This post was most recently updated on March 18th, 2019
To know Paris is to know a great deal.” – Henry Miller
Few cities evoke the same romanticism and emotions that Paris does. Certainly three days is never enough to know such a great city. But thanks to tourism being so well-organized and a great transport network, it is possible to explore the best of Paris in three days.
On our first trip to Paris, not only did we see the most iconic places in Paris but also some offbeat ones, and we did it all on a budget. I must say, despite the meticulous planning we did, what really helped us explore so much was the Paris pass. So without much ado, let’s dive into our 3 day Paris itinerary. While everyone can take some inspiration from it, I believe it is the best suited for first-time visitors living outside Europe, who cannot visit Paris every other year.
Let’s begin with the story of our first trip to Paris. We traveled from Bruges and reached Bercy Seine in Paris a little after 2 pm. From there we went straight to our hotel at Montmartre to unpack, and then to collect our Paris Pass from the Big Bus Office near Louvre. After the initial hiccup of getting confused in the subway, the rest of the journey was easy. However, by the time we set off for our tour, it was already almost 4 pm and we were famished. Our first-day plan was therefore reduced to an evening in Paris. That is what inspired my very first post of Backpack & Explore, Paris at Night. Thankfully we had the entire morning of day 4 to us for exploring Montmartre before we left for Barcelona.
However, you would normally reach Paris before noon, so the 3-day itinerary below is designed for the “most probable case”.
•Day 1: Louvre (3-4 hours), Tuileries Garden, Champs de Elysses, Pont Alexandre III, Champ De Mars, Seine river cruise, Eiffel tower
◦If you reach start your sightseeing tour after 12 noon, then skip Louvre on Day 1 and do Orsay museum instead. If you are able to start by noon then this is the best plan for the day. Remember that these are all at a total walking distance of 5.6 km, although you will end up walking a lot more just to explore the Louvre. So wear comfortable shoes and get those muscles to work.
◦Remember to start by collecting the Paris pass at the Big Bus office near Louvre
•Day 2: Get onboard the Big Bus tour (which is free with Paris Pass), Hop off at Notre Dame, Orsay Museum, Rodin Museum, and Arc De Triomphe at the end of the tour, then visit Montparnasse 56th floor.
◦The Big Bus tour is a fantastic way to explore Paris and probably the best way to “know it” in just 1 day. Will discuss it at length in this post later
◦If you want to skip the Big Bus tour and other museums, you can head straight for the Palace of Versailles which is away from the other major attractions of Paris
◦After a half day trip to Versailles, you can join a free walking tour of Paris, which is another great way to explore the city.
•Day 3: Guided tour of Grand Opera (free with Paris Pass), Paris Aquarium, Palais de Trocadero, walk by the riverside, Place du Tertre, sunset at Sacre Coeur, end with Moulin Rouge and neighborhood.
◦Alternatively, you can visit the Palace of Versailles or Disneyland, both of which are a bit far off from the other major attractions of Paris.
Few other places you can explore are the Luxembourg gardens, Les Invalides and Pantheon. However, you must not discount the traffic, queue and various uncertainties that come with traveling in such big cities no matter how good the transport system is. We saw these places from outside but did not enter.
Now before we get into the details, I’d like to share a few more travel tips I wish I knew before I visited Paris.
Being such a huge tourist destination in Western Europe, Paris is obviously expensive. However, following these tips, you can save money without compromising on your travel experience in Paris.
As I said before, we started our first day in Paris very late, so I couldn’t resist visiting the Eiffel Tower. It is almost the symbol of Paris, and no matter how much you hate the clichéd, you cannot skip the Eiffel tower in Paris. Champs de Mars is the beautifully curated public park in Paris which leads you to the Eiffel tower.
The first sight of the Eiffel tower truly mesmerized me, so much that I almost forgot that we have been starving by then. Champ De Mars and the banks of Seine river offer great photo spots with Eiffel tower in the background. I feel that there are better places for panoramic views of Paris than the Eiffel tower summit, but I know it’s hard to resist the Eiffel. So for all those romantic souls, here are some important information.
• Queues during peak season can be over 2 hours, so pre-book your trip from here.
• Open time: 9:30 am – 11:45 pm. (So no need to rush to the Eiffel tower because you can squeeze it any time in your schedule)
• Fees: For Adults- €25 to Summit, €17 to the second floor, discounted entry for youth.
If you decide to skip and save at least two hours and 25 Euros, then I would say you didn’t miss much. Arc De Triomphe and Montparnasse tower offer more spectacular views of Paris.
I knew I would enjoy the Seine River cruise because I love waterways. However, it surpassed all my expectation. If you can do only one thing in Paris, it should be the Seine River Cruise, preferably in the evening. Since days are long in April, we strolled around for some time till the sunset before we boarded. The Bateaux Parisiens is a one-hour cruise trip on the river which offers you the most amazing experience of watching the great “river-line”.
The Seine Riverbank is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Both sides of the river are speckled with historic structures of Paris -Eiffel Tower, the Notre Dame cathedral, the Orsay museum, the Roue De Paris to name a few. The city of Paris was born on the banks of this river, which happened to be the lifeline of the Parisians for centuries. It was the perfect time to board the cruise as the sun began to set and the city of lights started to lit up.
The fully illuminated Eiffel Tower is a sight to behold, but add to it the five minutes of sparkling and you have a visual that would stay in with you forever. That was the moment when the glittering Eiffel Tower showed us what was in Paris that inspired artists, writers, and travelers over the decades. It was the highlight of our cruise tour as well as the Paris trip.
Open time: 10:30 am to 10:30 pm
Ticket Price:€15 *Free with Paris Pass*
The tickets of Louvre Museum are available in packages of 1-day to 6-days, and there are good reasons for that. It’s one of the greatest art museums in the world both in the size and the diversity of its collections. It is impossible to see all of it in a couple of hours.
If the mandatory training of fine arts that every Bengali from Kolkata has to go through was not enough, Sir Dan Brown pushed the Louvre museum at the top of our bucket-list, for both me and my husband. The Renaissance art of Louvre is so inspiring that you will surely end up spending more than the couple of hours you planned for Louvre museum and you will have to push yourself out to see the other places. But as soon as you get out of the museum there are other attractions waiting for you right across at Louvre.
•Open Time: 9 am to 6 pm
•Ticket Price: € 15 *Free with Paris Pass*
The Tuileries garden in Louvre just outside the museum is not a place you can ignore. It is another lovely highlight of Paris where photographers can spend half the day capturing different angles.
This has to be on your list if you love wine, or if you hold a Paris Pass. France is known for breathtaking wineries. Well, you cannot find them in Paris, but what’s the harm in going for the Wine Tasting tour Caves de Louvre. This is another free offering with Paris Pass.
There are multiple operators for this tour in Paris but the one that is free for 1 day in your Paris Pass is the Big Bus tour. I earlier claimed that Hop on Hop off Bus tour is best to explore large European cities like Paris or Barcelona in a short time. Let me explain why.
While walking is unavoidable to explore museums, markets and nooks and corners of a city, you cannot cover the whole city on foot. Not if you are there for just 3 days and are of average fitness that I am. After a tour of Louvre which already means we had walked at least 5 km within the museum itself, we hopped on to the double-decker Big Bus. It was so relaxing to plug in the earphones and listen to the audio guide while touring one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It gave us an orientation of the city map, how we can plan out our trip to save time, and introduced us to new interesting places. The best part is the audio guide which is available in many different languages. The English audio guides are in neutral accent and very well written. With background music changing at every location, it gives an impression of walking into a Nat Geo documentary.
The tour took us through all the iconic landmarks of Paris, introduced us to the beautiful bridges, the Champs Elysees avenue, the Invalides, the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais, the parliamentary buildings and many more. You will not have the time to enter each monument but you can hop off anywhere and take a walk as we did at Petit Palais.
The Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris is an imposing building, considered to be one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in the world. The construction of the cathedral dates back to the 12th century after which it was modified several times. The cathedral was destroyed and many of the religious sculptures were damaged during the French revolution in the 1790s. Victor Hugo’s classic “Hunchback of Notre-Dame” revived popular interest in the building and a major restoration project was started in 1845. The magnificent structure we see today is a result of years of restoration and welcomes approximately 12 million visitors every year.
The roof of the cathedral accessible through a narrow flight of steps is another great place to capture a panoramic view of the city. When you visit the Notre-Dame cathedral you have to book a ticket to the rooftop, which is free for Paris pass holders. However you still get a time-stamped token, and you need to revisit within that 30-minute time-slot allotted to you. You can choose the time-slot among the ones that are available at the time of booking. The regulations are in place for maintenance of the building and safety of the tourists.
An underrated and under-visited hidden gem lies right beneath the Notre Dame cathedral. It is the Notre Dame crypt which contains archeological ruins excavated during the reconstruction work of the cathedral. The crypt has an exhibit of architectural models of different times that traces back to the earliest settlements in Paris. The touchscreen guides allow you to travel back in time, with models and remains of 2000 years of history. Photography though allowed, is not quite possible in the darkness, but it’s one of the obscure gems of Paris. (More Info).
Open hours: From Tuesday till Sunday from 10 am till 6 pm, the last admission at 5:30 pm
Fees: 8 €, 6 € with concession, Free for youth below 17 *Free with Paris Pass*
Arc De Triomphe historic monument raised during the first World War to honor the soldiers who laid their lives for the country. The monument is not only a symbol of patriotism but is a reminder of the inevitable death and destruction due to wars. A fire burns all the time at the site beneath where people come to pay their respect. During WWII, when Hitler marched with his forces into Germany, he too went around the monument and not between the 2 towers, as a sign of respect. It is probably the most iconic structure in Paris after the Eiffel Tower.
Climb through the narrow staircases to the rooftop of Arc De Triomphe to get a breathtaking view of the city, a view that trumps the one from Eiffel Tower any day. If you take the big bus tour, I recommend you to complete the tour in a day (because you have just 1 day free with your Paris Pass). It is open till 10:30 pm at night so you need not be worried about getting late.
•Open time – 10:30 am to 10:30 pm
•Ticket price: 12 Euros * Free with Paris Pass *
After a visit to the Arc De Triomphe, we were at loss about where to go as most places of attraction would be closed by then. That’s when the Paris Pass pointed us to the Montparnasse Tower, another underrated attraction in Paris.
This 689 feet high office building is the only skyscraper in Paris. The glass terrace is weather-proofed for all season and is at a height above the Eiffel Tower summit. It was 11 pm when we went there and experienced the mesmerizing view of the city illuminated at night.
The roof is open till 11:30 pm but the restaurant below, which happens to be the highest restaurant in Paris, is probably open even after that. It also has the fastest elevator in the world! We ate at an Indian Restaurant, about the 5-minute walking distance from here- fantastic food at really affordable rates.
•Open time – 9:30 am to 10:30 pm from Sunday to Thursday. Open till 11 pm from Friday to Saturday.
•Price of the ticket – 18 Euros *Free with Paris Pass*
Like the pin below? That’s one of the many views from Montparnasse Tower
Where the tour of Louvre ends, in the mid-19th century, the tour of Orsay begins on the other side of Sienne. The museum has a large collection of impressionist paintings which will blow your mind.
You can either visit the Louvre multiple times on your 3-days in Paris, or you can pay short visits to Orsay and Rodin museums instead. We chose to do the latter because we wanted to see the architecture inside the buildings. An interesting fact about the Orsay museum is that it was a train station till 1939, after which it served as a postal depot during WW II. It was also the temporary office of Drouot, the oldest auction house of Paris and the western façade was a hotel for a long time. was converted into this massive museum in just two years.
The museum is focused on showcasing the work of Auguste Rodin, the father of modern sculpture.. Auguste Rodin’s sculptures are regarded as a departure from the traditional methods used for centuries. With nearly 150 statues of bronze, marble, and plasters and the beautiful Hamilton Garden, Rodin museum is a great place to visit with children. The most famous works on display in the Hamilton Garden are “The Thinker” and “The Gates of Hell”.
Taking the liberty to go a little personal with revisiting my memories of Paris here. The Rodin museum is an easy walk from Orsay, however, the direct entrance was blocked and we were forced to take a 1 km detour. The reason was the event of Formula E racing championship. On our roundabout way to the Rodin museum, we couldn’t help but stop to take a glance at the racing cars. Well, the event coinciding with our trip wasn’t fortunate because a part of the garden at Rodin museum was also reserved for the guests of formula E.
Open time: Wednesday to Monday, 10 am –5pm. Closed on Tuesdays
Entry Fees: 10 Euros for Adults, $8 euros for Seniors (65+), 7 Euros for Youth (13-18), free for children
* Free with Paris Pass*
A guided tour of Grand Opera would not be on our 3 day Paris itinerary if not for the Paris Pass. Commissioned by King Louis XIV in 1669, the Paris Opera remains the primary Opera and Ballet group of France. The interiors of the Paris Opera redefines opulence. The guided tour made the moments in history come alive in front of our eyes. The noble ladies dressed in their best descending down the royal staircases with commoners cheering through their pigeon-hole docks. The uncanny resemblance of this moment with the modern movie awards functions is hard not to notice. If you have the Paris pass, you must not miss this wonderful opportunity to take a guided tour of the Paris Opera.
You will need to submit one identity card at the reception for verification when you collect your headsets.
When we left the grand Opera we were juggling between two options – the wax museum or the Paris Aquarium. My husband’s fondness of “creatures” took us to the Paris Aquarium.
L’Aquarium de Paris, a.k.a. the Paris Aquarium is conveniently located near the Place du Trocadero. With more than 500 aquatic species living in the largest tank of Paris, the place can easily rekindle the curious spirit of a child within you. You can see a huge variety of jellyfish from different parts of the world, sharks, seahorses, and many other exotic Pisces. You will be amused to see children running about and looking at the exhibitions with sparkling eyes. The interactive shows, documentary movies and a lot of interesting GK trivia about aquatic life make it an amazing place to visit in Paris with children.
The Place Du Trocadero is the monumental plaza of Paris which gives you the best perspective of the Eiffel Tower. It is located in between the wings of the grand Palais de Challiot. Shutterbugs throng the place all day to capture the Eiffel tower from this perfect angle at the hill of Challiot. Some things to watch out for are the Fountain of Warsaw which lits up at night complimenting the twinkling of Eiffel tower. We missed that special view but we enjoyed exploring the complex and watching the open-air performances.
This is one of the best free experiences in Paris.
Speaking of free things to do in Paris, what’s better than walk on the banks of the Seine, the only UNESCO world heritage center in Paris. From Place du Trocadero walk on the beautiful roads of Paris to the banks of Seine to watch the sunset. One of the most romantic things to do in Paris is to do nothing at the banks of Seine. Just walk, sit, talk, wave at the boats and watch the sunset.
There are a total of 37 bridges on the Seine river in Paris some of which are as ornate as any monument would be. One of my favorite part of the Paris trip was a walk on the Pont Alexandre III bridge connecting the Invalides to the Grand and Petit Palais. Well, it was less of a leisurely stroll and more of a run for us as we were once again faced with a transport hiccup on our way to the Opera. After reading the nearest station we came to know that the trains were not going to stop there on that day for some reason, so we had to walk (run) to the next metro station to avail our metro to the Paris Opera.
Funny that we were so engrossed in our 3-day attraction hopping in Paris that we almost skipped exploring our own backyard. We were staying near the Pigalle metro station at Montmartre. On our last day in Paris, we decided to just see the iconic Moulin Rouge. We weren’t dressed for attending a show out there and were not too interested either but we just wanted to see it. The area is dotted with strip clubs and sex shops, as well as some amazing restaurants, much like the red-light district in Amsterdam. We had an amazing dinner at an Indian restaurant here.
Next morning we decided to check out early after breakfast and leave our packed luggage at the hotel reception, to go out and explore the Montmartre hill. The rain prevented us from clicking pictures in one of the most “Instagrammable” streets of Paris. Our delightful walk uphill took us through some picturesque streets lined with cafes, shops, and beautiful houses. It’s easy to see why almost all the great artists of the 19th century had once lived in Montmartre. If you want to see where the artists live these days slide left to Place du Tertre while walking towards Sacre- Coeur. The watercolors and caricature sketches are nowhere close to the genius of Picasso or Van Gogh, but they are really pretty.
The Sacre-Coeur is certainly the top attraction at Montmartre and one of the highlights of our 3 days in Paris. The pristine white marble of Sacre-Coeur makes is stand out from far. Perched atop the hill of Montmartre is offers one of the best sunset views of the city. The reason why I recommended it in the evening of day 3 if you have 3 full days in Paris. If you don’t want to walk you can hop on the toy trains that run in Montmartre at specific timings.
Hotels in Paris can be expensive during the peak season so make sure to book it early. I will recommend any of the IBIS budget and IBIS style hotels around Paris. They are reasonably priced and have standard service. Explore the best deals for Paris below.
We booked IBIS Style B&B at Pigalle. It is conveniently located 200 meters away from the metro station, 550 meters from Moulin Rouge and 1 km from Sacre Coeur. We booked hotels about 4-5 months in advance at ~Rs. 5500 per night including breakfast for two. There are many hotels at a budget range if you book in advance.
Here comes my favorite park. Paris has inspired the creative souls all over the world for centuries, so there is no dearth of inspiring books in fiction and non-fiction category. My favoritea are, of course, Da-Vinci Code written by Dan Brown and The Tale of Two Cities written by the great author Charles Dickens. A book on my wishlist is the Mistress of Paris based on the real-life story of a mistress who controlled the rise and fall of men who controlled Paris. What an interesting character! Here are my picks in the fiction category.
Adding this section after an overwhelming response within 2 days of publishing this. Everything I mentioned on the itinerary with Paris Pass, except Eiffel Tower. We went to Paris in the last week of April, just before the peak season of summer, but thanks to the advance booking we managed a good price for the hotel.
Price of Paris in 3 days for 2 people living in comfortable hotel accommodation can be managed within Rs.40,000 (Indian currency) if planned properly
Hope you found this 3-day Paris itinerary and travel tips useful. We would love to hear your thoughts in the comment section. Be sure to share with your friends and family. If this helped you in planning your first trip to Paris, please come back and write us a note on the contact box. If you like what you read, subscribe to our blog for weekly newsletters.
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Good read. Haven’t visited Paris yet, on reading I felt so anxious that I added Paris to my 2019 bucket list. This post is definitely a pick for first time visitors to Paris as it has all the information needed.
Great itinerary! I still haven’t been to Paris but I hope to go very soon. This will come in helpful for my planning!
What an evocative account of the joys of seeing Paris! My first visit was – ahem – 40 years ago now, and I remember entirely that feeling of magic on the boat at seeing the city light up. Montmartre was another big highlight, and my teenage self had visions of a small rooftop apartment and an arty life…sadly still awaiting fulfillment but never say never, eh? Thanks for bringing back so many great memories,and inspiring future plans – Rodin next time, I reckon.
This is a great read and a brilliant guide for those visiting Paris for the first time. My husband and I have been many, many times but are yet to explore the city with our son and see it from a child’s perspective. We’re eager to go back and do just that and the hop on hop off bus will be ideal for us!
Very comprehensive list! I love that you added books and movies recommendations, that is an awesome way to get one acquainted with a destination!
Paris is my favourite city in the world. Great post for first-time visitors. You take them to many of the must-see landmarks. I find that every time I return there is so much to discover and I love just people watching!!
As a travel agent, I sell trips to Paris frequently and I can say this is a good itinerary for 3 days in Paris. Another note would be that skip the line tickets to the Louvre for example can be purchased with hop-on/hop-off bus tickets and save you money. Great article!
I love the use of google maps.
Trocadero square is probably the best place to see the Eiffel Tower if one is not interested is going super close to it or climbing it.
Really awesome guide! When I visited Lourve, I also walked over to Pont des Arts which still had the love locks back then.
Thanks for mentioning all the costs and suggesting to get the Paris pass!
What an action-packed couple of days you had in my favourite city. It’s hard not to fall in love with Montmartre. It is such a wonderful part of the city to lose yourself in and soak up the atmosphere that is quintessentially Parisian.
This looks like a fantastic itinerary and you’ve packed so much practical information into it! My partner and I have been hoping to visit Paris together for a long time. This is some extra motivation and will be so useful for planning our trip when the time comes 🙂
“A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of Life.” – Thomas Jefferson. Paris sure is a moveable feast and you have captured it well 🙂 If I could something to your lovely list it would be the Grave of Jim Morrison. He was buried in the Pere Lachaise cemetery. Since then, fans from all around the world come to see his grave, making it one of the most visited tombs of the cemetery.
What a beautiful place! I would love to visit now that I have this guide!
I swear by Hop-on-Hop-off especially when I’m travelling solo. It’s been a while since I last visiting Paris, want to go back after reading your post.
Love this itinerary with practical tips and information for first time travellers. Would love to visit someday and will definitely use this guide.
Unfortunately my one trip to Paris got cut short when I got sick. I did Notre Dame and the Eiffel tower before I was taken down, but there’s clearly so much more I have to do!
I have been to Paris a few times and it never fails to amaze me. Besides being romantic, there are so many cultural elements to it that I love spending time just walking around. You’ve captured all the main attractions in the itinerary. They are a definite must for anyone visiting Paris for the first time. I must confess though, I missed out on the Notre Dame Crypt on all my visits, so that’s something to do next time.
Agreat tip about the traffic and the Hop On Hop Off Bus. Looks like the Metro and the Paris Pass is the way to go. There is so much to see and do in Paris it could take more than 3 days.
That’s a packed itinerary of Paris, and I would like to see the city in no other way. This is the best! You have put in all the important sites to see and convenient ways to look forward to them to cover Paris in 3 days. I believe hop on hop off bus tour is really beneficial to cover many places at a go, also the Paris Pass. These two are very important to explore the city in the way you did.
I visited Paris on multiple occasions. It’s not one of my most favorite cities in Europe but I still liked it. I have to say, I’m impressed how much you covered in just three days. I hope you get the chance to visit again and stay a bit longer though Thank you for this lovely read and keep up the great work
These are such awesome recommendations for first timmers in Paris! I did most of everything on this list except the aquarium visit or Louvre wine/hop on hop off tours. Defs didn’t know there was a wine tasting tour in Louvre and kinda bummed out I’d missed it. Your post is definitely making me miss Paris now and perhaps this is a sign for me to revisit!
Paris is definitely on my travel bucket list! This itinerary is going to be a great help in my planning. I am most excited about touring the Louvre!
I did not like this article at all.. by that I mean it made me want to get back to Paris sooo bad. not just read about it 🙂 This is a great itinerary for seeing the major places in Paris. Three days is not much time, but this is a great outline of what to see!
I loved Paris and great that you have listed all the important tourist attractions in 3 days. Paris is huge and so much to see that it is very confusing how to start with. So your itinerary with detailed travel tips will help first timers to plan their own trip.
This is such a comprehensive itinerary . I loved the way you have described everything. Its a great guide for first-timers for sure. I haven’t been to Paris till date and this itinerary is quite handy. Out of all , my favorite is Seine River cruise. I simply love river cruise after sunset. I find the most romantic way of exploring a city and see the other side after sunset. And of course, the Paris Pass is quite helpful. I also loved the idea of exploring Paris by choosing the Big Bus tour.
This is definitely a good itinerary for the first-time visitor. You’ll be tired though! And great tip about not eating anywhere near the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower…so true.
Excellent guide- you covered a LOT in just a few days! I love that it also includes great places to stay. I went to Paris when I was young but I can’t wait to take my family there!
Could you inform me what style are you utilizing on your internet site?
It looks good.
Nobody will expect to get to know a city like Paris in three days; therefore, your itinerary, packed with the most important information, is perfect for a start. By the way, I didn’t like the Aquarium too much, but isn’t the building just breathtaking?!
I still haven’t been to Opera National de Paris but I hope to go very soon. The popular opera is so amazing. The structure itself, its decorations, and its history are impressive.