Paris, la Ville Lumière, is one of the most romantic cities in the world. There are so many things to do in Paris in 3 days and you can really see the best of it, if you follow my tips. I had the pleasure to visit Paris more than once at different stages of my life and you can always discover something new about it. The first time was some years ago and it was the one I loved the most because you could still breathe the magical atmosphere of alleys, bistros and those places frequented by writers of past ages, especially in Montmartre. The truth is that there are many tourist traps in Paris.
Paris is a city for dreamers and lovers of art and literature, but also for sophisticated palates. This travel guide is for those who are about to discover the magic of Paris for the first time!
You can get to the center of Paris from Charles de Gaulle airport by RER (and this is the best solution) at a cost of €10 each way. Otherwise, if you have bought Parise Visite, RER is included. You will get to Gare de Nord in about 25 minutes. The bus from the airport to Paris takes approximately 80 minutes. Paris is one of those cities you can easily explore on foot or by metro, which works very well, although it is crowded during peak hours. The metro has 14 lines. I recommend a great app to visit Paris by metro: Visit Paris by Metro – RATP, an alternative to paper map. It is also for Android.
The best solution to move around the city depends on how you want to move, whether on foot or by metro, and what you want to see. If you want to visit only the center of Paris, you can opt for a carnet (10 tickets+) which costs €14.10 or €7.05 (reduced price). A single ticket is €1.80.
NOTE: the carnet only includes the center of Paris (zone 1-2), while Versailles (Zone 4) and Disneyland Paris (zone 5) are not included. Do not confuse the zones with arrondissements!
Here is my travel itinerary with my top things you can do in Paris in 3 days!
DAY 1. PLACE CHARLES DE GAULLE – CHAMPS ELYSÉES – PLACE DE LA CONCORDE – LOUVRE – JARDIN DES TUILERIES – MUSEE D’ORSAY – TROCADERO – TOUR EIFFEL
The first step of this day is the Museum of Louvre. Start walking from Place Charles de Gaulle, famous for the Arc de Triomphe, and Champs Elysée. You will arrive at Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris, full of history and close to the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries. The square was chosen to build the equestrian statue of Louis XV. At the beginning, it was called Place Louis XV. Then, during French Revolution the statue was pulled down, the square was named Place de la Revolution and the main monument was the guillotine. Here, many royals as Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, politicians and Enlightenments as Robespierre, were beheaded. Only after the Revolution it was called Place de la Concorde to enter fully into the spirit of reconciliation. At the center of the square there is an Egyptian 3,300-year-old obelisk and two fountains. From here you can see the Eiffel Tower.
Museum of Louvre is near the Jardin des Tuileries. I recommend to visit the Louvre early morning or late in the evening to avoid, when it is possible, endless lines. The Museum of Louvre is free on the first Sunday of each month, from October to March and July 14. So if your itinerary includes the first Sunday of the month take advantage of this opportunity! The museum is open every day (except Tuesday) from 9am to 6pm. It is open until 9.45pm on Wednesdays and Fridays. Closed on January 1, May 1, December 25. The ticket price is €12 and you can buy it online. If you decide to buy Paris Museum Pass the entrance is free and you don’t have to wait in line (a 2-day Paris Museum Pass is €42, 4-day pass is €56, 6-day pass is €69).
TIP: Do you know that Ming Pei’s pyramid is not the only entrance to the Louvre? There are other two entrances and the best of them is Porte des Lions, in the south-western wing of the Louvre, before the Jardin des Tuileries (not all people know about it, now it is no longer a secret). From here you can easily get to the Italian Renaissance paintings area, where there is the Gioconda. Sometimes, this entrance is closed for technical problems.
The Louvre is immense (I’m not kidding!). There are three huge wings (Sully, Richelieu and Denon) and, in my opinion, the most beautiful wing is the one about Italian artists. Here there is the Mona Lisa. You will see many tourists trying to take photographs 🙂 I spent 2 hours only in this part of the Louvre. It could take days for visiting it, so decide in advance what you are interested in seeing.
For lunch go to the Parisian bistro Aux Vieux Comptoir or you can try street food.
After lunch relax yourself at the Jardin des Tuileries, where there are also some picnic areas. I find this place so peaceful. The 17th century gardens with flowers, chestnut trees, fountains and benches are the ideal place for those who love photography. There are also bronze sculptures by the artist Aristide Maillol.
Do you love Van Gogh? I do! Get inspired by the art and the life of this great Dutch 19th century painter. Visit the Musee d’Orsay (I love it more than the Louvre!). The ticket price is €11. It is open on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday, from 9am to 6pm and on Thursday from 9.30am to 9.45 pm. Rooms closes 30 minutes before museum closing time. The exhibition of Van Gogh is on the Upper level. There are also artworks by Gauguin, Degas, Monet. Musee D’Orsay is not crowded, but it is better you to go there 2 hours before closing to avoid to wait in line.
NOTE: you can visit it in an hour and a half, but if you have lost a lot of time to visit the Louvre, choose another day. You can also combine it with a visit to Versailles.
Take the metro to get to the Trocadero. From here you will enjoy one of the most beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower at sunset, a precious moment of this trip. Climb Eiffel Tower, although the view is not as spectacular as I expected. My advice is to climb only until the second floor. Follow my tips and tricks to save time and money and to avoid lines and crowds during your visit! The ticket price for the top floor is €15.60, €9 for the second floor. The Eiffel Tower is lit up after sunset and it brights intermittently every hour for 5 minutes until 1am. It is an amazing show. So romantic! The best place to see the lights show is at the Trocadero.
TIP: there is a lovely street near Eiffel Tower called Rue Cler. It is a real open-air market. You can sip a coffee, buy a baguette and enjoy the Parisian atmosphere.
Have dinner at Le P’tit Troquet, another fab bistro in Paris. Then, if you want to see Paris from the water take a boat ride on the Seine with the company Bateaux Mouches at a price of €13.50, €5.50 for children aged 5 to 12, free for children under 4 years, without dinner! The tour starts from Port de la Conférence, Pont de l’Alma.
DAY 2. NOTRE DAME – JARDIN DU LUXEMBOURG – LATIN QUARTER – MONTMARTRE – BASILICA SACRÉ-COEUR
Go to the small island Ile de la Cité, in the center of the Seine, to visit the beautiful French gothic Cathedral of Notre Dame. The metro stop is Cité. The Cathedral was built in 1160 by the bishop of Paris Maurice de Sully. It just takes about 2 hours to visit it. There is a long line of people waiting to get to the top of towers (the entrance is outside of the Cathedral). The entrance to the church is free. Look at the three rose windows that adorn the north, the south and the west of the façade. One of these windows still retains the 13th century glass and depicts the Virgin Maria surrounded by Old Testament people.
You have to pay €8.50 to climb the towers. There are 387 steps to reach the top of the south tower and there is no elevator. The view from here is priceless. You will enjoy the hectic life of Paris with its bistros, boulevards full of people, the Eiffel Tower, the Basilica of the Sacré Coeur and you will certainly be near the mythological creatures carved in stone: Gargoyles (built to drain the rain off the roof of Notre Dame) and Chimeras.
The towers are open every day from April 1 to September 30 from 10am to 6.30pm, July and August on Friday and on Saturday from 10am to 11pm. From October 1 to March 31 from 10am to 5.30pm. The last visit is 45 minutes before closing. Visitors are admitted only in groups of 20 every 10 minutes. The admission is free with Paris Museum Pass, but you cannot jump the queue. The cathedral is open every day of the year from 8am to 6.45pm.
Then visit the Jardin du Luxembourg, with the 17th century Fountain of the Medici.
Go to the Latin Quarter. There are many stalls here. I bought some vintage posters (I love old photos!). You can also enjoy the university Sorbonne and the Panthéon.
Visit the Moulin Rouge (Blanche metro stop) in the afternoon, because the area is not very recommendable in the evening. The price of a can can show starts from €77 to €112 without dinner, and it depends on days and hours. My tip is to enjoy Paris walks and discover South Pigalle area, considered the New Marais!
From Pigalle area go to the district of Montmartre, the hill of the artists, with its bohemian atmosphere. In the mid of 19th century this hill, which is the highest point of Paris, was the favourite destination of artists such as Renoir, Picasso, Suzanne Valadon and Maurice Utrillo. Today, it is still a lively and multicultural, although not as charming as many years ago. Rue Lepic and St. Vincent are very characteristic!
I recommend to visit Montmartre in the afternoon, because you will be enchanted by the sunset you can enjoy from the Basilica of Sacré Coeur.
There are two ways to get to the Basilica:
– on foot (and that’s how I did);
– by funicular. If you got here by metro you can use the same ticket+.
Unfortunately you cannot take photos inside of the Basilica of Sacré Coeur. The Basilica was built in honor of the 58000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Prussian war and it took 46 years to be completed. Inside of it there is a stunning Byzantine mosaic of Christ and the vaults of the crypt are awesome (the chapel contains the heart of Legentil Alexander, one of the advocates of the Basilica).
The Artists Quarter is behind the Basilica. It is very characteristic, there are painters, street artists and singers everywhere. The famous square Place du Tertre is the centerpiece of this explosion of art and creativity.
For dinner, I recommend the bistrot The Balançoire. If you prefer pizza go to The Babalou.
DAY 3. VERSAILLES OR DISNEYLAND PARIS OR TOUR OF LOIRA CASTLES
As I told you there are many things to do in Paris in 3 days, and sometimes it can be hard to choose. Everything depends on your travel rythms and above all on the time of your flight (I always try to leave late in night). In my opinion, the best solution is to choose Versailles tour, because you can do it in half a day and then you can relax before leaving. You also have to know that you can visit Disneyland Paris in one day (but you will want to come back here) and that there are many one-day Loira Castles tours, organized by Cityrama and ParisVisions.
TIP: Loira Castles tour is expensive, approximately €150 and you usually visit no more than 3 castles. I took 2 days to explore this area by car and it was the right choice.
You can get to Versailles by RER C. One way ticket is €4.50. The ticket to visit the Château, the Châteaux de Trianon, the Estate of Marie-Antoinette and the temporary exhibitions is €18. By clicking on the official site you can choose the right ticket for you. Check out the opening times.
I think the Palace of Versailles is a real tourist trap, but once in a lifetime you should visit it.
TIP: don’t have lunch at the bar of the Palace! I pay €28 for a small sandwich, a 50cl water and a slice of cake. There is also a little train which takes you to the garden. It costs about €7. Better to go on foot and if you are tired you can get the train.
Among the most beautiful rooms there are the Hall of Mirrors and the Hall of Hercules. The Hall of Mirrors is a stunning hall rich in ornaments and pompous mirrors, representing the political and artistic success of France at that time. The hall was designed to reflect the sunlight and to remind people that Sun King lived here.
The Hall of Hercules will enchant you with the Apotheosis of Hercules painting on the ceiling. Don’t miss the Grand Trianon made of pink marble and the Petit Trianon, where Louis XV and Madame de Pompadour met. Later, it was Marie Antoinette’s favorite part of Versailles. I love the gardens more than the interior of the Palace: flowers, trees, fountains. Marie Antoniette’s garden is a pure gem of beauty.
This is a great step-by-step travel guide to the top things to do in Paris in 3 days for classic travelers. I also discovered many off the beaten path places, but this is another story 😉
Have you ever visited Paris? Any suggestions?