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A LOCAL'S ESSENTIAL GUIDE
With Montmartre to the North, the Arc de Triomphe to the West and Notre Dame to the East, the Opéra Garnier and 52 Clichy are in the centre of this triangle of almost all the ‘interesting stuff’ (for a first visit). This entire area is only 13km² = 8 miles² and you could walk the 15km / 9.5 miles perimeter in a day as, are you sitting down, that’s the average amount of steps my guests seem to take every day!
Take the 2nd right from 52 Clichy and you can be in front of the Moulin Rouge in less than 5 minutes.
Pop up the hill and visit the Sacré Coeur Basilica, modern architecture by French standards as the construction of this magnificent white structure started in 1875. Even though not finished, in 1885 the doors were opened and since then there has always been someone leading prayers or singing. There is never a queue to walk in (unlike the huge queues for Notre Dame) and if you’re fit why not walk up the 300 steps inside the tower for a spectacular 360° view of Paris.
Have your portrait drawn or painted in the Artist’s square, beside Sacré Coeur. There are many artistic styles, choose carefully for your memento. Around Sacré Coeur is the area of Montmartre with its amazing number of restaurants, cafés and unique shopping opportunities (all the shops on rue d’Orsel sell only curtain/dress materials).
What about wandering down the road?
Wander into 2 of the most famous luxury department stores in France; Galeries Lafayette and Printemps, visit Galeries Lafayette if only to see the amazing 6 storey glass-domed roof.
At the Opéra, just a few steps further than your shopping experience, take advantage of the guided tours in English every day at 11.30am & 14.00pm which are not to be missed. 2 smaller, more ‘manageable’ museums are the Musée de la Vie Romantique, just go for the adorable outdoor café in the tranquil gardens or the Jacquemart André house / museum, both minutes away.
A couple of suggestions…
Take metro line 2 from Place de Clichy westwards across the top of Paris to the Champs Elysées / Arc de Triomphe or you could jump on the n° 30 bus there too which takes you on to Trocadéro (the best way to arrive at the Eiffel Tower).
Eastwards, the metro line 2 drops you off at the famous Père Lachaise cemetery, wander round the tombs of Jim Morrison, Chopin, Oscar Wilde etc.
If you don’t want a 30 minute walk past the Opera Garnier and the Palais Royal then take the n° 95 bus or the metro line 12 from Trinité at the bottom of the hill and, in only 5 minutes / 3 metro stops you will be at the Tuileries Gardens, the Louvre, l’Orangerie museum or the Musée d’Orsay. A little further is the calm of the Luxembourg gardens.
Metro line 13 from Liège will take you directly to the Champs Elysées, Invalides (with its famous gold domed roof and Napolean’s Tomb) and the wonderful sculptures in the Rodin gardens. On the weekend, travel northwards to most famous Paris flea market at St Ouen / Clignancourt or south to the smaller one at Vanves.
If you want to stay above ground take the n° 74 bus to the Louvre, Palais Royal, Notre Dame and the islands of Ile de la Cité / Ile Saint Louis from where you can also wander through the St Germain / Latin quarter.
5 metro stations run under this train station including metro line 14 which is the only wheelchair – friendly metro line in Paris with elevators to each platform from ground level and which diagonally crosses Paris via the Palais Royal / Louvre, the Pompidou Centre and the Gare de Lyon train station (peep into the ‘Train Bleu’ restaurant, a classified monument or book weeks in advance for a meal).
Shuttle trains leave every 15 minutes to Versailles (Rive Droite). Use this route for the Chateau if you have mobility issues as the alternative route (using the RER C train to Versailles Chateau) includes lots of stairs AND IS CURRENTLY CLOSED FOR WORKS. Our route also offers you the option of walking to the Porte Saint Antoine entrance of the Chateau which gives you direct access via Marie Antoinette’s farm and avoids the huge crowds (if you have your passport ticket and if you arrive after 12.00, opening time).
Direct trains from St Lazare also take you to Vernon (Giverny) for Monet’s gardens and to Bayeux to see the Tapestry or onwards for the Normandy Landing Beaches.
In front of the station is a huge bus station, with buses going everywhere!