With so much to see and do in Paris, Nadia Gouws from our Royal Oak store has experienced the city for herself and shares her top tips when visiting the City of Light.
Stay in the Latin Quarter - this area is central to the major transport hubs and epitomises the romance of Paris. Hotels are located within walking distance of the Luxembourg Gardens and Palace, the Sorbonne University, the majestic Pantheon and Notre Dame on the middle bank of the magical Seine river. The side streets have the most adorable café's - hours can be lost spent on the side walk just watching Paris and the people that make it wonderful. A lot of history lies in this area - the tomb of St. Genevieve in its Neorenaissance Cathedral holding the only surviving piece of her human remains, a finger bone, is but one example. You can walk around until dawn in this area...it's easy to forget about watching your watch in Paris!
Getting around in Paris is very easy. The metro is very comprehensible and a pass can be bought giving you access to all the underground, including the RER that goes to Versailles/Disneyland, and all the buses at a very tiny cost. The metro covers most of Paris and you could get around using no other form of transport if you wish. Other options worth considering is picking up a bicycle on the side of the road. Several stations are spread across the city. You simply pick up a bike from a stall - swipe your card and return it in any other area where a stall is located. This will give you a real sense of Paris and how the locals live. Electrical cars are also available to hire. This sustainable way of travel offers ease and charging pods are also ample on the streets of Paris.
Buy a Paris Pass. This Pass will give you access to over 55 of the museums, the Palace of Versailles and several discounts on cuisine and shows at the Lido or the Moulin Rouge. It also includes a pass for the metro and a 2 day open-top bus pass, offering the best vantage points to take photographs of the city. The pass enables you to visit attractions by skipping the queue, a great benefit as the wait times, especially at the Louvre and major attractions, can take a big part of your day that you could have spent exploring! You can choose the amount of days you wish this pass to be valid for, it really is a must-get for all travellers to Paris!
Visit the Catacombs of Paris. This often forgotten mass grave of somewhat 6 million Parisians gets overlooked by tourists, but offers such and interesting part of Paris history, and is guaranteed to leave an impression on you for life. Located on a heritage site this 2km of dwindling corridors is not for the faint of heart as you are up close and personal with the arranged nameless remains but a must-do if you are interested in history.
Set a day aside for Versailles. Located about a 30min train ride south of central Paris, the Palace of Versailles is a destination like no other. Awe will strike the minute you lay eyes on the golden gates by the entrance. The palace is simply exquisite with gold woven into everything possible. The Hall of Mirrors is very impressive in the middle of the chambers and it would be very difficult to not stare at the amazing details on the ceilings. An audio guide can be obtained from the information desk at no additional cost in every language imaginable - giving you unique insights into the building and the people who once roamed its halls. Entrance to the Gardens is separate to the Palace and again offers just awe-inspiring views of the palace and its grounds. The magical fountain show provides classical music and spectacular water displays all day long. It is worth the walk to visit the estate of Marie Antoinette on your visit here. You can easily spend a full day at Versailles so put one aside and make the most of it!
Take a Segway tour of the city of light. This is an experience in itself! Guaranteed to be one of the most memorable parts of your visit this fun and unique way to sightsee is top of my list! Take the family for a fun night out, learning about the Greats that shaped Paris - Napoleon, the Louis's and even Hitler. Follow the bloodbath of the be-headings and see the great obelisk crossing Alexander the Great's Golden Bridge. The tour guides are amazingly witty making history fun and you really get to notice what you might have walked past on your own. Once you find your Segway legs you will not want the night to end as you finish off at the Eiffel tower just as it lights up.
Handy hints for Paris:
- Every Wednesday is Grandparent's day. Schools are closed every Wednesday as Saturdays are a normal school day here. The parks will be filled with children playing all sorts of games just enjoying the outdoors. It offers a different view of the people of Paris, but if crowds are not your thing arrange your park visits around Wednesdays, you can also expect queues at attractions to be longer. All museums offer free entrance the first Sunday of every month - do take advantage of this, but be aware that everyone else will as well.
- Try Grenouille! Frog's thighs in batter - trust me everything tastes amazing with loads of butter and garlic! It really does taste like chicken...and remember all we are, are the sum of our experiences!
- Tip: Mix with the locals - the people are what makes Paris wonderful, expect them to come up to you when you are frowning at a map - they are eager to help and you will be welcomed everywhere you go. A major transformation has occurred in recent years, you will meet interesting people, they will engage and share their amazing city and you will come back painting a picture to the world of how the people made the visit...