Paris is a vast metropolis that can consume your time for days, weeks and even years – providing you with enough interesting places and events to keep you from getting bored. But sometimes you just don´t have that time. Perhaps you´re flying through some of Paris` international airports and have a half-day to spend or you have some free hours to spend after a business meeting. Whatever the reason, don´t let it keep you from experiencing Paris.
Yes, you can experience Paris in hours. Just manage your time effectively and you´ll make most out of the city of light. Check out our recommendations for spending 5 hours in Paris.
First few recommendations before we move on to an actual program.
1. Ride the subway instead of taxis and buses
Subway is definitely the fastest way to move around in Paris. It doesn´t really matter where you are in the city – you´ll find a station in the walking distance. And thanks to the extensive underground network, you can get to practically any other station with just one transfer in between.
Where ever you´ll be starting your 5 hours in Paris – just head to the nearest subway station. Forget about taxis and buses: Traffic is always rather slow and you´ll be stuck in traffic for longer than you can afford.
Just get the public transportation day pass (10,25 € for central Paris) or single tickets (1,70 € each) and you´ll be set!
And here´s the subway map. You´ll need it! (Click to enlarge the photo)
2. Take short walks
In the middle of the city (Arrondissements 1, 8th, 7th and 6th) you´ll find may attractions and varying neighborhoods close to each other. When the subway gets you there in no-time, you don´t want to spend too much time underground either. Take short strolls from a sight to another, breathe some fresh air and enjoy the atmosphere. Read on to our recommendation for the 5 hour program: couple of strolls are included.
3. Skip the restaurants – enjoy quick meal in a bistro, boulangerie or brasserie
A proper dining in a Parisian restaurant is an experience itself. If you have only 5 hours, leave it until you can spend more time in the city. Don´t worry, you can still get an authentic experience in a traditional bistro, boulangerie or brasserie. Bistros have traditionally simple meals in a little bit more modest setting, bakeries (boulangerie) serve sandwiches and beverage and brasseries are one step closer to proper restaurants. However they are more likely to cater you a meal fast enough to allow you see as much of the city as you can. And you can definitely catch a glimpse of Paris life while having your lunch!
4. Skip the malls – shop at boutiques instead
Paris has many malls and famous department stores such as Forum Les Halles and Galleries Lafayette. You should go to them – when you have several hours just for shopping. If you want to make the most out of your 5 hours, shop at little boutiques instead. From the best shopping streets you´ll find many small, specialized boutiques close to each other and you´ll get authentic shopping experience while spending your time effectively. After all, boutiques are what Paris is famous for!
Sights, strolls and shopping: Our guide to 5 hours in Paris
Ok, after walking you through basics of how to experience Paris in mere hours, it´s time to move on to actual route for you.
We put together a list of sights and neighborhoods to see if you have only few hours to spend and are rather new to Paris. Following this guide allows you to make most out of your short visit.
This will be your route:
1. Start at the Eiffel Tower – take the subway to Bir-Hakeim
Regardless where you start your 5 hours, catch a subway towards the Eiffel Tower. Remember these stations: Bir-Hakeim on the 6th line or Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel on RER C-line. See the Paris subway map and find the right transfer station to get either of those train lines and make sure you´re moving towards the said stations.
Bir-Hakeim and Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel are basically the same station – the two lines are connected via underground passageways allowing passengers an easy transfer.
Get on the street and just stroll towards Eiffel Tower. Size-up the tower, enjoy views to Camp de Mars and start slowly strolling towards the river Seine and the Pont d`Iena bridge.
2. Stroll to the Trocadero palace
From under the Eiffel Tower head to the Pont d´Iena bridge and towards the Trocadero Palace – the wide, majestic palace you´ll see rising on the other side of Seine river. While strolling towards Trocadero catch a glimpse of Seine, tourists photographing themselves against the tower and numerous street vendors selling their souvenirs.
The stroll to the Trocadero´s upper platform should take about 15 minutes – but take your time to sit on a bench right in front of the palace and enjoy the spectacular view to the tower and palace. Here you´ll see many, many people spending their time: tourists taking photos, locals hanging out on the lawn and youngsters rollerskating and skateboarding on the smooth and traffic-free pavement. Then climb up the stairs to get the birds-eye view to the river and (well, not so birds-eye) Eiffel Tower.
3. Catch a subway to Charles de Gaulle Etoile station and the Champs Elysées avenue
When you have admired the scenery towards Eifel Tower enough, head right behind the Trocadero palace. There you´ll find the Trocadero subway station and the line 6 train again. Catch the 6 train towards it´s end station Charles de Gaulle Etoile. That station is situated right underneath the Arch de Triomphe. Climb up to the street level, admire the arch and start strolling down the Champs Elysées – the avenue world famous of it´s luxury boutiques.
4. From shopping street to shopping quarters: hop on the 1 train to Tuileries
After strolling down the Champs Elysées to the Franklin D Roosevelt -station, hop on the subway line 1 towards Chateau de Vincennes. Third stop is called Tuileries. Get off there – you are in the middle of Tuileries quarter, famous of it´s little, specialized boutiques. If you´re going to do some shopping – this is where to do it! Tuileries area is famous of it´s little shops, specializing in many niches from fashion to chocolate and from jewelry to fine foods.
5. From Louvre to Notre Dame
After quick shopping, walk to the Louvre Museum. Getting to know the museum and it´s world famous treasures would be at least a half-day feat itself, so this time enjoy seeing the impressive museum building with it´s iconic pyramid entrance and tourists coming and going. From Louvre (station Palais Royal – Museé du Louvre) take the line 1 train again, towards Chateau de Vincennes and get off at Chatelet.
From Chatelet station head south, towards the river. You´ll be crossing the seine to the island of Cité – and towards the Notre Dame cathedral. Now you´re really in the heart of Paris! This is the spot where first settlements that later became the city of Paris were founded centuries ago. Notre Dame and surrounding neighborhoods – they´re the oldest neighborhoods you can find in Paris, so sit back and imagine the centuries passing in the very same spot!
6. Finish with a meal in the Latin Quarters and head out
After walking from Notre Dame to the southern side of the river Seine (Also called the Left Bank) you´re probably feeling quite hungry already. Don´t worry, this is a perfect area to finish the tour with a meal before heading out. On the south side of island of Cite you´ll find the latin quarters – another ancient neighborhood currently famous of it´s universities and student life. Here you can find numerous traditional bistros to take care of your hunger.
After your meal it´s probably a time to head out – you have spent your 5 hours well! Head towards the St-Michel Notre Dame-station. It does´t matter how you´re going to head out from Paris – here you can catch a subway to important railway stations (Gare de l`Est, Gare du Nord, Gare d´Austerlitz, Gare Montparnasse) or RER B-line straight to Charles De Gaulle airport or to Orly airport.
Latin quarters and island of Cité are perfect neighborhood to finish, because from here you´ll on your way out really fast.
Did you follow this guide or your own route when spending half a day in Paris? How did it go? We´d love to hear about your experience, so feel free to leave a comment.