Audrey Hepburn famously said “Paris is always a good idea.” We couldn’t agree more! Like most of our readers who travel when you can get away from work, we’ve also visited Paris on short city breaks and at Christmastime. Of course, as a first time visitor you want to see it all but that quickly becomes a pretty ambitious plan. So just how do you maximize your time in Paris? After many trips to Paris over the years (especially since moving to Bordeaux), we’ve put together these tips for how to maximize your time in Paris:
1. Skip the lines with the Paris Pass.
Paris is the most popular city in the world to visit. Over 30 million people visit Paris each year! Waiting in line for hours at attractions like the Louvre or Saint Chapel is the biggest time suck you’ll face when visiting Paris. One of the smartest things you can do is to invest in the Paris Pass, which gives pass holders elite fast track entrance to many of Paris’s most popular museums and attractions. By saving time skipping the line, you’ll have time visit more attractions or spend a little time enjoying a leisurely lunch.
The Paris Pass is available for 2, 4, or 6 days and gives you free entry to over 60 Paris museums and attractions, and use of the hop-on-hop-off bus plus unlimited journeys on all Paris public transportation within zones 1 – 3, which covers all of central Paris.
I recommend visiting the following attractions on day 1 of your 2-day Paris Pass:
- Arc de Triomphe
- Notre Dame
- Bateaux River Cruise (at night is best to see Paris lit up)
- Hop On Hop Off Bus (picks up near Arc de Triomphe and will take you to all these attractions)
Also with the Paris Pass, you can visit the Palace of Versailles. I HIGHLY recommend doing this. It will take an entire day, but don’t miss it! To get to Versailles, take the metro to the Champ de Mars stop (Eiffel Tower stop) and change to the RER C train. It takes about an hour to reach Versailles.
2. Plan ahead for your Paris trip.
We all have romantic ideas of giving in to our whimsy, but if you want to see the main sights of Paris you will need to plan ahead. Keep in mind that your Paris Pass is based upon a calendar day, so if you activate your pass at 4pm on Saturday, Saturday is counted as day one of your pass usage. Instead, if you are arriving in Paris mid-day plan activities not on your Paris Pass like visiting the Eiffel Tower and save time by booking your timed entry online to avoid waiting in the long lines.
3. Make use of public transportation.
The Paris Pass includes use of all Paris metros, RER, buses, trams, SNCF overland suburban trains, and the Montmartre Funicular within zones 1 – 3 and a two-day hop-on-hop-off bus tour of Paris. Utilize public transportation to get between sights on day one and two of your Paris Pass and then cash in your voucher for the two-day hop-on-hop-off bus in the evening of the day your Paris Pass expires. Doing so allows you to use the two-day hop-on-hop-off bus to get around the city once your Paris Pass expires.
4. Don’t waste time with long lunches.
We enjoy – and often need – a sit-down break from being on the go and you definitely shouldn’t miss out on trying some of the best restaurants in Paris. But you don’t need to sit down for a two hour lunch each day of your trip, and can instead savor those leisurely meals at dinnertime.
Instead, you can have a gourmet lunch-on-the-go in the food hall at Galeries Lafayette Haussman. And when we say food hall, that doesn’t begin to describe the more than 20 different restaurant options. There is a raw oyster bar, champagne bar, tea room, and just about every type of “take-out” you can imagine. Eat in the cafeteria-style dining room with a stunning view of the Eiffel Tower.
Or pop in to one of Paris’ many gourmet markets and grab a baguette, some cheese and a bottle of wine. Have lunch outdoors in one of Paris’s many gardens.
5. Save time with luggage storage.
If your time in Paris is short, you don’t want to waste a single second. If you’re arriving in Paris at a train station like Gare Montparnasse and visiting the observation deck of the Tour Montparnasse is on your must-do list, don’t waste time by first heading to your hotel. Instead, you can book Paris luggage storage and visit nearby attractions before heading off to your hotel. With luggage storage options from just €6 for 24 hours, you’ll definitely save both time and money during your trip to Paris.
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