Hey Ecophiles, I am planning a Paris trip and only have three days to spend in the City of Love. It’s my first time and am very excited but I’ve read that the queues are endless – how do I make the most of my time in Paris in May?
– Emily Baker, New York
The prospect of a Paris trip in May is as exciting as it is daunting. In Paris, there’s always so much to do and so little time. It’s great that you’re researching the trip well in advance to make the most of your time there as Paris can get really crowded in May.
Here are handy tips for your 3-day Paris trip:
- When you arrive, feel free to have a bit of a lie-in as Paris can be exhausting. You may want to start a little later in the morning and make the most of the lovely, long May evenings.
- Also, be flexible about the must-do Paris list – you’ll just end up spending hours in queues while missing out on the time for people-watching and the sinful coffee/ wine/ food in gorgeous cafes, bars and restaurants.
- Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, so you can concentrate on a particular neighbourhood for chunks of the day. The Right Bank (“rive droite”) includes arrondissements north of the Seine. The Left Bank (rive gauche) refers to the districts south of the river. They’re connected by bridges and the most famous bridge is Pont Neuf.
- The Eiffel Tower is a good start, but if you’re not terribly keen on taking the elevator/ climb to the top, I would recommend heading there early evening when the lights come on. The best view of Eiffel Tower is, in fact, from the Trocadero. My husband and I chose the free view of Paris from the gorgeous Sacre Couer instead without the Eiffel Tower’s pesky queues the next day.
- Start your Paris trip at Notre Dame cathedral in the 1st arrondissement. You can walk over to Sainte-Chapelle chapel for the stunning stained-glass windows. Buy tickets in advance online for the Gothic-style Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame (if you want to climb to the top) to save time. Pop in to the Marché aux Fleurs nearby.
- Amble over to the Latin Quarter where the Pantheon dome dominates, sitting pretty atop the historic hill – Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. You can walk to Jardin du Luxembourg from here.
- You will need half a day for the Louvre in the 2nd arrondissement. Relax in the Tuileries Garden, soak in the sun or people watch while enjoying a little picnic. You can buy tickets in advance online for the Louvre to save time. Louvre is also open till 9:45 pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. We went on a Friday and it was lovely to see it lit up at night.
- Take in the Orsay museum – the stunning converted Beaux Arts railway station is the second most-visited museum in Paris.
- Also, make time for the bold Centre Pompidou which seems like a giant ‘fuck-you’ to Paris’s elegant architecture. The vibe around here is fantastic, with some lovely bars and cafes to relax in.
- Walk down Champs-Élysées, starting at Arc de Triomphe. The Champs-Élysées boulevard stretches from the obelisk at Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.
- See the Grand and Petit Palais, at least from the outside for the fabulous architecture. They have fantastic exhibitions, so check their website for what’s on. Nearby stands the Hôtel des Invalides, a complex brimming with museums and monuments.
- See the Sacre Couer basilica (nearest metro station: Anvers), spend time in bohemian (though touristy now) Montemarte.
- See the Moulin Rouge lit up at night – it makes for an Insta-good picture but the shows are pricey. Walk around Pigalle, famous for its sex shops and shows.
‘What about a cruise on the Siene? What about Marais for its vibe and the Picasso museum?’, you ask. It depends on how time you want to spend in queues and how much time to free up to walk around and stumble into things. The landmarks mentioned above are the quintessential first-timer experience, feel free to mix it up!
There’s so much more to do in Paris, but take the time to savor the food and drink and don’t try to cover everything in one whirlwind trip. Have a lovely trip!
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