Between the museums, the food, the churches, the cobblestones, and the history, planning a trip to Paris can be both inspiring and intimidating. Although one can spend three weeks in Paris and still not experience all that the City of Light has to offer, most of us only have a handful of days or a long weekend to soak it in. Typically, I’m a big advocate of creating a list of interests and seeing how many I can tick off by the end of a trip…while being open to spontaneous adventures. But, when it comes to a first time trip to Paris, many people want a solid plan.
My first bit of advice is to walk. I know, I know, this is normally my advice, but trust me, Paris is an extremely walkable city. The Paris Metro does make all of the sights easily accessible, and it does seem rather dreamy to rent a bicycle and bike around town…so, I’m not sure you can really go wrong. My preferred method, though, is walking – its easy to see hole-in-the-walls, get caught in a shopping passage, and find yourself in the perfect picnic spot.
My second piece of advice is to get the Paris Museum Pass. This pass includes major monuments (not the Eiffel Tower) as well as many museums across the city. It also ensure that you get to skip the line for several of the attractions. It is well worth it to get the four day pass, even if you are only visiting for three days.
If you’re looking for the perfect three-day itinerary to hit all of the highlights on your first trip to Paris, look no further!
Start Day One with a bang! Make the Iron Lady your first stop. Visit the Eiffel Tower early to avoid long lines. Walk through the gardens, take your obligatory photos, and, if you’re up for it, make your way to the top to soak in the Paris scenery.
When you’re finished being wind-swept and breathless, head across the Pont d’léna to Place du Trocadéro. Here you will find street performers, beautiful gardens, and one of the most picture perfect views of the Eiffel Tower. Every part of your first morning in Paris is Instagram GOLD.
Your next stop: Arc de Triomphe. Not only can you honor those who fought in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars, get a history lesson on your way to the top, and visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, you can also get quite the glute workout as you make your way to the terrace.
Take this opportunity to amble down the Champs Elysées Avenue. Though you will have to fight through mobs of tourists, it is worth it to walk down one of the most beautiful avenues in the world. Personally, I would skip the shops and overpriced cafes and make a beeline to Ladurée for macarons…aka pastel pastry heaven. Fill your belly and restore your energy with tiny, bright cookies and coffee before you head to either the Musee d’Orsay OR Musee de l’Orangerie for the rest of you afternoon.
Begin Day Two in the bustling cobblestone streets of Montmartre. Pay a visit to the highest point in the city, the Basilica du Sacré Couer. Pop in to bask in the gorgeous mosaic, stay for daily mass, held four times a day, and climb to the top of the dome (300 steps!). Spend the rest of the morning strolling down Rue des Martyrs, a central neighborhood market street. Weave in and out of the many fromageries, boulangeries, patisseries, cafes, and boutiques. Sample the olives, jams, baguettes, and of course, the wine (meander into La Cave des Martyrs for an excellent selection).
Spend the afternoon in the world’s largest museum and the former palace of the French royalty – Musee du Louvre. Be prepared to prioritize what you want to see, because you can’t see it all. The Louvre is HUGE! Most people flock to the Mona Lisa…but my must see is Winged Victory of Samothrace, followed closely by the Virgin and Child with St. Anne. Though, keep in mind that you could spend all three days in the Louvre and still not see everything.
At 6 pm, when the doors of the Louvre are closed, make your way to Le Marais for the evening. This former Jewish quarter, filled with historic architecture, mazes of medieval cobblestone, and picturesque courtyards, is now a trendy district, filled with hip boutiques, restaurants, and galleries. Stay in Le Marais, or neighboring Ménilmontant or Belleville for dinner and nightlife.
Begin Day Three early (again, to avoid the long lines) with a visit to Saint Chapelle and then to Notre Dame. Take your time soaking in the glories of gothic architecture. The stained glass windows, flying buttresses, pointed arches, and the finely detailed sculptures above the doorways…I could stand outside the West facade of Notre Dame for hours…but don’t just stand outside! Go in, and up! Get a Quasimodo’s eye view of Paris from the top of the bell tower. And do not miss the opportunity to make your way all the way to the top.
Next, make your way across the Seine on the Pont au Double, to pay a visit to Shakespeare and Company. Y’all know I am a sucker for a good bookstore. Well, this is not just a good bookstore, it is an amazing labyrinth of literary greatness. Get lost in a book, stare out a window, or people watch in this incredible place.
While you’re in the area, stay in the Latin Quarter for some cheap eats (crepe, anyone?!) and street markets. Continue to mosey into the neighboring Saint-Germain-des-Prés for quintessential Parisian shopping (or window shopping, if designer duds are out of your price range). Do make sure to visit Pierre Hermé for even more delicious macarons! While popping in and out of shops, keep an eye out for a baguette, delicious cheese, and a bottle of wine, because your next stop has to be Le Jardin du Luxembourg for a picnic. People watch, play chess, race sailboats, and simply enjoy the beauty of the gardens.
End your last day with a visit to the top of Tour Montparnasse for a perfect sunset view to say goodbye to Paris.
You can throw out the itinerary. Have a picnic, drink good wine, walk along the river, and take cheesey photos…either way, you’ll have the Perfect Three Days in Paris!