Monday, June 09, 2008

Oh La La -- Guide to Saving Money While Seeing the Paris Sights

This is the part two of the budget Paris guide I promised last time. Again, double check the info, my experience is all a few years old. Prices, weblinks and other info may have changed.

I speak from experience that it is easy to be over ambitious about what you plan to see and do. It is so easy in Paris to just stumble into something you never expect you never quite get around to seeing Notre Dame. Despite everything I read I was also unprepared for the unbelievable long lines to get into some of the more popular attractions.

Here are some tips:

Consider buying a museum pass, available at tourist offices and most big museums. When I went, one day was 18 euros, three days was 36. There is also a five day pass for (I think) 54 euros.

It is an expense, but if you want to see the Louvre and the D’Orsay, it will literally save you hours in line to get in. It is good at a huge number of museums. Check out this site for a list of participating museums and check out this one for a list of Paris museums with opening hours, prices, and descriptions of collections. The pass does save you the admission price, as well.

Consider going to some of the less well known museums. Check the metropoleparis site. For example, the Marmottan has a huge collection of Monets and other impressionists and usually has no wait. Musuems owned by the City of Paris did not have an entrance fee at the time of my visit.

Skip the tourist bus tour of the city and try using the city buses. Rick Steves recommends the #69 from the Eiffel Tower to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. It only costs one metro ticket, or use your Carte Orange (see my Paris guide-part one for more on that), and takes about an hour.

Cruise the Seine, but skip the big tourist boats. Take the Batobus, a water ferry service that has stops pretty much near all the big tourist spots in the city. One day’s pass was 11 euros, two days’ just two euros more when I went. Well worth it, you can combine transport with sightseeing at a big savings plus no canned commentary!

Be aware of your time budget but don’t skimp on your dreams. It took us almost two hours to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower on a sunny weekday. Half hour wait to pay, half hour wait to take the elevator to just the second level and then a wait to go to the top and then waiting to go down again. It was worth it, but it was an unexpected time drain. If seeing Paris from the Eiffel Tower isn’t as important to you and the line is long when you get there, visit the base, see the neighborhood, etc., and get your views elsewhere or consider coming back late afternoon. (FYI – museum pass not valid here.)

Ride the funicular in Montmartre up to the Sacre-Coeur. It is the regular metro fare and runs until about 12:30 p.m. Montmartre stays up late and there is quite a crowd up at the basilica until fairly late.

Reserve a free fashion show through the department stores. See the excellent Paris for more info on that and lots of other ideas, links and resources.

Enjoy where you are. Paris is a great city to explore without a lot of money. There are wonderful parks, the city of Paris-run museums are free, loads of cafes in interesting areas to spend a few euros and a few hours, lots of theaters and shows (there is even a half price theater kiosk) and concerts and musicals need no translation. Spend 40 cents and buy a Pariscope. It’s all in French but easy to figure out your entertainment options.

Plus there are all the wonderful shops to wander through and all that the architecture, public art and sense of style to gawk at. You can’t do everything, so do what you can well not try to do it all. After all, this is just your next trip, right? You’ll be back.

Still to come, notes on the wonderful Paris street and flea markets and some of my food experiences.

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