Last Updated: 1/19/20 | January 19th, 2020
Paris. It’s one of my favorite destinations in the entire world and a city that would take a lifetime to see.
I’ve been to the city more times than I remember — I even moved there for a while — yet I’ve barely scratched its surface.
Understandably, planning a trip to Paris is hard. Just when you think you’ve seen everything the city has to offer, you find new attractions, new cafés, or new markets to explore. There are layers to this city — which is partially why I love it so much.
Most travelers seem to visit Paris for around three days before moving on. They see the highlights, snap some photos, and move on.
While three days i better than nothing, I think you need more time than that. Ideally, I think you should plan on spending at least five days in Paris in order to see the bare minimum of what the City of Lights has to offer. There’s just too much to do.
To help you plan your trip to Paris and figure out what to see, what to do, where to stay, and where to eat, here’s my suggested itinerary for a five-day visit (and some other suggestions in case you decide to spend longer there!)
Paris Itinerary Highlights
Day 1: Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, the Latin Quarter, & more!
Day 2: Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Musée de l’Orangerie, & more!
Day 3: The Palace of Versailles, Père Lachaise Cemetery, & more!
Day 4: Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, Holocaust Museum, & more!
Day 5: Paris Catacombs, Rue Mouffetard, Musée de Cluny, & more!
Where to Eat: My Favorite Restaurants in Paris
What to See in Paris: Day 1
Spend your first day walking around Paris. There’s a lot to see, and you can spend a good half day (or whole day) wandering the cobblestone streets, parks, and neighborhoods of the city. If you want to orient yourself with a free walking tour, these are really good:
- Discover Walks
- City Free Tour
- New Europe Tour
However, if you want to follow my walking tour, here’s my suggestion for an “orientation walk” around Paris:
Start at the Champs-Élysées and see the Arc de Triomphe. There isn’t usually a line, and you’ll get sweeping views of the city to start your day. Stroll down the Champs-Élysées and through Place de la Concorde, where you will see the Luxor Obelisk, which the French stole from the Egyptians. It’s over 3,000 years old and stands 75-meters tall. This square was also where they guillotined people during the French Revolution 1789-1799.
Walk down the Champs-Élysées through the Jardin des Tuileries, a beautiful garden that was once home to a palace that burned down in the 1800s. Stop and admire the Louvre before continuing down Rue Rivoli and crossing into the original section of the city on the Île de la Cité. This is where the Romans built their original settlement.
Enjoy the Pont Neuf and the statue of Henry IV. This stone bridge, the first in Paris, was built in 1578. Stroll to my favorite church of all time, Saint Chapelle, with its incredible 12th-century stained glass. There’s usually a line, so book tickets in advance if you want to see the interior.
After that, head to the underground Roman ruins and then visit Notre Dame, the world’s most famous Gothic church. It was damaged in a fire in 2019 and is closed, however, you can still take in the ruins.
Next, head south toward the Latin Quarter. This area is rather touristy but if you get off the main drag, you’ll find yourself in a labyrinth of alleys and café-lined squares that are far away from the local tourist hangouts.
Visit the Pantheon and honor France’s most famous dead citizens before heading west toward the Jardin du Luxembourg, where you can relax and watch life go by. There’s great people-watching here, and it’s one of the best parks in the city.
After that, head north to see Saint Sulpice. If you’re into The Da Vinci Code, you’ll be looking for symbols and hidden meanings throughout this church. If symbols don’t interest you, just marvel at how grandiose this place is.
By this time, it should be late in the afternoon and a perfect time to stop in a café, order some wine, and relax the Parisian way.
This is one of the best places in Paris to attend a wine tasting class or have a wine and cheese luncheon. The food is plentiful, and the wines are very generously poured and refilled. I highly recommend the lunch wine class as it’s cheaper and you’ll get really full for the day; it also goes into great detail about the history of wine in France.
68 Rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 44 73 97 80, o-chateau.com. Check the website for last-minute deals. Prices start around 65 EUR.
What to See in Paris: Day 2
With over a million pieces of art, you could spend a whole month in the Louvre and still not see everything! I don’t particularly enjoy medieval art; it’s too religious for me, and I can only see so many pictures of Mary and Jesus before I get bored. Nevertheless, the museum is worth seeing, and I spent about five hours exploring all the masterpieces and marveling at the old royal palace. You could easily spend more time if you’re an art buff too. If you’d just like to see the highlights, expect to spend a couple hours.
Musée du Louvre, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 40 20 53 17, louvre.fr. Opening hours: M, Th, Sa–Su (9am–6pm), W, F (9am–9:45pm), Tu (closed). Admission is 17 EUR. They also offer free admission for all visitors on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm-9:45 p.m. and on Bastille Day (14 July). Admission is also free for EU residents under 26.
The Musée d’Orsay, located in close proximity to the Louvre, houses the best impressionist and post-impressionist work in Paris. It’s one of the largest museums in Europe and my favorite museum in Paris. I always go when I’m in town. The museum see over 3 million visitors each year and is home to masterpieces by all the great artists of the world, including Degas, Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh, to name a few. I could spend hours here and never get bored.
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 7th arrondissement, +33 1 40 49 48 14, musee-orsay.fr. Opening hours: Tu–W, F–Su (9:30am–6pm), Th (9:30am–9:45pm), M (closed). Admission is 14 EUR and free first Sunday of the month.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Finish off a wild museum day with this Monet showcase. The museum displays eight tapestry-sized Nymphéas (water lilies), housed in two plain oval rooms. Monet painted these images later in his life, and each one represents a different time of day and season. There’s a bottom floor that shows other works too.
Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 44 50 43 00, musee-orangerie.fr. Opening hours: W–M (9am–6pm), last entry at 5:15pm, Tu (closed). Admission is 9 EUR, free on the first Sunday of the month.
Budget travel tip: Get the Paris Museum Pass. This four-day pass costs 66 EUR and covers over 50 museums and attractions in Paris. It covers all the museums above, so getting this pass and using it to see all the attractions listed in this article will save you around 50 EUR! You can also get a two-day pass for 52 EUR or a sex-day pass for 78 EUR.
What to See in Paris: Day 3
The Palace of Versailles
It takes a full day to really enjoy a trip to the Palace of Versailles. Located around an hour from Paris, spend the day exploring the château, get lost in the surrounding gardens, and soak up the extravagant lifestyle of France’s former monarchy. Make sure you see the estate of Trianon (known as Marie Antoinette’s estate) as well, which includes a fake peasant village created to provide scenic views and fresh milk and eggs for the Queen.
Versailles is a massive and beautiful so don’t rush your visit. Most people see the Palace first, then the gardens, and then Marie-Antoinette’s estate. If you do everything in reverse, you’ll be able to avoid the crowds. Additionally, go on a weekday to avoid the worst of the crowds.
What’s the inside of the palace like? Here’s a video tour of the Palace of Versailles to whet your appetite:
Place d’Armes, Versailles, +33 1 30 83 78 00, en.chateauversailles.fr. Opening hours: Tu–Su (9am–6:30pm), last entry at 5:45pm, M (closed).
“The Passport” ticket gives you admission to all the palace tours (grounds, Trianon Palaces, and Marie Antoinette’s estate), the Musical Fountain Show, the Musical Gardens, and the exhibitions: 27 EUR (one day, with passport), 30 EUR (two days).
Père Lachaise Cemetery
Finish off the day with a train ride east of the city center to visit Paris’s most famous graveyard, where you’ll see the graves of celebrities like Antonio de La Gandara, Honoré de Balzac, Sarah Bernhardt, Frédéric Chopin, Jim Morrison, Édith Piaf, Camille Pissarro, Gertrude Stein, and Oscar Wilde.
It’s a beautiful place for a quiet, reflective stroll. Just make sure you’re out before it closes at 5:30pm.
LEARN MORE: Visiting Père Lachaise Cemetery
What to See in Paris: Day 4
The Eiffel Tower is Paris’ most iconic monument. Built in the 1880s, it was actually disliked by many people when it was first built. Standing 324m (1,63ft) tall, it offers the best views of the entire city. To beat the crowds, get here early in the morning. If you wait until the afternoon, you’ll find yourself waiting in line for hours.
Afterward, have a picnic on the grass and enjoy the sunshine and the views. It’s one of my favorite things to do in the city.
Champ de Mars, 7th arrondissement, +33 8 92 70 12 39, toureiffel.paris. Opening hours: Daily (9am–midnight) during the summer, with slightly shorter hours during the rest of the year. Admission is 10.40-25.90 EUR per person, depending on how high you go.
Wander Rue Cler
Located near the Eiffel Tower, this street is filled with good Parisian eateries. You’ll find cheese, meat, bread, vegetable, and chocolate stores to explore. I never walk away from this street without a pile of food and wine.
Whenver I’m here, I eat my way through this street and then buy more for later. It’s one of my favorite streets in Paris.
Paris Sewer Tour
This tour is definitely an off-the-beaten-path attraction and isn’t too far away from the Eiffel Tower. You’ll learn about the interesting history of Paris’s sewer system.
You may be put off by the idea of a “sewer tour,” but don’t be. It doesn’t smell down there and you’ll learn how modern Paris came to be. Before there was a suitable drainage system, waste from the city just ended up int the river. It then spread disease and polluted the entire area, putting the entire city at risk. It wasn’t until the city developed a complex sewer system that it was able to overcome diseases, boost trade, and develop into the world-class city that it is today.
Note: The sewers are closed for renovations until sometime in 2020.
Les Invalides (The Tomb of Napoleon)
Also known as Hôtel National des Invalides, this enormous complex was built in 1670 by Louis XIV as a hospital for wounded soldiers. Nowadays it’s home to several museums and monuments, including the Musée de l’Armée (the Military Museum of the Army of France) and Napoleon’s tomb.
It is one of the most comprehensive history museums I’ve ever visited, and you’ll need at least three hours to see it properly. While military history may seem boring, this museum is really a history of France, the Revolution, and Napoleon. It is fascinating and incredible in its depth. I cannot recommend it enough.
Place des Invalides, Musée de l’Armée, 129 Rue de Grenelle, 7th arrondissement, +33 810 11 33 99. Opening hours: daily from April through October (10am–6pm), and daily from November through March (10am–5pm). Admission is 12 EUR.
The Museum of the Shoah (the Holocaust Museum)
Despite having an excellent exhibit on France, anti-Semitism, and the Holocaust, the Museum of the Shoah never draws a lot of people. It’s a real shame, as the information and collection here is really great and in depth. I’ve been to many Holocaust museums, and this is one of the best and most detailed in the world. I highly recommend it.
17 Rue Geoffroy l’Asnier, 4th arrondissement, +33 1 42 77 44 72, memorialdelashoah.org. Opening hours: Su–F (10am–6pm), Th (10am–10pm), Sa (closed). Admission is free and a free guided tour is given at 3pm (in English) on the second Sunday of every month.
What to See in Paris: Day 5
The Catacombs of Paris are a fascinating but grim tourist attraction. They go on for miles (no one really knows how far) and the endless winding tunnels house thousands of bones. Only a small section of the tunnels are open, and there’s a ton of history and information about the growth of Paris. The Catacombs themselves are actually old stone quarries that were located far outside the edge of the city during medieval times. There’s always a long line, so book your ticket online beforehand and don’t wait outside!
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 14th arrondissement, +33 1 43 22 47 63, catacombes.paris.fr. Opening hours: Tu–Su (10am–8:30pm), last admission at 4pm, M (closed). Check the website before you go — the Catacombs are sometimes closed without warning or explanation. Admission is 14 EUR and the audio guide is 5 EUR.
LEARN MORE: How to Visit the Catacombs of Paris
This pedestrian street is filled with cafés and shops and has an outdoor market. It’s great to just wander down or for sitting in front of a café and watching Parisian life go by. Make sure to stop by the nearby Place de la Contrescarpe too. There are some good and inexpensive restaurants in the area, making it a nice place to stop for a while and watch life go by.
It’s closed to motor traffic for most of the week, making it the perfect place for a stroll and a relaxing stop at a cafe.
Musée de Cluny
The Cluny Museum, also known as the National Museum of the Middle Ages, is the finest surviving example of medieval architecture in Paris. Built in the 15th century, it was the former home of the abbots of Cluny and now houses Roman and medieval art, including many architectural fragments found during excavations around the city.
The museum also contains the adjoining rooms of a Roman bath, which the abbey was built over. It is by far one of the most interesting history museums in the city and worth every euro of the admission fee!
6 Place Paul Painlevé, 5th arrondissement, +33 1 53 73 78 16, musee-moyenage.fr. Opening hours: W–M (9:15am–5:45pm), Tu (closed). Admission is 5 EUR (9 EUR during certain exhibitions).
Bibliothèque Nationale de France
One of the grandest libraries in the world, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France was founded in 1368 by Charles V. Stop in for a quick visit and be sure to take a peek at the old rotunda of the art library and the 20-foot globes in the permanent collection.
Quai François Mauriac, 13th arrondissement, +33 1 53 79 59 59, bnf.fr. Opening hours: M (2pm-8pm), Tu-Sa (9am-8pm), Sun (1pm-7pm). Admission is free.
Another artistic center of Paris, this is where artists and writers like Hemingway spent their time. There’s still a lot of art, and you’ll find galleries and artists throughout the area. The streets are quiet and beautiful to wander around. Sacré-Cœur (the church here) offers a superb view of the city and is a great place to have lunch. You can also see the famous “sinking house” here too.
In the evening, the stairs near the church fill up with people watching the sunset, chatting, and drinking. There are usually lots of buskers here too making it one of the best places in the city to soak up the city in the evening.
After wandering Montmartre, head into the “seedy” district of Paris, Pigalle. On Boulevard de Clichy, you’ll find the (in)famous Moulin Rouge. It’s the birthplace of the modern can-can dance and known for its world-class cabaret performances. Tickets start at around 99 EUR per person if you want to see a show.
If you’re on a budget, feel free to skip the show and just take in the neighborhood. The street is lined with sex shops and adult stores, making it a rather unique place to people watch and window shop.
Where to Eat in Paris
Looking for some suggested places to eat? Here are some of my favorite places to eat when I’m in Paris:
- Café Père & Fils — Café Père & Fils is a Parisian brasserie and coffee shop with outdoor seating for lunch and drinks. It gets busy on warm, sunny days when all the nearby office workers take over the patio for lunch. There are daily happy hours and brunch on Sunday. 86 Rue Montmartre, 2nd arrondissement, +33 1 45 08 41 13.
- Florence Kahn — This perfect little shop has a blue mosaic shopfront, and is located in the Le Marais district. You can pick up baked goods here, or grab lunch and sit out on the terrace. They make really delicious sandwiches — try the pastrami. 24 Rue des Écouffes, 4th arrondissement, +33 1 48 87 92 85.
- ISTR — ISTR is extremely trendy and usually busy for dinner, but I highly recommend its happy hour, when the wine is cheap and there are 1 EUR oysters from 6pm to 8pm. 41 Rue Notre Dame de Nazareth, 3rd arrondissement, +33 1 43 56 81 25.
- Jeanne A — This eat-in épicerie (grocery) and wine shop offers some of the best food (especially meats and cheeses) in town and is my favorite dining spot in Paris. The prix-fixe menu offers the best value: 30 EUR for dinner with an appetizer and main dish. The menu changes a lot based on the availability of ingredients. I love the duck, lamb, and wine menu. 42 Rue Jean-Pierre Timbaud, 11th arrondissement, +33 1 43 55 09 49.
- King Falafel Place — Some of the best falafel in Paris. A filling pita with meat, hummus, red cabbage, and veggies starts at under 10 EUR. There’s usually a line but it moves quickly. 26 Rue des Rosiers, 4th arrondissement, +33 1 42 77 93 13.
- La Crêperie des Pêcheurs — Located on the Left Bank near the Saint-Michel–Notre-Dame train station, this tiny to-go crêperie is the best in all of Paris (in my opinion); the banana Nutella crêpe is my favorite. Cheap, delicious, and large portions — you can’t go wrong here. 27 Rue Saint-André des Arts, 6th arrondissement, +33 1 43 54 00 320.
- L’ Ardoise Gourmande — This out-of-the-way restaurant a few blocks from the Gare du Nord serves traditional French food with generous pours of wine. Its tasting menu gives you the best value. I particularly like the fish and duck. 12 Rue de Belzunce, 10th arrondissement, +33 1 48 78 40 03.
- Le Dit Vin — I stumbled across this restaurant while looking for somewhere to eat near my Airbnb. The prices are reasonable (under 15 EUR for a meal), there is a large wine selection (it’s Paris, of course!), and the food is rich, savory, and delicious. The menu changes daily depending on what’s fresh, so all I can really recommend as a constant is the cheese plate. 68 Rue Blanche, 9th arrondissement, +33 1 45 26 27 37.
Admittedly, even with five days in Paris, you’ll barely scratch the surface of the city. It’s just too massive, nuanced, and layered. The history, the architecture, the charm — it’s unlike any other place in the world.
However, you will still be able to see many of the highlights and get a sense for just how amazing Paris really is.
While I could have squeezed more stuff into this itinerary, I don’t want to rush your trip. Paris is best explored calmly and slowly. It’s a city meant to be unraveled, discovered. There’s so much that just pops up that you want to be like a local and just let your day unfold unexpectedly. Meader in the gardens and parks, take a long lunch, watch that band, sit by the Seine, and linger over that bottle of wine. Live your best life in Paris.
Use this suggested itinerary as your starting point and see where your trip takes you. I promise it won’t disappoint!
Get Your In-Depth Budget Guide to Paris!
For more in-depth information, check out my guidebook to Paris written for budget travelers like yourself! It cuts out the fluff found in other guides and gets straight to the practical information you need to travel and save money in one of the most beautiful and romantic cities in the world. You’ll find suggested itineraries, budgets, ways to save money, on- and off-the-beaten-path things to see and do, non-touristy restaurants, markets, and bars, and much more! Click here to learn more and get started!
Book Your Trip to Paris: Logistical Tips and Tricks
Book Your Flight
Use Skyscanner or Momondo to find a cheap flight. They are my two favorite search engines because they search websites and airlines around the globe so you always know no stone is left unturned. Start with Skyscanner first though because they have the biggest reach!
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld as they have the biggest inventory and best deals. If you want to stay somewhere other than a hostel, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. My favorite places to stay are:
- St. Christopher’s Canal
- 3 Ducks Hostel
- Les Piaules
If you’re looking for more places to stay, here for my favorite hostels in Paris. And if you’re wondering what part of town to stay in, here’s my neighborhood breakdown of the city!
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional repatriation coverage)
Need a guide?
Paris has some really interesting tours. My favorite company is Take Walks. They have expert guides and can get you behind the scenes at the city’s best attractions. They’re my go-to walking tour company!
If you want a bike tour, use Fat Tire Tours. They have the best and most affordable bike tours in the city.
Looking for the Best Companies to Save Money With?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel. I list all the ones I use to save money when I’m on the road. They will save you money when you travel too.
Want More Information on Paris?
Be sure to visit our robust destination guide on Paris for even more planning tips!
Photo Credits: 5 – ChodHound, 10 – ChrisYunker, 11 – brando, 12 – iantmcfarland, 14 – rachelsegalhamilton