How to Spend 3 Days in Paris: Itinerary and Travel Tips
It didn’t take long for us to realize that Paris was going to be the most expensive part of our journey through Europe. Our Google searches went from simply “Paris itinerary” to “budget tips for Paris” as we started looking for the best (cheapest) way to travel through one of the most romantic cities in the world. While we considered putting Paris on hold until our next go round, we just couldn’t pass it up knowing we would already be so close. Instead, we decided to cut a day from our itinerary and fit in as much as we possibly could in just 3 days. Get in, conquer it, and then get the hell out. 3 days in Paris didn’t seem like such a hard task.
That is, until we actually arrived and realized we didn’t do nearly enough planning. We were, after all, trying to plan for 8 cities in 4 countries within 3 weeks and only 2 weeks notice. Nearly impossible. Regardless, our first impression of Paris was “how in the world are we going to fit everything in within 3 days?” Paris is a massive city and on top of that, it is really spread out. It’s not exactly walkable, especially since we were on a time crunch, so we needed to figure out the most efficient way to see everything. And, like clockwork, the first morning we ventured into the city we stumbled upon another Big Bus Tour. We had great luck with the bus tours in Hong Kong and Munich, so we figured, why not? And this is how our 3 days in Paris played out…
Jump to: Paris Travel Tips & Accommodation
3 Days in Paris Itinerary
Day 1: Get Acquainted with the City
Our first day we decided do the Big Bus Tour, a hop on/hop off bus that provided an audio guide and made stops at the most famous sights and attractions throughout the city. This was definitely the most efficient way to fit in a lot of stuff in a little bit of time and also got us acquainted with the city. Had we ventured out on our own, we probably would have spent the same amount of money using public transportation and wasted a lot of time trying to navigate it. This allowed us to hop off at the places we were interested in exploring and still be on our own schedule. We never waited any more than 10 minutes for the next bus. Additionally, we chose to go with the bus/boat combo ticket which included a one hour cruise on the river Seine. We planned on taking a cruise anyway and purchasing the tickets together saved us some money. So what did we accomplish on day 1 in Paris?
- Visited the Eiffel Tower for pictures and a quick breakfast while we walked the Champ de Mars
- Champ de Mars: great spot for a picnic with views of the Eiffel Tower
- In front of the tower, we jumped on the Big Bus Tour (you can buy your ticket here, too although its cheaper online)
- Opera Garnier (Opera House)
- Notre Dame & lunch in the Latin Quarter
- Jardin du Luxembourg: beautiful gardens that house the Luxembourg Palace and second largest public park in Paris
- Champs Elysees: one of the most famous avenues in the world known for its upscale specialty shops, cafes and cinemas.
- Arc de Triomphe: one of most famous monuments in Paris
- Trocadero: set on top of a hill with magnificent views of the city and the Eiffel Tower. Perfect spot for photographs.
- Sunset cruise on the river Seine (last departure of the evening): taking the sunset cruise allowed us to see the real City of Lights in all its glory and the glittering Eiffel Tower at 11 pm (it only glitters after dark on the hour for 5 minutes)
The Big Bus Tour also included stops at the Grand Palace, Louvre, Orsay Museum, and views of the Place de la Concorde, and Hotel des Invalides. Another great option is to purchase The Paris Pass, which includes admission to over 60 attractions in Paris (Louvre, Palace of Versailles, Notre Dame, etc.), fast track entry (skip the lines!), as well as free tickets for the hop-on-hop-off Big Bus Tour.
Day 2: Palace of Versailles
Day 2 we set aside for the Palace of Versailles because we knew the Louvre and many other museums would be closed. However, we didn’t plan on the fact that because many museums are closed on Tuesdays and the Palace of Versailles is not, this is the most popular day for visitors. Since we had slacked on any planning for Paris, we did not purchase our tickets ahead of time and strolled up around mid morning. While we were prepared to wait in some sort of line (because everywhere in Paris is a line), we were not prepared for the length of the line and the insane amount of tourists that jumped off the train with us upon arriving in Versailles. We took one look at the line and decided we did not want to waste any of our time standing in lines. We had to choose our battles and we knew we would have plenty of lines to deal with at the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
We ended up discovering a way to reach the park behind the palace which is open to the public at no charge, and no line. After a looong walk, we made it. It was really pretty and you could get some views of the Palace gardens, however, for us it wasn’t worth the trip to Versailles. So, learn from our mistakes. Plan ahead, buy your ticket online, don’t go on the busiest day of the week and get there early! You will likely spend most of the day there because the Palace and gardens are truly massive. Also, wear some good walking shoes! Ladies, my favorite are these. They are cute and casual but can also be dressed up with a sundress. They can go to the beach or city. And they never give my feet problems. My favorite travel shoes!
Day 3: Eiffel Tower and the Louvre
We saved our last day for the two biggest attractions because we figured they would take up the most time. Again, we didn’t buy our tickets ahead of time and were kicking ourselves in the @$$ for it. We showed up to the Louvre 30 minutes before opening and the line really wasn’t too bad. We are not huge museum or art people, but the Louvre was still fascinating. We spent close to 5 hours exploring on our own with the help of an audio guide. Word of advice – if you are just going to the Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, this is what you can expect.
You might be disappointed. We got in and out of this room as fast as we could, and enjoyed the rest much more. After 5 hours, we reached our threshold of paintings, sculptures and tourists and headed for some fresh air in the beautiful Tuileries Garden. This is a great spot to kick back, indulge in some treats and do a lot of people-watching!
From there, we decided it was finally time to head up to the top of the Eiffel Tower. For this, we had prepared ourselves for a long line and knew we were going to wait no matter what. It was the Eiffel Tower, after all, and we could not leave without making it to the top. We read ahead that you could take the steps up to the second level and from there you could take the elevator to the very top, not only saving money but saving time because the line is usually much shorter from there. We are so glad we went this route! We managed to get in and out in less than 1.5 hours and the line from the second level was only about 15 minutes long. That being said, if you have a fear of heights or are not in great health for climbing over 700 steps, you might want to skip this option. Otherwise, it was a great experience and we would definitely recommend it.
While 3 days in Paris was not nearly enough, our bank accounts told us it was so we were glad to be moving onto Belgium. There were some things we missed and wished we could have seen, like Montmartre and the Moulin Rouge, but that will just be more reason to go back one day (when our budget is bigger!).
- Accommodations in Paris are pricey! Rather than paying over $200/night for a mediocre hotel, opt for an alternative form of accommodations. We used Airbnb and had a fantastic experience! We paid under $80 USD/night for a private apartment, equipped with a kitchenette, WiFi and a private bathroom. It was in a residential neighborhood so it was quiet at night, and just a 15 minute walk to the metro to get into the city. Hostels might be a good option for solo travelers, but for couples or families, it really makes sense to Airbnb. Plus, for you first-timers, if you sign up through my referral link you get $35 credit when you book your first trip –>>sign up here!
- Skip the restaurants and cafes for street vendors and supermarkets. The prices at the cafes were unbelievably priced in comparison. Yes, we did eat at two cafes and paid nearly $50 USD for a simple lunch because…well, we were in Paris. And neither meal was that memorable to be honest. After that, we discovered the supermarket near our Airbnb and had a true Parisian meal of wine, cheese, salami, olives, fresh French bread and pesto. It was not only our best meal, but our most memorable and least expensive ringing up at just under 13 euros!
- Wear good walking shoes! For the ladies, my favorite are these.
- Don’t make the same mistakes we did – plan your trip and purchase your tickets ahead of time (Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles, etc.). This will save you time and often money as well. The Paris Pass is a great idea if you are planning to visit multiple attractions and/or do the hop-on-hop-off bus.
- If you are short on time or are looking for an efficient way to see the city’s most famous sights, check out the Big Bus Tour for a hop on/hop off style tour that lets you still be in control of your schedule. The audio guide that is included is awesome and includes a lot of interesting facts and tidbits of history that we probably would have never known otherwise. If you plan on taking a cruise on the Seine, it’s best to purchase the combo ticket through Big Bus Tours because it will save you a few euros. **Big Bus Paris ticket are 10% off if you purchase online!
- Don’t feel the need to go to the top of every monument or you will spend a lot of time waiting in lines. We skipped going to the top of Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe since we knew we were going up the Eiffel Tower. This not only saved us time, but money.
- BEWARE of pickpockets. There are signs all over Paris to watch out for them, especially around the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, and it is not something to ignore. The ladies that come up and ask “do you speak English?” in order to get you to sign a petition or something are all pickpockets. While you are reading over the document, their friends are scoping out the best way into your purse or pockets. Not only did we see this with our own eyes, but they managed to take advantage of a 12-year old kid. Luckily, he got his money back!
- Freshen up on your French! Learn some key words and phrases that will help you better navigate the city. Check out our FREE French lesson on Vocabulix! Its a fun and visual way to learn new words while looking at pretty pictures of Paris 😉 Plus, the locals seem to appreciate the effort, even if you butcher the words completely like we did.
- Want more info? Check out Protravelblog for a detailed guide to Paris, including where to stay, recommended itineraries, where to eat and free things to do in the city.
Take a video tour with us and see the sights of Paris!
And a few money-saving tips for you as well!