Paris Week: the End (for now)

Notre Dame de Paris by Natalie Parker

Well phew.  That wraps up a week of posts dedicated to Paris, my favorite city.

I hope you enjoyed it and it helps on your next trip.  Even better, I hope it inspires you to take a trip!

A Week of Paris Tips

In case you missed anything, here’s a recap from the week:

Everyone’s Paris is Different
Best Tips for Visiting Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and the Louvre

How to Eat Out in Paris: 11 tips
How to Ride the Paris Metro
Where to Eat the French Classics in Paris
The Best Walking Tours in Paris
Paris Champagne Tour
How to Pack Champagne Home from France
Map of My Paris Recommendations

Just the Beginning

I’m finished with this week and I already know I need more posts on Paris.  There’s still so much I haven’t shared with you!  Like where to sit and get champagne and ham, or my favorite place to read or fall asleep — this is important stuff, people.

Ah, Paris.  There’s always a reason to go back.

In the meantime, if you have any questions about your trip to Paris, please feel free to reach out and I’m happy to answer.

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How to Visit the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Notre Dame in Paris

How to Visit the Big 3 Sites in Paris by Natalie Parker

Today I’m sharing my tips for how to visit the three most popular sites in Paris.

I’ve found that guide books tend to leave out crucial tidbits.  This can make the difference between a wonderful and a letdown experience.

Best Tips for Visiting Notre Dame

There are two parts here: visiting inside the cathedral and climbing to the top of the towers.  I’ve never been inside the crypt, feel free to comment below if you have.

How to Visit Notre Dame in Paris by Natalie Parker

Visiting inside the cathedral is free and easy.  Check here for hours.

If you are facing the front of Notre Dame, enter the right-most door.  Don’t be afraid of the line.  It usually moves pretty quickly since it’s free and there isn’t a checkpoint.

How to Visit Notre Dame in Paris by Natalie Parker

I love going inside.  It’s so beautiful and peaceful.  Visitors are allowed in during services.  We’ve been inside on Good Friday and Easter — just make sure to use the visitor’s line so worshipers are free to use their entrance.

How to Visit the Notre Dame in Paris by Natalie Parker

Visiting the tower is another story and takes some strategy.  Get there early!!

Line up right when the tower opens.  If you don’t, you risk waiting in line for hours to get to the top.  Trust me, I’ve done the hours-wait twice (don’t ask).

Click here for a map of the entrance and where you should line up.  The guidebooks will say that they let groups of people (usually 10ish) into the tower every 10 minutes.  Looking at the line, you may do the math and think it won’t take very long.

They only let people up if there’s room.  There’s a certain capacity in the tower.  If people on top linger for a long time, the guards will not shoo them down so other people can visit.  This creates a domino effect causing the line to take forever.

How to Visit Notre Dame in Paris by Natalie Parker

I think it’s worth going up at least once for the view (and some cool gargoyles).

How to Visit Notre Dame in Paris by Natalie Parker

Best Tips for Visiting the Eiffel Tower

If it’s your first time in Paris, take the metro to Trocadéro station.  It’s the perfect view for first-timers.  There’s nothing quite like turning the corner coming out of the station and just seeing it.  It’s also the perfect spot for photos.  Then you can stroll up to the tower.

To go inside the tower, buy your tickets online in advance.  Even if you show up when it opens, there will be obscene lines.  Don’t do it.  Buy your tickets early.  Even though there are entrances and elevators in all four “feet” of the tower, I’ve only ever seen them operate two at once.  This contributes to the lines if you don’t have a ticket.

How to Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris by Natalie Parker

If you buy your ticket online, you get a separate line.  Think Disneyland fast pass.  Arrive a few minutes ahead of time and look for the sign that says “with tickets” (avec billets).  If you are planning on walking from Trocadéro, get there about 45 minutes from your ticket time.  It will give you plenty of time to stroll, take pictures, and get to the entrance.

How to Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris by Natalie Parker

There are 3 levels to the tower.  If you want to go to the very top (le sommet), and you should, stop reading this and buy your tickets now.  Now!

Tickets to le sommet sell out quickly — Parisian tour companies buy them up in batches and make it hard for individual travelers to get them.  It’s really annoying.  As soon as you know the dates of your trip, get online and buy tickets.

If you have a ticket for le sommet, you will have to wait in a line with everyone else on the second level for the elevator (it’s a separate elevator).  The top is totally worth it.

How to Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris by Natalie Parker

There is a champagne bar at the very top.  Yes, it’s a bit to pay for a little glass (10€ at this writing).  But it’s champagne on the top of the Eiffel Tower.  Stop asking questions and just do it.

How to Visit the Eiffel Tower in Paris by Natalie Parker

Bonus: time your visit for sunset.  After sunset on the hour every hour, the tower lights up with thousands of twinkling lights for five minutes.  They were installed to celebrate the year 2000 but have become permanent.  Read more about them here.

Best Tips for Visiting the Louvre

By now, you understand that Mr. P and I hate lines.  We detest lines.

The Louvre is huge.  It’s amazing.  And it gets crowded.

How to Visit the Louvre in Paris by Natalie Parker

Get the Paris Museum Pass and you can skip the line.

If you have the Museum Pass, you get a separate, much shorter security line and no need to wait to buy tickets.  Read the pass carefully — sometimes the special entrance is close to the official entrance, sometimes it’s in another wing.  Regular visitors have to line up to get through security and then buy their tickets inside.

How to Visit the Louvre in Paris by Natalie Parker

There’s more art than I can possibly mention here, so make sure to get a map when you get inside.

If you want to visit the Mona Lisa, I recommend getting to the Louvre when it opens and power walking straight to her.

I have mixed feelings on this.  It feels a bit uncouth to race other visitors.  On the other hand, she’s a popular lady.  If you want to have a peaceful moment with her, you have to get there first.

The Mona Lisa, La Jaconde in French, is in the Denon wing.  Look at the map when you get it, but there will be huge signs pointing the way.

How to Visit the Louvre in Paris by Natalie Parker

You’ll pass Winged Victory on your way, which is also fabulous to see without the crowds.

How to Visit the Louvre in Paris by Natalie Parker

Entering the Denon wing, you’ll turn into a huge hallway that goes on forever with paintings on either side.  Walk down it and look to your right.  There will be two entrances to Salle 6, one right after the other.  You’ll see her.

The Eiffel Tower is larger and more impressive than imagination.  The Mona Lisa is much much smaller than imagination, but no less impressive.  For me, it’s worth it to see her up close with just a few people.

Give it 30 minutes, and Salle 6 will be filled.

How to Visit the Louvre in Paris by Natalie Parker

When you’re done, make a 180-degree turn and see The Wedding Feast at Cana on the opposite wall.  It’s a huge painting and a bit overwhelming after staring at the small Mona Lisa.  From there, you can stroll and enjoy the rest of your visit.

Any other tips?  If you’ve visited before and want to add to these tips, I’d love to hear your comments!

MORE IN THIS SERIES:

Everyone’s Paris is Different
How to Eat Out in Paris: 11 tips
How to Ride the Paris Metro

Click here to view all of my travel posts.

How to Visit Notre DameHow to Visit the Eiffel TowerHow to Visit the Louvre

Trip Report I: Paris

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Photos are off the DSLR and on the hard drive, so let’s get going with the sharing!

Our journey began in Paris.

Actually, our journey began at SFO’s international terminal, then an 11-hour Air France flight, but those are details for another post.  However, do see Saving Mr. Banks, that was an awesome movie and I got teary at the end.  Hope the Frenchman next to me didn’t think I was odd.  Oh wait, I was taking pictures of my food on the plane, too.  Carry on.

Our journey began in Paris.  Every time we go to Paris (see here and here), the idea that we’ve gone multiple times and we get to go again isn’t lost on me and I feel like we’ve won the lottery when I board the plane (intense fear of flying doesn’t set in until we take off).

My work brought us to Europe for this trip.  In fact, we spent most of the days working but managed to turn what was a simple trip into a 5-city affair.  Mr. P also works for a multinational company, brought his laptop, and tagged along.

Back to Paris.  Our first stop is always lunch before we grab a nap to ward off the jet lag.  This is from one of my favorite cafes:

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

I love getting pictures of buildings.  The architecture of the city is what evokes that romantic and wistful feeling (at least in me).  We arrived a couple of days before my work started (because, duh, Paris) and took a walking tour of Le Maris one afternoon:

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

We finally visited the Pompidou Centre.  I’m learning more about what I like art-wise.  I found I loved the contemporary pieces like these lights much more than the Picassos and Pollocks.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

I loved this street art next to the church outside the Pompidou.  Paris means many things to many people and it is always changing.  The burger trend has hit Paris hard since we were there this spring.  We saw lots of young Parisians queuing up outside trendy burger joints.  Anyway, street art!

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Always using Le Metro to get around.  I love love love public transportation and using it in a city is as fun as trying the food.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

I worked on my cafe photography this time.  I love effortless pictures of Parisan cafes but haven’t been able to get it quite right myself.  Practice, practice, practice.  Practicing on a Monday when there are fewer people in touristy areas helps.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

On Instagram, I celebrated making a restaurant reservation by phone in French for the first time.  This was the place — for our favorite steak frites.  I’m planning on writing a post about it so Mr. P was kind enough to wait while I got a picture.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

After our weekend, Mr. P jetted (trained? as in choo-choo.) off to Brussels to work and I met up with my team for some marathon workdays.  Luckily it wasn’t all work (I learned to Segway, jury is still out if you get to see those pictures).  I took this picture from the top of the Galleries Lafayette, wherein my manager trespassed into a closed area of the roofdeck so we could get this view and I could get this shot.  Then we scurried out when someone came to shoo us.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Late after dinner on my last night in Paris, I walked with some of my coworkers to Notre Dame.  The weather was beautiful and I didn’t need a jacket even though it was pushing midnight.  Notre Dame is my absolute favorite building in the city and I loved being able to show it to someone for their first time.

http://instagram.com/p/twkerNMBqP/

At the end of the week, I packed off to meet Mr. P in Brussels.  I love that Gare du Nord uses this old flip-style departure board.  I’m saying “love” a lot.  It’s Paris.

There are some digital placards elsewhere, but I sat for a while watching and listening to the letters flipping.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

I always get a achy sad feeling when I leave Paris.  Not this time though, I had four more cities left to go and I knew I’d be back.  A couple weeks later in fact.  Our transatlantic flights were in and out of CDG, so we came back to Paris for one last afternoon before heading home.

By that point, we were exhausted.  We took it easy and did one of our favorite things: read our books in the loungey chairs (technical term) in the Jardin des Tuleries outside the Louvre.  So much time passed by the time we left, it was definitely fall.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker

Mr. P and I just returned from a 25-day trip to Europe (work + fun).  It’s the longest we’ve ever been away from home and I’m sharing each stop in a blog post with some of the hundreds of pictures we took.  Doing my best not to include photos already Instagrammed.  Stay tuned for Brussels next.

Paris Fall 2014 Snapshots by Natalie Parker