Whether it’s a sunset cruise in a classic car or a visit to the city’s quirkiest spots, there are plenty of tours to help you explore Paris. Photo / 123rf
Are you saving for a dream trip to the City of Light? Add these unique tours to your bucket list, writes Tiana Templeman.
See all the highlights, in just one day!
If you’re in Paris for a long time, not a long time, it can be impossible to decide what to do. Should you visit the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre, the Sacre Coeur or Notre Dame basilica, take a cruise on the Seine River, explore a classic neighborhood, or simply wander around the city?
The good news is that there’s no need to choose, as a Paris in a day tour allows you to see all of these things and more in, you guessed it, just one day. While visiting all of these iconic attractions in just nine hours may seem impossible (not to mention exhausting), it’s actually quite easy when you’re with a local who knows all the shortcuts. The tour takes place in an order that minimizes crowds and includes metro transportation, skip-the-line access, and an expert local guide who shares fun facts and interesting stories along the way.
Cost: $269 for adults; $253 for children. Takewalks.com
Tour Paris in a Citroen 2CV
It’s a perfect combination: a cheerful Citroen 2CV and the city of Paris. As a touring vehicle, this classic French car adds a certain je ne sais quoi and its compact size makes navigating the tiny alleys of Paris’s districts a piece of cake, especially with a handsome Frenchman at the wheel. Tours are available from 11am to 10pm, but the best time to book this hour-long tour of the French capital is just before sunset.
As the fading light bathes the historic buildings of Paris in a soft glow, your classic transport glides through famous streets and around the Arc de Triomphe with its radiant avenues and thrilling thrills. As the sun dips below the horizon, you’ll drive towards the Eiffel Tower, stopping just as the lights come on and dance up and down the city’s famous landmark. There’s time for photos with your shiny 2CV before the drive back to your hotel.
Cost: Starting at $130 per car for a one hour tour. 2cvparistour.com
See how history comes to life at the Fairgrounds Museum of the Arts
Musee des Arts Forains, or the Fair Arts Museum, proves that you’re never too old to ride a carousel. However, you may be too young. In the late 19th century, when bicycles were more expensive than horses, adults lined up to ride foot-operated bicycle carousels that reached speeds of up to 60 km/h. You’ll find one of these carousels at this museum, which has one of the largest collections of vintage rides and games in the world. Even better, you can ride it, but only if you are over 13 years old.
You can also see (and hear) a rare Hooghuys fairground organ, ride other historic carousels, play original alleyway amusement games, and learn about life in 19th-century Europe on an interactive two-hour tour. Tours in English are available during the summer months, and an English transcript is provided at other times of the year.
Cost: $30.60 for adults; $20.85 for children. arts-forains.com
Spend a spooky evening in Paris
Discover a darker side of Paris on a spooky ghost tour that ventures into historic buildings and winding alleys to show you a side of the city not featured in tourist brochures. His ghoulish guide is an expert when it comes to the dark and seedy side of Paris, when people were burned at the stake and sentenced to death in the Palais de Justice. It didn’t matter if you were a king or a pauper, no one was safe from the flashing blade of the guillotine.
Follow in the footsteps of the plague that ravaged the city in the mid-13th century, listen to tragic love stories, and scare yourself with ghastly tales of ghosts, blood, murder, and mayhem. You’ll be looking over your shoulder on the way back to your hotel after this spooky night.
Cost: €34.20. citywonders.com
Explore a neighborhood with a local, for free
Whoever said “you don’t get something for nothing” has obviously never been to Paris. The city is part of the Global Greeter Network, an international organization that organizes free sightseeing tours conducted by passionate volunteer guides in cities around the world.
In Paris, our guide was a retired teacher who showed us around Montmartre, where he had lived for more than 30 years. Not only did Pierre have the perfect name, he also had a portfolio of fascinating historical photos and someone’s communication skills that he has spent his life teaching. To my surprise, he also shared my passion for the incredibly romantic movie Amelie, sharing behind-the-scenes stories about Montmartre filming locations that only a local would know. Welcome Tours are more than just seeing the sights, they also offer a fascinating insight into the heart and soul of a destination and the locals who make it great.
Cost: Free. Booking essential. greeters.paris