Tag Archives: Rick Steves

Paris Sightseeing – Luxury for Less – Part 4

Paris is a joy for active sightseers, with a magnificent array of museums, monuments, must-see sights.  However, the sheer number of sightseeing opportunities in Paris can be overwhelming.  No matter how many times you visit, you may feel like you’ve barely scratched the surface.

Here’s a short, opinionated list of sightseeing options (with lots of hyperlinks), organized into 6 categories:  Top Tier, Mid-Tier, New & Niche, Quirky/Off-Beat, Kids, & Day Trips. Consider choosing one or two in each category, so you can experience variety in the best Paris has to offer.

When it comes to sightseeing in Paris, time is your currency, and more precious than gold.  I recommend you purchase the Paris Museum Pass, which covers entry to over 60 museums and monuments and is available for 2, 4, or 6 days.  You will save a few Euros over purchasing tickets individually, but most importantly, you will save time….hours and hours of time…..because you don’t have to queue in long lines to purchase tickets at every venue.  Just look for the special door for pass holders at each venue, and sail past the ticket lines.  I’ve waited 60 minutes in line at the Louvre, and 90 minutes each at Musee d’Orsay and St. Chapelle, so learn from my mistakes and get the Pass!  You’ll still need to wait in line for the security screening, but this should be minimal.

If you’ll be in Paris more than a few days, look into the Paris Visite Pass, which covers the Metro, RER suburban trains, and city buses, and offers great reductions on 18 other sites. Save money & time!

Top Tier Sights – many museums are free for children under 18, offer reduced rates for 18-25; museums usually offer one free Sunday per month – avoid these days as they’re usually crowded.

Eiffel Tower – new for 2010! – advance reservations are now available online; save time!  Count on at least an hour in line if you don’t reserve in advance. (Entry NOT covered in Paris Museum Pass)

Louvre Museum – most famous and extensive art museum on the planet

Musee d’Orsay – 19th & 20th century masterpieces, temple of Impressionism, & much more.

Notre Dame Cathedral – free admission to the church; fee applies for self-guided tower

Palace of Versailles – see Day Trips Below

Bateaux Mouches & Bateaux Parisiens – Seine River Cruises – a must to enjoy Paris beautiful bridges and monuments.  Go at sunset to see floodlit monuments; time it to pass Eiffel Tower as it’s sparkling – breathtaking!

Arc de Triomphe – ascend to the top for amazing views (fee); otherwise visit free at street level to admire sculptures, eternal flame and pay respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

Sacre Coeur Basilica – Montmartre’s stunning white domed Basilica, on the butte of Montmartre

Mid-Tier Sightsfeel free to argue with me as to which should be Top Tier vs. Mid-Tier

Centre Pompidou – modern and contemporary art

Musee Marmottan – world’s largest collection of works by Claude Monet, plus 300 works by other Impressionists & Post-Impressionists

Musee Rodin – master sculptor and gardens

Musee de l’Orangerie – Tuileries garden – Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces.  Interesting story in NYT about Monet’s Water Lily paintings

St. Chapelle – Gothic cathedral with beautiful stained glass; lines can be very long; if you don’t have Paris Museum Pass, and skies are cloudy, skip it and wait for another time

Musee Jacquemarte Andre – private mansion with impressive collection of French, Dutch and Italian masters; lovely cafe

Les Invalides – honors French military heros & houses Napoleon’s tomb

Opera Garnier – gorgeous baroque Paris Opera, of Phantom fame; self or guided tours available – go for the guided tour

Pantheon – originally constructed as a church, and now the tomb for many important French historical figures, including Voltaire, Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Madame Curie, Braille, Dumas

Cathedral of St. Denis – about ½ hour north of central Paris, burial place of kings of France, with over 70 sculpted tombs, including Francois I, Louis XVI, Dagobert, and Catherine de Medici

Musee National Picasso – closed for renovation until 2012

Musee de Quai Branly – relatively new museum featuring art & artifacts from Africa, Asia, Oceania & the Americas

New and Niche

Paris Movie Walks – author Michael Schurmann leads you on a series of 10 walking tours in the City of Lights, Camera, Action – see the sights where your favorite movies were filmed.  Video of my tour of Montmartre below, where Michael points out one of the last two remaining windmills of Montmartre, the Moulin de la Galette, which was the setting for one of Renoir’s famous paintings you will recognize:

Eye Prefer Paris Tours – Personal walking tours and cooking classes by Richard

La Cuisine Paris cooking lessons – 2 hour, ½ day and longer classes – French desserts, bistro classics, chocolate tours and more!


Rick Steves Paris Illuminations by Taxi Tour – Rick gives you a great, fun option to hire a taxi for a do-it-yourself floodlit Paris tour – with a map and French translation to hand to the driver – a great alternative to overpriced bus tours, with recorded commentary in 7 languages (ugh).

Pere Lachaise Cemetery – most famous & visited cemetery in the world; among the famous buried here are Edith Piaf, Pissarro, Proust, Jim Morrison, Yves Montand, Moliere, Lalique, Haussemann, Heloise, Delacroix, Colette, Frederic Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Balzac, Gertrude Stein, Oscar Wilde

Catacombs of Paris – municipal ossuary is the reburial place of approx. 6 million residents of Paris

Paris Sewer Tour – haven’t been, don’t plan to go, unless someone talks me into it

Canal & Seine Barge Cruise – Teena Hughes of A Night in Paris explains it all here, with video

Fat Tire Bike Tours – comes highly recommended, although I haven’t tried yet; Paris city tours, Versailles and Giverny also; if you’ve done this, please leave a comment with reviews

Day Trips

Versailles – magnificent palaces & grounds; former home of French kings

Chartres – extraordinary Gothic cathedral & UNESCO world heritage site

Giverny – Claude Monet’s home and gardens

Reims –Champagne country


Disneyland Resort Paris

Parc Asterix –  large amusement park organized around 5 themed lands, about 20 miles north of Paris

France Miniature – outdoor village with scale models of 160 major French monuments; 45 minutes from Paris

Paris local parks – Luxemburg Garden, Tuilleries, Champ de Mars – lovely, green spaces, kid-friendly activities

Aquaboulevard – indoor/outdoor waterpark and athletic facility; largest indoor waterpark in Europe

Last tip – don’t be pennywise but hour foolish.  If you’re trying to get to a venue in a hurry, like before closing or last admission time, consider jumping in a taxi rather than waiting for a bus, or walking to/from a metro station.  If there’s one thing I’ve learned, traveling across Paris usually takes twice as long as I estimate, so give yourself plenty of time.  Plot your visits on a map, as many can be grouped for walking (Louvre, Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, Deportation Memorial).  Buses are a great way to get around, but to a visitor who is unfamiliar with local routes, the occasional manifestations (strikes) alter bus routes, bypassing certain popular stops, leaving you Lord knows where (another lesson learned the hard way).

Plan ahead, do your research, and don’t get frustrated.  You’ll never see it all, but just assure yourself, you’ll be back and see more on your next trip.  Bon voyage!

All links are working at time of publication, but subject to change by site owners.  If you find a broken link, please send me a comment and let me know. Thanks!

Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act – Review

Several weeks ago, I had the pleasure of hearing Rick Steves deliver a presentation on “Travel as a Political Act” as a fundraiser for Twin Cities Public Television.   Rick is an icon in the world of European travel advice. He shared with us his insight from years of travel, and challenged us to travel with an open mind, and not be dumbed down by a narrow world view. 

Rick is a great storyteller, and has that gift for drawing the audience in, spinning a great tale, weaving anecdotes with education, and opening our eyes to other cultures.

 You can download the presentation as a series of podcasts from iTunes.  Just search for Rick Steves Lecture Series.  You can also watch the lecture here on Rick’s You Tube channel. 

And now Rick has just released a book which fleshes out the theme of his presentation and provides background that has shaped his political views. 

 Here are a few of my favorite quotes from the first chapter:

  •  To get the most out of your travels, plan to get out of your comfort zone, meet the people, seek out new experiences, and view other cultures – as well as our own – with an open mind
  • Seeing how smart people overseas come up with fresh new solutions to the same old problems makes me more humble, open to creative solutions, and ready to question traditional ways of thinking.  We understand how our worldview is both shaped and limited by our family, friends, media and cultural environment.  We become more able to respectfully coexist with people with different “norms” and values.
  • One of the greatest rewards of travel comes from the people you encounter – especially if you’re open to letting them show off a bit and impress you with their culture.  Stow your preconceptions, and relish the opportunity to meet and learn from local experts, whether it’s cheese makers, or owners of a 5th generation family vineyard.
  • Take history seriously, and don’t be dumbed down.  I believe now that if more Americans had a history degree and put it to good use, this world would be better off. Those with a knowledge of history can understand current events in a broader context and respond to them more thoughtfully.
  • My travels have taught me to have a healthy skepticism toward those who peddle fear.  And in so many cases I’ve learned the flip side of fear is understanding.
  • Thirteen thousand people die in the U.S. every year from hand guns.  But we’ve deemed that’s an acceptable trade-off for enjoying our Second Amendment rights.  Europeans (who suffer less than 25% of the per capita gun killings we do) laugh out loud when they hear Americans are staying home for safety reasons. 
  • Every time I’m stuck in a long security line at an airport, I reflect on one of the most concerting results of terrorism:  the very people who would benefit most from international travel – those who needlessly fear people and places they don’t understand – decide to stay home.  I believe the most powerful things individual Americans can do to fight terrorism are to travel a lot, learn about the world, come home with a new perspective, and then work to help our country fit more comfortably and less fearfully into this planet. 

 Other chapters in Rick’s book include:

 –        Lessons from the Former Yugoslavia:  After the War

–        Europe Unites:  Successes and Struggles

–        Resurrection in El Salvador

–        Denmark:  Highly Taxed and Highly Content

–        Turkey and Morocco:  Sampling Secular Islam

–        Europe: Not “Hard on Drugs” or “Soft on Drugs” but Smart on Drugs

–        Mission:  Understand Iran

 I encourage you to check out the book or Lecture Series for Rick’s though-provoking ideas.  And as Rick says:  Keep Traveling!

 Enchanted Traveler

Rick Steves – Travel as a Political Act

I’m headed to Minneapolis tomorrow to hear European travel expert Rick Steves deliver a speech on “Travel as a Political Act”, sponsored by Twin Cities Public Television.

As the undisputed expert on travel to Europe, Rick spends 4 months every year traveling and working throughout Europe, recording episodes for TV series, and updating his travel guidebooks.

Spending one third of his adult life living out of a suitcase in Europe has shaped Rick’s thinking. Today he employs 80 people at his Europe Through the Back Door headquarters in Edmonds where he produces 30 guidebooks on European travel, the most popular travel series in America on public television, a weekly hour-long national public radio show, and a weekly column syndicated by the Chicago Tribune.

Rick’s website is a treasure trove of trip planning and advice. You can also download his free audio walking tours for many top sights from iTunes.

I’m so excited for the chance to see Rick again, and I’m bringing my two children with me to hear some of Rick’s wit, wisdom, and insight. I’ll provide updates after the speech!

Rick’s presentation is Sunday, Dec. 6 at 4:00pm at the Riverview Theater. Tickets are $30 at the door (if any tickets remain), and benefit Twin Cities Public Television.

~ Enchanted Traveler