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  #1  
Old Posted Feb 26, 2014, 4:50 PM
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Best parts of Paris & Amsterdam to explore?

Hi folks. I'll be in Paris & Amsterdam in March. If I want to spend a couple of days just wandering the most vital urban streets & neighborhoods, where should I go?

I know about the main tourist destinations, but I'm more interested in the best urban places in each city.
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  #2  
Old Posted Feb 27, 2014, 3:36 PM
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Best urban places... Is it your first time in Paris? I can't even think of any particular piece of advice when it comes to Central Paris. If the weather allows you to wander throughout the city as you say, it's fine. You should find some stuff to satisfy your curiosity pretty much anywhere in the central city. For real, from arrondissement 1 to 20 (that is all of them arrondissements of Paris proper), it's an endless show of either historic façades or local modern buildings, and local people can be more or less passed in the streets just about all over the city. That's obviously way too large to be seen entirely within a couple of days anyway. You'll probably be stunned by both the whole density of it and the pretty strict homogeneity of the historic districts that are almost too many. That's the most impressive thing, and you'll get that feeling in most the neighborhoods of the historic core.

However, don't forget to spend an hour in la Défense, so you see what "urbanisme sur dalle d'après-guerre" (postwar slab urban planning) means to a large scale. That will be a striking change from most of Central Paris that's yet just a couple of miles away from there. You'll find some slab planning in the Chinatown of the 13th arrondissement too, mixed with some more traditional (and better) boulevard-style streetscape. You may be interested in that Chinatown. It mostly goes along avenue de Choisy and avenue d'Ivry in a southernmost area of the 13th arrondissment, with lots of the local postwar modern architecture.

If it's your first time over here, I recommend you to focus on the "touristy areas", though, or say places around them, cause there's really a lot to explore.
Enjoy your stay anyway.
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Old Posted Feb 27, 2014, 6:36 PM
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I can't name a best district to venture but I don't really agree when mousquet says that you should focus on the main touristy things, it is for that reason that many people fails too understand and believe that the city is centered around the Eiffel tower and other monuments.

My advice, take a subway map and chose randomly a metro station.
The random part is very important.
Take a pen, close your eyes and write a point on the map.

The unexpected is the best thing of the travel.
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Old Posted Mar 7, 2014, 2:49 AM
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Amsterdam is extremely walkable and most worthwhile sights to see are within the canalbelt anyway. Just walking around will give you plenty to see and do. Also consider seeing the city from the water. If a tourboat is too touristy, rent a boat, get some food and drink and explore the canals for yourself.
Besides the obvious like the Redlight District, Dam Square, Rijksmuseum and the other museums in the museum district, the Central Station, Anne Frank House etc, these are a couple of my favourites located in the city center.

-a little hidden away and accessible from a small sidestreet of the main shopping street (Kalverstraat) is Begijnhof
-the old post office (you have a good one in DC as well ) now shopping center Magna Plaza, behind the Royal Palace on Dam Square. It's one of my favourite buildings in Amsterdam
-Chinatown is basically a street named the Zeedijk which runs from southeast from the Central Station (over the water to the left if you're coming from there) to de Nieuwmarkt with the Waag. It has a buddist temple and some good eateries (Nam Kee is nationally famous). Between this street and Damrak is the Redlight District (go when it's dark, it's more exciting).
-Damrak is the wide street leading from the Central Station to Dam Square. It's very touristy (don't eat there) but it does take you past de Beurs van Berlage, the old stock exchange and the finest example of Amsterdamse School architecture.
-at the end of de Kalverstraat and Rokin (they converge) is Muntplein, with another personal favourite, de Munttoren. There's also a floating flowermarket, touristy but oh well...
-if you take de Leidsestraat, you end up on Leidseplein and a bit farther along Vondelpark. If it's a sunny day that's a nice neighbourhood and park to explore or to eat lunch. You're also close to the museum district now.
-two museums not located in the museum district but worthwhile are NEMO and the National Maritime Museum, both east of the Central Station.
-there are a lot of great new buildings around the water (het IJ) such as the new library, a new music building and the new film institute.
-Dappermarkt, daily open air market in de Dapperstraat
-west of the city center there's the Nine Streets which is an unique shopping area with a lot of small unusual shops.
-as for urban neighbourhoods to explore, go west from there to the Jordaan and another neighbourhood to explore would be De Pijp, south of the city center.

Also, get the I amsterdam city card for transportation and discounts:
http://www.iamsterdam.com/
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 5:41 AM
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Thanks! That's just the sort of info I need.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 5:42 AM
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Paris guys, are some of the arrondissements better than others? Surely everything inside the Peripherique is not exactly equal.
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  #7  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 7:06 PM
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Boooon... Hé, okay after all, I'll try a little effort. So, if I had to pick some particular spots, I'd say those of arrondissements 1 to 6 are the most friendly to me. Those are the most central arrondissements, smaller than others, so they don't make any too large area. They include the oldest districts of the city. My opinion is you'd rather stick to them and obviously skip stuff like the Eiffel tower if you have no time to waste in standing in lines.

Here's a list of the quarters you should carefully stroll in:

Île de la Cité. If you're curious about medieval churches, the inside of the Sainte-Chapelle feels better and more intimate than that of Notre Dame, cause it's much smaller and full of lovely glass. It's within the complex of the Palais de Justice, which also includes the Conciergerie, another significant sight from the Middle-Ages. Going up to the top of Notre Dame is cool, however. The view from up there is great and you get its well known gargoyles in closeup. Beware of long lines, though. You'll have to be select, cause lines are often hellish.

The district of Beaubourg. That's where the contemporary art museum of the Centre Georges Pompidou is. There's a large construction site at les Halles nearby, but the surrounding streets are still normally accessible. Have a walk in rue Rambuteau and around.

Not far away from Beaubourg at all, you need to stroll in the Marais, some of the most picturesque quarters.

The Latin Quarter. Same kind of stuff as the Marais but it's even more popular to young adults, cause there are lots of higher education establishments. Little streets around the place Saint-Michel feel good at night. Lots of restaurants and locals there. That spot is a good idea for going out in the evening. Right there. You see those blocks behind the quais Saint-Michel and des Grands-Augustins seen from the river? You should go there.

The Jardin du Luxembourg. One of my favorite parks that's in the 6th arrondissment, so you won't have to go too far away when you feel the need to escape from the streets that are somewhat noisy because of cars.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Yet another classic. Have a walk along the boulevard Saint-Germain. Don't hesitate to turn and stroll in the little narrow streets that come to a larger boulevard/corridor. You might get a little lost sometimes, but lots of people like that. That note goes to everything above and to any quarter you'll visit. You can also walk along the rue de Rennes in the same area, that would take you from Saint-Germain-des-Prés to Montparnasse. Here's a picture of rue de Rennes as an example of a random Haussmannian commercial corridor.



Except for that black tower in the background, that's the typical environment you'll be in while in the very center. Minato would like to take you to some more unusual and underground areas. His point of view is cool but unwise if you're not familiar with the place yet and your stay has to be short.

Beside those most central areas, I guess you should take a little time to see the surroundings of the avenue des Champs-Élysées, cause they say it's a must-see. Also Montmartre in the 18th arrondissment, and a few squares like these in or around the "Triangle d'Or" (Golden Triangle) of the 8th arrondissment:

Place de la Concorde. Warning: rather pedestrian unfriendly but the architecture around is a sight.
Place de la Madeleine
Place de l'Opéra. That's where the Opéra Garnier sits. Some famous stuff.
Place Vendôme

Those are not too far away from one another and major boulevards/avenues come to them, so they're quite noticeable and you want to see that kind of urban fabric all around.

By the way, when you'll be in the Marais, don't miss the Place des Vosges. It's an important one for from the early Renaissance, thus one of the most original.

You should also check out the Palais-Royal that's nearby the Louvre. Eh, that's an obvious destination, so you probably won't miss this thing.

Finally, aside the Luxembourg and the Tuileries, I have to add 2 more parks cause you'll likely need some to relax; the Parc Monceau in the 8th arrondissement and the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont in the 19th arrondissement.

Oh, and don't forget about a walk along the Seine river when you're in the center.

Voilà, hoping those tips would help if you're feeling lost. There are too many museums to mention. Just go to the Louvre. It's so large that anybody should find some stuff to entertain them in there, no matter what you're particularly interested in. Ahhh yeah, there might possibly be those long lines, though... The best would be to have your ticket before you get there, so you don't have to wait at all and can feel that relief it is to skip their lines. I like the Orsay museum too. It's in a former rail station, very cool building but the museum itself is exclusively dedicated to the impressionist era, so if you don't like that kind of art, it'd most likely be a pain.

You should be here yet, the weather's been nice for a couple of days. Like spring's ahead after that 6 months long boring fall. There's almost no more winter over here. Hé.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 9:12 PM
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Perfect, thanks. Saint Germain, Marais, I didn't know that stuff.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 9:19 PM
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Guys, this has been super helpful and I really appreciate it. One more quick question, if you don't mind: Do either of these cities have absolutely can't-miss bookstores?

I'm sure they've both got tons of bookstores that we'll randomly find, but are there any really famous ones that it would be a crime to miss?
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 10:51 PM
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shakespeare and co. is a must-see english bookstore in paris.
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Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 10:54 PM
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Paris has ton of bookstores but I don't know any can't-miss bookstores.
Many are located in Quartier Latin.
The biggest in the area are Gibert Joseph and Gilbert Jeune on Boulevard Saint-Michel, they have many books but the interior of the store is pretty average to not say ugly.

I know that many tourists visit the Shakespeare & Company English bookstore.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Perfect, thanks. Saint Germain, Marais, I didn't know that stuff.
Many of these advices are touristy areas (especially Saint-Germain and the Marais), you will find a detailed review of those districts in every tourist guides.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
Paris guys, are some of the arrondissements better than others? Surely everything inside the Peripherique is not exactly equal.
Not equal but interesting and lively everywhere.
It depends what you means by better

My least favorite arrondissement is the 7th, the arrondissement where is located the Eiffel tower.
It is the least active of Paris with many ambassies and governmental buildings, a small and very wealthy population.
Not much street life here compared with the rest of the city and everything is expensive.
You should not miss the Eiffel tower but don't try to find anything to do around it.
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  #12  
Old Posted Mar 10, 2014, 11:53 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Minato Ku View Post
Many of these advices are touristy areas (especially Saint-Germain and the Marais), you will find a detailed review of those districts in every tourist guides.
Ah come on, Minato, don't be that way. I know you through your posts, you rascal. Some of the rare things you still fail to understand is not everyone knows the city as you do. So let the guy see the central districts before anything else, and don't require him to read any detailed tourist guide, dammit. Okay? It's much easier this way.
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Old Posted Mar 11, 2014, 5:03 AM
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That was a great post mousquet! I'm sure it will help Cirrus alot. I've been to Paris over a dozen times, but strangely enough only once seeing the sights (and that was mostly in a bus when I was a teen). I think I'm going to use your post next time I'm in Paris to fill in any blank unvisited spots I have regarding Paris. I'm familiar with most of the things you mention, but when I think about it there are a lot of things I've only seen in passing and never up close.
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Old Posted Mar 11, 2014, 5:12 AM
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Cirrus, Amsterdam has a lot of bookstores but a Google search could probably help you more on that one than I can (although I'm quite the lover of books). I do know that a lot of them are located around the Spui area (there's also a huge American bookstore there). I did encounter a rather interesting map store in Amsterdam once, I believe it was in the Nine Streets area.
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Old Posted Mar 22, 2014, 2:14 AM
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So Cirrus did you already go or are you here now? If so, are you here with president Obama, cause he is in Amsterdam too this weekend
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Old Posted Mar 23, 2014, 12:09 AM
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I was thinking a similar thing, how was your trip in Paris? What districts did you visit?
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Old Posted Mar 25, 2014, 7:48 PM
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I just returned home yesterday. It was a great trip. I'll have pictures eventually, after I've had a chance to go through them. When I post those threads I'll add a lot of narrative, and will put in a hat tip to you guys for your suggestions. Thanks again.

We didn't make it to the Marais but did see many of the other things on the list. My wife really wanted to visit several markets, so that got us out into several parts of the city we wouldn't otherwise have visited. Our airbnb was in the 18th, near Les Puces.

And we were at the Rijkmuseum 1 day before Obama.
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Old Posted Mar 26, 2014, 8:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cirrus View Post
I just returned home yesterday. It was a great trip. I'll have pictures eventually, after I've had a chance to go through them. When I post those threads I'll add a lot of narrative, and will put in a hat tip to you guys for your suggestions. Thanks again.

We didn't make it to the Marais but did see many of the other things on the list. My wife really wanted to visit several markets, so that got us out into several parts of the city we wouldn't otherwise have visited. Our airbnb was in the 18th, near Les Puces.

And we were at the Rijkmuseum 1 day before Obama.
But did you party with the Secret Service?
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Old Posted May 9, 2014, 7:00 PM
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I went to the Rijksmuseum 2 weeks ago.











Cirrus, I really want to read and see more about your experiences! Where are those photothreads?
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Old Posted May 13, 2014, 3:57 AM
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Whoa whoa whoa. Where is that last picture? I did not see that in the Rijksmuseum.

Anyway, my pictures are up on flickr but arranging them into threads for SSP is going to take hours and I haven't gotten around to it yet. :-)
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