Paris, the city of light is probably the most visited city in the world and there is so much to see it can be overwhelming for first time visitors. Four days is what we think ideal time you should spend in Paris and then spend another 2 days to see beyond Paris. Obviously you will not be able to cover everything in your first visit but with this itinerary we hope to cover top attractions and when you come back again you will be able to enjoy Paris in a more relaxing pace. Read my article here for information on where to stay and how to get around.
Here’s our suggested itinerary for your first time to Paris:
Visit Cathedral de Notre Dame and its surrounding.
This breathtaking religious building is one of Paris Icon and a must-see, known for her flying buttresses, twin towers and, of course, hunchback resident. Construction of the Cathedral took nearly two hundred years, and was completed in 1345. However since the 2019 fire that consumed Notre Dame Cathedral, the cathedral is still closed for repairs and the whole view except the front is blocked. You can, however, still visit the cathedral square and look onto the Notre Dame. Be aware there is a lot of scaffolding covering the facade.
It’s still worth wandering around the parameters of Notre Dame, then continue to explore Île de la Cite. Hidden in a side street behind the cathedral is a beautiful little cafe called Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole. You can stop here for a photo and coffee break before continuing to walk. From here you can walk to Sainte-Chapelle.
The Sainte-Chapelle is the finest royal chapel to be built in France and features a truly exceptional collection of stained-glass windows. It was built in the mid 13th century by Louis IX, at the heart of the royal residence, the Palais de la Cité, to house the relics of the Passion of Christ. Adorned with a unique collection of fifteen glass panels and a rose window forming a veritable wall of light, the Sainte-Chapelle gem of Rayonnant Gothic architecture. Entrance fee €11.50 and you can buy joint ticket with the nearby Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned) at €18.50. You can buy the ticket online from the website to avoid queueing.
From here you can walk to the direction of bridge Pont au Change and stop to see the Clock Tower, the oldest clock in Paris. It was installed in the 14th century, still ticking along to this day, and also happens to be incredibly gorgeous.
From Île de la Cite you can cross to Île Saint-Louis, one of the most peaceful and charming neighbourhood of Paris. This quiet street on Île Saint-Louis is ideal for souvenir shopping and famous for its restaurants. There are no significant landmarks or attractions, only picture perfect views and classic 17th century architecture. Île Saint-Louis represents the quintessential Parisian life I imagined where you could find lovers entwined on a bench or walking arm-in-arm along the Seine. Have your lunch here and grab an ice cream cone for dessert from the iconic Berthillon ice cream shop. After lunch you can take a bus or walk (1.2km) to Pantheon.
Pantheon is a cruciform building with a high dome over the crossing and lower saucer-shaped domes (covered by a sloping roof ) over the four arms. The facade, like that of the Roman Pantheon, is formed by a porch of Corinthian columns and triangular pediment attached to the ends of the eastern arm. Built in the 18th century by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, the Pantheon is a monument of neo-classical style, with a facade similar to the Pantheon in Rome. The Panthéon was also the first major monument in Paris. It was built before the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, and was the first building that offered a panoramic view over France’s capital. Nowadays it is a civic building that serves as a repository for the remains of great French citizens, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Èmile Zola, and Marie Curie. You can go to the top of Pantheon to see view of Paris. Pantheon open everyday from 10.00 to 18.00 (Oct- March) and 10.00 to 18.30 (April-Jun) and individual ticket is €11.5
Close to Pantheon is Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the most charming attractions in Paris for both locals and tourists and the perfect place to rest after a long day walking. Designed in 1612 by Marie de’ Medici, Jardin du Luxembourg or the Luxembourg Garden is the most centric, popular and beautiful park in Paris. The Luxembourg Palace, which gives its name to the gardens, is currently owned by the French Senate. Jardin du Luxembourg is also a nice place for a little picnic. You can stop by at Carrefour express for provision. There is one near Pantheon.
The Luxembourg Garden is overflowed with flowers and trees, it’s nice to find a spot under the shade, grab the chairs and relax our feet after stairs climbing this morning. There is a duck pond in the center of the garden and you can rent small wooden sailboats so your kids can push them into the water with a long stick.
Leave the park as it gets dark and head back to your accommodation or go straight for dinner.
A day at the museum and go up to Eiffel Tower
Start the day by going to the Louvre. This is one of the world’s most famous museums, and is home to an incredible collection of art, including Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, to name but a few. If you are an art and history lovers, one day may not be enough. You can have a quick lunch inside Louvre if you are already hungry. There are several cafes and Restaurant inside and if you want to have proper lunch after finishing louvre there are plenty of good restaurants along Rue Saint-Honore, few hundred meter from Louvre. Book your ticket in advance online here. General admission is €17 for adult. Pick your time slot and arrive earlier as you will need to queue for security check as you enter. Don’t forget to see Jardin des Tuileries, the garden next to the museum.
After lunch walk to Palais Royale and take picture at Colonnes de Buren inside Palais Royale. It’s free and fun to see in late afternoon. Galerie Vero-Dodat is just around the corner and is another one of Paris’ beautiful covered passages, so you can consider swinging by there for a quick look as well.
From Palais Royal take the bus or metro to Trocadero garden. Before that buy some provision at Carrefour Express for a little picnic.
When you walk down from Trocadero, you will get to see a full view of Eiffel tower and it’s a popular photo spot. While Eiffel Tower without doubt is the most iconic landmark in Paris (if not France!), it is also a perfect place to end the day.
Make your way down to Eiffel Tower crossing the street to the Champ de Mars garden. Find your spot on the lawn and have a little picnic until it gets dark. You will be able to see Eiffel tower light blinking one hour after sunset.
From here you have the option to do Seine cruise or go up to Eiffel Tower after sunset. If you would like to go up the Eiffel Tower you need to book at least 6-7 weeks in advance from the official website here. Ticket to the top is available to be booked 2 months in advance. You can get ticket to the second floor only either with lift access or stairs and access to the top of the tower with lift access all the way or stairs + Lift access from the 2nd floor. If ticket to the top is booked up you can buy ticket to the second floor either by lift or stairs and try your luck in buying your ticket to the top at the ticket counter on the second floor. Other alternative is to buy ticket from third party tour company.
You can also take the Seine Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens Cruise which departs at the foot of the Eiffel Tower. They have sightseeing cruise leaving every 40-45 minutes until 9pm and a dinner cruise which departs at 6.15pm and 8.30 pm. You can book online here.
Worth to mention there is also a paid Toilet near where the cruise leaves. I had to write this down as I was panicking looking for one when we were there.
We start our morning by visiting Arc de Triomphe, another of Paris’s iconic landmarks. Since we can no longer climb to the rooftop of Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe is now one of the place to admire Paris skyline from above. The Arc de Triomphe, built in memory of those who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars, is wonderfully photogenic. After climbing up the stairs and down, make sure to also stroll under the Arc as well. By climbing I mean walking up the flight of stairs as the elevator is reserved only for pregnant visitors, people with reduced mobility, and young children. To get to the Arc de Triomphe, don’t try and cross the traffic roundabout. Head to one of the underpasses which will take you to Arc de Triomphe. The ticket office is also located in the underpass. Entrance fee to climb: €13
The famous Champs-Elysees dead-ends into the Arc de Triomphe, so after snapping photos both from the top of the monument and of the Arc itself, we shall continue our walk by heading down one of the most famous shopping streets in the world. Nearly 2 kilometres in length, this historic thoroughfare runs from Arc de Triomphe to Place de la Concorde.
You can spend few hours shopping here or hop on to bus/metro to take you to Palais Garnier. Also known as Opéra Garnier, Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house at the Place de l’Opéra in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, France. It was built for the Paris Opera from 1861 to 1875 at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III. It is probably the most famous opera in the world, a symbol of Paris, and it was made famous in the novel The phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux in 1911, then the musical in 1986. Visits are available every day from 10am to 5pm, except on days with afternoon performances and exceptional closures. Last entry 45 minutes before closing time. Full rate ticket: €14 (€12 outside exhibition periods)
You can also do your shopping and lunch at Galleries Lafayette nearby the Opera. The iconic Galeries Lafayette dates from the late nineteenth century, and has become a genuine symbol of the “City of Light”, visited by over twenty-five million people each year. Its magnificently domed central hall – which covers 70,000 square meters of retail space – fills an entire block of Boulevard Haussmann, one of several Parisian boulevards built by Napoleon.
You can find their network of 65 stores around the world (from Berlin to Beijing), but their flagship store is on the Boulevard Haussman in Paris. The store is no longer just a shopping center, but a tourist destination in its own right. There are three buildings: one for house products and food products, one for men’s fashion, and the main “Coupole” building, featuring the famous Art Nouveau dome and the rooftop view. The main building houses eight stories, more than 2,000 brands and a number of cafés, bars, and restaurants ad you can go to the rooftop to see the view of Paris. You have to take the stairs from the sixth floor get to the rooftop,. It’s a short flight of stairs and once you reach outside, you’ll enjoy a free 180-degree panorama of the city, complete with a view of the Eiffel Tower. And thanks to the transparent barrier on the edge of the building, your photos of the view won’t include a bulky fence.
There are two restaurants at the top where you can eat and drink while you admire the view. Whether you visit the rooftop in summer or winter, you can’t go wrong. In summer, you’re met with a beautiful cloudless view of city monuments. But in winter, there’s an open air ice rink for the holidays.
After dropping all your shopping bags in your hotel room, we’re going to visit Basilica Sacre Couer and then walk down to Montmartre for a nice evening. We’re going to take the bus instead of the metro because the closest Metro Station in Montmartre is Abbesses, 33 meter beneath the ground and you need to climb 144 steps around the spiral stairs. There is a lift but the queue will be long.
Montmartre is home to a large hill, atop which sits the glorious Sacre Coeur de Montmartre, another of Paris’s iconic buildings and was particularly famous as being home to artists, and folks like Dali, Picasso and Hemingway all either lived or frequented this area. It’s still popular with artists, and the Place du Teatre is the place in Montmartre is the place to go to get your portrait or caricature painted. Fans of Dali will also want to visit the Dali Exhibition, home of the largest collection of works by Dali in France. Montmartre itself is a maze of cute little streets, cafes and shops.
Basilica Sacre Couer consecrated in 1919 and has one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the capital, from 130 metres above ground. In a Roman-Byzantine style, the Sacré Coeur is recognizable by its white colour. Inside the building, the ceiling is decorated with the largest mosaic in France measuring about 480 m². The crypt is also worth a visit. And to go even higher up, visitors can access the dome where the 360° view of Paris is magnificent. There is a funicular to take you up to The Basilica and you can use Navigo pass here. You can also climb the stairs to go up if you don’t want to take the funicular.
From Sacre Couer we’re going to spend the rest of the evening strolling Montmartre and have dinner there. You have the option should you want to see the show at Moulin Rouge, the most famous cabarets in France. You can book Dinner and Show which starts at 7pm or just the show which is playing at 9pm ad 11pm. Book your seat in advance here.
We start the morning by going to Paris Catacombs. The history of the Paris Catacombs starts in the late eighteenth century, when major public health problems tied to the city’s cemeteries led to a decision to transfer their contents to an underground site. Paris authorities chose an easily accessible site that was, at the time, located outside the capital: the former Tombe-Issoire quarries under the plain of Montrouge. The first evacuations were made from 1785 to 1787 and concerned the largest cemetery in Paris, the Saints-Innocents cemetery. The site was consecrated as the “Paris Municipal Ossuary” on April 7, 1786, and, from that time forward, took on the mythical name of “Catacombs”, in reference to the Roman catacombs, which had fascinated the public since their discovery. Starting in 1809, the Catacombs were opened to the public by appointment.
You need to book your ticket online and ahead (7 days in advance) here. The catacombs open from Tuesday to Sunday 9:45 – 20:30 and the pricing is 29€/ 27€ (audio guide included)
In the afternoon you have the choice to go to Musee d’Orsay or take a leisure afternoon to Les Marais. Musee d’Orsay located on the banks of the Seine, opposite the Tuileries Gardens is a beautiful museum. Once a railroad station, now famous for its vast collection of Impressionist paintings, Musée d’Orsay holds the largest number of famous paintings in the world by the painters we love — Monet, Manet, Pissarro, Morisot, and Renoir. The Museum opens from Tuesday to Sunday from 9.30 to 6pm and Ticket for adult is €16
It has been a busy three and a half day so it you’re already tired you can opt to visit Les Marais, one of the most popular quarter of Paris.
Le Marais, located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, has traditionally been the Jewish quarter in Paris and many of its streets are immersed in Jewish history. It is renowned for its kosher delis, and bakeries. Today the Marais district is full of chic upscale shops, trendy restaurants, and bars and is a mixture of many communities – Jewish, Asian and LBGTQ.
Walk to the Place des Vosges, a picturesque plaza which is an official historic monument in Paris, and it’s right at the heart of the neighborhood. Square Louis XIII lies at the center of the plaza, complete with a statue of the ruler and four fountains.
One of the main draws of Place des Vosges is the Maison de Victor Hugo, meaning the house of Victor Hugo. The museum dedicated to the author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” was indeed his actual home. While the first floor presents the author’s life and literature, the second floor includes a recreation of Hugo’s old living quarters. The author lived on the second floor in the 1830s and ’40s, where he worked on the novel “Les Misérables.”
Le Marais is also known for attracting the “hip crowd” with its fashion scene and luring creatives with its art galleries. From high-end fashion boutiques like Merci to trendy thrift stores, the area is a great place to shop. A major shopping attraction, the BHV department store is right across from the Hôtel de Ville on Rue de Rivoli. Some of the best streets for shopping include Rue Vieille du Temple, Rue des Francs Bourgeois and Rue de Turenne.
You can also end the day by winding down here with dinner and drinks
Day 5 to 6
If you have more than 4 days, you can spend your 5th and 6th day to hop on to Regional Train and see outside Paris.
Here’s some options on where you can go:
If you are traveling with children it makes a lot of sense to go to Disneyland after many days immersing into arts and culture. You can read our detailed trip here.
Chateau de Versailles
This incredible palace was the seat of French political power and home to French Royalty, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. You will need a day to truly appreciate Versailles and there is also a long queue to get in. Read more here.
Mont Saint Michel is a tiny little commune on an island in France and is one of the prettiest places to visit in France. It’s Abbey is famous the world over and it probably comes as no surprise that Mont Saint Michel is a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Known as the Garden of France, the Loire Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that enchants visitors with fairy-tale like castles, exquisite gardens, charming towns, and unforgettable wine. It’s no wonder it’s considered one of the best places to visit in France
Medieval City of Provins
Known for its well-preserved medieval architecture and importance throughout the Middle Ages as an economic center and a host of annual trading fairs, Provins became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001. Provins is one of the charming medieval towns in France worth visiting. It has medieval ramparts you can walk on, a Tower to climb, and many cute half-timbered houses in its historic center
Ancient, magical and medieval, the charming city of Rouen is the capital of Normandy. Travel from Paris to Rouen by train in 1 hour 14 minutes
Beyond 6 days…
Many people only spend their time in Paris when they visit France. However there is more to France then just Paris. Hence if you have more than 6 days you can spend 4 days in Paris and another 2 days to do day trip from Paris. After that you should explore other parts of France such as the Alsace region, South of France: Provence and French Riviera and many more depending what your interests are. If this is your first time to France read here so you know what to expect.