The Perfect 3 Days in Paris Itinerary for First-TimersFrance
When you only have 3 days in Paris, you want to get your itinerary right.
With a nearly unlimited number of incredible things to do (and eat, and see) in Paris, it’s important to plan a short trip carefully: you want to see as much as you can, while also preventing yourself from burning out and/or wasting too much time in transport bouncing all over the city.
We adore Paris–it’s one of our favorite cities in the world–and we want you to love it as much as we do.
Follow this 3 days in Paris itinerary to see a solid chunk of Paris’ best highlights, eat some delicious food, wander stunning neighborhoods, and make sure you travel home with a snapshot of Paris that leaves you dying to plan your next trip–all in a logical geographic order and in just 3 days.
Table of Contents
- The Perfect 3 Days in Paris Itinerary
- Day 1: Classic Paris Highlights
- Day 2: The Elegant Side of Paris
- Day 3: The Funky Side of Paris (plus the Musee d’Orsay)
- More Time in Paris?
- Getting Around Paris
- The Paris Pass & Paris Museum Pass: Worth the Money?
- When to Visit Paris
- Safety in Paris
- What to Wear in Paris
- What to Pack for Paris
The Perfect 3 Days in Paris Itinerary
Day 1: Classic Paris Highlights
Start at Notre Dame.
What better way to start 3 days in Paris than to visit one of Paris’ most famous landmarks?
Notre Dame is not only incredibly beautiful in person (I love the back even more than the front), it’s centrally located to plenty of other Parisian highlights.
We highly recommend climbing up Notre Dame to get one of the most classic views of Paris: the Parisian skyline, Eiffel Tower and all, with gargoyles watching over the city in the foreground.
Depending on how early you got up (hopefully very, because there’s a big day ahead!) and the time of year, there may be a line to get in, but don’t worry–Notre Dame is high tech these days. If you’re facing the cathedral, walk around to the left-hand side and you’ll find kiosks available to claim your place in line, and simply return when your time slot is reached.
If you have a bit of a wait, check out the interior of the cathedral, walk around the right-hand side of it (as seen if you’re facing the cathedral) to check out the gardens, view from the rear, and the view from the Pont de l’Archevêché (this used to be famous for being the love lock bridge in Paris, but the locks have been removed–view is still great, though!).
You can also skip ahead to Shakespeare & Company (below) and then come back for your climb, depending on time.
Check out Shakespeare & Company.
5-minute walk from Notre Dame
Paris’ most famous bookstore is known as the former haunt of Lost Generation writers like James Joyce, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and the ever-present Ernest Hemingway (he knew all the good travel destinations before the rest of us).
What some don’t know is that the present Shakespeare & Company is a bit different than the original: the original location closed during the Nazi occupation, and this store was opened by new management in 1951, in order to nurture a new generation of writers–think Henry Miller, Ray Bradbury, and Langston Hughes.
I could wax poetic about bookstores forever, but I suggest you check out this great article from Vanity Fair if you’re interested in a thorough history of Shakespeare & Company.
Here’s what you need to know to visit: it’s delightful and beautiful, they’ll stamp any books you buy with their seal on the title page (great souvenirs!), there’s a cat who lives upstairs, and the view from the second floor window over the Seine and toward Notre Dame is divine.
Most importantly: photos are forbidden inside. Don’t be an asshole, no matter how tempting the photo ops seem (believe me, I know).
Stroll over to Sainte-Chapelle.
6-minute walk from Shakespeare & Company
Two cathedrals in one morning? For ones as epic as these–yes, absolutely.
Sainte-Chapelle boasts one of my favorite cathedral interiors in the world, but you likely won’t notice when you first enter: the first floor is rather typically decorated and quite dark.
Climb up to the second floor, though, and you’re in for quite a show: nearly every inch of the 50-foot walls (about 15 meters) are covered in elaborate stained glass.
It is colorful, magical, and absolutely beautiful–I haven’t seen anything quite like it anywhere else in the world.
Make your way to the Luxembourg Gardens.
15-minute walk from Sainte-Chapelle
Obviously, the Luxembourg Gardens are most impressive in the spring and summer, but they’re worth visiting regardless of time of year: the gardens feel distinctly Parisian and are a joy to visit.
The Luxembourg Palace sits to one side, and be sure to stop by to admire it!
If you’re trying to stay on a budget, this is a great place for a picnic lunch: simply pick up some Parisian staples (a baguette with cheese and fruit, perhaps?) and bring it into the gardens to eat.
If you’d prefer a restaurant, the area surrounding the park is lousy with them!
During your 15-minute walk over from Sainte-Chapelle, a slightly longer route will also take you by the Pantheon if you’d like to stop by.
Walk toward the Louvre via St. Germain.
18+ minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens
Head to the Louvre through St. Germain, one of the most classically Parisian neighborhoods–get ready to pass by some beautiful boutiques, great restaurants, and gorgeous architecture while you’re here!
Those classic Paris streets you see in photos? St. Germain is a great place to photograph them!
We ate at Egg & Co. while here, specializing in omelets. The food was very tasty, and the decor adorable.
The walk from the Luxembourg Gardens to the Louvre is technically under 20 minutes, but depending on how much you want to meander around the neighborhood, it could take quite a bit longer!
Enjoy the Louvre.
The Louvre is a hard thing to budget time for–for people who aren’t very into art, an hour of checking out the most famous works might be enough. For art and history lovers, weeks would be needed.
With only 3 days in Paris, we’d probably recommend spending around 2-3 hours in the Louvre, and doing a bit of research before you go. If there are particular works you’re dying to see (say, the Venus de Milo or the Mona Lisa), make sure you plan accordingly and head in the right direction.
We’ve now visited the Louvre twice saw almost none of the same exhibits on each visit!
Personally, one of my favorite things I’ve found in the Louvre is the Napoleon III apartments, which are an unexpected surprise amongst all of the paintings, sculptures, and historical artifacts.
Go watch the sunset over the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero Gardens.
50-minute walk or 30-minute metro ride from the Louvre
Are your feet killing you yet?
If so (and depending on the time), you may want to consider a metro ride at this point.
If not, we highly recommend the long walk along the Seine to the Trocadero Gardens, which will take you along some beautiful Paris views and past the famous Pont Alexandre III bridge.
Regardless of how you get there, we can’t imagine a better way to end your first day in Paris than with one of the very best views of the Eiffel Tower.
Day 2: The Elegant Side of Paris
Begin your day at the Arc de Triomphe.
You started your first day in Paris with one of the city’s most beautiful views, why not start the second day the same way?
Climb the Arc de Triomphe for great views over Paris (and like Notre Dame yesterday, the earlier you get here, the better!).
Be sure to stroll under the Arc as well–it is ornate and beautiful in a way that is hard to pick up from far away.
Stroll down the Champs-Elysses.
The famous Champs-Elysses dead-ends into the Arc, so after snapping photos both from the top of the monument and of the Arc itself, continue your morning by heading down one of the most famous shopping streets in the world.
If you have time in your Paris itinerary (ie, depending on how early in the morning you got started!), consider continuing all the way to the Galeries Lafayette department store: located in the 9th, the beautiful flagship store opened in 1912 and is easily the most beautiful department store we have ever seen.
The center of the interior is made up of an enormous stained-glass dome, and the department store’s rooftop terrace boasts a gorgeous view of Paris, including a close-up of the Opera House and a solid view of the Eiffel Tower–even better, it’s free to visit.
Galeries Lafayette isn’t located on Champs-Elysses itself, but the 40-minute walk there from the Arc de Triomphe takes you down the bulk of the famous street along the way.
Jump on the RER and spend the afternoon at Versailles.
An afternoon at Versailles is a perfect addition to 3 days in Paris: while some people do spend a whole day there, when trying to see Paris in 3 days, it makes more sense to go for half a day only (and truthfully, we were fine with spending only half a day ourselves).
Be sure to tour the palace itself (we recommend using the offered audio guide), and then head outside to the gardens for a stroll. Bear in mind that the property is the largest royal domain in the world and it is therefore predictably difficult to see absolutely everything (the gardens alone take up 230 acres).
After seeing the popular main gardens near the palace, which boast the opulent fountains of Versailles seen in so many photos, consider taking a 25-minute walk through the gardens to the Queen’s Hamlet, where Marie-Antoinette used to escape court life (because only at Versailles is it so very easy to escape the court while still being on its property).
To get to Versailles from Paris, take the RER C line to Versailles. Transit takes less than an hour, and bear in mind that the RER is separate from the metro–you’ll need to purchase an RER ticket, and don’t forget to validate!
Day 3: The Funky Side of Paris (plus the Musee d’Orsay)
See a different side of Paris at the Catacombs.
Technically an ossuary and not catacombs, this Paris highlight is a bit spooky and unusual, but an absolute must-see while in Paris for 3 days (unless you get freaked out by bones, that is).
Set in Paris’ former quarries, the catacombs hold millions of former Parisians… but they didn’t start their time in the afterlife there.
From the late 18th to the mid-19th century, many of Paris’ cemeteries were emptied out due to health concerns, and the skeletons were relocated to the catacombs.
Artfully arranged and complete with cemetery-appropriate art (Bible verses and such, but also a sign saying “Stop! This is the empire of the dead” over the entrance, so, there’s that), the catacombs are a bizarre mix of fascinating, creepy, historical, and artistic.
The catacombs themselves go on for over 200 miles/320 kilometers, and we loved our visit–and also loved staring down the dark paths that are not intended for tourists to visit (fair warning: it’s easy to get lost down there and people have died by breaking in and then getting too lost to find their way out. Stick to the path!).
Head to Musee d’Orsay.
40-minute walk or 20-minute metro ride from the Catacombs
Many first time visitors to Paris walk away saying that the Musee d’Orsay, not the Louvre, is their favorite museum in Paris. We wouldn’t go that far (we love both too much), but it’s easy to see what draws people in: not only is the Musee d’Orsay home to some incredible art, including iconic works by Monet and Van Gogh, the building itself is a bit of an attraction.
Musee d’Orsay is set in a gorgeous former train station built at the end of the 19th century, complete with the famous clock on the top floor that provides a unique view of Paris.
In addition, the Musee d’Orsay is much smaller than the Louvre, and therefore less overwhelming and easier to visit without getting turned around.
Indulge in a Parisian lunch.
No trip to Paris for 3 days would be complete without a full Parisian meal: think appetizers, a main course, a cheese course (to follow the meat course, as is typical in France), a dessert, and–obviously–wine.
If you’re wanting to watch your budget, lunch is a much better place to indulge than dinner, as you’ll generally pay less for equally delicious food.
There is an endless number of restaurants to choose from in Paris, but if you’re looking for something easy-ish on the wallet and classically Parisian, we recommend Bouillon Chartier in the 9th.
The building is beautiful, the food tasty, and the prices completely reasonable: we paid around 45 Euro for a plate of escargot, two main courses, a small cheese plate, a dessert, and a bottle of wine (travel fail: we intended to order half a bottle and ended up with a whole one. Oh, well–it didn’t go to waste).
As a bonus, it’s an easy 30-minute walk from the Musee d’Orsay, including a pass through the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries.
Visit Montmartre for the afternoon.
25-minute walk from Bouillon Chartier (the metro takes almost as long and you’ll need to digest lunch, so we’d definitely recommend the walk here–plus, it’s a beautiful walk!)
Your last afternoon in Paris is dedicated to a neighborhood that’s not quite as old or as stately as some Parisian neighborhoods… but it is delightfully fun and very well known.
Montmartre is home to Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge, the Montmartre Cemetery, and some incredibly adorable streets, squares, bakeries, cafes, and bars (including a dueling piano bar!).
While you’re there, be sure to visit Sacre Coeur (though don’t feel pressured to climb it–three monuments in three days in Paris might be a bit much), see the artists at the Place du Tertre, and duck into the art shops along the nearby side streets
If you feel like sticking around for the evening, Montmartre is the perfect place to find nightlife in Paris: whether you want to go crazy and see a show at the Moulin Rouge or find a quieter bar to settle down at, you’ll have plenty of options.
Shop tickets to shows at the Moulin Rouge!
Say goodbye to Paris.
Three days in Paris go by so fast: it’s already time to say goodbye.
Assuming you’re not choosing to stick around Montmartre for your last night in Paris, you may be able to squeeze in one more thing off your Paris wish list.
Our recommendation? Grab a warm street crepe and admire the Eiffel Tower at night–there’s no better image to end your trip to Paris with than that one.
More Time in Paris?
Paris is a city that can occupy a lifetime and still not be fully discovered–no matter how much time you have in Paris, you will never leave feeling that you’ve unturned every stone.
A few things to consider adding to your Paris itinerary if you have longer than three days in the city: a visit to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery, a climb up Montparnasse Tower (this tower is generally reviled for disrupting Paris’ beautiful skyline, but it does have quite the view at the top!), splurge on a Michelin Star meal, learn to bake macarons or croissants in a cooking class with Le Foodist (we did the macarons and adored it!), tour the Paris Opera House, take a Seine River Cruise, duck into a smaller museum like the Musee Rodin… this paragraph is already giant, and yet, I could easily go on!
If you’re looking to head out of town on one of your additional days in Paris, popular day trips other than Versailles include the town of Rouen, the castle of Fontainebleau, Giverny to experience the water gardens that inspired Monet, and the island of Mont Saint Michel.
Getting Around Paris
Paris is a large city, but it is surprisingly easy to get around.
The city is made up of 20 arrondissements, or districts, starting with the 1st in the center (this is where you’ll find the Louvre), and spiraling outward from there. Outside of the 20 arrondissements, you get into the suburbs of the city, which can sometimes be the less safe areas of Paris–though as a tourist, you’ll likely have no reason to venture out there.
When deciding where to stay in Paris, try not to put too much stock in being near any particular attraction. Paris’ main sights are spread far and wide in its arrondissements (a few examples: the Eiffel Tower is in the 7th, the Louvre in the 1st, Montmartre in the 18th, and Notre Dame in the 4th), and wherever you end up staying, you’ll be traveling through the city during your stay.
Paris’ metro system is extremely dense and developed: other than walking, we recommend using it as your main method of transportation while in Paris.
The easiest way to purchase tickets is as a carnet, or group of 10 tickets at a time, and replenish as you run out. However, if you happen to purchase the Paris Pass, access to the bus, metro, and RER systems are all included, so you won’t need to purchase separate tickets.
Taxis & Uber
Taxis and Uber are both prevalent in the city, though high prices and heavy traffic make them a less attractive option than the metro. Lyft is not available in Paris.
Walking is our absolute favorite way to get around Paris, which is part of why this 3 days in Paris itinerary includes the option to walk so much.
Not only do you save money and work off the copious amounts of pain au chocolat you’re probably consuming, you get to discover Paris at its very best: adorable side streets, cute cafes, gorgeous buildings, enormous dog population, and all.
Do not rent a car in Paris.
Parking is an expensive nightmare, driving is difficult and traffic-laden, and the metro system is extensive and functional: renting a car in Paris is far more trouble than it is worth, and that’s without even including the cost of doing so as a factor. Just don’t do it.
The Paris Pass & Paris Museum Pass: Worth the Money?
If you follow this 3 days in Paris itinerary, a full Paris Pass likely won’t be worth the money unless you are going to be using a lot of transportation. If you want access to benefits like the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus tour and Seine River Cruise, you may want to consider it.
However, the Paris Museum Pass is a different story: by following this 3 day Paris itinerary, you will at least break even financially by purchasing the Paris Museum Pass, and the skip-the-line capabilities at popular attractions and the ease of having your tickets already in hand are worth the effort of acquiring a pass.
Plus, if you’re the type who likes to pack your sightseeing days even fuller than what we have laid out here, you’ll have an easy incentive to add on trips to the Pantheon, Conciergerie, and Centre Pompidou, which are also included with the pass.
Our advice? With this itinerary, buy the Paris Museum Pass.
Purchase the Paris Museum Pass here!
When to Visit Paris
There is no bad time of year to spend 3 days in Paris.
In the spring, you’ll see beautiful flowers (and if you’re lucky, cherry blossoms!), and get to see the city in full bloom.
In the summer, Paris is at its sunniest and warmest, and it’s the perfect time of year for long evenings spent outside of adorable cafes.
In the fall, the autumn foliage is stunning.
In the winter, you can experience Paris at its emptiest and with its lowest prices (but it’s all relative–this is still Paris). It doesn’t typically snow in Paris, but December does offer the bonus of Christmas decorations and decor!
Whenever you have a chance to visit, go: no matter what time of year it is, it is the perfect time to be in Paris.
Safety in Paris
Traveling in Paris is generally a very safe activity, but like in all large cities (and especially large cities crawling with tourists), scams and petty crime run rampant.
Beware anyone approaching you asking you to sign a petition, offering you a rose or “friendship bracelet”, or enticing you to buy a “gold” ring that they “found”.
In general, keep an eye on your belongings, watch out for pickpockets (especially in crowds), and avoid getting overly intoxicated (especially alone or late at night). In other words: use common sense.
Especially if you’re not accustomed to traveling in large cities, we recommend reading up on common scams in Paris here.
Interestingly, we saw far fewer people trying to perpetuate these scams on our second trip to Paris than we did on our first trip a few years ago: I’m not sure if that’s because we are so used to it that we no longer register them, we no longer have the “fresh meat” look that causes scammers to approach people, or if the Paris police force has been successfully cleaning up some of the scams–perhaps it is a combination of all three.
Though Paris is generally very safe, be sure not to visit without travel insurance!
We use and recommend World Nomads for their affordability, ease of purchasing, and the clarity of their contract.
What to Wear in Paris
Our general rule of traveling is that we never expect to (or try to) pass as locals, but we aim to look like expats or frequent travelers that at least know what we’re doing… and, okay, in Paris, we want to look somewhat good. It is Paris, after all.
The big key to blending in and looking fashionable in Paris? Less is more.
Think lots of dark colors (I swear, 90% of Parisian women we saw on our most recent trip were wearing a black coat), dark skinny jeans or pants, cute dresses, and definitely not tennis shoes.
Flats or boots for women depending on the season and casual loafers or boots for men is just fine–much more important than the exact shoe is that they’re very comfortable and well broken in.
For men, think fitted slacks or jeans, and fitted shirts. Not particularly fancy or dressed up, but not sloppy, either.
We generally consider the whole “Europeans don’t wear jeans!” rule to be either complete fiction or at least wildly outdated, but Parisians certainly don’t tend to wear baggy, ill fitting, or worn out ones, either.
Bottom line? Don’t worry too much about what to wear in Paris–we find that people tend to overthink it. Pack clothes you’re comfortable in, leaning toward classic, basic styles and dark colors, and you’ll blend right in (as much as any tourist can).
And hey, if you get there and feel completely out of place in your wardrobe, Paris is a pretty fantastic place to shop!
Some things are a cliche because they're true... and it's true that Paris is always a good idea. * Paris will always be a special city to us: as the first European city we ever laid eyes on, this was the destination that first ignited a love of travel that, just 2.5 years after that first trip, would turn into a full-on addiction and lifestyle. * Surprisingly, though, very little of our second Paris trip was simply a repeat of last time--there's just too many amazing things to do in Paris to ever cross them off on one trip (or even two). * One of our favorite new Parisian experiences? Baking macarons with @lefoodist! We adored getting the chance to make our own delicious Parisian macarons, AND the chance to take the leftovers with us after class. * True, a typical Parisian rainstorm nixed the idea of devouring them under the Eiffel Tower... but they still tasted pretty darn good on our train ride from Paris to Strasbourg. 😉 * * * * #partner #paris #ig_paris #eiffeltower #paris_tourisme #paris_focus_on #ig_france #igersparis #igersfrance #ig_europe #theprettycities #photosinbetween #thatsdarling #thatauthenticfeeling #unlimitedparadise #mytinyatlas #gltlove #wearetravelgirls #femmetravel #dametraveler #globelletravels #openmyworld #letsgoeverywhere #thetravelwomen #forahappymoment #sheisnotlost #finditliveit #forbestravelguide #takemethere #abmlifeiscolorful
What to Pack for Paris
Pacsafe Travelsafe 12L GII Portable Safe — We bring this with us everywhere these days. Simply place your important belongings inside before you leave for the day, string it around the sturdiest thing in the room (the base of the toilet or a pipe under the sink is a good option), and voila! You’re good to go.
Swiss Army Knife — AKA, your handy baguette-and-cheese-slicer plus wine bottle opener all in one–it’s a Parisian essential!
Travel Journal — I personally love the One Line a Day journal that covers 5 years–you write one sentence a day, and every date is on the same page through the years (so, for example, you can easily see what you were doing on all the April 18th’s). I adore the concept, and a quick sentence each day is about all I can commit to in a journal!
Camera — This one comes from personal experience: on our first trip to Paris in late 2013, we took all of our photos on our cell phones, and we definitely regret it. While phone photography has come a long way even in the last few years, if you’re even the tiniest bit into photography as a hobby, definitely bring the camera.
Nalgene BPA Free Tritan Wide Mouth Water Bottle — Even in fashionable cities like Paris, we always prefer to keep water with us–it saves both money and plastic as compared to buying water bottles along the way.
Where We Stayed in Paris:
Hotel Bellevue Montmartre — We chose to base ourselves in Montmartre for our second trip to Paris, and were completely satisfied with our choice! Set on a quiet street just a 5-minute walk from Sacre Coeur and a 10-minute walk from a metro to whisk us away to anywhere we needed to go in Paris, we couldn’t have found a better location for the price.
The room itself was clean and unremarkable, which was all we were looking for in a place to lay our head at night.
Hotel de Suede Saint Germain — We loved staying in such a central location on our first trip to Paris! Our room was small (typical of Paris), but the hotel’s decor was lovely and the location excellent–less than a 15-minute walk from the Musee d’Orsay.
The breakfast was tasty, but overpriced–these days, we would go out for breakfast. Luckily, there’s a delicious bakery just a short walk away!
Many thanks to Le Foodist for hosting us on our macaron baking class with them! All opinions and excessive macaron binges are our own.