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Our Paris itinerary collects world-class museums, iconic monuments, hidden cocktail bars and the best of the third-wave coffee shops. Here’s how to make the most of 3 days in Paris.
There’s an intoxication that only Paris can deliver.
It’s a city that – like the French – puts its best foot forward. Rambling cobbled laneways meet grand boulevards where triumphant monuments to victories past stand unscathed from the battles that followed.
Paris rivals Vienna for sheer beauty. Stunning buildings appear to have gobbled up the world’s finest art treasures; towering basilicas showcase the most impressive stained-glass windows you’re ever likely to lay eyes on.
Eating a pastry from a tiny boulangerie while strolling along the Seine; dipping into quaint atmospheric bistros and trendy hipster cafes; revelling in iconic views and exuberant nightlife; recuperating in serene parks. There’s a host of wonderful experiences to collect on our Paris itinerary.
We’re under no illusion that Paris can be fully explored in 3 or even 4 days. However, we’ve designed this itinerary to put all our favourite top sights (and some lesser-known gems) in the right order so first-time visitors to Paris need waste no time.
You won’t see all of Paris, but it’s a pretty good start.
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HOW TO USE OUR PARIS ITINERARY
Our Paris itinerary has been designed so you can walk between most sights, without needing to catch public transport too often.
The walk to Musée Rodin on the 2nd day could be fairly long depending on where you are staying and you’ll most likely need to get the metro to Montmartre on the 3rd day. Other than that, we’ve lined up the attractions based on their proximity to each other.
Simply follow the sights in the order we have them listed below which, in effect, is a wonderful 3-day walking tour, collecting all the must-see Paris attractions plus lesser-known gems.
You can find all the places we visited on the map below, organised by day.
DAY 1 – ART & HIP NEIGHBOURHOODS
Begin this 3-day Paris itinerary by exploring world-class museums, before continuing on a compact loop that collects many of the cities top sights. End the day in the very cool Le Marais area.
JARDIN DU PALAIS ROYAL
Begin with a stroll through the box hedge symmetry and manicured gardens of the Jardin du Palais Royal. It’s surrounded by some of the most beautiful arcades in Paris including Galerie de Montpensier and Galerie Beaujolais. The palace is closed to the public, however, the polka dot art installation is a popular photo spot in Paris.
Covered Passages // Book a covered passages audio-guided tour; a wonderful thing to do in Paris for shopping lovers.
Walk the short distance to the Louvre to immerse yourself in possibly the world’s premier museum and a Paris icon. It’s impossible to see everything in one visit so this guide on what to see in the Louvre is a good starting point.
The French & Italian masterpieces are the most popular thanks to a truly world-class collection including the Mona Lisa. Napoleon’s lavish well-preserved apartments are another gem.
Musée Louvre Skip-the-Line // book your timed entrance ticket
After strolling the Louvre all morning, you’ve earnt a classic lunch. Try the very reasonably priced Au Vieux Comptoir where the service is friendly and the atmosphere trés French.
After lunch take a 15-minute stroll down the Seine to the stunning Sainte Chappelle – easily one of the best places to visit in Paris. Tucked away behind the Palais du Justice, the upstairs chapel – completely adorned with stained glassed windows – is simply breathtaking.
Sainte Chapelle / 9:00 – 17:00 (1 Oct-31 Mar); 09:00 – 19:00 (1 Apr-30 Sep) | Price: €10 | Location: 8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris
Next, head back onto the left bank of the Seine to the Latin Quarter stopping at Shakespeare & Company bookstore. It’s a small but rambling store with old books crammed into every nook and definitely worth a visit as you’re walking past.
Shakespeare & Company Bookstore / 10:00 – 22:00 | Price: Free | Location: 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005 Paris
Exiting the bookstore, Notre Dame rises up in front of you. It’s been closed since the tragic fire in April 2019, but it is expected to re-open in 2024. However, the square and the archaeological crypt are now open to the public.
You can visit the nearby tourist office and pay your respects or leave a donation for the rebuild.
Now in cool Le Marais, explore the shopping, drinking and eating opportunities in this vibrant part of Paris. Mustering the last pieces of tourist energy, potter around the modern art collection at the Pompidou Centre, which stays open until 9 pm.
Pompidou Centre Skip-the-Line // book your timed entrance ticket
DAY 2 – GRAND PARIS & ICONIC VIEWS
Day 2 of our Paris itinerary visits one of our favourite museums, Musée Rodin before trying out some of the best coffee in Paris on the way to the most iconic sights in the city.
Start today at Musée Rodin. One of the most unique galleries in Paris, it has an excellent collection of Rodin’s sculptures both inside the museum and in the formal gardens. Works by Van Gogh and Monet – two of the most famous painters in the world – are an added bonus.
Musée Rodin Skip-the-Line // book your timed entrance ticket.
Head to Coutume Café for brunch and one of the best coffees in Paris. They roast their own beans and work them into a dense velvety coffee, which goes perfectly with their small selection of seasonal brunch items.
Recharged, walk to Champ de Mars for a magnificent vista over the iconic Eiffel Tower – a view that rivals some of the best hotels in Paris with a view.
Personally, we think the views from other monuments are easier and better. However, if you decide to go up the Eiffel Tower, we strongly recommend booking tickets in advance to reduce the queue. You can either take the lift all the way to the summit or the stairs to the second floor, which is around 1600 steps.
Cross the river to the Jardins de Trocadero and collect some photos from one of the best vantage points of the Eiffel Tower. Then, stroll along the river to the glorious Pont Alexander III and the nearby stunning Petit & Grand Palais.
Walk along the Champs-Élysées and stop at Ladurée for a delicious macaroon. Avoid the takeaway line by queueing up for the restaurant. Efficient servers whisk macaroon-only patrons past the gorgeous restaurant and up to the eccentric bar where it’s perfectly acceptable to lunch on macaroons and a cup of tea.
ARC DE TRIOMPHE
As the afternoon wanes, head to the Arc de Triomphe; one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Today the tomb of the unknown soldier sits at its base and the eternal flame commemorating those that died in war is re-lit every day at 18:30.
After admiring the decorative pylons from below, climb up to the viewing platform to enjoy one of the best views in town as the sun sets over the second day of your Paris itinerary.
Arc de Triomphe Skip-the-Line-Tickets // book your timed entrance rooftop tickets.
DAY 3 – BEAUTIFUL ARCADES & MONTMARTRE
On day 3, explore the beautiful covered arcades before heading out to Montmartre to start a classic Paris evening to finish this 3-day itinerary.
Start today at the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a magnificent railway station, it has the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. If the impressive collection of art isn’t enough, the building itself is stunning. It’s one of our favourite galleries in Paris.
Musée d’Orsay Skip-the-Line tickets // book your reserved access ticket.
Cross over the Seine and explore Jardin des Tuileries, the lovely garden between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. For a unique art experience, pop into Musée de l’Orangerie which houses Monet’s Water Lillies in a purpose-built modern room. The only place in the world you can see this creation.
Musée de l’Orangerie Skip-the-Line tickets // book your timed access tickets.
Stroll past the Place de la Concorde, l’Eglise de Madeleine and the rather impressive Palais Garnier, before grabbing lunch in the covered shopping arcades.
Passage des Panoramas is full of enticing food shops and quirky merchandise, the ideal place to grab some Paris souvenirs.
Passage Jouffroy is packed full of quaint boutiques and cute bookshops.
MONTMARTRE ESPACE DALÌ
In the afternoon hop on metro 12 at Notre-Dame-de-Lorette to Abbesses. Stroll up the hill and around the delightful squares of Montmartre, before popping into Espace Dalí.
It’s a fantastic collection of Dalí’s work and one of the many unusual things to do in Paris. The gallery has insightful information to help interpret his more inaccessible pieces.
As the light wanes head to Sacré Cœur. This dome basilica offers a picture-postcard Paris moment with excellent views across the city from the garden in front. Climb the 300 stairs to the top of the basilica for unrivalled views of the city in the fading light. Alternative, book this guided tour of the basilica which also includes a walk around Montmartre.
For dinner, head to one of the many french bistros that line roads of Montmartre – one of the great food experiences in Paris.
As the evening rolls in stroll down to Pigalle to explore the area around Moulin Rouge and enjoy a proper Parisian cocktail in one of the many places packed into Rue Frochot.
Dirty Dick gets our pick for the weird cocktails and friendly staff. But if you’re more sophisticated than us, you might enjoy Glass. Either way, it’s a great way to end your 3 day Paris itinerary.
DAY TRIP FROM PARIS
If you have time to extend your Paris itinerary to 4 days, spend it on one of the many interesting day trips from Paris.
VERSAILLES DAY TRIP
Soak up the lavish surroundings of Versailles and learn about the chequered history of the palace since the time of Marie Antoinette. Perhaps you have a thirst that you just couldn’t quench in Paris. If so, head to Reims– the heart of the champagne region. A champagne tasting tour is a great way to explore this beautiful area.
SOMME BATTLEFIELDS DAY TRIP
For something far more sobering, visit the Somme Battlefields to see where the horrors of the First World War took place. There are memorials from each country impacted in the battle and the trench system where much of the conflict took place is still intact.
GIVERNY DAY TRIP
At just 50 minutes from Paris, a day trip to the Monet Garden at Giverny is a stunning way to submerge yourself in the inspiration of one of France’s most celebrated artists.
WHERE TO STAY IN PARIS
We recommend staying in Le Marais 4th arrondissement. It has a cool vibe and a wide range of cafes, bars and restaurants that span the spectrum from cheap eats to fine dining. Le Marais is very central with many of the best sights nearby. Close proximity to a number of metro stations gives you access to easy transport links to other parts of the city.
Mama Shelter is a stylish and modern hotel, nestled among artists studios and cobbled streets in East Paris. They do simple French cooking in the kitchen and exotic cocktails in the trendy bar. The buffet breakfast is very good.
HIP & ELEGANT
Set in an 18th-century mansion, the Hoxton is designed to be relaxed and comfortable without the unnecessary frills. It’s buzzy, it’s cool and the aesthetic is designed for maximum satisfaction. The food is French styled small plates. Delicious.
Set in the bustling Le Marais district, 1K Paris delivers high-tech Peruvian style in an excellent location. The rooms and bright and spacious with excellent amenities. There’s a breakfast buffet but the Peruvian food really shines at dinner.
TIPS FOR VISITING TOURIST ATTRACTIONS IN PARIS
Book online for as many of the big attractions as you can so you can spend more time exploring Paris and less time waiting in a queue. If you are after more local discoveries then read our friend Karis post of her favourite less-visited Parisian sights. Also before you go, read this list of what not to do in Paris.
THE PARIS MUSEUM PASS
The Paris Museum Pass provides access to over 50 monuments and museums (permanent collections only) without the need to wait in line. If you see all of the sights in this itinerary, the pass will more than pay for itself.
There is currently a 2-day pass, a 4-day pass and a 6-day pass. We recommend the 4-day pass for this itinerary which you can purchase here.
Please keep in mind, due to COVID restrictions, you will need to pre-book a timeslot for most attractions in Paris, even with the Paris Museum Pass. Face masks are mandatory in all indoor sites in Paris.
OPENING HOURS IN PARIS
Most stores in Paris usually operate from 9:30am to 7:30pm, Monday to Saturday. Most large department stores open late on Thursday evenings, usually until around 9 or 10pm.
Shops in tourist areas will usually be open on Sundays.
The museums and art galleries have different opening times so it’s important to check before you go. As mentioned above, with COVID a timeslot needs to be pre-booked in advance so it’s hard to go wrong.
Please note: Many museums in Paris close on either Monday or Tuesday.
OUR RECOMMENDED PARIS TOURS
We recommended booking the most popular tours in advance, particularly for the Eiffel Tower visit which can have staggeringly long queues.
GETTING AROUND PARIS
Most international flights land at Charles de Gaulle airport. It’s a 40-minute taxi ride to the centre of Paris, but it’s much cheaper to hop on the métro and take RER line B.
The Eurostar arrives at Paris Gare du Nord station, from where it’s easy to catch the metro into central Paris.
By far the best way to get about the city is to walk. Paris is simply a stunning place to amble around. Our Paris itinerary strolls the best parts of the city without doing too much walking on any one day.
PARIS METRO TICKETS
The Paris Visite Travel Pass provides unlimited travel on all public transport in Paris including the metro, tram, bus and train network, covering the airport, Disneyland Paris and Château de Versailles.
The price for 3 days is €26.65 for the Paris area or €53.75 to include day trips from Paris. This is probably excellent value if you were using public transport regularly, however, because we have designed this Paris itinerary to be walkable, the pass is not worth if you intend to follow our guide.
A better option is to purchase a “Carnet” of 10 tickets from the vending machines at the metro station when you arrive which cost 16.90. The vending machines are easy to use, but they only take coins or credit/debit cards.
BEST TIME TO GO TO PARIS
The best time to visit Paris is during the shoulder seasons of April to June and September to November. The crowds are fewer than in summer and the temperature milder than winter. Our personal favourite is May to June when the gardens are green and packed with flowers and the days are long.
But to be honest, any time is a good time to visit Paris.
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Here are some more of our France guides you might find useful.
The best coffee in Paris
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Idyllic rural life in the beautiful Dordogne
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