A colleague of mine is lucky enough to be spending four days in Paris soon. She has asked if she can catch up with me as she’d like my advice on what she should do while she is there.
I’ve been thinking about how best to answer her. And – believe it or not – the best I’ve come up with is…it depends.
Four days is more than enough time to get a real taste of this amazing city – and if you want to, you can pack heaps in. But you could just as easily lose four days just wandering, people watching and breathing in the atmosphere of Paris. Or you could choose to do a bit of both. You could also choose to theme your visit. Maybe around museums, shopping or food.
So in an attempt to give my colleague options, I’ve decided to write a sporadic little series of posts with the very imaginative title of Four Days In Paris.
Today, in the first post of the series I thought we’d pack in some of the big names!
Day One – Get Your Bearings.
Spend the morning wandering around the arrondissement in which you are staying. I can almost guarantee you will find something fascinating. Sort out where your local boulangerie is and the nearest supermarket. Find the closest Métro stop. Check out nearby restaurants and bars. Sit in your local park or garden. Simply enjoy the fact that you are in one of the most beautiful cities on the planet!
In the afternoon, and assuming it is your very first visit to Paris, take a tour of some sort. Bike, walking and bus tours are all good. I’m so glad we took a bike tour on our first ever day in Paris (despite the terrifying traffic). We got a good feel for where all the major sites were, and quickly worked out where we wanted to head back to.
Day Two – Tower Time.
Time to visit one of the great icons of Paris – the Tour Eiffel. Gustave Eiffel’s creation is breathtaking no matter how many times you see it. And there are so many ways to experience it. Purchase your tickets on-line to avoid the queues and head up to the very top – or choose to stop at the first or second levels. For the record, we’ve never actually made it to the top – but I’m thinking that I will definitely manage it next visit.
Alternatively, you might like to take a tour. We did an underground tour which was a really different way to take in the tower.
Finally, if you were also hoping to squeeze in a little Michelin-starred fun during your visit, consider having lunch at Le Jules Verne. Not only will a private elevator whisk you to the second level of the tower (an excellent way to by-pass both the queues and the crammed elevators) but you will also enjoy excellent food while taking in the outstanding views. After lunch you can head out of the tower via a private door to explore the second level of the tower some more.
In the afternoon, you might like to take in some of the other highlights in and around the seventh arrondissement like the Musée Rodin or do a little shopping at the very Parisian pair of stores – Le Bon Marché and Le Grande Épicerie
Day Three – Off to the Louvre.
Now let’s be clear, it would take you more than a day to fully explore the Louvre. And if I’m being completely honest, you’ll probably be exhausted before you even cover off the things you want to see. But you have to visit the the Musée du Louvre. Take in the fabled Mona Lisa. See the breathtaking Winged Victory of Samothrace. View the Venus de Milo from every angle. Check out Liberty Leading the People.
And all of that is just for starters.
As with all the big name sites in Paris, I recommend you buy your tickets on line to save wasting precious time in the queues.
If you happen to get tired, hungry or thirsty with all your museum wandering you’ll be pleased to know that three of Paris’ most famous eateries are very close to the Louvre. In fact, Café Marly sits within one of the colonnades. Eat a little something while overlooking I. M. Pei’s glass pyramids.
Alternatively, you might want a touch of decadence in the form of an Angelina’s hot chocolate. While I’m not a fan of hot chocolate full stop, I’m reliably informed that Angelina’s on rue de Rivoli does the best hot chocolate in the world.
If neither of those options appeal, wander across to Café Le Nemours in the Palais Royal – it’s just gorgeous and a perfect spot for people watching.
Day Four – Let’s walk.
For day four, I am recommending one of the best things you can do in a Paris – walking. Start with a visit to Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris and see if you can find Victor Hugo’s hunchback. If you are feeling energetic (and the queues aren’t too long) climb to the top of the cathedral for some of the best views in Paris. Otherwise, just take in the centuries old cathedral and be impressed.
Next, head up the road to the Palais Garnier. It is extraordinary from the outside but astonishingly beautiful on the inside. Make the time to visit the inside – don’t make the mistake we made and leave it for years before you step inside this Parisian Opéra house. Fabulous detail, magnificent stairs, spectacular ceilings – this is one dramatic building.
Once you’ve had your fill of the Palais Garnier, it’s time to take a walk up the very famous Champs- Élysées. Yes, it can be ‘touristy’ but it is not as bad as you might think. There is lots to see and you do have a fairly impressive end point in the Arc de Triomphe. For yet another special view, climb to the top of the Arc and look back on the Paris you’ve just spent four days exploring.
And don’t forget that all these sites are equally impressive at night.
Well, there you have it – my first recommendation for four days in Paris. Stay tuned for future posts or feel free to add your own suggestions in the comments below.
Until next time – au revoir.