Expat’s Insider Secrets to Paris – Step by Step Guide

Paris Suggestions, Itineraries and Directions

Sharisse created a step-by-step itinerary for a friend traveling through Paris below.  Sharisse lived in Paris for several years and not only speaks fluent French, but she knows all of Paris secrets!

Her friend only had a few days so she created 8 itineraries for her to choose from and this helped her see the highlights.  (note:  this was created in 2007 so double check bus and metro routes)

Paris Suggestions, Itineraries and Directions from The Marriott Hotel #70 avenue des Champs-Elysées

Transportation from airport.  Take Air France bus from Charles de Gaulle Airport and get off at Charles de Gaulle-Etoile which is the top of the Champs Elysées.  Then you can walk down to the Marriott Hotel or take a cab if your luggage doesn’t roll.

First suggestion:  Buy the book Paris Eyewitness which has great pictures and maps to help you see the big picture!  When you arrive in Paris,  buy the Pariscope( at any of the green kiosk newsstand) which comes out each Wednesday and contains all the current expositions occurring in Paris.  It has an English section.  You can purchase a museum pass in the major metro stations for 1-3-5 days.  For transportation, I suggest buying the Carte Orange Hebdomadaire for zones 1-2 only.  This weekly pass, (coupon hebdomadaire) valid from Monday-Sunday, gives you unlimited metro and bus rides within Paris.  Bring a small passport-type picture of yourself as you will need to attach it to the pass. Alternatively, there is a photo machine in the major metro stations where you can take a picture.  There are also packets of 10 metro/bus passes that can be purchased in the metro stations called “un carnet de 10 billets”.  You will need to buy a separate ticket to go
to Versailles as it is outside of  zones 1-2.  Note: do not stamp the coupon hebdomadaire on the buses as it will demagnetize it.  For bus rides just show the pass to the driver as you jump on the bus. For 2 hour daily thematic tours in Paris go to
the website Paris Walking Tours or see the attached program for May 2007: http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/pariswalking/  These are fantastic tours!

Restaurants near the Marriott Hotel (across the street)

  1. Ladurée:  75 avenue des Champs-Elysées.  Great for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  I LOVE this place.  It’s beautiful and the food it great!  Must try the delicious French macaroon cookies (not made with coconut).
  2. Chez Clement:  123 avenue des Champs-Elysées.  Simple authentic French food.

FIRST THING TO DO IN PARIS!!!!  Getting Oriented

Boat Ride – Board a Bateaux Mouche! Metro:  Franklin D. Roosevelt.  Take line# 1 direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Palais Royal Musee du Louvre and take line #7 direction Villejuif and get off at Pont Neuf.

I suggest taking a boat ride down the Seine river at the beginning of your trip to get a feel for the layout of the city.  I always take the one at Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge in Paris which used to support homes).  Walk to the middle of the bridge and go down the stairs to the Vert Galant( lover’s park) to catch the boat.  This is a good thing to do after a long plane flight… When in Paris, I try to show the city from up above (Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame cathedral roof, Pompidou Center roof, La Samaritaine Dept. Store roof, Sacre Coeur church in Montmartre) and from the water level(river boats, walking down along the river Seine or up on the quai(river embankment) as well as down under the city(metro, crypts and catacombs or sewer tour). Different perspectives at different times of the day make it a fantastic visit.  The natural lighting in Paris is amazing and changes every second it seems—surreal!  After you return, go back over the bridge to the right bank and go into the department store La Samaritaine.  At the top you can access the roof and have a phenomenal view of the city!!!!!!

There are also Les Cars Rouges (double-decker London buses) which take you on a 2 ½ hr. tour of Paris.  You can catch it at 156 avenue des Champs-Elysees.  I’ve never taken one but it looks like a fun thing to do if you sit up top!  They run
every 15 minutes and it’s a great way to see the city before you really start to explore it.

Eiffel Tower-I suggest going at night after everything else is closed.  Bring a sweater and binoculars.

Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt Take line #9 direction Pont de Sevres and get off at Trocadero

Walk over to the Palais de Chaillot.  This is the best view of the Eiffel Tower and you can walk down to the tower and walk up the stairs or take the elevator to the top. The Champs de Mars is the lawn behind the Tower and leads to the Military school where Napoleon Bonaparte trained his soldiers.

Arc de Triomphe-I suggest doing this at 9pm.  Also, visit the Champs-Elysees in the evening after you are worn out from walking.  On the Marriott side of the Champs-Elysees visit the stores Sephora, Virgin Records and Books and the grocery store Monoprix if you need anything and it’s fun to see how a grocery store looks in France.  Across the street from the hotel there are several automobile showrooms that are fun to walk through when returning to the hotel.

Latin Quartier:  I suggest going here at night for dinner. In the rue St. Andre des Arts there are many fun restaurants and it’s really animated at night.

Le Marais: Metro:  Take Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt line #1 directions Chateau de Vincennes and get off at St Paul.

Go see Place des Vosges-the oldest square in Paris and the lace where Victor Hugo lived and wrote Les Miserables.  You can visit his home there.  It is an absolutely gorgeous square.  You can eat at the brasserie La Chope.  The oldest tea house in Paris is called Mariage Freres at 30 rue du Bourg-Tibourg.  n the second floor there is a mini tea museum that is free.  I always buy the Bourbon tea there which is ecaffeinated.  They sell beautiful tea ots and have a nice tea room.  This
whole area is great for walking.  The Muee Picasso is in this area.  The rue des rosiers is close by which is the Jewish section.    This area was formerly a marsh.  Look at Eyewitness Paris Book p.93 to see the layout of the area.

Park  Monceau:  Metro:  Franklin D. Roosevelt line #1 direction La Defense and get off at Charles de Gaulle Etoile and take line #2 direction Nation and get off at Monceau.  This is a beautiful place to go for a walk early in the morning (opens at 7am) as there aren’t very many tourists there and it’s not too big! This park closes at 8pm.  Also in this area are two interesting museums: Musee Nissim de Camondo and Musee Jacquemart-Andre.

Bridges to be sure to walk over:  Pont Alexandre and Pont des Arts.

Itinerary 1-Best on Sundays

Head to the 4th arrondissement.  Take Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt line #1 direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Hotel De Ville.  Visit the Pompidou Center.  There’s a really cool Stravinsky fountain to
see next to the Pompidou.  Take the escalator up to the café at the top for a great view of the city.  I don’t like Modern Art so I don’t suggest going into the museum but the library is amazing.  There’s always a lot of activity out in front
of the Pompidou Center.  If the line to get in is too long and you don’t want to wait, you can cross over the Seine River to go to the Saint Chapelle etc.

Or, go directly to the Paris islands:  Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt. Take line # direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off a Chatelet.  You can walk over the bridge to the L’île de la Cité. L’île de la Cité (Supreme Court location next to La Sainte Chapelle–church and state were not separated until 1905 in France).  This is where Paris began.

La Sainte Chapelle:  1 hr. Guided visits in French at 11am and 3pm. There are tours in English also which occur at 11am(as I recall but you need to check in the Pariscope or ask the concierge to find out for you at the Marriott) because the website doesn’t say at what time the English tours are given.  You really need to go on a tour!  This is my favorite church in the city.  It’s situated on L’île de la Cité and is adjacent to Le Palais de Justice.  Try to save this visit for a sunny day.  The stained glass windows upstairs come alive!  They survived WW2 and are the largest expanse of stained glass windows in Europe. Bring a pair of binoculars and you can read the windows which recount Old and New Testament stories.  St. Louis built the chapel to house the “crown of thorns” which he had purchased.  He added a final panel of stained glass depicting his own life’s story– as if it should be added to the Bible!  Try to read the windows!  It’s a fun thing to do as a group.

Across the street from the Saint Chapelle there is a flower and bird market only on Sundays in front of La Préfecture de Police( central police station).  Walk through the green houses to see the plants. In between the green houses there is a beautiful dark green fountain.  If you look closely, you will see four graces(goddesses).  At the turn of the 19th century, Richard Wallace, an English philanthropist, donated 100 of them to Paris because he thought it was ridiculous to have to pay for water in the cafés.  The water still flows and is potable.

Notre Dame Cathedral:  Must go at 6:30pm for Sunday Mass and you will hear the Cathedral Choir sing.  The music transforms the inside of the cathedrale.  Take a seat and meditate for a few minutes.  This is the abode of Victor Hugo’s  famous hunchback Quasimodo…  Walk around the outside-all the way around.  Check out the gargoyles and the sculptures… There is a garden behind the cathedrale and it’s nice to sit down for a moment to look at the structure of this magnificient creation.  In front of Notre Dame you will find Point Zero.  This is the very center of France.  There is a brass inlay on the ground which you can step on. There is also a crypt that has been excavated in front of Notre Dame that you can visit.  Access to the rooftop of Notre Dame is found on the left side of the cathedrale.  It’s worth a visit!

Along the quai  as you walk from Notre Dame over to the left or right banks there are the bouquinistes.  The verb Bouquiner means to read in slang.  The green boxes are filled with used books and prints.  You can browse for souvenirs as they are better than what you will find in most tourist shops.

L’île St. Louis:  Walk across the bridge in back of Notre Dame and you will be where I would love to own a home!  There is a great restaurant called Le Flore en L’ île.  Go in and have lunch.  They have good salads and French onion soup.  The dessert souffléis scrumptuous and the ice cream Bertillon is world famous.  Try to sit outside if it’s nice out or inside towards the back next to the window which gives you a great view of Notre Dame.  Afterwards, walk down the main
street called rue St. Louis en île.  A few blocks down on the right there is a marionnette shop.  They are amazing.  There is a famous hotel on the same street called the Jeu de Paume #54 which was formerly a tennis court(jeu de paume is
the ancestor of our tennis game and was played by monks who used their palms(paume) to hit the ball.  The word tennis in fact comes from the French word tenez=take heed or here it comes!  The server would cry out tenez
before hitting the ball.  You can walk inside and look at the structure which dates from 1624.  There is a popular restaurant (dinner) called Nos Ancêtres les Gaulois at #39 rue St. Louis-en-ile.  They play French guitare music and serve
meat, poultry, paté, foie gras, cheese and desserts.   The ambiance is medieval and you can eat all you like.  At the end of the street as you turn left, and follow the sidewalk along the quai you will pass by the Rothschilds home.  It is the enormous home with the enclosed garden.  They subsidized the railroads in France among other things…Continue along the quai and look into the homes.  They have amazing wood ceiling beams!  There are stairs going down to the Seine Rive at the bridges.  You must go down and walk along the water.

Itinerary  2

Metro:  Franklin D. Roosevelt.   Take line #1 towards Chateau de Vincennes and get off at the station Louvre.

Le Louvre:  Note:  The Louvre is free the first Sunday of every month-May 6th! However, if you choose to go on Sunday, plan on some major lines-I’d personally choose a different day…Unless you are art historians, take a tour.  There is a guide given general tour which is wonderful.  I go on it every time I take someone to Paris.  You will see a dozen of the main highlights (Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Napoleon’s Coronation etc.) You will need to buy a tour pass in addition to your museum pass.  Go to the Group Tours counter next to the information desk in the basement of the museum.  You have to leave your passport with them and they will give you a headset to allow you to hear your guide throughout the
museum as it’s too noisy to hear what the guide says without the headsets.  On your own, go see the Egyptian wing.  This is one of my favorite areas.  For lunch you can eat at the Café Marly which looks out onto I.M. Pei’s glass pyramid.
They have wonderful soups.  However, waiters there are ultra snooty.  There is also a simple and delicious food court with multi-ethnic restaurants which is right in the basement of the museum.  It will be much easier for large groups to eat there.  There are also some great shops in the basement for postcards and mini replica statues and a really cool store to explore called Nature et Découvertes.

After the Louvre, walk down through the Tuillerie Gardens.  At the pond sit down on the chairs and enjoy the flowers and people watching.  You can rent the little sail boats for some terrific photo shots! (You can also rent boats in the Luxembourg Gardens).  Continue on down to the Orangerie Museum where you will find Monet’s panoramic waterlily masterpiece in the basement. There are also some great Modigliani paintings upstairs.  If you really like Monet then go to the Marmotan Museum in the 16th arrondissement or go to Giverny to see his home and the American Museum down the street which is fabulous.

As you leave the park, you enter the Place de la Concorde with the Egyptian obelisk covered with hieroglyphs.  The obelisk represents a ray of the sun or God giving intelligence to the world.  This is part of Napoleon’s booty from his Egypt expedition.  This is the spot where the guillotine was placed during the Revolution.  On a side note: there is a famous tea salon called Angelina’s at 226 rue de Rivoli which is on the right side of the Tuillerie Gardens.  Everyone tries their famous African hot chocolate(super rich) and the Mont Blanc Dessert.  They also have great food for lunch. I always take people here for the ambiance There are numerous tourist shops along rue de Rivoli where you can find typical souvenirs.  At the Place de la Concorde on the right is the Crillon Hotel. To the left of it is the US Embassy and to the right is the US Consulate.  Take the street rue Castiglione to the right of the Crillon Hotel and you will find Place Vendôme
where Cartier, Boucheron and other famous jewelry shops are located.  The windows are a real treat to see.  The column in the center was made with melted down canons from Napoleon’s era.  The Ritz hotel is also here.  Lady Diana was
staying here at the time of her death.  There’s a shrine for her on top of the Pont d’Alma  for those who want to go check out the site where the accident occurred.  It’s just 2 metro stops from the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro next to the Marriott Hotel.  Take line #9 towards pont de Sevres and get off at the 2nd stop which is Alma Marceau.  If you like horses you must visit the Hermès store in the rue du Faubourg St. Honoré which you pass en route to Place Vendome.  There is a free museum upstairs.  They sell gorgeous silk scarves.  This is also the street in which you will find all the Haute Couture stores, the equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Printemps and Galleries-Lafayette are the most well-known department stores in Paris.  There is a free fashion show at Printemps on Thursdays at 10:30am.  Another free fashion show occurs at Galleries-Layfayette on Fridays at 3pm.  I have gone without reserving a seat but ask the concierge at the Marriott to get you tickets prior to going.  To get to these stores take Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt line #9 direction Marie de Montreuil and get off at Chausse d’Antin La Fayette.  If you don’t attend the fashion shows and want to go shopping, I suggest going after you’ve done the site seeing as most of the goods you will see can be found in the US.  After you finish shopping walk over to the Opera Garnier (Phantom of the Opera building) even if you don’t go inside, it’s beautiful on the outside.  You can go to see a ballet by showing up ½ hour before the performance (check in the Pariscope).  The tickets won’t be the best seats but it’s still a treat.  The ceiling inside was painted by the Russian painter Marc Chagal and is spectacular.  Next to the Opera Garnier is the Café de la Paix.  In the basement, the first film of the Freres Lumieres was shown.  Across the street from the Opera there is a free perfume museum called Fragonard in a wonderful apartment setting.  It’s a great small museum and you can learn about the art of perfume making.

Itinerary 3 Flea Market and Montmartre: Best on Saturday or Monday

Metro:  Franklin D. Roosevelt  Take line #1 towards Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Chatelet and transfer to line #4 direction Porte de Clignancourt and get off at the end of the line.  It will take a while to get there.  Once you get out of the metro there are signs directing you to the Flea Market.

Warning:  be careful to stick together as this is a dicey area and there is so much stimulation that it’s easy to get lost.  But it’s an absolute BLAST (You will feel like you’ve entered into Ali Baba’s Cavern)!!!  Keep your purse close to your chest.  No wallet in the back pocket!!!!  Bring cash… Also, I suggest inventing  a  cat call which works great in crowds

The Flea Market (marché aux puces) of Saint-Ouen has over 2,000 shops.  This is open on Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays from 9am-4pm.  In the fifties and sixties the Puces de Saint-Ouen was a place to buy cheap but good old furniture.  Now you can find just about anything there:  clothes, shoes, old furniture, art work, military pieces, china, amazing old silverware, porcelaine…just about anything people collect. My favorite market (there are 13 different markets there) is Le Marche Paul Bert.  You have to really explore to find all the interesting objects.  As you enter the market you will see all the knock off clothing, sun glasses etc.  Go deep into the market to find the real treasures.  This is the best place to buy souvenirs.  Plan to spend at least 3 hours here and go early as most stores close at about 4:30pm.

Montmartre: Sacré Coeur, Place du Tertre: The top of Paris

Metro:From the Flea Martket take Metro Porte de Clignancourt take direction Porte d’Orleans and get off at Marcadet Poissoniers and take line #12 direction Mairie d’Issy and get off at Abbesses.

You can climb up to the top or take the funicular.  The Sacre Coeur is built on a gypsum quarry and this is where plaster of Paris comes from.  Try to go at 6pm Mass to hear the music as you walk through.  Go to the place du Tertre to the left of the church and you will find the artists outside painting.  You can have your caricature drawn.  It’s fun to sit at one of the brasseries and people watch or buy a crêpe.  There is a good directed walk in the Eyewitness book of Montmartre p. 266.

Itinerary 4  Musee d’Orsay , Luxembourg Gardens

Bus:  From the Marriott Hotel cross over to the other side of the Champs-Elysees and take bus#73 and stay on it until the end of the bus line which is Musee d’Orsay.  Just show your metro pass to the driver (do not put the coupon into the machine as it will demagnetize it).

At Musee d’Orsay rent head sets for a great self-guided tour-they are great!  Be sure to see Degas’ pastels and his horse studies.  There is a fabulous bookstore there too.  They have a good restaurant as well.  Afterwards, go out to Boulevard St. Germain and cross the street to take bus #63 towards the area St.-Germain-Des-Pres.  You can jump off wherever you like or you can just  walk the entire way.  Stop at Les Deux Magots for a drink and walk through the oldest church in Paris, St. Germain des Pres. You’ll find cute boutiques all around this area (rue de Buci-outdoor market!!!!) and places to eat.    Once you arrive at the Odeon hub, walk up rue de l’Odeon until you arrive at the Luxembourg gardens. Use the map
in your Paris Eyewitness Travel to go to the areas which interest you. In the center of the garden there is a puppet theater.  I always take people to see a show (40 min.).  There is an apiculture school here with beehives, grafted fruit trees at the back of the park.  Go see the Fontaine de Medecis next to the Senate building.  Marie de Medecis lived in the Senate building until her son had her exiled!

Itinerary 5 Versailles

Metro Franklin D. Roosevelt where you will need to buy a ticket for Versailles and then take direction Pont de Sevres and get off at La Muette then take the RER C (train) direction Versailles-Rive Gauche.  You can walk from the train station to the chateau.  Take one or two tours of the cabinets and then walk down to the canal and on the right you can rent bicycles and bike over to the Hameau. (This is a MUST see when you go to Versailles).  Great photo opportunities on the bikes and above all—it beats walking all the way to the Hameau.

I suggest buying a baguette, cheese, meat and some fruit in Paris to bring with you as the food is not good at the chateau.  You can buy food at the grocery store Monoprix I mentioned above or make a special trip to the oldest department
store in Paris: Le Bon Marche which has a terrific supermarket called La Grande Epicerie  where you can purchase everything for a great picnic.  To get there from the Marriott Hotel take metro Franklin D. Roosevelt line #1
direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at the Concorde stop and take line #12 direction Mairie d’Issy and get off at Sevres Babylone.  There are fantastic stores all over this area.  Around the corner from Le Bon Marche is the famous bakery Poilaine at # 8 rue du Cherche-midi.  Their apple tarts are delicious.  You can visit the ovens dating from the 12th century if you ask politely and say “Pouvons-nous visiter le four en bas?”

Itinerary 6  Les Invalides and Musee Rodin

Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt line #1 direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Champs Elysées Clemenceau and take line 13 direction Chatillon-Montrouge and get off at Invalides.  At the Invalides visit Napoleon’s tomb and the Musee de l’Armee (fantastic).  Eyewitness Paris p.184.  The Rodin Museum is a gem and actually where Rodin lived for a while.  It’s small and fun to visit.  The gardens are nice too.  Rue Cler is a beautiful shopping area in this neighborhood.

Itinerary 7  One day in the Loire Valley

These are the Chateaux I suggest visiting.  You can book a tour with the link below.   I’d spend an entire day in the region.  It’s absolutely beautiful and a nice change from Paris and very different from Versailles.  You can have the concierge book a reservation for you when you arrive or you can book it here in the states.

Here’s the link:  http://www.accodispo-tours.com/english/index-excursions.html

Metro:  Franklin D. Roosevelt take line #1 direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Champs Elysees Clemenceau and take line #13 and get off at Gare Montparnasse.  It takes 1hr. 10 min. to arrive in Tours where the tour bus will pick you up.  The train leaves at 7:50am to arrive in Tours at 9am.  You’ll need to leave at 7am from the Marriott if you have your ticket or 6:45am if you need to buy a ticket.  It’s always best to get there early to avoid getting stressed out about lines, finding the train etc!

  • AZAY LE RIDEAU(visita) The woman’s touch of the Renaissance style
  • VILLANDRY (visit gardens) One of the nicest gardens in France and its Château.
  • Lunch break in TOURS
  • AMBOISE(visit) Main residence of François the First
  • CLOS LUCE (visit)- this is FASCINATING!!!!!  Place where Leonardo da Vinci spent the last three years of his life.
  • CHENONCEAU(visit) The most visited Château in the Loire Valley.

Itinerary 8  Le Mont Saint Michel- One long day!

Use the following link to book a tour.  This is the tour to take!  http://www.linkparis.com/mont-smichel.htm?gclid=CI7Cn8jI4IsCFRbWYAodZkQWYQ

Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt take line #1 direction Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Champs Elysees Clemenceau and take line #13 and get off at Gare Montparnasse