Occasionally, there just isn’t enough time to take in an entire city over a week or two. Sometimes you only have a day or two before having to say “au revoir”. Luckily, it’s easy to get a brief introduction to Paris using the hop-on, hop-off bus tours. There are a few different companies that offer these tours around the city. We got our tickets through viator.com, since we’ve used them before and had good experiences.
When Alex and I came to Paris last summer, we had only three days to spend there as part of a larger European vacation. Being so limited on time, the hop-on, hop-off tours were a great decision for us. The buses stop at various points around the city and provide a free audio tour. You have the option to stay on the bus and take the whole route, or get off at different places along the way. The buses come by every 15-20 minutes, so you can take as long as you’d like at any given stop before joining the bus tour again. It’s actually a great alternative to public transportation if you are only planning to go to the major “tourist” spots. It gets you around the city quickly and makes enough stops that you will never have to walk too far. The passes are good for an entire day, so there’s also no limit to the number of times you can get on or off.
We boarded the bus at the Arc de Triomphe. You can get on the bus at any of the stops on the route, but we chose to start here since it happened to be closest to our hotel.
Our bus circled the Arc and cruised down the Champs-Élysées. This is the street with high-end shopping and a ton of great restaurants. Even their McDonald’s was “fancy”…it was the first time I’ve seen a separate McCafe inside the restaurant. They sold multi-colored macarons and other French bakery items.
After driving down the Champs-Élysées, our bus crossed the Seine River on the way towards the Eiffel Tower. If you have a free afternoon, I’d highly recommend going on river cruise here. From personal experience, it’s a lot of fun and an interesting way to see the city. The views from the boat are magical at nighttime.
One of the best views of the Eiffel Tower is from the plaza called the Trocadero. It’s up on a hill, offering spectacular views. Most people take their “official” Eiffel Tower pic from here, since it’s just far enough to capture the entire tower unobstructed. We took this picture from the bus while it was stopped. I think it turned out pretty well!
Don’t worry that this is the closest you can get…the bus also stops right in front of the Eiffel Tower. You can go up towards the top of the tower and even eat at the restaurant inside, but on this particular day the line to go up was at least an hour long. Having been up inside the Eiffel Tower before, we decided to skip it and enjoy some ice cream on the lawn instead. We had just as much fun and at little cost.
The bus tour also stops at the Louvre. It would take several days to see everything here, so we’re not going to pretend that we saw a lot. But we did spent the good part of our day here, and got to appreciate many phenomenal pieces of art. By the way, you CAN take pictures inside, just not with a flash. Remember this!
After the Louvre, our bus took us by Notre Dame Cathedral. No Quasimodo in sight, unfortunately.
After Notre Dame, you can stop by the “Love Lock” bridge, where lovers take padlocks with their names and anniversary dates, and lock them onto the bridge. We didn’t find it to be as romantic as it’s made out to be. First, we didn’t see any locks being sold nearby. We didn’t bring one because we were confident that they would be sold in the streets by a savvy entrepreneur. I guess no one has thought of it, but I’d imagine someone could make a ton of money off of this! Our second issue was that the locks don’t stay there FOREVER, like most people think. The oldest lock we could find was from one month prior. Which tells us that the fencing is exchanged on a frequent basis. There are just too many tourists coming here and not enough space for all of those locks. We don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but just please don’t come here thinking you will have something romantic to come back to in 20 years. They are taken down almost as quickly as you put them up! It’s an interesting bridge to look at, though.
The last two stops on our bus tour included the Musée d’Orsay and the Opera House. We didn’t have the time to visit either, unfortunately, but loved the buildings. Paris has some of the most magnificent architecture.
Overall, we had a great quick tour of the city. We’d also recommend taking the bus tour after dark if you have the time. The city is most beautiful at night, and the yellow lights against the navy blue sky seem straight out of a Van Gogh.