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Travelers Tips for Paris

Paul from Paris

Favorite Viewpoints

  • In summertime: stand on Pont Neuf or take a boat-bus to admire illuminated building along the Seine.
  • Take a rowing boat on the lake of Bois de Boulogne and having lunch at very chique Pre catalan afterwards if you have got money to spare.
  • Standing in the middle of Cour Carre, the oldest part of the Louvre Palace, on your way to have a light lunch at Cafe Marly and afterwards coffee at the Ritz Place Vendome accompanied by Harpe music.
  • Overview of the city from top floor terrace of the Samaritaine Department store, before doing your shopping.

Museums In and Around Le Marais

Paris has 164 museums (almost as many as London and New York combined!), but walking from the Marais, I make the following selections.

Louvre: Open 9:30am - 6:00pm, closed Tuesday
This former royal palace is the largest museum in Europe. The foundations of the old Louvre, visible in basement, date back to the Middle Ages. Spectacular newly opened Egyptian galleries. Try to avoid the main entrance but rather take the one on the rue de Rivoli, which is always less busy.

Carnavalet History of Paris: 23 rue de Sevigne 75003, Metro Saint-Paul

Picasso in Hotel Sale: 5 rue de Thorigny 75003, Metro Chemin Vert; open 9:30am-5:30pm, closed Tuesday

Jewish Art and History in Hotel de Saint-Aignan: 71 rue du Temple 75003, Metro Rambuteau
This building is a fabulous 17th century palace.

Arts et Metiers: 60 rue de Reaumur 75003, Metro Arts et Metiers
Science and technology meet medieval architecture in a monastery.

Conciergerie: 1 quai de l'Horloge 75001, Metro Cite
Marie Antoinette & Louis XVI where imprisoned here during the 1789 revolution in this only intact medieval castle of Paris.

Archives in Hotel de Soubise: 60 rue des Francs Bourgeois 75004, closed Tuesday
Museum of French History, the marvelous courtyard is worth the visit.

Centre Pompidou: (Or Beaubourg as French call it) 75003, Metro Rambuteau, closed Tuesday
Largest French Modern Art centre, covers 20th century art, architecture and design. Views over the city can be enjoyed from the top. You can have lunch at the stylish, trendy restaurant called George.

Cognacq-Jay: 8 rue Elzevir, 75003
This small and newly restored 17th century building reflects 18th century upper class life.

Victor Hugo's House:
The author of Les Misrables, lived on the place des Vosges, a most beautiful 16th century square. Try to find a secret passage that links to the fabulous Hotel Sully gardens.

Cluny Abbey: Metro Cluny, closed Tuesday
See Paris from the Roman times until the 14th century, a visit to the old roman baths.

Orsay: open 10am-6pm, Tuesday-Saturday, Metro Solferino
In this 19th century former railway station, you will find 19th century masterpieces from Camille Claudel sculptures to Van Gogh paintings.

Theatre/Festivals

Like at London's Leicester Square or Times Square in NYC, you can buy today's theatre tickets at half price if you go to the Kiosque at Place de la Madeleine, Metro Madeleine, after noon.

At any time during the year, cultural events take place such as quartier d'ete festival (in Tuileries and Palais Royal gardens for example), open air cinemas in August, the gay and lesbian film festival at Les Halles.

Opera/Concerts

Paris also has three operas houses:

  • the classical Garnier (now mainly ballet)
  • modern Bastille (mainly opera)
  • Le Chatelet (mix)

One can obtain book on line on www.opera-de-paris.fr, by mail or at Opera itself by getting in line at 10am for last minute availabilities (inexpensive).

Many classical concerts are organized in Paris' beautiful churches such as Notre Dame or Saint Eustache. There is always a free concert on Saturday night in St Merri Church, next to the Pompidou. It's a great experience to do at least once.

Transport

Driving and parking in Paris is a challenge if you are not from a Mediterranean city. That's why a majority of the Parisians use the efficient and cheap public transportation. Also one can rent bikes.

Taxis: Paris Cabs are reasonably cheap. However, be it will be virtually impossible to flag a taxi down on the street on a Friday or Saturday night, in particular after the subways close at 12:45am until around 3am.

Subway: Paris has the biggest and probably the best Metro system in the world with over 500 stations! The Metro is cheap, convenient and runs until 12:45am. The best deal is to buy a carnet of 10 tickets.

Buses: Buses are an excellent service and one of the best ways to see Paris. You can use Metro tickets to take them: for same price as metro you get to sight see Paris! Ask for a combined bus-museum pass.

Shopping

Diversity is the competitive advantage here. Many small, innovative shops as well as luxury goods (both fashion to wear and specialty staples to eat).

Cinema

The best of all is the UGC Cite Cin in Les Halles, near the church of St Eustache: more than 20 screens with the terrific sound systems and wide screens. Most films are shown in their original language version (listed as "vo" for "version originale") but with French subtitles. The MK2 cinema at la Bibliotheque Mitterand has a charming feature of one seat for 2 people to share while MK2 at Beaubourg-Pompidou often shows gay movies.

Tipping

You do not have to tip for services or in restaurants. If your waiter is nice and helpful it is customary though to leave a little extra but it is not compulsory.

Cash & ATMs

France is the number one country in the world for the number of cash-points per capita! ATM's are everywhere (look for bank signs such as SG, BNP) and it's the most flexible and reliable way to obtain cash in Euros. There is no need to change money before you leave home. Almost every shop accepts payment by Visa or Amex

Safety-wise

Paris is unlike many other major cities in the world. Despite an increase in crime levels of some suburbs, crime in the historical centre of Paris is very low. Due to strong gun and weapons control laws, crime in the city is virtually non-violent. Of course, like everywhere, you should always be careful and sensible, especially in the metro (possible pickpockets). Walking at night or day in the Marais neighborhood is probably the most peaceful thing to do.

Smoking

Although a third of adult Frenchmen still smoke, the non-smoking campaign is catching on in France like wildfire. Virtually every restaurant has a non-smoking area but often the separation is only hypothetical. Only few cafes, hotels or restaurants have declared themselves to be smoke-free on a voluntary basis. See: www.droit-air-pur.com/nosmokingrestaurants.htm

Guides

The best papers to find out what's on and where to go are definitely Pariscope, found at any bookshop with its English section Time Out Paris. Try Zurban, the new weekly city magazine (in French).

To go out in the gay scene, pick up the free papers E-male or Illico where you'll find a lot of addresses and info on theme-parties. Many businesses in Marais will have these free publications. See also: www.citegay.fr

Paris Tourist Office

New headquarters between the Louvre and the Opera Garnier.

Tourist Info: 9am-8pm (or low season: 11am - 6pm) 25, rue de Pyramides 1st district, tel: 01 49 52 53 00, summer kiosk next to Pompidou Centre.

Resources

Slow Travel - Where to Stay in Paris: Thomas describes the neighborhoods of Paris.

www.opera-de-paris.fr: Opera tickets

www.droit-air-pur.com/nosmokingrestaurants.htm: Information on non-smoking restaurants.

www.citegay.fr: Gay guide to Paris

www.ratp.com: Paris - RAPT, public transportation

Tom's Guide to Paris: Good information for Paris, getting to the city from the airport, public transportation, cafes, restaurants, things to do and see


This article was also published on www.purpleroofs.com.

Paul, an American educated Parisian, runs Marais Flat, deluxe short-term apartment rentals in center of Paris. www.maraisflat.com

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