3 Days in Paris
If you plan to visit more than 5 museums, and you are not there during a holiday ( patrimony day n September FYI most museums are free), BUY a Museum Pass. Skipping the lines alone make this worth it! They are available at many hotels and all over at tourist shops in Paris.
As of 9/2015 : $62 for Museum Pass (No Lines, N/A to Eiffel)
NOTE: Many Museums are closed on Monday or Tuesday. So take note, and mix up the days to accommodate your schedule. This was planned in order Sat, Sun, Monday. If starting on a Monday DAY THREE would be your FIRST DAY.
DAY ONE IN PARIS - Ile de Cite and Left Bank Day
10am - 6 pm
Today we start at any Metro near Notre Dame (St Michel)
Start off at Notre Dame & Crypt (Crypt Closed on Mondays). Notre Dame open until 6:30 (Must enter by 5:45p) Flying buttresses! Then visit Ste. Chappelle (Louis' jewel of a chapel, even the cherubs on the door handles look happy there), the Concergerie ( Former palace - prisons during revolution), and then linger and explore a bit of the Marais. Sweet tooth? Right there on the I'le Rue St Louis visit Berthillion Ice Cream (29-31) 10 am - 8 pm. It is closed all August - those poor tourists!
Take Pont St Michel over the Seine and up Rue St Michel. Explore Left Bank book stalls, as you wander the St. Germain District to Luxembourg Gardens. St. Michel takes you straight to The Sorbonne University area at the intersection of Blvd. St Germain. This walk alone is interesting. The Sorbonne encompasses the next few blocks. You're in the neighborhood of the Musee de Cluny (Moyen Age). An oft overlooked museum, offers a fascinating walk around ( Did you read the "Lady and the Unicorn"? That tapestry is in this museum!) Continue up St Michel to the Luxembourg Gardens. If you want to see the Pantheon ( Focaults Pendulum on view) you can detour off St Michel at Rue Soufflet - it takes you straight to the Pantheon (in restoration 2015 - crypts open). The Luxembourg Gardens should not be missed. Built by Maria de Medici to resemble the Pitti Palace (her home) the gardens are now home to the French Senate. If the Museum does not have a great show going on - skip it and just enjoy the beauty in the middle of the City. This is the garden in Hugo's Les Miserables where Marius meets Cosette.
If I can squeeze it in... I'm heading to Musee Marmottan (closed Mon) to see the largest collection of Monet's in the world. But you can't walk there from Luxembourg Gardens...
Take RERB at Luxembourg Station towards St Remy/Robinson. Transfer at Denfert to (Green 6) towards Charles DeGaulle Etoille. Transfer at Trocadero to Lime (Line9) towards Pont de Sevres - La Muette Metro ). Follow Avenue Paul Doumer through the lovely Park (park path is Avenue Ranlegh) to Avenue Raphael. Make a right the Museum is the on the corner. This area is called Passy ( you might recall the Passy Knitting Circles of WWII? A hotbed of spies and resistance). A unique museum set inside Paul Marmottan the great art collectors home. You'll be amazed how many paintings are there and NOT in the Louvre, including the painting that gave "Impressionism" its name.
End of Day. Head home. Take a NASA nap (26 minutes proven effective- you're in Paris who needs sleep?) You won't be dining until 8 pm - de rigueur for Paris supper.
EVENING ONE PARIS - Canal St Martin for FUN
Canal St Martin - Dance lessons anyone? This area is "what the Left Bank was" to the early part of the Century. DO NOT MISS. Stop where you want, start where you want. Cross the canal where you please. Look for - Point Ephemere, where you can dance and enjoy the views on the West side after Rue Louis Blanc if you want a proper sit-down. Food Trucks in case you need just a nosh or to sample your way down the canal. Take Republique Metro ( this is the Plaza where all Parisiens gathered and the “We are Charlie - Nous Sommes Charlie. Je suis Charlie” Campaign was born after the terrorism against Charlie Hebdo). Follow Rue du Faubourg du Temple southwest to station. The canal comes up from underground in this block.
If you take the Metro back to your hotel, you might want to exit near Pont Neuf to take a night cruise on the Bateaux Vedettes. Last departure is 10:30 pm. If you miss this night cruise, add it to your itinerary at any time. I especially like to the tour @ sunset. Your a tourist! It's OK to do touristy things. Says me. :)
DAY TWO IN PARIS - Museums! and what-not.
9 am - 6pm
Early Start from St Paul Metro: Wander down the old marais to the Rue to Rivoli. (Left or West). (if you get up early! if not probably best to just metro to the Louvre directly.) If you need something cheap... the Monoprix is on this intersection (think French Target- great little gifts for folks). Follow the Rue de Rivoli about 4 block past the Hotel de Ville ( Mayors office - site of many gruesome executions) then another 4ish to the Louvre Museum (Opens 9 am. Closed Tuesdays). Rue de Rivoli has plenty to look at along the way. Stand firm - get to the Louvre. I don't care how cute the dress is at the Paris H&M store.
After you've seen what you want to see at The Louvre ( caution: you could spend 3 days and not see everything! Try to decide ahead of time what you want to see if you don't intend to spend all day here. This is sacralige of course because as an artist I HAVE spent all day in every museum ... but unless this is your interest, be selective. Of Note: there will be a huge crowd around La Giaconnda (Mona Lisa) and while she is worth a look, there are several other Leonardo masterpieces around the corner with no-one blocking your view.)
When your Louvre visit is over, Go across the street from the pyramid and Rue de Rivoli to Place de Palais Royale and see the aforementioned and courtyard. Don't stop at the columns ... continue through the arcade to the gardens. Surprise! Look for the guy who is there every day calling the birds to land on him. If he likes you, he'll let a few land on you too. Magical. Then circumnavigate. Feel refreshed? Back across the street to now meander through the Tuilleries Garden, Through the gardens at the end is the Musee de l'Orangerie. Never been? You'll be sorry if you miss it. (Closed Tuesdays).
Alright now if you are not museum-bleery and want to see more nouveau art ( 19th century) step out of the Tuilleries towards the Seine and cross the Pont Solferino. At the intersection of Rue Solferino you will see a statue of Thomas Jefferson on the Quai side and the Legion of Honneur. One more block - et Voila. Musee D’Orsay (the converted train station featured in Hugo Cabret - a wonderful light bright space for 19th century art and sculptures). Enjoy the art. Visit the Clock Bistro for a view behind the clock. (Note: the art collection now housed here used to displayed in the Jeu de Paume across the Tuilleries from the L'Orangerie). Same caution applies. This is another huge museum filled with masterpieces. You could spend a day here easily. But with only 3 days, best choose a focus and move along. Aren't you glad you bought that Museum Pass? Just walking past all those folks in line makes me happier.
After D’Orsay, head away from the Seine on Rue Bellechaise, take a right on Rue de Varenne and arrive at Musee Rodin (aka Hotel Biron) ... visit. It's the way to see Rodin.
SIDE NOTE: This was the original home to the Order of Sacre Couer (My alma mater) until they were expelled from the City by Napoleon, and Rodin took over the property. I will be continuing to see Madeleine Sophie, Founder of the Order who is buried in the Chapel of Sacred Heart in St. Francois Xavier Church further up Rue des Invalides).
The Hotel Les Invalides is right across the street at the end of Rue Varenne. Think "still active veterans hospital and lots of historic military gear and suits of armor". Also home to the Charles de Gaulle Exhibit (closed on Mondays). The walk is @ 15 minutes. This is a quick visit or a long one if you have a child who wants to study every weapon and bit of armory at the Musee de l’Armee housed here. Say "Ciao" to Napoleon. He's resting here in his small inconspicuous Tomb. Enough of that?
Exit on the Espanlade and walk straight through the garden to the tres fantastic Pont Alexandre III. Take the photos that must be taken with the gold cherubs. Cross to the other side on Rue Winston Churchill. Oh look! There is his statue on the right between the Grand Palais and Petit Palais built for the 1900 Exposition. Stay and oogle those magnificent glass palaces for a bit. If there is an exhibition, and this is not certain, go inside the Grand Palais and look about. The Tour Eiffel was also built for this exposition.
Your day is done. Follow the Seine back towards the Louvre and to the Place du Concorde ( home of the Guillotine, etc). Take another NASA nap! Or enjoy some wine and cheese on your balcony. More ice cream?
EVENING TWO PARIS - Montmartre Charm
You're off to Montmartre for sunset at Sacré-Cœur Basilica (or City Lights) if you can manage (built on the hill where gypsum was mined - hence the term "Plaster of Paris". The footings are as deep as the tower is high). Perpetual adoration of the Blessed Sacrament has continued uninterrupted in the basilica since 1885. Because of this, tourists and others are asked to dress appropriately when visiting the basilica and to observe silence as much as possible, so as not to disturb persons who have come from around the world to pray in this place of pilgrimage.
Why visit Montmartre? Cobbled streets. music and street artists. It's still got a boho vibe even if it's lost it's starving-artist authenticity. This was the working man's section of town along with Pigalle.
If you can get here earlier, visit- Montmartre Cemetery, permanent home to Berlioz, Stendhal, Ninjinsky, Emile Zola, Leo Delibes, Edgar Degas, Theophile Gautier, and countless other giants in the arts and sciences is an interesting visit but closes at 6 pm. It is a lovely cemetery - more info.
Your evening starts at Green 12 (Porte de la Chappelle) Abbesses Metro.
On the lovely Abbesses Square you can go visit the Wall of Love. Or not. Follow Rue Yvonne Le Tac/Rue Tardieu (there are signs) to the funiculaire (cable car) at Place St Michel - or go a bit further and walk up the Steps to Sacre Couer (a lot of steps!). Walk around but stay up by the Church - if you go further down you are likely to get into some redlight areas (sex shops etc).
Walk to the west along Rue Norvins to Place du Tertre an open plaza with artists and cafes. You may be tempted to eat on the plaza, I don't recommend it. People watching par excellent, but food is not too good and pricey. Hold on, it's worth it! Further down Rue Norvins find the man in the wall, you will make a right at Rue de Saules and past lovely terraced buildings to the Clos de Montmartre - that's right vineyards in Paris!
Dinner ideas now? Yummiest crepes anywhere - Le Tire Bouchon on Rue Norvins. Steak frite or fish? La boite aux Lettres 106 Rue Lepic.(Rue Norvins at the Fork becomes Rue Clement, Clement becomes Rue Lepic. Either are great and the walk is lovely and you’re going that way to get home. Further on at 83 Rue Lepic is the Le Moulin de la Galette ( maybe you saw the Renoir painting of this place at the Musee D'Orsay earlier?) Pricey, requires reservations. Maybe just look?
How hungry are you? It's Paris - the epicenter of slow eating, especially at dinner. Parisiens are known to enjoy a good meal for hours. So EXPECT slow service. It's their way. No matter, walk back a block to Rue Clement head down the hill to Rue Ravignan, follow to the right down to a big curve and a little park. Leave Rue Ravignan and take this clever shortcut. Head down the stairs, you are now at 2 Rue Garreau and another great little restaurant Le Relais de la Butte (if it's a nice night - outdoor dining). Hey! What? Rue Ravignan mysteriously starts again straight ahead. Oh Paris! Follow down to Rue des Abbesses. Take a right. You're at your Metro.
DAY THREE IN PARIS - Monday -Nothing's Open Day - Shop and picnic
A lot of stuff is closed on Monday and Tuesday... so choose carefully!
Today we start at the Bastille Metro
Site of the old Prison. Walk Rue de Beaumarchais to Rue de Franc Bourgois to Place de Vosge. Coffee at Ma Bourgogne 19, Place des Vosges. Visit Victor Hugo’s House. Meander and explore on Rue de Franc Bourgois to the Centre Pompidou (closed Tuesdays). Even if you don't want to go inside or are not into modern art, it's worth the visit. It's 3€ to take the wacky elevator to the top to see the view. Walk all around. Enjoy the street performers. Area is also home to many other museums like Picasso etc. Don't Miss the Stravinsky Fountain. Walk around Les Halles.
Now Metro, bike or cab to Opera. Metro Les Halles/Chatelet Metro Pink 7 (La Courneuve) Exit Opera.
Visit Opera Garnier ( Phantom of the Opera anyone?) They offer self guided audio tours. If you can't get to Fountainbleu or Versailles Palaces outside of Paris, do not miss this site. Inside is amazing and opulent - Chagall painted the ceiling. If you're lucky you'll catch a dress rehearsal. After the Opera, exit north to the Galleries Lafayette. An Art Nouveau wonder ... and 2 floors of Food. Buy food. If going to Eiffel by day - buy a picnic to enjoy on the lawn. Continue down Avenue Haussman West to Printemps. Another marvel of shopping.
Need to buy gifts? Take a left at Rue Tronchet and head south to Place Madeleine. More Food? There you will find heaven, I mean Fauchon and at least 8 other foodie faves. Enjoy environs.
***You can now either take the Metro or walk across Seine to The Eiffel Tower and Parc du Champ de Mars.
If walking follow the short Rue Royale back to Place de la Concorde then across the Pont follow the Quai or switch back through the streets. At Pont Alma are the famous Sewer Tours, of course, optional @ 1 hour. (Note: Also at Pont Alma, the bridge over the tunnel where Princess Diana died. The Flame of Liberty at the bridge's north end has become an unofficial memorial to Diana.)
If Metro, hop on at Madeleine ( (Violet 8) towards Balard and jump off at Ecole Militaire. Napoleon graduated here - his report card said he'd make an excellent sailor, and could go far if the circumstances were right. The rest is history. Relax, enjoy the park. Eat that delicious food you bought. Then go up the Tower ( buy tickets in advance if this is your plan! 34€ to top 9:30 to 11 pm. Champagne Bar is open daily from midday to 10 at night a glass of champagne will cost between €12 and €21)
When you're back "down" on Paris earth, continue walking up over Pont d'Lena to Trocadero. Then head back to the Eiffel Side. Head home through the park or on bus.
Day over. What do we do now? NASA nap! Ice cream?
OPTION: Do Eiffel at night and Champs Elysees/Arc du Triomphe by day. I think Champs is more fun at night ... and prettier. But if yucky day might switch it around.
EVENING THREE PARIS - Twinkly sparkly Champs Elysees Night
Metro Rue de Rivoli (La Defense). Exit at Charles de Gaulle Etoile.
Voila - Arc de Triomphe (10 am -11 pm) Head to the top if you can do stairs. Now start your stroll down the Champs Elysees towards Place de Concorde. You've got all night. Stop in at the George V ( The "sanc") and marvel at the luxury you did not opt to enjoy in your hovel of a hotel. Flowers are changed every day! Gads. Maybe Laduree Tea Room? Yes they do dinner. The mushroom chicken in pastry is divine. How about some power car oogling at the Porsche or Mercedes Store? At Av du Marigny take a left and visit the President of France at the Elysse Palace. John Steinbeck also lived on this street for @ 5 months. At the corner is the Rue Fauberg St Honore, THE Rodeo/5th/Bond St of Paris. Window shop. You can stay on Rue Faubourg or back to Champs to end at Place du Concorde.