A friend asked me to spell out the best things in Paris:
The Best View:
Pompidou Center (this Museum of Modern Art was designed inside-out ducts and pipes even the escalator on the outside of the building) At the top of the escalator, which is also the location of the permanent collection (no extra fees) there is a nice view of Paris, it is not the highest, but it is situated at the perfect address to provide a wide panorama to all of Paris from the Eiffel Tower to Sacre Couer, the Churches, Museums. It is breathtaking, you don’t expect it.
Special Mention: Tower of Notre Dame, beware of difficult climb which goes on forever.
Over-rated: Arc de Triumphe (disappointing barren rooftop), Sacre Couer (great place to visit, but the view is too far removed from the city, you can barely recognise the Eiffel Tower.
The Eiffel Tower may turn out to be my favorite view of Paris, but I have avoided it for 10 years. The crowds and lines terrify me although I understand that you can buy tickets for a specific time and minimize the long line. Occasionally, I have jogged under the Eiffel Tower early in the morning dark. Spectacular!
The Opera: Opéra Comique
There are two larger Opera Houses in Paris, but this historic institution is a more affordable option, where you could buy good seats. It is intimate and crowded, getting in the door before the opera is a real scrum. It is the closest I’ve come to being mugged. If you make it to your seat, you will not be disappointed when the curtain rises.
Ride the Metro. To me, it is the most authentic taste of Paris. I enjoy the puzzle or navigating among the various lines and still get lost, which is the best way to discover Paris. You can buy a stack of 10 metro tickets (called a Carnet)
Ride the Velib bike share if you dare. If you are accustomed to riding in heavy traffic, the Velib is an interesting experience. Lots of Motorcycles and Tiny Cars moving fast. The cobblestone streets provide another challenge. You can also rent electric (standing style) scooters.
Buy a Paris Museum Pass (or Buy your tickets in advance)
Arrive Early, before the doors open and the line becomes unmanagible
(You may wait 1/2 hour, but you will enter an empty museum)
If you want to the the Mona Lisa (arrive early)
Favorite Museum: L’Orangerie includes Monet’s Water Lillies plus a variety of impressionist masters (and it is a mangeable size – you can see everything)
Special Mention: Petit Palace
Petit Palais | City of Paris’ museum of Fine Arts (Small Museum, Short Lines, Interesting but not famous Art pieces)
(The Louvre | French Government’s museum)
Most Museums are closed on Tuesdays, except for Musee D’Orsay
Some museums have extended evening hours
Les’Invalide (Tomb of Napoleon) easy in and out, take a peak and leave, short line
Pantheon (Tombs of Honorary French, Madame Curry, Braille, Voltair, Dumas in the basement crypt) also a giant model of Foucout’s pendulum slings from the highest reaches of the dome, this science experiment demonstrates that the earth rotates
Enhance your visit by purchasing a map or using the app
Large Display Signage shows graves, Smaller Cemeteries have Plastic Maps which you can borrow. Maps to Pere LaChaise are sold (only occarionally) outside the down-hill-side of the Cemetery close to Pere LaChaise Metro stop
Pere LaChaise (West) is the mother of all cemeteries. A Victorian style cemetery landscaped and designed as a park. Many of the names are familiar and if you don’t them them, maybe you should.
Montmartre Cemetery (North) is smaller, crowded and interesting
Montparnasse Cemetery (South) is sprawling and flat
Passy Cemetery (West of Eiffel Tower)
Picpus Cemetery (Resting Place of American Revolutionary Hero General LaFayette)
Catacombs (Bones from many old Paris cemeteries transferred and artfully arranged in Plaster of Paris Quarry under Paris)
Churches (for us the best time to visit a church is for a early church service)
St. Chappelle (the smallest, with usually with an unweildly line, great historic stained glass)
(these restaurants are no secrets, they are popular and established)
Chartier Large Loud Affordable Restaurant with shared tables
L’As du Fallafel very popular Fallafel stand in Marais
Au Pied de Cochon very popular touristy brasserie open 24 hours in the Les Halles district of Paris which was once the grand Marche food market for restaurants (and may have serviced workers in the evenings and early morning hours of the market
(we go for a bowl of French Onion Soupe for breakfast Christmas Morning after sunrise service at Notre Dame (and were the only diner for some time)
Les well known personal favorites
Chez Denise (old style traditional bistro)
Les Domaines Qui Montent (several Paris Wine Shops which offer a different Plat de Jour every day for lunch. Small tables close together, quaint, buy your own bottle of wine, only one item served each day, everyone eats the same thing, limited choices, i.e. desert or cheese course
Tavern Henry IV, rustic tavern on Pont Neuf (Paris’s oldest bridge on Île de la Cité, Paris Island, in the Seine near Notre Dame and Statute of Henry IV. Plates of Charcuterie (Terrines, Ham, Sausage, etc)
Dessert at Aux de Lyonaisse: we finally ate at this Alaine Ducasse restaurant and decided if we were to go back we would go just for dessert.
(I don’t know if you can go to a Paris Restaurant and order just dessert)
Sit in the back room (bar area) order some drinks and a Chartreuse Souffle (a fine example of a French Souffle doused with Chartreuse a green specialty French liquor)