3 Days in Paris: The Perfect Paris Itinerary

Immerse yourself in the City of Light's iconic landmarks, hidden treasures, and mouthwatering cuisine in just 72 hours. Follow this 3-day Paris itinerary for best results!

West Parker
By
West Parker
July 18, 2024

Ah, Paris! The mere mention of the city conjures up images of the Eiffel Tower, aromatic cafes, and art-filled museums. But let me tell you, planning a trip to Paris can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. When my wife Sarah and I decided to spend 3 days in Paris, we were hit with a tsunami of well-meaning advice from friends and family. "You HAVE to see the Mona Lisa!" "Don't waste time at tourist traps!" "Eat ALL the croissants!" (Okay, that last one wasn't bad advice.)

But here's the thing – Paris is a city that deserves more than just checking off a list of famous sights. It's about soaking in the atmosphere, getting lost in charming neighborhoods, and yes, indulging in some seriously good food. So, we set out to create the perfect 3-day Paris itinerary that balances the must-sees with some off-the-beaten-path gems. And let me tell you, it was quite the adventure!

Before we dive into the day-by-day breakdown, let's cover some essentials to make your 3 days in Paris smooth sailing.

When to Visit Paris

Timing is everything, right? Here's the scoop:

  • June to August: Peak tourist season. The weather's warm, days are long, but brace yourself for crowds and higher prices.
  • September to November: My personal favorite. Mild weather, fewer tourists, and a romantic autumn vibe.
  • December to February: Chilly, but magical with holiday decorations. Plus, hot chocolate tastes better when it's cold outside!
  • March to May: Spring in Paris is postcard-perfect, but pack an umbrella for those April showers.

Check the best times to visit Paris

What to Pack for Paris

Trust me, overpacking for Paris is a rookie mistake (I'm looking at you, past-me with three pairs of dress shoes). Here's what you really need:

  • Comfortable walking shoes (your feet will thank you)
  • A stylish, versatile coat (Parisians always look put-together)
  • A scarf (it's like the Swiss Army knife of accessories)
  • Umbrella (because Paris weather can be as unpredictable as a game of roulette)
  • Portable charger (for all those Instagram-worthy moments)
  • Crossbody bag or anti-theft backpack (pickpockets are sneaky, folks)

Get the full packing list for Paris

Getting Around Paris

Paris has a fantastic public transportation system that'll make you wonder why you ever complained about your hometown's subway. Here's the lowdown:

  • Metro: 16 lines, over 300 stations. It's fast, efficient, and will get you almost anywhere.
  • RER: 5 regional express lines, perfect for reaching suburbs like Versailles.
  • Bus: Great for sightseeing and reaching places the metro doesn't cover.
  • Tram: 13 lines serving the outskirts.

Pro tip: Get a Paris Visite Pass for unlimited travel. It's like an all-you-can-ride buffet for public transport!

Learn more about Paris public transport

Where to Stay in Paris

Choosing where to stay in Paris can be as tricky as pronouncing "croissant" correctly. Here are some solid options:

  • Budget: Hôtel Bienvenue in the 9th arrondissement. Charming and wallet-friendly.
  • Mid-range: Hôtel Europe Saint-Séverin in the Latin Quarter. Great location, won't break the bank.
  • Splurge: Hôtel Le Milie Rose in the 10th arrondissement. Because sometimes you need to treat yo' self.

Find more Paris accommodation recommendations

The Paris Pass: Is It Worth It?

Ah, the eternal question. The Paris Pass (€140 for 3 days) gets you into over 60 attractions and includes unlimited public transport. Sounds great, right? Well, it depends on your plans. If you're planning to hit up a lot of museums and attractions, it can save you some serious cash. But if you're more into wandering the streets and soaking up the atmosphere (which, let's be honest, is a big part of the Paris experience), you might be better off buying individual tickets.

Our take? We skipped it and didn't regret it. But do the math based on what you want to see and do.

Now, let's get to the good stuff – your perfect 3-day Paris itinerary!

Day 1: Iconic Paris

Morning: The Louvre and Tuileries Garden

Glass pyramid entrance of the Louvre Museum in Paris, with visitors queueing to enter
Pro tip: Book your Louvre tickets online to skip the long lines. Trust me, you'll want to save your energy for all the art inside!

Rise and shine, it's time to hit the ground running! Start your day with a croissant and café au lait at a local boulangerie (my favorite morning ritual in Paris), then head to the granddaddy of all museums – the Louvre.

Visit the Louvre

Now, I know what you're thinking. "The Louvre? Isn't that super touristy?" Well, yes, but hear me out. This place is massive (we're talking 652,300 square feet of art), and it's home to some of the most famous pieces in the world. The Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory – they're all here.

But here's the thing – don't try to see it all. You'd need weeks, and you've got 3 days in Paris to explore. Instead, pick a few sections that interest you and take your time. And please, for the love of baguettes, book your tickets in advance. The lines can be longer than the Seine!

Key Information:

  • Location: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
  • Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:00 PM (closed on Tuesdays)
  • Admission: €17 for adults, free for EU residents under 26

Why Visit: It's the world's largest art museum and home to some of the most iconic pieces in history. Even if you're not an art buff, the sheer scale and beauty of the building itself is worth seeing.

Insider Tip: Head to the Mona Lisa first thing. It gets crowded fast, and you'll want to see her enigmatic smile without elbowing your way through a sea of selfie sticks.

People relaxing in green chairs near a fountain in the Tuileries Garden, Paris
Found the perfect spot for people-watching in the Tuileries. These green chairs are surprisingly comfy!

After you've had your fill of art, step outside into the Tuileries Garden. This beautiful park is the perfect place to rest your feet and process all the masterpieces you've just seen. Grab a chair by one of the fountains, people-watch, and enjoy the manicured French gardens. If you're feeling peckish, there are several cafes in the park where you can grab a light lunch.

Afternoon: Seine River Walk and Notre-Dame

Couple strolling along the Seine River in Paris with Notre-Dame Cathedral visible in the background
There's something so romantic about walking along the Seine. Even as a solo traveler, I couldn't help but feel the love in the air!

From the Tuileries, make your way to the banks of the Seine. Walking along this iconic river is like strolling through a living history book. You'll pass under beautiful bridges like Pont Alexandre III (the most ornate bridge in Paris) and Pont des Arts (formerly known for its love locks).

As you walk, keep an eye out for the bouquinistes – those iconic green bookstalls that line the river. They've been a fixture here since the 16th century and are a UNESCO World Heritage site. Feel free to browse – you might find a unique souvenir!

Your walk will eventually bring you to the Île de la Cité, where you'll find Notre-Dame Cathedral. Now, I know what you're thinking – "Isn't it closed for renovation after the fire?" You're right, but don't skip it! Even from the outside, Notre-Dame is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture.

Learn about Notre-Dame Cathedral

View of Notre-Dame Cathedral's facade from Square Jean-XXIII park in Paris
Even with the renovation work, Notre-Dame is breathtaking. Can't wait to see it fully restored!

Key Information:

  • Location: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
  • Hours: The cathedral is closed for renovation, but you can admire it from the outside 24/7
  • Admission: Free to view from the outside

Why Visit: It's one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and a symbol of Paris. The ongoing restoration is a testament to its importance to the city and the world.

Insider Tip: For a great view of Notre-Dame, head to the small park behind it, Square Jean-XXIII. It's less crowded and offers a beautiful perspective of the cathedral's flying buttresses.

Evening: Arc de Triomphe and Dinner Cruise

Panoramic view of Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe at sunset
The climb up was worth it for this view! Pro tip: Time your visit for sunset to see Paris turn golden.

As the day winds down, make your way to another Parisian icon – the Arc de Triomphe. But don't just admire it from the ground. Head to the top for one of the best views in Paris.

Key Information:

  • Location: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
  • Hours: 10:00 AM to 10:30 PM (11:00 PM in summer)
  • Admission: €13 for adults

Why Visit: The view from the top offers a unique perspective of Paris, with the 12 avenues radiating out like a star. It's especially beautiful at sunset.

Insider Tip: Don't try to cross the roundabout to reach the Arc! Use the underground passage accessed near the Wagram exit of the Metro.

Cap off your first day with a dinner cruise along the Seine. There's something magical about seeing Paris lit up at night from the water. We went with Bateaux Mouches and loved it. The food was delicious, and watching the Eiffel Tower sparkle while sipping French wine? Pure magic.

Book a Seine River dinner cruise

View of the illuminated Eiffel Tower from a boat on the Seine River at night in Paris
Dinner cruises on the Seine are touristy, but oh so worth it. Seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle while sipping wine? Priceless.

Key Information:

  • Location: Pont de l'Alma, Rive Droite, Port de la Conférence, 75008 Paris, France
  • Hours: Various evening cruises available
  • Price: From €69 per person

Why Visit: It's a unique way to see Paris's iconic sights while enjoying a gourmet meal. Plus, Paris at night is simply stunning.

Insider Tip: Book the later cruise (around 8:30 PM) to catch the sunset and see the Eiffel Tower's light show.

Day 2: Art and Culture

Morning: Musée d'Orsay

Interior view of the large clock face inside the Musée d'Orsay in Paris
The art is amazing, but don't forget to look up at the Musée d'Orsay. That clock view is a masterpiece in itself!

Start your second day with a visit to my favorite museum in Paris – the Musée d'Orsay. Housed in a beautiful Beaux-Arts railway station, it's home to the world's largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces.

Visit Musée d'Orsay

From Monet's water lilies to Van Gogh's self-portrait, the artworks here will take your breath away. But don't forget to look up – the building itself is a work of art, with its magnificent clock face and ornate details.

Key Information:

  • Location: 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
  • Hours: 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM (closed on Mondays)
  • Admission: €16 for adults, free for EU residents under 26

Why Visit: It houses an incredible collection of Impressionist art in a stunning Beaux-Arts building. The view of Paris through the giant clock face is Instagram gold.

Insider Tip: Head to the 5th floor first for the best views and to see the Impressionist galleries before they get crowded.

Afternoon: Montmartre and Sacré-Cœur

Artist painting in Place du Tertre, Montmartre, with tourists watching
Watching artists at work in Montmartre feels like stepping back in time. It's touristy, but still has that bohemian charm.

After lunch (may I suggest a croque-monsieur at a nearby cafe?), hop on the metro to Montmartre. This hilltop neighborhood feels like a village within the city, with its cobblestone streets, artists' studios, and stunning views of Paris.

Start your exploration at the Place du Tertre, where artists set up their easels and offer to paint your portrait. It's touristy, sure, but it's also charming and gives you a glimpse of the area's artistic heritage.

Make your way up to the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, the white domed church that dominates the Parisian skyline. The view from the steps is spectacular, especially at sunset.

View of the steps leading up to Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Paris with cityscape in background
The climb up to Sacré-Cœur is a workout, but the view of Paris makes it all worthwhile. Don't forget to bring water!

Key Information:

  • Location: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
  • Hours: 6:30 AM to 10:30 PM
  • Admission: Free (there's a fee to climb to the dome)

Why Visit: The basilica is beautiful, and the panoramic view of Paris from the top of the hill is unbeatable.

Insider Tip: For a less crowded (and free) view, head to the terrace in front of the Sacré-Cœur instead of climbing the dome.

Evening: Moulin Rouge Show or Bar Hopping in Le Marais

Exterior view of the Moulin Rouge at night, showing its famous red windmill in Paris
Feeling fancy at the Moulin Rouge! Remember to dress up - no sneakers allowed at this glitzy show.

For your evening entertainment, you've got options. If you're in the mood for some razzle-dazzle, book a show at the famous Moulin Rouge. Yes, it's touristy, but it's also a piece of Parisian history, and the show is genuinely impressive.

Book tickets for Moulin Rouge

Key Information:

  • Location: 82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France
  • Shows: 7:00 PM and 9:00 PM nightly
  • Price: From €87 per person (includes half a bottle of champagne)

Why Visit: It's an iconic Parisian experience, combining cabaret, music, and impressive acrobatics.

Insider Tip: Book well in advance, especially for weekend shows. And yes, you need to dress up – no sneakers or jeans allowed!

People enjoying drinks at an outdoor cafe in the Le Marais district of Paris
Le Marais has the best vibe for a night out. Found this cute little place with amazing cocktails!

If cabaret isn't your thing, head to Le Marais for some bar hopping. This trendy neighborhood is full of cool bars and restaurants. Some of our favorites:

  • Little Red Door: A speakeasy with creative cocktails
  • Candelaria: A tiny taqueria with a hidden bar in the back
  • Le Mary Celeste: Great for natural wines and small plates

Day 3: Royal Treatment and Local Flavors

Morning: Palace of Versailles

Interior view of the famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles
The Hall of Mirrors at Versailles is even more impressive in person. It's like stepping into a fairytale!

On your last day, it's time to live like royalty with a visit to the Palace of Versailles. Yes, it's technically outside Paris, but trust me, it's worth the trip.

Visit the Palace of Versailles

This opulent palace was the seat of political power in France from 1682 until the French Revolution. The sheer scale and grandeur of the place is mind-boggling. From the famous Hall of Mirrors to the meticulously manicured gardens, every inch screams luxury.

Key Information:

  • Location: Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
  • Hours: 9:00 AM to 6:30 PM (closed on Mondays)
  • Admission: €18 for the palace, €20 for the palace and gardens (book online in advance!)

Why Visit: It's the epitome of royal extravagance and a crucial piece of French history. The gardens alone are worth the trip.

Insider Tip: Rent a bike to explore the enormous gardens. It's fun and lets you cover more ground.

Afternoon: Luxembourg Gardens and Saint-Germain-des-Prés

People sailing miniature boats in the pond at Luxembourg Gardens in Paris
Watching kids (and adults!) sail toy boats in Luxembourg Gardens. Such a simple pleasure, but so quintessentially Parisian.

After your royal morning, head back to Paris and spend some time in the Luxembourg Gardens. This beautiful park is a favorite among locals for picnics, people-watching, and relaxation.

Key Information:

  • Location: 6th arrondissement, Paris, France
  • Hours: 7:30 AM to 9:30 PM in summer (closes earlier in winter)
  • Admission: Free

Why Visit: It's a beautiful, peaceful oasis in the heart of Paris, perfect for relaxing and people-watching.

Insider Tip: Grab some cheese, bread, and wine from nearby shops and have a picnic in the park. It's a quintessential Parisian experience.

Patrons seated at outdoor tables of the famous Café de Flore in Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Paris
Channeling my inner Hemingway at Café de Flore. The coffee is pricey, but the people-watching is priceless!

After the gardens, stroll through the charming Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood. This area is known for its literary history, art galleries, and fantastic shopping. Pop into the famous Café de Flore or Les Deux Magots, where philosophers and writers like Sartre and de Beauvoir once hung out.

Evening: Eiffel Tower Picnic and Light Show

Picnic spread on the grass of Champ de Mars with the Eiffel Tower visible in the background
Pro tip: Grab some cheese, bread, and wine for a picnic by the Eiffel Tower. Best seats in the house for the light show!

For your last evening in Paris, it's time for the grand finale – a picnic by the Eiffel Tower. Head to a local market or grocery store and pick up some baguettes, cheese, fruit, and of course, a bottle of wine.

Make your way to the Champ de Mars, the large green space in front of the Eiffel Tower. Find a spot on the grass and settle in for a truly Parisian evening.

Visit the Eiffel Tower

Key Information:

  • Location: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
  • Hours: Open 24/7 for viewing from the outside
  • Admission: Free to view from the Champ de Mars

Why Visit: It's the iconic symbol of Paris, and watching it light up at night is a magical experience.

Insider Tip: The light show happens every hour on the hour after sunset until 1 AM (2 AM in summer). The 10 PM or 11 PM shows tend to be less crowded.

As night falls, watch the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle. It's the perfect way to end your 3 days in Paris.

Off the Beaten Path

If you have some extra time or want to swap out some of the more touristy spots, here are a few hidden gems to consider:

  1. Musée Carnavalet: This free museum tells the history of Paris and recently reopened after extensive renovations. It's a great way to dive deeper into the city's past.
Interior view of a beautifully preserved period room exhibit in the Musée Carnavalet, Paris
Musée Carnavalet is a hidden gem. It's free and offers a fascinating journey through Parisian history.
  1. Cour du Commerce Saint-André: This historic passageway in the 6th arrondissement is home to one of the oldest cafés in Paris, Le Procope.
View of the narrow, cobblestone passageway of Cour du Commerce Saint-André in Paris
Stumbled upon this charming old passage. It feels like stepping back in time to 18th-century Paris!
  1. La Coulée Verte René-Dumont: Also known as the Promenade Plantée, this is an elevated park built on an old railway line. It's like the Parisian version of New York's High Line.
People walking on the elevated garden path of La Coulée Verte René-Dumont in Paris
La Coulée Verte is Paris's version of the High Line. Great for a peaceful stroll above the bustling streets!
  1. Musée de la Vie Romantique: Set in a 19th-century mansion, this charming museum offers a glimpse into the Romantic era of Paris.
Quaint courtyard garden of the Musée de la Vie Romantique in Paris
The Musée de la Vie Romantique is like a secret garden in the heart of Paris. Perfect spot for a quiet moment.
  1. Père Lachaise Cemetery: It might sound morbid, but this beautiful cemetery is the final resting place of many famous figures and is surprisingly peaceful.
View of ornate old tombstones and tree-lined paths at Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris
Père Lachaise is hauntingly beautiful. Spent hours exploring and finding the graves of famous residents like Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde.

Parisian Cuisine: What to Eat

You can't spend 3 days in Paris without indulging in some amazing food. Here are some must-try dishes:

  1. Croissants: Start your day with a buttery, flaky croissant from a local bakery.
  2. Steak-Frites: This classic bistro dish of steak and fries is simple but delicious.
  3. Escargots: Don't knock it till you've tried it! These snails cooked in garlic butter are a true delicacy.
  4. Croque-Monsieur: The ultimate French grilled cheese sandwich.
  5. Macarons: These colorful meringue-based cookies are as pretty as they are tasty.
  6. Coq au Vin: Chicken braised in wine, lardons, and mushrooms. Pure comfort food.
  7. Cheese: France is famous for its cheeses. Try a variety at a local fromagerie.

For a deeper dive into Parisian cuisine, consider taking a food tour. It's a great way to sample a variety of dishes and learn about French culinary traditions.

Safety Guidelines

Paris is generally a safe city, but like any major metropolitan area, it's important to stay alert. Here are some tips:

  1. Be aware of pickpockets, especially in crowded tourist areas and on public transportation.
  2. Keep your belongings close, particularly in busy areas or when dining at outdoor cafes.
  3. Use ATMs inside banks rather than on the street when possible.
  4. Stay alert when using the metro, especially late at night.
  5. Learn basic French phrases. Parisians appreciate the effort, and it can help in navigating the city.
  6. Be cautious of common scams, like the "gold ring" trick or petition scams.

Read more Paris safety tips

Wrapping Up Your 3 Days in Paris

There you have it – the perfect 3-day Paris itinerary! From iconic landmarks to hidden gems, from world-class museums to charming neighborhoods, you've now got a taste of what makes Paris one of the most beloved cities in the world.

Remember, this itinerary is just a guide. Don't be afraid to wander down a charming side street, pop into a local café, or spend an extra hour people-watching from a park bench. Some of the best moments in Paris are the unplanned ones.

And if 3 days in Paris leaves you wanting more (trust me, it will), well... there's always next time. After all, Paris is always a good idea!

Bon voyage!

West Parker
West Parker
Article updated:
July 18, 2024 8:11 AM

West Parker, a Cornell University School of Hotel Administration graduate, has spent two decades as the secret weapon of the jet-set elite, crafting bespoke adventures that redefine luxury travel. Now a resident writer for Town & Tourist, this 45-year-old "Architect of Extraordinary Journeys" combines razor-sharp insights with unparalleled industry connections to deliver experiences that even the most discerning globetrotters can't help but rave about. West's expertise spans from exclusive real estate to fine dining, making him the go-to strategist for those who demand nothing but the extraordinary in their travels.

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