There are many ways to tour Paris and there is something special about them all. Using the sightseeing bus is an inexpensive way to tour Paris "at a glance" and to locate the city's main points of interest.
The best sightseeing buses in Paris
Due to the high number of tourists and the long distances within the city, there are several routes and bus companies covering the French capital. I'll tell you all about them to make your choice as easy as possible:
Paris Big Bus sightseeing bus
I recommend the Big Bus because the tour is quite complete, because the views of the city are panoramic and because it offers many amenities for a reasonable price.
This is the route that goes through the centre of Paris. It consists of 10 stops and takes in 12 sights. The entire route takes about two hours. In summer it starts at 9.30am and runs until 8pm, and in winter it starts at 10am and runs until 7pm. The buses run every 5 to 10 minutes in summer and every 15 to 20 minutes in winter.
The places of interest you will pass by are 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 Musée d'Orsay, the Champs Elysées, the Grand Palais and the Place de Trocadero.
Route through the Montmartre district
Montmartre is the most picturesque district of Paris, the birthplace of painters and artists and full of emblematic and bohemian cafés. The frequency of the tour buses on this route is between 15 and 20 minutes. It starts at 10 a.m. with the first bus and ends with the last bus at around 7 p.m. (the end time may change depending on the time of year).
This route, which departs from Gare du Nord, lasts one hour and passes the Louvre Pyramid, Pigalle, Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Musée Grévin, Boulevard de Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge.
Paris Toot Bus
The Toot tourist bus option is the yellow and blue buses you'll see in the city, which with their 3 different routes will allow you to tour the whole of Paris.
This is the longest of them all, as it includes a total of 19 stops and passes by 12 places of interest. The total duration of the route is 2 hours and 20 minutes, with a frequency of between 15 and 20 minutes, and buses start running at 9:30 in the morning and end at around 19:30 in the evening. If you are going to use the tourist bus to tour Paris and enjoy its panoramic views, this is the most complete option.
Sights to see include the Palais Garnier, Louvre Museum, Pont-Neuf, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée d'Orsay, Place de la Concorde, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Place de Trocadéro, Eiffel Tower, Champs de Mars and Les Invalides.
From 9:30am to 5:30pm, buses along this route pass 9 stops every 15-20 minutes with 6 s ights further away from the centre of Paris. The whole tour lasts an hour and a half.
During this tour you will learn about: Les Grands Boulevards, Place de la Republique, Canal Saint-Martin, Palais Garnier, Pigalle and Moulan Rouge and Gare du Nord.
This route focuses on the two small islands in the centre of Paris: Île de la Cité (where Notre-Dame is located) and Île Sant-Louis. It lasts one hour and 20 minutes and runs every 25 to 30 minutes, from 9:30 am to 5:30 pm.
On this tour you will have the opportunity to enjoy Notre-Dame Cathedral, Rue de Rivoli, the Hotel de Ville, the Pantheon, Place de la Bastille, Ile Saint-Louis, the Saint Germain des Pres district and the Montparnasse district.
The Paris Big Bus night bus tour
Paris is the city of light and is so named not only for the city's role as a centre for the arts and education during the late 19th century, but also for the majesty of its illumination. Seeing Paris at night is a must, and the experience of seeing places like the Eiffel Tower, the Moulin Rouge and the Louvre pyramid lit up is one of the most authentic memories you'll have of the city.
TheBig Paris Night Bus is an opportunity to enjoy the illumination of the city in comfort. Highly recommended if you have little time to visit Paris and don't want to miss the city lights. Let yourself be dazzled by this two-hour tour in an open-top bus, with a panoramic view and an audio guide who will tell you all about the history of the main sites.
If you are not going to spend much time in Paris, the night tour bus route is the best way to make sure you see the main points of the city illuminated. You won't regret it.
Sightseeing bus included in the Paris Pass
The Paris Pass is a city pass which gives you free access to a number of attractions and discounts at many of the city's attractions. 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 be able to use public transport in the city of Paris. This is one of the most complete tourist passes: preferential entry 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 find out more about Paris Pass in this other article I wrote about it.
Why take the tourist bus
Covering a city as big as Paris can be difficult; in each of its areas you want to stop and admire its monuments, its streets, its bridges, its facades, its shops, its squares... So much to see and with distances that not everyone can cover on foot. With the tourist bus, getting around the city is much less tiring and its views allow you to enjoy the journey.
I recommend the Big Bus because the tour is quite complete. 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 to each other and make it accessible to everyone.
What you need to know before booking your Paris Sightseeing Bus
How your ticket works
Whereas on regular buses you usually pay for a ticket and that ticket entitles you to a single journey on which you choose your stop, on the Paris Sightseeing Bus you pay for days of use and that entitles you to use it as many times as you like throughout the period of your choice.
The sightseeing bus pass can be purchased in advance and online. Once you have made your reservation, you will be sent a voucher which you can redeem for your pass at any of the tourist bus stops in the different areas of central Paris. The confirmation email will give you information on 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 have an audio recording translated into 11 languages that comments on the city and its monuments as you go along the route. Some options, such as the Big Bus also include a live commentary in English.
In addition, all sightseeing buses are prepared for a person visiting Paris and therefore have features such as WI-FI on board, maps of the city or information leaflets.
Discounts on attractions
Buying a sightseeing bus pass gives you access to a range of discounts and benefits at different tourist attractions in the city. With the Big Bus option, you can pay extra for access to the Arc de Triomphe or a cruise on the Seine and with the Toot option you get guided walking tours included.
Sightseeing buses are larger than a normal bus and the system is set up so that no one is left without a seat. Bear in mind that all the stops are tourist attractions, so all the stops are busy and all the people get on and off. And if on any given day there are more people than usual, the routes are reinforced with more buses.
Organise your visit to Paris by tourist bus
The biggest advantage of the tourist bus is that you can see parts of the city that are far apart in a short period of time. This doesn't mean that you don't deserve to see Paris from the tourist bus: there are many pleasant areas to walk around and you can alternate the use of the tourist bus with walking tours.
The most central stops
Regardless of where you're staying in Paris, if you're in the centre, you'll probably have a tourist bus stop nearby as most of them cover quite a few areas of the city. My advice is to take the bus to any central location and then walk around Paris, for example:
- If you are going to use the tourist bus to get to know Paris and visit the city from the panoramic rooftop, use the routes furthest away from the centre: it is an ideal option to get details about less known areas and then you can decide which of them you want to visit during your trip.
- It's best to do this at the beginning of your trip to give yourself time to get organised; leaving room for improvisation is important, especially in a city with so much to offer.
- You can also use it to "say goodbye" to the city. When I arrive in cities I like to discover them little by little, but on the last day I always have the feeling of wanting to see everything one last time and this is something that is possible thanks to this tourist bus service.
- It is a good option if you are travelling with children 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 travelling 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: how to buy, prices and discounts so that you have all the details and can organise your visit to the park in the best possible way.
- 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 back to explore the areas further away from the centre.
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 move around Paris, I want to recommend you another option similar to the concept of the tourist bus, but surely much more romantic. Taking a cruise on 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, doesn't it? I'll tell you all the details in this guide about Seine River Cruises in Paris.