Original Article by Laurence Norah from findingtheuniverse.com. It is so very well done we had to share!
Links to Laurence and his website are at the end of the article.
Thinking about spending 3 days in Paris? Great choice! We think that’s the perfect amount of time to spend in one of our favourite European cities, giving you the chance to see many of the top sights and attractions and really get a feel for the city. Of course, if you have longer, that’s even better, but three days is certainly enough to see a lot.
To help you with your planning, we’re going to share with you everything we think you need to know to spend three days in Paris. We’re going to give you a suggested 3 day Paris itinerary, tips for getting around, advice on where to stay in Paris, our thoughts on when is best to visit and even some suggested ways to save money in Paris.
Let’s get started!
3 Day Paris Itinerary
Paris Itinerary: Day 1
1. Eiffel Tower
What better way to start of your trip to Paris than with a visit to the Eiffel Tower. This is without doubt the most iconic landmark in Paris (if not France!), and a visit here is a must for any visit to Paris. When we visit Paris, we always visit at least once, and every time we are amazed at the sheer scale of this beautiful building.
There are a number of ways to enjoy the Eiffel Tower. First, you can just enjoy the views of the tower, which we think are particularly good from the Trocadero Gardens across the river, or the Champ de Mars gardens behind the Tower.
You can also go up inside the Eiffel Tower to one of the different floors, for expansive views of the city. We do like the experience of going up inside, but we don’t think it offers the best view of the city – because the view from inside the Eiffel Tower is missing the most famous part of the skyline – the Eiffel Tower itself!
Still, if this is your first visit to Paris, we highly recommend the experience. We do suggest that if you want to go up the Eiffel Tower, that you book your tickets in advance from the official website. The queues here for tickets can be very long, and with a pre-booked ticket you can skip the wait.
Alternatively, if you are feeling fit, you can also take the stairs up to the first level. There is not usually a very long queue for the stairs, which have their own ticket line, and it is also slightly cheaper.
2. Seine River Cruise
Another must-do experience in Paris is a river cruise on the Seine. This is a very popular activity, with multiple operators offering cruises up and down the river. We’ve actually written a post about the various Seine River cruise options which goes through the majority of the operators and the different types of trip available.
We can definitely recommend the Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise. These depart from just next to the Eiffel Tower, so fit in nicely with this itinerary, and they are included for free if you pick up a Paris Pass.
The cruise takes in all the highlights from the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame, and there’s commentary included. So sit back, relax, and let the scenery roll by.
3. Hop on Hop off Bus
Talking of sitting back and relaxing, we find that a great way to get oriented in a new city and get an idea of the sights we want to see is to take a Hop On Hop Off (HOHO) bus tour.
Paris is no exception to this rule, and you can pick up a HOHO bus in Paris from right next to the Eiffel Tower, which will then take you around Paris’s key attractions.
There are multiple operators running different routes around the city. If you pick up a Paris Pass, it includes a 1 Day Big Bus Tour. We took this tour and enjoyed it – it’s both an easy way to get around the city, plus you can learn about many of the sights as you go. However there are a few different operators, so pick the one that works for you!
4. Paris Walking Tour
All this sitting around on buses and boats is great for getting oriented, but at some point you’re going to need to put your feet on the pavement! Paris is a wonderful city to explore on foot, and a guided walking tour is an excellent way to do that.
We think that if you are going to do a walking tour in a city, the first day is the best, as you can ask your guide for local recommendations such as their favourite places to eat or get a coffee, as well as get suggestions for hidden gems you might not find in the guidebooks.
There are lots of operators offering tours in Paris. We’ve taken a number of walking tours with Context Travel, and have always loved their detailed tours. They have a number of tours available in Paris, and you get 10% off with this link. We particularly enjoyed their Hemingway themed walking tour of Paris.
We also love Take Walks walking tours, and they have recently launched a number of Paris Tours. For example, they have a Welcome to Paris Walking Tour with Notre Dame and Petanque, as well as a full day Paris tour, although the latter would require you to significantly alter this itinerary.
If you have a Paris Pass, it comes with a free walking tour that focuses on famous filming locations in Paris, which is a lot of fun.
5. Tour Montparnasse
Last on our list for your first day in Paris is a trip up the Tour Montparnasse. I recommend this to everyone going to Paris, as it is, in my opinion at least, the location with the best view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.
This is particularly the case at sunset, so if you can time your visit for sunset, you will get to witness a wonderful sunset across the Eiffel Tower, and then watch the city lights come to life.
The observation level is across two levels, one is inside and one is outside. The outside area is surrounded by glass, but there are cutouts so you can get reflection-free shots of the view. You can also bring a tripod up here! No wonder therefore that it’s on my list of favourite Paris photography locations.
There’s a fee to go up Tour Montparnasse, but it’s free for holders of the Paris Pass.
Paris Itinerary: Day 2
Our second day in Paris takes in some more iconic sites including some of Paris’s most famous museums and churches. It’s quite a full day, so do feel free to edit the itinerary to suit your particular interests, pace and needs!
6. Saint Chapelle
It took me multiple visits to Paris before I finally made it to Saint Chapelle. Now I urge everyone to make it a priority on their trip to Paris!
This is a relatively small chapel that is not too far from Notre Dame, but the interior, which consists of almost floor to ceiling stained glass, is absolutely outstanding. It will definitely take your breath away.
The 13th century Saint Chapelle is quite popular, and the small size and mandatory security checks mean that the line to get in can be long. This is why I have put it on my list as the first thing for your second day in Paris – you want to get here early, ideally get in line ten – fifteen minutes before the opening time. After all, no-one wants to spend their time standing in lines.
There’s a fee to enter Saint Chapelle, which is also free to holders of the Paris Pass.
7. Notre Dame
No more than ten minutes walk from Sainte Chapelle is Paris’s most famous religious building, known for her flying buttresses, twin towers and, of course, hunchback resident.
You will definitely see two out of those three when you visit Notre Dame, the major Catholic cathedral in Paris. Construction of this magnificent building took nearly two hundred years, and was completed in 1345.
Entry to Notre Dame is free, although you do have to go through security, and lines are sometimes long. If you wish to go up the tower or into the crypt, there is a fee for those activities (included with the Paris Pass), and you need to book a timeslot in advance.
You can book this time slot on site at the ticket terminals. However, we suggest instead you do it using the “Jefile” app, available on iOS and Google Play. This starts accepting time slot reservations every day from 7.30am, so just set a reminder for yourself and book your timeslot well in advance on your day of visit, so as to avoid disappointment.
8. Musee d’Orsay
If you like museums, Paris has definitely gotten you covered. Our next stop is the Musee d’Orsay, but before you get here, you’re going to take a walk along Paris’s iconic left bank, from Notre Dame to the Musee d’Orsay. This isn’t too far, but you’ll see the booksellers and get a feel for this part of town.
Paris’s museums are quite logically set up, with three main art museums covering three distinct time periods.
The Musee d’Orsay, first on our list, covers art dating from the middle of the 19th century up to the early 20th century, and is home to masterpieces from the likes of Duchamp, Kandisky and Picasso, to name but a few. The Louvre (see below), covers the time period before this, whilst the Centre Pompidou covers the time period afterwards, right up to the modern day. The Centre Pompidou isn’t on this itinerary, but you could fit it in if you wanted to of course!
The Musee d’Orsay is absolutely stunning. It’s set in what was once one of Paris’s main train stations, and the grand central atrium is gorgeous – almost worth visiting in of itself.
There’s a fee to get in here, but holders of the Paris Pass get free entry as well as skip the line priveledges.
9. The Louvre
If you only visit one museum in Paris, I can highly recommend making it the Louvre. This is one of the world’s most famous museums, and is home to an incredible collection of art, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, to name but a few.
Obviously, seeing the Mona Lisa is on the wishlist for many visitors, but this museum, which covers art from ancient times up to the middle of the 19th century, has obviously got a great deal more to offer. True art lovers could lose themselves for days in the vast collection here!
Of course, if that’s you, you are welcome to do the same, although for the purposes of this itinerary we’d probably recommend you try and limit your time to two to three hours so you can fit more of Paris in.
You will still have to queue for security, but the fast track line is a lot quicker moving than the general admission line.
10. Wine tasting
When you think of France, a few things likely come to mind, and I suspect that wine is likely one of them. So why not take a break from the sight-seeing and museums, and indulge in a little wine tasting.
The tour costs €30 including the wine tasting, and is included for holders of the Paris Pass.
If you aren’t into wine tasting, there are a number of nearby cafes and restaurants where you can refresh and revive. We can recommend afternoon tea at Le Meurice, the Ritz or the Hotel de Crillon if you like afternoon tea (see our guide to the best afternoon tea in Paris if so). For a shorter and less expensive experience, the hot chocolate at Angelina Cafe is also superb.
11. Arc de Triomphe
We’re going to finish off the second day of our three day Paris itinerary with a visit to the Arc de Triomphe, another of Paris’s iconic landmarks. From the Louvre you can either take public transport here, or you can walk up the Champs Elysees, Paris’s most famous shopping street.
The Arc de Triomphe, built in memory of those who died in the French Revolution and Napoloenic Wars, is wonderfully photogenic.
If you arrive in time, you can go to the top for an excellent view of the city, which includes the roads spanning out into the distance and the Eiffel Tower.
As you journey up into the monument, you will also come to a museum which details some of its history. Below the monument, you will also find the tomb of the unknown soldier.
To get to the Arc de Triomphe, don’t try and cross the traffic roundabout. Head to one of the underpasses, and cross in safety. Going up inside the Arc de Triomphe carries a fee, holders of the Paris Pass get free access with skip the line privileges.
Paris Itinerary: Day 3
On the last day of our 3 day Paris itinerary we’re heading out of the city centre to take in one of Paris’s most famous Royal Palaces. We’re also including some extra sights in the city at the end if you can tear yourself away.
The really nice things about having 3 days in Paris is that you have the flexibility to go a little further out of the centre. My suggestion for your third day is to visit Versailles, the incredible palace that was the seat of French political power and home to French Royalty, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
To truly appreciate Versailles, I would suggest allocating at least half a day of your third day in Paris, if not more. There is easily enough to see here to fill an entire day, which is why we don’t recommend coming here on our two day Paris itinerary.
We suggest starting off by touring the Palace. You’ll want to get here for opening time, as this is a really popular tourist attraction and it get busier as the day goes on. Once you have toured the Palace and seen such highlights as the incredible Hall of Mirrors and the Kings Grand Apartments, you can head outside, where there is a great deal more to see.
A walk in the incredible (and vast!) gardens is a must. We particularity enjoyed heading over to Marie Antoinette’s estate, which is a slightly quieter part of the gardens, and home to a small model farm, tucked away temples, and walking paths.
It’s very easy to spend a whole day exploring Versailles and the grounds, and don’t feel bad if you do, it’s totally worth it.
Visiting Versailles is quite easy, you can get a train (RER C) from central Paris to the Gare de Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche, and from the train station to the Palace it is a well sign-posted ten minute walk. Fast-track entry to the Palace, Gardens and other Versailles attractions is included on the Paris Pass – although you will still need to join the security line.
It’s worth pointing out that the travel card that comes with the Paris Pass does not include travel to Versailles.
We saw a number of people trying to use this travel card to get through the ticket barriers with no luck. The Paris Pass travel card only covers zones 1-3 of Paris, which is sufficient for everything else on this itinerary, but not for Versailles which is in Zone 4. So you need to buy a ticket separately for your train journey – these are available from ticket machines at all the train stations, and these have and English language option available.
If you manage to tear yourself away from Versailles, my suggestion for finishing off your last day in Paris is to head to the Montmartre region. This is home to a large hill, atop which sits the glorious Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, another of Paris’s iconic buildings.
This area of Paris was particularly famous as being home to artists, and folks like Dali, Picasso and Hemingway all either lived or frequented this area. It’s still popular with artists, and the Place du Teatre is the place in Montmartre is the place to go to get your portrait or caricature painted. Fans of Dali will also want to visit the Dali Exhibition, home of the largest collection of works by Dali in France.
Montmartre is a maze of cute little streets, cafes and shops. The Basilica is free to visit, if you get here in time, although there is a small fee if you want to climb the tower. Montmartre is also a popular place to watch the sunset across the city, and what better way to finish your 3 days in Paris than by watching the sun set across this magical city from atop Montmartre?
3 Days in Paris Itinerary Map
To help you visualise our 3 day Paris itinerary we’ve put together this helpful map which shows the attractions for each day. You can access this on Google Maps here.
Where to Stay in Paris
As you would expect from a major European capital city, Paris has no shortage of options when it comes to accommodation. We’ve stayed in a variety of places, from hotels to homestays to apartments.
Ideally you want to be fairly central if you can, to minimise your travel time. Our suggestion is to take a look at the listings for Paris on booking.com. They’re our favourite booking engine when we travel, `usually giving us the best choice and the best prices. They also have everything, from apartments and hostels to high end hotels. Here are some options we suggest, depending on your budget.
- Hotel Dress Code & Spa, a highly reviewed centrally located 4 star hotel right a few hundred yards from the opera house
- Hôtel Eiffel Turenne, a well rated 3* hotel within a ten minute walk of the Eiffel Tower
- Ateliers de Montmartre, an apartment in Montmartre with views of the Sacre Coeur
- Vintage Paris Gare du Nord by Hiphophostels, a Hostel just next to Paris Gare du Nord
Of course, there are lots of other options when it comes to finding accommodation when you travel. Check out our travel resources page for some of our favourites.
When to Visit Paris
We’re actually happy to visit Paris at pretty much any time of year, and this Paris itinerary would work at any time of year. Summer brings sunshine and warmth, although of course the city is a lot busier at this time of year, so if crowds aren’t your thing, you might want to skip the summer months.
We also love Fall and Spring in the city, when the temperatures are a bit cooler and the crowds less. In the run up to Christmas, the city is beautifully decorated and some of the stores in particular are worth visiting just to see the elaborate decorations they put up. After Christmas the city is a lot quieter, and of course temperatures are at their lowest.
Ultimately, we think Paris is worth visiting whenever you can, so just decide how busy you can handle, and if you’d prefer it to be warm or cold, and go from there!
How to Get to and From Paris
As the capital of France, Paris has multiple options for visitors looking to visit. There are three major airports in Paris. Charles de Gaulle is the main airport for international arrivals, with Paris Orly being the second most popular international airport. Both of these airports are easily reachable by public transport from the city centre.
Paris Beauvais-Tille airport is where you will likely arrive if you are flying with a budget airline. This is some way out of the city centre, but regular shuttles buses are available to take you into the city.
Paris is also connected to the high speed French and European rail network, and there are a number of train stations in central Paris. You can even travel from the UK by train, taking the channel tunnel to do so.
Finally, of course, you can reach Paris by car from France and the rest of Europe. Our advice would be to park your car in a secure long stay car-park on the outskirts of Paris and take public transport to the centre. We recommend against driving in the city centre, as public transport is cheap and fast, and a lot easier than stressing about driving around the crowded city streets, and trying to find a parking space.
How to Get Around Paris
Paris has an excellent public transport network, and in particular the Paris Metro system is really good, getting you around all the major parts of the city at minimum cost. There’s also a good bus network, as well as local trains.
For public transport, you can purchase t+ tickets which allow for one-off travel on the Paris bus, RER trains and metros. These are available at train and metro stations using the ticket machines. These machines accept both credit cards and cash, and can be configured for English language.
Each ticket can be used for a single journey of up to 2 hours on the metro (including transfers) and 90 minutes on buses (including transfers). For more information on these tickets, see the official page. We suggest that you purchase them in packs of 10, which is much more cost effective than buying them individually.
Alternatively, if you buy a Paris Pass, this come with a travel card which is valid for the duration of the Pass. So if you buy a 3 Day Paris Pass, it will come with a three day travel card. This will cover you for all your travel in Paris within Zone 1-3, so will get you nearly everywhere you need to go. Notable exceptions include Versailles and the Paris Airports, for which you will need a separate ticket.
Walking Tours of Paris
If you’d like to take a guided tour of Paris, the two companies we usually use are Take Walksand Context Travel. These both offer small group walking tours in Paris, which are a great way to learn about some of the sights and history of the city. Of course, if you decide to take a walking tour you will have to adjust the itinerary accordingly to suit.
If you were interested in a tour, Take Walks has this Paris in a Day tour which includes a Skip the Line Louvre Tour, the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre & a Seine River Cruise – an excellent introduction to the city!
Context travel offer a number of very focused tours of Paris, and these offer very specialised insights into particular subjects. We’d suggest maybe taking one of these for a specific area of interest that you really want to learn about, perhaps for Versailles. They also offer an introduction to Paris tour.
There are of course other options for various tours in Paris, including all the tours on this page, which offers a variety of things to do from different providers. So definitely check out the options to figure out what is best for you!
How to Save Money in Paris
Being a major European city, Paris is definitely not a budget destination. There are a few ways to save money of course, even on an itineary as packed with attractions as this one is. Food is one way – rather than eating out for every meal for example, you could stay in an apartment or hostel that lets you cook your own meals.
If that’s not an option, consider having picnic lunches or breakfasts, and eating out in the evenings. Also, keep an eye out for the “menu du jour”, most restaurants offer a fixed lunch or evening menu which includes a number of dishes at a fixed price.
You can usually get a meal for between €12 & €18 which includes two or three courses, bread, and sometimes even wine or coffee. Check out our guide to the best restaurants in Paris for lunch deals.
The cheapest way to get around Paris is to walk of course, followed by the excellent public transport system. We usually walk as much as we can, and then take the metro for the longer trips. Taxis can be convenient, but they will eat into your budget very quickly.
One of our favourite ways to save money when we visit a major city where we want to see a lot of sights is to invest in a city sightseeing pass. In Paris there are two main passes that we recommend, the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass.
The Paris Pass actually includes the Paris Museums Pass, which gets you into many of Paris’s major attractions, including the Louvre and Versailles. It also includes invaluable skip the line access to some of the major attractions in Paris.
The Paris Pass also comes with a number of other benefits including a travel card for the duration of the pass, access to the hop on hop off bus, a Seine River cruise, a walking tour, wine tasting and many more.
One thing to be aware of is that the three day Paris Pass, which we would recommend if you were to do this itinerary, only includes a 2 day Paris Museum Pass, as there is no three day Paris Museum Pass. So you would need to arrange your days to visit the attractions covered by the Paris Museum Pass over two days.
I have in fact already done this for you in this itinerary. The first day includes attractions that are not covered by the Paris Museum Pass, whilst the second and third day include the main attractions covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
As an idea of savings, if you were to visit all the attractions in this itinerary that are covered by the Paris Pass, plus buy a three day travel card, you’d be looking at spending over €220. A three day Paris Pass currently costs €165 – so that is a good saving!
Of course, your individual situation will vary, and you might have different attractions you want to visit. In addition, you should be aware that if you are an EU citizen under the age of 26 that many attractions are free or discounted to visit (you need ID!). Also, on the first Sunday of every month, many museums are free to visit – although very crowded as a result!
We think the Paris Pass is good value for money (click here to buy), but do feel free to check out our detailed review of both the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass, and come to your own decision as to what works for you!
Practicalities for visiting Paris
Paris is a safe city in our experience, although it does have a reputation for being home to a number of scams. Most of these are easy to avoid once you know about them (read up on some of the common scams in Paris here).
As with any major city, of course you need to keep your wits about you – keep your possessions in view all the time, keep your wallet or phone in a front pocket (with a zip if possible), and don’t do anything that you wouldn’t do at home.
We’ve not had any problems in Paris, although there are a few scams to be aware of – check our guide to avoiding common Paris scams so you are prepared in advance.
Electricity in Paris is of the 220v standard, with the 2 pin European style plug. Travellers from countries like the UK and the US will need an adapter like this.
US travellers need to check their equipment supports the 220v standard – it will be written clearly on the power adapter. As a general rule, we have found that laptops, phone and camera chargers and other small electronics are universal, whilst larger devices like hair dryers and hair straighteners are not.
Paris is part of the Eurozone, so the currency is the Euro. You can get Euros from ATM’s, banks and currency exchanges, although credit cards are of course widely accepted, and there is no need to carry large quantities of currency.
Internet access is widely available in the form of WiFi all around the city and in hotels and coffee shops, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting online. You can also pick up local SIM cards if you have an unlocked phone. Travellers from the UK on the Three network will be able to use their Feel At Home data, which is a great deal if you’re a regular traveller from the UK.
For more options on getting online when travelling, check out our guide to getting online when travelling to help you figure out the best options. We also have a guide to picking the best travel router, which can help you extend a weak WiFi network and share it across multiple devices.
The water in the taps in Paris is safe to drink unless otherwise indicated. If you don’t like the taste, bottled water is widely available. We usually recommend you travel with a re-usable water bottle like this to save on having to buy water bottles.
Eating in Paris
If you want to eat at one of the more popular restaurants in Paris, we recommend that you book in advance. We recommend and use La Fourchette, which is the most popular online restaurant booking website in France.
It’s easy to use and makes booking restaurants a breeze, especially if you don’t speak French. Check it out here to find reviews, sample menus and book a table.
Further Reading for your 3 Days in Paris
We have visited Paris on a number of occasions, and have written a good deal about our experiences in the city. To help you further plan your stay in Paris, here are some of our favourite posts and external resources.
- A detailed guide to 2 Days in Paris, should you be there for a shorter period or are looking for some alternative options
- We also have a guide to spending a day in Paris, if you’re on a really tight schedule and just want to focus on the highlights
- We have a detailed guide to attending the famous Moulin Rouge show in Paris
- Our guide to the best photography locations in Paris, to help you get the best shots on your trip
- A guide to choosing a Seine river cruise, buying Paris opera tickets, attending a fashion show in Paris and our tips for the best restaurants in Paris for lunch.
- Our review of the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass to help you decide if these might save you money during your time in Paris
- A guide to Airbnb Alternatives to help you find the right accommodation
- If you like afternoon tea, check out our definitive guide to the best afternoon tea locations in Paris
- If you are heading out of town, check out our itinerary for 2 Days visiting Normandy and the D-Day beaches
- If you want a book, we always like to recommend the Rick Steves guides – here’s the Rick Steves Paris edition