If you're traveling to Paris France, here are our top ten sightseeing ideas for your Paris vacation. We’ve compiled this list of suggestions from guests, our Paris team and our own favorite activities. Have a wonderful vacation in Paris and we hope this lists tempts you to do more than take the standard Paris sightseeing tours!
Context Travel is an excellent tour company in Paris, who we recommend highly. They offer excellent tours which our guests rave about. Their secret is finding excellent guides who make Paris come alive for you. Each one is an expert in their field of expertise: from passionate historians, architects, curators, to writers, and even chefs. Some of our favorite Context tours include: The Louvre Crash Course, Discovering the Musee d’Orsay, Paris Chocolate Walk, Paris Market Walk, Louvre History and Architecture, D-Day and the Normandy Beaches. For more information on their tours, click here
Richard Nahem at www.eyepreferparistours.com is a savvy ex- New Yorker living in Paris for 6 years. A former pastry chef, chocolatier, and chef, Richard offers fun, offbeat tours that can be customized to your own interests. Some of our favorites include a Chocolate and Pastry Tour of Paris, Cooking Class and Food Market Tour, "Girlfriend" Shopping and Tours of St. Germains and Le Marais, and his specialty, Marais tours.
Below, read about our Top Ten Paris Sightseeing Tips!
Get A Paris Sightseeing Overview by taking a relaxing boat ride on the Seine River
Guests tell us that whether this is their first of fiftieth Paris vacation, they love to take the Bateaux Mouches boat ride down the river Seine. It’s a great idea as a first tour of Paris, because you can scope out the sites with ease, and understand how Paris maps out. You'll float past the Eiffel Tower, the Senate Buildings, the 'Money Museum', Musee' d'Orsay, the Louvre, the Academie Francaise, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, the Ile St. Louis, and even past a small version of the Statue of Liberty. The largest company is Bateaux Mouches Paris Boat Tours which you catch at the Pont de l'Alma near the Eiffel Tower. If you have time, you'll see flowers placed above the tunnel with Princess Diana met her tragic end. And on the opposite side, is the charming tour of the Paris Sewers - off beat and fascinating for children of all ages. If you’ve rented one of our Paris vacation rental apartments, we offer discounted tickets at our offices, available to purchase when you arrive.
Food Shopping at a Paris Street Market
This is one of our personal favorites and we encourage you to spend a morning at one. We want to show you the real Paris, not just the standard Paris tour package and Paris open markets are a part of the fabric of Parisian life. Merchants come early in the morning from all over France and offer the best specialties -- from fresh vegetables, fruits, flowers, breads, pastries, olive oils, jams to wines, meats and more. Prices and quality are very good because Parisians are finicky about food and want the best quality and price. Open Markets date from the 1400s in Paris, when farmers brought their wares into Paris to sell, carried in wooden carts. That they remain and flourish is a timeless element of Paris. You’ll love to search for the perfect ingredients for your evening meal, even up to fully prepared and roasted chickens. By the way, this is an advantage of renting a Paris apartment over staying in a Paris hotel - you really live life as a Parisian. Find out more about the Paris open air food markets.
What is a vacation in Paris without a trip to the most visited monument in the world, La Grande Dame de Paris?
Take the elevator or climb to the second floor and above where you'll delight in a panoramic site of all of Paris. Save the best for sunset because you haven't visited Paris until you've been to the Eiffel Tower after sunset: Take an evening stroll along the river to the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the special light show that starts at sunset when over twenty thousand ights sparkle up and down La Grande Dame for ten minutes every hour. The sight is truly spectacular and people applaud when it begins! The light show was dreamed up for the Millennium and was made permanent by popular demand. Surrounding the Eiffel are the beautiful Champs de Mars Gardens. If you're traveling with children, this is a super break for your children, who can play alongside French families at one of four small playgrounds. Find ancient swings, hand-cranked merry-go-rounds and even an old 'Guignol' puppet theatre. Time stands as you watch grandparents bringing their grandchildren to play while they sit on wooden benches and remember when their own parents brought them. It's a lasting memory for you and your family.
Visit the Paris France Flea Market
This is another off-the-beaten-path idea that you won't find on standard Paris sightseeing tours. If you love antiques, old things and interesting objets d'art, definitely plan a trip to Clignancourt on the weekend. This is the largest antiques market in the world and all of the big antique dealers come here to buy. Our advice is to go early on Saturday or Sunday because it gets crowded. Watch your wallets and avoid the stands of clothing and junk so you have time to explore the rue de Rosiers just beyond. For more information, click on this article: Paris Flea Markets.
Our favorite Paris Museums, the Musée d'Orsay and the Louvre
You're probably asking why we waited until suggestion five to come up with our picks for Paris museums! Well, we think any Paris guidebook or Paris sightseeing tour will offer you the obvious 'top ten' Paris France sights, but we want you to experience more than just you more than just the standard Paris tours. By visiting the street markets, the Puces and meandering through timless Paris streets, we want you to experience life like a Parisian and to fall in love with Paris as we have. The Musee d'Orsay is our personal favorite museum; it’s specialty is Impressionist paintings. If you're renting one of our Paris vacation rentals at www.parisperfect.com , it's walking distance from most of our apartments. Plan on spending a full morning there and wander to one of the nearby brasseries for lunch... or reserve at their restaurant when you arrive. The Louvre - of course - is one of the richest museums in the world. It can also be overwhelming. Our tip is to choose a single exhibit or wing, such as the Egyptian Wing, Greek sculptures, or Italian paintings. It's easier to enjoy and savor it. Come back on another day or if you are a Paris lover, plan a special visit each time you come.
Paris Travel Tip: Buy a Museum pass which qualifies you for most museums in Paris France. You avoid the long lines and the pass admits you at no extra charge to over 70 museums and monuments. You can buy it at most museums or go on line to: www.parismuseumpass.com . Purchase 2, 4, or 6 day passes and remember they must be used on consecutive days. Some museums are free on Sundays so you don’t need your pass.
Notre Dame in Paris and Berthillon Ice Cream
The beauty and size of this Cathedral never cease to amaze; run up the steps to see the famous Gargoyles and then stop at Berthillon ice cream on Ile St. Louis for a treat afterwards. Berthillon ice cream is an institution in Paris, so popular that they can afford to close for a month in the summer. Don't worry, you can find it at café’s throughout Paris, but there is something special about going to their only shop on Ile St. Louis. The flavors are exquisite but our favorites include Fraises des bois (wild strawberry), abricot and poire. Find out more about the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris
Rodin's sculptures that come alive at this smaller museum, which used to be his home. His most well-known masterpiece, The Thinker, is in the garden but that doesn't begin to demonstrate his range and genius. Take a picnic and eat on the grounds of the Rodin Museum. The Invalides is where Napoleon is buried and offers one of the most impressive military museums in the world. The Invalides and its golden dome are visible landmarks in Paris; find one of the largest military museums in the World. More on the Invalides Military Museum.
Saint-Sulpice, Cluny Museum and Luxembourg Gardens
Made famous by The DaVinci Code, the Sainte-Sulpice is a stunningly beautiful gem - a small Cathedral with gorgeous stained glass windows. Nearby is the Cluny Museum with the famous red unicorn tapestries. The Luxembourg Gardens are as timeless and beautiful as the Champs de Mars Gardens; we squeeze it in here so our list stays at 10!
Stroll the Left Bank and Latin Quarter; enjoy a great lunch
Where other than taking a vacation in Paris can you wander for hours discovering beautiful buildings, unique shops, cutting edge design, buildings and architecture? Spend the day wandering the charming streets of Paris' Left Bank, home to fashion and art in Paris. Treat yourself to a delicious lunch at a restaurant that strikes your fancy; be sure to stop for coffee and watch the world go by. Whether you are shopping for shoes, clothing or the finest antiques from Europe, the Left Bank of Paris is the place to find it. Start at Sevres Babylon where the Bon Marche department stores and zig zag through the streets teeming with shops. Wander across Blvd. St. Germain and back, all the way to Blvd. St. Michel.
Favorite home of Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI. The Palace of Versailles and Gardens have been lovingly restored (you'll recognize the names of numerous American benefactors) and you can bring a picnic and spend the day. Go early so you can avoid the queues... there is a lot to see. The easiest way to get to Versailles is to take the RER direct. The RER is the local train through Paris and the line for Versailles runs along the river and is a few blocks from most of our apartments.
Find your favorite pastry and Patisserie in Paris - by Sampling Them!
Madelyn insisted we add Number 11 because you can't travel to Paris without sampling the best French pastries. If you're a family traveling with children, let each of them choose a pastry for themselves and decide on their favorite Boulangere for bagueetes. It's a way to introduce your children to an essential part of French life, eating well. You’ll hear neighbors discussing their favorite place for baguettes, which must be crusty on the outside without too much soft dough inside; and they go out to buy their baguette at least once a day. Each bakery has its own style and for many, it is a lifelong art. Explore the patisseries in your neighborhood and let everyone choose their favorite dessert to share as a treat later on. For us, nothing beats the Patisserie on Avenue de la Bourdonnais near the Eiffel Tower, or the one on rue de Grenelle next to rue Cler. How can we forget the award-winning Boulanger on rue Jean Nicot, the country style baker on rue Cler... the list goes on forever. We're always discovering new desserts and new Patisseries, even in our own favorite neighborhood in the 7th! Favorite choices 'en famille' at our house: Tarte au Citron, Opera’s and Tartes aux fruits rouges!