Paris in 3 Days: A Paris Itinerary for First-Timers
Ah Paris. The city of light. The city of love. It’s a favourite destination for many and for good reason. The capital of France is not only beautiful to explore but offers plenty and see to do. From wandering through local neighbourhoods to discovering the treasures of world-famous museums. Not to mention the food scene, the shopping, and of course, the famous cabarets for nightlife. You could spend weeks exploring this city, but here are my top recommendations for those wanting to explore Paris in 3 days.
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How to Get to Paris, France
Getting to Paris by Plane
Paris is one of the biggest travel hubs in the world, which means it’s pretty easy to get to.
Paris has three main airports: Beauvais, Charles de Gaulle, and Orly. Most international flights go to Charles de Gaulle and Orly, while budget airlines (such as Ryanair) arrive at Beauvais.
Beauvais is quite far from the city centre, so you will need to take a bus or a train to get to Paris city centre. It will take about 1.5 hours, depending on your mode of transportation.
From Charles to Gaulle and Orly airports is a much shorter ride (about 45 minutes) and can be done by the RER trains. Tickets (one way or return) can be purchased at the airport.
Getting to Paris by Train
If you are coming from another destination in Europe, you can also arrive in Paris by train. There are several train stations in the city but the busiest stations are Gare du Nord or Gare de l’Est. City buses and metro lines connect both stations to the rest of the city.
*Insider tip: Paris public transit does not run 24/7. So if you arrive very early (or late) you will need to arrange a transfer or hire a taxi.
How to Get Around Paris
The best way to get around Paris is to use the metro. There are dozens of metro stations around the city making it easy to get around to all the different areas and attractions. Paris is quite big, you won’t be able to walk everywhere. Tip: buy metro tickets in packs of 10 to get the best deal.
The Best Time of Year to Visit Paris
Paris is a year-round destination but as with most European cities, it’s busiest in the summer. Personally, I love visiting in spring and fall. May, June, September, and October are all beautiful months to visit and slightly less busy (and a bit cheaper). I also love to visit in December for the Paris Christmas markets.
Where to Stay in Paris for 3 Days
Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements or neighbourhoods, and while many can argue that there is no bad place to stay in Paris, you will want to stay closer to the heart of the city as a first time visitor. That way, you can spend more time exploring, and less time riding the metro to get to the sites. For those exploring Paris in 3 days, I recommend staying in one spot. However, if you are going to be in the city longer, you might want to change up locations just to get a different experience.
Personally, my two favourite neighbourhoods to stay in are Montmartre and the Latin Quarter.
Montmartre, for me, is best described as old-world Paris. Winding cobble stone streets filled with cafes and boutiques make it one of the most picturesque parts of the city. Montmartre is famous for it’s art scene and it’s also where you can find the Sacre Coeur Basilica and Moulin Rouge. It’s my favourite neighbourhood in Paris and you can find some pretty affordable accommodation options here.
Recommended Paris hotels in Montmartre
- For Luxury: Terrass Hotel Montmartre
- For Midrange: Le Relais Montmartre
- For Budget: Le Village Hostel (dorms and private rooms)
The Latin Quarter
I also adore the Latin Quarter. The buildings in this area are beautiful and it’ a bit more central. The Latin Quarter is very close to Notre Dame, The Seine, and the Pantheon. I found Paris hotel prices here to be more expensive than in Montmartre, but it is a beautiful and central neighbourhood and worth the extra spend if you only have three days in Paris.
Recommended Paris hotels in the Latin Quarter:
- For Luxury: Residence Henri IV
- For Midrange: Grand hotel des Balcons
- For Budget: Oops! Latin Quarter Hostel
Another popular pick, especially for first-time visitors, is to get a Paris hotel with a view of the Eiffel tower. This can be pricey, but you can’t complain about the views. Here are some beautiful Paris hotels with views of the Eiffel Tower:
Another popular spot to stay is near Les Halles. This is a busy, touristic spot. However, it’s convenient for getting around. I’ve stayed in two hotels here that I really like and would recommend.
For individuals who are more concerned about budget than neighbourhood, check out my guide on cute and cheap hotels in Paris.
The Best Things to do in Paris in 3 Days
So what are the best things to do in Paris in 3 days? Where do I even start? There are millions of things to do in Paris so it’s definitely worth doing a little bit of planning to figure out what you want to see and do the most. Also consider the weather; is it supposed to rain one day? Choose that day for museums.
Another thing to keep in mind is that part of Paris’ charm are the streets, buildings, and neighbourhoods. While it definitely takes longer, I try to explore as much of the city as possible by foot. I’m not saying walk from Montmartre to the Eiffel tower, but you could walk from the Arc du Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower.
If that walking much is difficult or not an option, consider doing one of the hop-on hop-off bus tours. Paris is stunning and while the metro system is definitely handy, if you are a first-time visitor I think you should be above ground to really see as much of it as possible. Get tickets for the hop-on hop-off bus in Paris here.
With that being said, here are my favourite things to do in Paris that I think deserve a spot on your 3-day itinerary for Paris.
ps: If you plan on visiting a lot of attractions in Paris, it might be worth getting a Paris Pass (which includes the Paris Museum Pass).This includes entrance to 80 sites and attractions including the Louvre Museum, Palace of Versailles, Panthéon and more!
The Eiffel Tower
Getting a photo of the Eiffel Tower may be the most touristy thing to do, but it’s also a must. I’ll be honest; I’ve now been to Paris 7 times and I still haven’t actually been up the Eiffel Tower. I prefer a city view that includes the Eiffel Tower in it so I go to the base and surrounding area for photos every time I visit.
If you do want to climb the tower there are two ticket types: one for the elevator and one for the stairs. Not surprisingly, the stairs are the cheaper option. There are also two viewing platforms with the top being more expensive than the second floor. It’s a good idea to book your tickets in advance to skip the lines- they are long!
Arc de Triomphe
Located at the end of the Champ-Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe is another iconic Paris Monument. The structure is a war memorial honouring those who fought for France. Names are carved into the stone of the arch and there is also a memorial flame.
Ticket holders can also climb to the top where they will be rewarded with beautiful panoramic views of the city. I recommend going in the evening to see the city all lit up.
Get your skip the line tickets to the Arc de Triomphe here.
Notre Dame Cathedral & The Seine
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of my favourite buildings in Paris and I’m beyond grateful that I was able to visit before the big fire in April of 2019. Since the fire, Notre Dame has remained closed to visitors. However, it is still an important Paris landmark and worth walking by.
Notre Dame is located along the Seine and provides a perfect opportunity to walk along this famous river. While walking, keep an eye out for Paris’ beautiful bridges including Pont Neuf and Pont Alexandre III.
The Paris Catacombs
While not suitable if you don’t like tight, confined spaces (the stairs are tiny spirals), the catacombs in Paris are pretty awesome to explore (in an eerie way). You end up walking about 1.5km through tunnels lined with walls of ancient skulls and the remains from about six million people. Total time takes about one hour.
Get your tickets to the Catacombs here
If you love stained glass, then you absolutely HAVE to go to Saint Chapelle. This Gothic-style building has 1113 scenes from the Old and New Testament told through the stunning stained glass. Take the time to walk around and look at each window- the detail is exquisite. Just remember the main room is on the second floor- so don’t walk out without going up the stairs like I nearly did!
The Pantheon & The Latin Quarter
As I mentioned earlier, the Latin Quarter is one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Paris so plan on wandering around. The highlight here is the Pantheon; once a church but now a mausoleum. It contains the remains of some of France’s most important citizens including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.
While exploring the medieval streets of this part of Paris, also keep an eye out for Sorbonne University, Eglise Saint-Etienne du Mont, Eglise Saint-Sevérin Saint Nicolas, and the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Montmartre: Moulin Rouge & Sacre Coeur Basilica
As I said above, I absolutely adore Montmartre. Parts can be a little gritty (a couple streets are known for their sex shops), but overall it’s a beautiful neighbourhood that feels like a more authentic version of Paris. That is, once you get away from the crowds.
Most people just take their token photo of the Moulin Rouge, rush to the Sacre Coeur Basilica for more photos, and then head somewhere else. I love to get lost here. Find the back roads, the boutique shops, and the quiet cafes. When you go, be sure to find Rue Des Abesses; it’s one of my favourite streets to wander.
Insider tip: The view from the Sacre Coeur Basilica is gorgeous at any time, but especially at night when you can see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkly.
If you’d like to explore and learn a little more about Montmartre, consider taking this tour of the neighbourhood with a local guide.
Paris in 3 Days: The Best Paris Museums
Paris has dozens of museums, but if you only have three days in Paris, then there is no way you will have time to see them all. Unless you are a museum person, I suggest picking one, maybe two, and saving the rest for another trip.
The Louvre is by far the most popular and while I did enjoy going to see the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory, it wasn’t my favourite museum. I personally preferred the Musée d’Orsay; a converted old train station with a huge variety of artworks. A third recommendation, and one that you can spend a shorter amount of time in, is the Musée de l’Orangerie which houses Claude Monet’s famous Water Lillies. Find a spot on the bench in one of the circular rooms and just try to take it all in. It’s pretty incredible.
Consider Getting the Paris Museum Pass
Paris has dozens of amazing attractions, many of which come with a price tag. To get the ‘most bang for your buck’ consider buying a Paris Museum Pass which allows skip the line and free entry into more than 50 of Paris Museums and sites including the Notre Dame, the Louvre, Saint Chapelle, and more. If you plan on seeing a lot of the paid sites, it’s worth doing the math because, for my 2016 visit, the Paris Museum Pass definitely ended up being a money saver.
Order your Paris Museum Pass for 2, 4, or 6 days here.
Paris in 3 Days: Shopping in Paris
Whether you looking for high-end fashion, local boutiques, or vintage finds, Paris has a ton of shopping options. These are some of the most popular shopping areas of Paris.
Paris’s famous shopping street, the Champ-Elysees runs 1.9km long and is lined with shops and boutiques from the world’s top designers. Well-known brands such as H&M, Adidas, and the Disney Store can be found on this stretch, along with luxury brands including Channel, Luis Vuitton, and Longchamp.
Le Marais is a trendy Parisian neighbourhood with several shopping streets. From clothing to homeware, to perfume and even stationary, you can find just about anything in this part of Paris.
One of the best-known department stores in Paris, the Galleries Lafayette carry just about everything. There are a couple of locations, but I recommend visiting the flagship store on Boulevard Haussmann. It’s a beautiful art-nouveau building and has a rooftop terrace offering stunning views across Paris. If you happen to be in Paris at Christmas, stop here to see the famous tree!
Paris has several flea markets but the best known and most popular is Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, or Les Puces for short. Located on Rue de Rosiers, it is the largest antique market in the world and attracts up to 180,000 visitors over the course of a weekend. Les Puces is open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday though not all vendors operate on Mondays. If you are a dedicated shopper, or just looking to escape the majority of the crowds, come before lunchtime.
Paris in 3 Days: Where and What to Eat in Paris
Let’s be honest, there are a million things to come to Paris for but one of them is the food. Trust me when I say you will eat your way through this city.
Paris has lots of fine dining options and while you may be willing to splurge on a meal or two, you don’t have to. There are lots of great finds that won’t break your wallet. Just remember to get away from the main tourist areas and ignore the spots that have menus in seven different languages.
However, as delicious as the French cuisine is, let’s be honest; what everyone really wants to know is where to where to find the best baked goods. You know, the baguettes, croissants, macarons, and pastries? Well here’s my recommendations.
When it comes to Paris’ boulangeries, I really don’t think you can wrong. You can find some sort of bakery or café on every street or corner. But, if you feel like going for a bit of an adventure, I recommend searching out Ble Sucre (delicious pastries) and Le Pain Au Naturel (amazing bread and croissants).
As for French macarons, Ladurée is probably the best known, but I have two different favourite spots. The first is Pierre Herme. We stumbled across this one by accident but were later told by a Parisian chef that, in her opinion, Pierre Herme has the best macarons in all of Paris. I’m no chef, but I went back three times during my three days in Paris. I also love Christophe Roussel, which I discovered in Montmartre. Again, I went back more than once. While I’m sure that Paris is full of delicious macarons, (and definitely think you should sample as many as possible) I absolutely recommend keeping an eye out for these two names.
Of course you can’t forget about chocolate. Angelina is a must for hot chocolate (you can sit in the cafe or get it to go), Maison du Chocolat for ganache and eclairs, and Edward Chocolatier has some of the most unique flavours I’ve tried. Get the basil, it sounds strange but so good!
If you have a sweet tooth, check out the pure chocolate tour offered by Irene found here. I’ve done a couple tours with her and they are fantastic!
Paris in 3 Days: Nightlife in Paris
Paris nightlife has a lot to offer. From cool cafes to dance clubs, night tours and cabaret shows there is something for everyone.
The Moulin Rouge is the best known Burlesque show in Paris, however, while it may be the most famous it’s not the only one. Two other very popular choices are Lido and Crazy Horse.
Le Moulin Rouge is a classic with stunning costumes, entertaining numbers, and daring tricks. I’ve been twice now and loved every minute of it. Personally, if you love live entertainment and shows, I think that the Moulin Rouge in Paris is a must.
Get your Moulin Rouge tickets here
Le Lido is the most high-tech of the shows and the larges cabaret in Paris. Sequins, feathers, and talented dancers perform in this show which is said to be an ‘ode to Paris’. As with the Moulin Rouge, visitors can get tickets for dinner + show, or just the show.
Le Crazy Horse is definitely the most risqué of the shows and is considered to be an ode to feminine beauty. Racy costumes and super sexy numbers are the big feature here. Le Crazy Horse is show only, there are no dinner options.
Book tickets to Le Crazy Horse here.
Clubs and Bars
Paris isn’t exactly known as a party/dance club city and does tend to have a bit of a reputation for bully-type bouncers and high entry fees. However, if you really want a night out on the town, there are a few cool places to check out.
Batofar is a converted barge that sits floating on the Seine. Hiphop, techno, rock, and electric music pulse until the early morning here, making it a great place to dance the night away.
La Machine du Moulin Rouge is a three-floor live music venue and dance club. It was once the boiler room for le Moulin Rouge, but today it’s decorated with a cool Alice-in Wonderland theme. Techno and EDM are the main DJ sets here, plus with room for over 800 people, it promises to be a party.
For something different, head to the Experimental Cocktail Club. It’s a tiny spot but renowned for their delicious, though unusual, cocktails. It fills up quickly though, so try to arrive before 9pm if you want a seat.
Paris by night is beautiful. The city really comes alive when the sun goes down and lights up with millions of twinkling lights, making it a magical time to explore. There are Paris illumination tours that will show you the best parts, or you can do your own tour and visit some of the city’s best viewpoints on your own to see the city sparkle. Whatever you decide, make sure you go somewhere where you get a view of the Eiffel Tower. From sunset until 1-2am (depending on season) it glitters for five minutes on the hour. It’s definitely something you don’t want to miss.
Some fun night tours worth looking at include:
Paris illuminations night cruise
Twilight Open Top Bus tour with pastries and champagne
Paris Dark City Secrets Walking Tour
Have More Than 3 Days in Paris?
Paris is a large city, and you could easily spend weeks exploring its secrets. Exploring Paris in 3 days will give you a good feel for the city, but if you have more time there is still plenty to see and do.
If you’ve already visited the main attractions, consider taking a cooking class or even a food market tour with a local chef. There are also some lesser known museums worth exploring, or you can just get lost in the outer arrondissements.
For those who love nature, Paris has many beautiful parks including my personal favourite, Parc des Buttes Chaumont which is off the beaten tourist track and full of locals. It’s beautiful to wander around and the temple-like pavilion atop the hill in the middle offers beautiful views across to Montmartre.
Paris also makes a great base for day trips to the surrounding countryside, cities, and historic castles. Check here for my recommendations of the best day trips from Paris.
With so much to see and do in this city, it’s easy to explore Paris in 3 days.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Paris
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.
Planing a Trip to Europe? Don’t Forget:
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You picked great spots! Another incredible museum (which will be reopening this spring) is the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages. This is where The Lady and the Unicorn tapestry can be seen. Not only is it amazing to see the progression of art during this time period, but it is housed in an incredible former monastery and site of Roman baths. They also do some really incredible, small concerts with musicians that specialize in music and instruments of the middle ages. It’s really a special place!
Sounds interesting! I’ll have to check it out next time!