Day 3: Champs Elysees, Eiffel Tower and Montmartre
Our action-packed 3 days in Paris are coming to an end but I promise we’ll wrap up in style. On this third day, you’ll have to bear with me as we’ll have to cover some distance between areas that are not as closely related as in the previous two days. To overcome the challenge, we’ll simply use the metro! We’ll start things off at the Arc de Triomphe, followed by a visit to the Eiffel Tower. Since Paris is the city of romance, we’ll finish with a visit to the hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre.
Though it does have a few pockets of charm, the 8th arrondissement is certainly not at par with some of the other neighborhoods we’ve visited so far. Unless you came to Paris to focus on luxury shopping, simply take the metro to the George V Metro station and stroll along the famous avenue to the Arc de Triomphe – our first stop of the day.
One of the most recognizable landmarks in the entire world, the arc was commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate his victories and was completed in 1836, after 30 years in the making. It has become a symbol of military strength, so it’s no wonder that every conquering army made a point of it to march along the avenue and through the arc. The Prussians did so and most recently, the Nazis. You can freely explore the base of the Arc and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, but better yet, you can skip the (horrible) lines with this Arc de Triomphe ticket and climb the 200+ steps all the way to its terrace. Your effort is rewarded with one of the best panoramic views in all of Paris!
Now, it really isn’t a must to spend more time strolling the Champs Elysees. The Avenue of Champions has lost most of its past glory and, these days, it’s mostly home to international chains. For the real “luxury tour”, you’ll need to explore the street blocks forming what is known as the “golden triangle” (Triangle d’Or).
I recommend heading underground and grabbing a Metro to Trocadero Station. Built for the 1878 World’s Fair, the Trocadero Palace is now home to a number of modern art museums but, more importantly, the prime Eiffel Tower viewing area. Word of caution – you will need to share the space with hoards of other tourists and souvenir-selling hawkers. So here’s a pro tip to help you out (if you have the extra time): you can also get excellent Eiffel Tower shots from Pont de l’Alma and if the sun is facing the Trocadero Palace, walk to the southeastern section to Champs de Mars (a bit of walk though).
Erected for the 1889 Universal Expo, the most iconic Parisian landmark was actually meant to be dismantled after the expo. Stretching to a height of 300 meters, these days the Eiffel Tower is a pretty restricted area for security and crowd-control reasons. Unless you plan to climb the tower (purchase tickets in advance), you will likely need to circumnavigate your way around if you want to get a close-up view. You can also join thrilling tours to the tower’s summit or guided tours to the second floor and take advantage of dedicated lines.
With cobblestone lanes leading to tiny squares and panoramic vistas, a village-like atmosphere and the best (free) views of Paris – Montmartre is as romantic as Paris gets. With interesting religious origins (which I won’t get into here), Montmartre’s rise to fame was during the late 19th century, when artists from around Paris began to move up to the hill in search of cheap rents and freedom from the institutions. Dali, Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and many others spent some time here during those decades. Montmartre became the place to be for free thinkers, artists, and partygoers. The neighborhood’s parties became the talk of the town and everyone flocked to see the cabarets and sexy shows.
If you’re short on time, head straight to the Sacre Coeur Basilica. However, I’ll list a few highlights on the way just in case.
Approach the hill from charming Rue Lepic and grab a bite to eat in one of its cafes, most notably Café des Deux Moulins – featured in the film Amélie. Continue the climb (and the fine views) along Rue Tholozé and make your way to the neighborhood’s central square – Place du Tertre. Keep your cool as the square is packed with tourists but it is worth spending a few minutes gazing at the portrait artists in action before moving along.
Next up are Place du Calvaire and Square Nadar where, respectively, you can admire views of the famous staircases leading up to the neighborhood and of the Eiffel Tower in the far distance.
For the main event, head to the Sacré Coeur Basilica. Commanding the summit of butte Montmartre – the highest point in Paris – this magnificent church only opened for business in 1919. Its signature tower and baby-bottle-like domes can be seen from almost any point in Paris. The view from the adjacent terrace is magnificent but this is also a prime spot for pickpockets so take extra care.
You can explore the basilica’s interior free of charge but I recommend paying a few Euros which will allow you to descend to the crypt and to climb the 300 steps to the top of the dome for spectacular panoramic views of Paris.
Before heading back down, check out the charming lanes spanning northwest of the basilica in the direction of Square Suzanne Buisson and Place Dalida. Here, you’ll find some of the neighborhood’s “classic” views of narrow lanes, steep staircases, and houses to die for!
Evening in the Moulin Rouge
Depending on who you ask, attending a show at the legendary Moulin Rouge is a great way to end your 3 days in Paris. The famous theatre, topped with the spinning windmill and young girls dancing the sexy Can-Can, has been a part of Paris since 1899. Note booking well in advance is recommended and here’s a guide to the Moulin Rouge to help you plan your visit.
I hope you’ve found this 3 days in Paris sample itinerary useful for planning your own adventure! Be sure to check out this Best of Paris Collection and add some of your favorite cafes, pastry shops, restaurants, and more to your own itinerary. Au revoir.
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