As soon as I started researching for our trip to Europe it became clear that Paris was going to be the highlight as well as the most expensive leg of our trip. We were planning to visit 4 countries in 2 weeks so time was also quite a concern. It worked out to 3 days in Paris and I knew I had to plan ahead to make the most of it.
Paris is one of those places that no matter how many times you go, or how long you stay it will never be enough because there is literally too much to see. For our first trip to the city, I wanted to make sure we took in all the highlights. I did tons of research and decided on what I wanted to see and do on each our 3 days in the city.
The ‘new’ love lock bridge – they had to take the actual one as it was too heavy with the weight of all the locks
First some general tips if you’re traveling to Paris for the first time.
- Paris is a large city. Though it is very well connected by the metro and buses, for a shorter trip it is better to stay somewhere near the centre of the city as most of the sights you will see are around the centre. This doesn’t mean stay near the Eiffel Tower. Everything near the Eiffel is very expensive and honestly the area is not worth it. Its always packed with tourists and there isn’t much around apart from the Eiffel Tower. Hotels are quite expensive and the rooms are tiny so Airbnb is a great option and is usually much more affordable, but definite do some research on what area you want to stay in.
- Decide what you want to see before you arrive in Paris and try to buy the “skip the line” tickets for these sights online ahead of time. There is usually a very long line at every tourist attraction, and can take hours to get a ticket. No-one wants to waste precious time waiting in a line while theres so much to see.
- If your plan is to visit more than 3 museums then look into the Museum Pass, and see if that is something that will work for you. It provides skip the line access for almost all the museums in the city for a period of time – 2 days, 4 days etc depending on the pass you buy. There is also a Paris Pass, which is similar and includes access to other sights as well as museums. The Paris Pass also includes access to the hop on hop off sightseeing buses.
- We ended up either walking or traveling by the metro everywhere within the city. It worked out to be most economical for our itinerary and all major attractions are very well connected. It was also very easy to navigate. There is a Paris Visite ticket which is an unlimited tourist travel pass that you can buy for one, two, three, or five calendar days. What we used for 3 days was a carnet of 10 tickets, which is simpler to buy, and can be shared by several people. We found that most metro stations had machines that accepted coins or cards, but no cash so be mindful of that while planning. Make sure you get a return ticket also when you buy your ticket, as sometimes the counters were closed at certain stations at night.
- I would recommend getting a local sim card or phone connection with internet access when in the city. Goggle maps was invaluable to us when we wanted to just walk around and explore, or even find some good places to eat nearby. If you don’t speak french it can be challenging to get directions at times.
Now for our 3 day itinerary. I have to warn you, its quite packed.
Friday – We reached at 11:35 in the afternoon from Amsterdam by train at the Gare De Lyon Station. The airbnb we were staying at was very close by, in fact maps showed us that it was 10 mins away but it still took us an hour to get there because we couldn’t book an Uber (no internet on our phones at that point) and couldn’t the convince the cabs/taxis outside the station to drop us (and our 4 large bags) as the distance was too close. We finally found a driver who spoke english and convinced him to drop us. The plan was to initially drop bags at the apartment, grab a quick lunch and then go on a walking tour at 1. But all the excitement at the station had tired us out so the walking tour was definitely not happening that day.
So instead we had a lazy lunch at a cafe nearby and then without wasting another minute headed to the Eiffel tower. We also bought a sim card on the way. I was in full tourist mode and stopped to take pictures every 2 minutes. Paris is absolutely beautiful! The lights on the Eiffel come on at 6 and light show happens on the top of every hour for 5 minutes. It is definitely a must see. We sat next to the Seine river with some crepes and mulled wine and watched the light show and the tourists walking around for quite awhile before we finally had our fill and decided to move on.
We then headed to Champs-Élysées, where I entered and very quickly exited a couple of stores after glancing at the prices 😀 We then walked to the Arc de Triomph. Finally we headed back the same way, picked up some pizza and wine, sat at the river bank and had dinner with a view of the glittering Eiffel Tower on one side and the cruise ships going up and down the river on the other side. It was for the lack of a better word, absolutely amazing. Couldn’t have planned a better way to spend our first day Paris.
Window shopping on Champs-Élysées
Saturday: We woke up bright and early, had a life changing breakfast consisting of crepes – nutella and banana for me, ham bacon and eggs for Maddy and the most delicious coffee I’ve ever had. Needless to say, I went back to the place the next day again.
We headed to our Sandeman’s Walking Tour at 10. I highly recommend doing a walking tour your first time in a new city. Its the perfect way to see the famous sights, walk around the city with a guide telling you very entertaining and interesting facts about the place. Its a great way to decide what places you want to return to get a better look at. Which is what we did once the tour ended. We had lunch and headed back to the Lourve, the Notre Dame Cathedral and Sainte Chapelle.
The Notre Dame Cathedral
All three are with walking distance of each other. You can choose to spend a whole day in the Lourve alone, and not even cover one tenth of it. We spent around 2 hours walking around, and yes we did see the Mona Lisa and yes it was indeed quite underwhelming. Though there weren’t that many people there to see it that so that was different I guess.
About as close as you can get to the Monalisa
For dinner we headed to the Latin Quarter. We had walked through it earlier during our walking tour and I was looking forward to seeing all the colorful cafes and bars lit up at night. We went to a couple of bars, had a drink in each, but couldn’t decide on a place to eat so again ended up getting some savory crepes and just walked around the neighborhood. It got quite cold so we decided to head back to our airbnb. We stopped at a nearby restaurant to eat, and on a whim I ordered the onion soup. Maybe it was the cold but the soup literally warmed my soul. I’ve never ever had opinion soup that was so delicious. In all the food in Paris was just blowing my mind.
In the courtyard in front of the Louvre
Sunday: This is when things started to go south. The plan was to wake up and head to the Palace of Versiles, which closes at 5 just FYI. Then to the Catacombs, and finally to Montmartre.
In the famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versiles
What actually happened was – we woke up very late at around 12, but still confident we had ample time we had our usual breakfast/brunch and then headed to the Metro station to go to Versilles. This is where all our plans went to shit. I had very clear specific directions of how to get to Versiles, what train, what time everything. However once we got there, we saw that that specific train wasn’t running that day, we would have to go to 2 different zones to catch another train and then change stations a couple of times to reach Versiles. We must have missed, gotten confused about one those trains and long story short we ended up reaching Versile around 5:30. Very very close to closing time. We made a mad dash to the palace and managed to see the place just before it closed for the day. My only regret was that it was quite dark by that time we reached so wasn’t able to take any clear pictures. Nevertheless it was jaw droppingly opulent and I cannot imagine anyone actually living there. A definite must see!
At that point it was too late to go to the Catacombs, so we decided to salvage the rest of the day and headed directly to the hills of Montmartre. This is also a must see for your first trip to Paris. The climb to Sacré-Coeur was well worth it when we saw the view of the whole city of Paris from up there. We did our 2nd Sandeman’s tour in Montmarte. It was really fun making the climb up through the winding cobbled streets listening to him tell us all the crazy stories of all the artists that the village is famous for, which includes Van Gogh and Picasso.
For our last night in Paris we decided to take a cruise on the river Seine. Our guide had recommended earlier that Paris as a city was designed and built around the Seine and cruise was the best way to experiece that.
There are actually multiple companies that offer these rides, some of them even include lunch or dinner. They all pretty much cost the same and board from next to the Eiffel Tower. They take you around the city, lasts an hour and you can see most of the famous monuments during the ride.
They are easier to see during the day, but at night they are all lit and and quite lovely. We waited till the last ride of the day which was at 9 in the hopes that it wouldn’t be very crowded. There ended up being only 10 people on the boat. It was really pretty, and quite fun to see all the places we had walked around all day looking so different at night. The boat had headsets with commentary in all languages about the monuments we were seeing, which was quite cool too. There’s a reason its called the City of Lights, and it was quite a sight from the river. I would definitely recommend taking the Seine river cruise if you have the time.
Bank of river Seine
Monday – Our train to Barcelona was at 10 am from Gare De Lyon. We had just enough time to grab our last cups of coffee to bid farewell to Paris, exhausted but already planning or next trip in our heads.
Hope this was helpful. Let me know know what your favorite places in Paris are and what we should see next time! As always come say Hi on our Instagram or Twitter, we would love to hear from you! Till next time 🙂