paris, a quick trip to this beautiful city can be a blessing and a curse in one. With my luck, my last two trips to Paris have lasted approximately four days and I have had to pack sightseeing with shopping and afternoon strolls with the consumption of fabulous French food. If you have the great fortune to pass through Paris for a few days, there are some highlights to keep in mind – visits that will take an afternoon or an evening and will give you time to keep your day varied and exciting.
For dashing around Paris, keep a comfortable bag – not to heavy – and take a light sweater in case the weather changes, the difference between 10 degrees Celsius and 28 degrees can make you very uncomfortable if you are dressed too lightly or covered too heavily. Keep coin change on you for ticket machines as crumpled paper money is sometimes not accepted.
When you arrive at the Charles De Galle airport, ask about the Air France bus – for 15 Euro it will take you to Charles De Galle Etoile (where the Arc de Triomphe is) and you can look for the metro stop from there.
A full fare metro ticket going one way costs approximately 3 Euro, so take the metro to your hotel and drop off your bags. If you’re just around for a layover, keep in mind the Air France bus goes too and from the airport every 20 minutes and takes approximately 45 minutes, depending on traffic, each way.
Galleries Lafayette:For shopping, take a trip to the Grand Magasins (large stores) and lose yourself in Gallaries Lafayette – your one-stop shop for everything from designer bags to clothing, jewelry, perfume and shoes. There is an extension from the first floor for the men’s section. Get to the pink metro line and exit at the Chaussee d’Antin Lafayette stop, taking the ‘sortie’ (exit) for the Grand Magasins. Gallaries Lafayette is open Monday through Saturday from 9:30 am to 7:30 or 8 pm. For foreigners, there is a 10 percent off card you can get from the welcome center inside the store, but you need to show your passport. If you spent more than 175 Euro in one day at Gallaries Lafayette, you can get a ‘DETAXE’ form which will then give you 12 percent of your money back at the airport. The Detaxe center is in the basement of the store.
Champs Elysees:To get to the Champs Elysees, you can get off at three different stops on the yellow line (line one or line un) Champs Elysees, Franklin D. Roosevelt or George V (George cinq) – Franklin D. Roosevelt will take you to the middle of the street and exits at Naf Naf and the Disney Store. At the Champs Elysees there are some nice restaurants (Pizza Roma) but avoid L’Alsace – it’s a terrible restaurant with a very limited menu and a few dishes containing sauerkraut that the even the waiter warned us not to order. Many of the stores on the Champs Elysees are open on Sunday although the branches located elsewhere will not be open. Stores anywhere else in Paris close on Sundays. Champs Elysees also has some clubs and bars – L’Avenue, VIP and Queen are all on the Champs Elysees.
Eiffel Tower: You can walk around the gardens near the Eiffel Tower and look up at it and take pictures without actually going up. The metro stop for the Eiffel Tower is Champs de Mars – Bir Hakim. If you choose to go up the Eiffel Tower, it is highly recommended to get online and buy an elevator ticket in advance. The lines for tickets to go up are very long.
Monmartre/Sacre Coeur:For a longer sightseeing adventure, you can go to Sacre Coeur by getting to Monmartre at the Anvers station and walking to the funicular – a mechanism that will take you up the hill to Sacre Coeur, relieving you of a pretty steep hike. Walk through the Pigalle area or get off at the Pigalle station to see the Moulin Rouge – you can also walk from there.
Montparnasse Tower:For a great view and a drink in the evening (they close at 1am) got to the Montparnasse Tower by getting out at the Edgar Quinet metro stop and looking for the tallest building around. There is no fee to get up to the 56th floor and the restaurant but the meals and drinks are a bit pricey. Depending on the day or the evening you may need reservations. Also, reserve if you want a table by the window.
Notre Dame/Quartier Latin:The most beautiful church in Paris, Notre Dame is right by the Quartier Latin and also right near the Seine – you can walk around the area and ask people where each of those things are. The Quartier Latin will have nice restaurants and bars also. The metro stop at the Quartier Latin is Odeon, for Notre Dame, get out at St. Michel Notre Dame.
For another shopping/eating district, go to St. Paul, also on the yellow line, and get out at the St. Paul station. The restaurant right in front of you, Les Chimeres, has a delicious and large portion foie gras du canard (duck liver pate) with black cherry jam and fabulous Camembert roti (roasted Camembert) also served with a little bowl of black cherry jam on the side. The main street in the district, Rivoli, has a Monoprix (a department store similar to Carrefour or Target), kids stores, clothing stores, a fromagerie (cheese store), a chocolatier, and other specialty stores for wine, pastries and other gourmet options like macaroons. If your back is to Les Chimeres and you head right, you will find Rue St. Paul (St. Paul Street) which has a couple nice antique stores. If you continue down Rivoli past Rue St. Paul, you’ll get to Bastille.