3-day Itinerary in Paris
Explore the best things to do in Paris in 3 days based on recommendations from local experts.
- 1#6View all Photos#6 in Paris2.2 miles to city center2.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Coeur (meaning "Sacred Heart") looks more like a white castle than a basilica – but that's what it is. Towering over the eclectic neighborhood of Montmartre (once a hangout for Paris' bohemian crowd), this Roman-Byzantine masterpiece is easily recognized by its ornate ivory domes. As blanched as it may appear on the outside, the basilica's interior is a sight worth beholding: The ceilings glitter with France's largest mosaic, which depicts Jesus rising alongside the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc.
You'll also likely be left in awe with the panoramic views found from atop the Sacré-Coeur's outdoor staircase. But for an even better photo op, climb all 300 steps to the top of the dome. The dome is accessible to visitors every day from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May to September, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October to April. Mass is held multiple times a day every day.25-30 minutes by metro; 15-20 minutes by car
- 2#10View all Photos
A masterpiece of architectural opulence, the Opéra Garnier – also known as the Palais Garnier – still exudes the same enigmatic atmosphere it radiated in the late 1800s. This palpable sense of intrigue and mystery that permeates the opera is due in part to its awe-inspiring Old World interiors as well as Gaston Leroux, the author of "Phantom of the Opera," for which the Garnier served as inspiration. Leroux claimed the phantom was indeed real, successfully incorporating real life opera occurrences (such as the chandelier falling and killing a bystander) into his fiction. The Garnier's lack of a robust historical record, as well as Leroux's writing talents, have left many wondering if there really was a dweller that lurked beneath the opera. Staff have claimed otherwise, but say with the opera's very real underground lake, it's easy to see how the story could be so convincing. Without Napoleon III, who was responsible for commissioning the opera, Leroux's tale would have never come to fruition.
The best way to fully experience the Palais Garnier is by purchasing a ballet or opera ticket. Remember to book your tickets several months in advance, as performances are highly coveted. If you won't be in town for a performance or aren't up for forking over the oftentimes high price of a performance, you can explore the building's magnificent interiors on your own. Travelers who did so found the insides of the building to be so grand they couldn't believe their eyes. Visitors said every part of the Palais Garnier, down to the smallest of nooks and crannies, was completely stunning, with some comparing it to the kind of extravagance you'd find in Versailles. Because of the opera's popularity, you're likely going to have to wait in line to get tickets as well as enter the attraction.15-20 minutes by metro; 10-15 minutes by car
- 3#17View all Photos
Musician Joe Dassin once sang "Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées," which translates to "There's everything you could want along the Champs-Élysées." And he's right. Paris' most famous boulevard – stretching more than a mile from the glittering obelisk at Place de la Concorde to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe – is a shopper's mecca. Along its wide, tree-lined sidewalks, you'll find such luxury stores as Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss rubbing elbows with less-pricey establishments like Adidas and Gap.
While the Champs-Élysées is no doubt a shopping paradise, recent travelers noticed the price tags at most stores are can be pretty high. And the more affordable options are constantly swamped with people. The Champs-Élysées itself is no different. Because this is such a famous street in Paris, expect there to be crowds galore, both during the day and the nighttime. Still, many travelers enjoyed taking in the Champs-Élysées' bustling atmosphere and observing both locals and tourists come and go. Some recent visitors said a trip to the Champs-Élysées is not complete without a stop at Laduree, the city's famous macaron shop.15-20 minute walk
- 4#12View all Photos
Situated at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to honor the Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars. The arch, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is adorned with several impressive, intricately carved sculptures. Underneath the Arch travelers will find the names of the battles fought during the first French Republic and Napolean's Empire as well as generals who fought in them. Travelers will also find the famous tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The unknown soldier currently buried there is meant to represent all the unidentified or unaccounted for soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. The flame that was lit when the soldier was laid to rest has not extinguished since it was initially lit in the 1920s, and is rekindled every night at 6:30 p.m. by a member of the armed services.
Aside from admiring the arch, visitors can climb to the top and take in the Parisian panorama. Most visitors are wowed by the immense size of the structure and recommend ascending to the top for the spectacular Paris views. Visitors caution that you'll have to wait in line to get to the top and the climb, which is made up of hundreds of stairs, can be a serious workout. Others strongly cautioned against trying to cross the street to get to the Arc. Instead, take the underground tunnel near the metro that leads directly to the base of the structure.20 minutes by metro; 10-15 minutes by car
- 5#3View all Photos
Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World's Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it skirted demolition talks twice. The first time, at the beginning of the 1900s, the tower was kept around because of its transmission talents. Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower's transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan.
Today, the Eiffel Tower is still used for communication transmissions but is chiefly regarded for its grandeur. If you can believe it, many Parisians initially found this architectural marvel to be nothing more than an eyesore. Regardless, the Eiffel Tower today stands as one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. Visitors can walk up to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower or take the elevator all the way up to the top, where they'll be treated with vast panoramic views of the city. While some recent visitors complain of long lines – especially during the summer – you can bypass the wait by booking your tickets online at the Eiffel Tower's website. And though some travelers aren't crazy about the price to get to the top, many agree that the views are worth it. Visitors also strongly recommend making an additional trek at night. That's because every hour on the hour, thousands of flickering light bulbs make the Eiffel Tower sparkle, leaving tourists in complete awe.25 minutes by train; 10-15 minutes by car
- 6#1View all Photos#1 in Paris0.3 miles to city center0.3 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Note that the cathedral sustained significant damage as a result of a fire on April 15, 2019. Its wooden roof and spire collapsed during the fire. It remains closed until further notice.
Like the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren't made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you'll start to understand why it took so long.
- 1#5View all Photos
Straddling the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements (districts), Le Marais is one of Paris' oldest and coolest districts – so cool, in fact, that French writer Victor Hugo (author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Misérables") called it home. With all of its cobblestone streets, stately stone architecture and tucked away courtyards, it's easy to feel as if you're strolling through medieval Paris. Back in the day, Le Marais housed some notable French royalty. King Henry IV was the one responsible for the construction of the Place des Vosges, Paris' oldest square. And Louis XIV called this neighborhood home for a while until he decided to move his family and court to Versailles. Much of Le Marais also survived the destruction made during the French Revolution.
Despite the Old-World French atmosphere, the neighborhood has played host to multiple cultures throughout its lifetime. Since the 13th century, Le Marais has been the city's Jewish quarter. The quarter's history can be most felt along rue des Rosiers, which feature some old-school delis and bakeries. Today, Le Marais is the epicenter of the city's gay community, with chic boutiques and vibrant nightlife options outnumbering traditional Jewish establishments. Le Marais is also known for its delectable falafel (especially at L’As du Fallafel), shopping and numerous art galleries and museums. Here you can find the Centre Pompidou, the National Archives of France, the Musée Picasso and Musée des Arts et Métiers, the oldest science museum in Europe. In addition to the neighborhood's collection of boutiques, Le Marais is known for its numerous vintage shops and specialty stores, including papeteries. Antique hunters will get a load of good finds at the Village Saint-Paul while foodies will delight in a visit to the Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris' oldest market.25 minute walk; 10 minutes by car
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If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Musée du Louvre. That's because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world as well. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features a grand total of 35,000 works of art. Here you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Smothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as "Liberty of Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix, "The Raft of Medusa" by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," the museum's biggest star, can be found here. You can even get a glimpse of Napolean the Third's old apartment digs. Though you don't necessarily have to visit the apartments to get a taste of what it was like to be a royal. Before it was a museum, the Louvre served as a royal residence for a number of French powers, including Louis XIV. It was only sometime after Louis XIV left the Louvre in favor of Versailles that the Louvre began to transform into a museum.
With such a robust art collection, the Louvre has earned the title as the most visited museum in the world (upward of 9 million per year). While visitors agree it is no doubt a must-visit attraction, with the majority more than impressed with the museum's offerings, the crowds can be a major turn off (especially around the glass-enclosed "Mona Lisa"). Not to the point where travelers are willing to skip the Louvre altogether, but they stress going at a time where there will be fewer people (not the middle of the day on a weekend). Others said the sheer enormity of the museum can be overwhelming, so much so that covering the entire 650,000 square feet of gallery space in a day is close to impossible. The best strategy is to pick what you want to see ahead of time and grab a map so you can easily locate those works of art. Otherwise, you could easily end up spending hours wandering around waiting to run into the must-sees and miss them.15 minute walk
- 3#7View all Photos
Housed in a former railway station along the Left Bank, the Musée d'Orsay is regarded for its rich collection of impressionist works. You'll see paintings by French artists like Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, among many, many others. The museum also houses a number of sculptures, as well as photography and even furniture displays. And if you climb to the museum's top balcony, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica through the museum's massive transparent clock.
Although the extensive Louvre may appear to get most of the Parisian limelight, recent travelers seem to enjoy the Musée d'Orsay more. Travelers say the museum is much more manageable than the often overwhelming Louvre and note that there are also significantly fewer crowds here. Many visitors confidently report that you can easily get through this museum in a few hours. As for the art, travelers loved the museum's colorful collection of paintings as well as the building itself, with many calling the Belle Epoque architecture of the d'Orsay a work of art on its own.15 minutes by metro
- 4#11View all Photos
A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of pleasures, the Luxembourg Gardens provide ample green space (61 acres) for sun-soaking and people-watching, plus there are plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. When the city bustle becomes too overwhelming, meander around the paths and formal gardens, or just relax with a picnic. Kids can float sailboats at the Grand Basin, ride ponies or take a spin on the merry-go-round, or catch a puppet show at the on-site Theatre des Marionettes. Adults might delight in the on-site Musee du Luxembourg, the first French museum that was opened to the public. Though with 106 sculptures to its name, including a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Luxembourg Gardens could easily be considered an open-air museum itself.
The Gardens also have sports courts, including basketball and baseball, but travelers say the best way to unwind here is to just kick back and admire the surrounding scenery. You'll find Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondissement (neighborhood), just a short walk from both the Odéon (line 4 and 10) and Notre-Dame des Champs (line 12) metro stops. You can tour the garden for free but there is a fee to enter the Musee du Luxembourg. For more information, visit the Paris Visitors Bureau website.
- 1#15View all Photos
The Centre Pompidou is one of the most visited cultural sites in Paris. But keep this in mind – and recent travelers attest to this – if you're not a fan of modern art, you probably won't enjoy this museum. The Pompidou is all modern and contemporary art (think cubist, surrealist and pop art, among others). Even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside.
Inside the inside-out museum you'll find one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world (more than 100,000 pieces of art). The most notable attraction within is France's National Museum of Modern Art, which features works from 20th and 21st-century artists. Here, you can find big names such as Matisse, Picasso and even Andy Warhol. Also within the Centre Pompidou is additional exhibition and entertainment spaces as well as a library, rooftop restaurant and cinemas.25-30 minutes by metro; 10-15 minutes by car
- 2#16View all Photos
Not every inch of Paris is as romantic as you think – in fact, the Catacombs are downright chilling. Prior to the creation of the Catacombs in the late 18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, graves started to become exposed and stunk up surrounding neighborhoods. The limestone quarries located 65 feet beneath Paris eventually became the solution, providing ample and safe space for the city's deceased loved ones. It took 12 years to move 6 million bodies from all the Parisien graves.
Today, the solemn, skull-and-boned lined tunnels weave beneath the heart of the City of Love, beckoning to visitors with an interest in the departed. The catacombs stretch for miles all over the city, but visitors are only allowed to access a mile's worth for 45 minutes at the Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4,6 and RER B) metro station. Trying to access the catacombs at any other entrance throughout the city is illegal. You'll want to wear sturdy footwear as the paths inside are full of gravel, uneven and even slippery in some sections. And because of the attraction's unique nature and popularity, expect a queue. Recent travelers advised arriving as close to opening time as possible (or even before) to aim for the shortest wait time. But even then, travelers encountered long lines. The best way to avoid lines is to buy tickets ahead of time on the attraction's website. Those with even the slightest claustrophobia might want to sit this one out, as the tunnels are only about 5 feet high.30 minutes by metro and train
- 3#13View all Photos#13 in Paris11.1 miles to city center11.1 miles to city centerParks and Gardens, Castles/Palaces, SightseeingTYPEHalf Day to Full DayTIME TO SPEND
The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is located 14 miles southwest of Paris in Versailles. Every year, millions of travelers make the trek from Paris to bear witness to the chateau's world-famous grandeur in person. But between all of the gold figurines, dramatic frescoes and cascading crystal chandeliers you'll no doubt find in bulk throughout the chateau, you might be surprised to learn that King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence had pretty humble-ish beginnings.
His father, King Louis XIII favored the site for its hunting potential and built a brick and stone lodge there so modest, one of his advisors remarked that "a mere gentleman would not have been overly proud of the construction" about the place. XIII eventually decided to expand, building two small palaces, but it wasn't until Louis XIV came along that the chateau we see today started to come to fruition. Louis XIV moved the French government and court here and is credited with implementing numerous additions, including the palace's most popular attraction, the Hall of Mirrors. The Royal Opera House was added under Louis XV, who rarely resided in the chateau, and became the venue where Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette got married. After Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were forced out of the chateau during the French Revolution, the government left, and Versailles was practically abandoned. It was eventually brought back to life, turned into a museum and in the 20th century served as the site where the World War I peace treaty, or the Treaty of Versailles, was signed.
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