Paris: 7 public buses that are great for cheapo sightseeing
There is a certain, almost voyeuristic charm to taking the buses in Paris. While plenty of tourist buses pack visitors in and offer them headsets to learn about the history of the major monuments, why not opt for a more local soundtrack?
If nothing else, at €1.80 a ticket, riding the public buses is definitely the cheapest way to see Paris on wheels. And you can relax and watch Parisians doing their thing – itself a form of entertainment.
Here are seven lucky bus numbers to look out for if you want some no-frills sightseeing to tie together your itineraries.
(Note: Click on the maps below to see them in greater detail.)
Bus 89: Dancing through the Latin Quarter
The 89 weaves through the Latin Quarter, giving you a great look at the Jardin du Luxembourg, the Panthéon, the Jardin des Plantes, and the Mosque, where you can stop (at Buffon – La Mosquée) for a €2 glass of some seriously delicious mint tea.
Bus 86: Bastille to St. Sulpice
The 86 lets you go from shabby to chic in no time while spanning both sides of the river. Hop on it over in the old furniture-making neighborhood near one of our favorite markets in the 12th, the Marché d’Aligre, and take it past the Bastille and towards the elegant Left Bank and end up at St. Sulpice. Look for the rear view of Notre Dame as you cross the Seine.
Bus 69: The Grand Tour(ist)
The 69 is especially popular with Americans, as the US travel writer Rick Steves promotes it in his ubiquitous blue-and-yellow books. Steves picked well, as the 69 hits almost all of the big tourist spots. Take it from Père Lachaise and look for the Bastille and the Louvre before crossings the river to St-Germain. You’ll get a glimpse of the Invalides, a view of the Eiffel Tower at the Champ de Mars, then back to Right Bank where you can get off by Notre Dame for a quick visit.
Bus 80: From Sacre Coeur to the Eiffel Tower
The 80 is a great ride after visiting the Sacre Coeur. Head south for a quick taste of the Grands Boulevards and the chic side of Paris near the Champs Elysées. You’ll pass by the Montmartre Cemetery and through the dicey yet lively Place de Clichy. Then you’ll cross the most beautiful avenue in the world (the Champs) before scooting down one of the ritziest shopping streets in Paris, the Avenue Montaigne. Get off at Ecole Militaire for a great eye full of the Eiffel Tower.
Bus 72: Right Bank straight shot
The 72 will take you all along the river, from the Eiffel Tower to Hotel de Ville, with a straight shot along the Right Bank. It also does a lap around the Louvre and the Tuileries before heading back to the riverside. It’s scenic, it’s simple, and it’s great for those who get carsick from lots of turning and weaving through traffic (guilty!).
Bus 38: Straight down the middle
As the 38 is on a north-south axe, this line beats the Metro line 4 (one of my least favorites) while traveling between Gare du Nord and the Latin Quarter. Sights along the way include both the Gare du Nord and Gare de l’Est train stations, the majestic Porte St-Martin, Hotel de Ville, Notre Dame, and the Sorbonne. It hits a part of town through which you might not otherwise stroll, but it’s definitely worth checking out if it fits your travel plans while crossing the city.
Bus 22: Arc de Triomphe and Opera
The 22 will offer you some great sightseeing: views of the Tower, a trip through the shopping district of the Grands Boulevards, and a whirl around the Opera Garnier. But the best part is a trip through the roundabout surrounding the Arc de Triomphe (remember the Griswalds?). Only the craziest drivers in Paris dare the mass chaos that ensues in the circle of traffic, but you’ll be carefree in your bus, letting your driver do all of the work.
More Paris bus information
You can look up specific lines on the RATP website. Note that some lines extend out into zone 2, which means more expensive tickets. But we don’t think you’ll be going that far for any general sightseeing, unless it’s so peaceful that you fall asleep…
Also see our article on riding the bus in Paris, which includes information about hours, tickets and night buses. Also, if you’re planning a trip to Paris, be sure to check out our guide to the city’s best budget hotels. Our editors have inspected and photographed the best hotel deals in the center of the city.
Looking to flea market shop? See our post on the 95 connecting two flea markets.
Your favorite buses?
Have a favorite bus line in Paris? Agree or disagree with one of the lines above? Tell us about it in the comments section!