4 Nights in Paris

We spent 4 nights in Paris - taking in the main sights and attractions with a 3-year-old in tow.

4 Nights in Paris

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Joy S on September 19, 2006

Paris is one of the world's great cities and has a seemingly inexhaustible supply of sights and attractions—from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame to the Louvre. It is cosmopolitan and urban and there really is something for everyone. Paris has been the capital of France for 1,000 years and it is hard to find words to do justice to it—sophisticated, stylish, chic, energetic, the list goes on and on.

The main sights speak for themselves, but other highlights include the cafe terraces - there are a multitude of these. It is wonderful to sit with a drink and watch the world go by.

A trip on a river boat called a bateau mouche is also a really memorable way to see the city.

Paris is divided into 20 districts called arrondissements, each with its own distinct personality. You really can see the ambiance change as you wander from arrondissement to arrondissementjust wander around and experience this, it is so interesting and fun.

The perimeter of Paris is just 22 miles long and many of its best known sights are conveniently close together. The city is thus relatively small and we thought very visitor friendly. In our opinion the attractions and sights are best seen on foot where possible.

I think Paris is amongst the most stimulating cities in the world. If you come expecting all you've heard to be true, you will not be disappointed. This was my 5th visit to the city and each time I've visited it has rewarded me with an unforgettable experience.${QuickSuggestions} Tuesday is the closing day for most French national museums. Parisian museums generally require that visitors have their bags searched and checked before being admitted. To save time, leave extra gear in the hotel and avoid the hassle.

Be sure to sit in a street cafe at least once and watch the world go by. Coffee or wine are the most economical drinks to buy—soft drinks and beers are so expensive.

A useful website to find out about attractions, make accommodation reservations and get useful information is the Paris Tourist Information Centre - www.parisinfo.com.

Wear comfortable shoes, you will do a lot of walking. Also bring an umbrella—we were lucky on this trip, but past experience suggests that Parisian weather can be fickle.

Take extra care when you cross the road—there is so much traffic and most drivers were ok, but to some the concept of priority on pedestrian crossings is an alien one.

Hold on to your metro ticket until you leave the station. Mostly you need to put it into a machine to get out, also sometimes Metro Police stand at the exits and using hand held scanners, inspect every exiting ticket. If you do not have your ticket you will be asked to pay a €35 fine on the spot.

Pick pocketing and bag theft are common, especially in crowded places. Pay attention to your belongings and carry money and documents separately. Montmartre, Pompidou Centre, Pigalle and Line 1 of the Metro are especially favoured by thieves. A young girl attempted to pick pocket us at the metro stop by the Eiffel Tower. She had her hand in my sister's bag, but we noticed and she ran off empty handed.

Buy a Museum Pass for free fast track access to 70 monuments and museums in Paris and the Ile de France. I think a one day pass costs €18 3 day costs €36 and 5 days costs €54.

Walk as much as possible, but do also use the metro. Paris is a compact city about 6 miles across and no building in Paris is more than 100 yards from a metro stop. Taxis are expensive and you pay by distance and the amount of time you are in the cab. So if you get stuck in a traffic jam it can be costly.${BestWay} There are 2 main airports in Paris—Charles de Gaulle is 17 miles to the north of the city centre and Orly airport is 10 miles south of central Paris. We flew into Charles de Gaulle on a BA Connect direct flight from the UK.

From Charles de Gaulle the RER line B takes you into the heart of Paris to Gare du Nord. Trains leave roughly every 15 minutes from 5am until about 11:30pm (from Terminals 1 and 2). The journey time takes around 35 minutes and is quite cheap.

The public transportation in Paris is world class. The Metro (underground) and its sister system the RER are immense, efficient, frequent and reasonably priced. No matter where you are in Paris, there is usually a metro stop very close by. It is easy to use. Follow "sortie" for the exit and "correspondance" to change lines.

Buy a carnet of 10 tickets—this offers significant savings. You can buy these at the metro stations or in tobacconists throughout the city. You can use these tickets on the Metro, RER, buses and even on the funicular at the Sacre Coeur. Stamp your ticket in the machine before boarding and hold on to it until you leave the station.

Free maps of the public transport systems are available at all Metro stations. Lines are identified by their colour and number and the direction is given by the last stop on the line.

Eiffel Kennedy Hotel

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

The hotel has 3 stars and is family owned. It is in a good location, within walking distance of the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower. It is quite small with just 30 rooms.

The neighbourhood is very nice, quiet and safe, we were often out late in the evenings and always felt comfortable. There are several nice restaurants nearby, a good bakers just across the road and some lovely shops a few streets away. There are also a couple of supermarkets nearby which we found useful for stocking up on soft drinks and snacks.

Check-in was efficient, we arrived at 11am and our rooms were ready for us. The receptionist was friendly and gave us lots of useful information.

The rooms are very very small—in our experience though that is typical of a lot of Parisian hotels. We had a double bed and a small campbed pushed right next to it for our 3 year old son. We could barely manage to get our 2 suitcases into the room and shut the door.

Rooms are basic but comfortable and spotlessly clean. Our room had air-conditioning, a mini-bar, and a small, oldish television with limited choice of satellite channels—not a problem for us as hey, we didn't go to Paris to watch television.

We had a view of the Eiffel Tower from our room—albeit we did have to lean out of the window a little and look over the rooftops.

The bathroom was a reasonable size with small bath and powerful overhead shower. The wardrobe was actually in the bathroom (built-in) - there wasn't enough space for it in the bedroom area.

Breakfast is served in a small but really charming basement room. Tables were nicely laid and there was a selection of breads, cakes, cereals as well as freshly cooked eggs.

There are a couple of metro stops a short walk from the hotel, but there is also a really nice walkway to the Eiffel Tower. It is called Swan Island - a pedestrianised area on a dyke in the middle of the Seine, and goes from close to the hotel right to the Eiffel Tower. It is lovely, takes about 15 minutes, is peaceful and traffic-free (a rarity in Paris) and has some lovely views.

We booked our stay through a travel website, but my sister booked her room directly on the hotel's own website - she got a better deal. We both paid the same price, but her rate included breakfast - this was extra for us.

We really enjoyed our 4 nights in this hotel. The rooms are extremely small, but its good location, homely feel and welcoming and helpful staff make it, in our opinion, a great place to stay in Paris.
Eiffel Kennedy Hotel
Paris, France, 75016
1-45 244575

Arc de Triomphe

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

We walked from one end of the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe, right at the other end. The wide, leafy avenue—the Champs Elysees is a focal point for the French nation. It was witness to momentous events such as the Liberation March in 1944 and the Soccer World Cup celebration in 1998.

It takes about 30 minutes to walk from one end of the Champs Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe at the other. Our guidebook recommended you take the metro, as with heavy traffic (it said) it wasn't a restful stroll. We didn't, we walked and thoroughly enjoyed it. The traffic is heavy, but the avenue is so wide and there are so many things to look at.

At the bottom end there is a park area, grass and trees—we walked through the autumn leaves collecting conkers. The middle area has trendy bars, restaurants, and shops—all really expensive and full of chic customers.

The Arc de Triomphe is at the top of the Champs Elysees standing on a traffic roundabout called the Etoile (the Star). This is the world's largest traffic roundabout. I don't know how anyone ever navigates it successfully—cars seemed to be like fairground dodgems, going everywhere, beeping horns and narrowly avoiding each other.

The Etoile is the meeting point of 12 avenues, many of which are named after illustrious generals. Stand on the roundabout and look at the avenues fanning out around you - an impressive sight.

The Arc de Triomphe is also impressive - 163 feet high, 147 feet wide and built by Napoleon to commemorate his army's victories. Over the years it has become the focal point for state funerals. During World War II both the invading Germans and the Liberation of Paris Parade passed beneath it. Engraved around the top are the names of major victories during the Napoleonic Period.

When we visited there were crowds of tourists and so many street vendors. It is free to wander around the base of the arch—there is a charge for the rooftop. We didn't go up there, but I think the view would be great. We didn't fancy dragging our 3 year old son up all the steps to the top.

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is beneath the Arch and the eternal flame commemorates the dead of the two world wars. On 11 November each year, France's National Remembrance Service is held here. On 14 July, French National Day, a military parade down the Champs Elysees also begins here. The tomb is an interesting and reflective place - despite the crowds there is a hushed and respectful silence nearby.

Arc de Triomphe
Place Charles-de-gaulle
Paris, France, 75008
+33 (1) 55 37 73 77

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

Montmartre's metro stations are on the edge of the district leaving you with an uphill walk to reach the Sacre-Coeur and the main sights. We avoided walking up the daunting steps by taking the funicular from Square Willette - quick and easy way to get to the top.

Every time I see the gleaming white Sacre-Coeur, right at the summit of the hill of Montmartre, it never fails to impress me. It was built between 1876 and 1914 in an ornate Byzantine style, commissioned as atonement for the 58,000 people who died in the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871. The basilica was hampered by problems and it was not ready until 1914. Then World War I intervened and the Parisians had to wait until 1919 for the consecration. Priests still work in relays to maintain constant prayer for forgiveness and the horrors of war.

The church has a 273 foot dome. Inside, despite crowds of visitors, the atmosphere is hushed and spiritual. They have one of the world's largest mosaics, depicting Christ with outstretched arms. Photographs inside are not allowed.

Outside there are big statues of Joan of Arc and St Louis guarding the entrance on horseback in sculpted bronze. The remarkably white church is not painted—its whiteness comes from a stone that secretes a white substance when it rains.

Right outside the basilica is a little tourist train which travels around Montmartre and Pigalle. Our son really wanted a trip on it—we were pleasantly surprised at how informative and interesting it was. It costs around £3.50, leaves on the hour and takes around 45 minutes. The driver gives a brief commentary in English, French and Italian.

We saw some interesting things, including Paris' only vineyard—very small, producing very select wines which are sold at auction for about £1,000 per bottle. The train also drove past the famous Moulin Rouge.

Montmartre is worth exploring for its cobbled streets and stunning views. It was the bohemian centre of creativity during the late 19th century—immortalised in the film Moulin Rouge.

The Place du Tertre is a nice little square, but it seemed like every other tourist in Paris thought so too and went at the same time. It is absolutely packed with people and has been ruined by tourism. It also teams with street artists, but we couldn't be bothered elbowing through the crowds to look at their wares. It is lined with tacky trinket shops and overpriced restaurants.

Get through the crowds, and wander, as we did a little off the beaten track and you will find the real village within the city—quiet cobbled streets and whitewashed cottages—beautiful.

At the bottom of the hill is the Pigalle area - a bit seedy and tacky—lots of sex shops and other such establishments. We walked along here to have a closer look at the Moulin Rouge and take some photographs. Although it is the red light area, we felt perfectly safe.
Basilica du Sacre Coeur
35, Rue Du Chevalier-de-la-barre Rue De La Bonne
Paris, France, 75018
+33 (1) 53 41 89 00

Bateau Mouche

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

A ride on a bateau mouche costs €8 for adults and €4 for children. There are regular departures—hourly and half hourly from the Pont de l'Alma.

The boats are large and spacious, the best views are from the seats on the top level. The only disadvantage is you are not under cover you get wet if it rains, and really hot if it is sunny.

There is a pre-recorded commentary but it is given in about 7 different languages. We found it almost impossible to concentrate on what was being said, gave up eventually and just enjoyed the ride.

The boat trip is relaxing and enjoyable. The Seine runs through the historic heart of Paris and has more than 30 bridges. The most interesting one for us was the Pont Neuf—the oldest bridge which is close to Notre Dame Cathedral.

The Seine is the spine of Paris and has a beautiful urban landscape. Many of the famous Paris monuments are on the river banks - for example Notre Dame, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower - so you see a lot from the bateau mouche. The view of the Eiffel Tower from the boat was most impressive.

It was also really interesting to see all the activity on the river banks—lots of people walking, relaxing, reading, and playing music. We also saw all the boats preparing for the evening dinner cruises with tables nicely set for dinner. This would be a lovely thing to do—see Paris by night from the river. Our son is still a little too young for this at the moment.

The whole boat trip lasted around an hour. We enjoyed it because it gave us a unique view on the city. The bateau mouche is to Paris what a gondola ride is to Venice - a wonderfully touristy way to see the city from a different perspective.
Pont de l'Alma
Paris, France, 75008
+33 (1) 42 25 96 10

Beaubourg - Centre Georges Pompidou

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

We recognised the Pompidou Centre immediately when we saw it—it is so strange looking.

The Pompidou Centre was built between 1972 and 1977 and displays and promotes contemporary art. It was named after Georges Pompidou - President of France between 1960-1974. He wanted a venue where people could enjoy contemporary film, drama, music, dance, and visual art and so the Pompidou Centre was built. It took 5 years to construct. It is also known as the Beaubourg and houses the Musee National d'Art Moderne.

People either love or hate the brazen design of the building. It has grown on me, I thought it was ugly at first but I think I appreciate it for its "differentness." Anyway, it still manages to attract 6 million people a year.

It was designed to create a radical building inside and out. In most buildings the structural supports and the services—pipeworks, air ducts, and escalators are neatly hidden. Here the architects have put them onto the outside to free up the interior space and made a feature of them by painting them in bright colours. The piping is colour coded—yellow for electrics, blue for air-conditioning, green for water, and red for the lifts.

As well as the art galleries, there is a library with over 2,000 periodicals.

There is a lovely little gift shop on the mezzanine level selling contemporary and beautifully designed objects—household appliances, hairdryers, gifts—very diverse and very nice.

In the square to the west of the centre there were lots of young, studenty, arty people sitting on the ground, chatting and enjoying the sunshine. We also saw lots of street musicians, some Marcel Marceau impersonators and a few unsavoury types as well. Apparently this is an area where pickpockets are rife. We however loved the buzzing and lively atmosphere.

Around the corner from the main entrance to the Pompidou Centre is the Place Igor Stravinsky—there are some great fountains there—modern, surreal and, worth seeing.
Centre Pompidou
Place Georges Pompidou
Paris, 75004
+33 (1) 44 78 12 33

Cathédrale Notre-Dame

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

Notre-Dame is on the Ile de la Cite, the historical heart of Paris with must-see sights and lovely views of the Seine. Like everywhere else in the city, it is packed with visitors and the traffic is heavy. The architecture though is fabulous.

We got to Notre-Dame at about 10:30am. There was a queue to get inside but it was fast-moving. The atmosphere inside was disappointing—noisy, packed, cameras flashing, and camcorders whirring—not in the least sacred or spiritual. 10 million people enter its doors every year, so I suppose it must be like this most of the time.

Victor Hugo called it "a symphony of stone". It is located in the geographic and historical heart of Paris. It was one of the first cathedrals to be built in the Gothic style, was begun in 1163 and completed in 1345. It can accommodate over 6,000 worshippers.

It is famous for its sculptures, grotesque gargoyles, and stained glass. The North and South rose windows are spectacular—huge—and date back to the 13th century. Unfortunately, we did not experience the sun shining through them, this is supposed to be especially magnificent.

The choirscreen is wonderful—created in the 14th century with depictions of gospel scenes.

The cathedral's state of disrepair inspired Victor Hugo to write The Hunchback of Notre Dame in 1831, which helped to stimulate its restoration. The South Tower, which houses the great bell, was home to the legendary Quasimodo.

There was a huge queue to go up the 387 steps to the tower—it stretched right around the block, so we gave this a miss. You must get a great close-up of the gargoyles up there. There are also apparently kestrels which nest and breed in the towers. Maybe next time!

All road distances are calculated from the zero point located on the square in front of Notre-Dame.

After our visit, we wandered towards the Ile St Louis. It felt so peaceful and leafy there, in contrast to the busy Ile de la Cite. You also get fantastic views of the cathedral from its western tip.

The Ile St Louis has lots of 16th-18th century mansions and has been largely residential since the 17th century. It is very exclusive, residents have included the poet Baudelaire.

We loved wandering along the main road - the narrow St Louis en Ile. The little shops are delightful - full of lovely, quirky and interesting gifts and souvenirs. Our son was fascinated - normally he hates shops, but wanted to go into all of them.

There are also lots of nice bakers and some wonderful ice-cream shops. We got our ice-creams from the famous Maison Berthillon—I recommend the vanilla—it is to die for! I have never had vanilla ice-cream like it.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame
6, place du Parvis-de-Notre-Dame
Paris, France, 75004
+33 (1) 42 34 56 10

Eiffel Tower (General)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

The Eiffel Tower is impressive, exciting, and a must-see. Due to its amazing architecture and size, you can see it from almost any vantage point in Paris. Few things symbolise the city like it.

It is 1,050-feet high and was the world's tallest structure until 1930. Designed by Gustav Eiffel, it originally had no practical use and was built as a temporary centrepiece for the World Fair of 1889. Today it is the very symbol of Paris and is probably one of the most recognised structures in the world.

It is built entirely of iron, weighs 7,000 tonnes but the pressure it applies to the ground is only equivalent to that of a chair with a man sitting on it.

Impressive from any distance and any angle, I think the most amazing views are when you walk underneath it—then you can really appreciate as you look up, what a breath-taking feat of engineering it is.

It always seems to be so busy around the tower—crowds of tourists and lots of street vendors selling tacky souvenirs. Six million people visit every year, so it is probably difficult to avoid the masses.

We went up in the lift to the first platform at 8:30 in the evening. This was supposed to be a good time to go, crowd-wise, but we still had to queue for 45 minutes before we got in the lift. It cost €8 to go to the first level—it is more expensive for the 2nd and 3rd. Everyone crammed into the lift, but you still get a reasonable view as it glides quickly to the top.

You can actually use the steps and walk up to the first floor. I have done this in the past - it's not too arduous, but this time, with a 3-year-old in tow we decided to use the lift.

The first floor is 57m high, the 2nd is 115m and the 3rd is 276m. You get a 40 mile view, the twinkling nighttime lights of the city make a pretty sight, but it is difficult to distinguish any landmarks. The views are supposed to be best one hour before sunset when the light is kinder to cameras. We did find though at that time of the evening that we virtually had the first platform to ourselves.

The top of the tower sways up to 7 centimetres in high winds, eugh! When we were there it was very still.

There are 2 restaurants, Altitude 95 and the Jules Verne - located on the 1st and 2nd levels respectively. There is also a post office where you can have your postcards franked with "Tour Eiffel".

It is a hugely impressive sight in daylight, but at nighttime becomes magical. It dazzles with 20,000 lights which sparkle on the hour for 10 minutes from dusk until 2am, a real visual treat.
Eiffel Tower
Champ De Mars
Paris, 75007

Jardin du Luxembourg (Le)

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

The Jardin du Luxembourg is one of Paris's most popular parks. It forms a southern boundary to St Germain and the Latin Quarter. The Sorbonne University is nearby—students come here to relax after lectures. It is also a popular haunt of chic Montparnasse residents and their offspring who make use of the many children's attractions.

When we visited it was a really hot, sunny Sunday afternoon. The park was packed. It was full of Parisians sunbathing, playing boules and jogging along the shady paths.

Our son loved it, children are really well catered for here. They have donkey rides, you can rent remote control yachts to sail on the pond and there is a big play area with swings, slides and climbing apparatus. It is fenced in, very safe, and you have to pay to get in. It costs €1.50 per child and €2.5 per adult. They stamp your hand on the way in and you can come and go all day long. We had to drag our son out after 2 hours.

There is also a lovely old-fashioned carousel ride just beside the playground. The horses have seatbelts so even the youngest children can ride safely. Each child gets a stick and has to try and catch metal rings on the way round. A simple idea, but all the children adored it.

There is a cafe selling refreshments and food close to the playground, it was so busy that we couldn't get a table, but they do food to takeway. We queued for about 20 minutes and got a drink and a very nice sandwich.

Away from the children's attractions there are plenty of other things to see and do. the park is actually 60 acres and has some of the most beautiful flower displays in Paris. It is landscaped in a mixture of French, English and Italian styles.

The focal point of the park is a large octagonal pond encircled by stone urns and statues of French Queens and other notable women. The pond is directly in front of the Luxembourg Palace. This was built in the 17th century by Marie de Medicis, a French Queen, on the model of Palazzo Pitti in her native Florence. It is very beautiful.

Close to the palace is a bandstand, when we were there a choir was performing which was entertaining.

The Musee du Luxembourg is located in the former orangery, this stages temporary art exhibitions.

We spent about 5 hours in the park and really enjoyed it—it was a chance to catch some breathing space between sightseeing and spend some time doing something the locals do.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Boulevard Saint-Michel
Paris, France, 75006
33 (1) 42 34 20 00

Musee du Louvre

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Joy S on September 30, 2006

The Louvre is one of the most famous art galleries in the world, with a vast collection spanning thousands of years from ancient civilisations to mid 19th century European paintings. Stretching for half a mile along the Seine, the palace began as a medieval fortress and was expanded over the centuries into a luxurious royal residence. The palace was designated a museum immediately after the Revolution and its collection was significantly expanded by Napoleon.

Today it is home to the Mona Lisa (La Joconde in Frence) and the Venus de Milo as well as more than 400,000 works of art, of which 35,000 are on permanent display. It is one of the world's greatest art collections.

The Louvre is immense, you could spend a whole week exploring it. It is closed on Tuesdays. It opens at 9:00am, try and go as early as possible to avoid queuing for ages. It is least crowded first thing in the morning and apparently Sunday is the busiest day. The entrance fee is reduced after 3pm and on Sundays but it does get really busy then. Certain rooms are not open every day—the website has a schedule of closures.

The galleries are well designed and colour coded. The Mona Lisa is on the first floor at the 13-15th century Italian paintings section. Be prepared for a large crowd of people elbowing to get near—2,000 people per hour come to see her. When I first saw the painting I was amazed at how tiny it was, just 30 inches by 20 inches and surrounded by bullet proof glass.

The entrance to the Louvre is impressive, 3 pyramids built in the 1980's and designed by IM Pei. The big one is 67 feet. Escalators take you down to the entrance below the ground foyer.

We enjoyed walking around the outside of the Louvre as well. The architecture and buildings are beautiful, very grand, and you can wander through a series of immense courtyards. We saw a lady busking in an archway by one of the courtyards, she had a beautiful voice, performed classical pieces and it enhanced the experience, wandering around listening to the beautiful music.

The main tip when visiting the Louvre is do not try to do it in one day. Its sheer size and the mind boggling number of exhibits can be overwhelming. Approach it in stages and concentrate on a particular period or section. Also avoid it completely during the tourist rush in the afternoon.
Musée du Louvre
99, rue de Rivoli
Paris, France, 75001
+33 (1) 40 20 51 51


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