City breaks offer travellers a glimpse into that city’s culture, and the opportunity to see the best of what’s on offer. They offer travellers the chance to dip their toes in the water so to speak, ready for them to decide whether they want to come back again and maybe even for a longer time.
And now we think of one of the most perfect city break destinations (especially for those of us based in the UK). I am of course talking about Paris. Where romantics go to gaze into eachother’s eyes, with city lights sparkling in the distance, and where solo travellers go to drink good wine and admire the iconic sights.
But just how do you see the highlights of Paris in 3 days? With this super slick (tried and tested) itinerary, that’s how.
When embarking on city breaks, I prefer to arrive late in the afternoon or evening before starting my sightseeing the next day. This is so that I don’t waste my daytime travelling, and instead relax when I arrive, allowing me to be raring to go in the early morning on the first full day of sightseeing. Therefore, this 3 day Paris itinerary is planned with that idea in mind. So please read Day 1 as your first full day of sightseeing, as opposed to when you’ll start your travelling.
First, a map of the highlights you’ll be fortunate enough to glimpse during your 3 days in Paris, the epitome of chic:
As with most travellers, if you’ve never been to Paris before, you will be incredibly excited to see all of the places you’ve seen on postcards and plastered across Instagram. So this itinerary lets you see some of the most talked about spots in Paris on the very first day!
Musée du Louvre
No trip is Paris is complete without a stop off at the Louvre to admire some world famous artwork, including none other than the real Mona Lisa. Aside from the stern looking lady, which is a little overrated in my opinion, there is also the Venus di Milo statue, an underground layer of Roman ruins and room upon room of other masterpieces to see here.
Expect the Louvre to be fairly busy (with most visitors clamouring to see the Mona Lisa as quickly as they can), but if you arrive early in the morning, then you should beat most of the queues and crowds.
When you arrive, you certainly can’t miss the Louvre, with its iconic glass pyramid hiding the famous artwork underground. You’ll likely want to admire the pyramid itself for a few moments, especially if it’s been raining and thus, you can see it reflected in the surrounding glassy puddles.
As for exploring inside, you can easily spend several hours roaming the never ending corridors. Take your time, walk slowly, admire the masterpieces and just stop clock watching until you’ve seen enough.
Entry to the Louvre is €15 per adult. But there are ways that you can score free entry as well, including arriving on Fridays after 6pm (if aged under 26), or visiting on the first Sunday of any month between October and March. This is great news if you’ve planned a trip to Paris at this time! For a full list of who can obtain free entry to the Louvre, check out their official website.
Jardin des Tuileries
Right across from the Louvre pyramid are the Tuileries Gardens (Jardin des Tuileries). These gardens are sprawling in size and have simple pathing throughout, making them one of the best places to walk to in Paris.
As you’ve just spent many hours inside the Louvre, you may be getting a little hungry. There are a number of food stalls in the gardens. My recommendation would be grabbing a cheese toastie or fresh baguette to go, whilst you listen to the birds inside this parkland space. Alternatively, if you’ve thought ahead, you could even bring your own picnic for the park.
If you walk the length of the Jardin des Tuileries, you will come across the Place de la Concorde, complete with ferris wheel and obelisk monument. You’ll even catch your first glimpses of the Eiffel Tower from across the River Seine. If you’re anything like me, this will get you very excited for the rest of your day, giving you a boost to keep on walking!
Avenue des Champ-Elysees
From the Jardin des Tuileries, you simply follow the road until you’re walking along Avenue des Champs-Elysees – the most chic of all shopping districts.
Named for the Elysian Fields (‘heaven’ in Greek mythology), this area is quite simply a shopaholic’s paradise in Heaven.
Spend some time window-shopping in the designer boutiques, doing a little people watching and maybe even buy some macarons to satisfy your afternoon cravings for something sweet.
Arc de Triomphe
Very close to the Champ-Elysees district is the Arc de Triomphe (another iconic Parisian landmark). Some of the best views of Paris can be obtained from the top of the Arc, so I will always recommend paying the €8 entry fee and climbing the steps inside to the top.
From up high, you will be able to see the nearby Eiffel Tower and remarkable Paris skyline. Take your time admiring the views until you feel ready to do some more walking.
In some ways, we’ve saved the best until last for the first day. If this is your first time to Paris, you will likely be most excited to see the Eiffel Tower. Throughout the day, you would have seen glimpses in the distance, but now, it’s time to see it up-close in all of its iron glory.
It takes about 30 minutes to walk from the Arc de Triomphe to the Eiffel Tower, via some pretty gardens and more views of the river. Once you’re at the Eiffel Tower, you can spend as long as you want roaming the Champs de Mars park, which the tower sits on.
There is one reason we’ve saved the tower until last – that is so that you can see it at night, when it puts on a delightful light show, causing it to sparkle in the surrounding darkness.
Some of you may choose to catch the lifts to the top of the tower, but my advice would be to skip this. You’ve already seen Parisian views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and at this time of day, you will be more captivated by the tower itself, sparkling away in the night sky.
If you do choose to head to the top, then you will need to pay €17 to get to the very top, whereas views from the ground are of course completely free.
Where to eat
Lunch on your first day should most definitely be a Parisian affair in Jardin des Tuileries. Whether you choose to buy something at one of the food stalls, such as a brie toastie or a fresh baguette, or opt to take your own French picnic with you; either way, nothing will beat a quiet lunch break in a picturesque park.
As for dinner, you’ll likely want to remain fairly close to the Eiffel Tower, so that you can continue to see it sparkling away. There are a number of great restaurants in the vicinity such as Les Ombres or La Bonbonniere de Marie. But given how popular this area is, be sure to book ahead!
On your second day, it’s time to venture a little further away from the centre of Paris into the and 18th and 19th arrondissements to see yet more iconic landmarks, perfect skyline views and pretty parklands.
Wherever you are in Paris, you will most likely be able to see the dove-white domes of the Sacre Coeur basilica glinting down at you. Set high upon a hill and up a number of stone steps, you can of course expect the Sacre Coeur to offer yet more picture perfect views of the Parisian skyline.
Entry to the Sacre Coeur basilica is free to all, unless you want to embark on a guided tour to the dome itself and the crypt.
Inside the basilica, you can happily spend a couple of hours admiring the intricate pillars, mosaics and interesting architecture. And then once you’re ready to step back outside, those fantastic views will be there to greet you once again. Take your time admiring the views, but keep your eyes on your valuables too.
Sadly, the Montmartre area is awash with stories of pickpocketing. Additionally, you may also be confronted by a seller on the steps of the Sacre Coeur, who sadly do try to con unsuspecting travellers out of their money, rather than just let you peruse their offerings. Basically my point is, feel free to admire the views, but don’t get completely lost in them or forget where you are!
Whilst you’re in this area, there is an exquisite little artisan chocolatier called La Cure Gourmande along Rue de Steinkerque, not too far from the Sacre Coeur. My recommendation would always be to browse through their store, and expect to leave it laden with delicious treasures. This is how you can find chocolate heaven in Paris.
Any meander through Montmartre should most definitely involve a glimpse of the evocative, crimson windmill of the Moulin Rouge theatre. Forever immortalised within the Baz Luhrmann film of the same name, this theatre will forever and always be the perfect place to admire and photograph whilst in Paris.
Stand back, admire the replica windmill and be transported into a world of fantastical costumes, catchy music and the finest Champagne – even if all of this is entirely within your own imagination, whilst standing right there in the street!
You can of course choose this moment to watch a showing (if you’ve booked ahead). But my own personal preference would be to keep your late afternoon and evening free so that you can gaze at the deep reds, oranges and golds of a Parc des Buttes Chaumont sunset.
Parc des Buttes Chaumont
Who doesn’t love strolling through beautiful parklands and green spaces when visiting cities?
Set upon yet another large hill, within the Parc des Buttes Chaumont, you will have the opportunity to glimpse the Paris skyline from a different angle. You will also be able to find interesting grottoes, flowing waterfalls and a magical temple-topped island here.
Although man-made, this park offers so much beauty and is such a tranquil place to wander through, whilst you relax, people watch and chase your worries away.
Be prepared to spend a few hours here – you will definitely want to! Seeing as it’s the late afternoon by this point, you should hold out for the sunset due to come, framing the Parisian skyline perfectly. Have you got a case of pure Parisian wanderlust yet?
Where to eat
For lunch, I’d recommend grabbing a bite to eat in Montmartre – there are so many great food places here serving typical French food. Personally, I’d opt for a delicious Parisian lunch at Soul Kitchen. As for dessert, I am of course going to suggest you select some delicious chocolates at La Cure Gourmande near the Sacre Coeur (you know, that luxurious artisan chocolate shop I told you about earlier).
Later in the day, you will have hopefully found yourself in Parc des Buttes Chaumont, admiring the glorious sunset. It’s here that I’m going to suggest to you to have another French picnic, this time at dusk with fabulous wine, breads and plenty of cheeses.
Your final day in Paris should be spent admiring yet more amazing highlights, including hearing the dulcet tones of the Notre Dame bells, twittering birds in the Jardin du Luxembourg and seeing yet more artwork (this time contemporary) within Palais de Tokyo.
Anyone who was brought up watching Disney movies knows that the Notre Dame is nearly as iconic an image for Paris as the Eiffel Tower is. Equally, listening to the dulcet tones of the bells chiming on the hour, followed by the squawks of birds scared by the noise is also perfectly intertwined with the Parisian feeling.
When you arrive, you are welcome to explore inside the Cathedral free of charge. However, if you wish to admire the views from the top of the towers, then this is €10. However, if you’re visiting on the first Sunday of any month between November and March then entry to the towers is free.
One word of advice: if visiting Paris in the Winter, make sure you’re wrapped up really warm. You will likely find yourself queuing for some time to enter the towers, but it also gets quite drafty at the top and whilst climbing the 402 steps up there. When I visited in December 2014, I was wearing my thick wool coat, scarf, gloves, multiple layers and beanie, but I was still frozen from standing still for about 2 hours. But it was worth it! The views from the top are perfect, and this is the only way to see the infamous stone gargoyles up close.
Jardin du Luxembourg
Inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Jardin de Luxembourg is a charming little garden to explore. In the warm months, this park is full of flowers, birds and sparkling water in the fountain.
There are various chairs placed around the garden to rest your feet during your walk and you have the opportunity to admire the beauty that is Luxembourg Palace. Originally built for the mother of Louis XIII of France, this palace is marvellous to look at whilst you wander through the accompanying gardens.
Take some time here to sit, watch the birds, marvel at the palace and smell the flowers. If you’re not fed up of French picnics by now (err, hello! How could you be?!), might I suggest another picnic in the park?
Palais de Tokyo
I can’t think of a better way to finish your fabulous 3 days in Paris than with a trip to Palais de Tokyo – something a little quirky and different, yet still perfectly French.
The Palais de Tokyo is a contemporary art gallery, showcasing some incredible yet unusual pieces. Essentially, this 3 day Paris itinerary has given you an art sandwich – I hope you don’t mind!
Inside the Palais de Tokyo, you’ll find art installations that try to spook you, others that will try to shock you and some that will be so fascinating to watch that you’ll be mesmerised. My particular favourite was several corridors and steps, with the walls, floor and ceiling completely covered in black graffiti. It was here that I found a French man wearing a beret – the timing could not have been more perfect!
Entry to this art gallery costs €12, and it’s certainly worth it. Be prepared to spend a couple of hours exploring all of the exhibitions here.
Where to eat
You can probably tell that I’m a huge fan of picnics, and when in Paris, I really don’t know what could be better. Thus, lunch should be spent in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
However, if you really have had enough of picnics by now, then there is also a lovely cafe called Au Vieux d’Arcole just around the corner from Notre Dame, which is definitely worth a visit. It’s said to be one of the prettiest cafes in Paris.
As for dinner, the Palais de Tokyo is not far from the River Seine, so it would be worth having dinner here whilst overlooking the river (providing you’ve booked ahead). A couple of great restaurants in this area are Le New York and L’Abeille.
Enjoy your city break to stunning Paris! Don’t forget to send me a chic postcard! Where are you most excited to see? Where else will you be adding to your must-see list?
Do you have longer to spend in Paris? How about considering a day trip to Versailles to admire the palace there?
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