Are you planning a trip to Paris and wondering how many days you should spend there? This spring I spent a week in Paris, but that included several day trips. I came to the conclusion that three days in Paris is the perfect amount of time to see all the highlights.
Like any major city, it is impossible to see everything in just three days. However, I was able to pack a lot into my short amount of time in Paris. You can, too!
I definitely felt I got a taste of many arrondissements, or neighborhoods, just by walking around. This was actually one of the things I learned on my first trip to Paris: how walkable it is. If you are able-bodied and wearing comfortable shoes, you could walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre in under an hour if you wanted to.
This 3-Day Paris itinerary breaks the city up into three different sections. You’ll save time and energy by sticking to a section a day so that you can get the most out of your three days in Paris.
You can do these three days in any order, but I personally liked getting the classic sites done within the first day.
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If you are flying into Paris, you are most likely flying into Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG). From there you can take a cab, train, or bus to reach the city proper.
- By taxi: Taking a car from the airport is the easiest way to get to Paris, but also the more expensive option. There are taxi stands at each airport terminal. Just give the driver your desired destination address and hop in. (Depending on traffic, ride time can be anywhere from half an hour to an hour and a half.)
- By train: Taking the train is the fastest way to reach the city. You’ll want to take the RER B train, from which you can then transfer to your desired Metro station if need-be. Purchase a Navigo Easy Pass at any of the vending stations within the airport. You can then add money to your pass throughout your stay. (Ride time is about 35 minutes.)
- By bus: Look for signs for the Roissybus. You can purchase tickets at the airport bus stop or on the bus itself. The buses run about every 20 minutes and drop you off in the Paris Opéra district, which is a pretty central location. (Ride time is one to one and a quarter hour.)
This three-day Paris itinerary is designed to be walked. I think the best way to see a new city is by staying above ground and using your own two feet!
However, if your feet need a break, the Paris Metro system is easy to use and can get you everywhere listed below.
Uber is also available in Paris, in addition to regular cabs.
Where to Stay in Paris
If this is your first trip to Paris, it’s best to stay in a central location so you don’t have to spend your precious time commuting. That said, there are so many options of places to stay in Paris that you can’t go wrong.
Whether you stay in a hotel or Airbnb, just make sure to book it in advance.
Arrondissements in which I would recommend staying:
- 1st Arrondissement (The area around the Louvre)
- 6th Arrondissement (Across the river from the Louvre)
- 7th Arrondissement (The area near the Eiffel Tower)
On my first trip to Paris, I stayed at the Hôtel Le Walt by Inwood Hotels, located in the 7th Arrondissement, and it was delightful. Some of the rooms even have Eiffel Tower views!
Three Days in Paris Itinerary
As I said above, I liked seeing many of the classic Paris sites on the first day. Nothing says bienvenue more than seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time!
Paris can get quite crowded during the day, but if you wake up early, the city is still pretty quiet. Start the first of your three days by taking in one of the most popular views in Paris: Trocadero Square.
This public area has a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. Take photos from the top and then wander down through the gardens and past the central fountain.
Walking by the Eiffel Tower for the first time really made me realize I was actually in Paris! By viewing it up close, you can take in all the intricate details.
Fun Fact: The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be temporary! Built for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was originally meant to be dismantled after 20 years. However, it became useful for sending radio waves, so it remained standing.
Cross the River Seine via the Pont d’léna, and it’ll lead you right to the tower.
I would argue that you don’t need to go up the Eiffel Tower if it’s your first time in Paris. Similar to going up the Empire State Building in New York City: the better views are of the building not from the building. However, if you can fit it in to your three days in Paris, go for it.
By now, cafes and boulangeries should be opening up. Head east away from the Eiffel Tower and you’ll find quite a few food options. Grab a coffee and a fresh pastry to enjoy at a seat outside.
Try Maison Bergeron or Maison Othon along Rue Saint Dominique, or wander along the picturesque Rue Cler, which is known for its shops and restaurants.
It’s time to visit your first museum of the trip! The Musée d’Orsay is a great introduction to art in Paris. Visiting too many museums during your three days in Paris can be overwhelming, but if you hit any today it should be the Musée d’Orsay. The building has been a government palace, a train station, and now a museum.
One of the things I liked most about the Musée d’Orsay is that it has a little bit of everything. Granted, that means that there is a lot to see. I recommend picking up a museum map and picking about three sections you want to see.
Some highlights of Musée d’Orsay include:
- The Clock- overlook the Seine through the clock face on the top floor
- The Impressionists- works by Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Pierre-Auguste Renoir
- Post Impressionists- works by Vincent Van Gogh and Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec
- Terrace of Sculptures
Make sure to book your ticket in advance so it a) saves you time and b) doesn’t sell out!
While you can eat in the beautiful restaurant at the Musée d’Orsay itself, it can be (predictably) pricey. There are plenty of places to eat near the museum such as Cocorico or Les Antiquaires.
One of our favorite meals in Paris was brunch at Saint Pearl. (It’s about a 15-minute walk from the museum and well worth it.)
From the Musée d’Orsay, walk back across the Seine via the Pont Royal and visit the Tuileries Garden. This gorgeous 17th-century garden is dotted with statues, fountains, and rows of trees. It’s a great spot to have a seat for a bit if need be.
Musée de l’Orangerie
In the southwest corner of the Tuileries Garden sits the Musée de l’Orangerie. This museum is most famous for being the home of Claude Monet’s large water lily paintings. (He even helped design the exhibit himself.)
Smaller in comparison to the Musée d’Orsay or the Louvre, the Musée de l’Orangerie tends to be less busy. It was actually pretty peaceful to just sit and gaze at the water lilies.
In addition to Monet, the museum has other 20th Century art, including works by Picasso and Matisse.
Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe
Once you exit the Musée de l’Orangerie, head northwest along the Champs-Élysées. It’s known for being one of the most beautiful avenues in the world!
Fun Fact: “Champs-Élysées” is French for “Elysian Fields,” the separate, peaceful area of the Greek afterlife reserved for fallen heroes and mortals who led a righteous life.
Wander past luxury shops and restaurants until you reach the Arc de Triomphe. This recognizable arch is a monument honoring soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Beneath the arch also lies the WWI Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
You can (and should) climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe (but be prepared to wait in line, especially if you visit at sunset as I did). It’s a lovely view from the top, looking out at the “star” of streets with the arch as the epicenter.
Note: To reach the Arc de Triomphe don’t run across the circle of traffic! You don’t want to get into a terrifying game of chicken with French drivers. There is an underground tunnel at the intersection of the Champs Élysées and the Pl. Charles de Gaulle roundabout, which will bring you to the arch.
By now a) you’re probably hungry, and b) restaurants are open for dinner. Start walking back towards the river. You can find good places to eat along Avenue Kléber or Rue de Chaillot.
Watch the Eiffel Tower Sparkle
Once it is dark enough at night, the Eiffel Tower does its signature sparkle every hour on the hour. This was one of my favorite parts of my three days in Paris! Not only is it magical to see, but there was a feeling of fun and anticipation beforehand- similar to an audience quieting before a stage play.
If you’re on a budget, grab a bottle of wine and find a spot to sit along Port Debilly. You can then watch the tower sparkle from across the river.
If you want to splurge a bit, try an evening river cruise along the Seine.
The second of your three days in Paris is full of history…and desserts!
You have a busy day ahead, so pick up another pastry (maybe a kind you didn’t try the day before) and head out.
The Palais-Royale is a former French palace built in the 1600s. It was originally built for the powerful Cardinal Richelieu.
You don’t have to go inside, but swing by the Courtyard of Honor, which is known for its black and white column art installation by Daniel Buren. The gardens are also lovely to peruse.
The Musée de Louvre
The Louvre Museum is the most-visited museum in the world, so even if you’re only in Paris for three days, it is a must-see. The palace itself is a work of art.
Inside you will find 35,000 pieces of art! It would take you days to see everything; so, again, just pick a few sections you want to see.
Some highlights of the Louvre include:
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace- an ancient Greek statue, stunning even though she’s missing her head
- The Venus de Milo- another famous Greek statue, stunning even though she’s missing her arms
- Liberty Leading the People- a French painting of the “July Revolution” of 1830 (Liberty is just missing the shoulder of her dress)
- The Napoleon Apartments- the gorgeous gilded apartments of Napoleon III
Note: The painting of Mona Lisa is the most famous piece in the Louvre. However, you can get a good view of her without waiting in line! Just keep to the side and walk by the stanchions and you’ll see her just fine.
Like most museums in Paris, make sure to purchase your ticket ahead of time! Book your timed-entry Louvre ticket here.
Wander east along the Seine to reach the Île Saint-Louis. If you’re hungry, swing by Le Péleton for a quick bite or Le Trumilou for something a little more hearty. Cross the Pont Marie to reach the little island of Saint-Louis.
While there, you have to stop at Berthillon for ice cream! You can choose from about 70 flavors of ice cream and sorbet. Everything is made on site, and the ice cream is so creamy and delicious.
Île de la Cité
Cross the Pont Saint-Louis to reach Île de la Cité. The most iconic part of Île de la Cité is the Notre Dame de Paris. The beautiful Gothic cathedral is still closed to the public as they rebuild after a devastating fire destroyed part of the roof in 2019. (But you can still stand outside it and sing songs from Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame all you like…)
It’s also worth swinging through the flower market on Île de la Cité (officially called Marché aux Fleurs Reine-Elizabeth-II).
From Notre Dame if you cross south to the Left Bank of the Seine, you’ll be in the Latin Quarter. The Latin Quarter, or the 5th Arrondissement, is the oldest part of Paris. It is named such because it has always been an area of university students, many of which spoke Latin until the late 1700s.
Wander cobblestone streets and pop into local bistros, markets, and shops. Being an area of schools and learning, you’ll find some fun bookstores, including Shakespeare & Company
Grab a pastry from Odette!
Continue walking southwest and you’ll reach the Luxembourg Gardens. This large, beautiful park is full of places to sit and relax, while admiring manicured flowers and greenery.
Some of my favorite spots are the Medici Fountain (built in 1620) and the Grand Basin in front of the palace. There are over 100 statues throughout the gardens, including a tiny Statue of Liberty on the west side of the park.
The Catacombs of Paris
One of the most fascinating things to do during your three days in Paris is walking through the Catacombs. While the idea of walking amongst human remains miles below the city might sound daunting, it is one of the most popular attractions in Paris.
You will learn about how underground limestone quarries became the solution for overcrowded Parisian cemeteries, and how bones were transferred and organized in the tunnels.
The curators have done an excellent job over the years of creating an experience that is somber, but not sad or scary. You can walk through the Paris Catacombs at your own pace with an audio guide.
Since it is one of the most popular things to do in Paris, make sure to book your entrance tickets to the Paris Catacombs ahead of time. They release tickets seven days in advance, so keep an eye on them.
On the last of your three days in Paris, enjoy a slower morning in an artsy, historic neighborhood, and then finish it out overlooking the roofs of the city.
The 18th Arrondissement of Paris is called the Montmartre district, and it’s located on a hill in the northern part of the city. Many impressionist artists lived and/or worked in Montmartre during the Belle Epoque era, and it has retained much of its artsy-neighborhood feel.
Things to see in Montmartre:
- Sacre Cour Basilica: The most recognizable building in Montmartre is the white-domed basilica at the top of the hill. The church is free to visit, but there is a small fee to climb the steps to the dome. On a clear day you’ll be treated to awesome views of Paris.
- Moulin Rouge: Made famous by the 2001 film of the same name, Moulin Rouge is a dancehall known for being the birthplace of the “can-can” dance. Today, you can still see live entertainment there, albeit a bit more touristy than when it opened in 1889.
- Wall of Love: This tiled mural features the words “I love you” in over 250 languages. It was created by artists Fédéric Baron and Claire Kito in 2000.
- Vigne du Clos Montmartre: Harkening back to its more pastoral days, you can visit the last remaining vineyard in Paris. Once a year the grapes are harvested and turned into wine…which is famously terrible.
Popular photo spots in Montmartre:
- Maison Rose: This quaint pink restaurant has been all over social media in recent years.
- Le Consulat: Said to have been visited by famous artists of the day, this cafe has been around since the early 19th century.
- Rue L’Abreuvoir: This street is one of the most photographed streets in Paris…and for good reason. The ivy-covered walls are picturesque at any time of year.
Once you’ve spent your morning walking around Montmartre, maybe having brunch or lunch while you’re there, it’s time to walk south.
Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House)
From Montmartre, the Paris Opera House (officially called the Palais Garnier) is about a half-hour walk.
Whether or not you are a theater fan, the Palais Garnier is worth visiting. From the marble steps and gilded banisters of the grand staircase to the chandelier hanging in the auditorium, the building is just beautiful.
The Palais Garnier was constructed between 1861 and 1875, and it is named after its architect, Charles Garnier. Today it houses the Paris Ballet, just as it did when Degas was painting his famous ballerina paintings.
You can tour the public areas of the theater during opening hours when performances aren’t going on. Make sure to book your Palais Garnier entry ticket in advance!
The Paris Opera House is perhaps most famous for being the setting of Gaston Leroux’s novel, and the subsequent Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, The Phantom of the Opera. There is indeed a box seat in the auditorium that is kept empty for the ghost (or musical genius) that is said to haunt the theater…just in case.
Galeries Lafayette Rooftop
One of my favorite things during our few days in Paris was going to Galeries Lafayette. This famous Parisian department store is across the street from the opera house.
Paris is the fashion capital of the world, after all, so if there’s one store to visit, it is Galeries Lafayette. If you’re so inspired, you can browse the floors of chic clothing, items, and accessories that all sit under the giant, beautiful glass-domed ceiling.
However, if your wallet won’t allow fancy purchases, head straight to the eighth floor of the mall. There you will be treated to a view that is, well, priceless!
The roof at Galeries Lafayette gives you a 360-degree view of Paris, with the Palais Garnier right across the way. You can see the Eiffel Tower on one side, then look up at Montmartre on the other side.
It’s free to visit the roof, but if you want to enhance the experience, there is a seasonal restaurant up there, as well. It was so lovely to drink a glass of wine while taking in the gorgeous views.
Last Night in Paris
Now that it is your last night in Paris, spend it how you will. Want to catch a show? Eat at a fancy restaurant? Stay in your hotel and drink champagne? The possibilities are endless.
You’re probably exhausted from taking in all that the city has to offer, but I hope this three-day Paris itinerary helped you see as much as you could.
If you happen to have a day or two longer in Paris, here are some things also worth mentioning:
- Take a day trip: One of the best things to do in Paris is to escape it for a day! Whether it’s by train, tour bus, or renting a car, you can easily get out of the city for a day. Popular day trip destinations include Rouen, Versailles, and Giverny.
- More museums: If you enjoy them, there are plenty more museums to see in Paris. In addition to the ones listed in the above itinerary, other great museums include the Musée Rodin, the Musée National Gustave Moreau, and Musée de la Vie Romantique.
- Wander Le Marais: If you’re a literary or history buff, you will want to spend some time in Le Marais. This was the neighborhood in which Victor Hugo lived, and it is now one of the most fashionable districts in Paris. You can also find the Place de la Bastille in the east corner of the area.
I hope this itinerary helps you plan the perfect three days in Paris. It truly is a beautiful city, and I look forward to exploring it more.
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