There are so many iconic sights to see in Paris, it’s hard to know where to start. This 3-day itinerary gives you some ideas of what to see if you’re only in Paris for a few days and want to make the most of your time.
As walking around museums can be quite tiring, we’ve spread the big ones out over three days so you don’t get overwhelmed. There are tips for avoiding queues, getting the best price on attractions and addresses of bars, restaurants and cafes for pit stops along the way.
The centre of Paris is just 2hrs 16 mins away with Eurostar and with up to 15 trains a day, there's a timetable and price to suit everyone.
It’s going to be a busy day so, if your hotel package doesn’t include breakfast, set yourself up for the day with a hearty feast and a good cup of coffee at Eggs & Co, or for a more traditional Parisian breakfast at Café de Flore. If you're on a tight budget, no problem, just buy some delicious pastries from a boulangerie and eat on the move.
Today you're starting with one of the most beautiful museums in Paris, the Musée d'Orsay.
When you've had your fill of fabulous art, head west along the river past the Assemblée Nationale to Les Invalides (it's about a 10-minute walk), stopping for lunch at Rosa Bonheur, a restaurant and bar on a barge moored next to the beautifully ornate Alexandre III bridge.
If the weather is good, get yourself a seat on the terrace and enjoy views of the Grand Palais across the river and the Eiffel Tower further to the west.
After lunch, take a stroll up the Invalides gardens towards the Army Museum and its golden dome. If you're a military enthusiast there is lots to see within the complex, including a museum dedicated to military models of towns. You can also visit the main courtyard for the tanks and artillery collection, and the tombs of famous soldiers, including Napoleon, who has pride of place under the dome.
Next stop, Rue Cler, just a short walk from Les Invalides and one of the best street markets in Paris (it was Julia Child's favourite street). Take a wander into La Fromagerie at number 31 for some smelly cheese tasting and pick up a perfectly ripe Brie. Then pop into Les Grandes Caves at number 55 for a bottle of delicious red. Now all you need is a crusty baguette, and you have all you need for a picnic on the Champ de Mars as the sun goes down behind the Eiffel Tower.
Start your morning in style with breakfast and a view of the Louvre Pyramid on the terrace of the glamourous Café Marly, or head upstairs in the Richelieu wing to the Café Richelieu and try the famous Angelina hot chocolate and pastries. Once you've had your caffeine and sugar hit you should be ready to head for the Museum.
Time to sit down, have some food and rest your feet. Exit the Louvre on the Rue de Rivoli side and walk the short distance to Rue de Valois. Take one of the entrances into the Palais Royal on the left hand side of the street and walk through into the gardens.
There are several high-end restaurants in the arcades, but you'll also find more modest establishments like Cafe Kitsune and Villalys on the far side of the gardens, where you can have a very pleasant lunch on the terrace.
It's about a 20 minute walk from Palais Royal to the Pompidou Centre, or you can hop on Metro line 1 from Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre to Hotel de Ville, and walk up Rue du Renard.
The Pompidou Centre houses collections of modern art and industrial design and is considered one of the most influential buildings in 20th century architecture.
Take Rue Rambuteau at the back of the Pompidou Centre and continue past the National Archive building along Rue des Francs Bourgeois into the heart of the Marais. This district has a very different feel to most parts of Paris, there are no wide boulevards and grand 19th century buildings, here the streets are narrow with a medieval feel.
Grand 13th century mansion houses are hidden behind high walls and unmarked gateways and many have now been turned into hotels or museums.
Day 3 starts with a visit to the very heart of Paris, Ile de la Cité, one of the two islands on the Seine and the official centre of Paris.
Notre Dame Cathedral opens at 8am so get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds. Access to the cathedral is free, but if you want to go up the tower or down to the crypt you'll need to pay (included in the Paris Pass).
Due to a recent fire, Notre-Dame cathedral will be closed until further notice.
Next stop, the Sainte-Chapelle (about a 5 minute walk away) to see the glorious stained-glass windows that illuminate this 13th century Gothic chapel.
As you're walking between Notre Dame and the Sainte-Chapelle you may see a massive flower market on your right, on Place Louis Lepine. The Marché aux Fleurs Reine Elizabeth II (renamed after the Queen in 2014 to commemorate her state visit) is open all day every day, and on Sundays gets louder and even more colourful when it is joined by the bird market.
If you have time, cross over to Ile St Louis, the smaller island behind Notre Dame, and pay a visit to Berthillon, the most famous ice cream parlour in Paris. If it's not ice cream weather, they also have a tea room for hot drinks. While you're there, have a wander around the island which has some of the most expensive and exclusive real estate in Paris.
If the weather is good and you have time, you can take a 1-hour river cruise, departing from the tip of Ile de la Cité, which will take you up as far as the Eiffel tour and drop you back at Pont Neuf. It's a good way to see all the monuments along the river from a different perspective and get some great photos.
Next you're heading to Montmartre for lunch. Take line 4 from Cité Metro (direction Porte de Clignancourt) and get off at Barbes Rochechouart. It's not the nearest stop but it saves you having to change. This is a back way up to Montmartre and is a bit less busy than the main access from Abbesses Metro.
On your last afternoon in Paris it's probably time to hit the shops and pick up some gifts to bring home. From Montmartre, walk down to Abbesses Metro and take line 12 (direction Mairie d'Issy) and get off at Saint-Lazare station. Walk down Rue du Havre to the intersection with Boulevard Haussman. On your left you'll see Printemps, one of the biggest department stores in Paris
While you're in the area of Opera, you may want to pop into the legendary Harry's New York Bar at 5 Rue Danou, for a cocktail or two and some star spotting.
When you're ready to eat there are plenty of restaurants around the area, from the elegant Cafe de La Paix, just next to Palais Garnier, to high street pizza joints. Serious carnivores should try A Coté on Rue Lafayette where you can order meat by the kilo and to share (they have English menus).
Distances between stops on the Paris Metro are much shorter than in London, so it's quite quick to get around. Unlike the London Tube map, the Metro map reflects actual distances between stops so you can judge whether it's walkable or not.
To use the Paris Metro, you need to know the number of the line you are taking and the end station which gives you the direction. So, for example, where in London you might be on the Victoria line Southbound, in Paris you would be on Line 4, direction Porte de Clignancourt.
Paris also has the RER, which is a bit like Thameslink or the Overground, going a bit further out to the suburbs and the main airports. There are 5 lines, A-E, which branch out to different destinations. RER Line A, direction Marne-la-Valee Chessy, is the line that goes to Disneyland Paris and Line C, direction Versailles Chateau, will take you out to Versailles.
The RER connects with the Metro and you can use the same tickets, within equivalent zones. Visit the RATP site for service updates, maps and a travel planner.
The bus is a lovely alternative to the Metro as you see so much more as you're travelling around. Paris has a good network of routes and the buses themselves are modern and air conditioned.
Every bus has a map of the route on the wall and the name of the next stop is shown on a screen and announced, so you don't need to worry about not knowing where to get off. If you don't speak French, be aware that the names of the stops may not be pronounced the way they are written - so keep your eye on the screen.
August is the best time to take the bus in Paris as the streets of the city empty during the summer holidays, when locals head off to the country.
Metro tickets are valid for buses as well as the Metro and RER. It's best to have your ticket already before boarding the bus. Once onboard you'll need to stamp it in the machine next to the driver. On the long stretchy buses you can also get on by the middle door, where there is also a machine.
Buses are a great way to see the sights without spending money. If your feet are tired and you fancy a bit of armchair sightseeing, there are a few routes that are well worth taking for the views along the way
Line 80: From Montmartre (Place de Clichy) to the Eiffel tower (Ecole Militaire), via the Champs Elysées
Line 69: From Pere Lachaise Cemetery to the Eiffel Tower, via Bastille and the Louvre
Line 82: From the Luxembourg gardens to Trocadero, via Les Invalides and the Champs de Mars
Line 39: From Boulevard Hausmann (Grands Boulevards) to Sevres Babylone via the Louvre and St Germain des Pres (great for shoppers)
Paris has its own equivalent of the Santander hire bikes, called Velib, including the new electric bikes with a range of 50 kms. You can get 1 and 7 day passes that allow you to take up to 5 bikes a day. Just find the nearest docking station via the app, hop on and get exploring.
Some good areas to try are along the Canal St-Martin up to Bassin de la Villette and around the Bois de Vincennes.
An easy guide by district to help you decide on the best place to stay on your city break.
Tips for managing your holiday finances so you don't bust the budget.
From hip food to cutting-edge art, Le Marais packs in the very best of Paris.
Treat yourself to a bit of Parisian glamour.
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