Book an overnight trans-Atlantic flight coming from the US or Canada. Traveling from Great Britain or continental Europe, your travel day will be much shorter, whether by plane or train. Coming from London, consider taking the Eurostar under the English Channel.
To book your flight:
Use the MyFlightSearch.com website to locate the best prices and flight options. Enter your dates and your choice of departure airport, then Paris for your destination. Here’s a sample result, using Charlotte NC as the departure city.
Note that you will have options presented that may save you significant money, especially if you can be somewhat flexible about your travel days. Also, take a close look at the Cancellation Policy. It is rare to be able to change a plane reservation more than 24 hours after booking. As long as MyFlightSearch offers the option of making flight changes for a modest fee, this is a considerable benefit.
Stay on the Left Bank, near the Seine, or on the smaller island, Ile Saint-Louis. Select your accommodations well in advance of your trip. This will give you a wider selection of great options for your Paris address.
And from the moment you chose your digs, you can start imagining and anticipating your trip.
The advantage of staying in this area of Paris is that you will be right in the heart of it all. In the evenings you will have all the Latin Quarter at your disposal, with its winding streets, cafés, restaurants, and piano bars. You will be close to the Seine, where you can stop in at a boat bar, browse the booksellers along its banks and walk out on the bridges to watch the lights come on.
For local transportation use the most interesting and scenic options available. In Paris, this means traveling around primarily by Batobus, so you can see where you are going, experience the River and orient yourself so you know where you are in Paris and how to get around. The Batobus travels in a counterclockwise loop, making eight stops, three on the Right Bank and five on the Left.
Along the Right Bank
|Along the Left Bank|
|Hôtel de Ville, close to Pont d’Arcole||Eiffel Tower, at Port de la Bourdonnais|
|Louvre, between Pont du Carrousel and Pont Royal||Musée d’Orsay, at Quai de Solférino|
|Champs-Élysées, close to Pont Alexandre III||Saint-Germain-Des-Pres, at Quai Malaquais|
|Notre Dame, at Quai de Montebello|
|Jardin des Plantes, close to Pont d’Austerlitz|
Boats run: Every 20 minutes, 10 am–9:30 pm, April to September. Every 25 minutes, 10 am–7 pm, September to April. Confirm schedule at Batobus.com/en.html.
Cost: 1-day pass €17; €8 children over 3; free under 3. 2-day pass €19; €10 children over age 3; free under 3.
Purchase a 2-day pass, then hop on the Batobus at the Notre-Dame stop, at Quai de Montebello on the Left Bank and complete a circuit to learn your way around. Tickets purchased over the Internet can be used at the station of your choice.
Take an evening cruise on the Seine the first evening of your stay. Cruise for an hour to the Eiffel Tower, and back, with commentary, on Bateaux Parisiens, departing from Quai de Montebello Pontoon #3 (on the Left Bank, across from Notre Dame). Sailing times change, so confirm your boat’s time of departure. If you booked your cruise in advance, present your confirmation voucher and e-mail to exchange for your tickets before you board. If you did not purchase vouchers in advance, take your chances at buying tickets directly at the ticket desk. But it’s better to have these tickets purchased in advance.
Arrive well in advance of departure time so you can get an open air seat at the front and have the best views. Try for one of the coveted seats on the left side of the boat, if possible, to capture a clear camera shot of the brilliantly-lit Eiffel Tower as you approach.
After you visit the Louvre and walk the length of Tuilleries Gardens to Place de la Concorde, you will be overdue a rest. So when you enter the square with the giant Egyptian obelisk, spot the line-up of pedicabs and negotiate a price with one of them to carry you off on your way to lunch at the Grand Palais.
Use the mini-map below to communicate the path you wish to follow, with a brief jaunt into and through Champes-Élysées Park, past Pavillon Gabriel, down Avenue Winston Churchill to the Grand Palais for lunch on the terrace. Then hop aboard to be whisked along in comfort. If time is short, request a shorter ride along the side of the park, then left on Avenue Winston Churchill.
Your ride down Avenue Winston Churchill will take you between the vast glass Grand Palais (“Large Palace”) on your right, and the exquisite Petit Palais (“Small Palace”), on your left. Both were constructed for the 1900 Paris Exposition Universelle.
Taxi to Gare Basse (Base Station) and take the funicular up the steep hill to the Basilica at the top. The Funiculaire opened in 1900, in time for the Paris Exposition. Then and now, this was/is a better mode of transportation than climbing up the 220!! steps.
The view out over Paris from the top of the Basilica steps is spectacular. Pick a spot on the steps to sit and see Paris spread out beneath your feet.
Relax on a Boat Bar docked along the Seine and stay when the music starts. Watch the boats drift by as you sit there, tied to the dock but with a full, unobstructed view of everything that is happening on the water. Order a carafe of wine, and chill. Enjoy yourself going nowhere.
If you find yourself too content to move after having drinks, stay for a dinner of multiple appetizers.
Yes, you could be using the Metro. But that would put you underground with nothing much to see. Why not stay above ground and see Paris in transit as well as once you arrive. Uber offers rides on demand. Once you set up your account and upload the Uber app to your phone, you will be all set.
Then just click when you need a ride and enter your destination. Edit your pickup spot and receive immediate notification that your ride is on its way, along with the name of the driver and a description of the car. Your payment information will already be on file, so no cash will exchange hands at the end of your ride.
Establish your Uber account while you are still in the US. You will be able to use it in France. This account setup is another task to take care of before you leave so you’ll be ready whenever you need a ride.
Imagine yourself on a great 5-day trip to Paris. How would you design your days to have the most engaging and captivating experience, while traveling independently and keeping to a budget of under $5000 for two?
What will you do with your precious travel time? Why would you want to do these things and have these experiences? And how will you arrange them and accomplish them, with a maximum of enjoyment and a minimum of frustration or overload? What are the stories that bring to life the places you visit? How do you best immerse yourself so your experiences are absorbing and memorable?
Join us in your mind’s eye on just such a remarkable 5-day trip to the “City of Lights” where you will experience:
Arrive early morning in Paris after an overnight flight, in time to check in (or drop off your bags) and begin your walk-about before lunch. Your “home base” for the next five nights will be the Left Bank (“La Rive Gauche”) of the Seine—historically known as the artistic part of the city. Your apartment or hotel will be located within a few blocks of the river on the Left Bank, or on the smaller of the two islands in the middle of the river, Ile Saint-Louis.at CDG airport.
Taxi to the Left Bank, your “home base.” Orient yourself to your “neighborhood.” Then head for lunch at Brasserie Esmeralda on the larger island, Ile de La Cité (“Island of the City”). Walk a full circuit around the larger island, with Notre Dame, the Flower Market and the incomparable Sainte-Chapelle. Dine outdoors at Le Flore en L’Ile on Ile Saint-Louis. Then take a night cruise the Seine to the Tour Eiffel, with all of Paris and its bridges aglow.
When you arrive early morning at CDG, take a taxi from the airport to your Parisian address. Stow your belongings, then take off on a walk-about to get familiar with “your” new neighborhood.
Pass in front of Notre Dame on Ile de la Cité and observe the progress on the repairs of this great 12th century cathedral after the devastating fire April 2019.
The restoration of this glorious building is a 5-year timeline to be completed in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics. In the meantime, the Crown of Thorns and other sacred treasures that survived the fire are temporarily stored at the Louvre.
Head for lunch at an outdoor table at Brasserie Esmeralda across from the cathedral buttresses where you will already have made reservations. This is your arrival lunch, so make it a feast.
After lunch, walk the full circle around the larger island, Ile de la Cité, where Paris had its 3rd century BC beginnings as a small fishing village, settled by Celtic tribes (the Parisii).
Orient yourself to the flow of the river. Stand looking back towards Notre Dame. You are now facing downriver. From this vantage point, the Left Bank will be on your left and the Right Bank will be on your right.
Walk downriver, noting the bridges and looking across the river towards the Right Bank (“Rive Droite”), tightly packed with impressive buildings including City Hall (Hôtel de Ville), the Louvre and the Grand Palais.
When you see Pont Notre Dame ahead on your right, look to your immediate left to spot the green metal pavilions of the Marché aux Fleurs—flower market—open daily from 8:00 am to 7:30 pm. Dating back to 1808, this market is an absolute and total delight.
Take a few minutes to wander the colorful maze of flowers and garden shops with their exquisite selections of orchids, exotic cacti, and vivid hibiscuses. Check out the shops for accessories and locate the garden elves—sitting in a teacup, holding a flower, perched on a rock. Select a few to take home with you.
On Sundays, the Flower Market also becomes a Bird Market (Marché aux Oiseaux), showcasing all types of vibrant and rare bird species, complete with their accessories. You may decide to return later to spend more time at this lovely market.
Spot Souvenirs et Services (5 Boulevard du Palais; open Monday–Friday, 7:30 am to 7 pm; Saturday and Sunday, 10 am to 7 pm), the small tourist shop across the street from Sainte-Chapelle. This will be your optimum spot to purchase your 4-day Museum Passes. One of you can hold a spot in line while the other runs across the street to purchase passes.
The 4-day Museum Pass (66 €; 6-day pass: 78 €) will be extremely valuable to you throughout your stay in Paris because it will:
With your Paris Museum Pass in hand, you can skip the ticket line at Sainte-Chapelle. But you still will need to go through security check. Ask to make sure you are standing in the correct line.
Sainte-Chapelle is an ethereal treasure of Gothic architecture, hailed as “one of the greatest architectural masterpieces of the Western world.” Worshippers in the Middle Ages considered this chapel to be a “gateway to Heaven.” Here you will be dazzled by color and light, surrounded on all sides by some of loveliest stained glass in all the world, miraculously preserved for 770 years. Sitting beneath these towering windows is an experience you will carry with you in your mind’s eye for life.
The fanatically Catholic Louis IX built this splendid upper chapel, located within his residence, in 1248 as a private place of worship for the sole use of the royal family.
Now make your way back to the little island, Ile Saint-Louis, for your 7:00 pm dinner at Le Flore en L’Ile (42 Quai Orleans; (0)1-43-29-88-27). Watch the sunset over the Seine and Notre Dame, and the street performers on the bridge.
Order the delicious burgers, onion soup, foie gras and a salad, accompanied by what reviewers term “the best fries ever.” And, of course, enjoy a pichet of wine. This restaurant is also a favorite for breakfast, so keep that in mind for future mornings.
Cruise to the Eiffel Tower, and back, with commentary, on Bateaux Parisiens, departing from the Left Bank, across from Notre Dame. Sit inside and watch from behind the glass, or outside on the upper deck for unobstructed views. Glide past the many iconic sights of Paris that border the river—Notre Dame, d’Orsay, the Louvre, the Grand Palace (le Grand Palais), and the Eiffel tower.
Your cruise will give you a sense of the riverscape, bisecting Paris, lined with old quays, crossed by 37 bridges, brilliantly lit at night.
We’ve created a pre-planned trip to give you everything you need for a stress-free trip while retaining your freedom from group tours to enjoy the full experience of being there.