Right, you have had enough of the crowded, over-filled tourist sights. You want to take a little break from the hustle and bustle and find some unique things to do in Paris. Here are our two best ways to see Paris and avoid the crowds.
City Wheels Paris
Our first way to see the city and not be flustered by the crowds is by using a car hire service called City Wheels Paris. A unique, non-touristy, vintage car tour of the city. Now don’t worry, you won’t be driving. If you’ve ever had the pleasure of driving around the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll be thankful for that. I did promise this was a relaxing way to see Paris after all.
This trip was a highlight of our visit to Paris as it not only covered a lot of ground in 2 hours but we also left with some incredible pictures.
Customise Your Tour
The best thing about the tour was the customisation. You simply book a time slot. On the date you’ve booked, a beautiful, classic Citroen Traction Avant will show up at your hotel to start the tour. When we got in the car Laurent asked us what we wanted to see. He brought out a map so we could point to our preferred sights. After that, all we had to do was sit back and relax. As we passed by the sights, he would tell us about them.
On a few occasions, we stopped to get some great pictures. For all the Instagrammers, this is a must. It was amazing to hear the level of knowledge the driver had about their city. Almost every time we had a question Laurent, in our case, was able to answer and did so with great gusto.
Now, don’t just take our word for it, at this point in time City Wheels Paris has 155 other 5 star reviews on TripAdvisor. They currently only have 5 star reviews. It’s that good.
This was the painful part. Since this is a private, custom tour of Paris, it sadly comes with a hefty price tag. We booked the tour through Viator where there are 6 options. You can purchase a day or night tour at 1, 2 or 3 hours each.
Currently, the day tour options are priced at $138 for 1 hour, $219 for 2 hours and $323 for 3 hours.
The night options are priced at $161 for 1 hour, $242 for 2 hours and $346 for 3 hours.
The good news is that you can have a maximum of 4 people on your tour. If you’re going with friends, you can split the ticket price between you.
Our advice is to book your slot early morning to avoid rush hour. And, if possible, ask for Laurent. In our 2 hour tour he managed to show us everything from the Sacré-Cœur to the Eiffel Tower. The price is steep but it was worth every penny to us.
Ready for something to eat? Wanting to take a load off your feet and see the city of lights from a unique perspective? Our second recommendation does exactly that. Bateaux Parisien. Not only will you be able to see the sights of Paris but you’ll also enjoy some of that world renowned French cuisine. Bateaux Parisien is one of many river cruise companies. We decided to go with them over the others primarily because of their reputation.
Lunch or Dinner Cruise?
Now, we had a few choices to make. Bateaux Parisien offer a lunch and a dinner cruise.
We went with the lunch time cruise for a few reasons. Firstly, the price. The 2 hour lunch cruise, at 12:45pm, ranges from €59 to €89pp. The 2 and a half hour dinner cruise, at 8:30pm, ranges from €99 to €169pp. There is a 1 hour and 15 minute dinner cruise at 6:15pm which ranges from €69 to €89 but you see more on both of the longer cruises.
The second reason was that the lunch cruise would act as a nice break from walking in the middle of the day.
The next decision is what they call service level. This refers to your seat on the boat. You have three options to choose from. The cheapest option, The Etoile Service, is centrally seated in the middle of the boat on a raised platform. The raised platform allows you to see over the people who have taken the second option, the Privilege Service with a window table. The third option is the Premier Service, the most expensive option where you’re seated in the boat’s front section under a large glass canopy.
The main menu does not change between service classes. Note, there is a difference between the lunch and dinner main menu. The Etoile Service comes with a choice of starter, plus a main dish and dessert. The Privilege Service comes with a choice of starter, main dish, cheese, dessert and wine. The Premier Service also comes with a choice of starter, main dish, cheese, dessert and wine.
Our Overall Experience
We chose the mid-range Privilege Service. This was great as we were right next to the window which had a great view of all the passing sights.
You get to see a lot of Paris in a shortish amount of time. Although the sights and the food were very good, there were a few things they could have changed or simply done without.
The first thing on our chopping block was the pushy photographer. I get it, he wants you to buy his pictures and you get a nice photo to take home. However, when a photo is taken of you that you have no interest in buying (you can achieve the same result on most phones nowadays) it seems a bit silly to us.
The only other thing that did not float our boat was the singer. Whilst her signing wasn’t bad she would go up to peoples’ tables and practically sing directly to them. Thankfully, she was relegated to the expensive seating area at the front of the boat (where the Premier Service customers were sitting). Here in lies another tip. If you don’t want someone singing at you for an hour, maybe the cheaper seats are a better option.
What Can You See?
The lunch tour starts where all the good tours or Paris should start, right next to the Eiffel Tower. The boat travels down the Seine, past Notre-Dame and goes as far as The Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Once there, the boat turns back up the river passing Le Louvre, The Place de la Concorde and our original starting point. The boat turns again once it reaches La Statue de la Liberté and heads homeward back to the starting pier.
This is one place where Bateaux Parisien really stands out. Like in most restaurants, you are given a menu and select options. There were 4 options for each main course and a choice of white or red wine. You could opt for a beer or cocktail but at an additional charge. The service was prompt and friendly and nothing was ever too much to handle.
For the starter, we had 4 choices. Lightly seared Bonito fish, poultry terrine, smoked duck fillet nuggets and chilled green asparagus soup. We both went for the poultry terrine and thoroughly enjoyed it.
We also had 4 choices of main course. Sea bream royale, a saddle of lamb, yellow chicken and shrimp with various sides. Andrew opted for the saddle of lamb and I opted for the chicken.
Neither me nor Andrew were looking forward to the cheese course. We both avoided it and looked out of the window. But I’m sure cheese-lovers would have been pleased.
For dessert, we had the option of a vanilla cream puff, a strawberry tartlet, itakuja chocolate with hazelnut cake and vanilla-raspberry vacherin cake.
The cruise lasts 2 hours and you’re fed at appropriate points along the trip. There is a good amount of time between each course. You are not rushed off the boat either. We sat for about 10 minutes finishing our cups of tea once the boat had docked. Overall a great way to see Paris without having to traipse around the city.
If you want to see Paris in a different light, with the boyfriend, girlfriend, friends or family, you’ll be satisfied by either or both of these unique tours. You have to always take the money into account. On balance, if you have the money, there’s no better way to spend it than on these two memorable tours.
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