My List of Favorite Attractions in Paris When Your Visit is Short
So Little Time, Too Much to See!
There are so many things to do in Paris. In fact, there are over 150 museums alone, not to mention all of the other attractions like parks, architectural monuments, fountains, etc. I usually recommend choosing only three major attractions to see for each week you spend there.
- You'll have jet lag when you get there,
- you'll be disorriented and have some culture adjustment (if it's your first visit),
- you need down time to relax and enjoy Paris,
- and you need time to be spontaneous, to wander, and to sit and people watch in cafes.
So, what are my favorites? When I'm only there for a week, here are my top choices; and yes I broke my own rule and chose four!
This museum is full of impressionists and art nouveau - my personal favorite kind of art.
Guide books often say to take 2-3 hours, but short of running through the museum and barely seeing the art, you should take longer. Plan on a full day (four hours or so,) with a break to enjoy lunch in the restaurant behind the huge train station clock.
Want to spend just a few hours to see impressionist art? Visit the Musée de l'Orangerie, located at the far end of the Jardins des Tuileries. It's just across the walking bridge, Passerelle Solférino, near the Musée d'Orsay. This has many of Monet's beautiful Water Lilies works and it easy to see in a couple of leisurely hours.
This my favorite history museum because it's all about Paris.
The tableaux of the city, when the outer arrondisements were still countryside, allow you to step back into Parisian time. Imagine when there were large estates and countryside where there are now the apartments, boulangeries, and traffic inside Paris. You'll also see artifacts from the Parisi, the first tribe to inhabit the island of Île de la Cité back in prehistoric times. You can visit this museum in about a half-day. The gardens are a quiet sanctuary.
The Musée National du Moyen-Âge-Thermes de Cluny - This is my other favorite history museum. I love the Middle Ages and this is where you will see the famous "Lady with a Unicorn" tapestry. Which, by the way, you can't take a picture of as my daughter learned from one a very nice security person! You can also visit this museum in about a half-day. Go in the morning and have a lively lunch in the Latin Quarter afterwards.
This is one of my radical choices. For me, this is a welcome alternative to the crowds at the Eiffel Tower which is usually crowded and slow. The Montparnass Tower is the only skyscraper allowed within the Parisian city limits and is still the tallest one in Europe.
The line here always seems reasonable - like 15 mins! Then there is a super fast elevator to take you to the air conditioned observatory at the top where you get an amazing 360 degree view of the city and the suburbs beyond. You even get to look DOWN onto the Eiffel Tower. There are maps all around the observatory so you know what you're seeing and lots of seating so this is a wonderful place to take a breather. And did I mention, it's air conditioned!
My favorite part, after I've cooled off and caught my breath, is walking up the final flight of stairs to the roof. I have a great memory of my daughter and I watching lightning storms move across the far-off country side, ending a heat wave one July.
Le Chateau de Versailles
This is a whole day trip. Don't go through every room, or you'll be Louis XV and XVIth-ed out. There's just only so much lavish, glittering beauty you can absorb in one day.
Unless you are up for a marathon, I suggest you choose between the Chateau or the Grand and Petit Trianons with Marie Antoinette's petite hameau.
If you are looking for a low budget day, plan a wonderful "pique-nique" and walk around the grounds. Just as in the days of Louis XV, the gardens and vast grounds are open to the public. You won't feel like you missed a thing!
But What About Everything Else?
As I said above, there are just so many things to see in Paris, you can not possibly fit them all in. Many of the other Paris landmarks you will see on your way to other sites.
I haven't listed the Louvre as it's size and scope push it to my list for longer trips. If you MUST go, do your homework and choose only two or three sections to explore.
Since it can be very hard to choose, I suggest you do your research. Stick to three large museums, etc. per week, and let the city grasp you in it's warmth and beauty. Be flexible and go with the flow. Remember Paris is so much more than sites and museums to check off your list. There's street life, food, cafes, shopping and wandering aimlessly to discover what's around THAT corner!
It's better to get on the plane home and start planning your next trip to Paris, than to feel miserable because you felt rushed and frantic the whole time you were there.
For more information about planning a trip to Paris, visit me at: www.ParisMadeSimple.com.
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