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How to See Paris in 2 Days
Paris, Mon Amour! I love this sprawling porcelain city of amazing art & desserts. Around every corner lies another icon from your history books, another picturesque scene of impeccable details. The air is filled with romance, culture, and beauty…. Ahhh, Paris… The City of Love…
… And The City of Waiting in Lines if you’re visiting The Must Sees, so get ready! Of course there is more to Paris than The Top 10 Tourist Attractions, but let’s face it – they’re called Tourist Attractions for a reason. These are bucket list monuments you’ve wanted to see your whole life! So, you do what ya gotta do – embrace your inner tourist, strap on your walking shoes, and get ready for the crowds. Many of us would love a week – a month! – to spend in Paris. But sometimes, you have no choice but to take a whirlwind tour. Here’s my list of the best things to see in Paris, and how to do it in 2 days:
1. Stay somewhere central. I stayed at an apartment suite at Hôtel du Lion d’or Louvre, right by The Louvre.
2. Wear walking shoes, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking!
3. Start your days early.
4. Reserve tickets online ahead of time for top sights (The Eiffel Tower, The Louvre). You won’t have to wait in line – that’ll cut down 3 hours right there. But you’ll have to make the reservation weeks (or months) in advance.
5. Use the metro system.
6. Have a plan – Visitacity.com is a great site to plan your day down to the minute, including commute times. Plug in your hotel, attractions you’d like to visit, and it will map out the best route.
The Louvre Musuem
3 hrs . . . . . Address: 99, rue de Rivoli ou accès par la Pyramide, 5001, Paris
Most say you can devote an entire day to Le Musée du Louvre, and I’d say they’re right. But, this is the time crunch tour! Arrive before opening time (9am) to avoid a long line, or in the evening when the museum is open at night (Wed & Fri until 9:45pm). Budget 3 hours – I believe this is the absolute minimum amount of time needed to make it through the maze of 5 floors, 30,000+ works of art, and 26,000+ other pedestrians. Pick up a map and beeline it to your must-see masterpieces: I was able to hit the The Mona Lisa, The Venus de Milo, The Winged Victory of Samothrace, Egyptian Antiquities, The Napolean III Apartments, and The Medieval Louvre: Moats of King Philippe Auguste Ruins during my sprint. Stop for a photo opp at the bottom of the glass pyramid, made even more famous by Dan Brown’s The Davinci Code.
Love Lock Bridges
15 mins . . . . . Address: Pont de Arts OR Pont de l’Archevêché bridge
The Pont de Arts & The Pont de l’Archevêché bridges have become part of a cultural phenomenon sweeping the globe: Love Locks. To signify their eternal love, couples will inscribe their initials on a padlock, attach the lock to the bridge, and throw away the key. Over the years, layers of these amorous gestures have built up over The River Seine. However, where there is love, there is drama! Passion! Controversy! Many believe the locks are pure vandalism. In fact, the railing of The Pont de Arts Bridge recently collapsed due to the weight of the locks, sparking the No Love Locks campaign to “Free Your Love. Save Our Bridges.” The locks may soon be banned, so… see these controversial statements while you can!
Walk Along The River Seine
20 mins . . . . .
The Left Bank (Rive Gauche) of The River Seine is historically known for its artists, philosophers, and all things bohemian. Technically, the Rive Gauche extends well past the banks of the river, into The Latin Quarter (which we’ll visit later). The literal banks of the river are a pleasant stroll filled with sidewalk commerce: a mixture of watercolor artists, second-hand books, and souvenir tchotchkes. (The Left Bank is the side opposite of The Louvre.)
Notre Dame Cathedral
1 hr . . . . . Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame, Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
Notre Dame will have it line to go inside, but it shuffles along pretty quickly. Seeing the famous stained-glass Rose Windows & vaulted ceilings is a must – and very moving. Service is often in session – no flash photography or speaking is allowed. Feel free to take a seat in the pews for a moment and soak in this sanctuary of Gothic Architecture. Then, head outside to the back courtyard where Notre Dame’s famous flying buttresses soar over a picturesque courtyard, lined with square-cut Parisian trees. You can pay (and waste more time standing in line) to go to the top of the tower, but I did not.
The Latin Quarter
1 hr 30 mins . . . . . Address: Boulevard St. Germain & the Boulevard St. Michel
The Latin Quarter is known for its culture & abundance of delectables: crepes, cheese shops, patisseries, and libations! This district is named after its scholarly citizens of The Middle Ages, who attended the surrounding universities and spoke Latin. Snag a sidewalk seat and soak up the history: you’re in the former haunt of Hemingway. Feeling inspired?
30 mins . . . . . Address: 71 Boulevard Saint-Michel 75006 Paris
Take a quick detour through these gardens for a perfectly Parisian oasis: Picnicking urbanites lounging across a green plain… children sailing toy boats and riding ponies… all with The Palace of Luxembourg as a backdrop.
Avenue des Champs-Elysees
2 hrs . . . . . 2km between The Louvre & The Arc de Triomphe
There are two reasons to visit The Champs-Elysees: 1) To window shop the luxury stores near The Arc de Triomphe. 2) To walk the famous stretch known as “The Historical Axis.” The avenue literally connects several historical buildings through an alignment of the sun. If you’re standing at either end, you can view a perfect line from The Louvre to The Grande Arche, through The Arc de Triomphe and The Luxor Obelisk, with beautiful fountains & statues (such as Joan of Arc) along the way. Now that’s urban planning!
The Arch de Triomphe
30 mins . . . . . Address: 9 Place Charles de Gaulle 75116 Paris
The Arch de Triomph is one of the most famous national monuments in the world, honoring those who fought for France in the Napoleonic Wars. The Tomb of The Unknown Soldier lies underneath, and an eternal flame burns under its arches. It is also the epicenter of a crazy dangerous roundabout, The Place Charles de Gaulle.
Grande Arche de La Defense | Downtown Paris
30 mins . . . . . Address: 1 Parvis de la Defense, 92044 Puteaux, France
Standing at the end of the Historical Axis, The Grande Arche was built to commemorate the bicentennial anniversary of The French Revolution. A modern-day nod to the other triumphant archways throughout Paris, this giant hollow cube of marble, glass & granite is twice the size of The Arc de Triomphe, and large enough to engulf Notre Dam. When visiting this mega-monument, you’ll be in the heart of modern Paris – the business district of La Défense.
2 hours . . . . . Address: 1, avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy – 75014 Paris
A winding stone staircase descends 130 steps into the eery underground of Paris: The Catacombs. The temperature drops. The walls close in, and you’re transported back into the dark ages. 6 million Parisian souls lie under the city in a labyrinth of skulls & bones – victims of The Plague, famine, and war. Due to overcrowded cemeteries, these bodies were exhumed and laid to rest in 300km of abandoned quarries. Centuries of skeletons line the narrow pathways, dating back to the 1400s. 2km of this subterranean graveyard are open to the public, allowing visitors with a macabre curiosity to come face-to-face with human mortality. If you dare to stare into the eye sockets of the deceased, you’ll find bullet holes and other evidence of their demise. After a few minutes of submersion, the shock finally wears away, and the human remains transform into decor. This is as gothic as art can get – you’ll find skulls arranged into heart-shapes and thigh bones stacked into crosses.
Formerly an “Off the Beaten Path” oddity, The Catacombs have risen to become a top attraction in Paris… meaning yes, another long line. Tickets are walk-up only. The last visitor is admitted is at 4pm, but they start discouraging people from standing in line several hours before that. The staff advised to arrive first thing in the morning (10am opening time) to avoid a long wait. Anything later in the day, and you’re looking at a 2-hour long line.
The Eiffel Tower
3 hours . . . . . Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
Several web sites advise to arrive at The Eiffel Tower before opening time. I listened, but still stood in line for about 3 hours (in March & September). When I left the tower at 1pm, the line was 1/2 as long. So, it’s a crap shoot – just plan for a long line, unless you were lucky enough to reserve tickets ahead of time (aka months in advance. Yes, really.) There are 3 ways to do this:
1. Go to the Top: The longest of lines (2-3 hours) will be for the Elevator to The Summit (all other levels also included). If you’re not afraid of heights, I’d highly recommend it – There’s nothing quite like standing on top of 7,300 tons of metallic lattice, sipping champagne in the breeze, gazing out upon the porcelain sprawl of Paris.
2. Climb the Stairs: This is certainly the shorter option (30 minute wait), and perhaps even more terrifying for those afraid of heights: you can see through every step up this wrought-iron wonder. Views of the city from the middle section are still impressive.
3. Admire from Below: Simply admire this structure from the gardens (Champ de Mars) with a picnic of wine & cheese. Or, grab an ice-cream and ride The Carousel at its base. If you opt for this option, consider visiting at night. The tower sparkles for 5 minutes with 20,000 glittering bulbs, every hour on the hour until 1am.
Sacre Coeur Basilica
1 hr . . . . . Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre 75018 Paris
Wondering what “that big white church” was that you could see from Eiffel Tower? The Basilica of The Sacred Heart sits at the highest point of Paris – the Butte of the Montmartre district. Climbing the cobblestone hill and 300 steps is all part of the pilgrimage to this sacred site. Catch your breath, then go inside to behold one of the largest mosaics in the world – The Christ Majesty. Service is often in session, and the choir’s angelic tones ring out over the panoramic view of Paris. Sit on the steps below this strikingly white landmark, and you’ll probably catch a puppet show.
The Montmartre Disctrict
2 hrs . . . . . Address: 20 Rue Norvins 75018 Paris
Montmartre is one of my favorite places in Paris! The vibe is just so quintessentially French: small candlelit bistros, wandering accordionists, cobblestone avenues, secret boutiques and back alley cafes… I’ve dubbed it the hillside heart of Paris. It’s way better than The Latin District! #TeamMontmartre. Get lost for a few hours: Have dinner, drink wine, and enjoy the neighborhood that Picasso, Degas, Renoir and Van Gogh once called home. Sacré Cœur, The Place du Terte, and Le Chat Noir are all just steps away.
3o min to see, 3 hrs for dinner/show . . . . . Address: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris
Moulin Rouge is the birth place of the can-can, and still home to the most famous cabaret in the world. In its hay-day, this music hall broke all the rules with its extravagant shows of lady parts and feathers. Aristocrats mixed with the riff-raff for long nights full of frivolity and Absinthe! If you can-can’t get show tickets, pop a bottle and enjoy one of the world’s most famous party scenes under the illuminated windmill- surely this is where Las Vegas got its inspiration.