Paris is the most-visited city in the world. I recently joined the crowd of more than 15 million people who visit the City of Lights every year. There is lot to see and do in Paris; more than any traveler has time for. Here are my recommendations on how to structure a short trip of four days in Paris.
Stay in Montmartre, in the 18th arrondissement. This area has all of the charm you came to Paris to see.
Walk the streets of Montmartre day and night, taking frequent coffee breaks in one of the cafes. Browse the local artwork in the Place du Tertre. Shield your eyes near the red light district of Pigalle.
Climb the steps to the 19th century Basilica du Sacré-Coeur on a clear day for a view across the city.
Ride the Metro to Le Marais, in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Browse the trendy shops, walk the Jewish Quarter, and see some of the oldest buildings in the area.
When you get tired, take a nap in the Place des Vosges. This is the oldest planned square in Paris. It was established in 1612 for the wedding of Louis XIII and some of the buildings around the square date from that time.
Go to the Musee de L’Orangerie to see Monet’s famous painting called the “Water Lilies.” The painting consists of eight large panels, four panels each presented in a large elipptical shaped room. Go early to avoid the crowds.
Walk over the oldest bridge in Paris, the Pont Neuf, to Notre Dame. Take a peak in the church and then go outside to the front left of the building for the entrance to climb the towers. Huff and puff your way to the top of one of the towers for an amazing photo opportunity of the city center. Try to find Quasimodo.
Head over to the Latin Quarter and wander the tourist-infested old streets. Don’t bother eating or drinking here unless you like vastly overpriced gruel and drool.
Next, hop back on the Metro for a ride over to the Champs du Mars for a view of the Eiffel Tower. Then get in the extremely long line to ride the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Bring a book to read while you wait. If you don’t care about getting to the top, don’t want to waste time in the line, and are willing to climb more stairs, go to the other leg of the tower and climb up to the first level.
Cross the Seine River to the Palais du Chaillot. Watch the fountains and take the obligatory photos of yourself pinching the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Go to the Musee du Louvre and notice that the Mona Lisa is actually quite small. The Louvre is overwhelming in size and scope. It’s tough to see it all in one day or before your brain turns to artistic apathy (unless you happen to be an art history major). Determine what you want to see most of all, check on those highlights, and then get out of there.
Rest in the Tuileries Gardens and get a gelato.
Walk the length of the Champs d’Élyssées from the Place de la Concorde to Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe. Peer into every window and imagine you have an unlimited platinum credit card in your pocket. Don’t miss the Avenue Montaigne for the big designer stores.
Go to the top of the Arc d’Triomphe to look down the length of the Champs d’Élyssées to see why your feet hurt. Go back to your hotel in Montmartre and soak them in the bath.
Shop the giant Galleries Lafayette department store and the other stores in the area surrounding L’Opera.
Take a “bateau mouche” boat ride on the river Seine. It starts near the Eiffel Tower and goes around the islands called the Íle de la Cité and the Íle Saint-Louis and back to the Eiffel Tower. On one ride on the river I was mooned by some rowdy youths!
When it comes to eating, I recommend seeking out the tiny ethnic restaurants in the backstreets and avoiding the brasseries. The menus in the brasseries seem to be the same everywhere, and the food is mediocre. However, you can find some wonderful and relatively inexpensive meals in the ethnic restaurants.
Not to be missed are Ladureé macarons! The flagship store is on the Avenue des Champs d’Élyssées.
Paris is expensive, so bring plenty of euros and watch out for pickpockets. Despite the high cost and the crowds, there is no other city in the world like Paris.