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 breaks. 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 a few trips to Paris over the last six years, 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 Notre Dame 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’ most popular museums and attractions. By saving time skipping the line, you’ll have time visit more attractions or spend a little longer having 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 di Triomphe
- Notre Dame
- Bateaux River Cruise (at night is best to see Paris lit up)
- Hop On Hop Off Bus (picks up near Arc di 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.
We all have romantic ideas of giving into 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.
We recommend a 2-day Paris Pass if visiting the city on a 3-4 day short break.Visit the Arc di Triomphe, Louvre, Notre Dame, and finish off the day of sightseeing with an evening Bateaux River Cruise on day one of your Paris Pass. The Palace of Versailles is also included with the Paris Pass and we highly recommend visiting on day two of your pass.
Leave the other days of your short break to visit Galeries Lafayette, Paris’ most famous department store, go shopping, or wander Paris’ parks and gardens.
The Paris Pass include 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. But you don’t need to sit down for a two hour lunch each day of your trip. You can have a gourmet lunch-on-the-go in the food hall at Galeries Lafayette. And when we say food hall, that doesn’t begin to describe it! 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 supermarkets and grab a baguette, some cheese, and a bottle of wine and have lunch outdoors in one of Paris’ many gardens.
What tips do you have to maximize your time in Paris?