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PARIS

‘Avoid the Eiffel Tower’ – What to see if you’re visiting Paris for just one day

With its dozens of world-famous museums, galleries and monuments, Paris can feel a little overwhelming if you're only here for a short time - so what are the real 'must do' activities for the city of light? Readers of The Local had some suggestions:

'Avoid the Eiffel Tower' - What to see if you're visiting Paris for just one day
The Eiffel Tower (R) and the gothic Saint-Jacques Tower (L), seen from a rooftop in Paris. (Photo by JOEL SAGET / AFP)

As Paris fans, we would recommend that you come for at least a week, but that’s not always possible, so we asked our readers for suggestions on what to do if you only have one day in Paris.

Here are their tips:

Walk

A common piece of advice was not to worry about trying to visit every museum and gallery, but simply to walk and enjoy the views, taking frequent breaks in cafés.

French has a special word – coined in Paris – for the activity of strolling aimlessly and enjoying the view (its flâner or flâneur/flâneuse for the person doing the strolling) and we strongly advise that people take this hint.

In terms of where to go, the vast majority of respondents recommended simply strolling along the Seine. Most said to be sure to stop by Ile-de-la-Cité while on this balade

Some had specific routes to recommend, like Kate Gooderham, who lives in Florida but has visited Paris several times. She said: “I would walk the Seine from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame including both the Right and Left Banks. Stop and have a coffee or a wine when you get tired. Soak up the atmosphere. Then promise to come back!

“That is what we did our first time when we only had 24 hours. At night the Eiffel Tower twinkles on the hour. It is a treat to see.” 

Another specific route came at the recommendation of Twitter user “Amarins” who attached the Google Maps walking tour they would recommend:

Paris is also home to many charming, small streets – many of which are located in the Marais or Latin Quarter – that are worth visiting if time permits. 

READ MORE: The ten Paris streets you just have to walk down

After walking down the Seine, Sally Bostley from California recommended taking a taxi from Pont d’Iena to the Marais. “From there it is a picturesque walk through the Marais to the Place des Vosges, the most beautiful square in Paris.

“Take rue de Birague out of Place des Vosges and make a quick stop at the Ile Saint-Louis. There are lots of restaurants there, but the big draw is the Berthillon Ice Cream shop. If weather permits, it is the best ice cream in Paris.” 

If walking is not possible, consider a boat or bus tour

This was a common tip. If you are not a fan of walking, or perhaps you are unable to walk for long periods, there are definitely other ways to take in all the beautiful views of the city.

Bus tours are a great way to see the city in a short amount of time. There are hop-on, hop-off services that will give you a good overview of the city.

Boat tours are another great way to see the city along the Seine, and they are available for those with budgets of all sizes.

For a more affordable option, Bateaux Mouches offers river cruises up and down the Seine several times a day. This boat ride takes you along the water, underneath the city’s famous bridges, all while pointing out monuments and neighbourhoods along the way. The commentary is available in several languages, including English.

For more expensive options, you might consider a dinner or lunch cruise. These typically run between one to two hours long, and they are a great way to enjoy a meal while taking in the panoramic views of the city.

If you are looking to get around Paris using the Metro system, keep in mind that many of the underground subway lines are not wheelchair accessible (apart from line 14).

However, all bus lines in Paris are accessible to wheelchair users, and all buses are equipped with a low floor and a retractable pallet for on and off-boarding. 

While most sidewalks in Paris are flat, some are paved with bricks or cobblestones – making them uneven.

Cafés

Sitting on a café terrace watching the world go by is one of Paris’ greatest pleasures and many people recommended that you break up your walk for a coffee/beer/glass of wine/Aperol spritz and a croissant/sandwich/croque monsieur at regular intervals.

You’ll never be far from a café in Paris.

Eat authentically

Many readers suggested specific restaurants across Paris – from the Hemingway Bar at the Ritz and “if budget permits, a Michelin one star lunch” to simply popping into a “neighbourhood brasserie” – the overall advice is best summed up as “eat in a nice restaurant but save room for a pastry and coffee later,” as one reader responded. 

As for where to go, according to Debbie Nilsson, from Sydney, Australia, when visiting Paris for a day trip, head to “any cafe/restaurant not on the tourist trail.”

Nilsson recommended “[Going] a few blocks off the track and [finding] a café restaurant that appeals to you. Check out the menu in the window/at the door.”

She also advised seeking out happy hour options, when possible: “there are lots and they all differ slightly.”

When eating in Paris, keep an eye out for whether the sign says “Service continu” or not. This will help you determine whether the restaurant closes between lunch and dinner hours, as many do. 

While in Paris, try to have at least one pastry. This won’t be too hard because there are boulangeries (bakeries) on most corners. For one respondent, the best place to eat French pastries is at the Carl Marletti shop: 

If you have time, several readers recommended meandering through a market, as this is a great way to have fresh, authentic cheese, fruit, and much more. You can check on the city hall website ahead of time to see which markets will be open the day you are visiting.

Pick ONE museum or gallery

If you’re only in Paris for a short time, accept that you can’t possibly take in all the galleries or museums and dashing around them is no fun.

Many museums and galleries in Paris can take up an entire day – in the case of the Louvre you could easily spend a week, so be strategic and pick one, then you have the time to enjoy it.

The most-recommended by Local readers was the Musée d’Orsay – housed in a former train station and home to a large collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art – as the best place to go to.

Others suggested smaller museums such as the Rodin, which is dedicated mostly to the sculptures of Auguste Rodin, or the Orangerie, located by the Tuileries Gardens and also home to impressionist art, namely eight large murals of Monet’s Water Lillies.

While a few readers counselled against visiting the Louvre on your one day in Paris, one of those who did suggest making the trip to the world’s most visited museum – Christine Charaudeau from the United States – advised “[picking] something you want to see because there is too much for a few hours visit.”

If you are interested in seeing the Mona Lisa, keep in mind this is the most visited exhibit in the museum. The painting attracts around 30,000 visitors each day, and if you are interested in joining that group, you will likely have to wait in line, particularly if you visit during a busy period.

Most museums in Paris allow visitors to book tickets online, with specific entrance hours – booking ahead of time can be a way to save some time in line on your one day in Paris.

Additionally, if you happen to be visiting on the first Sunday of the month, you can benefit from free entrance into many of Paris’ museums, like the Museum of Modern Art, the Pompidou and the Musée d’Orsay. You can learn more HERE.

READ MORE: Ten of the best day trips out of Paris

If you have more than one day

If Paris does work its magic on you and convinces you to stay more than just one day, there are a lot of options.

In addition to the more obvious attractions, here are some of the recommendations from Local readers;

Some said to head to the Luxembourg Gardens, a creation of Marie de’ Medici dating back to the 1600s. 

Others recommended crossing the river and heading to the Canal St. Martin. This is a lovely place to stroll, with plenty of shops and restaurants lined against the canal. It is also a great place for a picnic, if you have time.

While on the right side of the river, two other suggestions were brought up by several readers: visiting Père Lachaise, the largest cemetery in Paris and climbing up the Sacré Coeur. 

READ MORE: Paris’ Sacré-Coeur to be (finally) classified as a historical monument

Walking around a cemetery might sound depressing, but 3.5 million people come to Père Lachaise each year to do just that. It is home to the graves of several famous writers (like Oscar Wilde), artists and musicians, and the cemetery itself is filled with unique architecture and sculptures. 

As for the Sacré Coeur, many readers recommended attempting to visit if you have time during your one-day trip. From the top of the steps, you can see a beautiful view of the entire city. The basilica itself – which was only recently named a historic monument – is iconic and free to enter, and the streets around Montmartre, though hilly, are known for being charming.

And finally, try to avoid…

Readers were almost unanimous in their advice to not go up the Eiffel Tower. Many cited large crowds, while others simply said that the wait would be too long to reach the top. One respondent advised simply doing the “short walk up to second floor – that’s enough” instead of the elevator to the top.

Others also recommended avoiding the Champs-Élysées. This famous avenue is filled with shops, and it is always bustling and busy with traffic, although there are plans to pedestrianise it and make it a more pleasant space to stroll in. 

Earnest Chambers, a respondent from Los Angeles, said that he would “definitely avoid” the “crowds on the Champs Élysées.”

Some readers were more specific, recommending staying away from this part of the city on “Saturdays” or weekends, when it is most congested.

Disney was also a popular tourist attraction several readers suggested avoiding if you only have one day in Paris. The theme park is accessible from the city, but it is along the RER trainline and typically takes about an hour to get there from central Paris.

In fact, the Disneyland Paris website recommends “three full days” to visit the parks: “Two days for Disneyland Park and its five magical themed lands, one day for Walt Disney Studios Park and its four action-packed zones.”

Finally, several readers recommended avoiding specific neighbourhoods and parts of the city at night, particularly those directly surrounding train stations, such as Gare du Nord. If you have to transit through Gare du Nord make sure you keep an eye on your belongings, the place is notorious for pickpockets. 

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STRIKES

France’s pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

The final day of January marks the second - and almost certainly not the last - day of mass strike action in the ongoing battle between the French government and unions over pension reform. Here's what to expect on January 31st.

France's pension strikes: What to expect on January 31st

Unions have promised the ‘mother of all battles’ against Emmanuel Macron’s plans to reform the French pension system, including raising the retirement age from 62 to 64.

5 minutes to understand French pension reform

However, the action for the moment is mostly concentrated into a series of one-day actions, with the first taking place on January 19th.

The next ‘mass mobilisation’ is scheduled for Tuesday, January 31st. It is supported by all eight French trades union federations, which means that support is likely to be high and disruption severe on certain services.

Workers in essential services such as transport must declare their intention to strike 48 hours in advance, allowing transport operators to produce strike timetables, which are usually released 24 hours in advance. We will update this story as new information is released.

Trains

Rail unions are strongly backing the action – on January 19th, 46 percent of all rail workers walked out, and unions say they expect a similar level of support on January 31st. This would likely lead to a similar level of disruption with around half of high-speed TGV trains cancelled and 9 out of 10 of local TER services. 

International services including Eurostar could also see cancellations or a revised timetable. 

Some unions have filed a provisional strike notice running from 7pm on January 25th to 8am on February 2nd, with the option of a renewable strike after that – however it is not yet known how well supported this action will be. 

City public transport

Workers on Paris’ RATP network also saw high levels of support for the previous strike – with most Metro lines running rush-hour-only services and some closed altogether, while buses ran a severely limited service. The full details of exactly what will be running will be revealed on Monday evening by RATP.

Other cities including Marseille, Nice, Lyon and Nantes will likely see a repeat of severely disrupted bus, tram and Metro services.

Ports

The CGT union representing port and dock workers are also set to walk out on January 31st, but have filed a strike notice running from January 26th. Full details of their action are yet to be clarified.

Schools

The major teaching unions have called for another 24-hour walkout, so some schools are likely to close. The January 19th action saw roughly half of teachers across France walk out.

Ski lifts

The two unions that represent more than 90 percent of workers in ski resorts have called an ‘unlimited’ strike beginning on January 31st. So far Tuesday is the only confirmed strike day, but others could be announced. Strikes in ski resorts generally mainly affect the operation of ski lifts.

Petrol stations

The hardline CGT union has announced extra strike dates for workers at oil refineries, and also threatened blockades. This can result in shortages at petrol stations as supplies of petrol and diesel are blocked from leaving the refineries and reaching filling stations.

Power cuts 

CGT members working in the state electricity sector have also threatened more ‘direct action’ including power cuts to selected towns. This is not a legitimate strike tactic – in fact France’s labour minister says it is “a criminal offence” and will be punished accordingly – but it could happen nevertheless.

On January 19th two towns – one in the greater Paris region and one in northern France – lost power for a couple of hours in what was described as a deliberate cut. The union says it intends to target towns that elected MPs who support the pension reform.

Demos

January 31st will also see another day of marches and demonstrations in towns and cities around France. On January 19th more than 1 million people took to the streets and unions will be hoping for a similar turnout on January 31st. One striking feature of the demos on January 19th was the comparatively large turnout in smaller French towns that usually do not see large demos.

Other strike dates

The above information relates to January 31st only, and services before and after this date are expected to run as normal.

Some unions, however, have declared ‘unlimited’ strikes, so there could be disruptions on these services on other days – these include ski lift operators, truck drivers and oil refinery workers.

It is highly likely that further one-day or multi-day strikes will be announced for February and March, as the pension reform bill comes before parliament, you can keep up to date with out strike calendar HERE.

We will update this article as more information becomes available, and you can also keep up with the latest in our strike section HERE.

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