There are many ways to tour Paris and they all have something special. Using the tourist bus is an inexpensive way to see all of Paris in one glance and to locate the main points of interest in the city.
1. The best sightseeing buses in Paris
Due to the high tourist influx and the long distances within the city, there are several routes and bus companies that cover the French capital. I tell you all about them to make your choice as easy as possible:
2. Paris Big Bus Tourist Bus
I recommend the one from Big Bus because the tour is quite complete, because the views of the city are panoramic and because there are many amenities for a reasonable price.
This is the route that passes through the center of Paris. It consists of 10 stops and covers 12 tourist attractions. The complete tour lasts about two hours, starting at 9:30 am in summer until 8 pm and in winter starts at 10 am and lasts until 7 pm. The bus frequency in summer is 5 to 10 minutes and in winter 15 to 20 minutes.
Places of interest that you will be able to see
- The Eiffel Tower
- The Champs de Mars
- The Palais Garnier
- The Paris Opera House
- The Louvre Museum
- The Pont des Arts
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- The Orsay Museum
- The Champs Elysées
- The Grand Palais
- Trocadero Square
Route through the Montmartre neighborhood
Montmartre is the most picturesque district of Paris, the cradle of painters and artists and full of emblematic and bohemian cafes. The frequency of the tour buses that include this route varies between 15 and 20 minutes, starting at 10 am with the first bus and ending with the last one around 7 pm (the ending time may change depending on the time of the year). This route departs from Gare du Nord and lasts one hour.
Sights to see
- Louvre Pyramid
- Grévin Museum
- Boulevard de Montmartre
- Moulin Rouge
Paris is the city of light and is so named not only for the role the city played as a center for the arts and education during the late 19th century, but also for the majesty of its illumination. Seeing Paris at night is practically mandatory and the experience of seeing places like the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge, or the Louvre pyramid illuminated is one of the most authentic memories you will keep of the city.
The tourist bus has a special pass for use during the night that, unlike the usual routes, is not intended to move from one place to another, but is rather an opportunity to comfortably enjoy the illumination of the city. Totally recommended if you have little time to visit Paris and do not want to miss the lights of the city.
3. Paris Open Tour Bus
The option of the bus Open Tour are the yellow and blue buses that you are going to see in the city, which with 3 different routes you can see the city.
This is the longest of them all, as it includes a total of 19 stops and passes through 12 places of interest. The total duration of the route is 2 hours and 20 minutes, it has a frequency of between 15 and 20 minutes, and the buses start at 9:30 in the morning and end around 7:30 pm. If you are going to use the tourist bus to tour Paris enjoying its panoramic views, this is the most complete option.
Sights to see
- Palais Garnier
- Louvre Museum
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Orsay Museum
- Place de la Concorde
- Arc de Triomphe
- Trocadero Square
- Eiffel Tower
- Champs de Mars
- Invalides architectural complex
From 9:30 am to 5:30 pm the buses that run this route pass every 15-20 minutes through 9 stops with 6 sights further away from the center of Paris. The entire tour lasts an hour and a half and during the tour, you will learn things about:
- The Grands Boulevards
- Place de la République
- The Saint-Martin canal
- The Palais Garnier
- Pigalle and Moulan Rouge
- Gare du Nord
This route focuses on two small islands located in the center of Paris: Ile de la Cité (where Notre-Dame is) and Ile Sant-Louis. It lasts one hour and 20 minutes and runs every 25 to 30 minutes from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
Places of interest to see
- Notre-Dame Cathedral
- Rue de Rivoli
- Hotel de Ville
- Place de la Bastille
- Ile Saint-Louis
- Saint Germain des Pres district
- Montparnasse district
4. The tourist bus included in the Paris Pass
The Paris Pass is a city pass with which you have free access to several attractions and also get discounts at many places of interest in the city. The Paris Pass gives you free access to the Big Bus sightseeing bus for a whole day and is a must for those who want to make the most of their trip to the city of light.
You can purchase your Paris Pass for 2, 3, 4 or 6 days and during that time you will have included the use of public transport in the city of Paris. This is one of the most complete tourist passes: preferential entrance to the Louvre Museum, Notre-Dame, the Pompidou Museum of contemporary art, the Musée d'Orsay, the Arc de Triomphe, the Palace of Versailles... You can read about Paris Pass in this other article I wrote about it.
Why take the tourist bus?
To cover a city as big as Paris can be difficult; in each of its areas, you want to stop and stay admiring its monuments, its streets, its bridges, its façades, its stores, its squares... A lot to see and with a distance that is not within everyone's reach to walk. With the tourist bus moving around the city is much less tiring and its views allow you to enjoy the tour.
I recommend the Big Bus because the tour is quite complete, because the views of the city are panoramic and because there are many amenities for a reasonable price.
The priority of this bus is to connect the places visited by those who are sightseeing in Paris, unlike the city's transport network whose priority is to connect the city and make it accessible to all. A tourist bus makes your life easier and takes you to the Louvre Museum or the Arc de Triomphe without you having to "look them up" on the map, take private transport or make a detour or transfer.
Ana's Traveller Tip
If you're not spending a lot of time in Paris, the night tour bus route is the best way to ensure you see the main sights of the city illuminated. You won't regret it.
6. What you need to know before booking your Paris sightseeing bus tour
How your ticket works
While in the regular buses you usually pay for a ticket and that ticket entitles you to a single trip in which you choose your stop, in the Paris tourist bus you pay for days of use and that entitles you to use it as many times as you want throughout the period you choose.
Audio guides and languages
These buses are prepared to see the city from the inside so they have large windows and an open-top floor to enjoy even better the panoramic views that Paris has to offer.
The tour buses have an audio recording translated into several languages that comments curiosities about the city and its monuments as the tour progresses. Some options, such as the Big Bus also include a live commentary in English.
They have Wifi on board
All sightseeing buses are prepared for a person visiting Paris and therefore have features such as WI-FI onboard, city maps, or information brochures.
Discounts on attractions
Buying a tourist bus pass gives you access to a series of discounts and advantages at different tourist attractions in the city, such as the Open Tour option. With the Big Bus option, you can pay extra to access the Arc de Triomphe or to take a Sena River Cruise and with the Open Tour option, you have guided walking tours included.
Book it in advance
The tourist bus pass can be purchased in advance and online. Once you have made your reservation you will be sent a voucher that you can redeem for your pass at any of the stops that the tourist buses have in the different areas of central Paris. In the confirmation email they will give you information about how to locate the stops and, in addition, in the case of Big Bus, you have an app available to follow the route of the buses in real-time.
The tour buses are larger than a regular bus and the system is set up so that no one is left without a seat. Keep in mind that all stops are points of tourist interest and therefore at all stops, people get on and off and if on a given day there are more people than usual the routes are reinforced with more buses.
7. Organize your visit to Paris by tourist bus
The biggest advantage that tour buses give you is being able to cover places in the city that are far apart in a short amount of time. This does not mean that you deserve to see Paris from the tourist bus: there are many very nice areas to walk around and you can alternate the use of the tourist bus with walking routes.
The most central stops
Regardless of where in Paris your accommodation is, if you are in the center you will surely have a tourist bus stop nearby as most of them cover quite areas of the city. My advice is to take the bus to any central location and then do stretches walking around Paris like, for example:
- Walk around the Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Mars, and Trocadero.
- Walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre along the banks of the Seine.
- Walk down the Champs Elysées from the Arc de Triomphe
- Visit the Louvre Pyramid, walk through the Tuileries gardens and go to the Place de la Concorde.
8. Last tips
- If you are going to use the tourist bus to get to know Paris and tour the city from the panoramic rooftop, use the routes further away from the center: this is an ideal option to have details about lesser-known areas explained to you and then you can decide which ones you want to visit during your trip.
- It is best to do this at the beginning of your trip to have a margin of time to organize yourself; leaving room for improvisation is important and even more so in a city like this one that has so much to offer.
- You can also use it to "say goodbye" to the city. When I arrive in a new city I like to discover them little by little, but on the last day I always have the feeling of wanting to see everything for the last time and this is possible thanks to this tourist bus service.
- It is a good option if you are traveling with kids to Disneyland and you are only going to spend one day in Paris. It is a way to see everything, children do not get tired and enjoy the views from the panoramic terrace and many explanations are adapted to them.
- In the Big Bus option, children up to 4 years old travel for free. In this case, if you are traveling with children, you are probably considering visiting Disneyland (probably the reason for your trip). I have written a guide about Cheap tickets to Disneyland Paris so that you have all the details and can organize your visit to the park in the best possible way.
Ana's Traveller Tip
Alternate the tourist bus with a walk around Paris: take the bus to the Eiffel Tower and walk to the Louvre. There you can take the bus again to see the areas further away from the center.
9. If you are interested in using the Paris tourist bus you will also be interested in...
If you are thinking about what other means of transport you will need to get around Paris, I want to recommend another option similar to the concept of the tourist bus, but probably much more romantic. Taking a cruise along the Seine will allow you, besides resting from the long walks of your trip, to see the architecture and the most emblematic buildings of Paris from the waters of the Seine. Sounds good, right? I tell you all the details in this guide about Seine River Cruises in Paris.
Frequently asked questions
How long is a Paris Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour?
Most routes are between 1-2 hours and are comprised of around 10 stops.
What landmarks will I see in a Paris Hop-on Hop-off Bus Tour?
Depends on the route you choose, but most of them will take you around the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, the Arc De Triomphe, the Champs Elysées and other landmarks.
What time of the day is best to ride the Hop-on Hop-off Bus?
If it is your first time in Paris, probably the best idea is to take the morning tour, as you will see all the landmarks during the daytime and enjoy the best sights of the city. If you already know Paris or you are looking for something different, maybe you should try the evening or night tours and see the Eiffel Tower, the Opera Garnier and Notre Dame all illuminated at night.