Travel savvy tips for a short stay in the City of Light
Many travelers dream of spending weeks on end in Paris, with entire days spent perusing world-famous museums or leisurely sunbathing along the banks of the Seine. But many vacationers usually have only a few days to explore the French capital, so make the most of your limited time. Learn which attractions you must include on your itinerary from peaceful parks filled with Parisians to famed Gothic cathedrals teaming with tourists.
Eiffel Tower: A view from above
Measuring more than 1,000 feet high, the iconic Eiffel Tower dominates the Parisian skyline and draws hordes of tourists year-round. Beat some of the crowd by arriving at least 30 minutes prior to opening. The tower has viewing platforms on three different levels. The top floor is reachable only by elevator, but the first two floors are accessible by both stairs and elevator. The lines to climb the stairs are usually short, but if you plan on taking the elevator, save time by buying passes online. Tickets must be purchased for specific dates and times, and entry can be denied if you’re more than 30 minutes late. Entrance tickets for the stairs are cheaper than tickets for the elevator, but can only be purchased in person. For a bit of fun, mail postcards from the first-floor post office or enjoy a glass of bubbly at the Champagne bar atop the tower.
Notre Dame Cathedral: A slice of heaven on earth
Explore the grandness of the Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris’ beloved 14th-century, French Gothic church adorned with gargoyles and stained-glass windows. The world-famous cathedral draws big crowds throughout the year and is open to the public seven days a week, including extended hours on the weekends. Enjoy slightly smaller crowds on late weekend evenings during the summer. Entrance to the cathedral is free, but there are separate fees to climb the bell towers or visit the crypt. Free guided tours are offered seven days a week in a variety of languages, and 30-minute audio tours with headphones are available for a fee. Tour tickets of any kind are only available in person. The cathedral often features evening musical performances with tickets available ahead of time online.
The Louvre: Finding the perfect entrance
Housed inside a former royal palace, the Louvre is the world’s largest museum and home to everything from Egyptian antiquities to renaissance masterpieces, including the "Mona Lisa." The museum’s primary entrance, located inside the enormous glass pyramid that dominates the Louvre’s main courtyard, is typically flooded with visitors. Skip those long lines by heading for lesser-known entrances, such as the Porte des Lions on the south side of the museum or the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, which is accessible underground via the Palais Royal/Musee du Louvre metro station or at street level on Rue de Rivoli. While the Portes des Lions entrance does not sell tickets, you can purchase them online or from self-service machines in the Carrousel du Louvre’s underground shopping arcade. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and least crowded on Wednesdays and Fridays after 5 p.m.
Parc Asterix: The alternative to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris offers plenty of top-notch rides and entertainment, but the park also features massive crowds and high costs for travelers. Instead, visit Parc Asterix, France’s beloved amusement park with major roller coasters, water rides and a dolphin enclosure. Tickets are available online, including discounted rates if purchased at least seven days in advance. Save time and money by ordering a meal plan online. Daily shuttle service is offered between the park and the Louvre/Palais-Royal metro station and the Aeroport Charles de Gaulle 1 train station. The park is open from early April through early November.
Mixing with locals at Buttes-Chaumont Park
Jardin du Luxembourg offers lush green space in the heart of Paris, but the park is teaming with tourists, and visitors are forbidden from sitting on the lawn. For a more laid-back experience with local flavor, visit Buttes-Chaumont Park, a 61-acre hilltop park filled with lush waterfalls and swan-filled lakes. Climb the park’s lakeside cliff for sweeping views of the Sacre-Coeur Basilica or take in a show at the open-air puppet theater with performances held on weekends and every Wednesday. Pavillon Puebla is a casual restaurant that offers daytime yoga classes on its outdoor terrace and serves cocktails late into the evening.