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Paris: Sightseeing and Excursions
First, links to help you plan how to do your sightseeing in Paris, then some alternative venues you might like to check out on your own...
Sightseeing Recommendations for Paris You can book city tours and regional day excursions online before you leave home. An escorted tour can be very convenient and often allows you to skip queues - no small benefit at e.g. the Louvre!
Our affiliate partner, Viator, offers a huge variety of tours and excursions in Paris and the surrounding area - not only by bus, but walking, by bicycle, at night, by day, etc.! We reference some of these elsewhere, but you can check out the list here: Paris and surrounds tours from Viator
Save vacation time by planning and booking now, not when you're there. One advantage of booking ahead is being able to lock in your tour and prices up front. And even if you don't use them, the list may give you some ideas!
Paris Sightseeing Buses:
As in many other major cities, Paris now has a "hop-on, hop-off" bus services that cover many attractions while offering great flexibility. Or you can take to the river with the Batobuses, stubby, glass-enclosed trimarans
that operate a river boat shuttle service
on a circular route along the Seine.
Paris Sightseeing Boats:
Every visitor to Paris knows the Bateaux-Mouches, the large sightseeing boats that cruise up and down the river Seine, but several tour operators also run cruises on other waterways in and around Paris, along the romantic Canal Saint-Martin, the Canal de l'Ourcq, and day-trips along the River Marne.
Dinner Cruises on the Seine:
Cruising down the Seine with the floodlit monuments and bridges of Paris as a backdrop, while you dine on surprisingly good food and drink surprisingly palatable wine, has to be one of the most memorable Paris experiences, all the more so if you and your partner are romantically inclined...
Paris Bicycle Tours:
Cycling around Paris needs care but when you get off the main thoroughfares it can be surprisingly relaxing; rent a bike or go cycling on an escorted tour.
Paris Segway Tours:
If you've heard about Segway scooters, you know you've always wanted to try one out! Segways are amazing computer-controlled, self-balancing electric scooters with two wheels side-by-side (you stand on a platform in between). Take a guided tour in Central Paris.
Paris Sightseeing: Some Alternative Suggestions
You may have visited all the major attractions and be looking for something different, or you just might mot like to follow the crowds...
Whatever your reasons, here are some alternative suggestions to consider from long-time resident Harriet Welty-Rochefort :
- A concert in the Sainte Chapelle : this is a colorfully decorated thirteenth century church - the stones all painted as they used to be in the 11th century - with wonderful stained glass windows. A concert there is a magical experience. You can also attend concerts in the beautiful churches of Saint Julien le Pauvre, the oldest church in Paris, and Saint Séverin, both of which are in the Latin Quarter
- Vaux-le-Vicomte Castle : built by Fouquet, the Finance Minister of Louis XIV, who was dumb enough to invite his boss the King to a party ; the Sun King was so jealous that he fired him immediately! Vaux-le-Vicomte is not to be missed on summer Sat. nights, when it is illuminated by 2,000 candles: 17th century chamber music is played in the gardens starting at 22h30.
- Musée de l'Orangerie or Musée Marmottan: wonderful Impressionist paintings in both museums
- Musée Picasso : major works in a beautiful XVIIth century mansion (Hotel Salé)
- City of Provins : a (real) medieval city near DisneyLand (why pay for fake medieval?)
- Basilique de Saint Denis (North, on the metro line N° 13) : all the kings of France were buried here and in spite of its location in a rather depressing suburb, this basilica is breathtakingly beautiful and a rich historical experience. We highly recommend it. Nearby, the largest (multi-ethnic) market in Paris (Tuesdays, Fridays, Sundays).
Here are a few suggestions from various sources for activities that are both enjoyable and inexpensive:
- There's a great street (food) market in Rue Mouffetard (not too far from Montparnasse; in the Jardin des Plantes Quarter). And there are also some good middle eastern and greek restaurants near there.
- A converted railroad viaduct called the "Viaduc des Artistes" in the Bastille area (Ave Daumesnil) is well worth a stroll. The arches have all been converted to shops for various artisans, furniture designers, and other eclectic things. The top of the viaduct is lined with gardens and benches, and is a great place for a walk.
- The little park in the Place des Vosges is conveniently central and quietly pleasant. Other good parks are the Luxembourg gardens in the left bank and the Tuileries near the Louvre.
- The Galeries Lafayette is just a department store (and there are plenty of others), but I always like going there to watch Parisians try on hats etc., and their food shops are incredible.
- Walk along the River Seine.
- There are some impromptu parties at night (weekends?) along the Seine, one at the tip of Ille St. Louis.
- There is sometimes swing (salsa?) dancing, at night, at the outdoor sculpture park near Quai de la Tournelle (along Seine).
- July 20th until August 20th 2006 the Paris Plage is going on (where they close a street by the river and fill it with sand to make a beach!).
- Going to the Trocadero area and watching the skating exhibitionists
- Walking through Pere Lachaise or Montparnasse Cemeteries.
Rachel Kaplan runs literary walking and other tours (French Links Tours) in Paris and has a wonderful article describing how to explore the literary heritage of the city:
"As a writer who has been living in Paris since 1993, there is no question in my mind that the French capital is the writer’s quintessential city. It also happens to be the city of literary pilgrimages – its only other rival being London. Everywhere you look there are statues and monuments to writers, not to mention house museums. If you are interested in literature, and in particular French literature, then Paris warrants at least several visits."