We all know that Paris is one of the biggest metropolitan cities in the world and is famous for its grandeur, pastries, stunning architecture, and so many more things! Paris offers beautiful sights like the Arc de Triompe, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, numerous museums including the Louvre, beautiful gardens, bridges, and Versailles. Since Paris is such a hot spot for tourists, it can also get very very crowded especially from Mid May to September. My husband and I spent four days in Paris at the end of May, and let me tell you that there was a line for just about everything! This is a guide to Paris on what to see and do, including how to avoid crowds and get some crowd less shots (which may be hard to believe, but I actually succeeded!)
I will start by saying that most attractions in Paris are not that close to each other in proximity, so we either walked 8-10 miles per day or whenever we were exhausted used Uber. Our hotel was located in the Champs Elyees area making it relatively close to the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel tower.
I also want to add that we purchased the Paris museum pass at Charles de Gaulle airport. We purchased the four day pass for either 60 or 70 euros a person. The pass covers quite a bit of museums and attractions in Paris, including Versailles. For some odd reason I thought that by having the pass we would automatically get to skip the lines. Boy was I wrong because even with the pass we still waited in what were sometimes 2-3 hour lines. The pass is great because your entrance is already paid for essentially but does not expedite waiting in line.
Must See Attractions in Paris: Sights to visit early in the Morning
The Eiffel tower is one of the most beautiful monuments I have ever seen. It is massive (324 meters or 1,063 feet tall) and is adorned with stunning details. Honestly my favorite view of the Eiffel tower is during sunset and immediately after sunset. The tower sparkles for 10 minutes every hour once it gets dark, it is a stunning sight to capture. Around the Eiffel tower are two parks, both of which have a nice view point of the tower. The first park is called Champs de Mars, which is filled with tons of people trying to sell you cheap souvenirs. The second park and view point is called Trocadero. The Trocadero is located right across from the Seine river and the Eiffel tower, and has an enormous fountain in front of it. It is located on top of a hill and gives the best view point, in my opinion, without being overly hassled by people attempting to sell you souvenirs.
My biggest advice about getting a good photo with the Eiffel tower as your backdrop is to get to Trocadero early, and by early I mean at sunrise or a little after. We got there at 7:00 AM and there were already people there. Also if you want to go to the top of the Eiffel tower you can do one of two things. You can buy your tickets on Viator with a tour (not worth it), or you can get to the Eiffel tower around 7:30 or 8:00 am, and stand in line until they open at 9 and buy your tickets there. The tickets are about 17 euros to go all the way to the top (the summit). The view from the summit is nice, but it is not worth waiting in long lines for.
The Louvre is the largest museum in the world with 38,000 objects from prehistoric times to the 21st Century. The museum really is impressive, you could easily spend a week in the Louvre alone. We did not have a week reserved for the Louvre, so a few hours just had to do. We actually walked to the Louvre from our hotel and arrived around 7:00 AM, opening is at 9 AM. We were able to get several crowd less photos at the Louvre and at the park nearby (Jardin des Tuileries). There were a few people already at the Louvre at that time but definitely no crowds. More people started to arrive around 8- 8:30 AM and the lines were already getting long.
The Palais Royal is located right by the Louvre and is known for its checkered columns that rise half way from the ground. The reasoning behind the columns only rising half way is that they are remnants of Paris’s largest covered arcade. This arcade was demolished in the 1930s and has been left the same ever since. We came to the Palais Royal after we took the Louvre photos, around 7:30 AM. There was only one other person there also taking photos. An entrance fee to walk around the grounds outside is not required, therefore you can take your time walking around and taking photos.
Pont Alexandre III Bridge
The Pont Alexandre III Bridge is easily the most beautiful and ornate bridge I have ever seen from my travels. I mean the whole bridge is covered with incredible gold details and sculptures. This bridge connects the Champs Elysees and Eiffel tower quarter. In the afternoon, the bridge is packed. Tourists and locals use the bridge to get from one part of the seine to the other. I knew that If I wanted a good photo I would have to come pretty early, and that is exactly what we did. We actually stopped by the bridge on our walk to the Louvre one morning, It was probably around 6:45 AM. The bridge was pretty much empty, except for a few cars that passed by. It was magnificent to see such an incredibly busy bridge so empty and even more beautiful in that bright morning light. I highly recommend going early, It was unforgettable.
The Notre Dame is one of the finest examples of French Gothic Architecture. The details that adorn the cathedral and gargoyles are magical. This cathedral is a must see when in Paris, but if you do not get there early you will be standing in several very long lines. This was the one attraction that we did not get to early in the morning. We arrived at the Notre Dame right before lunch and decided to eat lunch before tackling several long lines. After lunch, probably around 12:30 we got into the line to go to the top of the Notre Dame. Even though we had the museum pass, which covered the cathedral, we still had to wait in a 2 hour line. Now that I look back, I am not sure that it is worth waiting in line for. Sure the view at the top was pretty amazing especially with the gargoyles in the frame, but the entire top balcony was covered in black mesh. I had to do my best to get a photo through the mesh, leaving me with no photos of myself up there. It was pretty upsetting, but I still got a pretty good and unique shot! The line to enter the cathedral itself was EVEN LONGER than the line to go up to the top, so we opted out of going inside because we had already had our fair share of lines for the day.
Palace of Versailles
The palace of Versailles is a must see half day excursion while in Paris. The gold, grandeur, artwork, detail, and incredible gardens exceeded my expectations. The palace was even better in real life than any photos could do it justice. The palace opens at 9:00 AM and the long lines start well before that. We arrived at 8:00 AM, and I am so glad we did. Even at 8:00 AM there was still a pretty long line, but not nearly as long as it was at 2 PM when we were leaving the Palace. You can use the museum pass to enter Versailles but it does not include a guide, and it does not cover entrance fees to certain areas of the Palace. The gardens of Versailles are truly incredible, and span a large area of the property. There are golf cart rentals, but beware it is 30 euros for one hour. We ended up renting one because we were so exhausted from walking in the heat, but made sure to return it in an hour. It is pretty hard to avoid all the crowds at Versailles, but if you are patient and time it right you can get some crowd less photos. This includes getting a somewhat crowd less photo in the hall of mirrors. Everyone told me before my trip to Paris that I would not even be able to attempt a photo in the hall of mirrors, well I am definitely proof that if you get there early and go straight there you can get a pretty good shot.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is just as impressive if not more impressive in reality than it is in photos. The Arc is 50 meters tall (164 feet) and it honors those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary war and Napoleonic wars. The Arc de Triomphe is in the center of a very large and popular traffic circle in Paris. This traffic circle can get pretty busy and hectic in the afternoon, making it virtually impossible to get a good photo. One morning, before going to Versailles, we walked to the Arc to capture some crowd less and car less photos. We arrived around 6:30 AM and even though that sounds pretty early, it was well worth it. There was only one other couple besides my husband and I. It was riveting to see the Arc de Triomphe and the main traffic circle so empty in the morning. It was so peaceful and allowed us to really enjoy the sight.
The Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic Basilica located in Montemartre area of Paris. Montemartre is the highest point in the city, therefore offering a really unique and beautiful view of Paris. Unfortunately, my husband and I arrived at the Sacre Coeur in the afternoon when the lines were wrapped around the basilica multiple times and the crowds were every where. I really wanted to go up to the top because I have seen so many beautiful photos of the view, but the line was impossible. We than snapped a few photos of the Basilica itself and proceeded to the Moulin Rouge, which was just as crowded! A piece of advice for you is to get here early in the morning if you do not want to stand in a really really long line.
Sights for the Afternoon:
Gardens in Paris:
If you have had a long day of lines and crowds, a perfect place to drink a coffee or a cold beverage would be in one of the numerous gardens around Paris. My personal favorites are the Luxembourg Garden and Tuileries Garden. Luxembourg Garden is located in the 6th arrondissement of Paris and is not really close to any other sights. This garden was our first stop on our first day. The garden is usually pretty crowded in the afternoon as people use it to relax or lay on the grass and enjoy the shade. Tuileries Garden is very close to the Louvre. We actually walked through the Garden to get to the Louvre. In the morning the garden is relatively empty and peaceful. There is a stunning row of trees there that is perfect for some Instagram worthy photos.
Les Invalides is a French military museum located in the 7th arrondissement in Paris. It was actually my husband’s idea to go to this museum because Napoleon’s tomb is located at the museum. At first I was pretty skeptical because I am not a fan of military museums, but I figured I would give it a shot. We walked to the museum from the Eiffel tower and arrived there about noon. There were virtually no people there, which turned out to be perfect. It was a beautiful museum with rows of neatly trimmed shrubbery and a huge white courtyard. I was able to get several crowd less photos there. If you have some time while in Paris and get tired of being around the crowds at all the other sights, than this museum might be a nice break.
Tour Montparnasse is a 210 meter (689 feet) tall skyscraper in the Montparnasse region in Paris. In my opinion the best views of Paris are from the top deck of this skyscraper. To get to the top, you pay maybe 5-10 euros a person to take the elevator all the way up. We went during sunset and had some pretty amazing views of Paris and all of the monuments. If you do not make it to the top of the Eiffel tower, Notre Dame, or Arc de Triomphe, its okay because the view from the Tour Montparnasse is even better.
There is a reason why Paris is known as the city of museums, yes there are that many! I obviously did not make it to all of them but a few of my favorites include Musse d’Orsay, Petit Palais, Musee de l’Orangerie, and Grand Palais. There are several more to explore but most of these are good afternoon excursions especially if you have the museum pass. The Grand Palais and Petit Palais are not included in the museuem pass and you have to pay separately to enter.
In conclusion, Paris is a huge metropolitan city with so much to see. I definitely feel that four days there were not enough. Luckily, we were able to see everything that we had planned in our itinerary. When you do go to Paris, try to enjoy the city and wander in the many beautiful streets and take in the stunning Parisian architecture. Take a Seine river cruise at sunset and enjoy the contagious aura that Paris produces.
I almost wish that we would have enjoyed the city more and had a few days to just enjoy the more unexplored areas of Paris. The crowds and ridiculously long lines were almost a buzz kill for my husband and I. By the end of the day we were so exhausted from lines and walking in the heat for 8-10 miles. Maybe my expectations were set way too high, or maybe it was the crowds and lines everywhere, or that I am more of a small city girl. Whatever the reason may be, you need to go for yourself and form your own opinion of Paris. I am glad that I was able to go and experience it with my own perspective and opinion.
My biggest word of advice is get up early, start your day right after sunrise, get all of your photos, and take a nice long nap in the Afternoon. After you have recharged, hit the streets again for a beautiful sunset over the Seine. I hope this guide helps you get some Instagram worthy shots while in Paris 🙂