Fun in Paris?
July 11, 2009 7:24 PM   Subscribe

TypicalTravelFilter: What are the must-sees, tips and tricks, and off-the-beaten paths whilst in Paris for 3 days?

I'm visiting Paris later this month for three days, down from London.

I know the Museum Pass is supposed to be fantastic, but what other absolutely amazing things are proximate/accessible without a car service (public trans, walking, or bus okay)? (I'm staying at the Arc de Triomphe Hilton.)

I'm very into food, but my typical garb is t-shirts and jeans. What do I need to pack in case I'd like to eat at a very nice restaurant? Moreover, what very nice restaurants would you recommend? I'd also love for feedback all along the economic strata, from dirt cheap (if such a non-McDonalds thing exists) bites to what I might expect to pay for a much nicer restaurant. Also, will I have trouble getting in some place great? Can I make reservations once I'm there, or is it already too late for some of the better places?

I like photography as well, and people watching. I'm not terribly into wine, which itself is a crime in France anyway, or fashion, or shopping, but I do love art, museums, off-the-beaten path demonstrations or activities, and everything else... any other tips and tricks would fantastic as well, including faux pas, etc.

(And of course I'm eating up other threads as well, but please feel free to link to any I absolutely must not miss.)

posted by disillusioned to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (15 answers total) 31 users marked this as a favorite

Where are you staying (roughly)?
posted by Mr. Yuck at 7:59 PM on July 11, 2009

The Catacombs. The only place I've been where they check your bags for bones when you leave...

No problem getting there by subway, no reservation necessary!
posted by cosmac at 8:51 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The metro is fantastic, so you will be able to easily access everything.

For dirt cheap food, buy crepes or simple sandwiches from street vendors, hit a shawerma place, or order a Croque Monsieur at nearly any restaurant.

Visit Rue Cler for its open-air markets and shops. Walk to the Sacre Coeur cathedral--ride the carousel at the base of the stairs, then arrange to climb to the roof--it's the best view in Paris and there are all sorts of cool nooks and crannies to explore. After visiting the Notre Dame, also visit the small museum on the opposite side of the square to see an archaelogical dig of ancient Paris. Also, notice the statue of the horse just to the right of the Notre Dame?--underneath that, there are very nice public toilets.
posted by oceanmorning at 8:53 PM on July 11, 2009

If it's cool and misty and rainy, definitely go to Pere Lachaise Cemetery - take your time and stroll the pathways. Get the map, too, so you don't miss the highlights (Jim Morrison, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Proust, Oscar Wilde, Victor Noir, etc.) but the rest is cool as well.
posted by ourroute at 9:12 PM on July 11, 2009 [2 favorites]

Best answer: You will need to make reservations at independent restaurants--including ethnic ones.
The best experience I have ever had in a restaurant was at Taillevent last fall (coat and tie for men).

Watch out for the gold ring scam; all the times it happened to me, the woman was a few yards in front of me and pretended to pick it up. I walked past and ignored her when she yelled at me in French (which I don't speak). I saw someone else who had stopped for this and the ring looked like it would turn skin green in three seconds.

The women in headscarves who ask "Do you speak English?" near tourist sites are also scamming for money.
posted by brujita at 10:25 PM on July 11, 2009 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Catacombs. The only place I've been where they check your bags for bones when you leave...
posted by cosmac at 10:51 PM on July 11

The Catacombs are definitely not your standard fare, it is very, very cool. They're mostly blocked off, you can only walk a small portion of them but it's enough to give you the sense of what it is. I don't recall who told me about it, maybe someone I met there in Paris, no telling. Just like cemeteries, or perhaps moreso, reminded me of how temporary this whole thing is. And the fun that the guys -- it had to be guys -- the fun they had building the walls of bones is just too cool for school.

If you've an hour or two and an offbeat sense one day, this is fun.

I went to Paris for five days and stayed 18, one sleaze-bag hotel to the next, great fun, sunk me deep in debt but I may never get back. You can't go wrong just bopping around town, find a park on a map just any old where and go there and sit back and watch the day unfold; it's a great city, has a real nice feel to it, and still has some deep quiet also, more than most American cities I think.

I don't speak French; I did find plenty of nasty, nasty natives, but I found an equal number of really kind and considerate natives -- I had a blast, it really was a time. Mixed bag. But do be ready for someone to act the fool -- regardless I'd read it and heard about it, I just couldn't/didn't think it was real. It's real.

The small markets, all the fresh fruit and vegatables and flowers and breads. I just loved that. You really can eat well in that town; in my experience it's hard to find nice produce here in the states, got to be careful what you buy, but every street has markets with beautiful stuff overflowing. That was sweet. And little shops of every kind all about town, every nook and cranny, don't buy any gifts for yourself or others in tourist traps, just see what shop catches your eye and wander in. Those people live well.

I'm envious. Have a great trip.
posted by dancestoblue at 2:04 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

The Best Ice Cream in Paris: Berthillon on the Île Saint-Louis, isn’t the only one in Paris, but is the one you should visit. Some of the best ice cream I've ever tasted, close to Notre Dame.
posted by theora55 at 6:54 AM on July 12, 2009 [1 favorite]

If you search around the internets you'll probably find some good galleries or photo exhibitions. I've spent about 3 months in Paris over the last two years and have been pleasantly surprised with some interesting stuff.

I love it, but nothing is off the beaten path in Paris.
posted by pollex at 9:52 AM on July 12, 2009

Prefecture de Police Museum
posted by IndigoJones at 11:34 AM on July 12, 2009

Sandrine Voilette is a young art historian who worked at the Louvre. She filmed a series with the BBC about her favourite Parisian sights. DVD is available. Details of the series are here. Some of the places are listed here. My favourite "lesser known" places were the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Rue de Montorgueil and Cafe Procope.
posted by zaebiz at 2:23 PM on July 12, 2009

Hit up a brasserie. 10 Euro plates, it's where the construction guys (a method I use to find the good and cheap food) and the white collar people looking for good quick food go. Ordering goes like this.

"blah blah french french"
"ton choix, monsieur."
posted by sleslie at 2:41 PM on July 12, 2009

Response by poster: Great answers, all, though no one mentioned what sort of dress level is okay at what level of dining establishment, and what I should pack at a minimum for "decent" dining...

posted by disillusioned at 5:02 PM on July 12, 2009

The view from Tour Montparnasse. You look down on the Eiffeltower from there. Go at night, the night view is much better than at day: just a sample!
posted by KimG at 5:47 PM on July 12, 2009

One of my favorite places in Paris is the Musée Rodin. You just walk right in, it's not at all crowded, and it's only about $8. The building is a beautiful 18th-century mansion and it has the most lovely gardens in the back.
posted by anderjen at 6:10 PM on July 12, 2009

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