Paris is always a good idea. I took a 5-day trip to Paris in March and, despite the cooler, rainier weather, it was just a delightful as my previous trip. Below I’ve put together some tips for people who want to travel to Paris from Connecticut, tips for traveling and enjoying Paris in general, and finally 5 days worth of ideas to fill up your time in Paris.
TIPS FOR TRAVELING TO PARIS
Don’t be afraid to do a tour. For some sights a tour is really the only way to go; The Louvre, Musee D’orsay, a trip to the top of the Eiffel Tour–unless you want to wait online for hours, book a tour.
- If you’re gonna go to the Louvre, book a skip-the-line tour. If you don’t, you’ll spend hours on line waiting to get in. Then you have to wait in line to buy a ticket. Once in, the Louvre has over 9 miles of art. NINE MILES! So a tour just makes practical sense. Aside from skipping the line, a tour will allow you to see the greatest hits the museum has to offer. Once you’ve seen the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, you can go stroll and hunt down any other piece of art that interests you. I suggest perusing the Louvre’s website first so you can get a taste of what they have.
- Do the bike tour. This was the best thing I did on my first trip and I really missed doing it on my second. I recommend Flat Tire Tours. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city.
- Do a Seine River cruise. We did a champagne tasting on the Seine River. We learned about the different types of champagne produced in France, and got to take in the sights of the Seine–most notably, we learned all about the bridges over the famouse river.
- Consider a food or market tour. Chocolate, cheese, wine, pastries–in Paris, you can do an entire morning or afternoon tour around a different type of food. Or, you could do a tour around a particular neighborhood or arrondissement. If you’re going for 7 days or if you’re a food lover going for a short amount of time, consider a food tour or a tour of one of Paris’s many food markets. Paris by Mouth has highly regarded food tours by neighborhood.
- Book specialty tours at least 2-3 weeks in advance. A bike or museum tour you can book a few days in advance, but food tours or trips to champagne country need to be booked well in advance.
The French eat dinner late. If you prefer a quiet restaurant, eat before 8pm, if you like a bustling scene, eat after 8pm.
You’ll sleep much later than you do at home. Jet lag is real. I always planned to get up at 7am and wasn’t getting out of bed until 10am. Keep that in mind when booking tours or activities. Since my trip was only 5 days, I just adjusted to getting up earlier and staying up later.
Book a nice lunch for the day you arrive. When you land at 7am after an overnight flight, the only thing you want to get to do is find your hotel or Airbnb, grab coffee and a croissant and sleep all day. Don’t give in to the jet lag.
When I’ve traveled to Europe in the past, I booked walking tours for the first afternoon to force myself to stay up. This time, I booked a long, boozy lunch for my group. A walking tour on your first day is typically referred to as a zombie tour because you’re just a bleary-eyed tourist trying to keep yourself busy until you can go to bed at 8 or 9pm. A long lunch can be energizing (and you’re sitting down).
Don’t worry about your clothes. I mean, wear them, obviously, but don’t stress. People always go on and on about how fashionable the french are and blahblahblah don’t wear white sneakers and boot cut jeans or you’ll look like a dumb American. Well guess what? Right now all of the french women are wearing huge white sneakers and flare-leg jeans so you do you and dress for comfort. For me this meant a pair of adidas, skinny jeans, a sweater and a lightweight jacket.
But… don’t wear a beret because then you will look like an idiot.
Download the TripAdvisor app. Even if you plan to keep your phone in airplane mode for the trip, if you download the TripAdvisor app in advance, you can use their maps and suggestions.
Relax and trade off days. There’s so much to see and do in Paris that you might forget to actually sit and relax. To counter this, I tried to spend on day on tourist-y stuff and one day off. That meant that one day I was visiting Sacre-Couer and the next I spent the morning in a cafe reading with coffee and croissant and the afternoon meeting my friend at a cafe to drink rose and watch Parisiens commute home for work. Another option is to plan out a morning of touring and spend the afternoon relaxing. Don’t forget it’s a vacation!
TRAVELING TO PARIS FROM CONNECTICUT’S BRADLEY AIRPORT
There are two camps for traveling internationally from Connecticut. There are the people who drive to New York or Boston, park their car at the airport and fly direct from BOS or JFK and there’s the second group who fly from BDL and connect for overseas flights.
I am in the second camp.
When I search for trips I always search out of Bradley (BDL). I snagged our plane tickets for $424 each round trip through Philadelphia. This meant I took a $20 Lyft ride to Bradley, had a leisurely lunch at the airport and then took a 60 minute flight to Philly before boarding the flight to Charles De Gaulle airport.
How did I score this fare? I can’t overstate how much I love Google Flights. I check a few times a week to see who has good deals from BDL to Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia and then I plan my trips around that. I wasn’t even planning to go to Paris since I am doing two weeks in Europe this summer, but once I saw that fare back in December I jumped on it.
The Aer Lingus flight from BDL to Dublin has a great connection to Paris. Try Aer Lingus first, then search other airlines.
Another great option is to fly through Charlotte (CLT). The flight to Charlotte is about 1 hour and 45 minutes with is the time it takes to drive from Hartford Boston or NYC.
5 DAY PARIS ITINERARY WITH LIMITED STANDING IN LINE
Note: I grouped suggestions together around neighborhoods or the big tourist attractions. These made sense to me since I don’t mind walking, but some may not make sense to you if you plan to take the metro. I encourage you to plug things into Google Maps.
Further note: These suggestions are not “deep cuts”. I’ve mostly included the things you do on your first time in Paris with classic eatery and bar suggestions.
This is a neighborhood I spent very little time in the last time I visited in 2007, but spent the majority of my time in on this trip. It’s supposedly the up-and-coming neighborhood for great dining. It also has some less-known museums.
5 rue de Thorigny
500+ Picasso’s plus artwork from Picasso’s private collection.
Soc Des Amis Musee Carnavalet
23 Rue de Sévigné
75003 Paris, France
Phone:+33 1 42 72 22 62
This beautiful museum charts the history of Paris.
5 Rue du Nil, 75002
You must make a reservation via their website and I would recommend getting one a few weeks in advance. I booked a table for 3 at 12:30pm on a Friday about two weeks before our trip and it was the last available reservation they had that day. If you can’t get a reservation, you’re in luck. They have a wine bar next door and a takeout place called Frenchie to Go. Their take-out bacon sandwich is to die for. Note: they do an 8-course tasting dinner, but they only offer their 3-course lunch on Thursdays and Fridays.
111 Rue Vieille du Temple
75003 Paris, France
+33 1 42 72 13 77
Known for their savory and sweet crepes. You will need a reservation a few days in advance.
The best way to get to the Eiffel Tour is to walk to it. If you’re staying in a central Arrondissement, this can mean up to an hour of walking which is the perfect way to get around this area of Paris.
I suggest you begin at the Louvre and walk Northwest toward the Place du Carrousel (you can’t miss it), through the Tuileries Garden. Cross the Seine on Pont Alexandre II and take some selfies with the Eiffel Tower in the background. Then walk along the Seine until you reach the tower. I have never been up to the top of the tower or the second floor because I hate waiting in line, but you can do skip-the-line tours here as well.
Pont Alexandre III
Bridge over Seine
Place du Trocadéro et du 11
Two great places for photo ops near the tower.
Champ de Mars Park
Avenue de la Motte Picquet
A beautiful park for exploring/lounging right by the Eiffel Tower.
Champagne Cruise on Seine
Vedettes de Paris, Port de Suffren 75007 Paris
Via Viator, my group did a champagne tasting cruise on the Seine that left from the Eiffel Tower. This was perfect. We got to see the tower and take an hour long cruise of the Seine where we learned about both champagne and the Seine river’s famous bridges.
Au Petit Tonneau
20 Rue Surcouf
75007 Paris, France
139 rue St. Dominique
La Fontaine de Mars
129 rue Saint-Dominique
75007 Paris, France
This is where the Obamas ate when they visited the Eiffel Tower. Get reservations.
LEFT BANK/LATIN QUARTER
When you want to get your “Midnight in Paris” on, this is the place to go. I stayed on the Left Bank in the 6th Arrondissement on my first trip to Paris in 2007 at L’Abbaye, which is an incredible hotel.
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur,
Rue Mouffetard Market
by Grand Mosque De Paris
An open market with food stalls and crepe shops.
79 Rue de Varenne
A museum and extensive gardens celebrating the artist’s life and work. There is also a museum cafe for a quick drink or meal.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
You could probably spend 2-3 hours here walking through the gardens.
151 Boulevard Saint-Germain
75006 Paris, France
This is one of those classic places everyone has to try at least once.
1 Rue de l’École Polytechnique
75005 Paris, France
Supposedly the best roast chicken in Paris (I sadly didn’t make it there on this trip).
102 Boulevard du Montparnasse
75014 Paris, France
Classic Parisian bistro with an art deco look. Known for their shellfish.
83 Rue du Cherche-Midi
75006 Paris, France
Known for their croque monsieur.
Louvre, Palais-Royal, Les Halles + Tuileries
Schedule at least a half day for the Louvre itself and more if you’re an art lover. Again, I strongly suggest a tour so you’re not waiting in line for tickets and then waiting in line to get in. But that’s not all this neighborhood has to offer–there are high-end shops for browsing and window shopping and some beautiful areas for strolling.
The Louvre and Tuileries
Note that the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays.
Stroll Rue Montorgueil
This whole street is a sweet photo op with darling cafes (yes, I said “darling”) and food stalls. You can either start at the bottom at La Grille Montorgueil (50 Rue Montorgueil, 75002 Paris, France) or at the top at Bistrot les Petits Carreaux at 17 Rue des Petits Carreaux 75002 Paris, France
Stroll Rue Saint-Honore
Start at the corner of Rue-Saint Florentin and Rue Saint-Honore. Walk towards the Mandarin Oriental and enjoy some of the best window shopping in the city, be sure to pop into Colette.
213 Rue Saint Honoré
75001 Paris, France
Rue Saint Honoré is great for window shopping, and Colette twas the only store on the street that actually had items I could afford.
22 Rue du Grenier Saint-Lazare
75003 Paris, France
Traditional french cuisine done well.
5 Rue des Prouvaires
75001 Paris, France
+33 1 42 36 21 82
Right off Rue Saint Honore this classic french bistro known for steak dishes.
IL DE CITIE + St LOUIS
These are the two islands in the middle of the Seine that are meant to be walked. When I think of Paris, I think about walking around these two little isles–lots of limestone and bridges and the Seine. This is also a good place to pick up some souvenirs, not the cheap kind, the well-made but not-that-expensive kind.
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II,
8 Boulevard du Palais
2 Boulevard du Palais
This is where Marie Antoinette waited out her execution.
Marché aux Fleurs
Place Louis Lépine
Quai de la Corse
A gorgeous flower market.
31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île
Famous for their crepes, there is always a line out the door (it moves quickly so I’m including it!)
Café Saint Regis
6 Rue Jean du Bellay
A classic Parisian cafe with beautiful views.
A few other recommendations:
- If you visit the Arc De Triomphe, this is a good place to climb to get a view of the city and the lines are not as long as the Eiffel Tower. If you must eat nearby, try Chez Georges 273 Boulevard Pereire, 75017 Paris
- If you visit Sacre Coeur, try Jeanne B, 61 rue Lepic, 75018 Paris, for casual food and a relaxed atmosphere.
- If you hate standing in line waiting, then book tours
- Plan days around neighborhoods or major attractions
- Be prepared to sleep later than you do in the U.S. due to the time difference.
Are you interested in traveling this year but are not sure where you want to go? Planning a trip and need some assistance? I am now offering a customized travel planning service that includes customized itineraries (or just suggestions if you like to keep things loose). Contact me for details.