Planning Your Trip to Paris
What an exciting endeavor! A trip to the French capital is likely to be an excellent experience. First-time travelers should try and plan around 4-5 days—ample time to enjoy some classic Parisian highlights and visit a few of the 20 arrondissements (neighborhoods).
If you only have a day or two, you'll definitely want to hit the ground running in order to immerse yourself in the city's rich history as much as you can while here. Make sure to arrive energized as Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world—particularly during July and August—and you'll need your wits about you to negotiate the crowds while staying in good spirits. Arguably, the best time to visit is spring, May and June, and autumn, September and October, when the city tends to be less crowded and less expensive.
With up to a week, you'll have more time to slow down and explore the thriving, up-and-coming areas—some of which are reinventing themselves with a new wave of modern restaurants and creative cocktail lounges, art galleries, independent boutiques, tech companies, and quirky boutiques. Having a week also allows time to take a day trip to Versailles or even the Normandy region or Champagne province.
Of course, closer to two weeks or more is even better. Paris is layered with hidden treasures. The more time you spend here, the more likely you are to capture the elegant good life or savoir vivre—who knows, you might even start considering a permanent residency. Check out kimkim's robust list of France tours and itineraries for more.
Paris in 1 to 2 Days
Maybe you've added Paris as a layover en route to another destination or want to experience the city before you head farther afield in France. Either way, you can fit in plenty of memorable experiences with only a day or two.
Your first morning should begin with some fresh croissants from a recommended boulangerie or bakery. If there's a newbie to Paris in your group, you can make your way early to the 19th-century iron lattices of the Eiffel Tower. Save time and purchase tickets online up to two months in advance so you can head straight for the "Visitor with Tickets" line (those who are physically fit can save even more time and opt for the "stair" tickets). Making a reservation at one of the Eiffel Tower's two restaurants will also allow you to skip the line as both have a separate entrance.
You could alternatively walk across the river Seine to Place du Trocadéro and look back to Paris's greatest monument for great views. Another photogenic Eiffel Tower spot is the Pont de Bir-Hakeim—the bridge made famous by movies like Last Tango in Paris for Eiffel Tower views. Meanwhile, the Pont Alexander III is a Beaux-Arts style bridge, built between 1896 and 1900, with Art Nouveau lamps that glow at night, as well as bronze cherubs, nymphs, and winged horses at either end. Here you'll get Eiffel Tower views, and one of the prettiest bridges in the world in one fell swoop.
A great way to give your legs a break and absorb the grandiose architecture is to join a Seine Cruise (1 hour), with frequent departures daily until 10 pm. These glass boats embark at the foot of the Eiffel Tower with open-air observation decks for exceptional views of not only the tower but other key monuments along the UNESCO-listed banks of the river.
You'll likely want to visit one or two of Paris's museums. The Musée d'Orsay has a sublime collection of impressionist and expressionist art, so you'll be able to see works by Monet, Degas, Gaugin, Renoir, and Van Gogh. If you instead decide to visit Le Louvre, keep in mind that this is the world's biggest museum—save time by skipping the glass pyramid and opting for the museum's smaller entrances along the sides of the building. If time is tight, check out the exterior and walk through the Tuileries Gardens across the street.
Though you can't enter the medieval towers of Notre Dame—the monument will be closed for several years since the fire broke out in 2019—it is still a majestic sight to behold and can be combined with a walking tour in the Ile de la Cité and the Latin Quarter. In the evening, take a nice stroll and find a dinner spot at a good bistro or brasserie, followed by an after-dinner drink or two. Keep an eye out for the Eiffel Tower's evening light show that lasts for five minutes every hour on the hour until after midnight.
Check out this weeklong France itinerary that combines two days in Paris with visits to Bordeaux and the Loire Valley.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Paris in 3 to 4 Days
Tack on a few days to your trip, and you'll have more breathing room to move around the city. Perhaps you'd like to start with a classic walking tour to get the lay of the land. In addition to some of the sights mentioned in the previous section, a private guide will take you to the Royal Palace, Saint-Chapelle, the Champs Elysees, and the Arc de Triomphe.
Your guide will also take you through the popular Marais district, where you'll explore symbolic places such as the Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris (and the former stomping ground of Victor Hugo). This is a great spot to come back to on your own time, where you can lie down in the grass and people-watch. Located in the heart of Paris, this famous neighborhood is renowned for its grand architecture and unique shops selling everything from designer clothes to tea to absinthe. Also here is the Musée Picasso, located in one of the most beautiful 17th-century hotels in Paris, with a collection of over 5,000 works and tens of thousands of archived pieces.
The Marais also has the oldest covered market in Paris, the Marché des Enfants Rouges (dating from 1615), with a range of restaurants and cocktail bars. If you're seeking an up-and-coming local scene, head to Canal Saint-Martin, bustling with students and artists. You'll find here a variety of restaurants and eateries as well as charming paths along the nearly three-mile-long waterway.
For inspiration, see this seven-day trip that starts in the South of France, ending with three full days in Paris (including a chocolate tour).
Paris in 5 to 6 Days
A longer trip to Paris can include some sites that may not have made it onto the itinerary with a shorter trip. Case in point, you can take the Metro to the Sacre Coeur, the white Roman Catholic church looming in the distance of the highest point in the city called Montmartre, a large hill in Paris's 18th arrondissement. The hilly, winding streets are a special aspect of the Parisian landscape and make for a wonderful morning stroll.
You'll also have more time to visit the Centre Pompidou, one of the most visited cultural sites in Paris, especially for fans of modern art. In the inside-out museum, you'll find one of the largest collections of modern and contemporary art in the world, with more than 100,000 pieces in its collection.
Take more time to explore the Left Bank, especially Saint-Germain-des-Pres with its Musée Rodin, primarily dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. In the back of the museum is a stunning garden that covers over seven acres and provides a peaceful outdoor escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Also on the Left Bank is the Luxembourg Gardens boasting 55 acres of green space between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter. In both of these neighborhoods, you'll find antiques, art galleries, theatres, street markets, cafés, and brasseries like Les Deux Magots and Brasserie Lipp.
With nearly a week, you can also fit in a day trip by train to the Château de Versailles and Royal Gardens, King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence, 14 miles southwest of Paris. You can take the train and embark on a self-guided tour or sign up for a skip-the-line tour, where your guide will first explain the history of the palace and life at the royal court as you stroll through the beautiful Royal Gardens. You will then bypass the long lines for immediate access to the Palace of Versailles, including the Hall of Mirrors.
Consider a two-week itinerary that combines a well-rounded visit to Paris with Lyon, Nice, and Provence.
Paris in 1 Week or More Days
A week or more in Paris—how wonderful! This is your opportunity to visit all the restaurants, activities, parks, and outdoor markets you haven't been able to see yet, perhaps by bike or electric scooter. This is a convenient and inexpensive way to navigate the city's narrow, congested streets and allows easy access to cool neighborhoods.
For instance, Sentier. Here you'll find some of the trendiest coffee shops and boutique hotels, as well as the vibrant Rue Montorgueil, lined with untouristed cafés, bakeries, fish stores, cheese shops, wine bars, and produce stands. You'll also find plenty of terrace seating where you can sit outside and enjoy a long, leisurely meal while watching the world go by. Another possibility is Oberkampf, a shabby chic area with an abundance of shops selling records, books, and vintage clothes, as well as interesting homewares and ethnic restaurants.
You can also dig deeper into areas you've already explored in central Paris. Take a slow walk through the Palais Royal to photograph its beautiful gardens and 17th-century arcade. Visit jazz clubs, attend literature readings, or buy tickets to a performance at the Opéra Garnier (you can alternatively sign up for an architecture tour of the building to discover its history). Pick up a newspaper to see what events are happening during your stay, and ask the locals for advice.
There are more day-trip options, too, including self-guided or guided options to Normandy, where you can walk the lunar landscapes of the infamous D-Day beaches. There's also the island of Mont St. Michel, situated in the middle of a large bay, or Monet's house and gardens in Giverny.