Ah, Paris. The city of love. The most visited tourist destination almost every year. To me, it’s now also the city my husband and I got to celebrate our first wedding anniversary in making it pretty special in my book. This was the first time either of us have visited Paris and it left quite an impression. Today, I’ll be sharing my tips on how to do Paris in 4 days. I’ll also be sharing what I thought about the Paris Pass and the easiest ways to get around the city. There’s a lot of ground to cover so let’s get into it.
I want to cover this first because I will be referencing this a lot during the post. So, the Paris Pass. It’s a pass that you can buy online (but can pick up in person or have it mailed to you) that lets you in to a lot of the top tourist destinations in Paris. It also includes some bonuses like a a wine tasting (from which you get to also leave with two bottles of wine), an all day Hop on, Hop off bus tour and skip the line access. Now, I’m going to be very honest and outright say that my husband and I were very disappointed with the Paris Pass. First of all, the pass is split up into two parts : the Museum Pass and the regular pass. When you buy the pass, most people buy both. Here’s a catch about the Museum Pass that we either missed on the website or it just straight up wasn’t there – the Museum Pass can only be used for two consecutive days. While we bought a 3 day Paris Pass, we could only access what was ruled as a “museum” for two of those days (and yes, they have to be consecutive). Here’s the thing that was the most disappointing – most things, even ones you would never consider to be a museum, are considered to be a museum on this pass so, you literally have to overstuff your days and run around the city to try to make the most of that pass. Things like Notre Dame Cathedral, Versailles, Arc de Truimph, are all ruled as museums? I think most people, like us, would assume that the Museum pass covers things like the Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, etc. You know, things that are actually considered museums. So, because of that, we ended up having to pay for access in some of the places because we ran out of time to use the pass. The 3 day pass cost us $150 per person and was in our opinion, not worth it.
Paris has many options for transportation : the subway, taxis, busses, and of course, our preferred method – by foot. There’s literally sidewalks everywhere so unlike the US, you can literally walk anywhere in Paris. The distances between each places can be pretty big so there are definite times where you need to use a different form of transportation than walking. For example, the Eiffel Tower is actually away on its own, away from most other touristy spots in the city, so you might need to take the subway or the bus to get there if you’re starting out somewhere on the other side of the city. The Paris Pass provided us with 3 days worth of subway ticket rides so we used the subway quite a bit on our last few days when we were short on time. The subway system in Paris is great and you can always get very close to your destination via the subway. We called it the train a lot so if I accidentally call it the train in this post, you know I’ll mean the subway.
A one way subway ticket is 1.60 euros and an all day unlimited pass is about 13 euros. Even if you plan on using the subway a lot, an all day pass would only be worth it if you think you’ll be taking 8 rides on the subway which would be quite a lot, so I would personally recommend just getting a one way ticket each time and walking as much as you can.
If you’re looking to go to Versailles from Paris, you’ll have to go to a central station and take the RER B train to outside of the city. Just an FYI. You can also take the train to the airport if needed.
Where to Stay
My husband and I stayed in Montmarte which is a super cute part of town but it definitely is not close to most things in the city that you might want to see. If you want a more centralized location, you might want to look closer to Notre Dame in the 3rd and 4th arondissement (the area is referred to as Marais) because you’ll be a max 20 minute walk to Notre Dame, Louvre, and a few other big spots. The rule of thumb with Paris is, the smaller the number for the arondissement, the closer it is to the center of the city. Where we stayed in Montemarte, was considered the 18th arondissement. Do not stay outside the 20 aronidissements unless you want to have a super long commute into the city every day and do not stay close to the airport as it is also pretty far out of the way.
Places to See
The most loaded question. What to see in Paris. I’m going to make a list of my favorite things and then you guys decide from there for your own travels what would work best for you.
1)Eiffel Tower. Duh. Make sure you go during the day and at night. Starting at the first even hour after it gets dark, there is a 5 minute light show. It’s quite beautiful and I highly recommend checking it out. We went on top of the Eiffel Tower on our very last day (and we did so at night) and got a glass of champagne to celebrate our wedding anniversary. There are multiple levels and when you’re buying tickets they’ll ask if you want to go to the second level or all the way to the top. It’s about 50 euros a person if you’re going to the top and getting champagne. My favorite view of the tower was from Trocadero.
2)Notre Dame. Make sure you go to the top. In order to go to the top, you need to reserve a spot in line and you have to either do that in person at the cathedral or on an app called Je File (will come up as Duck the Line). Spots open the day of at 7:30 am and I recommend getting on the app that early to get yourself a spot.
3) Luxumburg Gardens – I thought these were so beautiful and it was a lot of fun to walk around and see all the people, the little boats in the fountains and everything else going on here. It’s a little far out from everything else, but if you have time, definitely check these out.
4) The Louvre – This was definitely worth seeing. Make sure you buy skip the line tickets for this or you’ll be standing in quite the line for a while waiting to get in. This is hands down, my favorite museum I’ve ever been to. The line to see Mona Lisa is quite impressive and the painting itself is quite small. But still intriguing and worth seeing. I loved the Napoleon apartments as well, so I highly recommend seeing those while you’re at the museum. The pyramid out front is worth a picture and is really cool to look at. There’s also an inverted pyramid on the inside which is also worth checking out.
5)Arc the Truimph – One of the most recognizable structures in Paris. Might be second after Eiffel Tower. You can go up top for an impressive view but if you’re claustrophobic, the stairwell to go up might not be for you. It is very tight and it goes on for a while. You can get a 360 view of the city though and the structure itself is really cool.
6) Montmarte – This is a little part of town where all the artists used to live (and still do) and is on a hill overlooking the city. Picasso lived in Montmarte at one point. This is also where Moulin Rouge and the red light district of Paris is located. There are tons of cute little cafes and the bakery that got voted to have the best classic French baguette is located here as well (and yes, the baguette was pretty freaking delicious). We went to a little café called Coquelicot that was part café part bakery and had the most delicious lunch ever. We also got some of the bakery items to go which were to die for. Highly, highly recommend this place. There is also a chocolate shop in Montemarte that has a huge chocolate Notre Dame replica, a gargoyle, a gigantic chocolate ship and many other items that are just so impressive, that you can’t miss it. Pick up a few macarons there as well.
7)The Siene River – The river is beautiful (and quite blue during the daytime) and there’s no way to miss it when walking around the city. I highly recommend an evening Siene River cruise (or daytime, but watching the sunset on the cruise was a great experience) as it takes you past places like Notre Dame, the Louvre and other notable spots and lets you see the city from a different angle.
8) Versailles – The place where the Treaty of Versailles was signed yet during the audio tour of the place, that historic event isn’t even mentioned which we thought was kind of strange. Anyway, the palace is very beautiful but the best part of the place is definitely the gardens. Keep in mind, your Paris Pass gets you into the Palace (not the gardens, you’ll have to buy separate tickets) but does not let you skip the insane line for the place. I would recommend getting there early. Very early.
There’s obviously a lot more to do in Paris and we did a ton of other things but if you have limited time, those are the things I would say should be at the top of your to-see list!
We did the free walking tours through Discover Walks and were SO happy with both the ones we went on. The tours are free, you just tip at the end and please, be generous because these tour guides are amazing and they have to pay the company per person that shows up. We gave $15/tour and thought that was a very very fair price for the awesome experience. We did the sightseeing tour and the Montmarte tour and I would highly recommend both. These are given by native Parisians (who speak perfect English) and will teach you things that you would never learn from just walking around. I can’t say enough good things. Make sure you go on their website to see what time the tours are and where the meeting spots are for each one.
If you avoid the touristy restaurants in Paris, you’ll love all the food. There are a lot of touristy places though, so be on the look out. If you see a very large menu, with English options, I would say you might want to look elsewhere. If you see a large menu with more than just French and English, especially avoid the place.
The bread is absolutely phenomenal, as is the cheese. The fruits and vegetables are also very flavorful. Make sure you try some crepes, beignets, and baked goods in general. Whenever we stayed at a place in France where we had a fridge/kitchen, we would buy a baguette in the morning, some cheese and tomatoes and make sandwiches for breakfast. Always a great option.
Overall, Paris was one of the highlights of our trip. The city made my top 3 favorite cities in the world which is saying a lot. I would go back in a heart beat. I would highly, highly recommend everyone to visit at some point in their life. You won’t regret it. Paris, you won my heart.
As always, thanks for reading!