Opinions on the value of city passes vary widely, with some people viewing them as tourist scams and others seeing them as huge savings. When I was planning my visit to Paris, I did a lot of research into the options available and decided against the city passes I saw offered and instead bought just the two-day museum passes. The transportation, cruise, and Eiffel Tower add-ons that come with the city passes didn’t provide nearly the same value as the museum passes alone did based on our travel plans.
After our visit to the Eiffel Tower, we grabbed dinner nearby and then headed down to the nearby docks for a sightseeing cruise on the Seine. We were treated to a gorgeous view of the tower while we were waiting to board and I was excited to see it in “sparkle mode.”
Ours was the last cruise of the evening, and there was only one other group onboard with us. The front part of the cabin had evidently been used for some kind of private party involving champagne on the previous cruise, but the staff cleared it out shortly after we departed and we were allowed to sit in the front area. We spent part of the time in the bow area, but it was too cold to sit there for very long.
The cruise was narrated in three languages: French, English, and Spanish. It was very hard to hear the narration on the outside part of the boat, but the speakers inside were fine. I actually learned quite a bit from it. One of the buildings that was pointed out was the Palais de la Legion d’Honneur, which evidently inspired architecture in Washington, DC, including the White House. I also didn’t know that the Musee d’Orsay was an old train station prior to the cruise.
It was fun to get another view of the highlights of Paris after seeing them from above earlier in the evening. The cruise gave us our first up-close sightings of highlights like the Louvre and Notre Dame, increasing my excitement level even further. The cruise took us all the way down to Ile de la Cite and back.
I absolutely loved taking the cruise at night. Seeing the lights reflecting off of the river and the buildings all lit up gave Paris an almost magical feel. It was not ideal for photography – being on a moving boat at night isn’t very conducive to taking quality pictures without a high-end camera – but we were there to enjoy ourselves. If you want to get good pictures, I’d recommend a day cruise, but for sheer atmosphere, the night time is definitely the way to go.
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We had to stop at the hotel first because we were hauling our luggage, so we asked the lady at the front desk about getting a cab, but she said that most of the drivers wouldn’t take such a short fare. Since there was no good way for us to take the Metro closer to the Tower, we power walked through the Champ de Mars to the base of the Tower.
We were a few minutes late, but it didn’t seem to matter. I’d read about horrendous lines for security and the elevators, but we seemed to breeze right through. Plans to increase the barriers around the base of the tower were recently announced, but guards and barriers were already heavily present. We had to walk through metal detectors before being allowed under the structure. Security only took a few minutes and we didn’t have to wait for more than one elevator car at any of the levels. Booking your tickets online is well worth it, and in the summer, it might be your only chance at getting to the top.
When to Visit
When making our reservations, we debated about what time we should do the Tower. One school of thought was to go up during the day so we could have good views of all of the landmarks. The other was that we should go up at night to enjoy the sight of the City of Lights all lit up below us. (And also to take advantage of its late hours so we could use the days to hit museums and other sites that closed in the evening.) It took me an embarrassingly long time to realize that going up in late afternoon so we could watch the sunset over the city and see both day and night was the ideal solution. We googled the sunset times for November in Paris and chose our tickets accordingly.
I wanted to get tickets about an hour before the sunset to give us time to get through security and all the way to the top, but there was a mix-up when booking and we ended up with only about 25 minutes between our ticket time and the sunset. On top of that, we were a few minutes late, so we made it to the top just as sunset would’ve been ending. It didn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things, because it was overcast that day anyway. The best laid plans can always go awry, so sometimes you just have to make the best of things. We still had amazing views and got to watch the city light up below us.
At the Top
There is a (slightly overpriced) champagne bar at the top. My sister and I spent the extra 5 Euros to get light-up glasses with ours. We were not disappointed. I took mine home and used it at midnight on New Year’s Eve, so if you factor in two uses, it was less expensive
It was freezing and very windy at the top of the tower, but we braved the cold and took our coats off anyway so we’d look semi-decent in some of the pictures.
I could’ve stayed up there until midnight, but we had tickets for a river cruise so we eventually headed back to earth to grab a quick dinner and find the docks. Kicking off the Paris portion of our stay with a visit to the Eiffel Tower was definitely a good way to start. It worked well logistically based on the locations of our hotel and our cruise departure and made us even more excited for the next few days. After finally laying eyes on the Louvre and Notre Dame from afar, it was almost impossible to sleep knowing that I’d be visiting them up close the next day.
Read more about our trip to Paris: