Last updated on February 27th, 2022
With grand boulevards lined with grand monuments intersecting narrow streets hiding charming bistros and specialty shops, pack your walking shoes and get ready to explore the City of Lights. Paris is romantic, cultural, breathtaking, timeless and any other cliches you can think of. It’s an open-air museum, a mosaic of neighborhoods each with their own DNA and rich history. This 3 days in Paris sample itinerary will help you plan your trip, whether spending a long weekend in Paris or visiting the city for the first time.
Paris is one of the greatest cities on the planet and it is simply impossible to properly experience all of its top highlights during the course of a three-day visit. Believe me, I spent over three months in Paris and I still didn’t manage to see everything. This guide attempts to strike a balance between the urge to “see it all” and the need to remain sane. It is more geared towards first-time visitors to Paris and careful consideration has been put into the selection of each day’s itinerary, though it is action-packed.
Several sections make up this travel guide:
This map contains all the places mentioned in this sample Paris itinerary. Click on the image to open in Google Maps
Over the course of spending three months in Paris, I’ve managed to make all the possible mistakes and learn a few tips and tricks. Though this list might be slightly long, I’m sure there’s some gold in there for you!
Like in any large city, use your common sense when exploring Paris. I’ll mention a few Paris-specific safety tips, not taking into account recent terror threats.
OK, now that we know how to outsmart other tourists and how to stay safe in Paris, it’s on to the next challenge: where to base yourself while visiting Paris? I’ll list a few of my favorite areas in addition to practical ones, but if you wish to just pick and choose on your own, here’s a full list of all Paris accommodations that you can book online via booking.com.
Trendy: the Marais district (3rd and 4th arrondissements) offers a central location coupled with a small neighborhood feel. It’s the place to hang out on Sundays and it’s just a few minutes on foot to some of the city’s top highlights. Here’s a full list of Marais accommodations.
Chic: the streets and boulevards of the upscale Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood (6th arrondissement) are lined with boutiques, sun-drenched cafes, and monuments. Oh, and the Luxembourg Gardens are just a stone’s throw away. Here’s a full list of Saint Germain accommodations.
Historic: narrow lanes, magnificent churches and even the remains of the old city walls – that’s why I love the Latin Quarter (5th arrondissement). It’s one of the most sought-after Parisian neighborhoods and, like the adjacent Saint Germain des Pres, it’s super close to the Luxembourg Gardens. Here’s a full list of Latin Quarter accommodations.
Central: if you want to be in the “heart of the action”, the Grands Boulevards of central Paris likely boasts a few bargain deals. Here’s a full list of Central Paris accommodations.
Hipster: first-time visitors to Paris rarely head east of the Canal Saint-Martin (10th arrondissement) – a changing neighborhood that is kind of “hipster-central” these days due to the relatively sane housing prices. Here’s a full list of the area’s accommodations.
The first of these 3 days in Paris will be action-packed, just like the rest of our first-time visit to Paris. We’ll concentrate our efforts on some of the top sites in the Right Bank of the River Seine, beginning in the heart of central Paris before working our way down to the river.
If you can get an early start to the day, get off at Pigalle or Saint-Georges Metro stations and grab breakfast in Rue des Martyrs. In addition to a number of cafes and bakeries, you’ll find a branch of Sébastien Gaudard – one of the best pastry shops in Paris. From here, it’s a pleasant walk to Palais Garnier – our first real stop on this day. Otherwise, you can head straight to the Opera station or grab breakfast in the cafes along Boulevard Haussmann, which is also a prime shopping area.
Built between 1865-1872, the Palais Garnier (also known as Opera Garnier), is one of the finest buildings in a city that has no shortage of impressive landmarks. It was built during the Napoleon III era, a period of time when Paris received a massive facelift which turned the city into one of the world’s urban jewels. With an impressive exterior, the real grandeur of the Palais Garnier is best experienced inside its walls either as part of a self-guided tour or an evening at the opera. Here’s a detailed guide to visiting the Palais Garnier.
From the palace, walk down Avenue de l’Opera to the Palais Royale. Wrapped by government offices, the central courtyard of this former royal palace is one of the most romantic spots in Paris. As you exit the courtyard, a small square usually plays host to random classical music performances. If you have some extra time, grab a seat in the terrasse of Le Nemours and enjoy the show.
You can’t say you’ve visited Paris until you’ve set foot in at least one of these world-famous museums. Now, if you only have 3 days to spend in Paris, you’ll definitely need to choose one and you’ll definitely need to concentrate your efforts on a small portion of the chosen selection. These museums, especially the Louvre, are huge with a capital H. In any case, spend a bit of time exploring the Louvre’s main entrance – highlighted of course by the glass pyramid.
The basic difference between the two is that the Musée d’Orsay, besides being on the opposite bank of the River Seine, starts at the Impressionist era, whereas the Louvre focuses on the Classic period and works its way back to ancient times. Here’s a guide on how to best visit the Louvre and here’s a guide for the Musée d’Orsay. It is highly recommended, once again with a capital H, so purchase skip-the-line tickets for both museums in advance.
Another small tip, if you’re heading to the Orsay Museum, the small detour to cross over to the other bank on the Pont des Arts is well worth it. This is the famous “love bridge” though it should be noted that its love locks have been removed a few years ago as their combined weight was endangering the safety of the bridge.
As you exit the Louvre, walk in the direction of the Egyptian obelisk of Place de la Concorde, cutting through the beautiful grounds of the Tuileries Gardens. These former royal grounds are extremely popular with the tourist crowd. Highlights include the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel – built to commemorate Napoleon’s victories 30 years before its “big” sister up the road (also a prime spot for annoying hawkers), the garden’s exquisite stone sculptures, its manicured lawns, shady cafes and, of course, the central water fountain – an irresistible spot for grabbing a snooze on one of the free metal chairs. Oh, and there’s the Musée de l’Orangerie – but we really don’t have time for another museum.
At the western entrance to the Tuileries Gardens, the grand “roundabout” of Place de la Concorde lies at the bottom of the Champs Elysees. These days, it is hosts mad drivers, national parades, and summertime mini amusement parks but, back in the day, it hosted beheadings sponsored by the French Revolution. Decorating the plaza is the famous obelisk, hauled over from Egypt in 1831 and two classic Italian water fountains. Be sure to walk around the northeastern corner of the plaza to admire the symmetry – so much thought has been put into Paris!
Looking like the prettiest greenhouse that you’ll ever see, the Grand Palais is another iconic Parisian landmark. It was built for the Universal Exposition of 1900, a time when cities were showing off who’s got the biggest one. Built in Beaux-Arts style, the mostly steel and glass structure is still a functioning exhibition hall. Across the road, the Petit Palais is free to enter at all times and it is the home of the Fine Arts Museum (admission to the permanent collections is free). There’s also a charming cafe in the garden that’s just perfect for a coffee break before hitting the road.
The right and left banks of the Seine are connected by many bridges but none are prettier than the Pont Alexandre III. Like the Grand & Petit Palais, the bridge is another one of those grand construction projects to show Paris off to the world in the Universal Exposition of 1900. Famous for its gilded ornaments and Art Nouveau lamps, the bridge is one of the most romantic spots in Paris.
During spring and summer, there’s more action happening beneath the bridge than on top with a few pop-up bars springing to life. It’s the perfect spot in Paris to end your day. Bring your own drinks or grab a spot in one of the bars and enjoy the last few hours of what will probably be another one of those days in Paris that you just don’t want to come to an end.
It might sound super touristy, but cruising the Seine while dining or sipping a glass of champagne is an excellent way to wrap up this busy first day and to scout the next day’s highlights, in style. Quite a few of the city’s most famous monuments lie close to the banks of the river, giving you the opportunity to cover a great distance with minimal effort. The most popular route runs from the Eiffel Tower to Ile Saint Louis. There are quite a few options for evening Seine cruises, ranging from champagne tours to my personal favorite – a romantic dinner cruise.
Day two of your 3 days in Paris will be mostly spent in the Left Bank. It is once again an action-packed day but it will also include plenty of strolling in some of the city’s most splendid districts. We’ll start the day in upscale Saint-Germain-des-Prés before working our way back up to the River Seine via the historic Latin Quarter. We’ll then explore the islands of Paris – its oldest section – before wrapping things up in the trendy Marais.
Take the Metro to Saint-Germain-des-Prés station for breakfast in one of two iconic Parisian cafes: Les Deux Magots & Cafe de Flore. Epitomizing the neighborhood’s heyday, these legendary cafes hosted the city’s literary, artistic and intellectual elite of the time. Simone de Beauvoir, Picasso, Hemingway, James Joyce and many others wined and dined here. Though popular with tourists, the cafes are quite classy and well worth the morning visit.
Adjacent to Les Deux Magots, Place Saint Germain is always a happening place, often hosting street performers of the “classy” kind. Next door, the Église de Saint Germain des Prés is one of the oldest churches in all of Paris, dating back to the 6th century! Built, destroyed, and rebuilt over the centuries, the church is influenced by both Gothic and Roman styles. Between the marble columns and colorfully painted plastered walls, walking the perimeter of the church reveals these layers in time.
A few boutique-lined blocks from here, Saint Sulpice Square is another neighborhood masterpiece, decorated by a central fountain and dominated by the grand Saint Sulpice church. With one of its signature towers left unfinished, its interior is home to a chapel decorated with artwork by one-time neighborhood resident Eugene Delacroix. However, the church’s “real” draw is what remains of its solar observatory, highlighted by the famous ‘Rose Line’ – which you might recall from the Da Vinci Code.
If you’re in need of a quick people-watching-caffeine-break, head to Café de la Mairie which overlooks the square. If it’s more protein you’re after, head to L’avant Comptoir or one of its neighbors along this pocket of fine neighborhood eateries.
Surely one of the nicest urban parks in the entire world, the Luxembourg Gardens might owe their appeal to their royal origins. The gardens are the de facto buffer between Saint Germain and the Latin Quarter, the perfect place for a snooze, catching up on some holiday reading, a picnic lunch and for watching children sailing miniature yachts across the pond.
If Saint Germain is blessed with cafes, pastry shops, and boutiques – the Latin Quarter is blessed with Gothic monuments, ancient cobblestone lanes, and affordable bistros. If you’re wondering how the quarter got its name, look no further than to its top-notch academic institutions – like the Sorbonne – where students and clergymen from the district’s cathedrals spoke Latin and the name just stuck!
If you’re pressed for time, skip this paragraph and exit the Luxembourg Gardens straight to the Pantheon. However, if you’re of the curious kind, detour to the bottom of Rue Mouffetard and work your way up to Place de la Contrescarpe. Rue Mouffetard is essentially a “market street” and, back in the day, it marked the start of the Paris-to-Rome “highway”.
Strategically positioned on a hill so that no Parisian will be able to ignore it, the Panthéon is the Latin Quarter’s star attraction. Designed by King Louis XV as a church, the secular outcome of the French Revolution re-zoned this monument to a public space as a mausoleum honoring the nation’s finest. If there’s enough time, avoid the lines with this Pantheon pass and explore its magnificent interior. Oh, and be sure to head up the stairs and check out the view from the balcony.
Right next to the Pantheon, the Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is another highlight for classic European church-lovers like me. Otherwise, stroll along Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève and grab something to drink in Place Larue.
Cutting east, check out Place de la Sorbonne (good spot for lunch) and make your way to Place Saint Michel – a prime Parisian meeting spot and book-lover’s paradise.
With modest beginnings as a Celtic settlement on a small island in the middle of the River Seine, Île de la Cité is the very heart of Paris. Make landfall on the island by crossing Pont Saint-Michel from the Latin Quarter and head to straight to the Sainte-Chapelle using this priority entrance ticket.
The Sainte Chapelle is a 13th-century gothic chapel that has to be one of the finest in the world. Best visited when the sun is shining, the chapel’s interior is decorated with exquisite stained glass depicting scenes from the bible.
Across the street, another grand Parisian landmark – Notre Dame Cathedral. The good news is that entering the cathedral is free of charge. The bad news is that you’ll have to queue up but things move along quickly. You can join organized tours if you’re really interested in the ins and outs of the structure, otherwise, just marvel at the huge stained glass rose windows – the interior’s signature feature. If the interior isn’t enough, you can climb the towers of the cathedral and enjoy superb views from a terrace. Waiting time can last for well over 90 minutes so consider combining the tower visit with an organized cathedral tour in order to skip the lines.
Due to the tragic fire that destroyed large parts of the cathedral in April 2019, it is highly unlikely that you’ll be able to enter the cathedral anytime soon. Expect major changes to pedestrian traffic around Notre Dame. Stay up to date on the official website.
Before crossing over to Ile Saint Louis, check out Square Jean XXIII just behind the cathedral. It provides a good opportunity to admire the exterior of Notre Dame but also to snap a few classic Paris photos, especially from the Pont de l’Archevêché. This area (on both river banks) is also famous for the Bouquinistes – the Parisian booksellers whose green wooden stalls are ubiquitous around here. These days, many sell tacky souvenirs but you’ll still find a few antique gems here and there.
The smaller of the two, Ile Saint Louis is mostly a (super) upscale residential area… with a ton of history. The main draw is strolling down its main street in search of a few scoops of the best ice cream in Paris. I’m talking about the original Berthillon ice cream shop – not to be confused with its neighboring rivals who sell ice cream made by Berthillon. However, if the queue is too long at the source, head to the neighbors as you won’t really notice the difference in taste.
With your sweet tooth satisfied, head to Quai d’Anjou – the street which faces the Right Bank. The houses are pretty swanky around here and the views are at their finest on its southwest side.
Surely deserving more than what remains of this busy second day in Paris, cross the Pont Marie from Ile Saint Louis and enter the Marais. This former riverside swamp (marais) was settled in the 13th century when things started to get a bit too crowded on the islands. And, when King Henri IV built the beautiful Place des Vosges, the neighborhood appeal really took.
Since we don’t have much time, I recommended wrapping up the day around Place des Vosges. A stroll in a generally westward direction will give you a taste of this trendy neighborhood and will surely lead you to a restaurant or bar of your choice.
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!
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.
Pin These Images To Your Favorite Boards!