Paris hop-on hop-off Guide
Exploring the city of lights in a day or two...
You will fall in love with Paris – there’s no question about it. You can’t help it. This is the most romantic city in the world, a combination of olde worlde charm and modern ingenuity, so typically European and charming, so full of life and art. Paris is the heart of fashion, the centre of all things artistic. Artists and writers from Ernest Hemingway to Picasso were inspired by this beautiful city, and once you spend some time here, you will understand why. There is something so unique, so historic and magical about Paris that when you explore, you’ll feel like you’re living in your very own movie.
And as it’s your own movie, you can write the script to suit you. You can decide when you want to watch artists paint by the River Seine, or sit at a sidewalk café and people watch, eat crepes in Montmartre, go shopping for designer clothing, or be enthralled at the magnificent art in the Louvre.
The Hop On Hop Off sightseeing tour gives you the opportunity to decide exactly what you want to see while exploring Paris, and then hop off the bus to explore. Once you’re ready for another adventure, or to visit another part of town, you just hop right on the bus again.
Couples walking arm in arm along the Seine, the magnificence of Notre Dame, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, a stroll through bohemian Montmartre, or shopping at the famous Galeries Lafayette. It’s all part of the Paris experience…
How much does it cost?
At the time of writing, a 24 hours ticket goes for US$ 40.50 / 22.5 (Adult / child), while a 48 hours ticket is just slightly pricier, and costs US$ 46.50 for an adult (a child pays the same US$ 22.5).
The first bus departs from the Eiffel Tower (The stop is on Quai Branly, the boulevard along the river seine) at 9.45am and every 10-15 minutes thereafter. The last bus stops at the final destination, Trocadero, at 9.23pm. On weekends, the first bus departs from the Eiffel Tower at 9.15am and every 6 minutes thereafter. The last bus arrives at Trocadero, the final stop on the route, at 10.10pm.
Places to see and things to do along the route
1. The tour starts off from Paris’ famous landmark, the Eiffel Tower, built for the World Fair in 1889 to mark the centenary of the French Revolution. The wrought-iron tower, which is 324m (or 1,040 feet) high, was named after its designer, the engineer Gustave-Alexandre Eiffel, and has three levels that are open to the public, although the top level is closed when the wind is very strong. Take a lift up the tower, or, if you’re fit, you can even take the stairs to the second platform, which also boasts a restaurant.
If you’d like to explore the area surrounding the Eiffel Tower, you’ll find the fascinating Musée du quai Branly (the Quai Branly Museum), just near the tower, that features indigenous art, cultures and civilizations from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.
Important: You can save a lot of your precious holiday time by joining a "Skip the Line" guided tour. Not only will you bypass the notoriously long lines, but you will also get to see the Eiffel Tower, with someone wo really knows it inside out!
2. Your first hop off point is at the Champ de Mars. This grassy patch of land lies between the Eiffel Tower and the Ecole Militaire, the Military Academy. It was originally used as a parade ground and was also the site of world exhibitions. These days it’s a beautiful park where people come to have picnics, enjoy outdoor concerts, or just relax.
Not far from here is the Hotel des Invalides, a complex created by Louis the Fourteenth in 1671, to give impoverished war veterans a place to live. You can explore this impressive building with its courtyard, which used to be where military parades were held, and visit Musée de l'armée (the Military Museum) inside the complex.
Musée Rodin (The Rodin Museum), on the othr side of Boulevard des Invalides, is also worth a visit. It’s dedicated to the French sculptor Auguste Rodin and boasts his iconic work, The Thinker.
Getting there: Walk through Champ de Mars to the Ecole Militaire, turn left to Place Joffre and walk along the wall of the Ecole Militaire, than right (diagonally) to Avenue de Tourville and left again, to Boulevard des Invalides (you will probably notice the impressive dome of the invalides by then…). It should be something like 20 minutes' walk.
Musée du Louvre, in Paris
3. Hop off at your next stop to explore the famous Musée du Louvre, the largest palace and museum in the world, which is home to one of the greatest art collections, over 35,000 works in all. To enter the museum you’ll pass through the modern glass pyramid, which provides a startling contrast to the classical lines of the palace itself.
Take your time exploring this magnificent museum, home to Leonardo da Vinci's famous Mona Lisa, as well as many other exceptional artworks that were collected by French kings over five centuries, most notably Francois the First, Napoleon and Louis the Fourteenth. The artworks in the Louvre are divided into different sections– Egyptian Antiquities, Near East Antiquities, Greek, Etruscan, Roman Antiquities, Sculpture, Painting, Decorative Arts and Graphics. As there is no way you can see everything contained in this massive museum, choose a few sections that interest you, and explore those.
While you’re in the vicinity, you can also visit the famous Palais Royal, or Royal Palace, built in 1629 by Cardinal Riechelieu, who bequeathed it to Louis the Thirteenth. Also nearby is the lovely bridge, Pont Neuf, which, although it’s called the New Bridge, is actually the oldest bridge in the city. The bridge takes you to Île de la Cité, one of two islands in the middle of the Seine, which is well worth exploring.
Something worth knowing about: Save your expensive holiday time! You can skip the line and visit the Louvre without queuing! It will also be a lot more enjoyable to visit the world's largest museum with someone who knows it really well. Click here for the info.
4. Hop off at the next stop to visit Notre Dame, the square in front of the Cathedral with the same name. The church is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, built in the 12th Century and it’s immense – it can hold 6,000 worshippers at a time. Inside Notre Dame there’s a lot to explore including three exquisite rose windows, the huge pipe organ and the central choir, with its carved wooden stalls and statues that represent the Passion of the Christ. In the treasury in the southeastern transept you can see some art pieces, as well as other items on display, including the Holy Crown, apparently the wreath of thorns placed on Christ’s head before he was crucified. You can also climb the North Tower, up 422 winding steps, where you will see some scary-looking gargoyles as well as a panoramic view of the city.
Worth exploring nearby is the Hotel de Ville, the City Hall, St Chapelle, a magnificent chapel built by Louis the Ninth, which is a fine example of Medieval architecture and the Conciergerie, once a very fine Royal Palace, then a prison during the French Revolution.
5. Next hop off point is right in front of the entrance of the Musée d'Orsay, which is located in a former railway station, the Gare d’Orsay, built in 1900. Here you can see a collection of French paintings, sculptures and other objects produced from 1840 to 1914 by famous artists including Monet, Picasso, Renoir, Degas and Matisse. These artworks include Impressionist, post-Impressionist and Art Nouveau pieces and as the museum boasts an arched glass roof, the light inside is spectacular.
While you’re in the area, you can take time off to relax in the magnificent Jardin de Tuilleries, one of the city’s most beautiful gardens. It’s located near the Place de la Concorde, the largest square in the city, with the obelisk, Cleopatra’s Needle in its midst, as well as a number of fascinating statues, including a large one of Louis the Fifteenth, erected in 1763.
6. The Opera – Galeries la Fayette is your next hop off point. Originally the city’s Opera House, the Opera de Paris Garnier was built in 1875 by the architect Charles Garnier. It boasts a stunning painted ceiling by Paul Baudry that depicts themes from the history of music. The decorated auditorium seats just under 2,000 and is lit by a magnificent chandelier. It’s currently the home of the Paris Opera Ballet.
Nearby on Boulevard Haussmann is famous Galeries La Fayette, Paris’ famous department store built at the end of the 19th Century, where millions of people come to shop. The 10-floor department store is a joy to explore, and of course, shopping there is an absolute treat. Also in the vicinity you’ll find the prestigious Place Vendome, a square created as a monument to Louis the Fourteenth’s armies. And just to the north of the square is La Madeleine, a church dedicated to St Mary Magdalene.
7. There’s a lot to see if you hop off at the next point, in the Avenue des Champs Elysees – Etoile. This busy avenue is full of designer stores, restaurants and nightclubs including the famous Lido cabaret. Close by, in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle, you’ll find the greatest arch in history, Napoleon’s Arc de Triomphe, which he built in 1806 to commemorate his victories.
8. Grand Palais is the next place to explore along the route. This giant exhibition hall boasts the largest glass roof in Europe. First built in 1900, it reopened in 2007 after being restored to its former glory and is the location for a number of important sports and cultural events. Opposite you’ll find the Petit Palais, which is worth visiting to see its excellent collection of art works.
9. The bus stops once again so that you can hop off at the Trocadero, a large square with a number of fascinating museums worth visiting, including the Musee National des Arts Asiatiques, a museum full of paintings and sculptures from China and Japan. Also here is the famous Palais de Challot, which is home to the Theatre National de Chaillot and four other museums, two of which are open to the public – these are the Musee de l’Homme, part of the city’s National History Museum and the Musee de la Marine, the French Maritime Museum. Nearby you’ll find the Palais de Tokyo, home to the Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the city’s museum of Modern Art, with a fine collection of 20th Century artworks.
And here is something that is well worth knowing about: Taking a hop-on, hop-off bus tour is one the best ways to explore any large city, as it saves you lots of precious holiday time and takes you EXACTLY to those places you really want to visit... (Not to mention the great views you can enjoy from the open top...).
Wait ! Did you like this mini-guide ? Here are some other hop-on hop-off guides you may like:
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- Dublin hop-on hop-off