I’ve been to Paris four times, and I had four very different experiences each time. The first time I was with my family, old enough to remember a handful of things, but young enough to also not really comprehend what I was seeing. The second time was while I was studying abroad, and I was with a big group of people who were more focused on the best bars than seeing the historic landmarks. The third time was with a friend, but it was quite a rushed trip. And the most recently time was with my boyfriend, and the first time I really felt like I got to experience all that is Paris. And yes, there will be a fifth time. I would go back tomorrow if I could.
Of all the hotels I’ve stayed in, Le Petit Chomel in the 7th is my absolute favorite. It was so charming, the staff was so friendly, and it was in the perfect location. Close enough to walk to most places (except for places like Montmartre and Versailles, of course), and right off of the Sèvres-Babylone Metro to get everywhere else. For more on the hotel, check here. If you want to be in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés (I wouldn’t blame you, it is an awesome area), check out Hôtel Odéon Saint Germain, though Le Petit Chomel is very close to the border of Saint-Germain, so I’d still recommend it first!
There is obviously SO much to do in Paris, and even if you have a week you still wont have time to do it all. But here are some of my favorite things to see and do, and at the bottom of this post, I included a recommended itinerary for a 3-day trip in case that’s all you have time for!
- Take yourself on a self-guided walking tour: start at the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries, popping off at Rue de Castiglione to see Place Vendôme before heading back towards the Fontaine des Mers in the Place de la Concorde. Then head up the Champs Elysées towards the Arc de Triomphe
- Walk the bridges and take in the scenic views of the Seine: I’d start at the Pont des Artes, crossing from either side, then walk up along the Seine and cross back over Pont du Carrousel. Continue up the Seine crossing Pont Royal, Passerelle Léopold Sedar Senghor, Pont de la Concorde, Pont Alexandre III, Pont de Invalides, Pont de l’Alma, and eventually ending at the Eiffel Tower just across Pont d’léna
- The Eiffel Tower is a must, of course. The hardest decision here is whether you want to see it during the day or at night – I say both! I’ve only ever been up top at night, but it’s beautiful to walk the grounds during the day and then enjoy a glass of bubbly atop the tour at night. I’d buy your tickets to go up in advance to avoid the lines. Prices vary depending on whether you climb the stairs up (yes, that’s an option) or the elevator, as well as whether you stop at the 2nd floor or go all the way to the top, but they range from about 10 euro to 25 euro. Opening times vary depending on the time of year as well, but it opens between 9-9:30am and closes around midnight. You can get tickets in advance and confirm times here
- Spend a morning walking through beautiful Saint Germain des Pres. There are so many cute markets, cafes, and bakeries, with people playing music in the streets as you walk around
- Visit Notre Dame. I’d highly recommend buying tickets beforehand as the line gets very long. You can either just marvel from the outside (no tickets needed!), go inside and explore the magnificent Cathedral from the ground, or you can climb up to the top for some pretty beautiful views of Paris
- Explore the museums, the most popular ones being the Musée du Louvre or The Musée d’Orsay. You could easily spend a day in the Louvre, and definitely buy tickets beforehand. Get the Paris Pass (see further down in this post for more info on that) so you can skip the line, too. Plan to spend at least 3-4 hours here. The d’Orsay can be done in a little less time, though I’d still plan to spend a couple hours here. Again, buy tickets online in advance to save yourself from having to wait on a really long line. For information on prices and opening times, check here for the Louvre and here for the d’Orsay
- Live out all your Midnight in Paris fantasties with a visit to Montmartre. I’d recommend starting at Sacre Coeur Basilica and then taking your time wandering the streets towards Musée and then eventually finding your way back down. Explore all the little side streets, stairways, everything! There’s also Cimetière de Montmartre if you have time!
- One of my favorite Instagram-worthy buildings is Le Consulat (between Rue Norvins and Rue Saint-Rustique on Rue des Saules)
- If you were a fan of the movie, Le Moulin Rouge is worth passing by and seeing from the outside. The famous Bistro Le Chat Noir is also just down the road, but the area isn’t the best, so plan to move on pretty quickly
- The Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th are beautiful and the second largest park in Paris. Not a must if you’re limited on time, but especially if you’re staying in the vicinity, they’re worth a quick stroll around (or maybe a morning run if you’re so inclined!)
- The Hôtel des Invalides was a find on my most recent trip, and I am so glad we went. It’s essentially a monument to French Military History, and houses the tombs of several military leaders, including Napoleon Bonaparte
- And last but not least, a day trip to beautiful Versailles! Even though it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass, we still waited well over 1.5 hours on line to get in, so especially if you’re short on time, i’d recommend buying a Skip-the-Line ticket in advance – it’ll be well worth the extra money, trust me!
There are of course tons of other sites to see in Paris, like the Pantheon, Montparnasse Tower, and Les Catacombes, the above are just some of my favorites!
HOW TO SPEND THREE DAYS IN PARIS
I mentioned a ton of places above, but often we only have 2-3 full days to explore somewhere, and figuring out how to fit in all the highlights is a challenge. Here’s what I’d recommend as a starting point if you have three days in Paris, and then you can modify from there based upon your specific interests and priorities!
- DAY 1: EXPLORE ALONG THE CHAMPS ELYSEES AND VISIT THE EIFFEL TOWER
- Place de la Concorde
- Alexander Bridge
- Leopold Sedar Senghor Bridge
- Tuileries Gardens
- Place Venome
- Academie Nationale de Musique
- Arc du Triomphe
- Eiffel Tower
- DAY 2: NOTRE DAME, A MUSEUM, AND MONTMARTRE
- Grab breakfast from a market in Saint Germain des Pres
- Shakespeare and Company
- Notre Dame
- The Louvre or Musee d’Orsay
- Sacre Coeur Basilica
- Place du Tertre
- Montmartre District
- Moulin Rouge
- DAY 3: DAY TRIP TO VERSAILLES AND THE RIVE GAUCHE
- Versailles Palace and Gardens
- Luxembourg Gardens
- Hotel des Invalides
2-Day Paris Museum Pass
I mentioned the “Paris Pass” above. We bought a 2-day Paris Museum Pass through Viator (which we picked up in the airport, though you can also pick up at the Galeries Lafayette if you arrive via train). The cost was around 60 euro per person, so I’d highly recommend it if you plan to do more then 3-4 sights in 2 days. It covers these places and more: the Louvre, d’Orsay, Arc de Triomphe, Hotel des Invalides, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Montparnasse, and Versailles (excluding the gardens, that’s an additional 10 euro). The biggest thing it doesn’t include is the Eiffel Tower. You can purchase passes through Viator here!
What are your favorite places to see in Paris? Drop me a line and let me know what I should see on my next trip there!