I can confidently assume that a visit to Paris is on everyone’s bucket list, as it should be. This city is home to some of the best museums in the world, countless famous landmarks, delicious food, and luxurious shopping. Planning a trip to this city can seem overwhelming at first, so I’ve put together the perfect itinerary for a weekend in Paris that covers all of the must-see sights and must-have experiences!
Disclaimer: This post was originally uploaded in January 2018 and has been updated as of spring 2021 for relevancy.
Weekend in Paris: Day One
Begin your first day in Paris by visiting its most notorious landmark: the Eiffel Tower. The lines can be quite long here, so arrive early to purchase a ticket. There are two tickets offered: one that allows you to visit the second floor look out and one that will bring you to the top. I recommend going to the top to get the best views of the Eiffel Tower. Student discounts are offered for both tickets and there are elevators to bring you to the top.
Arc de Triumph
Once you’ve checked climbing the Eiffel Tower off your list, walk to the nearby Arc de Triumph. This famous arch is located in a very hectic traffic circle. If you are brave enough, you can get a picture in front of the monument from a pedestrian standing area in the road. After, proceed down the stairs and through a tunnel to the arch. If you show your student visa at the ticket counter, you can climb the arch for free! I think the view here is better than the one from the top of the Eiffel Tower.
Avenue des Champs-Elysées
The Arc is located on the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées, so take a stroll down this road next. Eat lunch here because it’s full of shops and bistros! My friends and I treated ourselves to tea and macaroons in Laduree’s famous tea room. We felt like royalty!
Sacre Coeur Basilica & Moulin Rouge Theater
From here, take a taxi or uber to the Montparnasse neighborhood. This area of Paris is so charming and is where you’ll find the most authentic cafes and shops. This is also where the Sacre Coeur Basilica is located! It sits on a hill and has a breathtaking view of the city. My friends and I arrived here at sunset and were blown away by the view and live music.
After you go inside of the church, walk down the hill into the quaint streets of the neighborhood. Any restaurant that you find in this area serves traditional French cuisine!
The Moulin Rouge theater is very close to the Montparnasse neighborhood! This theater is home to the famous can-can dance. It’s lit up nicely at night and is marked by a spinning windmill.
Weekend in Paris: Day Two
Palace of Versailles
A weekend in Paris isn’t complete without visiting the Palace of Versailles, which is located about 50 minutes outside of Paris. We ubered from Paris to Versailles which was surprisingly inexpensive. The palace was home to Louis XIV during his reign and was later expanded and used for various events throughout the centuries. Today the rooms are a part of a historic museum, in which visitors walk through at their own pace with an audio guide, or pay an additional fee for a guided tour.
Since the palace is so expansive I chose to walk through it at my own, faster pace. The rooms of the palace, with the most well-known being the Hall of Mirrors, are very ornate, yet crowded. I recommend touring Versailles in the morning before it gets too busy and setting aside about 4-5 hours to do so.
Once we finished walking through the rooms, we took a break at Angelina’s- a cafe located within the palace- to try their world famous hot chocolate. It definitely lived up to our expectations.
Gardens of Versailles
Once we were reenergized, we proceeded to the gardens of Versailles. These gardens are huge and have much more to see than I anticipated. We spent an hour wandering and probably only saw a quarter of the land. If you are determined to see as much of the grounds as you can, I would set aside 3 hours of time in the gardens. Also, golf carts are for rent to cruise around in if you are 24 or older!
At this point, you are probably famished. Head back into the city and try a traditional French crepe at restaurant La Creperie de Josselin. This authentic restaurant offers both sweet and savory crepes and its workers barely speak English- a good sign.
After a late lunch, walk the short distance to the entrance of the Catacombs. Just like most attractions in Paris, buy tickets for this ahead of time. The experience begins by climbing 200 stairs underground and entering a series of tunnels that are the remains of old quarries. The Lourve was built out of the stone that was extracted from these quarries in the 1200s!
During the 1600s, there were serious overcrowding issues in Paris among both the living and the dead. The king at the time decided to use the abandoned quarries to respectfully house remains, forming one of the largest mass graves in the world, consisting of more than 2 million bodies!
The walk through the catacombs lasts about an hour and takes you on an eerie journey underneath the bustling streets of Paris. Once you exit the Catacombs, your bag will be checked at security to ensure that no human remains were stolen!
Seine River Cruise
As a busy day 2 in the City of Lights comes to a close, return to the Eiffel Tower area for dinner. Walk towards the river in front of the tower where you will find countless dinner cruises. For 38 euro, I purchased a package for dinner on the water and a Seine river cruise. I can garuntee that this cruise will be one of the highlights of the weekend. It will take you past Paris’s most iconic sights, all lit up beautifully for the night.
After the cruise, head up to Place du Trocadero, a platform that provides the perfect spot to view the twinkling Eiffel Tower- a show that occurs for five minutes at the start of every hour every night.
Weekend in Paris: Day Three
I recommend beginning your last day of your weekend in Paris at the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The inside of the church is just as astounding as the outside and this gothic masterpiece is definitely worth the visit.
From here, walk the short distance along the Seine to the Lourve. Have your tickets printed ahead of time and wait in line where the giant glass pyramid is. I’ve seen countless photos taken of this sculpture and was surprised to discover that it’s the entrance into the museum. This museum is overwhelmingly large; there are hundreds of wings displaying art from all around the world. In my opinion, one of the most astounding features about the Louvre is that the building itself is a work of art.
Since the museum is so large I would begin by following the signs pointing towards the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa is the Lourve’s most famous work of art, and although the painting is quite small, it’s covered in bullet proof glass and has its own massive display wall. The area is always swarmed with tourists. Once you check getting a selfie with Mona Lisa off your bucket list, the rest of the museum is yours to explore. My friends and I walked around for about two hours and I think we covered no more than 1/12 of the museum… thats how big it is.
Pont des Artes
Once you exit the Lourve, make your way to the nearby Pont des Artes, the oldest bridge in Paris. This bridge is also the famous lock bridge! Every year, the city of Paris removes hundreds of locks from this bridge because it gets too heavy, but locals and tourists alike continue to write their names on a lock and secure it to the bridge as a sign of eternal devotion to one another.
The last must-have experience in Paris is a picnic on the lawn in front of the Eiffel Tower. After three exhausting days of sightseeing, relaxing and just enjoying Paris is a necessity. My friends and I picked up some street baguettes, crepes, macaroons, and wine to enjoy. We sat and ate our food in awe of the view, while trying to avoid the pickpocketers that often work in this area. Be aware!
The few days that I spent in Paris this past October were some of the busiest and best I’ve had. I did a lot of research on the city before I arrived and I was able to make the most of my time and see all that Paris has to offer.
I hope this itinerary gives you ideas about what to see, eat, and do if you are thinking about spending a weekend in Paris. Before Paris, we spent a weekend in Amsterdam, tried a ton of Brussels food in Belgium, and then spent a weekend in Barcelona on a budget!
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