Paris Itinerary: 8 Things You Absolutely Cannot Miss
The city of love is one of my favorite places in the whole world. The first time I went I loved it so much that I actually went back just a few months later. And that’s saying a lot considering I had to fly all the way from San Francisco and my first trip wasn’t all rainbows and butterflies (I stumbled into some protests and a lot of tear gas).
At this point I have been to Paris so many times I can’t even remember the exact number. I find myself here almost any time I have a few spare days in Europe, both because it is so magical and also because it’s a major transportation hub which makes it easy and inexpensive to get to and from. In my time here I have done countless things, a lot of which I have covered in my many Paris posts (click here for those).
To my surprise, my blogpost on 8 Things You Absolutely Cannot Miss in London continues to be one of my most popular posts of all time. Paris is similar to London in that everyone and their mom has recommendations on what to see and do there since it’s such a popular destination.
So, given all of the above and the amount of people looking for Paris itineraries, I’ve decided to narrow down my long to do list into 8 things you absolutely cannot miss! Whether you are looking to spend a week in Paris, 4 days in Paris, 3 days in Paris, 2 days in Paris, or anything in between, the info here will help you come up with the best Paris itinerary for any amount of time.
Psst, is it your first time? Click here for things to know before you visit Paris — a first-timer’s guide! It covers things like when to visit, how long to visit for, how expensive Paris is (with specific examples of average prices for many items), how much to tip, what an arrondissement is, and more.
Where to Stay in Paris
If you are looking for the best of the best, stay at Le Pavillon de la Reine. It is a jaw-dropping five-star hotel located in the heart of Marais in Place des Vosges, one of my favorite spots in Paris. It is drenched in ivy and such a luxurious, wonderful gem tucked away from the hustle and bustle of le Marais. I have stayed here personally and highly recommend it. Click here to see the latest prices.
To read my full review of my stay at Le Pavillon de la Reine, click here.
If you are looking for something slightly less fancy but still upscale and beautiful, The Hoxton. Rate 4-stars, it is located very centrally in the 2nd Arrondissement and is beautiful beyond words. Last time I visited I booked two nights here and ended up liking it so much that I extended to four. Click here to see the latest prices.
Looking specifically for an Eiffel Tower view? Click here for the best hotels and Airbnbs with an Eiffel Tower view.
If you prefer a more local experience, click here for 8 Airbnbs in Le Marais you must stay in!
If you want to explore other hotels (there are TONS), I personally use Hotels Combined because it compares all of the top travel sites in one convenient place. Click here to see the latest prices for all Paris hotels
How to get to Paris
If you are arriving in Paris via plane, you will fly into either Charles de Gaulle or Orly airport.
Charles de Gaulle is the largest Paris airport, located 23 km north of the city. Public transportation from CDG to central Paris is easy via the RER train. This will take you from the airport to the city where you can then transfer to the Metro in order to reach your final destination. More expensive but certainly less of a hassle, Uber is available in Paris (use code “kbae3” to get your first ride for free!).
You can also arrange a transfer. Click here to see the latest prices for a private transfer and click here for a very inexpensive shared transfer.
Orly Airport is 14 km south of the city. From here you can take the Orlyval shuttle train to the RER station, then follow the same as above. Again, if you are tired and looking to get to your destination as quickly as possible, call an Uber! You can also click here for a very inexpensive shared transfer.
You can also get to Paris via train. Each train station is reachable by Metro line, so once you arrive you can hop over to the Metro to get to your final destination.
For more information on the Metro system and how to get around while in Paris, click here!
What to Pack for Paris
COMFORTABLE SHOES. You will likely (hopefully) be doing a lot of walking so this is very important! My very favorite are M. Gemi’s white leather sneakers. I literally never travel anywhere without them. Click here to see latest prices and click here to get $50 off!
CHIC BOOTS. Same as above —they must be extremely walkable! After countless years testing all over the world, my two recommendations are these (I own 5 pairs and could run a marathon in them) and these which I’m hoping to buy a second pair of! Click here to see a full list of my travel shoe recommendations.
LIGHTWEIGHT TRAVEL CARDIGAN. Barefoot Dreams’ circle cardigan is honestly one of the best travel-related purchase I have made. So warm and absolutely necessary, I’ve brought mine on every single trip since purchasing it. Also great for transit days and hotel lounging! Click here to see the latest prices.
CONVERTER ADAPTER. This one is universal and works no matter where you’re going so it’s a must. When going to the EU I also bring along this very inexpensive 6 pack so that I have extras. So much to charge these days! Need other recommendations? Click here to see my list of 20 must have travel products from Amazon Prime.
WARM NEUTRAL COLORED SCARF. & Other Stories’ oversized wool scarf is my absolutely favorite and comes in so many beautiful colors. Paris can get quite cold — you’ll need one! Click here to see the latest prices.
STYLISH CAMERA BAG… if you are bringing a camera! You can’t go to Paris with anything that isn’t chic ;) Since pickpocketing is a thing in Paris I bring GATTA’s Christie camera backpack (named after me) because it’s hands free, has a zipper AND a buttoned flap, and fully protects my camera yet is so cute no one will ever know it’s a camera bag. Click here to see the latest prices. Want to see more options? Click here for the most stylish camera bags for women!
AN INSTAGRAMMABLE HAT. Good for both avoiding doing your hair and also to help make photos pop! This time of year wool is the best option. Click here for the one I just bought.
A FEW PARIS THEMED THINGS. I love bringing a few themed things to Paris, especially for photos! Grab this beret, this inexpensive “j’adore” shirt (I own it too!), this “pardon my french” shirt, and/or this “salut!” tee.
What to do First
Before we get into the 8 things you absolutely cannot miss, let’s talk about what to do first. If this is your first time visiting Paris, I recommend first starting with a tour. I do this almost every time I visit a new city before I do anything else.
Why? It helps you get your bearings, see the most important landmarks (generally), and get an overview of the city. You can make note of things you would like to return to to see in greater detail and things you do not. When I don’t do this I find that I miss out on seeing a lot of things.
My personal favorite way to get an overview of the city is via bike because it’s quicker than a walking tour while still being a form of exercise! Click here to reserve your bike tour.
If biking is not for you, there are many other highly recommended options on Get Your Guide, my favorite place to book tours.
For a private tour by vintage Citroen 2CV + a boat cruise, click here.
To see the city by electric tuk-tuk, click here. I did a tuk-tuk tour in Lisbon and it was a blast!
For a private tour in a vintage scooter sidecar, click here.
For a segway tour, click here.
And if you’d prefer to have more control over your tour, click here for a hop-on hop-off bus tour!
Paris Itinerary: 8 Things You Absolutely Cannot Miss
Get lost in Le Marais
There is nothing in Paris that I love more than the neighborhood of Le Marais. It is without a doubt the cutest area, spread across the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, just north of the Seine. It is an essential stop on any itinerary Paris, regardless of if you have a week in Paris or less! I stay there every time I go and always dedicate at least a day or two for exploring the area, getting lost while finding new favorite spots.
It is a historic district known for many things — being the old Jewish quarter, the LGBT center of Paris, and now the most trendy and fashionable place in the city of lights. The cobblestone streets and old-world charm make it a can’t miss destination and the countless museums, galleries, and shops could easily fill your entire Paris itinerary.
Pro tip: if you want some photos with no one in them, get up for sunrise! And speaking of photos, do you have a chic camera bag that doesn’t actually look like a camera bag? You need one. Click here for the most stylish camera bag for women.
Prefer to see Le Marais via a guided tour? Here are a few popular (and likely to sell out) options:
- The Marais Walking Food Tour: Cheese, Wine and Delicacies. Click here to see the latest prices
- Gourmet Marais 3-Hour Food Tour. Click here to see the latest prices
- Marais Quarter 2-Hour Private Walking Tour. Click here to see the latest prices
- Paris 4-Hour Bike Tour: Off the Beaten Path. Click here to see the latest prices
- Charming Nooks and Crannies Bike Tour. Click here to see the latest prices
- Paris by Vintage Motorbike Sidecar. Click here to see the latest prices
PRINTEMPS TERRACE, THE BEST KEPT SECRET IN PARIS
Printemps, a department store in the 8th arrondissement, surprisingly offers one of the best views in all of Paris! On top of the department store is an open-air terrace which is free to visit. Stop by for a quick bite at the cafe so you can enjoy the view and of course snap some photos.
While you’re in the area, also tour the Opera House. It is one of the most beautiful places you will ever see and a must-see part of any Paris itinerary. Click here to see the latest prices.
EDITORS NOTE/UPDATE: this was recently renovated and the rooftop cafe is no longer a “quick bite” type of place. It is much fancier but also much more beautiful than before! The restaurant is called Perruche.
ADDRESS: Printemps Haussmann, Men’s Store, Floor 9.
Picnic on the Seine at Sunset
If you happen to find yourself in Paris while the weather is nice, grab yourself some fresh bread, meat, cheese, wine, etc. and catch the sunset from the Seine. During summer the river will be almost fully lined with people doing this, with their feet dangling off the ledge, and for good reason! It’s cheaper than doing a boat tour and I’d argue that it’s even more enjoyable :)
If you would prefer a Seine River cruise instead, click below to see the latest prices and reserve your spot:
Visit the Eiffel Tower at Night
The Eiffel Tower is beautiful at all times of the day, but nothing compares to visiting it after dark during the light show. At the top of each hour for five minutes the lights of the tower sparkle, making the most beautiful light show you’ve ever seen.
Do note however that posting photos of the tower lit up at night is apparently illegal, so do so at your own risk.
If you want to actually go up the tower, click here to see the latest prices and reserve your spot.
If you want to take it one step further and actually wake up to this view, click here for the Best Hotels and Airbnbs in Paris with Eiffel Tower Views!
Stroll Through Rue Cler
Located in the 7th arrondissement is Rue Cler, one of my favorite streets in the whole city! It is a market street with a specialty store for just about everything - cheese, meat, flowers, etc. If you do plan on visiting the Eiffel Tower for the light show, stop by Rue Cler first to pick up some picnic items to enjoy while sitting on the lawn.
Rue Cler is also home of one of my favorite spots, a bar called L’Eclair. They make a mean cocktail and will even whip you up something custom if you tell them a little bit about what you like. There is outdoor seating, making it the perfect spot to relax and people watch while downing a few delicious, unique cocktails. If you’re around during a non-cocktail appropriate time, stop in for breakfast.
Another fun way to see Rue Cler (and Paris) is via bike! Click here for a bike tour which includes a Rue Cler snack break with time to explore, amongst many other things.
Breakfast at Cafe Saint Regis
Le Saint Regis is a cafe located on the island of Ile Saint-Louis, just south of Le Marais. I love it so much that if I have one week in Paris I find myself grabbing breakfast here numerous times. The food is great, reasonably priced, and the ambiance is beautiful and very Instagram friendly.
Le Saint Regis is open for all meals so you don’t necessarily have to visit for breakfast but it is my personal favorite. Often I get up around 6, wander around Le Marais taking photos (golden hour + empty streets = the best combo), then head here on foot at 7am when it opens. It is the best way to start your day in Paris. The seats out front have overhead heaters which makes it lovely for early morning people watching!
Once you’re done, walk over to the Ile de la Cite to see Notre Dame and stroll through Place Dauphine. The Notre Dame line is extremely long at all times so you need to book tickets in advance. Click here to get your Notre Dame Tour tickets.
Visit Jardin du Palais Royale
One of the things I love about Paris is that everywhere you go you seem to stumble upon yet another garden or park that you did not know existed. Years before I had ever been to Paris I had loved Jardin du Palais which I only knew of because a friend from Paris had sent us a photo of it.
Located in the 1st arrondissement just north of the Louvre and inside the Royal Palace, if you weren’t specifically hunting for this I doubt you’d ever just stumble upon it.
If you plan to visit the Louvre before or after, you’ll need to get tickets in advance to avoid waiting for hours. Click here to get your timed entrance ticket now.
If a bike ride tour beforehand sounds up your alley, click here for a very highly recommended tour that ends close to here.
For more things to see and do around here plus good places to eat + drink, read Everything You Need to Know About Paris’ 1st and 2nd Arrondissements!
EDITORS NOTE/UPDATE: This spot is quite touristy now thanks to Instagram, but still worth a visit.
Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe
While I try to keep my recommendations to non-cliche things, this is one I just could not pass up. The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris, located in the 8th arrondissement at the end of the Champs-Elysees. If you’re looking for a 2 day Paris itinerary, I would consider this stop essential!
Despite having a very interesting experience (teargas and protests again!), some of my favorite photos of all time were taken from here - ones that I continue to (re)share to this day even though they were taken over four years ago. The view is like nothing else in the city, and I’d recommend it 100 times over the top of the Eiffel Tower because this way you’ll get the Eiffel Tower in your shots.
Aim for golden hour.
You’ll need to buy tickets in advance to avoid waiting in a long line. Click here to get Arc de Triomphe skip the line tickets.
Other Paris Sights You Shouldn’t Miss
While I much prefer off-the-beaten-path type of trips, there are a handful of very famous things in Paris you may want on your to-do list. I would recommend buying tickets to the items below in advance if possible — they sell out early and often!
- The Eiffel Tower — click here for summit or second floor priority access
- The Arc de Triomphe — click here for skip the line tickets (you will definitely want to get these beforehand)
- Luxembourg Gardens
- The Louvre — click here to reserve your timed entrance ticket (self-guided)
- Notre Dame Cathedral — click here for guided tour tickets or click here for a guided tour of both the cathedral and the island
- Sacre-Coeur — click here to tour both the basilica and Montmarte (the neighborhood)
- Opera Garnier — click here for a guided expert tour or click here for self-guided
- Palace of Versaille — click here for skip the line tickets (VERY necessary)
- Musee Rodin
- The Champs-Élysées
- Musée d'Orsay — click here for a reserved access ticket
- Disneyland Paris — click here for one day tickets or click here for multi-day tickets
- Paris Catacombs — click here for skip the line tickets
- River Seine Cruise — click here to reserve a one hour tour
- Moulin Rouge Show with Dinner Options — click here to see the latest prices
Paris Day Trips
If you have a week in Paris and find yourself with spare time, a day trip is a great choice! There are many beautiful places to see nearby and Get Your Guide, my favorite tour guide company, offers many tours making it incredibly easy for you.
LOIRE VALLEY: take a day trip from Paris to the Loire Valley to see Chambord, Cheverny, and Chenonceau, some of the most famous castles! Click here to see the latest prices.
NORMANDY D DAY BEACHES: take a day trip from Paris to Normandy and the WWII D-Day beaches. Includes a guided tour of the Caen Memorial Museum, a visit to the American Cemetery in Saint Laurent, and more. Click here to see the latest prices.
MONT SAINT-MICHEL: visit the village’s medieval buildings and enjoy the beauty of the landscape as you explore the region! Click here to see the latest prices.
THE CHAMPAGNE REGION: visit and taste in a world famous champagne estate, enjoy a food and champagne pairing meal in a family-run winery, visit Dom Perignon’s grave and meet a local winemaker. Click here to see the latest prices.
GIVERNY: visit Normandy, the home of Claude Monet, and the Musee des Impressionismes. Click here to see the latest prices.
VERSAILLES: a half-day Versaille tour with direct hotel pick up and drop off! Click here to see the latest prices. Want something more unique? Click here for the Versailles murder and mysteries tour!