Planning a short trip to Paris can be as exciting as it is overwhelming. There are so many things to do in the French capital that spending only three days in Paris can seem challenging. Here’s our optimized three-day itinerary which is actually perfect to explore the best sights of the City of Lights.
Where to stay in Paris
If you only have 3 days in Paris, you want to maximize your time with visits and avoid wasting it in transports. So stay in the city center (“Intramuros”), where most attractions are located.
If you’re looking for a vibrant area, look for accommodation in the 11th arrondissement (Oberkampf) and the 5th arrondissement (Quartier Latin, Pantheon). If you prefer somewhere stylish and trendy, check out accommodations in the 4th arrondissement (Le Marais) and the 1st arrondissement (Ile Saint Louis).
Make sure to read our Where to Stay in Paris guide where we go through every arrondissement with what there is to do & see there as well as the pros & cons of each neighborhood in Paris.
Parisian public transports at night can be hard to understand for a new tourist, so it is recommended to go back to your hotel by cab. Or if you’re not too far, walking by night in the streets of Paris is lovely if you stick to the main streets.
$40 off Airbnb, there are tons of Airbnb’s in Paris that can save you a ton of money
Is 3 days in Paris enough?
Three days is a good amount of time for your first trip to see most of the highlights, however, you are not going to see it all. We have put this guide to gather to help you maximize your time in Paris cramming all of the city’s best into a fun filled 3 days.
What do to in 3 days in Paris?
Day 1 in Paris: Iconic City Sights
Capital cities can sometimes be impressive. It’s not natural to know how to take the public transport or walk from one place to another when you’ve never seen even one street of the city. That’s why using a hop-on-hop-off tourist bus for your first day in Paris can be more comfortable, book tickets here. There is even a hop-on-hop-off cruise in Paris that goes up and down the Seine River, buy tickets now only $20 in advance online.
You can then relax on a Seine River cruise that starts close to the Eiffel Tower. For one hour, you will see Paris and its main attractions from a different perspective.
You will be impatient to see it, so make a stop at the Trocadero and walk to the Eiffel Tower to take legendary pictures. I wouldn’t recommend climbing it. It takes time, and the view of Paris without the Eiffel Tower is a bit lame: something is missing (the Eiffel Tower which you are standing on!). If you want to go up, you can bypass the queue by taking the stairs to the first level, and then catch the elevator. It is a good fitness exercise! If you do you plan on going to Eiffel Tower summit we highly suggest buying the Eiffel Tower skip the line tickets in advance, this will save you hours, literally hours!
Back on the bus, you’ll see the beautiful Invalides and cross of my favorite bridge in the world: the Pont Alexandre III. You will go past the Grand Palais, the Concorde roundabout and the Madeleine church to the Opera. The Opera Palais Garnier is beautiful from the outside, but you’ll be amazed by what you will discover inside. Once you are in this area, have a look at the Galleries Lafayette and its old covered passages like the Passage des Panoramas. You will find many places to have lunch in this area.
In the afternoon, you can visit the Louvre Museum. Make sure you have a ticket to skip the line, get one here for only $20.
Take the bus one last time to go up the famous Champs Elysees and stop at the end to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. You will get panoramic views of the Champs Elysees and Place de l’Etoile from above. If you get the timing right, you could catch the sunset from up there. Make sure you don’t cross the crazy roundabout: there is a tunnel for pedestrians.
For a unique Parisian experience, you can head to the Lido or Crazy Horse for a cabaret show.
Day 2 in Paris: Walk around the vibrant heart of the city
Your second day in Paris will focus on exploring the heart of the city. It is recommended to start early: if you go to Notre Dame de Paris around 9 am to visit the church, you should beat the crowd. By law, it is free to visit a church or a cathedral in France. However, consider leaving a donation as many – including iconic monuments like Notre Dame de Paris – are struggling to find enough funds for conservation.
If you want to go up to the tower and admire the 360-degree views, you will need to pay €8.50. Make sure you avoid queuing by booking a time for your visit. At 7:30 am, connect to the JeFile app (available for iPhone or Android) and choose a time slot from 10 am.
A short 10-minute walk will lead you to the Sainte-Chapelle, where you can finish your morning admiring the most beautiful stained-glass windows you will probably see in your life. Cross Saint-Michel bridge, pass the Sorbonne and head to the Quartier Latin for lunch. You will find many French restaurants in this area. Wine lovers can even organize a French wine tasting as an “aperitif”. That’s how French people call the drinks before having a meal.
Do a digestive walk around the Jardins du Luxembourg, with magnificent views of the Palais du Luxembourg. Can you believe it was a jail once, during the revolution? It is now the home of the French Senate, and it is really hard to organize a visit. But its park is a beautiful place.
Wander in the streets back to the Pantheon. The former church is now a necropolis of famous French figures like Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. If you are visiting between April and October, you can climb to the roof for some of the best views of Paris.
Finish your day with dinner and drinks in the vibrant Saint Germain des Pres area, back near the Jardins du Luxembourg.
Day 3 in Paris: A different facet of Paris in Montmartre
Paris has many facets, and Montmartre may be the most charming one. For a long time, Montmartre was a village next to Paris. Although it has been part of the French capital since 1860, it has retained its special atmosphere. Be ready to share it with many tourists though: it is the second most visited site in Paris!
Take the metro to the Anvers station (dark blue line) or Abbesses (dark green line). If you can, aim at visiting from Abbesses. It will take you to the deepest metro station in Paris where you can admire the painted walls as you go up the stairs. The Abbesses Square is pretty with its lovely metro entrance, the carousel, and the lampposts.
Montmartre is very hilly and the streets are made of stairs are very photogenic, but you may opt for the funicular if you are not up for making the effort.
In front of the beautiful Sacre Coeur Basilica at the top of the hill, you will find one of the best panorama views you can have over Paris. As usual, the entrance to the church is free (donations welcome), and you will only pay if you want to access the dome for even higher views which are worth it.
Not far from there, the Place du Tertre is the most famous square in Montmartre. It is filled with street artists such as sketchers, caricaturists, and mimes. Some buskers can be a bit pushy, it is often part of the entertainment. Unless you visit it early in the morning, it will be crowded. Don’t stay there for too long, there are better places in Montmartre. And the best way to find them is to get lost in the small cobbled streets with a map in your pocket. Another option would be to join a Montmartre walking tour for only $20 this will show you the highlights over a 2-hour tour.
You will come across beautiful houses and cafes. The Montmartre Museum (rue Cortot) is worth a stop. You can have an early lunch at the photogenic pink house that you may have seen many times on paintings (Maison Rose, rue de l’Abreuvoir and Rue des Saules). Nearby, you can also find rare Parisian vineyards (rue des Saules/rue Saint-Vincent), the oldest church in Paris (Saint Pierre de Montmartre, rue du Chevalier de la Barre) and one of the only windmills that survived the city development (Moulin de la Galette, rue Lepic).
If you go down via the Montmartre Cemetery, you will not be too far away from another Parisian area that kept some village vibes: the Batignolles in the 17th arrondissement. Have a rest on a terrace or at the charming square Place du Docteur Felix-Lobligeois before wandering in the gardens of Square des Batignolles. If you like visiting local markets when you travel, head to rue Lemercier (except on Mondays).
In the evening, head to Pigalle, between Place d’Anvers and Place de Clichy to check out the unique atmosphere and all the neon lights waking up the area. Don’t miss the Moulin Rouge, the most famous windmill in Paris.
Last Tip: Be Aware of Pickpockets in Paris
Paris is not particularly unsafe for tourists, but there are many pickpockets in Paris around. This itinerary will take you to the most touristy places that pickpockets may often visit too.
While you are in the metro, be extra cautious with your belongings. Parisian public transports are not unsafe, but there are pickpockets who often target tourists. So make sure you keep an eye on your bag at all time. You should even consider wearing your backpack on your chest, and not having your mobile phone in your hand if you do not need it. The same applies when you are queuing with people who can get close to you.
At a café or a restaurant, and most especially on a terrace, do not leave your phone on the table while you are eating; it will be safer in your bag or pocket. Also, consider having your bag on your laps or between your legs.
Although there are many other places to see in Paris, you will cover most of the best ones with this 3 day Paris itinerary. Is 3 days in Paris enough time you may ask, well the more time you have the better but with 3 days in Paris you will get to see some of the city’s attractions and a get a good taste of the city.
If you have one extra day, consider going out of the capital. Why not visit the royal castles and wineries of the Loire Valley for example?
Author Bio: Eloise grew up near Paris and now lives in Brisbane (Australia), but you won’t find her often in the city. When she is not disconnected underwater or in a national park, she loves sharing her travel tips on her blog MyFavouriteEscapes.com and inspiring her readers to take care of our beautiful planet. She considers every weekend as a two-day holiday break. Her approach: you don’t always need to go far to travel. Still, she also enjoys exploring the world and discovering new cultures.
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Editor Notes: Adam and I went to Moulin Rouge on our first trip to Paris and it was one of our favorite things to do in Paris, it was beyond what we expected. We highly recommend going to Moulin Rouge.
More on Scams: The Paris golden ring scam was tried on us in Paris and we personally saw several other scams tried on tourists. Hannah had her phone stolen out of her hand while in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia, don’t have your phone in your hands if you don’t really need robbers can run by really quick and snatch it. This happened to us but thankfully our travel insurance covered, it’s best to invest in travel insurance for both long and short trips for instances like this.
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