Who doesn’t want to visit Paris at least once in their life? From beautiful architecture to incredible artwork and great food, it’s easy to see why this is one of the most visited cities in the world. But the same things that make Paris great can also make it overwhelming and leaving you wondering, how many days do you need in Paris to “see it all?” The good news is, it’s actually pretty easy to pack a lot in on a short trip. You can see the highlights of Paris in three days. Use this three day Paris itinerary to make a plan!
To make the most of this guide to explore Paris in 3 days, pick up a Paris Museum Pass when you arrive at the airport. This will allow you to skip the lines at most museums and attractions, saving you hours over the course of three days. (Check out this post for details on how to decide if it’s worth the money.)
I visited Paris in the winter, when it was very cold, raining, snowing, or some combination the whole time. So this list of best things to do in Paris in 3 days focuses on indoor activities. If you visit when the weather is nicer, you may want an additional day to explore the parks and gardens the city is so famous for.
Ready to get started planning your trip to Paris? Read on for my three day Paris itinerary!
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Day One: The Louvre, Picasso and the Centre Pompidou
Dive right in on your first day in Paris with some of the best museums the city has to offer. Break up your art-gazing with good food and fun cafes.
Start your three day Paris itinerary with the city’s most famous museum — the Louvre.
Spend a few minutes in the inner courtyard, admiring the glass pyramid and the gorgeous exteriors of the former royal palace in the morning light. Then, get in line — ideally by 8:45 am. (If you’ve already picked up your museum pass, look for the special entrance between the metro and the courtyard.) You’ll have to go through a security checkpoint, then wait in a second line inside to buy your tickets.
You’ll get the most out of your visit to the Louvre if you make a plan in advance. This three day Paris itinerary doesn’t leave a lot of time for planning on the spot, and there’s no way you’ll be able to see the whole museum on a single visit. Prioritize what you really want to see, then pick up a floor plan when you arrive and map it out.
If you want any hope of getting a good look at the Mona Lisa, head there first thing. There will likely be a small crowd forming at the painting, but you’ll be able to get a front-row view with only a couple minutes’ wait.
Once you’ve checked that box, hit up your other priority pieces. My favorite parts of the museum were the Babylonian and Egyptian sections — which you could easily spend an hour each exploring — and the Napoleon apartments. Don’t pressure yourself to get to every room in the museum, or even every room on the first floor. When you start to feel the museum fatigue creeping in, it’s time to call it quits and get some food.
Admission to the Louvre is €15, and it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass if you have one.
Lunch: Le Bouillon Chartier
Yes, it’s in every tourist guide about Paris. Yes, it’s always mobbed and you will have to wait in line. And yes, the experience is hectic and impersonal.
But if you’re looking to try authentic French cuisine in a historic restaurant without paying through the nose, it still doesn’t get much better than Le Bouillon Chartier. It’s a must-do in Paris on this three day Paris itinerary.
This classic French bistro has remained pretty much unchanged since the 1940’s. You’ll sit side-by-side with total strangers, while rushed waiters scribble your order on the paper tablecloths to keep track of the bill. Order duck confit, steak-frites, or if you’re feeling adventurous, snails. Wash it all down with cheap house wine. You can easily have a multi-course meal with drinks for under €15, or a single main course for under €10. The food is good value for money, if not life-changing.
After you finish eating, pop over to Passage Verdeau for a quick stroll through one of Paris’s covered markets. These unique spaces were the precursors to the modern shopping mall, and tend to house quirky local shops. Passage Verdeau specializes in bookshops.
Cafe Break: Boot Cafe
Paris is a city best explored on foot. You’d be missing out on your three days in Paris if you didn’t do a lot of walking. And one of the most enjoyable strolls is down Rue Etienne Marcel to the Picasso Museum.
You’ll pass cheese shops, wine shops, open-air cafes, corner grocers, and people going about their daily lives. While much of Paris can feel overwhelmingly touristy, strolling between these neighborhoods will give you a taste of local life.
Once you get near the Picasso Museum, take a quick detour to Boot Cafe. This super-tiny coffee shop is, in my book, the most charming cafe in Paris. Grab a good cappuccino, a seat by the window, and a newspaper from the stash and give your feet a quick break.
Pablo Picasso is one of Paris’s most beloved figures. So of course, there’s an entire museum dedicated to his artwork and life. If you’re at all interested in Picasso’s paintings, or in 20th century art movements, spend an hour of your three day Paris itinerary exploring this museum.
Much of the museum is reserved for temporary exhibitions of Picasso’s work. The permanent collection walks you through his painting in chronological order. It’s fascinating to see how he transitioned from portrait painting to cubism to surrealism and then back to portraits throughout his life.
Admission to the Picasso Museum is €10, or it’s included with your Paris Museum Pass.
The Centre Pompidou
Close out the first day of this three day Paris itinerary with a visit to Paris’s spectacular modern art museum — and one of its most interesting buildings.
The Centre Pompidou is an architectural marvel. The building’s plumbing was constructed on the outside. Additionally, a series of external escalators carry visitors up along the exterior to the roof deck, where you can see sweeping views of the Parisian skyline.
As an added bonus, the Centre Pompidou opens late. So you can visit for sunset, after all the other museums have closed, and then dive into the experimental modern artwork before dinner.
The permanent exhibitions span two floors, and depending on your interest in modern art, take quite awhile to go through. Plan to spend two or three hours here. It’s sure to be one of the highlights of your 3 days in Paris.
Admission to the Centre Pompidou is €14, or €5 to go to the roof deck only. It’s covered by your Paris Museum Pass.
Dinner: L’As du Fallafel
After a long day of looking at art, you’re probably hungry again. So for dinner, head to one of Paris’s best food bargains — L’As du Fallafel.
This outdoor falafel stand has arguably the world’s best fried chickpea sandwich. (Don’t worry, hardcore carnivores — you can get a schwarma instead if you prefer.) For €5, you can get a pita filled well past the bursting point with falafel, pickled veggies, and spicy sauces. It really doesn’t get better than this. Don’t miss it on your three day Paris itinerary, especially if you’re trying to spend 3 days in Paris on a budget.
Day Two: Notre Dame, water lilies, Champs-Elysees, and the Eiffel Tower
Spend the second day of your 3 day visit to Paris visiting some of the city’s most iconic monuments. This is a light museum day, so consider swapping it with Day 3 if the weather is horrible.
The heart and soul of the city, Notre Dame is a must-see attraction in this travel guide to three days in Paris.
You can visit the cathedral itself for free. But the true highlight is climbing the towers — which come with a €10 admission fee (covered by the Paris Museum Pass). You need to book your visit to the towers in advance, either at one of the kiosks outside or using the app JeFile. You’ll get a fifteen minute window to arrive in to climb the 387 spiraling steps to the top.
The views from the top are truly incredible, and probably the #1 best part of visiting Paris. You can also get up close and personal with gargoyles.
Cafe break: Shakespeare & Co.
After you visit Notre Dame, head across the river to the world-famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Any literature lover could get lost for hours in the store itself. But even better is the charming cafe next door.
Settle in for a coffee and a pastry, or a full meal if you’re hungry enough. The coffee is a bit pricey but the food is reasonable. You can people-watch the huge tour groups coming for photo ops in front of the bookstore and the hawkers along the Seine selling fake art and cheesy souvenirs.
Notre Dame may be Paris’s most famous church, but arguably Sainte-Chapelle is its most beautiful. This small 13th-century church is home to spectacular floor-to-ceiling stained glass windows that bring to life 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
Because it shares grounds with the Supreme Court, security around Sainte-Chapelle is very tight. Even if you have pre-booked tickets or a Paris Museum Pass, you’ll have to queue in the main access line to get through security. It moves reasonably fast, but expect to wait 15-30 minutes during peak periods.
If you want to learn more about what the stained-glass murals depict, pick up an audio guide for an extra €3. I didn’t get one, and I wish I had — I found the English-language written explanations to be pretty inadequate.
Admission to Sainte-Chapelle is €10 and it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
Cafe break: Angelina’s
Next, it’s time to head west along the Seine. Stroll past the Louvre and along the outside of Tuileries Garden until you reach Angelina’s — the most essential cafe stop in this list of places to visit in Paris France in 3 days.
The tea room at Angelina’s is legendary, and it’s all because of the amazing “African” hot chocolate. The beverage arrives in two parts: one part cocoa-y goodness, the other part an entire carafe of whipped cream. You will definitely have a sugar headache after you finish, but it’s so completely worth it.
A hot chocolate at Angelina’s costs €8. It’s way more than I would usually spend on a drink, and as a backpacker I don’t normally splurge on things like this. But I have no regrets about this one. (Trying to make room in your budget for splurges like this? Check out my guide to visiting Paris on a budget here.)
Musée de l’Orangerie and Tuileries Garden
Once you’re coasting on a sugar high, it’s time to hit up the only museum in on day 2 of your three day Paris itinerary — Musée de l’Orangerie.
Musée de l’Orangerie is most famous for Claude Monet’s water lily paintings. They are housed in purpose-build oval-shaped rooms on the museum’s top floor. If this is the only thing you visit the museum for, it’s still worth the admission fee — the murals are the most memorable artwork in Paris in my book.
If you have a little more time, check out the special exhibits in the basement. When I was there they had an interesting African art display, along with some more stodgy European paintings from the permanent collection.
The Musée de l’Orangerie is located in the middle of the Tuileries Gardens. So on your way there or away, stroll through the park’s perfectly landscaped surrounds to find the perfect angles to photograph the Louvre and the other riverside architecture. In good weather, this would be an ideal picnic spot.
Admission to the Musée de l’Orangerie is €9, and it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
For a time- and budget-friendly meal near Musée de l’Orangerie, stop in at Honor. This little cafe is set in a courtyard off Rue du Faubourg st-Honore — a prime upscale shopping area. It’s all outdoors, but the little room behind the bar is heated and perfectly comfortable in winter.
Honor serves very good sandwiches, simple salads and quiches for €6.50. Add a fancy coffee drink and you still come in under €10. Bonus points for being staffed by its friendly, hipster, English-speaking owner — no stuffy or uptight servers here.
Champs-Elysees and Arc de Triomphe
Once you’re full and caffeinated, you can head back out for the long walk down Champs-Elysees, Paris’s most famous boulevard.
Shoppers may want to spend more time on this part of the three day Paris itinerary, but if you’re on a budget, there actually isn’t a whole lot to see along Champs-Elysees. The main highlight is stopping in at Laduree to pick up a few of its famous macarons (the raspberry ones are the best). No need to sit in the overpriced tea room — just get your cookies to go and enjoy them on a bench outside. The people-watching is better anyway.
The Arc de Triomphe sits at the far end of the boulevard. Don’t try to cross the traffic circle — follow the signs to access the arch underground. You’ll pick up your ticket, go through security, and climb the 284 steps to the top.
The 360-degree view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is probably the best skyline view you’ll get of Paris. You can see the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, and every major avenue and boulevard in the city center. Be sure to time your visit for a clear, sunny part of the day (or evening — the nighttime views are also spectacular).
Admission to the Arc de Triomphe is €8, and it’s covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
The Eiffel Tower
Now, finally, what you’ve been waiting for on this three day Paris itinerary — a visit to the Eiffel Tower, Paris’s most iconic building.
You can reach the Eiffel Tower by walking half an hour from the Arc de Triomphe. The advantage to walking is you’ll see the tower from the other side of the river first, which provides great photography opportunities.
The Eiffel Tower is not covered by the Paris Museum Pass. The only way to skip the line is by pre-booking a tour. To avoid the worst of the crowds, visit in the late afternoon — it’s full of tour buses during the day, and more tourists flock here at night.
You can get to the second floor — which offers the best views — by either stairs or elevator. The third floor is only accessible by elevator, and rumor has it that it’s kind of disappointing. Admission depends on how far up you go and how you get there. A trip to the second floor via stairs costs €10. If you take the elevator, it’s €16. A trip to the third floor runs €25 if you take the elevator all the way, or €19 if you take the stairs halfway.
Dinner: Breizh Cafe
For an affordable classic Parisian dinner, it’s a long walk or a short metro hop to Le Marais. Head to Breizh Cafe for the city’s favorite, 100% authentic crepes.
If you’re going at a popular time, it’s best to make reservations (yes, even creperies require reservations in Paris). Alternatively, wait for a spot at the communal table at next-door L’Epicerie — it’s the same menu and same cooks, but in a far more informal setting.
Crepes at both locations run €10-€15 for a savory crepe or €8-€12 for a sweet one.
Day three: Montmartre, Sacre Coeur, and Musée D’Orsay
On the last day of this three days in Paris itinerary, go beyond the city center and explore one of the most charming neighborhoods in Paris. Then, wrap up with another one of the city’s great museums.
Breakfast: Du Pain Et Des Idees and La Fontaine de Belleville
Start your day with a metro trip out to the area around Canal St. Martin (get off at Jacques Bonsergent). Beat a path for one of the top bakeries in Paris — Du Pain et des Idees. Pick up an “escargot” (snail-shaped pistachio pastry), a croissant, or a baguette and eat on the wooden benches outside.
Skip the mediocre bakery coffee and instead, wander through the canal-side neighborhood to reach La Fontaine de Belleville. This cafe drips vintage Parisian, with checkered tablecloths and newspapers on wooden rods. But unlike most classic Paris sidewalk cafes, it has legitimately great coffee for reasonable prices. Sit at the bar to get an espresso for €2.
The neighborhood around the canal is great for aimless wandering. You can check out small art galleries and quirky boutique shops every couple meters. You won’t be the only tourist around, but you won’t see big groups either.
Montmartre and Sacre Coeur
If the weather is nice and you’re up for it, you can walk all the way from Canal St. Martin to Sacre Coeur. It’ll take you about 45 minutes and it’s not a particularly interesting walk. Alternatively, hop back on the metro.
Montmartre was an independent village for much of its history. It was only absorbed into Paris in 1860. It retains more of a small-town feel, and has an active artist community spawned by painters such as Monet, Picasso and Renoir working here.
The highlight of the neighborhood is the Sacre Coeur Basilica. This hilltop church offers yet another sweeping view of Paris. If you’re not sick of paying admission fees to get skyline views on this three day Paris itinerary, you can climb the dome of the church for €6. But even the free views are spectacular. The church itself is free to enter and very beautiful.
After you visit the church, take a short walk to Place du Tertre — the village’s original main square. It’s still occupied by buskers and caricature artists. Other highlights of the neighborhood include the hilltop windmills and Cafe des Deux Moulins, famous for its role in the film Amelie (the coffee isn’t bad).
Lunch: L’Ete en Pente Douce
Paris doesn’t get much better than this. Your final lunch spot on this three day Paris itinerary is at a cute sidewalk cafe in an untouched-by-mass-tourism corner of Montmartre.
Settle in on the terrace and choose from an array of salads, quiches, and typical cafe fare. Everything comes with homemade bread baked to perfection. It’s easy to keep a meal under €10 (add €2-3 if you order drinks).
The cafe gets very crowded on weekends with locals and tourists alike, so try to arrive before 12:30 pm or expect to wait for a table.
The final stop on this three day Paris itinerary is at the Musée d’Orsay. Housed in a gorgeous former train station, this is often considered the highlight of Parisian museums — largely due to its large collection of Van Gough paintings. It’s one of the must see places in Paris.
Security queues tend to be long — even with the museum pass, expect to wait 15-30 minutes at peak times. But once you get inside, the museum doesn’t feel as annoyingly crowded as the Louvre and you can realistically see everything in one visit.
The museum is loosely organized by painting style. English-language explanations at the beginning of each section explain the history of the technique or movement.
The Van Gough room is on the second floor, along with most of the other impressionist works. Once you work your way through those collections, head up to the third floor for the view from behind the giant clock faces.
Admission to the Musée d’Orsay costs €12, and it is covered by the Paris Museum Pass.
Dinner: Le Traiteur Marocain
If you’ve had enough of heavy French food on your three day Paris itinerary, it’s time to mix things up. Paris has a huge Moroccan population — and with huge immigrant populations come huge amounts of good, cheap ethnic food.
Le Traiteur Marocain makes every list of the best budget places to eat in Paris, and for good reason. For €10 you can get a piping hot plate of delicious, fragrant, spicy tagine (clay-pot-cooked stew) with couscous. Try the lemony chicken with olives, or the merguez plate piled high with meats and sausages.
Le Traiteur Marocain is hidden in Le Marché des Enfants Rouges. It’s open for dinner, but go early — when I visited, they inexplicably closed just after I arrived at 6:30, two hours earlier than the posted time. (Maybe because it was freezing and rainy and it’s all outdoors?)
And that’s it! After dinner, grab a drink at whatever cafe or bar is most convenient to your hotel and commemorate the end of your three days in Paris.
Practicalities for your three day Paris itinerary
Where to stay
Paris has a seemingly endless variety of hotels — from five-star luxury to sketchy dorms. The two biggest factors when choosing where to stay for your three day Paris itinerary are cost and location.
First off, I definitely don’t think it’s worth it to stay outside the city just to save money. For one, when you add in transport costs it doesn’t end up being significantly cheaper. But more importantly, if you only have three days in Paris, you don’t want to waste an hour on the train each morning and evening.
But you can snag great deals without sacrificing too much convenience by staying in less-central neighborhoods within the city.
The neighborhood of Belleville is popular with the hostel crowd. It’s pretty hipster, and convenient for local (not tourist-oriented) cafes and restaurants. You can get a dorm bed for $30-$45 in this neighborhood. Les Piaules is a well-loved option.
Another great affordable neighborhood is Butte aux Cailles in southern Paris. It has a real community vibe and a handful of great bakeries and restaurants. It’s not at all touristic, but within walking distance of the city center. I stayed at the charming Hotel Verlaine in this area.
How to get around in Paris
Paris is a pretty spread-out city relative to many European capitals. The good news is, the metro is cheap (ish) and convenient.
Each metro ticket costs €1.90 no matter what time of the day you’re riding and includes transfers between lines. You can also purchase a set of ten tickets for €14.90 if you plan to use the metro a lot.
Paris also has a regional train network, known as the RER. Tickets cost the same as on the metro for within the city center, and it’s faster, but stops are further apart. RER is also the most convenient way to get to Charles de Gaulle Airport (tickets €10), and you can use it for many day trips from Paris, like to Versailles..
Alternatively, just walk! It takes more time, of course, but you’ll get to explore much more of Paris in three days if you get between major attractions on foot. After all, the neighborhoods are perhaps the most interesting part of the city. The only neighborhood on this three day Paris itinerary that is really impractical to walk to is Montmartre — it’s worth taking the metro in at least one direction.
What to pack for three days in Paris
On top of the usual clothes and accessories, there are a few essential items to bring with you to Paris:
- Reusable water bottle: Tap water in Paris is safe to drink. Don’t waste money and destroy the environment by buying plastic water bottles everywhere you go. Bring your own reusable one from home.
- Small, portable umbrella: It rains a lot in Paris. Don’t get caught off guard. Bring a travel umbrella that easily fits in your purse or daypack.
- French phrasebook: Most Parisians who interact with tourists will grudgingly speak English with you if they have to. But a little bit of an effort to speak French goes a long way.
- Travel tripod: Paris is extremely photogenic — and even more so at night. Bring a travel tripod to ensure you can get good, blur-free low-light shots.
And that’s pretty much it! You’re all ready to hit the road with this three day Paris itinerary. Have fun!
Did I miss anything essential from this three day Paris itinerary? Do you have other food/coffee suggestions? Leave a comment!
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