Paris – An Iconic European City
We are sure, that just like us, many of you have Paris on your travel wish list. We’ve been before but no matter how many times we visit…we always want to go back again!
Paris, known as the City of Light, is a sprawling city covering 105 square kilometres. The Parisians sure pack some amazing sights, sounds, tastes, and experiences into that space!
Having only 48 hours in Paris is nowhere near enough to see everything this amazing city has to offer, but it will certainly get you started on your love affair with Paris!
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour
If you’ve never been to Paris before, or any major capital city for that matter, we seriously recommend a bus tour. We use the hop-on hop-off bus tours all the time. They are an excellent way to get a taste of a city. They’re especially useful if you only have limited time in a place. We equate them to a cruise on land!
Paris has numerous operators of hop-on hop-off bus tours. We would recommend staying with the more well known, reputable operators. We found the following site very useful as it allows you to compare ticket prices and tour options of the major bus companies offering tours in Paris.
The site shows you the various options for operators and tours in Paris, which you can sort by price, relevance or user rating. You can select from straight hop-on hop-off bus routes, to those including cruises and more. Which tour you decide to go with is up to you, and how much time you have in Paris.
Tickets range from 20 Euro to 140 Euro but the site often sells them at discount prices. At the time of writing this article (December 2017) the prices ranged from 18 Euro to 130 Euro.
If you haven’t visited the Louvre, you have truly missed out on one of the most amazing places Paris has to offer. We missed this incredible experience the first time we were in Paris, which we always regretted. We rectified that on our most recent trip and can’t recommend a visit more highly. If you do nothing else…please do this!
Useful Visit Planning Tools
Before you arrive at the Louvre we suggest you take some time to visit some important pages of their website. The calendar of events and the exhibitions page of the Louvre’s website contain really useful information to help plan your visit. As the museum has changing exhibitions and events its worth finding out what your options are before you arrive. That way you’ll get to see more of what you are interested in, without wasting time.
Due to the enormity of the art collection in the Louvre it isn’t possible for all of their exhibition rooms to be open every day. In order to avoid disappointment we suggest you also check the room closures page on their website.
The Louvre offers interactive floor plans, in a variety of languages, that we found extremely useful. We highly recommend using these during your visit.
You may also be interested in one of the numerous, themed visitor trails offered by the Museum. You can search the available trails here.
The Louvre in Paris is open every day of the year except Tuesdays. On Mondays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays it is open from 9am to 6pm. On Wednesdays and Fridays it opens from 9am to 9.45pm.
The museum staff will commence closing rooms 30 minutes prior to the closure time, so be aware of that when visiting.
The museum is closed on December 25 and January 1, as well as two other major French national holidays. It also restricts its operating hours on 9 more French holidays each year. Before visiting be sure to take a look at the information on their website about holiday closures and restricted opening times.
You can buy tickets at the museum for 15 Euros. The Louvre offers a wide array of free admissions. Free admission is available to all under 18s, EEC citizens from 18-25, and teachers of art, art history, and applied art. These are just a few of the categories on their free admission list. To see if you qualify for free admission check their list.
Between October and March each year, on the first Sunday of each month, the permanent collections of the museum are free to all visitors. Free admission to all visitors also applies on July 4th, Bastille Day.
Self-guided audio tours are available in French, English, Korean, Spanish, Italian, German and Chinese. The easiest way to access them is through the Louvre app, available from the App Store and Google Play. Their app also has numerous other incredibly helpful features, such as the 60,000 square feet of the museum modelled in 3D!
The app itself is free but the audio tours are an in app purchase. Prices range from 99 Euro cents to 4.99 Euro.
Expert guided tours in English are available at 11am and 2pm everyday except Tuesdays, public holidays, and free admission days. Whilst there are a number of tours on offer, we suggest first timers take the Welcome to the Louvre tour. The tour cost is 12 Euro per adult, 9 Euro for under 25s, and 5 Euro for certain concession holders. You can buy tickets for the tour at the museum.
Arc de Triomphe
Outside of the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is the most recognisable sight in Paris. It is in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, near the western most end of the Champs-Élysées.
Standing 50 metres tall and 45 metres wide, this iconic piece of architecture is a must see in Paris. You can get there on foot, via a hop-on hop-off tour, via taxi, or with public transport. However you arrive though, you MUST arrive.
One of the most heavily photographed monuments in Paris, you won’t be disappointed with spending your time snapping some pictures of the Arc de Triomphe. The approach to the arc is via the tree lined Champs-Élysées. This is a photograph waiting to happen!
Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, to honour soldiers in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars, the Arc de Triomphe was designed by French architect Jean-François Chalgrin. Chalgrin’s design was inspired by the Roman Arch of Titus. It took 26 years to complete the monument, which happened after Chalgrin had died. Jean-Nicolas Huyot took over as the monument’s architect after Chalgrin’s death.
The monument includes the tomb of the unknown soldier, which is worth spending some time at. If you are there at 6.30pm you will see the flame rekindled in memory of those lost in war. The arc itself has the names of each victory of the French Napoleonic forces, and their generals, etched into its internal and external surfaces.
The monument boasts a viewing platform, which affords you a panoramic view of Paris. Another amazing photo opportunity not to be missed!
The Arc de Triomphe is the centre or many French national holidays and celebrations. It is well worth checking the website we have provided, to see if you will be there on any of these dates. The spectacle of the celebrations is simply incredible!
Tickets range in price from 12 Euro (full price) to 9 Euro (reduced price). Reduced ticket prices apply to tourism professionals, people aged 18-25 from a non-EU country, and foreign teachers.
From 2nd January to 31st March
Open every day – 10.00 – 22.30
From 1st April to 30th September
Open every day – 10.00 – 23.00
Monument Closure Dates
The monument is closed on the 1 January, 1 May, 8 May (morning), 14 July, 11 November (morning) and 25 December. It is worth checking the website link earlier in this section to ensure that the Arc de Triomphe will be open when you plan to visit.
How To Get There
If you plan to use the subway then you can use lines 1, 2 or 6. Alight at Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile station. Follow the signs from there.
To get to the monument by public bus you can use lines 22, 30, 31, 52, 73, 92. On Sundays and French national holidays, between April and September, you can use the Balabus. This is a tourist bus that runs between the Gare de Lyon train station and the La Defense area of Paris.
If you are coming from the suburban areas of Paris, use the Porte Maillot and Avenue de la Grande Armée exit, or the Porte Dauphine and Avenue Foch exit.
If you are coming from downtown Paris, simply drive down the Champs Elysées.
Notre Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris) is also known as the Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral is Catholic in denomination and is located on an island in the Seine river called Île de la Cité. The island covers 7 hectares where the Seine meets the intersection of Saint Martins’ and Saint Jacques’ streets. At this road intersection you will find the Notre-Dame Bridge, which is how you access the island and the Cathedral.
The first stone of this amazing Gothic Cathedral building was laid in 1136 in the presence of Pope Alexander III. The 12th and 13th centuries saw the Cathedral building continue through four major development projects. These projects were led by four distinct architects.
At the end of the 13th and the start of the 14th centuries, work was continued on the Cathedral by a number of well known architects. These included Jean de Chelles, Pierre Montreuil, Pierre de Montreuil, and Jean Ravy.
In the 17th and 18th centuries the Cathedral underwent a redevelopment in order to be ready for the coronation of King Louis XIII. The redevelopment included the restoration of the rose shaped stained glass window in the southern part of the Cathedral.
During the French Revolution almost all of the statues at the gates of the grounds were destroyed. Another 28 statues in the Gallery of Kings were also destroyed during the unrest. However, the 19th Century saw the restoration of Notre Dame to its former glory. Restorations and reparations continued until 2004 when the final changes were completed.
It’s free to visit Notre Dame de Paris but you can’t take any luggage with you. So, even if you are dead keen to race from the airport to this historic site, you will need to check your luggage at your hotel first.
Self-guided audio tours of the Cathedral are available from the reception desk. These are available in French, English, German, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese and Chinese. The reception desk is open from 9.30am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and from 1pm to 6pm on Sundays.
Cathedral Opening Days and Times
The Cathedral is open every day of the year from 8am to 6.45pm. On Saturdays and Sundays it remains open until 7.15pm.
It is worth noting the Notre Dame de Paris is place of active Catholic worship. This means that masses and ceremonies are held in the Cathedral weekly. You are also likely to encounter people praying and worshipping at other times as well.
Sunday Services at the High Altar
Mass – 8.30am
Morning Prayers – 9.30am
Mass – 10.00am
International Mass – 11.30am
Vespers – 5.45pm
Mass – 6.30pm (usually presided over by the Arch-Bishop)
Monday to Saturday Services
Mass – 8.00am
Mass – 09.00am (except during July, August and the first half of September)
Mass – 12.00pm
Mass – 6.15pm
You can buy items such as rosaries, postcards, key rings, and other momentoes of your visit at the Notre Dame de Paris shop. The shop is open from 9.30am to 6.30pm daily.
The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is quite literally the beacon of Paris! Just seeing it is an awe inspiring experience. Standing beside it and climbing it…amazing! One of the most photographed sights in the world, you won’t be disappointed when you visit this icon.
The Eiffel tower is not just a marvel for travellers everywhere, it is also an architectural marvel. The 300 metre high tower was designed by French architect and engineer, Gustav Eiffel. Eiffel registered a patent for a new way to construct metal supports and pylons that would support the tower build. This was in response to a competition that was launched at the World Fair in Paris in 1889.
Eiffel’s two chief engineers, Emile Nouguier and Maurice Koechlin, were also instrumental in the design of the tower. Gustav Eiffel and his two engineers worked with French architect, Stephen Sauvestre to complete the amazing structure. Sauvestre was charged with the aesthetics of the project.
The Eiffel Tower, built of 18,000 distinct pieces of metal, weighs 7,300 tonnes. The tower needed 60 tonnes of paint and boasts two lifts. The entire tower was constructed in the record time of 2 years, 2 months and 5 days.
Between 150 and 300 hundred construction workers could be found on the site on any given day during the build period. Over 2, 500,000 rivets hold the tower together, many of which were put in place on site. This required two men to first heat, and then sledgehammer the rivets into place.
Visiting the site of the Eiffel Tower is free. However, if you want to climb or ride to the top then you will need to purchase a ticket. Ticket prices are listed below for you. All children under 4 are free.
2nd Floor Lift ticket – Adults 16 Euro, people aged 12-24 9 Euro, concession 4 Euro.
Ticket to the Top via Lift – Adults 25 Euro, people aged 12-24 12.50 Euro, concession 6.30 Euro.
2nd Floor Stairs ticket – Adults 10 Euro, people aged 12-24 5 Euro, concession 2.50 Euro.
Ticket to the Top – Stairs and Lift – Adults 19 Euro, people aged 12-24 9.50 Euro, concession 4.80 Euro.
Tickets for the Eiffel Tower are in high demand so it’s crucial that you book in advance. For dates and times that tickets are available refer to the official tower website. You can use the calendar to search for availability during the period you plan to be in Paris.
The Tower Lights
Each night the Eiffel Tower is lit by 1290 projectors that emit a golden hue. The tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour, as the diamond light beacon shines from the top of the tower over Paris. The beams from the diamond beacon can be seen for 80km. The sparking light bulbs are positioned over the projectors, with 5,000 bulbs on each of the four sides of the tower.
So, wherever you are in Paris, each night on the hour you can rejoice in this magical, five minute light show. It is simply incredible!
Restaurants and Bars in the Tower
No Paris attraction would be complete without some amazing French food! The Eiffel Tower is no exception. The tower boasts a wide range of restaurants to choose from, offering something for every taste and budget.
A Premium Dining Experience
If you are looking for the premium Eiffel Tower experience, then you cannot go past The 58 Tower Eiffel restaurant. It is located on the first floor of the tower and provides panoramic views of the city. By day it is a family-friendly space providing a delicious lunchtime picnic. However, at night it completely transforms into a chic and elegant bistro.
Get Your Night Started Right
To get your evening started we suggest a visit to the Bar A Champagne. What more memorable an experience could you have in Paris than sipping French Champagne in the Eiffel Tower?! You are not only sipping said Champagne at the Eiffel Tower, you are doing it 276m up at the top of the tower!
The Champagne Bar is open every day from 12pm to 5.15pm and again from 6.15pm to 10.45pm.
Eating and Drinking in Paris
Our hotel was in a very well-to-do area, the 7th Arrondissement of Paris. It is a really gorgeous area to walk around and spend some time on sidewalks, eating, drinking and taking in the local culture.
To find some wonderful places to eat and drink we wandered around to the Rue Saint-Dominique. Here we found a number of lovely looking restaurants, eateries and bars. If you stay nearby this is a great place to grab a meal at any time of the day.
Cafe La Dome
Cafe La Dome is a typical French restaurant with red and white checkered table cloths and delicious food. Whilst it is more of a local haunt they were very open to tourists and offered an English menu. The restaurant served a wide range French specialities, each of which is worth trying.
The cafe is divided into an indoor seating area and an enclosed glass terrace with heaters. The terrace appealed to us because it afforded lovely views of the street and the passing traffic.
We started the evening with a duck liver terrine, which is served with a salad of greens and pickles. We followed this with the house speciality – steak frites (steak and chips). As is typical French style the entire meal was accompanied with delicious, fresh bread. We paired the meal with a local red wine, which went down very well! To finish we tried a scrumptious apple tartin.
Le Campanella is a small restaurant mainly frequented by locals. That was what attracted us to it! All throughout the evening loads of locals streamed in and out for their dinner. We always feel this is a great way to pick a good place in a location you aren’t familiar with.
After the terrine at La Dome we decided to start our meal with this mouth watering delight again! For main course we opted for the boeuf (beef) bourguignon, which was absolutely amazing! To top it off we drank plenty of local french wine. When in France and all that! The staff were very friendly and spoke English, which was helpful for the few tourists that were there.
The Bar du Marché
The Bar du Marché is situated on the Rue de Seine. It is a dark, moody, compact bar but well worth visiting. We used a couple of hours here, savouring some of the local red wines on offer. We can highly recommend their offering!
The Bar du Marché is also a local drop-in for an aperitif before dinner or the theatre. So if you have evening plans in Paris, and want to kick start your night, then this a great place to do just that!
Restaurant Universitaire Mabillon
The Restaurant Universitaire Mabillon is a tiny hole in the wall, stand up bar, with only a few tables on the street. You can partake in a delicious Parisian coffee or alcoholic beverage of your choice here. They also offer an over-the-bar takeaway service, which is truly awesome! You will find this little gem on Rue Mabillon. We don’t recommend eating here though, just savouring a beverage!
Getting to Paris and Where to Stay
We arrived in Paris on a Finnair flight from New York via Helsinki , which was one leg of our around the world trip. You can read about the NYC to Helsinki flight in our post No, You Don’t Have to Pay a Motza to Fly Business Class! Our internal European flight, also with Finnair, from Helsinki to Paris is reviewed in our post We Flew Super Short Haul Business Class in Europe (Here’s What We Found).
We stayed in an amazing hotel within walking distance to many of Paris’ iconic locations. Hotel Juliana was a wonderful, luxurious hotel which we really loved. To find out all about it read our post – Have You Discovered This Divine Boutique Hotel in Paris.
Are You Ready to Start Planning Your Adventure in Paris?