Paris is one of those cities I could never get bored of. However long you’re there for you will leave wishing you could stay longer. It can be really hard to fit everything in, seeing the sights, shopping, and relaxing. Kieran booked the flights and hotel as a surprise for my 30th birthday present, but he’d never been before so it was down to me to plan the actual trip while we were there. Obviously being the psychotic planner that I am I was more than happy and I really feel like I nailed it – if I do say so myself. We flew early Friday morning and returned late Sunday night, and we managed to see everything you’d want to see as a first timer, all the extras I love and wanted to revisit, but also managed to fit in time to relax and enjoy it without feeling like we were rushing from one landmark to the next. My itinerary for 3 days in Cologne is one of my most viewed posts, so this was our 3 days in Paris.
Planning for 3 Days in Paris
Found on sky scanner but booked directly, Air France Newcastle to Paris. The outbound flight was 6am, and return 9pm. We were originally just going with hand luggage after a successful carry on only trip in the summer, but winter clothes are HEAVY, so are
my Kieran’s hair products, and I had a shopping list so we added a case last minute.
We stayed very central, at the Royal Saint Honore on Rue Saint Honore in the 1st arrondissement (neighbourhood). I’ve previously stayed at the Sofitel Paris Le Faubourg as well which is in the same area just a few streets along – also a lovely hotel. I can’t imagine staying in a different area, it’s ideal for everything we wanted to do on every Paris trip I’ve been on, everything is within walking distance and it’s the perfect area.
I’ve been told the shuttle and the metro are perfectly adequate for transfers directly into the city, but they’re just not for me. Convenience wins so book a private transfer ahead of your trip and you will be whisked off and dropped off directly at your hotel. We used Airport Taxi Transfers, with a 20% discount and they were great – luxurious cars, free refreshments and sweets thrown in. While many taxis love to go the long route, they take you the quickest, they’ll divert for traffic, and while you might not therefore get to witness the death trap that is the Arc de Triomphe roundabout, you will actually get there quicker. The driver meets you at the airport and will come in to the lobby to collect you for your return.
Ive linked throughout this post and in a list at the end some more detailed posts of each place and restaurant we went to, but this is a basic 3 day itinerary, perfect for a long weekend, first time visits or if you’re returning to enjoy Paris all over again.
3 Days in Paris – Day 1
Whatever time the earliest flight you can get is, book it. You might struggle getting up and think the 9am option is much more reasonable, but if you book the first flight at say 6am you’re going to be getting to Paris at 9am local time, wide awake, and have a full day ahead of you. Paris time is precious.
Leave your bags at the hotel as it’s unlikely you’ll be able to check in that early, and set off for your first wander. If you have specific shopping in mind then I’d recommend just going straight away to do it, the Friday morning is going to be a lot quieter than the Saturday, and most shops in Paris are closed on Sundays. If like me you’ve saved up and know exactly what you want, then head straight there and get it! It will leave the rest of your weekend free and you can reassess your budget situation…or lack of…
Head to Place de la Concorde, literally a few minutes from the hotel. You’ll get your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower across the big open space which gives you a 360 degree view of how beautiful, grand and open Paris actually is. It’s not crammed in like London, or built straight upwards like New York, it’s spaced out and you can actually see it.
From Place de la Concorde head through the wrought iron gates of the Tuileries gardens. Sweeping up from Concorde right the way up to the Louvre the gravel paths are easy to walk, past the fountains and statues along the way. It’s a big open space, but cafes and seating areas are hidden among the trees either side. As you come up to the Louvre and before you go under the archway, turn back and you’ll see the Champs Elysees and Arc de Triomphe straight ahead in the distance. Concorde and the Eiffel Tower can also be seen from the same point and it’s quite a view.
Go under the archway and you’re at the Louvre, where the glass pyramids reflect the old architecture and the fountains are splooshing between them. We found it to be really quiet on the Friday, and we managed to get some photos without anyone in them, something I’ve never seen before at one of the most popular spots.
On either side of the Louvre and the Seine, actually basically everywhere you go in Paris you’ll find cafes and restaurants, but I’ve always wanted to eat at Ralph’s, owned by Ralph Lauren, which is only a ten minute walk from the Louvre. We we cut across the road and over the river to Paris Saint Germain and found it really easily. They open at 12pm so we enjoyed a very nice lunch and walk through the neighbourhood.
By now we could check in, so made our way back to the hotel, along Rue de Rivoli, noting the crepe places, the wine bars and Angelinas along the way. Check in, unpack and refresh, take a nana nap if you’re knackered, get all your technology on charge, argue over the number of hangers, usual crap. But definitely check the view, Paris rooftops are something else.
Head back out for more shopping! We walked up to Place Vendome which is only a few minutes from Royal Saint Honore, and looked at all the luxury labels we would love to have the bank balance for. Designer names all around, but each one in a pretty building, with very expensive looking window displays and most with fancy doormen. Even if you’re just window shopping it’s great to wander around and look at all the Christmas lights, expensive cars and The Ritz, which is right in the middle of Place Vendome. If you’re lucky enough to have the budget to shop, some of the original boutiques can be found in Paris. Coco Chanel’s first studio, and the first Christian Louboutin can all be found in this area.
Looking at how the other half live can be exhausting work, so find a cafe to sit for a while with a drink and watch the world go by. The cafe culture is unbelievable even in winter, and you will see some remarkable sights, fashion and French folk wandering the Parisien streets.
Go back and get changed for the evening, a restaurant or bar can be found on literally every street so you won’t need to walk far, and on a normal weekend I could easily pass the hours with some food and wine under a heater outside. Because of the time of year we went to the Christmas market. The stalls filled the length of the Champs Elysees and I’ve never seen anything like it, it was huge! Full of all sorts of street food, gifts, clothing, jewellery, fairground rides and and an ice rink, all under the Christmas lights of one of the most famous streets in the world, with the Arc de Triomphe at the top. We spent the evening wandering among the stalls and looking at the high street names – hello Sephora – and enjoying the atmosphere.
3 Days in Paris – Day 2
Firstly, you get to wake up in Paris so be happy with life! Then find a cafe for breakfast. I know people like to eat in their hotel, but in Paris you cant miss out on the cafe life. Everywhere serves croissants, omelettes, pastries, and coffee! We went to Le Village Royal, a very pretty little courtyard, and you will pass the Madeleine on the walk over there. You will also need to eat plenty before a full day out and about.
Walk to the river and cross over to the Musee D’Orsay, right in front of it is a Batobus stop. I honestly think it’s the best and cheapest way to get about all the major landmarks. At 17 euros for a day pass, or 19 euros for a two day pass you can hop on and hop off the boat-bus that goes up and down the Seine as much as you like. There are nine stops in total including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame and Musee D’Orsay. They come every fifteen minutes or so, and we went straight along to Notre Dame.
Spend the morning at Notre Dame, it’s a beautiful little area, with the cathedral in the middle that you can access by plenty of quaint little bridges. It’s free to walk around inside Notre Dame itself, just stay respectful and quiet. Regardless of if you’re religious or not it’s 100% worth going inside for a walk around. I love the huge stained glass windows, the archways, and chandeliers. You can pay to go up into the bell towers to see the bells, the famous gargoyles and the view out over Paris too.
When you’re finished at the cathedral, spend some time walking the streets behind it, where again you will find plenty of cafes for refreshment breaks, shops and art galleries. If the weather is nice, drop down by the river where you can walk along the cobbles, there’s likely to be street artists and people playing instruments, as well as benches to sit and watch the world go by.
The artists also display their work in the wooden stalls along the top of the river bank, and some of their work is incredible. Along here you will also find the Shakespeare and Co. bookshop. It’s a tiny medieval shop, unchanged from back in the day and full of books, photo books, fashion novels and unique Parisien guides and stories. There’s nothing like actually being in Paris to make you want to actually read, despite not picking a book up for about two years.
After a morning at Notre Dame get back on the batobus and take the 30 minute journey around to the Eiffel Tower. I’ve not been up the Eiffel Tower since I was a kid, but if you want to do it I’d probably book tickets in advance. You could pay on the gate but it was pretty busy as you’d expect. There are street sellers everywhere, so keep your pockets, bags and purses zipped! Instead of battling the crowds to go up the tower where I wouldn’t look down anyway, we got a hot chocolate from one of the stalls and wandered around the gardens. The tower is visible from wherever you go, and the park area is a nice setting for photos.
Get the batobus back along to Musee D’Orsay, feet will probably killing by now so find yet another cafe. We went to a small one near Place Vendome for a chocolate crepe! Angelinas would be perfect at this time, but you have to queue and wait and it’s very popular so we gave up.
Our second evening was much more relaxing, after we saw the Eiffel Tower and the Arc lit up the previous night we booked into a French restaurant with the plan of only eating and drinking all night. We had complimentary champagne in the hotel bar, then walked along the couple of streets to Flottes restaurant. The Italian Farnesona is also very nice a few streets away on Rue Boissy d’Anglas.
If you want to try traditional French dishes then now is the time! We didn’t, and we skipped the oysters too, but we both had French onion soup which was unreal. Flottes restaurant is owned and ran by a French couple, Mr & Mrs Flottes and the staff are very friendly and will help you out with the menus and recommendations.
The wine list is extensive too so get a bottle. The rest of the evening is best spent drinking! There are bars everywhere, sit inside or out, all looked very cosy in the cold with their Christmas lights. A short walk down to Concorde will also give you another glimpse of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night.
3 Days in Paris – Day 3
There’s no two ways about it, you will be gutted to wake up on your last morning in Paris and have to pack up your bags. Having the late night flight booked made all the difference though, we weren’t rushed at all. We packed and checked out about 10am, leaving our bags with the hotel.
Instead of grabbing breakfast nearby we got on the metro at Concorde and made the ten minute journey to Abbesses, a nearby stop for Montmartre.
Spend the morning at Montmartre, the view alone is worth the climb up all the steps to the top. If you’re early enough you might catch the Sunday service at Sacre Couer and the singing nuns. If not just sit on the steps and enjoy the view until a lot of the crowds have left after the service finishes. Every time I’ve been there’s been someone playing music to the crowds. This time there was a harp player, who played the likes of Wonderful World and Time to Say Goodbye. Sounds cheesy but it’s very relaxing and if it’s a clear day it’s perfect accompaniment to the view over the Paris rooftops.
When you’re up there also take the time to wander behind Sacre Couer and admire all the street artists in the square, as well as the cafes and bakeries you’ll find if you explore the little cobbled streets a bit more. You can easily pass hours up there, and get some lunch before making your way back to the metro.
Depending how much time you spend at Montmartre you you could also pay a visit to the Moulin Rouge and the red light district on the same metro line on your way back to the centre. Just get off the metro at Pigalle.
Coming back we got off at the La Madeleine metro stop, which is half a street away from Laduree. Another typical Paris place to visit but if you like macaroons or want a nice present for someone its perfect. The shop has a cafe too.
By now there won’t be long before your taxi transfer will be coming to collect you. If you’ve missed any shopping some but not all of the shops are sometimes open late Sunday afternoon but I wouldn’t rely on it. You could go and sit by the fountain in the Tuileries or by the Louvre pyramids to make the most of your last hour in Paris until you have to leave.
Our flight back was 9pm, and we were knackered after a full 3 days in Paris, but similar to the flight out I’d always choose tiredness and an extra few hours in the most amazing city I’ve ever been to over a cut short day.
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