You may want to see everything Paris has to offer, but if you have a short time; or visited before, this is the blog to read. I have 10 alternatives to help on your next or first Paris visit. These alternative spots have the added bonus of shorter lines since they are less frequented and the cost is generally less as well. Currently the euro is worth about $1.13 and if the credit card machine asks whether you want the transaction in euros or dollars, choose euros. This allows your bank to obtain the best exchange rate since it fluctuates daily.Neither of the options below are bad, but hopefully this helps you to see a side of Paris that not as many people witness. Be in touch today so we can start planning your perfect Paris adventure.
You can skip the Catacombs of Paris which are 5 stories underground in ancient stone mines. It is estimated that there are approximately 200 miles of labyrinthine tunnels below Paris. Unfortunately only a small part of this underground world is open to the public, so it doesn’t take long to go thru the tour and there are no elevators. Starting in 1786, 6 million bones were moved from the local cemeteries and arranged in intricate patterns. Sadly, after you see a few passages of bones, it all starts to look the same. Generally speaking you’re in there for about 30 minutes unless you count the time in line and listen to all of your audio guide. I highly recommend ‘skip the line tickets‘ though they can be a bit tough to get if you’re not prepared in advance.
Galerie de Paléontologie et d’Anatomie
While the Catacombs are legendary, they have pretty stiff competition in the Jardin des Plantes. This Galerie holds nearly 1,000 skeletons. Here you can see a T Rex and several other authentic fossilized extinct animals including a woolly mammoth and prehistoric man. The collection has great historic and scientific importance as well.They were collected for the French National Museum of Natural History for the Exposition Universelle de Paris of 1900. The collections come from the great expeditions of the traveler-naturalists of the 18th and 19th centuries. The Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes, which is one of the oldest zoos in the world provided a good number of bones. There is little to no line, the cost is half that of the Catacombs and you’ll spend double the time. It’s like being in the movie Night in the Museum. I particularly like going to the Grand Mosque on the edge of the gardens before or after the expedition for an Indiana Jones experience, drinking mint tea and sweet treats.
The world’s largest and most visited art museum is also a historic monument receives over 10 million visitors each year. It was originally built as the Louvre castle in the late 12th to13th century. Remnants of the fortress are still visible in the basement of the museum. Due to urban expansion, the fortress eventually lost its defensive purpose, and in 1546 Francis I converted it into his Palace. It became a museum in 1793 with the majority of the artworks being ‘borrowed’ from royalty and confiscated from the church. Over 80% of the visitors that go to the Louvre come to see the Mona Lisa and leave after. While it is an amazing museum and painting, it can be a bit overwhelming and take up too much of your valuable vacation time. Skip the line tickets recommended and try the afternoons on Wednesday and Friday when the museum is open till 10pm allowing you to miss the morning crowds.
The d’Orsay is located in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station in 1900’s. The museum holds mainly French art, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world. Work by famous painters includes Monet, Rodin, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh. It was completed and debuted at the 1900 World’s Fair. Much more manageable than her big sister the Louvre, you can tackle this must see museum in two hours. For an additional 5€ you can buy a combined ticket that allows you to see Monet’s Water Lilies in Musée de l’Orangerie just a short walk from d’Orsay in the Tuileries Gardens. They are open till 10 pm on Thursdays and you will have the place to yourself.
This 689 foot office building was opened in 1973, it was the tallest skyscraper in France until 2011, boasting 59 floors. Two years after its completion, they banned buildings over seven stories high within the city. Le Defence is just on the outskirts.The observation floor offers a beautiful view of Paris, some say because it is the only place from which the tower cannot be seen. It was voted the second-ugliest building in the world. Besides the lack of beauty, she has an asbestos problem. Rumor has it some of the best crepes are in the same area of the city. It has a long story of being a party central to stars of rock and film in its golden age. It cost 18€ to take the elevator to the observation deck.
Save the 18€ elevator ride at Montparnasse for champagne at the rooftop bar on the terrace at Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann. There is a stunning view of all the most beautiful monuments Paris has to offer including; The Garnier Opera House, The Eiffel Tower, Sacré Cœur, Notre Dame and more. The store was opened in 1893 and boasts a 43-meter high Neo Byzantine dome and an Art Deco interior. They still offer fashion shows available to the public weekly with reservations. There is no need to sit in the bar, the observation deck is free and closes at 8pm allowing for a great sunset view in the winter.
While many say it is the most romantic way to see the city. The meal is fine, some people like it a lot, but I would prefer a better dinner on land. Don’t get me wrong, I encourage you to do a night cruise, but I would opt for one without dinner. Paris has so many good cafes and restaurants. Be on the boat 30 minutes before the top of the hour after dark. This way you will see the Eiffel Tower light show that is every hour on the hour. The day tour is fine, but seeing the monuments at night makes you understand why it’s called ‘The city of lights.’
Don’t like river cruises but enjoy classical music? The best alternative evening activity is the concert in Sainte Chapelle. It is an overwhelmingly beautiful church was built by Saint Louis the IX to house the crown of thorns which is now located at Notre Dame. The chapel has 15 huge mid-13th-century windows that are spectacular in the daylight. The high ceilings make for an amazing acoustic experience in the evening.
Yes, you can use Uber internationally, but you need an overseas data plan or some sort of WIFI to order the car. One thing to keep in mind is that Uber doesn’t let you use any free ride credits you may have outside of your home country. Payments are given in local currency and calculated in accordance with the bank’s current exchange rate. While your bank may sometimes charge additional fees, the Uber app will never charge any extra for use overseas. It is usually the best way to ensure an English speaking driver.
Fares are calculated in advance according to the kilometers to be covered and not the travel time. There are no surprises when you hit a traffic jam and it takes longer to arrive. Especially helpful with airport to hotel plans. You can pre book from a computer or your phone. A 5 minutes wait is offered on arrival at your current location, so no need to rush when you see the car has arrived. There is a twenty minutes wait time if you’re at the airport since they understand that customs and baggage can add unexpected delays. Competitive prices for Paris to ORY from 37€ and Paris to CDG from 48€.Add your flight information to your reservation and they offer a worry-free flight delays service. They will monitor flight for delays, and the arrival of your driver will be automatically adjusted. You will not have extra changes anything on your end. This is a great app for the city not just your airport transfers.
The Chateau was the principal royal residence of the French monarchy from 1682 to the French Revolution in 1789. It was built by Louis XIV, and is conveniently located 12 miles southwest of the center of Paris. You can easily travel by train and makes the ideal picnic spot. The most notable attractions are the Hall of Mirrors, and the famous Gardens of Versailles with fountains, canals, and geometric flower beds and mazes. They have a firework show on Saturday nights in the summer.
They received 7,700,000 visitors each year, making it the 3rd most visited monument in the region, just behind the Louvreand Notre Dame just ahead of the Eiffel Tower.
Fontainebleau is located 34.5 mi south-southeast of the center of Paris. Just a quick 30 minute ride thanks to the high speed trains that allow you the chance to see a bit of countryside. You depart from the Gare de Lyon, where there are many helpful employees there to explain the system. After you arrive at the Fontainebleau-Avon station, you then take the ‘Ligne 1’ bus destined for Les Lilas and getting off at the ‘Château’ stop. Many people are doing the same and you will not be lost. The castle receives half the crowds of Versailles and is the only royal and imperial château to have been continuously inhabited for seven centuries. Fontainebleau dates back to the 1100’s and houses Marie Antoinette’s Turkish boudoir. If the train seems too complicated you can take a day tour by bus thru PARISCityVISION.
At the time this Cabaret was fairly scandalous and the center of Paris’s red light district. This was the birthplace of the famous can-can dance and was opened the same year as the Eiffel Tower. It did burn down, so you don’t see the original building, but it has remained in the same location since it opened in 1889. It has hosted a number of world leaders and renown celebrities from around the world. The show is not as risqué as it was at the time, but still fun to see the iconic landmark. Despite the cost being close to 200€ a head, they still sell out every night.
This is the current reigning champion of the cabaret shows in the world. Bordering on what we today consider to be scandalous, but it incorporates several acts where clothing is worn. It has become a worldwide burlesque show that can be enjoyed in 10 different cities including Las Vegas, Beirut, Adelaide and New York. It is half the cost of the Moulin Rouge making it more approachable and is located in a converted wine cellar adding to its charm. It was opened in the 50’s and run by the same family for more than 5 decades.
This is the largest open top bus tours operator in town and offers a great open view but also has protection from the elements in the lower level. A great way to see the city in a short period of time and get a tan. There are ten stops at monuments on the classic Red Line, but at the Louvre-Pyramide Big Bus Information Centre you can catch the Blue Linewhich takes you to an additional 4 stops. The Blue Line is only good if your planning to walk up to Sacre Coeur since the streets do not support large vehicles. You’re given new earphones for the individual audio guides which have a choice of eleven languages. It’s a better value than taking cabs to the more spread out spots, but it lacks personality and spontaneity.
A more unique and fun tour than most can be had in URAL sidecar motorcycles with origins dating back to Worlds War II. The forty-minute retro classic tour is for 1 or 2 people covering 4 major monuments as it loops around the city center. It cost 89€ and stops often for photo opportunities. An additional tour covers twice as many monuments at double the price. Each tour is conducted by a retro fashioned driver equipped with great stories to enhance the experience. You can also experience a night tour that is customized with champagne at the Eiffel Tower. Half and full day tours are also available. Why put cost into the equation when the memories are worth so much more?
A typical macaron is a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies. Queen Catherine de’ Medici‘s brought them with her to France in 1533 when she married Henry II of France. Though the origins of the inventor are uncertain, the belief is that the French pâtisserie Ladurée has the best. French macaron bakeries became trendy in North America in the 2010’s and still remain a bucket list food item for visitors.
A chouquettes is a type of Choux pastry consisting of a small portion of dough sprinkled with pearl sugar. This unsung hero is displayed in all boulangeries and is so common no one thinks a thing about them. A bag generally cost you a 2 to 3€ and come in the size of a doughnut hole. That’s being the only similarity since the light puff ball of goodness. It boggles my mind that North America hasn’t adopted this treat as of yet. Though it is easy enough to find and they all are wonderful, my favorite is at La Prairie par Thierry Racoillet in the 9th arrondissements.
There are many ways to experience Paris on your own. One is GPSmyCity with more than fifteen expert-designed self-guided walking tours to enjoy at your own pace. You can also create your own self-guided walk to visit the attractions which most interest you. Each walk comes with photos and background information for each destination. The app’s navigation functions guide you from one place to the next. It works offline, therefore no data plan is needed when traveling abroad. A very effective way of seeing the city on a budget. But who wants to figure out the streets and stare at the cell phone when they could be experiencing local Parisian life.
Personal Tours Paris & San Francisco
My personal curiosity has enabled me to gather both knowledge and experience to better serve as your personal concierge. From lodging and museums to restaurants and gardens, I will work with you directly to ensure that each choice creates a perfect itinerary. Car and buses may cover more places quickly; but it is not until you slow down that you really see the city. Together we can plan out your additional days for solo exploration. While the navigation of these cities can be a little intimidating and complicated, you’ll have nothing to fear after a day of practice with us at your side. Shouldn’t each vacation be filled with magical memories? Let me help make it the best trip ever. This is the way to see Paris.