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Paris was (up until recently) one of my least favourite cities in the world. I had had a layover there a number of years ago. My connecting flight was cancelled so I found myself with an evening to spare at an airport hotel. As I’m a travel photographer, I decided I’d try to see the Eiffel Tower. This was my mistake…
As the evening made way for the night I headed for the city centre. Exiting the metro, there it was. I crossed the road with my camera around my neck and was awestruck. At this moment, I happened to notice two people watching me and coming towards me and my camera.
I walked the opposite direction, then took a left down a side street. My thinking was if they followed me, I could be fairly certain they were in fact interested in me. They did. I returned back the way I came and they were heading straight for me. At that moment, I ran, straight past them back onto the busy street.
I kept running until I reached the metro station. I stuffed my ticket into the machine, went through the barriers and got straight back on the train. It was safe to say, at that point I hated Paris…
It was time that I confronted my demons and visited this beautiful city. This time, I was going to do it right! With pages of research and a camera, I set out to see Paris, the Paris that everyone talks about with a smile in their voice. Let me say, up front, Paris is now one of my top cities in the world! Let me show you why.
Arriving in Paris
The best way to get to Paris is by taking the Eurostar. It is a whisker over 2 hours from London St Pancras to Gare du Nord. This station is well connected Metro and RER trains so you can easily make it to your destination from here. Eurostar tickets can be had for as little as £60 per person if you book well in advance.
Most flights to Paris will land at Charles de Gaulle airport, over 25km out of town. From here take the RER train (Line B) into Gare du Nord, Châtelet or St-Michel for €10. This takes around 30-40 minutes.
Where to Stay in Paris
All maps of Paris are centred around the two islands in the Seine. The Ile St-Lous and the Ile de la Cité, home to Notre-Dame. This is the true heart of Paris and where you should try to stay if you can. We stayed in a small apartment located near Odéon. Only a few minutes walk to Notre-Dame and the centre of the city.
Accommodation in the heart of Paris is not cheap. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but you’ll have to accept it. Just remember, that if you’re only there for three days, time is your most valuable asset. Do you want to lazily stroll the evenings away around the city, or would you rather commute in to save €20 per night?
See below for a list of discounted booking recommendations from hostels to hotels:
Getting Around Paris
The best way to get around Paris is on foot. It is a beautiful city that deserves your attention at a pace where you can appreciate it. Walking around Paris is a delight, the generally historic architecture coupled with its highly fashion-forward inhabitants is a sight in itself. Of course, if you’re on a budget, you’re going to be doing a lot of walking, but here are some other options in case you get caught out.
There are around 300 RER and Metro stations in Paris so you’re generally able to get anywhere you want, fairly quickly. It runs from 5 am to 12:30 am with a single ticket costing €1.90 (or in blocks of 10 for €14.90). With this ticket you can ride the metro for 2 hours, you just cannot leave. As soon as you go through the exit gates, your ticket is no longer valid.
Pro Tip: Once the ticket has been used, the underside (next to the stripe) will be printed with a series of numbers. Rip used tickets to avoid confusion. See the official RATP site for more information.
Paris, like many other major cities, has a bike-sharing scheme in place. There are over 20,000 bicycles (some are electric too) and around 1200 docking stations. To find the next station you need not travel more than around 300m. Swipe your card and follow the on-screen information to hire them. You pay a 24-hour hire charge that allows you to use the bike for 30 min at no additional cost. You pay a small additional fee if you use it for over this time (around €1).
Paris has recently inherited a large number of electric scooters that are available to hire. These have completely changed the city. You download the Lime or Bird app, scan the QR code on the scooter’s handlebars then shoot off through the city. They cost €1 to unlock and €0.15 per minute of use after that. They can be collected and dropped off at any location throughout the city.
The final option that you should consider to get around Paris are Taxis and Ubers. I put them in the last place as they are not very budget friendly. We found Ubers in Paris were around double the price for the same distance journey in London. Use them in a pinch, or if you have large amounts of luggage to transport and are not able to carry them down into the Metro.
3 Days in Paris (Daily Paris Itineraries)
If you’ve been thinking of spending 3 days in Paris, here’s the itinerary for you. Paris is a beautiful city to visit, full of culture, architecture, shopping and sightseeing – there’s truly something for everyone! 3 days is the perfect amount of time to spend wandering the historic streets, checking off the famous landmarks and soaking up the Parisian atmosphere. Paris is a city I love to visit again and again – it never gets old! So I’ve curated top tips for the perfect Paris itinerary, from the best time to go to Paris, to where to go and what to see each day to make the most of your trip, and how to get about the city during your stay.
Day One: Getting to Know the City
We think that the best thing to do on your first day visiting Paris is to mix it up a bit: a bit of history, some nature, and then some good ol’ sightseeing with the help of the Hop On Hop Off bus tours to cover more ground!
Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral – the perfect introduction into Parisian architecture
Where better to start off your three days in Paris than by exploring one of the most historic, breathtaking and fascinating monuments in the city, the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Located on the Île de la Cité, Notre-Dame is hailed as one of the most significant cathedrals in Europe, and is an amazing example of Gothic architecture. See for yourself some beautiful shots of Notre Dame here and delve in deeper into the cathedral’s history too.
Notre Dame is free to visitors, so you can really take your time. Don’t feel rushed by the crowds – with over 13 million visitors each year, you won’t be alone! Despite this, there is a calm, restorative atmosphere, making you want to slow down and really take in your surroundings. Visit the archaeological crypt found in the Notre Dame to discover what Paris looked like up to 2,000 years ago, including a Roman bathhouse from the 4th century amongst other ancient hidden treasures.
Don’t miss out on the spectacular panoramic view from the towers. Tickets to climb the 387 steps cost €8.50, but it’s well worth it for the view you’ll be greeted with. You’ll be in prime position to examine the striking gargoyles too! If you have any little fans of the Disney movie, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, they will be thrilled to explore the famous monument in real life. Here’s a sneak peek of what’s in store for you at the top of all those steps.
Stroll through Luxembourg Gardens
After you’ve explored the historic crypts and crannies of the Notre Dame cathedral, you’re probably ready for some fresh air. Head to the Luxembourg gardens, just a short walk of under 20 minutes, or a 3-minute taxi ride from the Notre-Dame. Also known as Paris’ lungs, the Luxembourg gardens were the pride and joy of Marie de’ Medici. Originally the gardens of the Luxembourg Palace, which now houses the Senate and provides an impressive backdrop, the gardens are open and free to visit.
Walk amongst regal statues, stately trees and flower beds bursting with colour. The Luxembourg gardens is a favourite spot for locals to bask in the sun and relax. It’s not boring though – it’s an idyllic oasis away from the business of the city, with miles of paths to wander and plenty on offer for the youngest visitors too from play areas to pony rides and sailboats: good old-fashioned fun! You can experience open-air theatre throughout the year. There are some great photos and lots more information here.
Explore further with a tour on a Hop On Hop Off Bus
If your feet are feeling weary, take the weight off them and explore the city in a convenient and fascinating way. Jump on a Hop On Hop Off bus for a tour around Paris, where you’ll be able to get a real feel for the whole city, like in this video, and check loads of famous sights off your list too. When you’re doing Paris in 3 days, this is a great way to make the most of your time.
You’ll explore different Parisian neighbourhoods whilst giving your feet a break – take in all the sights, scents and sounds without having to worry about following directions or checking the map! The detailed commentary, available in 11 different languages, will give you a deeper understanding of the history of Paris and it’s attractions, sights and monuments. And with 16 stops spread all over Paris, just find the one closest to where you’re staying – and you’re almost home!
Day Two: Diving into some iconic Paris sights
Now you’ve got a feel for the place, it’s time to take in some of the sights that Paris is most famous for. What would this Paris itinerary be if it didn’t take in the Eiffel Tower, the most famous landmark in the Parisian skyline! From there, you can stroll down the majestic Champs Elysee to the Arc de Triomphe. Then channel your arty side with a visit to the Louvre.
Visit Paris’ most famous attraction: the Eiffel Tower!
What Paris travel blog would be complete without a trip up the Eiffel Tower. Admire the architectural feats of the Eiffel Tower, an iconic landmark recognisable to people around the world: The most well-known symbol of Paris.
The Eiffel Tower was constructed in 1889, and stands at 1063 feet. Take the glass elevator (or the stairs if you’re feeling fit) up to the very top, to gaze out over Paris and be wowed at the views – as amazing by day as by night. Indulge yourself in the champagne bar at the top or eat an unforgettable meal at the restaurant on the 2nd floor. This is sure to be a highlight of your 3 days in Paris – there’s nothing quite like it! On the first floor, you can walk on the glass floor and look between your feet to the esplanade below – if you’re brave enough!
Arc de Triomphe
After the unique experience of climbing the Eiffel Tower, hop on the Metro at Bir-Hakeim and ride 5 stops to the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station. Then you’re just a short 3-minute walk from the impressive Arc de Triomphe, which honours all the soldiers who have fought for France. First commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, it took 30 years to build so Napoleon never got to see the completed Arc de Triomphe. Find out more of the history here.
You’ll find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier here, and you can also climb to the top for amazing views out over Paris. Tickets cost €12 with reductions for students; children get in free.
Soak up some culture at the Louvre
Just 8 minutes on the Metro from the Charles de Gaulle Etoile station, you’ll find the treasure trove that is the world-famous Louvre museum – a staple of all Paris itineraries
When you visit the Louvre, the hardest decision to make is where to start! With so much on offer, it can be difficult to decide whether to start with the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo or Michelangelo’s David. The Louvre rates is the most visited museum in the world, and rightly so! Just the architecture of the building itself, originally a palace and home to the French heads of state, is fascinating.
In fact, you could spend a whole day (or several) just at the Louvre: it’s home to art from around the world dating from the Middle Ages right up to 1848. With more than 10 million visitors per year and extensive galleries, not to mention multiple entrances, it’s best to have a bit of a plan in place to get the most out of your visit. Here’s an article which walks you through the steps to make sure you can enjoy your visit and see the art that is most important to you.
For the last day on our Paris itineraries, check out the stunning Sacre Coeur in Montmartre, enjoy a cruise along the Seine and feast your eyes on the best views over Paris from the Montparnasse Tower.
Climb the steps to take in the Sacré Coeur
If you’re feeling determined, you can climb all 270 steps to reach Sacré Coeur basilica, located on a hill in the neighbourhood of Montmartre. Not only will you be rewarded for your hard work by amazing views over Paris, but you’ll be greeted by the sight of the stunning white-domed Sacré Coeur itself. If you’re not feeling so sporty, don’t worry – there’s a funicular which will take you to the top for the price of 1 metro ticket.
The Sacré Coeur is a Roman Catholic church which didn’t open until after the first World War. It stands out from more traditional Parisian architecture, combining Byzantine and Romanesque elements to create a truly unique building which is well worth the visit. The basilica is beautiful inside and out.
Indulge in a romantic Seine River Cruise
Paris is the City of Love, and how better to experience it than by taking a cruise along the River Scene. You’ll float gently past the highlights of the city including the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre. Whether by day or by night, a Seine River Cruise will feel like a real treat.
If you’ve mostly been exploring by foot it’ll be a well-earned chance to sit down and soak up the atmosphere. You can escape the hustle and bustle of the streets for a relaxing hour on the river. It’s touristy, but it seems that even the locals enjoy these river cruises. You’ll get the opportunity to experience Paris from a different perspective.
Some cruises even offer champagne tasting or a luxurious dinner: check out your options here.
See the most impressive views over Paris from the Montparnasse Tower
Allow Europe’s fastest elevator to whizz you up to the observation decks on the 56th and 59th floors of Paris’ first skyscraper, the Tour Montparnasse! I’d argue that you can get the best views over Paris from this vantage point. You’ll be able to see all the iconic sights and attractions and just take in the whole city in all its beauty.
Capture some amazing shots to remember your weekend in Paris, framing the Eiffel Tower against the backdrop of Paris. You’ll kick yourself if you miss this panorama when visiting Paris. If you time it right, you might be lucky enough to watch the sunset. Watching the lights come on across Paris is also an unforgettable experience if you visit the Tour Montparnasse in the evening to see the twinkling lights of Paris at night.
With this itinerary for Paris in 3 days, you really should get the most out of your weekend in Paris. As to the best time to go to Paris, it’s beautiful in every season: magical around Christmastime, warm and sunny in the summer and beautiful as the leaves begin to change in the autumn.
With these top tips and secret hints, your three days in Paris should be a memorable experience. Paris will always be one of my favourite places to visit – make sure you visit soon!
I hope you’ve enjoyed this Paris travel blog – don’t forget to share if you found it interesting and useful in planning your next trip. Let me know what you think – I love reading your comments and I’m always happy to respond to questions.
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!