Planning for five days in Paris with my eleven year old niece, Aubrey, was a bit challenging. While I’ve been to Paris many times over the past twenty years, most recently last November, I needed to view it through new eyes and become a tourist. Becoming a tourist, to me, meant that I would revisit the icons of the city and follow in the footsteps of many, many folks from around the world. I’ve found new ways to explore Paris over the years, such as the awesome Paris Street Art tour but sadly it would not make our itinerary (I would torture Aubrey on a London Street Art tour instead). Aubrey gave me her list of things that she want to see and do, so with that and her mother’s rules (feed her, let her sleep and don’t do a normal exhausting Sue day), I came up with the following five day Paris itinerary. For those of you who have been to Paris before, you will see that there is a lot of downtime and yet it seemed so hectic to us. I will review the activities and hotels in depth in future posts.
The rooms would be small, they always are so I decided to hotel hop in order to explore two neighborhoods and not feel cramped in one room the whole time. This was a great decision as I was able to experience two boutique hotels in two arrondissements (neighborhoods) that were new to me. I do love boutique hotels and the prices were similar for the dates so it made sense.
The first hotel, Hotel Atmospheres was in the 5th arrondissement Latin Quarter with the Pantheon behind the hotel and down the street from the Sorbonne. The nearest metro stop was Line 10 Maubert Mutualite so we would need to change lines (often twice) to other attractions in the city. The shopping of Boulevard St. Michel was a quick 5 minute walk, the Luxembourg Gardens about 15 mins in one direction whereas Notre Dame, 15 mins in the other direction.
The second hotel, Hotel Fabric, in Oberkampt, was in the 11th arrondissement near the Le Marais area. This, to me, was a bit more authentic neighborhood with families, a primary school nearby as well as many small cafes (without English menus -my WordLens app to translate came in handy). I didn’t see many hotels in the area. The nearest metro was line 9 St. Ambroise stop or Line 5 Richard Lenoir. We wandered away from the hotel and metro lines and found line 3 Parmentier which was perfect to get us to Galeries Lafayette.
Day 1 – Arriving Paris and Local Dinner
Arrive Paris at 3 p.m. – My first time flying into Orly and how surprising it was as we approached to have the Eiffel Tower on the left during the entire landing process. So very cool for both of us. Arriving at Hotel Atmospheres at 4 p.m., we got settled and walked around the neighborhood and shops on Blvd St. Michel before our dinner at the very French local restaurant, Brasserie Balzar on rue des Ecoles, recommended by the hotel. They’ve been there since 1886!
Day 2 = Macarons, Eiffel Tower and River Seine
10 a.m. – 11 a.m – Behind the scenes “Macaron and Chocolate” tour
2 p.m – Eiffel Tower tour (the only way to get skip the line tickets)
5 p.m. – 1 hour boat tour on River Seine – leaves from the Eiffel Tower docks
Day 3 – Baguettes, Croissants and Treasure Hunt at the Louvre
10 a.m – 11 a.m. – Behind the scenes “Baguettes and Croissants” tour
1:30 p.m. – Our Treasure Hunt at the Louvre competition with other families via THATLou – I figure that eight miles of a museum, even as fabulous as the Louvre might bore my niece (I could stay there for days) so signed us up for the two hour scavenger hunt with the “Beauty and the Beast(ies)” theme. A great interactive and fun way to explore the Louvre for everyone.
Day 4 – Parisian Shopping and local French dining
This was our lazy Saturday lie in before checking out of Hotel Atmosphere and moving to Hotel Fabric (a €15 taxi ride).
- Galeries Lafayette, the rooftop view of the Opera and Eiffel Tower are free and really nice the way they have it set up. You can bring a picnic up here, go to the cafe, hang out with friends, etc. We would have lunch in the cafeteria below before our rooftop visit.
- Shopping (I’m convinced if they could serve wine in the stores, I might like shopping, but as it is I loathe it and for Aubrey’s sake I tried my best to survive the torture – there was torture! I hate shopping, she hates street art tours so there was a balance)
- Arc de Triomphe – I lied about the number of steps to get Aubrey to visit – I said about 100 (big lie!). The old school winding stairway was a challenge especially as I was full of macarons, chocolate, baguettes and croissants! Thankfully there is an area to stop (bathrooms, gift shop level) before going to the top. This is one of my favorite places to see the city of Paris and the Champs Elysees.
- Laduree – originally a macaron/dessert pit-stop, it turned into lunch for Aubrey upstairs in the dining room. Even I was impressed here, feeling a bit royal with great attention to detail and service. If you think about the cost, you’ll have no fun, just get a fantastic dessert and enjoy the sugar high since your credit card bill won’t show up until you get home.
- Dinner near Hotel Fabric at Le Villaret on rue Ternaux (a bit of a hidden gem -there is no website but the NY Times reviewed it so not as undiscovered as I thought it was although still pretty much locals only)
Day 5 – Sunday at Versailles
Sunday at Chateau de Versailles – this was an early day to get the train to Versailles. Even with a ticket, the lines were insane! There is one large snaking line in the courtyard in order to go through ONE security checkpoint. It was a zoo of chaos as it always is. We would then wander the gardens as it was a warm, sunny day. Aubrey wanted to go back to the hotel before dinner as she was exhausted from our Versailles visit – too many pushy people, languages, groups, etc. In lieu of a visit to Notre Dame, we chose to Facetime her mom and sister at home, a good trade-off in her (and my) mind.
Day 6 – check out of Hotel Fabric and take the pre-ordered taxi to Gare de Nord for the Eurostar to London
Our 5 day Paris itinerary may seem a bit light on all things Paris but surprisingly we were busy most of our days, returning exhausted to the hotel each night. It turned out to be just the right mix of sleep, food, exploration and Paris for us and that’s what’s best – not checking off all the items on your list but discovering the city on your own terms and leaving a few bits for your return, because you must return to Paris!