My hotel room with a Paris view – not bad!
The capital of France is a must-see and should be visited at least once, if not more. Paris is a home of art and culture – that becomes very obvious the second you step foot in the city. You can easily spend a week or more in Paris without getting enough of it but if you only have 3 days to spend in Paris, I advise you to see as much as possible. Here are the best sights you shouldn’t miss when visiting the capital of France. I adore Paris and if you follow my 3 days in Paris itinerary you will experience the best highlights, wander through neighbourhoods, eat some delicious French food and discover places you want to re-visit on your next trip to Paris. So let’s get started.
When to Visit Paris
In my opinion, anytime is a good time to visit Paris. Spring sees beautiful flowers as the city begins to warm up. Summer is the warmest but you will also be sharing the city with many tourists. Autumn sees the leaves begin to fall while the winter sees Paris at its coldest with fewer tourists and cheaper accommodation prices. Christmas time can be magical with the Christmas lights and decorations. Whenever you get the chance to visit Paris, you will make it the perfect time to be in Paris.
Where to Stay in Paris
Paris offers many accommodation options but to make the most of your 3 days in Paris, I suggest to stay close to the centre of Paris where you will find many of the tourist attractions that I include in this 3 day itinerary for Paris. On saying that, not all of them are close together. Here are some Paris accommodation options, from budget to ‘let’s splurge on some luxury’. Wherever you decide to stay, you can easily get around Paris by walking or catching The Metro.
Hostels in Paris: There are many hostels in Paris to choose from. Generator Paris is a designer hostel in the 10th district. It is 2.7km from the centre of Paris with a Metro nearby. Another option is St Christopher’s Inn Paris which is near Gare du Nord Train Station providing easy access to getting around Paris. For more hostel options check out HostelWorld.
How to Get Around Paris
Paris is a large city, which I found it easy to get around. This is because I did my research and studied a map to ensure I could see as much as possible on my trip to Paris. The two ways I got around was by walking and taking the Metro. I did slip in a ride on the hop-on hop-off sight seeing bus to give me a glimpse of what I could see before I started venturing on my own.
Walking around Paris
Walking is my favourite way to get around Paris. Keeping my feet on the ground allowed me to discover Paris and its many major sights, side streets and cute cafes. When walking, ensure you wear good and most importantly, flat walking shoes. Many of Paris’ streets are cobbled in a fan pattern making wearing high heels difficult, and in my opinion, dangerous.
TRIVIA: Some Paris streets are cobbled and have a fan pattern. This was because the prisoners of The Bastille would sit on the ground and lay the cobbles in front of them, starting from left to right. When a row was done, they would move forward and lay another line. This formed the fan pattern.
Fan shaped Paris cobbled street
Paris’ metro system is extremely developed and is a great way to get around Paris. The city is made up of 20 districts (arrondissements) and you will find Paris’ main sights are spread around the arrondissements and so, you may not be able to walk from one tourist spot to the next. For instance the Louvre is in the 1st, Notre Dame is in the 4th, the Eiffel Tower is in the 7th and Montmartre is in the 18th so it is easier to get on the Metro.
To get around on the Metro, I suggest you purchase a carnet – a group of 10 tickets and replenish them if you need to. However, you could consider purchasing the Paris Pass which is designed for tourists visiting Paris. It not only provides entry to attractions and landmarks but offers access to the bus, metro and RER systems. Find out about a Paris Pass here.
A quick word on Safety in Paris
In general, Paris is a safe city to travel in however, be aware of anyone approaching you. There are many tourists who visit Paris and unfortunately there are pickpockets, especially in crowds. Just be aware of your surrounds and keep an eye on your belongings.
What to Wear in Paris
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world and there are many notable world-renowned clothes designers. That doesn’t mean you need to wear them while being a tourist in Paris. The key to what to wear in Paris is to blend in and look fashionable but still be comfortable. But as you will be doing a lot of walking while in Paris, ensure to wear comfortable flat shoes like boots or casual loafers. And there are plenty of shops to purchase fashion so don’t worry too much about your clothes.
Now onto how you can spend your 3 days in Paris.
Closest Metro Line to the Eiffel Tower is Champ de Mars / Tour Eiffel on line RER C.
Eiffel Tower, it can’t get more France than that. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Europe, and for a good reason. Construction on the romantic landmark began in January 1887 and was completed in March 1889. You can appreciate the Eiffel Tower from many places around Paris – it is that tall. Or you can sit below it in the gardens. But the best way to appreciate the Eiffel Tower is to go to the top where you will receive wonderful views over Paris. You can walk the stairs to the first level or catch the lift. The view from here is very impressive but take the elevator to the top to really get the best views.
View from the top of the Eiffel Tower
As you walk around you can appreciate what an engineering marvel the tower really is. It is easy to spend an hour or so at the top appreciating the views and taking photos, however, on the way down, why not call into the restaurant for a champagne or wine. This is quite an indulgent, touristy and expensive thing to do however, I thoroughly enjoyed every minute I sat there with a glass of wine admiring the spectacular Paris views.
The queues to go up the Eiffel Tower are often long so get there early. You can purchase your ticket in advance here and jump the queues.
You may want to grab some lunch after getting back on the ground and there are plenty of cafe’s to choose from. Next stop on this first day of our 3 day itinerary in Paris is Notre-Dame. You can walk there which can take around an hour or take the train which will take around 20 minutes or so.
TIP: It’s great to sit outside at a cafe or restaurant however, be prepared to be charged a little more.
Sitting outside enjoying a drink
On your way to Notre-Dame you could visit the Musee D’Orsay which is an art museum housed in an old train station. Works of Van Gogh, Monet, Cézanne, Berthe Morisot, and many others can be found in Musee D’Orsay. The museum, which opened in 1986, is one of the biggest art museums in the world. If you like art, you could spend hours here!
Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris or ‘Old Woman of Paris’, is among the most stunning medieval Catholic cathedrals in the world. It is found on the Île de la Cité in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. It’s construction began in 1163 and took some 200 years to build. Over the centuries it has been added to and desecrated during the French Revolution. Unfortunately, in 2019 Notre Dame underwent a tragic fire and is currently being rebuilt. That means, the ageless beauty can only be admired from the outside. Oh well, there is plenty to admire on the Île de la Cité. You could sit along the Seine and watch the people go by on land and on the water.
The Latin Quarter
Across from the Île de la Cité is the Latin Quarter. It is home to the Sorbonne University and has many student-filled cafes of which you could partake. The area, also known as the 5th arrondissement, is also famous for its bookshops with the Shakespeare & Company being the most notable. Maybe pop next door for a coffee and pastry in the coffee shop next door with the same name. After your coffee, there is the stately Panthéon building to explore which houses the remains of notables like Marie Curie and Voltaire.
But next, we are walking to the Louvre which should take around half an hour.
The Louvre Museum
If you have to pick only one museum to go to, head to the Louvre. You cannot miss it with its glass Pyramid entrance. Depending on your interest in art spare a few hours at least while you’re there since it is the second-biggest art museum in the world. However, if you are like me and don’t appreciate great art, I would still visit to see the Mona Lisa, a painting by Leonardo da Vinci in the 16th century. I won’t spoil it for you, but she is smaller than I expected and it was hard to get close due to the crowds. If art ‘aint your thing’, don’t worry, you can go outside and appreciate the Tuileries Gardens.
By now your feet might be aching, I know mine are, and it should be time for dinner. You could head back to the Latin Quarter or go back to the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower at night is not to be missed. It is lit up and night and you might want to go up to the top again for views over Paris at night. Then head to your accommodation for the evening unless you are looking for some nightlife which can be found in Le Baron Paris not too far from the Eiffel Tower.
You could end your day along the Seine Riverbanks. During the warmer months the riverbanks along the Seine River allow you to sunbathe during the day and enjoy a drink at night. The Parc Rives de Seine extends from the Ponte des Arts to the Eiffel Tower on the left bank. And from Passerelle Leopold – Sedar-Senghor at Bastille on the right bank. Or head back to the left bank for dinner then wander south into the Latin Quarter to experience more of older Paris. On the Left Bank you will find many cafés and pubs open for an after-dinner apéritif. Whatever you decide to do, enjoy the lights of Paris.
Place de la Concorde
Start day 2 on this 3 day Paris itinerary at the Place de la Concorde. This is one of Paris’ major public squares and was scene of some executions. Nowadays, it is more peaceful with fountains (Fontaine des Mers and Fontaine des Fleuves), statues and an Egyptian obelisk, the Luxor Obelisk and is home to some prestigious hotels. After exploring this area you are at one end of the Champs-Elysées. Time to shop, if you have a good bank balance.
The Champs-Elysées is just over 2km long. The glory of the picture-perfect street only started in the mid-1800s. Before that, the “most beautiful avenue in the world”, as it’s often called today, used to be a fairly unpopular spot. Gradually, sidewalks, street lamps, cafes, and theatres found their way to the avenue, and over centuries it gained the look that is now known all around the globe. If you don’t include any shopping during your walk along the Champs-Elysées it will take around half an hour to walk the length to reach the Arc de Triomph.
Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triumph at the end of the Champs Elysee
Along with the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the most well known structures in Paris. The famous monument was built in honour of the people who fought in the Napoleonic and French Revolutionary wars. It is possible to climb to the top of the iconic monument and view one of the largest roundabouts in the world. The 12-lane road is one of the busiest of its kind and is worth observing. Be careful when you cross it! And also get great views down the Champs-Elysées and over Paris.
From the Arc de Triomphe head to the Metro for a journey to Sacre-Coeur and the Montmartre area.
Sacre-Coeur is an elegant Roman Catholic church located at the top of the highest hill in Paris – Montmartre. It is the second most-visited landmark in Paris. The fairytale-like church was constructed by the same architect who designed Notre Dame. The basilica, dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, was finished in 1914, after almost 40 years of hard work.
The basilica is as beautiful inside as it is outside. In addition, the steps in front of the church are perfect for sunset-watching. If you like, you have the option to climb to the top of Sacre-Coeur for an even better view. Trust me, the 300 steps are worth it!
Montmartre, a 130-meter high hill, is an artsy historic area. In the 1800s, Montmartre was one of the cheapest places to live. The affordable cost of living attracted artists who made the neighborhood what it is today.
The main attraction Sacre-Coeur is not at all the only sight worth seeing. Montmartre Museum and the picture-worthy La Maison Rose shouldn’t be missed when you’re wandering along the streets of the area. In Montmartre, you’ll find many lovely cafes to relieve your hunger as well. Montmartre is also home to the famous Moulin Rouge, the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance.
You’ll spot many street artists here and have the opportunity to have your portrait painted by one of them. Near Sacre-Coeur, you may spot the mysterious “sinking house”. Truth be told, the house is actually not sinking but if you capture it at a right angle, you can create the illusion of a house that’s merging into a grassy hill.
End your day here in one of the bars, cafes or restaurants.
Day 3 in Paris is starting at a Paris train station for the ride to the Palace of Versailles. You can take a train on the RER Line C which arrives at Versailles Château – Rive Gauche train station and then it is just a 10 minute walk to the Versailles Palace. Or take an SNCF trains from Gare Montparnasse and arrive at Versailles Chantiers train station, which is 18 minutes on foot to the Palace. There are also many tours you could hop onto. Check out some of them here.
The Palace of Versailles is a good example of a royal palace from the Baroque time. The magnificent design of the place, inside and out, is a work of some of the finest French architects. It is the former home of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette was constructed in 1624-1698. It is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the world with over 15 million visitors coming to see the historical beauty every year. Prepare for at least half a day, though some spend the whole day, of discovering the beautiful palace before walking through the exquisite gardens with their opulent fountains. Walk to the Queen’s Hamelt, where Marie-Antoinette would escape court life.
You could also discover the Royal Opera of Versailles which is a stunning opera house at the Palace. It is a place of great acoustics and impressive architecture. The idea of building a hall for concerts and plays came from king Louis XIV. At the time, it was the biggest concert hall in Europe, accomodating 712 people in the audience. It remains to be a stunning piece of art, and should not be missed when visiting the Palace of Versailles. Don’t forget to wear good walking shoes.
Palace of Versailles and its exquisite gardens
Head back to Paris after your visit to the Palace of Versailles. Depending on the time you get back you may want to go shopping for local French souvenirs. Perhaps take another visit to the Louvre. Maybe enjoy a meal on your last night in Paris or at the Trocadero Gardens and watch the sunset over the Eiffel Tower.
After visiting Paris once, you’ll want to come back as this 3 days itinerary in Paris has really on touched on what there is to see and do. There is so much moe royal European feel, culture, history, architecture and food to discover. Wherever you step, art in different forms surrounds you from all sides. Paris is not just a city, it is an experience. But enough of reading about it, go and have a Paris holiday of your own!
If you want to extend your stay in Paris, read our post France Working Holiday – How You Can Live Work and Play in France.
Sharyn McCullum has travelled all her life thanks to her dad who worked for an airline. She loves travelling to different countries to immerse herself in the culture and in particular, enjoy the food. She currently calls Melbourne, Australia home.