In our 2 days in Paris, our top priority was to visit the Louvre and the Palace of Versailles. Most of the time went into exploring these 2 places, leaving little time for the rest of the city. Of course, we visited the Eiffel Tower and even did the Seine river cruise. This blog is not really a detailed itinerary on Paris (like my other blogs), but rather a trip report on our stop-over of 2 days in Paris. Also, in our short stay of just 2 days in Paris, we got scammed a couple of times despite trying our best to avoid it.
Travel Dates – 14th to 16th May
Why only 2 days in Paris
We have been to Paris back in 2004, wherein we spent 3 magical days in Disneyland (our first time). Then we spent a day exploring the city and saw the Eiffel Tower, Sacré-Cœur (absolutely loved the views), and watched the Lido show. On one of the days, while travelling on the train, one guy got hold of Kapil and pick-pocketed his wallet. When the train started, he jumped off, and that’s when Kapil realised what has happened. Though the thief must be furious to find only 200 Indian rupees in Kapil’s wallet, this experience shook us. It is the only time on all our travels that we have been robbed.
Kapil went back to Paris on a backpacking trip in 2010 and visited the same places again and also went to the Louvre and the Pantheon. Paris wasn’t on our bucket list as we were satisfied with our previous visit. For us, the world is too big to go back to the same places again and again.
When we were planning a trip to Benelux and Iceland, Kapil and I randomly started talking about Paris and he made me jealous of missing the Louvre. I’m not big on museums, but still, he was like you haven’t seen the great Louvre. Then, out of the blue, Kapil read an article that stated the Palace of Versailles as one thing to see before you die. Further, we couldn’t get a direct flight to Iceland from Belgium and it was easier to fly from Paris, so we added a stop-over of 2 days in Paris before flying to Iceland.
Tips for Visiting Paris
In Paris, we encountered tremendous long lines and faced a lot of scams. So before I start with my trip report, I want to share some tips based on my experience.
- Book a slot for visiting the Eiffel Tower on its website. It opens 60 days in advance; book ASAP as slots get filled fast. Else there can be a wait time of 2 to 3 hours.
- Avoid taxis and use Uber. If you face problems with the app, change the phone number to the Parisian phone number and it should work. For this reason, my Uber app didn’t work.
- If hiring a taxi, be vigilant all the time. Keep an eye on the meter and try to sit in the front, so the taxi driver can’t tamper with the meter.
- If your stay is short, I would recommend avoiding all hassle of trains and taxis and just use the HOHO bus to get around.
- Before visiting Paris, read various articles on “Scams in Paris”. It is best to be aware of specific scams, so you don’t fall prey to them. Despite doing this, we fell pray way too many times.
- For the Palace of Versailles, choose the day when musical fountains are operating. Buy tickets in advance. Still, you will have to queue for the security check lines. Even in May, on a weekday, we had to wait for 2.5 hours to get in.
- Paris is one of the most visited cities, and you will share space with hoards of tourists. Lines will be long everywhere, to avoid this, consider visiting in the off-season.
- If you speak French, your visit will be completely different. You will love Paris and can’t understand the misery a person goes through when he doesn’t speak French.
Tips for Visiting the Louvre
- Book a slot for visiting the Louvre on its website.
- It is closed on Tuesday.
- There are multiple entrances. If you don’t have a pre-booked slot, avoid the Pyramid entrance where usually lines are long. Instead, try the Passage Richelieu entrance.
- Can rent an audio guide for 5 Euros. It has a tour which will take you through big masterpieces. It also helps in guiding through and can’t get lost. But descriptions are too long. We rented these but barely used them.
- Cameras are allowed, but no flash photography.
- There is ample seating at regular intervals.
- The staff is friendly and you can ask them for directions or where a particular piece is located.
2 Days in Paris: Trip Report
Day 1 – Arrival at 10 pm
We drove from Brussels to Luxembourg to Paris. It was a long day, and we reached Paris at 10 pm. All we had to do was to fill the petrol, return the car and crash for the night.
Misadventure 1 – Car Rental Drop off Problems
The moment we stepped into Paris, our bad luck started. First, we couldn’t find a petrol pump. So, we went to our hotel to drop the luggage. This took a lot of time and energy as they forced us to keep the luggage in their storage and not just leave it at the reception.
Then, we hired a taxi from the hotel, so we could come back with him after dropping off the car. First, the taxi driver guided us to a petrol pump, only to find it closed. That’s when we realized they have petrol pumps in the garage, and that’s why we couldn’t find them earlier. Then he drove us to the next one. That too was closed. Gave up on filling petrol and searched for the Europcar rental place.
I must say, even roaming on the streets of Paris at 11 pm, I wasn’t scared as we had a taxi driver with us and also saw a lot of security guards. But no one knew the rental place. After a search of 30 minutes to an hour, all the time the taxi meter was rolling, finally we found it. And to our dismay, it was closed, and they informed us wrongly that the drop off is opened 24/7. Leaving no option, went back to the hotel, paid the taxi driver and the hotel for a night’s parking. Later, I fought with Europcar and got the money back for all the additional expenses.
In all this, it was past midnight. We were frustrated, tired, and hungry.
Accommodation and Dinner
We stayed at the Mercure Paris Centre Eiffel Tower Hotel. Paris’ hotels are extremely expensive and I booked this for 165 Euros (Rs. 14,000) per night. Paris is divided into 20 different neighbourhoods called “arrondissements”. Lower the number closer it is to the city. This hotel is in the 15th arr, which is not really the city-centre, but it was within walking distance from the Eiffel Tower. We were there only for 2 days and most of the places we wanted to visit, were near the Eiffel Tower. One of the prime advantages of staying here was that we saw the Eiffel Tower sparkling multiple times (It sparkles for 5 minutes every hour after sunset). We could just step out of the hotel and see the Eiffel Tower.
However, rooms and bathrooms were not up to the mark. They were tiny 18 square feet room. Obviously, I knew this, and it is tough to get a bigger room in Paris. But the bed was uncomfortable and felt cheap in quality. Though it looked good in pictures, in reality, it was terrible. The bathroom gave a feel of the public toilet. It had 2 separate rooms, one with the toilet and the other one with the wash basin and a shower. It might be a norm in many hotels in Paris, but if you like us find this super-inconvenient, find and book a room where the bathroom is not separated.
Surprisingly, the hotel’s service was top-notch. They spoke fluent English and helped us with our car issues and a lot of other things.
We didn’t have dinner as it was past midnight and the hotel’s room service closed at 10:30 pm. So we had to make do with dry Indian snacks.
Day 2 – Paris – Louvre, Eiffel Tower and Seine River Cruise
From 2 pm onward, I had booked slots for the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower. In the morning, we wanted to visit some monuments and ride the Hop on Hop off Bus.
I got up with a terrible soar throat. So I stayed back in the room and they went at 9 am to return the car. Thankfully, it was uneventful. There was no one there, and Kapil just dropped the key and came. By now we were starving as we didn’t have dinner last night. So we needed fuel before we could go to explore Paris. In all this frustration of the car, we forgot that the breakfast is included in the hotel (normally I book a hotel without breakfast) and by the time we realized; it was over.
After dropping the car, Kapil came back and didn’t know what parents were doing. By now, it was 11 am, and we both ordered Indian food which will be delivered at noon (their opening time). Afterwards, parents walked into the room with endless food. They got tomato soup, crepes, sandwiches, and a couple of other things. We ate like no tomorrow and sorry didn’t have the patience to click a picture. At least the app was nice and let us cancel the Indian order.
What we had planned to do in the morning
- At 8:30 am, take a taxi to Palais de Justice for a quick photo stop.
- Right next to the Palais, make a quick stop at Sainte-Chapelle to see stained glass windows. Queues can be long, so reach by 8:45 am.
- Notre Dam – About 400 meters walk from Chapelle
- After covering these 3 sites, take the HOHO bus (red route) from Notre Dame and enjoy the entire round around Paris for 2.5 hours.
- If time, get off at Opera house (Palais Garnier) and see it from inside.
- Finally, around 2 pm get off at the Louvre.
All these plans went out of the window because of the car rental issue. Also, I was not feeling well and needed to rest in the morning.
Afternoon in the Louvre
I had booked for 2 pm, so accordingly we left our hotel and reached there. Since we had tickets, we didn’t wait in line and were inside the museum in no time. Make sure to pick up the audio guide.
The Louvre is the biggest and most visited museum in the world. It is said If you were to spend 30 seconds on each piece of art in the Louvre, it would take 100 consecutive days to see them all. Obviously, the most famous painting is Mona Lisa. Other famous ones are Napoleon’s Apartment, Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo.
We spent around 2 hours in the Louvre. We had no specific plans and passed through galleries as they came along. Most of the time we spent in Egyptian galleries admiring their stunning masterpiece. Also glanced through various beautiful colourful paintings. I am not into museums and didn’t listen to the audio guide. After spending some time in the Louvre, we were searching for Mona Lisa. Finally, we found her behind a glass door. Clicked a mandatory selfie and turned around to see the much bigger painting just opposite Mona Lisa. We were done with the Louvre; didn’t have the energy or interest to explore anymore. It was kind of been there, done there type of thing for us.
Around 4 pm, we left the Louvre. Our plan was to take the HOHO bus, see sights from the bus and get off at Notre Dame.
City Sightseeing Bus (HOHO) didn’t have a stop at the Louvre, but it was around 10 minutes away from the Louvre. The other bus company had a stop here, but we didn’t like their routes. I was exhausted from walking in the Louvre and also was suffering from a real bad throat. So we took 2 cycle rickshaws, 10 Euro per cycle rickshaw to drop us at the HOHO bus stop. Also, we love to ride in these. But, literally within 10 seconds, the HOHO bus arrived and our driver said just catch the bus from here. We thought great and wouldn’t have to pay him as he didn’t even start to pedal.
To our shock, once he got out of the rickshaw, he demanded full money. We said no, but he was very stubborn. So we paid him in a jiffy as we wanted to get onto the bus. Since we had to buy tickets, the bus driver didn’t let us in. He said this is not my regular stop, come at the stop. So no bus, no rickshaw ride, and 20 Euros down the drain. This entire thing both the rickshaw drivers saw, and we told him to now drop us at the HOHO bus stop. They outright denied.
I agree it was our fault, we shouldn’t have got off. And then if we did, we shouldn’t have paid him. When he was stubborn for the money, we should have got back on and enjoyed the ride. In Amsterdam, we got such a good rickshaw ride. I just wanted to get out of Paris.
After what happened with the rickshaw driver and the bus driver, I was terribly frustrated. Almost in tears. At that moment I decided to chuck and just take a taxi to Notre Dame. My family was pushing to take another company’s HOHO bus, which had a stop at the Louvre. But I just waited for a taxi, thankfully got one in 5 minutes. I don’t know why, but he was trying to push all 4 of us in the congested back seat. I was adamant that I want to sit in the front. Then he showed some attitude, cleared some space in the front, and somehow I sat with all his bags lying under my feet. He did drop us at Notre Dame and didn’t overcharge.
For once, lines were not that long, and within 15 minutes we were inside this marvellous church. The beauty of Notre Dame stunned us. It’s magnificent with huge ceilings and all the colourful stained glass windows. It is definitely the most beautiful church we have ever visited.
Everyone knows about the Notre Dame fire in 2019. I was extremely 💔 to see Notre Dame Cathedral burning in flames. It’s on that day I felt super lucky that we have seen this masterpiece from inside. If that rickshaw driver didn’t scam us, or if the fight with the bus driver didn’t happen, we would have missed it. Eventually, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. Kapil had already seen it during his backpacking trip, and I would have been jealous all my life. At the time was irritated, frustrated and angry about getting scammed. Today I feel privileged. It is truly right, what happens, happens for a reason.
Finally, after seeing Notre Dame, we caught the HOHO bus. It was expensive as we had only a few hours left.
Petition Scam – Tried it on us
While waiting for the bus, we got approached by a girl and asked: ” Do you speak English”. Then they will ask to write names and ask for money and can be very pushy. At times, they distract and pickpocket. It is a very common scam all over Paris. When I heard these 4 words, I just said no and moved on. She left an interest in us.
Red Route of HOHO Bus
We wanted to do the full red route. The full route takes 2 hrs 20 minutes. We didn’t get off anywhere and admired the architecture of Paris from the open deck bus. We saw a lot of famous monuments and gorgeous architecture all around Paris. I would recommend doing a HOHO Bus tour in Paris. It is a quick way to see what Paris has to offer and even don’t have to take the hassle of dealing with taxi drivers. In the end, we couldn’t complete the full circle and missed the last bit. We got off at the Eiffel Tower.
Blue Route of HOHO bus
Since we were supposed to do the red route and Notre Dame in the morning itself, I had planned to take the blue route from the Louvre which is 1 hour 15 minutes long and get off at Sacre Coeur.
Sacre Coeur (Must visit)
- There is a funicular to the top, and the views from there are stunning.
- Do not let the salesmen at the funicular put a bracelet on your arm. They’ll make sure you won’t take it off and insist you pay for it.
- It’s in Montmartre, an idyllic and bohemian neighbourhood full of lovely boutiques, restaurants and street art.
- Must visit Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
- We didn’t visit it this time but have seen it on our previous trip.
Obviously, one can’t leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower. Buy tickets in advance to avoid long lines. We bought tickets for 8 pm hoping to see in daylight and at night time. We bought the tickets for the top floor. From up there, we saw a 360-degree panoramic view of the entire Paris. This was our second time, so didn’t get the thrill of what you get the first time around. We spent our own time there. We grabbed a seat and starred at the stunning views. Sunset was pretty late and had no energy to wait any longer. So took the lift down, which thankfully didn’t have lines.
We were down by 9:30 pm and waited for the tower to sparkle. The tower sparkles on the hour for 5 mins after sunset. This is when the Eiffel Tower looks magical. Our eyes were startled for those 5 minutes. Since the Eiffel Tower was seen from our hotel, we saw the tower sparkle a couple of times. We never got bored.
Seine River Cruise by Bateaux Parisiens – 1 hour
Across the Eiffel Tower is the departure point for the Seine river cruise. There are various companies offering the cruise. It was past 10 pm, and I was searching for the one which had no wait time. I went with Bateaux Parisiens as their next cruise was in 10 minutes. We grabbed a seat on the open deck.
The USP of this company was that they had seats facing the monuments rather than the front. So everyone got a good viewing angle. For the next hour, we saw Paris and all its monuments glittering. I would highly recommend doing the Seine River cruise after dark. They had an audio guide only if you sit inside. And who wants to sit inside? This was the biggest drawback of the company that we didn’t get to listen to any audio commentary. Whereas many boats have a live commentary by a guide.
Day 3 – Paris – Palace of Versailles and fly to Iceland
Our plan was to leave by 8:30 am, but we were exhausted after a long day yesterday. Also, we had to pack up, check out and leave our luggage at the reception. Moreover, we were starving and first had breakfast at the hotel. After doing all this, we left only by 12:30 pm.
How to reach the Palace of Versailles
There are 2 ways:
- Train – Walk to RER C station (200 meters from our hotel), take a direct 23 minutes train to Versailles and then walk 1 km to the Palace of Versailles. The cost is around 25 Euros for 4 of us.
- Take a taxi or Uber, which should be around 30 Euro.
Misadventure 3 – Scammed by Taxi Driver
We were already late, and I had no interest in taking the train just to save 5 Euros. So, we went to the taxi stand, right outside our hotel. The first guy said a fixed price of 40 Euros and refused to go by the meter. So, we discussed for a minute whether to take a train as now saving would be 15 Euros. In that time, some else went with this guy.
So, I went to the second guy, and he said will go by the meter. I rejoiced and jumped into his taxi. He had a 6 seater van taxi, and we all sat at the back. We were continuously monitoring the meter, and after 10 minutes into the journey, we saw him press some buttons on the meter. Suddenly, the price on the meter increased by 45 Euros. He was on the phone all along the journey and we couldn’t say anything.
After reaching the palace, he indeed demanded 75 Euros. We started fighting with him and asked for a receipt. To which he printed one and threw it at us. We questioned him and asked him to call the police. To which he straight away went back to sit in his car and said: “come I’ll take you to the police”. He spoke good English until now and suddenly knew only French.
Eventually, we paid 50 Euros and left. I was scared, and fighting in a foreign country can be scary. I was still thinking, he will come to chase us. But in hindsight, we should have just paid 30 Euros and left. I read about a lot of different scams in Paris and was very vigilant. But this scam where the taxi driver manually added toll to the receipt didn’t come up anywhere.
Lines at the Palace of Versailles
We reached around 1 pm, only to find a huge queue to get into the palace. We questioned if he really wanted to visit it. Since we had already paid a hefty price to the taxi driver, we stood in the line. There were 2 lines – one to buy tickets and one for the security check. 2 of us stood in the ticket line and 2 of us in the security check line. After half an hour of waiting in the ticket line, we saw a ticket machine. We got the tickets from there and went and stood in the mainline. Even if you purchase tickets online, you can’t avoid the security check line. We entered the palace at 2:45 pm after waiting in line in blazing heat for almost 2 hours. Also, we went in May, which is considered a shoulder season.
First, we needed water as we had finished all our stock. So Dad went to buy it, and even after 45 minutes he didn’t show up. Eventually, we went to search for him, only to find him in a line waiting for almost 45 minutes just to buy a bottle of water. Why can’t they put vending machines for water? Finally, we started exploring the palace at 3:30 pm after being exhausted waiting in lines for 2.5 hours.
Palace of Versailles
Timing – 9 am to 6 pm (On the day we went) – Before visiting, check timings on its website. It is closed on Tuesday and the fountain show is only on limited days.
First, we explored the palace. We strolled through rooms that were decked up in gold and paintings. It was quite similar to the Louvre. We took little more than an hour to see all of it. The highlight was the Hall of Mirrors on the first floor. Also, it was all indoors, so respite from the afternoon heat.
Afterwards, you can explore the gardens. Either you can walk, take a golf cart for an hour (32 Euros) or take the mini train. We went for the golf cart (driving license is required) and after waiting in line, which was thankfully only 15 minutes, we got one. It was 4:45 pm and the next hour we spent exploring the gardens. The golf cart was very easy to drive, but you can drive only on the dedicated route. If you divert, it will start beeping. Gardens are massive and one could spend hours walking around. We just rode the golf cart, admiring the beauty around. We finished off at the water fountain show. This was the most disappointing thing in Paris. I couldn’t believe this is their fountain show.
We ticked the Palace of Versailles off our bucket list. Is it a must-do thing before you die? A definite no. Was it worth waiting in line for 3 hours? NO Ways!
Train back to the Hotel
Around 5:30 pm we left from the Palace of Versailles and I wanted to take a taxi to Sacré-Cœur, see the views from there as we had loved on our last visit in 2004. But we didn’t find a taxi. We tried calling through the app and waited for 10 minutes. Having no luck, ditched the idea of visiting Sacré-Cœur and walked to the train station. I was very paranoid about using trains, as we had been pickpocketed on our last trip. I had this in my mind that we can’t be the ones robbed twice in the same city. So, I was trying to avoid trains as far as possible.
At the train station, one of the staff helped us to remove tickets from the vending machine. I didn’t know then, but it is not advisable to ask for help at the train station. There is a common scam wherein the person will help you to get tickets and then demand 100 Euros and will claim it to be the ticket price. Thankfully, we weren’t targets, at least for once. Surprisingly, the train did not have A/c, and we were profusely sweating.
Misadventure 4 – Lost money in food delivery
From the train, we ordered a delivery of Indian food. So by the time we reach our hotel, it will be there and we can have it before going to the airport. Once we got back to Paris, got off at the Eiffel Tower station and walked back to our hotel. We sat in the reception and it showed our food will arrive within 10 minutes. On Google Maps, the airport was 30 minutes away by taxi. But then the hotel informed us it can take an hour due to traffic.
Dad as always panicked, but still I was waiting for the food to arrive. Around 7-7:15 pm, it showed it’s at the door. Then we got a taxi, loaded our luggage, and I was searching for the food delivery guy. Then he called and said he doesn’t speak English. The hotel’s reception guy spoke with him and he was clearly lost. He was nowhere near, and we had to leave for the airport, and there went our 80 Euros down the drain.
I asked Deliveroo (food delivery app) for a refund, to which he denied saying food reached your hotel, but you weren’t there. On fighting, he just gave a 50% credit which was of no use to us being our last day and they don’t have a market in Iceland. Till now, I had ordered multiple times from them and they would always be on time. One time when I was in a hurry, he was lost and probably delayed by 30 to 45 minutes.
Taxi to the Airport and Fly to Iceland
For a change, the taxi ride was uneventful. He charged us a fixed price to the airport. Later I checked, and it is the norm in Paris. Also, he asked about the terminal where our flight would fly from. I wasn’t sure and checked on google. He checked in his magazine. Both said different, so he called someone to be sure. Obviously, Google was right, and he dropped us at the right one. If he would have dropped us at the wrong one, we would have probably missed our flight.
We had no time at the airport and eventually ate a pizza on the flight. So for the last 3 nights, we didn’t get a proper dinner.
Other things we wanted to see and do in Paris
- Night Bus tour of Paris – We did the Seine river cruise but also wanted to do a night bus tour to see monuments glittering.
- Arc de Triomphe – We have seen it twice from the bus but wanted to get off from the bus and walk through the arch.
- Hotel de Ville – City Hall
- Luxembourg Gardens
- Montparnasse Tower
Must Eat dishes in Paris
I had a long list of dishes to try in Paris, but due to our luck in Paris, we barely ate anything in our 2 days.
- French Onion Soup
- Falafel at L’as Du Falafel in Le Marais
- Creme Brulee
- Jacques Genin Caramels
This is just my experience of 2 days in Paris. In just 2 days in Paris, we were scammed so many times despite being vigilant. It might be our bad luck. Honestly, we were waiting to get out of Paris and didn’t wish that we had more time to cover more spots. I rather wished I had added these days in Benelux or Iceland.
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Check out all the other posts in this series:
Benelux, Paris & Iceland Trip Planning and Booking
10 days in Benelux: An Epic Itinerary and Trip Report
Vegetarian Food in Amsterdam: What we ate in 3 days
Vegetarian food in Belgium: What we ate in 5 days
10 days in Iceland: An Ultimate Itinerary & Trip Report
Accommodation and Vegetarian Food in Iceland
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