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Taking a bus tour of Paris can be an excellent way to get an overview of the city's top attractions when you're visiting for the first time, or help you get the most out of a short visit. Bus tours can also be ideal for elderly visitors, parents with young children, or visitors with disabilities or limited mobility, as the Paris metro system can involve a lot of walking and climbing stairs, and is not always very stroller-friendly.
Paris' top bus tours are hop-on, hop-off services that shuttle passengers several times a day to most or all of the city's key places-- and while more expensive than the metro, these tours are generally much cheaper than traditional guided tours.
Tour #1: Big Bus Paris (Formerly Les Cars Rouges)
Big Bus Paris (formerly known as Les Cars Rouges) is a hop-on, hop-off Paris bus tour that services nine important attractions, providing audio commentary and good views of the city thanks to an open deck.
Tour Routes & Attractions:
The full tour (not including stops) lasts 2 hours and 15 minutes, and covers the following sights:
- Eiffel Tower
- Champ de Mars
- Louvre Museum
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Musée d'Orsay
- Opéra/Galeries Lafayette Department Store
- Champs-Elysées/Arc de Triomphe
- Grand Palais/Trocadero
Buying tickets: Tickets, good for two full days starting from the day of purchase, can be bought upon boarding the bus or purchased online.
Languages available for audio commentary: English, French, Italian, Spanish, Russian, German, Japanese, Arabic, Brazilian Portuguese, Korean or Mandarin.
The Bottom Line: Having taken this tour, I think it's a great way to discover Paris' most coveted and iconic attractions, although certain essential spots like Montmartre and the Latin Quarter are neglected on the tour route. This tour is recommended for a first trip or weekend tour, but those who've already seen the big sights will find it somewhat redundant.
Tour #2: Open Tour Paris
Open Tour is a hop-on, hop-off tour bus service that offers four different tour routes and 50 stops around Paris, arguably providing the greatest range of choices among tour bus operators in the city of light. The red, white and blue, easily recognizable double-decker bus is good for sightseeing as it boasts a large open deck. An audio commentary is available in English, French and 8 other languages. While this is a very popular tour, people have often commented that they found it rather expensive and not necessarily great value for money. It may be best to take this tour if you're not comfortable getting around on your own and want the security and ease of having someone else determine your route. If not, just get a good map and opt to go it alone.
Tour Routes & Attractions:
- The "Paris Grand Tour": Lasts 2 hours 15 minutes and shuttles visitors around many of the city's most popular sites, including the Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe.
- The Montparnasse T our: Lasts about an hour and covers some of the left bank's most storied places, including the Latin Quarter, Montparnasse and the Invalides.
- The Montmartre Tour: Lasts a little over an hour and gives visitors a good overview of the edgier, more modern right bank, with notable stops at the Sacre Coeur basilica, the Moulin Rouge cabaret, the Saint-Martin canal area, and classic Paris department stores (also known as "les grands magasins").
- The Bastille Tour: Lasts around an hour and gives a good glimpse of Paris' dynamic center and Seine-side attractions, including the Centre Pompidou, the trendy Marais district, the Ile Saint Louis and Picasso Museum.
Ticketing and boarding time information: One and two-day passes are available and you can take as many tours as you want for the duration the ticket is valid.
The Bottom Line: Slightly more expensive than Big Bus Tours, but they offer a more complete range of tours. Take this tour if you want to get a truly complete look at the city's most important sights.
Tour #3: Bus Tours on a Budget
If you don't feel like forking out 40 Euros (Around $45) or more for a traditional bus tour, or you want to see the city like a local, using Paris' city bus system is a cheaper and more adventurous way to see the city. It's recommended to use select lines to see popular districts including the Latin Quarter, the city center, the areas around the Louvre Museum, and other coveted corners.