14 hours in Pairs!!! What should I do?
June 7, 2008 7:21 AM   Subscribe

Never been to Paris before and am traveling through on wednesday!! Help!!

I'm traveling via Paris on June 12th and I'll be there for 14 hours...what should I do??

I know nothing about Paris. I want to go to the Louvre but I don't know how practical that will be. I saw train directions from the airport on their site...but how easy will that be? how much would a cab cost me (USD)? (I am flying in to Charles de Gaulle Airport.)

What else can I do? any cool events, concerts, must-go-to shops and street fairs I should know about? I'm into the art scene, music scene and big into exploration. I thrive on trying new things and I would love to maximize the 14 hours in Paris. Keep in mind I am on a budget. HELP please!

(I have the most basic knowledge of french, I can speak enough to greet someone....should i be worried??)
posted by ss448 to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Definitely plausible. The train and Metro system are very easy to figure out. I've never been out to Charles de Gaulle so I don't know if a cab will save you any time. It will certainly cost you more money. Definitely plan ahead because the Louvre is gigantic and the attractions across the city are spread out enough that you will want to minimize your travel times between things.

In terms of art, I prefer the Musée d'Orsay. It is in a interesting old train station and has a lot of great Impressionistic art.

You'll be fine with your language skills. You won't have a problem.
posted by mmascolino at 7:41 AM on June 7, 2008

This might help, so should this. Don't forget this, and there's always this (see this section especially in your case). The Louvre is too big to see in a whole week, I would go to Musee d'Orsay if I were you. Sacre coeur is beautiful. Good luck!
posted by farishta at 7:44 AM on June 7, 2008

Segway tour!. Or a hop-on, hop-off bus tour to get the lay of the land and maximise touristy stuff, but the Segway alternative sounds very cool. If you do go to the Louvre, work out what you want to see in advance, get there as early as your schedule allows (or later on a late-opening day) and consider spending some cash on a museum pass so that you can get in through the group entrance. (More here.) Yes, the cheapest museum pass is $61 for two days, but your time is at a premium here.

Take the RER into town from CDG to Gare du Nord (where there are luggage lockers) or perhaps one of the express coaches: it's really not too difficult. Your 'bonjour' and 's'il vous plaît' will do you fine for fourteen hours.
posted by holgate at 7:47 AM on June 7, 2008

The metro system is quite good and easy to navigate. A cab will run you somwhere around 40-60 euros. IIRC there is also a shuttle that goes from the airport to Opera for around 15 euros.

You could breeze through the Louvre in a day, but you won't get much time in any one section. If you like walking for 10 hours and want to see the big sights, try this tour:

- start at the Eiffel tower, go up if the line-ups aren't too bad
- walk to the Arc de Triomphe, go up (great views & photo ops of the city)
- from there, walk down the Champs Elysees
- then walk either along the Rue de Rivoli or through the Jardin des Tuileries to the Louvre
- from the Louvre, walk to the Notre Dame cathedral
- if you have any time after that, get lost on some side streets and then cab back to the airport
- you can also metro directly from the Arc to the Louvre & skip the Champs... buys you more time for a nice lunch under a red awning

You've now seen Paris in a day! Not really, but it is a very nice walk and you'll get an idea of what you want to spend time on next trip.
posted by stp123 at 7:49 AM on June 7, 2008

Since you mentioned the art scene, the Louvre and the Orsay are obvious choices, but you could also go up to Montmartre, which has gorgeous views of the city. If you go to the Orsay first, just walk over to the Assemblee Nationale and take the 12 up to Pigalle. From there you can walk up to Montmartre, or walk over to the funicular, and you can also take a look around the red light district. My favorite memory of Montmartre was going to Espace Dalí and seeing a really nice, although small, collection of Dalí works. There is also Sacré Coeur, which is definitely worth seeing, if you are interested in churches at all.
posted by harrumph at 8:17 AM on June 7, 2008

Response by poster: Interestingly enough, I went to a sacred heart school down here in Miami. So thanks I am interested.

So far the answers are excellent! I'm also wondering, instead of just main streaming it can I find a more hipster scene? in the music and fashion sense.

I don't necessarily have to go to the bigger museums. I am okay with just checking out a smaller gallery scene. Is there a road or street full of small galleries with amazing work? is there a specific exhibition in town i should know about? I've been trying to do my research but btw work and school I'm finding it hard to get any free time before I leave. THANKS EVERYONE!
posted by ss448 at 8:23 AM on June 7, 2008

Don't try and put too much into your 14 hours there. Go for quality, not quantity. Hit a few places and promise yourself to go back as soon as you can.
posted by birdherder at 9:37 AM on June 7, 2008

This advice relates strictly to the transportation times. I fly into Paris at least a couple of times every month at Charles de Gaulle, so this is based on painful experience.

RER: There is a subway-like train that goes directly from the Airport to the city. You should look for the signs saying "RER" in the airport to locate it. It would take anything from 30 (the quick one) to forty minutes to get to the city. This is the cheapest option as well since it cost 8.50 euros for a one way trip. I would advise to go down on the station "Chatelet Les Halles" for the biggest availability of connections.

Bus: There are buses operated by Air France (14 euros) and the RATP (the metro operator). Cheap as well but you will have to take the roads. More on that later.

Taxi: This is to be avoided absolutely between 6:00 am and 11 am, and in the evenings. Anything in the off-hours is fine. Very expensive since you cannot reach Paris for less that around 50 euros. Cabs are not tipped more than a couple of euros in France. I say it is to be avoided because the traffic is totally jammed at peak hours and you would need sometimes a couple of hours to get to your destination.

In total from the time your plane lands you should count about an hour and a half (by RER) till you get to Paris, and since international flights (not Schengen) have strict security and guidelines, you should be 2 hours at the least before your flight departs in the airport, to which you should add an hour for transportation from Paris, so in total you should start heading to the airport at least three hours in advance (2 flight missed so far this year because I didn't adhere to my own rules).

One last point, there is no official baggage checkroom, but there is an unofficial one (I think in Terminal one). Ask at the bright orange Information checkpoints at the airport where it is. This would greatly help in avoiding schlepping your luggage into a museum.

Last advice (promise!) if the weather is nice, go to the Musee Rodin (Metro station: Invalides or Varenne on line 13). Really overlooked, but considered by many locals as a major museum in Paris
posted by ziadleb at 10:20 AM on June 7, 2008

I was in Paris from 9:00 in the morning til 4:30 in the afternoon. It's so possible to do the things you want, considering you'll have twice the time I did.

Hint to save money:
Get the Paris metro day pass. I forget its exact name, but it is truly ridiculously cheap, and gives you access to buses, the metro, and the RER.

In 7 hours, I saw:
The Eiffel Tower, but did not have enough time to go up it;
The entire Axe Historique from Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre (although I didn't enter the Louvre). This included Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées, the Tuileries, and the outside of the Louvre. I regret this leg, as I had woken up with knee pain and this 2-hour walk made it worse, forcing me to leave to find someplace to sit down at 4:30 instead of 5:30, so if you're not big on shopping, skip the Champs;
Notre Dame;
Centre Pompidou (modern art). This gallery is AMAZING, AMAZING if you like art, and will appeal to the 'hipster' side you're discussing. AMAZING.

You can definitely replace the Centre Pompidou with the Louvre. Try not to eat on the Champs-Élysées if you have a budget; it's far too pricey.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:55 AM on June 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh: side benefit of the Centre Pompidou is that you can take as many pictures as you want.

Check out Flickr (or for more focus on the art, try here, or here) for its architectural details, and some of the types of pieces you'll run into there.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 10:59 AM on June 7, 2008

Thing about the Louvre.. it's massive.. you could spend days and days there.. if there is not something particular you want to see, maybe check out something different? Yes, the Centre Pompidou is quite cool. Worth checking out for sure.

Record shops if so inclined, there is a big FNAC at Bastille, it's a big chain and as I recall that one in particular has a good selection.. back when I was there, also some neat little independent record shops on the Rue Keller in the 11eme. There are clubs on the Seine in the 14e by metro Bibliotheque nationale, like Batofar.. the Paris Paris club is neat, there are not events there every night though.

At kiosques you can pick up Time Out which has selected event listings in back, in English - I recommend that as they select what they think is good for the week. I advise picking up a decent little map as well, so easy to get lost otherwise. And do take the RER, it's the easiest way into the city. Although, if alone and taking it very late or very early when there's likely to be hardly anyone there, I might prefer using the shuttle from Opera instead - it goes exclusively to the airport.

I really like the Canal St Martin in the 10eme arondissement.. beautiful walk (if it's good weather), neat little cafes and shops, not on the tourist beaten track whatsoever.

If you only speak a little French, it's OK, just a polite "Monsieur/Madame s'il vous plait, est-ce que vous parlez anglais ?" is helpful.
posted by citron at 8:20 PM on June 7, 2008

The most important word to know in Paris is SORTIE. It means "exit" and it was totally non-obvious to me, a native English speaker. You'll need it to find your way out of the labyrinthine Metro stations. A lot of French can be figured out by Latin root or context, but most people do speak at least the basic English they need for their job. I always attempted to speak awkward French at first, and I never had any problems with rudeness.

Dittoing the Musee d'Orsay or Centre Pompidou for art. I'd pick the latter since it's easily accessible by RER (take ziadleb's advice) and the neighborhood just east of it is much more interesting. You can get really, really lost walking around in the Marais (4e), so bring a map.

I doubt it's open on Wednesdays, but there is a cool outdoor art/antique fair near Place de la Bastille (Boulevard Bourdon, Metro: Bastille). I can't recall the name so I can't search for it, but if you happen to be at that Metro station, go up to street level and look for white tents along a canal. It's free admission and worth your while to look around.
posted by desjardins at 7:07 AM on June 8, 2008

You asked for a hipster fashion place. Definitely check out Colette, on Rue St. Honore (it is also only a few blocks from the Louvre). One of my favorite stores on the planet. The main floor has a really cutting edge selection of books (including a lot of art books) and music, as well as some random electronics. Upstairs has a lot of great designers, both well known as well as up-and-coming. And in the basement they have a wonderful cafe/water bar, with over 50 types of artisan bottled water available. Surprisingly inexpensive lunch given how chic it is... If i remember correctly it was €15 for an entree.

posted by stilly at 3:59 PM on June 8, 2008

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