There are so many things to do in Paris, places to see and history to learn, that a short visit to the city may sound a bit overwhelming. Definitely 3 days in Paris is not enough to admire every detail of the French capital, however, it is enough to see the most important attractions.
If it is your first time in Paris, this is a list for you! This beginner’s Paris guide will help you to plan your first visit in order to see all the main tourist points. You will definitely leave the city satisfied, despite the short period of time.
I highly recommend buying the Paris City Pass, for those staying 3 days in Paris to one week, it gives you FREE access to over 60 attractions, free transportation within zones 1-3, skip the line of most of the attractions, besides loads of discounts and many advantages during your staying in the city.
History of Paris
We can say that the cradle of Paris is the Île de la Cité, as it has been inhabited since around 250 and 225 BC by the Parisii tribe, the area was then conquered by the Roman army and called Lutetia.
The town was Christianised in the 3rd century AD and conquered by the Franks and turned into a capital in 508.
Paris has since then become one of the most important cities in Europe and in the world, being an important religious and commercial center.
The city has suffered from innumerable plagues, wars, and revolutions, being the most famous, the French Revolution of 1787, that shaped the world’s political system and views.
How to get around in Paris
Paris has a great, well-connected metro system, all the must-see places to visit in Paris are very easy to get to, and they normally have a metro station nearby. If you are thinking about using the metro, you can download the metro map here.
In my opinion, though, the best way to see a city is taking the bus, as you can admire the views from the window while getting to your final destination, this is also a cheap option if you are traveling on a budget.
Now, if you want a cheap option where you will have all the comfort of being left exactly in front of every tourist point you want to visit, the best option of all, and my favorite option, is to buy the Hop on Hop off bus ticket.
It is the best option especially if you are spending a few days in Paris, as it will bring you to all the important spots, which will save you time from moving around and figuring out your way, plus it is a cheap option to get to all the tourist points in Paris.
Where to stay in Paris
For cheap options, Ibis will never disappoint. I like to go for Ibis when I’m looking for a cheap well-located hotel, but I want to make sure it will offer me good quality service.
Sometimes, especially in the capital, it is hard to find good hotels at a cheap price, so although I like to try different hotels that give me the feeling of the city, sometimes it is just impossible and in this case, Ibis is the perfect option. Ibis Paris Montmartre 18ème located just 300 meters from Moulin Rouge and 15 minutes walk from the Sacré Coeur.
If you are looking for something close to the Eiffel Tower, you will want to have a look at Hôtel Eiffel Kensington, it is a cheap option to stay close to the most famous tourist point in Paris, as it is just 8 minutes walk from the tower.
If you are looking for a room with a view of the Eiffel Tower, you should check out Résidence Charles Floquet or if you prefer the Ibis line, you can go for Mercure Paris Centre Tour Eiffel located just 2 minutes walk from the Eiffel Tower.
But if you prefer a more classy option, you can choose Shangri-La Hotel Paris, with rooms that offer the best views from the Eiffel Tower.
For more option you can check the map of the hotels in Paris:
What to do in Paris in 3 days
Notre Dame Cathedral
You can start your day by visiting the famous Notre Dame Cathedral, if you opted not the buy the hop on hop off bus, you should make your way to the metro station called St-Michel Notre Dame that brings you right in front of it. Notre Dame Cathedral is located in the Île de la Cité, which is the largest island in the Seine river.
The construction of the Cathedral started in 1163 by Pope Alexander III, but it was only completed in 1345. The entrance is free, however, do expect a long line in to get inside, but don’t worry, it is completely worth!
The interior is beautiful with some stained glass and statues decorating the cathedral, including the statue of Jeanne d’Arc, who is considered a heroine of France and was beatified here in Notre Dame by Pope Pius X in 1909, becoming a saint 11 years later.
Probably the most famous piece inside though is the altar, which is definitely one of the most beautiful altars I have ever seen and counts with the iconic statue Pieta by Nicolas Coustou.
For a small fee, it is possible to climb to the top of Notre Dame, where you have a nice view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower.
After leaving Notre Dame, you can explore the neighborhood a little bit. Along the canal, you will see the traditional Bouquinistes, selling used and antique books.
In a walk distance from Notre Dame, there is probably the most beautiful chapel in the city, known as Sainte Chapelle. Although it is famous, it is still a less tourist spot in Paris. To get inside though, you have to buy a ticket. Depending on the day, you will still need to face a long line.
The gothic chapel was built in 1246 to be the chapel of the real palace. The palace building was completely destroyed though and the Palais de Justice was built on the same site.
Time to visit the symbol of Paris. If you opt for the metro again, Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel Station takes you really close to it.
The Eiffel Tower was built in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution and to demonstrate France’s industrial prowess to the world.
It was not meant to be a permanent though and was built just for the 1889 Universal Exposition and was definitely not Parisian’s favorite landmark. However, it soon became a symbol of Paris.
A picnic in front of the tower is always a good idea during the summer, and also a common activity for Parisians, and you will see many people doing this especially on the weekends, so prepare yourself and buy some sandwiches on your way there.
Don’t miss the chance to climb the Eiffel tower, to have a panoramic view from Paris. I truly recommend booking your ticket prior though, otherwise, you will have to take a long line to buy your ticket then another long line for the elevator.
If you have the opportunity, don’t hesitate to take the Seine Cruiser. At first, it might sound like a too touristic thing. However, you will not regret it especially if you have only a few days to see the whole city, with the cruise, you will see enough.
I did the tour with Bateaux Cruise, and it was amazing! If you are able to, choose a trip during the sunset time, this way you are able to see the city in the daylight, and with the city light when you are on your way back.
Option #1 Louvre Museum
Time to explore some museums, Paris has plenty of museums, some very famous, others not that much, but in my opinion, it is the city with the biggest number of historically important and interesting masterpieces.
If you are a big fan of museums, you might be willing to visit the Louvre Museum, after all, it is the biggest museum in the world, and definitely the most iconic one.
But with a collection of over 380,000 objects, it requires time. If you have only 3 days in Paris, I don’t recommend you to visit it, especially during the summer, where the place is crowded and you need to wait for your turn to appreciate any piece of art.
Among its highlights are Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace
Option #2 Musée d’Orsay
Instead of visiting the Louvre Museum, you can pay a visit to the Musée d’Orsay, one of the most famous museums in Paris, and just a walk distance from the Louvre.
It contains paintings, sculptures and other masterpieces by important artists including Monet, Renoir, and Van Gogh. Click here to buy your skip the line ticket.
If you are visiting the Musée d’Orsay, don’t forget to take a look at the Bal du Moulin de la Galette by Renoir, Self Portrait and Starring Night, both by Van Gogh.
Jardin des Tuileries
For those who choose to visit the Musé d’Orsay, do spend some time outside the Louvre though. The buildings that now houses the biggest museum in the world, used to be a palace before, and next to it, there was another palace, known as Palais des Tuileries, whose building was unfortunately destroyed.
However, its gardens remain and can be visited and appreciated nowadays. The Jardin des Tuileries is the garden in front of the Louvre, it extends from the museum until the Place de la Concorde, out next stop.
Take your time to sit in one of the chairs in front of the small lake, while you have a snack and watch the little ducks swimming.
Place de la Concorde and the Champs Élysees
From the Jardin des Tuileries, you can follow to the Place de la Concorde, one of the main squares in Paris, where you can see the Obelisk, the Fountain des Mers and of course, the Big Wheel.
Place de la Concorde was once called Place de la Revolution, and was the main square where criminals during the Revolution were executed by the guillotine. Marie Antoinette and her husband King Luis XVI were executed here, in front of a crowd.
The Place de la Concorde indicates the beginning of the most famous avenue in Paris, Champs Élysees, considered the shopping heart of Paris, here you will find a great number of famous shops, and if you go during the Autumn or Winter, it’s where you will find the one of the best Christmas Market of Paris.
It has several attractions, including skating rink, other amusement park-style toys, and innumerable stalls selling from food, souvenirs, and cold clothes.
Arc de Triomphe
Standing at the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe was built in honor of those who lost their lives during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
To get to the Arc de Triomphe, you will have to walk the whole avenue, so get ready because it is a huge avenue and it will be a long way until you reach the Arc.
But it’s worth it because there is no Arc de Triomphe as beautiful and immense as Paris. It is also possible to climb the Arc de Triomphe, and from above, it is possible to take one of the best panoramic photos of Paris, as the Eiffel Tower will be included in your photo, this time.
Take the metro to the Montmartre area, head to the Sacre Coeur and climb its stairs. If you are smart, you can take the cable car to the church, something that I didn’t notice at first, I only found out about the cable cars when I got up there.
From there, you have an amazing view from Paris, and it is free.
The Sacre Coeur will probably be crowded, especially if you go during the summer, but the entrance is free, so no reason to give up. Bear in mind, that unfortunately, it is not allowed to take pictures inside the church.
After visiting Sacre Coeur, you can take the cable car again, (or the stairs, your choice) and go have some fun around the neighborhood. Montmartre is one of the most beautiful neighborhoods in Paris, and definitely the one with the best nightlife.
You will probably recognize many streets and scenes from paintings you saw elsewhere, as this is a very famous spot for artists, besides romantic, it is considered the Bohemian neighborhood of Paris, so everything an artist like.
As night approaches, go to the Moulin Rouge, the most famous cabaret and a must-see in Paris. It was built in 1889 and is one of the few traditional cabarets that are still working. The Moulin Rouge offers amazing performances that can be watched while you enjoy your dinner inside the cabaret.
During the night, the lights are on, which gives an absolutely new charm to the place.
If you are not tired yet, you can find a good bar in Montmartre, to enjoy the rest of the night in the best Parisian style. Or you can just run straight to your hotel to hit the bed.
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