Paris in 5 Days

Travel Blog by J
October 2011

My first trip to Paris years ago was with a group tour.  We only stayed for 3 days and did an overnight stay in Lourdes.  As in most group tours, time wasn't ours so I didn't get to see the Louvre at all. So this time, when planning for an independent trip to Europe again, I made sure to allot more time in this City of Lights.   I know there is a lot more to see in Paris but  5 days is just fine to visit all the major ones.

The Parisian subway is efficient and well-connected.  We bought a one-day unlimited metro pass for 9,30 euros for the days that we would be using the metro a lot.  Good value for money as a single journey costs 1,70 euros.  The Metro also sells a pack of 10 journeys which costs 12,50 euros.  This one was particularly useful for our group of five (1 return ticket for each of us), when we just wanted to go to one place and then go back to our hotel.

Taxis are expensive but consider this option only if you're getting into the city with big suitcases.  Some metro stations do not have an escalator.  The average taxi fare is 50 euros (for 3 people).

So here's what we covered in our 5 days...

Day 01 - Arrive Paris

We arrived in our Montmartre hotel in the afternoon.  As soon as we got settled in, we took the metro from Anvers station to Charles de Gaulle Etoile to see the Arc de Triomphe.  This majestic landmark is a proud memorial for the soldiers who fought in the Napoleonic War.  Etched on its walls are the names of the generals and France's victories.

Down the road from the Arc de Triomphe is Paris' most famous street, Champs Elysees.  Enough has been said about this avenue of signature shops, fancy restaurants and high-end hotels.  If you're looking to go shopping in Paris, this is the place to go.  The average cost of a 5-star hotel night here is 950 euros!

It's also nice to see the Eiffel Tower at night because it is all lit up.  From the Trocadero gardens, you can see Eiffel Tower in its full view.  The Eiffel Tower lights up every day, every hour from sunset to about 1:00 am.  It was truly a magical sight :)

The Eiffel Tower at night from the Trocadero Gardens

Day 02

From our hotel, we walked to a nearby public park called Parc Monceau, which has play areas for children and a running path.  There was also an art exhibit in the garden.

We decided to visit the Louvre after lunch as many bloggers have suggested is the best time to go.  True enough, the queue was very manageable and we were through the Pyramid entrance in minutes.  The basic admission  fee to the Louvre is 10 euros.  We spent about 3 hours in the museum, just picking out the collections we'd like to see:  the Sculpture Garden, the Egyptian Antiquities,  The Greek and Roman Antiquities, French and Italian Paintings, and the Napoleon III Apartments.

The modern and old in a single frame.
The entrance to the museum is through the glass pyramid.

Of course, the Louvre's most famous resident is the Mona Lisa:

Manly flock to see the Mona Lisa.

Glad to have been able to Mona Lisa this close.

Inside the Louvre is Cafe Angelina, where we had lunch.  It's essentially a tea salon but it serves breakfast, lunch and dessert items too.  Their profile says that they were once a favorite of Coco Chanel and Audrey Hepburn.

If you are a fan of chocolate, you must try their signature African hot chocolate served with cream separate.  It is so velvety rich!  Definitely a must try!

Cafe Angelina's signature hot chocolate

We also got their signature Mont Blanc pastry.  The food attendant, probably amused by our "ooohs" and "aaahs" over these two yummy items, gave us a 3rd Mont Blanc pastry ---  for free :)

Cafe Angelina's signature pastry: The Mont Blanc
Meringue, sweet whipped cream, chestnut puree vermicelles  

Cafe Angelina's  location is perfect as its balcony overlooks the Pyramid and the Tuileries garden.  You can also see Eiffel Tower from a distance.

Later that day, we followed a self-guided walking tour which took us to Notre Dame Cathedral.  This catholic church is a fine example of Gothic architecture.  It is famous for its flying buttresses, gargoyles and chimeras on its roof, and its stained glass windows.  We went here during the day and came back at night when it was illuminated and less crowded.  Entrance to the cathedral is free.

Notre Dame at night

We crossed the Pont Neuf the oldest bridge in Paris (built in 1578).  This bridge connects the left and right banks of the River Seine by passing over the Ile de la Cite.

Pont Neuf

The Square du Vert Galant,  is located behind and below the statue of Henry IV along the Pont Neuf.  Unfortunately, the gate was closed already that evening.  Too bad because it is said to be the best vantage point for the the Louvre and Pont Neuf.

Square du Vert Galant, taken from the Pont Neuf

Just across the Pont Neuf is the Place Dauphine.  The square is surrounded by old buildings made of brick with limestone;  everything was illuminated by the  warm yellow glow of the lamp posts.

Place Dauphine

Last stop for the day was Place de la Concorde, also one of the major squares in Paris.  Here, you can capture 3 major landmarks all in one frame:  an Egyptian obelisk, the Fountain of River Commerce and Navigation, and the Eiffel Tower.

Place de la Concorde

Day 03

We started the day exploring Montmartre.  See related post here.

It was then time to shop in Galeries Lafayette.  More than the stores, I liked its dome and balconies more.  They were pretty, just like a music box :)


The last order of the day was the ascent to the Eiffel Tower.  As expected, there were long queues for the tickets and the elevator.  Repeated announcements were made that there was a 45-minute waiting time on the second level before one could reach the top.  Because of this, we decided to just go up to the second level.  The ticket costs 8,20 euros.  There is also an option of taking the stairs to go up the second floor--- one that I did not even care to consider! Our timing was just right as it was close to dusk and we were just in time for when the tower sparkled!

view from the Eiffel Tower

Day 04

After some souvenir shopping in Montmartre, we took the RER train to Chateau de Versailles.   Getting to Versailles is easy:  just take the RER C (regional train, not the metro) to Versailles Rive Gauche Station.  Our metro ticket + RER C ticket cost 5,12 euros.  Versailles is about 30 minutes away by train from Paris.

Admission fee to the Chateau + Gardens + Marie Antoinette's Estate is 25 euros.  For the Chateau only, it's 15 euros; Gardens only, 7 euros.  I would suggest buying the first option so you get the total Versailles experience.

Because of the sheer size of the Chateau and gardens, it is necessary to allow at least half a day for this.  A whole day is even better.  We spent about 4 hours here, visiting the palace apartments, exploring the vast garden and continuing on to Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon.  It's nice to imagine how the kings and queens of the past have walked on the same steps, and sat on the same marble benches, and looked out of the same windows to the Grand Canal.  Just be prepared to walk though.  This may well be the longest garden walk of all time!

Chateau de Versailles

Apollo Ornamental Lake

One of the many gardens

The Petit Trianon

Day 05
Au revoir, Paris!  Next stop - Barcelona!

Some Paris Tips:

* Buy an unlimited metro pass for 1 day for 9,30 euros.  It's good value for money especially if you'll be using the metro a lot.

* Try one of the many corner boulangerie (bakery).  They sell a wide variety of savory and sweet pastries. A regular baguette with ham, lettuce and cheese costs about 3,50 euros.  A croissant costs under 2 euros.  

*  And because this is France, try the French Fries.  Haha :)  They all taste the same whichever country you may be.  McDonald's Paris sells them for 2,20 euros.

* It is a must to taste French macarons.  Try Laduree.

* A regular meal in a not-so-fancy restaurant costs between 20-30 euros.  A fastfood meal (burger, fries and soda) costs about 7 euros.

* Try going to the Louvre after lunch when the queue is likely to be shorter.

* Catch the Eiffel Tower at night.  The Eiffel is pretty both in the day and evening when it is all lit up.  Remember that the Eiffel twinkles on the hour after sunset for 10 minutes. 

* If your party is more than 3, consider getting a big taxi from the airport (about 60 euros from Charles de Gaulle Airport to the city center).  A standard taxi would cost about 50 euros for the same distance.  Remember to ask the driver to put the meter on.

* In Sacre Coeur, do not entertain people offering to make a "friendship" bracelet on your wrist.  A fellow traveler cautioned us that these people work in tandem.  While one is making the bracelet around your wrist, the other is busy eyeing your bag.
* If you spend a minimum of 175 euros in the same store on the same day on merchandise where tax was charged, those purchases are eligible for tax refund.  Get the Retail Export Form before you leave the store.  Get the documents stamped before you leave the EU (European Union).  You will need to present your passport, ticket, forms and receipts.  The Customs official may ask to see the merchandise so do not check them in!

* All photos here are Skycab Travel's own.