How to visit Paris in 3 days - Top attractions and popular places
Cheese or dessert?? With only a 3 day-trip this is the eternal question. One thing is sure you can’t do everything… Choose or give up… So to enlighten you I have prepared this short programme, packed & exhausting, which will allow you to discover the principal “High Spots” of the capital.
If you are with children don’t hesitate to add extra ideas from the section “Paris with children” and slow the pace down. Lastly a good tourist guide is essential for your stay (I can lend you a copy of “Time Out Paris” if necessary).
Day 1 : Louvre / Musée d’Orsay, Tuileries, Concorde, Champs-Elysées, Eiffel Tower
– Take the bus 95 and get off at the Louvre
– Visit the Louvre. (See my advice in the section “Paris with the children”). If you prefer the Impressionists cross over the River Seine by the Pont Royal Bridge & visit the Musée d’Orsay just opposite
– Go through the Jardin des Tuileries and then the Place de la Concorde (The National Assembly is on your left & the Madeleine Church on your right)
– Walk up the Champs-Elysées to the place Clemenceau. Whatever you do don’t miss the expositions in the Grand-Palais. They are usually of superb quality (Wharol, Picasso etc) and the palace itself is wonderful. (www.grandpalais.fr)
– Continue up the Champs–Elysées to no. 75 and stop at “Ladurée” for lunch or a snack. Their macaroons are famous, so is the price! (www.laduree.fr)
– Keep walking up to the l’Arc de Triomphe. You will see the Disney Store (at no 44), Renault (no 53), Sephora (no 70), Vuitton (no 101), Apple (no 114), Mercedes (no 118) and Peugeot (no 136).
– Take the underground (Métro) line 6 at the “Charles de Gaulle Etoile” station and get off at “Trocadero”. Then visit the Eiffel Tower (see my suggestions in “Paris with the children”),
– Take the RER line C at the station “Champs de Mars Tour Eiffel” and get off at “Musée d’Orsay”. Walk along the embankment towards Saint Michel & the Académie Française.
– Eat dinner on a river boat the “Calife” (see my “Unusual Paris” suggestions),
– Take the bus no. 95 at the bus stop “Pont du Carousel Quai Voltaire”. It will bring you back to the apartment.
Day 2 : Saint-Germain, Luxembourg, Sorbonne, Quartier Latin, Notre-Dame, ile de la Cité and St Louis, Bastille, Marais, Hôtel de Ville and Beaubourg
– Take the underground Line 4 and get off at “Saint Germain des Prés”. You will find yourself in the heart of the artistic and literary part of Paris. (libraries, publishing houses & the Café Flore)
– Now to return to “Saint-Michel” you have 2 choices either take the Boulevard St Germain, rue (street) de Bucci and rue St André des Arts (full of small cute boutiques) or the longer way via rue Bonaparte, Eglise St Suplice, rue de L’Odeon, rue de Médicis. Visit the Luxembourg Gardens, rue Soufflot, rue de la Sorbonne and finally Boulevard Saint–Michel
– Go through the “Latin Quarter” (why not eat lunch but be careful as it is full of tourist traps!) cross the River and visit Notre-Dame.
– Take the rue du Cloître de Notre Dame, the Saint-Louis bridge, and the rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile. Short stop highly recommended at “Berthillon” no 29. The best ice-cream in Paris (www.berthillon.fr)
– Take the Boulevard Henri IV, cross the Place de la Bastille then Boulevard Beaumarchais et Place des Vosges. You are now in the heart of the “Marais”
– Now take rue des Francs Bourgeois (amazing Uniqlo shop at no 39!), rue Pavée, rue des Rosiers (Jewish quarter), rue Sainte Croix de la Bretonnerie (Gay quarter), rue des Archives, Hôtel de Ville, rue du Renard
– Cross the esplanade in front of “Beaubourg” (Centre Pompidou)
– You are two steps away from an adorable restaurant “Le Cochon à l’Oreille” see “My favourite restaurants” section),
– Take the Metro line 4. It will bring you back to the apartment where you will fall asleep in 30 seconds!!
Day 3 : Palais Royal, Opéra, Grands Magasins, Grands Boulevards, Passages, Montmartre
– Take the bus 95 and get off at the “Palais Royal Comédie Francaise” stop
– Go through the Palais Royal
– Make a detour through Galerie Vivienne then take the rue des Petits Champs
– Have a quick look in the passage Choiseul on your right
– Avenue de l’Opéra, rue Auber, rue Scribe
– Visit the department stores “Galeries Lafayette & Printemps” on boulevard Haussmann
– Continue on the boulevard Haussmann direction metro “Richelieu Drouot”. At the corner of the streets Drouot & Rossini is the famous Auction House “Drouot“. Don’t hesitate to go in it’s free and you will be immediately immersed into the atmosphere…
– Take the boulevard Montmartre, make a detour at no 11 through the “Passage des Panoramas” and almost opposite by the passage “Jouffroy”. You will find the wax museum Grévin. (see my suggestion in “Paris with the children”),
– continuer boulevard Poissonnière, boulevard de Bonne Nouvelle et prendre sur la gauche la rue du – Continue along the boulevard Poissonniere, boulevard Bonne Nouvelle & take the street on the left “rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis”. According to your tastes & your budget, I suggest you lunch either at “Julien” no 16 or “Chez Jeannette” no 47 (see “My restaurants”).
– Take the line 4 at the station “Chateau d’Eau” change at “Barbès Rochechouart” and get off at “Anvers”. Direct access up to the “Sacré Coeur” and “la Place des Tertre” or get off at Blanche for the Moulin Rouge, rue Lepic and rue des Abbesses
– Spend the afternoon wandering around “Montmartre“
– Come back on foot to the apartment (rue Lamarck, rue de Mont Cenis and rue du Poteau).
Versailles or not Versailles?
In two words my answer is easy “Forget it” ! Now logically you are saying “But why is he telling us not to go to the Wonderful Palace of Versailles?” So I will give you some very good reasons!
First of all the trip to Versailles takes a whole day, most of which is taken up by the actual travelling. It’s a long journey either by car (25 km, most of which is full of traffic jams) or by public transport 1h15mins on the “famous” line C of the RER. Once there allow a 1 or 2 hour queue to get in. (Tripadvisor is full of comments on this).
Secondly as I am sure you realise Versailles is a very popular tourist attraction. Packed every day. It is very difficult to avoid bumping into the hordes of tourists and undisciplined groups which flock to the castle. Not very glamorous.
Thirdly because of the previous events cited, the people have to be kept moving & often the visit is very disappointing because the castle is empty. But really empty! No furniture no costumes, no ornaments, nothing. Only wooden floors, chandeliers & paintings. For the housework I envy them but how can visitors get an idea of the period? Surely to feel the atmosphere of that time it’s essential no?
And finally the visit (which only lasts 1h30) is ridiculous compared to the size of the place, don’t even hope to see the kitchens, the stables, the splendid opera and who knows where the royal dungeons are hidden? The fabulous Gallery of Mirrors does not make up for the rest. faut.
The castle is something but not everything:
– The gardens: very pleasant first thing in the morning but honestly there is better such as the Loire Valley (www.chateauvillandry.fr) or closer in Normandy (www.chateauduchampdebataille.com). I was disappointed by “The Musical Fountains” which should always be working and the classical music barely audible from the bad quality loud speakers hidden in the bushes.
– I have not visited the Grand Trianon or the Domain of Marie-Antoinette so I have no comment to make.
– If however you still need to see a castle, the ”Vaux le Vicomte“ is the one (www.vaux-le-vicomte.com). This masterpiece of modernity and elegance was the inspiration for Louis XIV for … Versailles. A must for the kids: the guided tour by princes & princesses! They will discover daily life in the 17th century. Learn how to bow and be initiated into games from this era.
Every Saturday evening from May to October the gardens are lit up by 2000 candles. I still have a magical souvenir of this. Vaux le Vicomte is located 65 km south of Paris. It takes about 1h15 by car.
– More about castles? Let’s talk about Chantilly? Located 45 km north of Paris (45 minutes by the motorway A1), this splendid residence is really worth visiting. To convince you have a look at their website www.domainedechantilly.com
The icing on the cake… Chantilly is one of the major French equestrian centres.
These magnificent stables dating back to the 18th century are full of surprises, such as horse shows of very high quality and on some days the public can actually watch a horse being trained.
I did it and I will never forget it.
A question I am often asked: Is it worth buying a pass to visit Paris?
At first it took me a while to understand how this system, which seems simple, works, but in fact it is full of lots of small details to which you have to pay attention. Obviously…
1// Who sells these passes?
– “Paris Museum Pass” is sold directly to the public by the museums in Paris (www.parismuseumpass.com).
– “Paris Passlib” is sold by the Paris Convention and Visitors Bureau (http://reservation.parisinfo.com).
– “Paris Pass” is sold by a private English company (www.parispass.fr).
2// What do all these passes propose?
– “Paris Museum Pass”: only for museums.
– “Paris Passlib”: This pass combines the “Paris Museum Pass” and a subscription to the “Paris Visite” travel card, a river boat tour and a day on a tourist bus.
– “Paris Pass”: This pass combines the “Paris Museum Pass” and the subscription to the “Paris Visite” travel card, free entrance to 7 private attractions and a day on a tourist bus.
3// What to be careful about?
The marketing arguments are all there to convince you: “No more queuing”, “know how much you will spend in advance”, “easy and flexible”, “special offers”, “free transport” (even though you have already paid !) etc.
But in fact the reality is a little different:
– Even though these offers propose lots of things the Eiffel Tower is not included and strangely enough “Paris Passlib” offers a visit to the 2nd floor of the Eiffel Tower for 20 euros whereas the actual ticket costs 16,30 euros at http://ticket.toureiffel.fr
– The pass is only valid for consecutive days so if would like to go to Disneyland on one of the days you will lose a day out of your pass.
– If you start to use your pass after lunch or in the evening it will be counted as a full day.
– The travel card supplied for public transport (“Paris Visite” zone 1 to 3) does not cover all the transport costs to some of the museums included in the “Paris Museum Pass”. So you will have to pay extra if you want to visit the castles of Versailles or Chantilly.
– Priority access is only proposed for certain museums such as the Louvre, Orsay. Pompidou, Grevin so for the others you will have to queue like everybody else.
– None of these passes are e-passes so you will have to either collect them from the boutiques or have them sent to you. Secured delivery is charged between 15-40 euros. I would recommend collecting them in Paris but be careful to know the opening hours.
– Many Parisian museums are free on the first Sunday of each month and also for young Europeans under 26. Therefore if this applies to you why pay for a pass for a free museum entrance?
– The length of stay for all these passes is incomprehensible: 2, 4 or 6 days for “Paris Museum Pass”, 2, 3 or 5 days for “Paris Passlib”, 2, 3, 4 or 6 for “Paris Pass”.
You can see that “Paris Museum Pass” does not have a 3 day version but “Paris Passlib” & “Paris Pass” sold for 3 days ! So how do they do this these magicians of tourism? By simply putting a “Paris Museum Pass – 2 days” in the “Paris Passlib – 3 days” and in the “Paris Pass – 3 days”.
The same for the “Paris Passlib – 5 days” which includes a “Paris Museum Pass” of 4 days. It is not a rip-off because it is clearly stated on their internet site but for offers “simple & flexible” others can be found!
– The passes do not give access to temporary exhibitions or guided visits. Be aware of this for the museums which are given a lot of media coverage for big exhibitions such as the Pompidou Centre.
4// How much does it cost?
The internet sites want you to believe that that you will save money. If you visit 10 museums a day sure it is true, but this is not real life with children who also want to run around in the parc and eat icecream.
Therefore I tried out a 2-day stay (this is the only common feature of all the 3 day passes) for an adult very hungry for culture, and who would be inspired by the short programme I have concoted.
Conclusion? Only the “Paris Museum Pass” seems to be a good deal as it allows you to choose you own means of transport (“Mobilis” and “Navigo” travel cards are cheaper than the “Paris Visite” package included in the “Paris Passlib” & “Paris Pass” as explained in my paragraph on transport in Paris). On top of that the “Paris Museum Pass” can be obtained very easily, particularly at the airport, tourist offices, at some newspaper stands and at the ticket desks in museums which are included in the “Paris Museum Pass”.
So all that is left for me to do is to wish you a very pleasant stay in our beautiful capital.