48 hours in Paris without visiting the Eiffel Tower or Mona Lisa
Paris has always been a bucket list city. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and the Mona Lisa are world famous.
While we’re not saying ignore them (for example, do check out the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Palais de Chaillot early evening), but to get the best out of this city we suggest making sure the following are on your itinerary during your 48 hour stay:
Make no mistake, the Louvre is magnificent, but we prefer the Musee D’Orsay. The Louvre’s collection is vast, but it’s packed with tourists and the Mona Lisa is a serious anti-climax. In contrast, the the Musee d’ Orsay has an equally prestigious collection, a spectacularly spacious building and is far more enjoyable to visit. It’s home to the most famous Impressionist and Post Impressionist paintings in the world – Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, Manet, Degas – the list goes on.
Tip – it’s less busy in the evenings and cheaper after 4.30 pm. The Orsay is free on the first Sunday of the month. Also, don’t miss the ornate ballroom on the second floor.
The bones of over six million people lie in the 280 km network of tunnels underneath Paris. The Catacombs are fascinating and unique. The ossuary tunnels were used during the French Revolution and during World War 2 and a section is open to tourists. Even though the legally accessible section is small, expect a long walk underground – between 45 mins to an hour. The tunnels are decorated by bones and skulls and remain one of the most atmospheric and memorable places we’ve visited.
Tip – avoid if you’re claustrophobic and wear comfortable walking shoes, as it’s a long circular route underground.
Notre Dame would have been on our list before the fire, and it will be again when it’s restored. We suggest marvelling at the remaining exterior on the beautiful Ile de la Cité and then checking out nearby royal chapel of Sainte Chapelle. This stunning Gothic building is illuminated by 15 spectacular stained glass windows high windows each 15 metres high and illustrating 1,113 scenes of the bible.
Tip – try and visit on sunny day for maximum light through the windows. Book your ticket online to avoid long queues.
The Marais is our favourite area of Paris. It’s home to historic buildings, hip boutiques and cool cafes. Any visit to Paris should include a wander through its cobbled streets lined with 17th century mansions. Highlights include: the Place des Vosges – Paris’s oldest square, the half timbered houses on Rue François Miron and the food heaven of Rue des Rosiers. The latter is the heart of old Jewish quarter.
Tip – don’t miss the falafel at L’As du Fallafel. It’s worth the queue!
If you can afford it, many visitors like to include a famous brasserie on their trip to soak up the artistic vibes of the past. A cheaper and more authentic experience is Chartier. We try and visit this stunning Belle Epoque institution every time we’re in Paris. Hidden in an alleyway, once you’re inside, it’s like being in a Toulouse Lautrec painting. The menu is traditional, no frills French; and it’s the most affordable food in Paris in the most exquisite setting.
Tip – you can’t book, but eating early avoids the queue.