Yes, I still get this question, and it is sometimes from people who have always avoided Paris, preferring the comforts (uh-hmmm) of Germany and London. Now they have an afternoon “stuck” in the capitol, or maybe 24 hours. What should they do? I’d love to hear your list.
Tops on my list used to be a climb to the top of La Samaritaine (sadly, no more) to the free observation deck where you could see all of Paris (like in that famous Willy Ronis photo), guided by a painted tile chart of the names of all the distinctive landmarks on view below.
Now, I’d have to replace that with a climb to either the Arc de Triomphe, Notre Dame (almost always long lines), or the Eiffel Tower (also long lines).
As for my top five, here’s what I would do:
1. Visit Notre Dame and climb to the top if there are no lines. Spend a good amount of time looking at the doors to the church and the depiction of judgment day. This may be enough inducement to buy a candle on the inside.
2. Walk from there to the Louvre, at least walking through the courtyard and seeing the I.M. Pei pyramid. If you have time, pop in and see three things: the signature Winged Victory of Samothrace sculpture, the Venus de Milo, and the Mona Lisa. At least, you can say you saw them, though you’ll spend more time jockeying for position among the tourists than in getting a good view (time that could have been spent seeing the other thousands of pieces that any other museum would build their entire collection around)
3. Take a subway from la Place de la Concorde to the George V metro stop, and walk the three or four blocks up to the Etoile and the Arc de Triomphe. This should give you a little taste of the Champs-Elysees. Have coffee or hot chocolate at La Duree (#75) , or lunch at Fouquet’s (#99)
4. From the Etoile, take the subway to the metro Passy, and walk down through the enormous stairway of the Palais de Trocadero until you cross the bridge over the Seine to get to the Eiffel Tower. Stand around here a few minutes deciding whether to brave the crowds and go up, which is well worth the wait.
3. Finally, end the day with a subway ride up to Montmartre and see the city by night, taking in a walk around the Sacre Coeur and the view of Paris laid out below you. Sigh, and try to imagine how could have skipped visiting this greatest of all cities for so long.
What are your “five tops.” A simple list is fine…