So, you’re planning a trip to Paris? Welcome to one of our favorite cities. With 3 days in Paris, you have enough time to take in the view from the Eiffel Tower, say hi to Mona Lisa in the Louvre, eat street food crepes, climb the Arc de Triomphe, explore several Parisian neighborhoods, and visit the amazing Palace of Versailles. We put together this 3-day Paris itinerary to help you have the best experience.
About this Paris Itinerary
Paris is one of Europe’s most popular destinations and with that, lines can be long to visit the more popular sites. The last thing you want to do on vacation is to wait in line after line after line. What fun would that be?
I put a lot of research into how to skip the lines at these attractions. You will have to book some tickets in advance but it will save you hours once you are in Paris. All of the links to book your tickets are included in this post.
To avoid museum fatigue, I didn’t put too many museums in one day. Yes, the art museums in Paris are amazing, but most people can’t handle more than two museums per day. I know I can’t!
Finally, all of the times in the daily schedule are rough estimates, just to give you an idea about timing throughout the day. Your times may differ, based on queues and how much time you decide to spend at each place. I did my best to anticipate waiting times and visiting times, but on very busy days (or very quiet days) these times can differ.
3-Day Paris Itinerary
Pinch Me, I’m in Paris!!
Bonjour! Today you get to visit some of Paris’ biggest and most iconic sites: the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe. Get ready to take lots of photos and make some wonderful memories.
9 am: Eiffel Tower
Yes, the Eiffel Tower is super touristy but a visit to Paris would not be complete without a view from the tower, especially if this is your first time in Paris.
The line to visit the Eiffel Tower can be epic (I’m talking 2 to 3 hours wait on the busiest days). You can avoid this nightmare by arriving at or before opening time and booking your tickets in advance.
There are two ways up the Eiffel Tower. You can take an elevator or you can walk up the stairs. The queues for the elevators are very long and the queue for the stairs is much shorter. The choice is yours. If you take the stairs, you get to eat more chocolate and crepes later!
If you plan to take the elevator, I highly recommend that you book your tickets in advance. Do this several weeks before your trip so you get the 9 am time slot (9:30 am between September and July).
You cannot book the stairs in advance. You can only purchase these tickets at the Eiffel Tower. If you plan to take the steps, arrive 15 to 30 minutes before opening time (8:30 – 8:45) to avoid waiting in line.
There are three levels on the Eiffel Tower. It’s roughly 300 steps to the first level, 300 steps to the second level, and an elevator to the very top. If you take the steps to the second level, on this level you can buy a ticket to take you to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
View from the Eiffel Tower
Cost: Elevator to 2nd floor 16€; Elevator to the top 25€; Stairs to 2nd level 10€; Stairs to 2nd level and elevator to the top 19€
Tickets: Book your ticket in advance on the official website.
11 am: Picnic in Champs de Mars
For the ultimate picnic experience, go shopping on a charming French street and enjoy your meal in Champs de Mars, the large park in front of the Eiffel Tower.
I have to give Rick Steves credit for this. On our first visit to Paris, Tim and I did this and it was one of many favorite memories from Paris. There’s something about sitting in the park, eating wine, cheese, and chocolate, and enjoying the view of the Eiffel Tower. It was such a great experience that we did it again several years later with Tyler, Kara, and our mothers.
From the Eiffel Tower, it’s another very pretty walk to Rue Cler. On this short shopping street, go shopping in the patisseries (pastry shops), boulangeries (bread shops), fromageries (cheese shops), and shops selling wine, fruit, and chocolate. Have the wine shop owner open your wine bottle and usually they will sell plastic cups for the wine. Classy!!
Take your food and find a nice spot on Champs de Mars and enjoy the view.
1 pm: The Louvre
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. This building was once the home to French Kings, including Louis XIV. During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the Louvre was converted to a museum.
This place is massive and you literally could spend days here. I find the Louvre to be crowded and overwhelming. My favorite part about visiting the Louvre is just taking in the grandeur of the building. The sheer size of this place is impressive. Several rooms, like the Apollo Gallery (where the crown jewels are kept), are gorgeous.
If you are an art lover, take several hours and enjoy this spectacular place. However, if you just want to visit the highlights, you can do so in about an hour.
The main sites to visit in the Louvre are the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory.
Again, lines to enter the Louvre can be long. We recommend purchasing the Museum Pass because this allows you to skip the ticket line, not only at the Louvre, but also at many other sites on this itinerary. Read more about the Museum Pass at the end of this post.
With the Museum Pass, you get to skip the ticket line but you will still have to wait in line for security (although this is much shorter than the ticket line). Enter through the modern glass pyramid.
Getting here: From Champs de Mars, walk to the Ecole-Militaire metro station. Take Line 8, direction Creteil, transferring at Concorde to line 1, direction Chateau de Vincennes, to Palais Royal Musee du Louvre.
Hours: daily 9 am to 6 pm; on Wednesday and Friday open until 9:45 pm; closed Tuesdays
Cost: 15€ adults; under 18 years are free; included in the Museum Pass
3:30 pm: Indulge at Angelina’s
Hopefully you worked up a bit of an appetite because now it’s time for a little indulgence. From the Louvre, walk through the Tuileries Garden and cross Rue de Rivoli to Angelina. Angelina serves decadent hot chocolate and delicious French pastries. Enjoy!
4:30 pm: Place de la Concorde
From Angelina, stroll through Tuileries Garden or along the Rue de Rivoli to Place de la Concorde. This famous square is full of French history. This was the spot during the French Revolution where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre were executed by guillotine.
From mid-November to early May a giant Ferris wheel sits in Place de la Concorde. If the line is short and you want a nice view of Paris, consider taking a ride.
5 pm: Champs-Elysees
The Champs-Elysees is one of the most recognizable streets in the world. It is famous as being the finish of the Tour de France and the location of the Bastille Day military parade. Restaurants, shops, the theaters line the Champs-Elysees. It has a touristy feel but it’s still worth the stroll.
Along the way, if you want another French treat, consider stopping into Laduree for macarons.
From Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, it is a 2.3 km (1.4 mile) walk. You can walk the entire length of the Champs-Elysees or shorten the walk by taking line 1 on the metro from Concorde to Franklin D. Roosevelt or George V.
6:30 pm: Arc de Triomphe
It’s time to take in the view from the mighty Arc de Triomphe. This is my favorite view of Paris. There’s just something about looking down the Champs-Elysees to the Louvre, out to La Defense, and of course, having the wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower.
While on top of the Arc, look straight down. You are standing at one of the world’s largest round-abouts, where twelve avenues come together. Watching the cars navigate this circle is very entertaining.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the Arc de Triomphe was almost a statue of a giant elephant? 45 years before the Arc was built, French architect Ribart proposed to build a 3-level elephant at the same site. The French government shot down this proposal. Could you imagine a giant elephant in the center of Paris?
Hours: April 1 to September 30: 10 am to 11 pm; October 1 to March 31: 10 am to 10:30 pm
Cost: Adults 8€; ages 18 to 25 years 5€; 17 and under are free; included on the museum pass
Closest metro station: Charles de Gaulle Etoile lines 1, 2 and 6
Dinner and Drinks
End the day with dinner and drinks. If you are looking for a very cool dinner/drink spot, go to the Buddha Bar. We loved it here. The lower level is a restaurant and along the second level are lounge areas with views over the restaurant. It feels like you have left Paris and entered Asia.
There are two locations of the Buddha Bar. We visited both and by far the best location is 8-12 Rue Boissy d’Anglas. From the Arc de Triomphe, take the metro back to Concorde and then it is just a 5-minute walk to the Buddha Bar.
The Historic Center of Paris, Musee d’Orsay & Montmartre
8:00 am: Ile de la Cite
Our day starts with a visit to Sainte-Chapelle. You can take the metro to Cité, the closest station, but I recommend a more scenic route with just a little more walking.
Ile de la Cite is the small island in the center of Paris that is home to Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame. It is the historic heart of Paris. Approaching it from the Right Bank and crossing Pont Neuf onto Ile de la Cite (the oldest bridge in Paris) is a very scenic way to start the day.
I recommend taking the metro to Palais Royal Musee de Louvre or Louvre-Rivoli, walking towards the Seine, and then walking along the river to Pont Neuf. Pont Neuf is the stone bridge that crosses the Seine on the western edge of the island. From Pont Neuf, enjoy the view along the Seine, to the next bridge, Pont des Arts, and to the Eiffel Tower off in the distance.
This walk, of course, is optional. It takes 20 minutes and is 1.4 km (1 mile) long from Palais Royal Musee de Louvre to Sainte-Chapelle.
9 am: Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is home to one of the world’s best displays of stained glass. It is gorgeous inside, much prettier than the inside of Notre Dame Cathedral.
This is another location that is notorious for having long lines so getting here at opening time (or a little before) helps you avoid the wait. The Museum Pass will let you skip the queue for tickets but lines can still be long for security. If you really want to skip the line, plan on arriving 15 to 30 minutes before opening time.
Hours: April 1 to September 30: 9 am to 7 pm; October 1 to March 31 9 am to 5 pm; closed January 1, May 1, December 25
Cost: 10€; included with the Museum Pass
Combo Ticket with Conciergerie: 15€
Metro Station: Line 4, Cite
Website: Sainte-Chapelle can close on other days during the year. Check their website to confirm hours before your visit.
This is optional, but for those with an interest in French history, you can visit the Conciergerie. This is where people were imprisoned before taken to Place de la Concorde to be executed. Marie Antoinette is the most famous prisoner.
The Conciergerie is located next to Sainte-Chapelle.
Hours: Open every day 9:30 am to 6 pm
Cost: 9€; Combination ticket with Sainte-Chapelle 15€; included with the Museum Pass
10:30 am: Notre Dame Cathedral
From Sainte-Chapelle it’s a very short walk to Notre Dame Cathedral.
In front of Notre Dame Cathedral a small plaque marks Point Zero (Point Zero des Routes de France), the historic center of Paris.
There are two things to do at Notre Dame: visit the inside of the cathedral and climb the tower for an amazing view of Paris.
To visit the inside of Notre Dame there may be a queue. If the line is very long (during busy times it snakes through the square in front of the cathedral) consider skipping this. Yes, Notre Dame is impressive but it’s nowhere near as beautiful as Sainte-Chapelle. It’s up to you, but in my opinion your time is better spent seeing sites this afternoon than waiting in this long line. But hopefully, you’ll get lucky.
The highlight of Notre Dame is getting that gargoyle view of Paris. The view from the tower is amazing and one of the best in the city. This is worth the wait in line. Fortunately, things have changed in recent years. Now you can reserve a time slot, which eliminates the long, painfully slow line that once stretched down the side of Notre Dame. Yay!
On your smartphone you will have to download the Jefile app and use this to reserve your time slot. There is an automated ticket booth next to the entrance to the tower but I would not recommend using this. On our recent visit, all time slots were reserved for the entire day.
I recommend booking your time slot well in advance of your visit to Paris. If you do not visit the Conciergerie, 10:30 should work well. If you plan to visit the Conciergerie, book the 11 am time slot.
Hours: April 1 to September 30: 10 am to 6:30 pm; October 1 to March 31: 10 am to 5:30 pm
Before leaving Ile de la Cite, it’s a quick walk to one of the prettiest storefronts in Paris, Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. This is a small café so you can eat lunch here.
Another good lunch spot is Pom’ Canelle, a restaurant that serves French and European food at reasonable prices. From Ile de la Cite, cross Pont Saint-Louis to Ile Saint-Louis. This island gets fewer visitors than Ile de la Cite and it’s a good spot for lunch and to go shopping. Pom’ Canelle is located here, at 27 Rue des 2 Ponts.
For an amazing ice cream shop, walk just one minute to Bertillon Glacier. This place is world famous for its ice cream and sorbet. In fact, you could skip lunch and just eat here instead (we did!).
Note: There are several ice cream shops with name Berthillon in the area. You want to visit the one in this photo with the address 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile.
2 pm: Walk along the Seine
Cross Pont de la Tournelle to the Left Bank. Walk along the Seine. As you approach Pont de l’Archeveche you get a beautiful view of Notre Dame. Pont de l’Archeveche makes a great photo spot of the cathedral.
As you continue your walk along the river you will notice stands set up selling books. These booksellers, or “bouquinistes” sell used books, magazines, and posters.
You will also pass Shakespeare & Company. This bookstore opened in 1919 and was a gathering place for Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound.
Continue the stroll along the Seine until you reach Musee d’Orsay.
3 pm: Musee d’Orsay
I will admit it, I am not an art museum lover. But I do love Musee d’Orsay. This museum is simply fabulous. If you arrive here at 3 pm you have 3 hours to tour the museum, more than enough time to really enjoy the main exhibits.
Musee d’Orsay houses the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world. It is here that you can see Monet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gaugin and more. It’s literally a collection of the who’s who in the Impressionist art world.
But this museum is more than just Impressionist art. The building is also a work of art. Musee d’Orsay was once Gare d’Orsay, an old train station, that was renovated and became this art museum. It is beautiful inside.
On the top floor, look for the giant clock windows that give you a very unique view of Paris and make a creative photographic spot.
Hours: Daily 9:30 am to 6 pm; open until 9:45 on Thursday; closed Mondays, May 1, and December 25
Cost: 12€, included with the Museum Pass
6 pm: Sacre-Coeur and Montmartre
Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring Montmartre. This maze of hilly streets is one of Paris’ prettiest neighborhoods to visit.
I recommend getting off at the Lamarck metro station and walking towards the Sacre-Coeur Basilica. This is a very nice walk that takes you past photogenic spots such as La Maison Rose and Le Consulat Restaurant.
Before arriving at the basilica you will walk through Place du Tertre. This small square is filled with artists. Go shopping, grab a drink at a café, or have your portrait drawn.
The Sacre-Coeur Basilica sits atop the highest hill in Paris. The steps in front of the Basilica are a popular spot to watch the sunset. You also have the option to climb the 300 steps to the top of the Dome for an even better view.
Hours: 8:30 am to 8 pm May to September; 9 am to 5 pm October to April
For more information, visit the official website.
For dinner, take your pick from restaurants in the area. We ate at Le Relais Gascon, a wonderful little place that prepares French food.
The Palace of Versailles
Versailles is a royal chateau located on the outskirts of Paris. In 1682, King Louis XIV moved the Royal Court from the Louvre to the Palace of Versailles. For a little more than 100 years, this was the seat of government for France. That ended in 1789 with the French Revolution. The monarchy moved back to Paris and since then, the city of Paris has remained the seat of government for France.
During your visit to Versailles you will tour the palace and get to stroll through the gorgeous gardens. We visited on a rainy day, not the best weather for photography, but on a sunny day this place looks stunning.
The Versailles Gardens in the rain.
How long does a visit last? If you’re fast, it takes 3 to 4 hours to zip through the palace and walk a part of the gardens. Some people spend all day here, touring the entire gardens as well as the estate of Trianon.Stay as long as you like today. We have some more cool spots to visit in Paris, just in case you get back to Paris in the afternoon.
Learn more about everything you can see and do in Versailles on the official website.
Hours: closed Mondays; open at 9 am
Cost: 18€ to tour the palace; 20€ for the palace and gardens
Museum Pass: The Museum Pass covers your entry into the palace, the Trianon, and the estate of Marie-Antoinette. It does not cover the musical gardens. You will have to purchase this ticket separately (and you should do so in advance) for 8.50€.
Getting here: Take RER C from Paris to Versailles. This journey takes approximately 45 minutes. Since Versailles is outside of the city your travel card (if you have one) will not be valid for this trip. In the metro station you will have to purchase a separate round trip ticket to get to and from Versailles. It costs 7.10€. This detailed post explains how to get from Paris to Versailles.
Options for your Afternoon in Paris
If you do not spend all day in Versailles and get back to Paris during the afternoon, here are several spots to visit.
Take in the View from Montparnasse
For one of the best views of Paris, visit the observation deck of Montparnasse Tower. There are two levels to visit, the 56th floor, which is completely enclosed by windows, and the observation terrace on the roof. This is also completely enclosed by glass panels but there are a few strategic openings in the glass for your camera.
Hours: April 1 to September 30: 9:30 to 11:30; October 1 to March 31: 9:30 am to 10:30 pm; open 365 days a year
Cost: Adults 17€; student 15€; children 4 – 11 years 9.50€
Metro Station: Montparnasse – Bienvenue lines 4, 6, 12, 13
Note: If you want to eat some of the best crepes in Paris, walk 5 minutes to La Creperie de Josselin (11 am -11:30 pm, closed Monday and Tuesday).
Take Your Pick from 3 Museums
This small museum features sculptures by Rodin. It’s quick and fun to visit. If you are traveling with kids, this is a museum they may actually like. Just ask them to pose like the statues.
Hours: 10 am to 5:45 pm; closed Mondays
Cost: 10€, included with the Museum Pass
RER: Invalides (line C) – perfect for taking the RER back to Paris from Versailles
Metro: Varenne (line 13) and Invalides (line 8 and 13)
Musee de l’Orangerie
This is another small museum that features Impressionist artwork. The highlights of this museum are the eight Water Lilies murals painted by Claude Monet. You can also see art by Picasso, Sisley, Cezanne, Matisse, and more.
Hours: 9 am to 6 pm; closed Tuesdays
Cost: 9€, included with the Museum Pass
Location: In the Tuileries Garden, metro Concorde (line 1) or take RER C to Invalides and walk 10 minutes to the museum
This is the largest modern art museum in Europe. It has an interesting design, with all of its plumbing and pipes located on the exterior of the museum, color-coded in vibrant colors. It’s definitely a unique sight to see. This is large museum and you could wander here for hours. From the top level of the museum you are treated to another wonderful view of Paris.
Hours: 11 am to 10 pm; until 11 pm on Thursdays; closed Tuesdays
Cost: 14€; 5€ for the view of Paris only; included on the Museum Pass
Metro: Rambuteau (line 11), Hotel de Ville (line 1 and 11), Chatelet (line 1, 4, 7, 11, and 14)
Visit Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is one of the best known and most visited cemeteries in the world. A visit here may sound like a macabre way to spend an afternoon, but a stroll among the tombstones and mausoleums can be fascinating.
Hours: Daily 8:30 – 5:30
Metro: Pere Lachaise Line 2 and 3
Dinner and Drinks in Le Marais
End the day with a visit to Le Marais, one of Paris’ most interesting neighborhoods.
If you are looking for a budget meal, consider trying one of the falafel restaurants along Rue de Rosiers. The most famous spot is L’As du Falafel. We ate at Mi-Va-Mi, another popular spot, simply because it was the only one open during our visit.
If you don’t feel like eating falafel on your last night in Paris, there are many great cafes and restaurants in the area.
Tips to Help You Have the Best Experience
Learn a Little French
Sure, you can get by with just speaking English, but being able to say a few things in French is polite and friendly. At a bare minimum, say bonjour when walking into a restaurant or shop. If it’s evening, say bonsoir.
In my experience, trying to speak the local language opens you up to much more meaningful interactions with people. Even if you are not perfect or you make a mistake, your effort is appreciated.
I am a big fan of Fluenz, a software program that teaches several different languages and is perfect if you want to learn a little bit of conversational French.
Beware of Pickpockets
Paris is very safe. Your chances of being a victim of violent crime are very low. However, pickpocketing is a problem in Paris. Our hotel staff warned us of pickpockets and the US Embassy even has an article about how to avoid pickpocketing in Paris that you can read here.
This article by Europe for Visitors has a lot of great tips that you should read, especially if this is your first time to Europe.
Museum Closings on Mondays and Tuesdays
Several museums close on either Monday or Tuesday. Take note of this when planning your trip. You may have to adjust the order of these three days if you will be in Paris on a Monday or Tuesday.
Closed on Monday:
- Musee d’Orsay
- Musee Rodin
Closed on Tuesday:
- Musee de l’Orangerie
- Pompidou Centre
Places that are closed on Monday will have larger than normal crowds on Sunday and Tuesday. Places that are closed on Tuesday will have larger crowds on Monday and Wednesday. This is just something to be aware of when planning your time.
How to Adjust this Paris Itinerary
If day one of your three days in Paris also happens to be the day that you are arriving in the city, you will need to adjust day 1 of this Paris itinerary. Even if you arrive in the morning, there’s a good chance that you will be exhausted, especially if you flew a red-eye flight from outside of Europe.
Out of the big sites on day 1 (Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Arc de Triomphe) you may just want to plan on visiting two of them and save the third site for the afternoon of day 3.
Should You Get the Museum Pass?
Absolutely! The Museum Pass covers your entrance fee into almost every site in this itinerary and it allows you to skip the ticket lines. Just be aware that it does not guarantee getting into every attraction without a line. During busy times, you still may have to queue for security.
The Museum Pass is only offered for 2 days (48€) and for 4 days (62€). They do not have a 3-day option.
I recommend getting the 4-day pass. If you visit everything I have listed (not including the optional museums on day 3), you will pay 77€. Even though you don’t use the pass all four days, you still save 15€. If you visit another museum on the afternoon of day 3, that’s an additional 9 to 12€ savings.
Visit the official Museum Pass website for full details and instructions on how to obtain your pass.
What About the Paris Pass?
You may also hear about something called the Paris Pass. This pass includes the Museum Pass, the Paris Visite Pass for unlimited transportation in Paris (zones 1 through 3 so Versailles is not included), and some additional sites and activities in town.
The cost is 160€ for 3 days and only includes a 2-day Museum Pass. You have to pay 189€ in order to get the 4-day Museum Pass.
Unless you also plan on taking the hop-on hop-off bus tour, a walking tour, a Seine River cruise, and visiting places like the Paris Aquarium, you will not get your money’s worth.
Purchase the 4-day Museum Pass for 62€ and a 3-day Paris Visite Pass for 29.40€ for a grand total of 91.40€. That’s a savings of 97.60 € off of the Paris Pass.
You can purchase your Paris Visite Pass at the ticket booths in the metro stations (do this the first time you ride the metro). This will pay for your transportation on the metro, RER, bus, and the Montmartre funicular. Learn more here.
Where to Stay in Paris
We have visited Paris three times and here is where we stayed.
Hotel Brighton. This is the most expensive hotel on this list but it’s worth it if you want an awesome view over Paris. Located on Rue de Rivoli right across from Tuileries Garden, you will be able to see the Louvre, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe from your room. Request a high floor, preferably one with a balcony, for the best experience.
Hotel de La Bourdonnais. This hotel is located near the Eiffel Tower. From our room, if we hung our head out of the window, we could see the top of the Eiffel Tower. This hotel is under new management since our visit and it looks like things have changed for the better. We liked here, but not as much as the other two hotels in this list.
Le Relais Saint Honore. On our most recent visit to Paris we stayed at Hotel Le Relais Saint Honore. Our favorite thing about this small, boutique hotel is its excellent location. The Louvre, Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde, and Palais-Garnier are all within a 10-minute walk. The Tuileries and Pyramides metro stations are less than 5 minutes away. The rooms are small but tastefully decorated and the staff is friendly and speaks English. You don’t get the awesome view in this hotel but we loved the friendly staff and the location.
Happy travels! If you have any questions about planning your trip to Paris, comment below!
Recommend Reading and Travel Guides:
If you plan on buying a travel guide for Paris we highly recommend Rick Steves. In this list there are also two historical fiction books, one about Ernest Hemingway and one about the history of Paris, perfect for getting you even more excited for your trip and teaching you a little about Paris before you go.
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