Paris in 3 Days! For First-Time Visitors
with Bonus Itinerary Download, available as PDF
Paris view by Rob Potvin, sourced from Unsplash
The French capital is an incredibly dense and rich city. Parisians spend their entire life discovering their city and enjoying it. There is no way to get bored in Paris!
So, you plan on visiting Paris, soon, and don’t really know how to organize your schedule to best spend your time? This article will help you make the most out of your three days in Paris, if you have never been here before!
As a first timer, you will probably want to see the main tourist attractions in the French capital. That means you will get to see the Eiffel Tower, Montmartre, the Louvre, Notre-Dame and all the typical places that you picture in your mind when Paris comes up in a conversation.
Three days is a good stay duration to see all these. The following is a suggestion of schedule, considering that you have three full days with no airport involved. As we previously explained here, getting into and out of Paris’s airports may require some two to three additional hours to your schedule, for each way. You should plan about half-a-day free at the beginning and at the end of your stay to allow for airport transfers and formalities.
DAY ONE – MORNING: Trocadero, the Eiffel Tower and the walk to the Louvre
Day one will take you along the Seine to some of the most famous tourist sites. Before starting your day, I recommend you buy some French baguette, some ham and cheese, and that you prepare yourselves some nice sandwiches for your lunch. You will have plenty of occasions to eat in the great Paris restaurants, but this first day is a bit dense, so that you can see the most while you are not too tired, so having a quick lunch will help.
It is your first time in Paris, ever. To capture this once-in-a-lifetime moment, you might first want to see what mostly represents Paris, worldwide: the infamous Eiffel Tower.
Begin your tour of Paris by going to the Trocadero Esplanade (line 9 of the Metro, station “Trocadero”) to catch the morning light on the Eiffel Tower. The view, there, is grandiose. For now, try to make marvelous snapshots of the rising sun behind the century old iron structure.
Walk down the stairs towards the Seine, and cross the River, to the Eiffel Tower. This morning, you will climb the most famous landmark on French soil! You may purchase your ticket in advance here. Although quite expensive, I suggest you take the full ride all the way to the top floor, to enjoy the view and make the long waiting times worth it.
Cross the Seine again and walk along the river on the upper level of the Quay (street level) in order to reach the Alma-Marceau Metro Station. There, you might want to see the Lady Diana Memorial. Continue along the river, until you reach the Alexander III Bridge, recognizable to its old lampposts and its four massive pillars surmounted with golden statues. From afar, across the bridge, you might see the golden dome of Invalides.
To the North, right across the boulevard, don’t miss the monumental Grand Palais and its large glass vault. Take Avenue Winston Churchill to arrive onto the world famous Champs-Elysées. The Arc de Triomphe is far on your left – and you will have a chance to visit it later – but, for now, leave it behind and turn right towards the obelisk of Place de la Concorde. Walk across the square and enter the beautiful Gardens of Tuileries. To learn more about the Place de la Concorde click here, and more about the Tuileries, click here. The Gardens of Tuileries is a great spot to have a picnic and enjoy your sandwiches in the grass.
DAY ONE – AFTERNOON: The Louvre (and Notre-Dame)
At the end of the Gardens, you will end up in the main yard of the Louvre museum, highly visible with its modern glass pyramid. This is a perfect moment to have a cultural break during your day, and see the most famous masterpieces of the most famous museum in the world.
Let us be clear, the Louvre is HUGE and there is no way you see it all. For a first time visit I recommend you allow yourselves two to three hours. This will give you plenty of time to see the best pieces.
Caveat : Don’t forget to purchase your tickets online the day before in order to avoid long queues. Tickets may not be bought online for a visit on the same day.
Once you clear security, enter the museum on the Denon side, which is the most important one to see for first timers. After a monumental gallery, you will see the impressive display of the Victory of Samothrace before reaching the Great Gallery which displays some of the most renowned masterpieces in art. In a small lateral room, the Mona Lisa is usually a disappointing moment in your visit as it is hardly visible behind large groups of visitors. In front of the Mona Lisa, the Marriage at Cana is much more impressive. Don’t miss the galleries located behind the Mona Lisa as they display some large famous masterpieces such as The Liberty Leading the People, and the Raft of the Medusa.
After the painting section, head to Apollo’s Gallery to see some fine French jewels and decorative arts.
At last, finish your visit with the Department of Antiquities and more specially the Egyptian section.
Exit the Museum by walking across the Square Yard (Cour Carrée) to the East.
If it’s not too late, take Rue de Rivoli to the East. After you walk past the stand-alone Saint-Jacques Tower, you will find yourselves in front of the richly decorated Paris City Hall. From there, cross the river Seine to get to Notre Dame. Take some time to admire the 800-year-old building, and, of course, to enter it. If you have some time left, you may have a relaxing walk on the Ile de la Cité, the historical core of Paris.
If you exited the Louvre a bit too late, skip to the evening program immediately after getting out of the Museum and move the Notre-Dame visit early the next morning :)
DAY ONE – EVENING : The Bateaux Mouches
At the end of the day, go back to the City Hall and ride the Metro back to Alma Marceau. To finish your day well, I suggest you take a Bateaux-Mouches, a typical Parisian boat that will take you for a cruise on the Seine, and allow you to see the Parisian monuments lit up, from another vantage point. Check our article here to pick the solution that best suits your wishes.
After a long day of walking as you just had – and even more if you feel jetlagged – you will probably want to get back to your hotel to have a nice night rest.
DAY TWO – MORNING : Saint-Germain & the Latin Quarter (and Notre-Dame)
I suggest day two to be slightly less dense than the previous one. This day will have you see the best of the Left Bank.
Take the Metro to Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Enjoy a nice coffee or French breakfast in one of the countless cafés, there. This article will, then, help you see the most important landmarks of this neighborhood.
I suggest you spend the rest of the morning visiting the historical neighborhood of the Latin Quarter. As a reminder, we offer free guided tours of the area every mornings at 11 from April to October. You may also find useful information here.
Saint-Germain and the Latin Quarter are also great places to enjoy a nice French lunch.
If, on day one, you didn’t have the time to visit Notre-Dame, this morning is the perfect moment to do so, as well!
DAY TWO – AFTERNOON : Orsay & the Champs-Elysées
In the afternoon, ride line C of the RER from Saint-Michel to Musée d’Orsay, and spend some time in the second most important museum in Paris. This one is mainly dedicated to 19th century/early 20th century art, especially the impressionism movement. This article, here, will help you spot the ten masterpieces not to miss at Orsay. Just like for the Louvre, you may also purchase your ticket for Orsay well in advance online.
Upon exiting the Museum, cross the Seine to get to the Champs-Elysées.
You may walk the Champs-Elysées to enjoy a shopping session on the most famous avenue in the World. Walk up the avenue to the Arc de Triomphe. You may walk up the Arc de Triomphe for great views of the French Capital. Once again, tickets can be purchased in advance here.
View of Avenue des Champs Elysées by Pedro Gandra on Unsplash
DAY TWO – EVENING : the Opéra area
Walk back to Concorde, and ride line 8 all the way to “Opéra”, or ride RER A from Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile to Auber (then walk to the Opera). The infamous building by Charles Garnier, masterly depicted in Leroux’s novel the Phantom of the Opera is amazing to admire from the outside whether it’s day or night.
The Opera area is a great place to have a nice dinner in one of the countless French restaurants in the neighborhood.
DAY THREE – MORNING : Montmartre
If you want to see most of Paris in 3 days, you will need to accept that sleeping in is not an option.
Wake up early for day three and climb up the Montmartre hill. The earlier you will do so, the better. Montmartre is a neighborhood worth visiting in a calm way. You want to wander its small winding streets and loose yourselves. Check this article to find creative ways to climb up and down the hill, and make the most of it. Of course, you will also want to visit the Sacred-Heart Basilica.
Once you are done with the hill, enjoy a quick lunch in the South Pigalle area – downhill.
DAY THREE – AFTERNOON : The Grands Boulevards, the Opéra area, Vendôme & Le Marais
Walk the streets to the South or take line 12 to Saint-Lazare and the Haussemann Boulevard. There, you may shop in the two massive Department Stores of Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. To be honest, shopping there quickly turns to a nightmare considering the crowds. But the mid-18th century buildings are worth the detour in terms of architecture.
Head South towards the Opéra, again. This time, continue to the South until you get to the very classy Place Vendôme, famous for its numerous luxury jewelries. From there, take Rue Saint-Honoré towards the East.
You will finish the afternoon in the Halles area, and the trendy district of Le Marais. This area is great after sunset as there are many bars where you can have a quick cocktail before finding a restaurant to have dinner. In the area, also don’t miss to have a glance at nice Place des Vosges, and the modern arts museum of Centre Pompidou.
Le Marais is a trendy area where you can stroll nicely and lose yourself in ancient streets. The area offers nice fashion designers stores and French patisseries, which are perfect for a last afternoon in Paris!
DAY THREE – EVENING : Le Marais or Montorgueil
Le Marais is also the LGBTQ+ village of Paris, an aspect that becomes much more prevalent at night. If you enjoy the liberal mindset, it is a great neighborhood to go out and there are plenty of good restaurants for a good night out. However, if you are not comfortable with the progressive state of mind of Le Marais, the many restaurants of Rue Montorgueil, near les Halles, are also a great option nearby.
Feel free to DOWNLOAD this 3 DAY ITINERARY that fits on one easily printable page.
This suggested schedule is clearly dense, and intends on having you see the most important areas of Paris, in a nutshell. Of course, you may need to adapt it. Paris is a big city, with plenty of things to see. It is rather hard to pick for you.
Also, if you are unsure of what to see, and how to best organize your day, remember that we offer, at Discoverwalks, some great Right Bank landmarks tours, which will allow you to see in 90 min most of what I discussed here!