Highlights of Paris
Paris is the “City of Light” but during the
summer months you need to stay awake pretty late to see them. On a recent weekend to Paris, we were able to see the highlights of the city in two days. If you have more time, it is definitely worth a longer visit, but you can see a lot in a short time. The key is to book your attractions in advance with time slots and skip the line tickets. Most attractions have security bag checks. To get though the line faster, consider not carrying a bag, if possible.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This was a highlight of the trip. We went on a Sunday and came into the church just as a service was beginning. The organ was playing, the choir was singing and processing. It was great. The service is, of course, in French. But as we wandered around it was interesting to listen to. We used the “duck the line” app to schedule our turn to climb the stairs to the top of the cathedral. This is the only way to get in now. The app opens at 7:30 am the day of the climb and you schedule a time to show up. Plan ahead, as the space fills up quickly. I got on at 7:30 and there were already 83 people ahead of me.
This Chapel is another must see in Paris. You can schedule your Notre Dame and Sainte Chappelle highlights back to back. If you purchase the Paris Pass, you will already have skip the line access. If you don’t have a pass, go online in advance and purchase skip the line access. As you enter the church, there is an exhibit of the history and culture of the area as well as a computer-generated narrative about the architecture and phases of construction for the building. Upstairs is the highlight. 360 degrees of stained glass windows. It doesn’t matter the time of day, someplace there is light in the glass. If you can time your visit with a sunny day, it is more spectacular.
After seeing these two magnificent churches, you can get on the Metro and ride to the Champs Elysees and walk up to the Arc de Triomphe or go directly to the Arch and them walk back down this famous street. There is access to the top of the Arc, but again, if you don’t want to waste your time in line, pre-book a time. From here you can head towards the Seine for a great view of the Eiffel Tower.
Here is where the lines take on a serious length. This is a definite book ahead venue. You can access different level view points for different prices. You must go up with a guide. If you just want to see it from the outside, have a drink or a meal at the riverside restaurant at the base of the tower, Le Bistro Parisian. It has a great atmosphere and a view of the tower.
You can see all of this in a well planned and tiring day. If you have more time the museums of Paris are world class. Again, the skip the line and even a highlight tour of the Louvre, is well worth the investment. Visitors can spend days in the Louvre, but a guide can take you to the most famous or important pieces and tell you about them in less time that it would take you to find them on your own.
Outside of Paris is the Palace of Versailles and Gardens. This is at minimum a half-day trip. Consequently. visitors could spend most of the day to see both the Palace and the extensive gardens, plus in the summer they have special events in the garden.
Most of all, stop and smell the roses, lift a glass in the local café while you watch the traffic and the tourists go by and try and stay awake late enough to see the City of Light light up around you.