3 Days In Paris: All The Tricks You Need To Avoid Madness
So you want to spend 3 days in Paris.
You’ve heard such amazing things about the city of love. You’ve watched every movie ever shot in the French capital. You’re Mona Lisa’s biggest fan.
You have even planned your trip there. And you have about three days in Paris to see everything.
Now there’s the problem with your plan right there. You see, you simply can’t visit every place in Paris in three days. It’s just not possible. Even if you fly from one attraction to the next and there are no lines, you still won’t make it. Guaranteed.
It is pure madness trying to visit every museum, every gallery, walk in every cathedral, climb every tower, stroll along every famous boulevard, take a picture on every square you’ve read about, admire each palace, cross every bridge…
So let’s get realistic. What can you visit in 3 days in Paris and still avoid madness?
Have A Plan And Know Your Interests Before You Come To Paris
The biggest mistake people make when coming to Paris for a couple of days (apart from trying to visit every place they’ve ever heard of), is wanting to see what everyone else visits.
The first big problem with the above – it creates huge waiting lines. The second problem – it can’t be true, no freaking way, that everyone is a museum lover or a great appreciator of Renaissance art, or can understand military battle plans.
So why follow the herd and go where everyone else goes then? Read a couple of posts and guide books, figure out what exactly each of the famous museums and galleries display and only visit places which match your interests. There are 130 museums in Paris, and I’m sure there are no more than three, which you’ll want to visit.
You don’t have to go to the Louvre only because it’s the most famous gallery in the world! You can totally skip the huge lines there and miss seeing the Mona Lisa. Big deal someone back home will be surprised you skipped it. You didn’t go to Paris for three days to impress them, you went to have fun and do what you like, didn’t you?
So with that cleared and out of the way, I’m giving you a list of the most famous Paris attractions and a few tips about each one. Again, don’t even think of visiting them all during your 3 days in Paris! Make your own Paris itinerary without feeling guilty what others might think.
The Louvre: The Museum Everyone Wants To Visit But Few Know Why
Since we already mentioned it, let’s start with the world’s most famous gallery and largest museum.
The first thing you need to know about the Louvre: it’s freaking huge! So if you truly want to see every piece displayed inside, your 3 days in Paris won’t even be enough to visit just this one museum.
Still, if you find yourself in the area, and I’m sure you’ll pass by it eventually, spend a few minutes to admire the beautiful former royal palace. The magnificent building is a museum since 1682 and a great place to shoot a few photos.
So now that you have an idea how huge it is, and you’ve also noticed the long line in front of the most famous central entrance – the pyramid – if you still want to go inside, here’s a tip for you. The Louvre has other entrances as well and they’re not as obvious as the pyramid.
Instead of staying in line for a very long time, go to Galerie du Carrousel or Passage Richelieu entrance. Once inside, buy your ticket from the machines, grab a map and enter the museum.
As you probably know, Leonardo’s Mona Lisa is on display in the Louvre and it’s the most visited piece on display here. Do you want to know the sad truth, though?
Mona Lisa is tiny! It’s 77 cm x 53 cm big, locked behind a bulletproof glass, and you can’t get nearer than 3 m away from it. For me, this painting is the biggest tourist trap on earth!
Huge crowds get in line to see it and photograph it, but the glass reflects the flashes and the artificial light in the room, and pictures turn out blurry. You can’t get close enough to really see the painting, you get pushed from every side and it’s an overall very disappointing experience.
If you still happen to visit the hall with Mona Lisa, don’t do what every other tourist does. Just turn your back to her and instead spend some time admiring the huge painting at the opposite wall.
Since you’ve now seen the one (or skipped it!), go get lost in the labyrinth of hallways of the Louvre! Just remember, you only have 3 days in Paris, don’t get too lost and spend them all in one place ;-)
Time needed: to visit the Louvre, you’ll need at least two hours. Plan another hour for photos of the palace buildings and surroundings.
Champs-Élysées From Tuileries Garden To Arc de Triomphe: The Most Famous Boulevard In The World
From the Louvre go under the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and enter the Tuileries Garden. Stroll along the alleys, sit on a bench and do some people watching or plan your next stop.
Exit the park at Place de la Concorde or visit The Orangery Museum.
Place de la Concorde is one of the most magnificent squares you’ll ever see. The Egyptian obelisk and the perfect symmetry of the huge fountains make for an excellent photo op. The only problem is every other tourist in Paris will also want a photo here.
After you’re done modelling at Place de la Concorde, head to the most famous boulevard in the world, Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The construction of the 70 m wide, 6 lane boulevard was started by Louis XIV and has hosted tons of marathons and military parades since then.
Before diving into the shops, you’ll pass by Petit Palais and Grand Palais. The Petit Palais hosts the Museum of Fine Arts. Just a minute off Champs-Élysées is the Élysée Palace, the 18th-century mansion of the French president.
Make sure you don’t make too many stops and keep your eyes on the main goal at the end of the 2 km long boulevard – the Arc de Triomphe.
If you haven’t strayed too much away from Champs-Élysées, you’ll reach its culmination, the Arc de Triomphe, in about an hour. If you’d followed every beautiful building and photographed everything that caught your eyes, your 3 days in Paris wouldn’t be enough to reach the Arc.
Once you’ve crossed the roundabout – please use the tunnel and don’t try to walk through six lanes of crazy Parisian drivers, you’ll emerge at the eternal fire. Depending on the season and time of day, the tunnel might be so crowded, that you’d barely move. So plan double the time you thought you’d need for this site.
Every inch of the Arc is richly decorated. You can see funerals and battle scenes, allegorical figures, roses, the names of several great battles and victories, and the names of army leaders engraved. Each side is worth photographing, so you’ll probably need an hour to do all the shots you want here. And that’s if you choose not to climb to the top. At least another hour will be needed if you decide to see Champs-Élysées from the top of Arc de Triomphe.
Reaching the top of the Arc would reveal an amazing view, but it’s up to you to choose if you’ll pay the ticket and spend your time here or move on to the next attraction. You only have about 3 days in Paris, remember? Unfortunately, you can’t have it all!
Time needed: to walk from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe without any stops, you’ll need at least two hours. Plan another two to three hours for photos along the way and at the Arc. An additional hour is needed if you want photos of Paris from atop the Arc de Triomphe.
Eiffel Tower: The Best View Of Paris From Above During Day And Night
Despite what you might think of the Eiffel Tower, whether you’re a fan or not of the iron construction, the view from its top is something you shouldn’t miss. No matter if you only have a few hours or 3 days in Paris, find the time to climb the Eiffel Tower.
Here’s my tip for you: buy your ticket online and skip the line in front of the counters. This way, it’ll only take you about 15 min to reach the top of the Eiffel Tower! You’ll need great planning skills for this, though, because the ticket has an entry time which can’t be switched.
What a day in Paris, eh? Head back to your hotel for a well-deserved rest but not before you spend some time in Champ de Mars at the foot of the 324 m high Eiffel Tower. If weather permits it, take a seat on the grass and watch the light show.
Time needed: if you’ve booked your ticket online, calculate around 2 hours for the Eiffel Tower and the views of Paris from above. Another hour for photos of the tower itself and Champ de Mars, probably two if you picnic on the green areas.
Relaxed yet? Then it’s time for your day two in Paris!
Montmartre Hill: Churches, Artists And Another Great View Of Paris
We’ll only have two stops on this day. But rest assured, you’ll have a ton of things to explore and enough ground to cover.
First, find your way to Montmartre hill. Lots of climbing will be involved here, but hey – the best views are from above, right?
Once you reach the landmark white basilica Sacré-Coeur on the hilltop, you’ll know what I mean. The view of Paris at the foot of the hill is breathtaking!
Of course, the artists’ neighbourhood is livelier in the afternoon and evening, but the crowds will be pushing you from every side and will not leave a picture without unfamiliar faces in it.
Take your time, walk up and down the narrow lanes and staircases, enjoy the atmosphere, sit at the cute little cafés and take it all in.
- Visit Le Musée de Montmartre, if you’re a history lover. It’s hosted in a 17th-century house with a beautiful garden where Renoir used to work.
- Check out the paintings at Place du Tertre or even buy one as a souvenir. Or have a cup of coffee at one of the tables, lining the cobblestone paved square.
- Walk into Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, Paris’ oldest church, dating back to 12th
- Read I love you! in multiple languages at the wall of Le mur des je t’aime mural in a tiny cute neighbourhood park.
- Make one the most cliché photos of the mill above the entrance of Moulin Rouge.
- Meet eternity at the Montmartre Cemetery, where famous artists and writers are buried.
Once you’ve had your share of art and eternity, move on to the next stop. Take the Metropolitan and get off near the riverside. In fact, each time you get tired of walking during your 3 days in Paris, it’s a good idea to take the subway, even if it’s for one stop only.
Time needed: depending on the number of stops and coffee breaks you make, somewhere between two and four hours.
Seine Boat Tour: The Famous Buildings At The River Banks From A Different Angle
Since climbing the cobblestone streets of Montmartre has tired you enough, rest your feet while taking a boat tour of the Seine.
There’s a large variety of boats and tour themes you can choose from, so pick the one closest to your interests. The views will be all the same, but the atmosphere and the service on the boat will differ.
Some of the buildings you might have already seen on your previous day in Paris, but now you’ll watch them pass by from another angle.
You’ll see (again)
- The Louvre
- The Eiffel Tower
- The Notre-Dame cathedral
- The Statue of Liberty
- The Paris Museum of Modern Art
- The smallest building in Paris
… and you’ll pass under the beautiful Parisian bridges
- Pont Alexandre III
- Pont des Arts (the bridge, where lovers hang their padlocks)
- Pont Neuf
In case you’re ready for a night out now, you can head to one of the cabaret shows in Paris and enjoy a drink while beautiful ladies dance half-naked only a few steps away from you.
Time needed: depending on the kind of tour you choose, from one to several hours. The cabaret shows without dinner are around two hours long.
Notre-Dame de Paris: The Beauty Which Inspires Poets
Day 3 in Paris can start with a visit to the most famous cathedral in whole France.
Situated on Île de la Cité island in the middle of the river Seine, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame rises 90 m above Paris since the 13th century. You can easily reach it via subway or walk across the river via one of the beautiful bridges.
The iconic Gothic building hosts naturalistic sculptures and incredible stained glass windows. The ten bells and the organs produce beautiful music inside and outside of the cathedral.
Take the tour to the top of the tower for another set of magnificent views of Paris from above. Don’t miss to make a few close-up shots of the famous gargoyles and other marvelous statues, decorating the façade.
The island also hosts the cathedral’s crypt as well as the gothic chapel Sainte Chapelle and the Palace of Justice.
Time needed: plan at least two hours out of your 3 days in Paris for the small island and its gems.
The Latin Quarter: The Bohemian Heart Of Paris
Leaving Île de la Cité island behind via Pont Saint-Michel bridge, for example, you’ll find yourself in the Latin Quarter. A few steps away from the bridge is the stone Fontaine Saint-Michel, portraying the saint while slaying a dragon.
Next, walk by the impressive building of the Paris-Sorbonne University and swirl towards the Pantheon to visit the graves of France’s most famous minds.
For some fresh air and beautiful greenery, don’t miss the Luxembourg Gardens with Luxembourg Palace at one end and the border with Montparnasse at the opposite side. Watch the children play with their toy boats in the pond and walk the alleys while reaching your next stop.
Time needed: depending on your pace, the number of swirls you take and the number of photos you make, plan to spend at least two hours on the streets of the Latin Quarter.
Montparnasse: The Many Faces Of Death
Montparnasse is the home of the Paris Catacombs, Montparnasse Cemetery, and Montparnasse Tower, among other sights.
The Catacombs of Paris consist of a labyrinth of tunnels, where millions of skeletons have found their last resort in a former limestone mine. They’re illuminated and arranged for the scariest effect possible.
Montparnasse Cemetery is the next place where you can meet death. The cemetery park is beautifully maintained and a visit will provide a nice walk between the tombs and gravestones. Don’t miss to feel eternity here, especially if you’ve skipped the Montmartre Cemetery on your previous day in Paris.
If you haven’t seen enough of Paris from above, go to the roof terrace of Montparnasse Tower next. The observation deck at the 56th floor of this 210 m high skyscraper will provide another angle of the beautiful Parisian sites you’ve visited during your 3 days in Paris.
Time needed: the Catacombs are well visited and queueing sometimes takes longer than the tour itself. For the tour, plan about 2 hours, if you’re not claustrophobic or afraid of the dark. For the rest of the Montparnasse sites, you’ll need between two and three hours altogether.
The Army Museum or Rodin Museum: One Last Museum Visit
Last but not least of the most famous museums of Paris is The Army Museum. It hosts Napoleon’s magnificent marble tomb, as well as multiple collections of weapons, uniforms and battlefield miniatures.
Alternatively, if you’re not into war history and military equipment, visit the next door Rodin Museum. You can admire his masterpiece The Thinker in a mansion from the 18th century and a beautiful park with more sculptures on display.
Time needed: don’t visit the museums, unless you have at least two hours to spend. Otherwise, it’s simply not worth paying the ticket price.
A List Of Other Amazing Attractions In Paris For Your Next Visit
Unfortunately, your 3 days in Paris are full now. But don’t worry, once you’ve visited, you’ll want to come back and you’ll find a way to do it, I’m sure of it.
So instead of wondering what to see next time, here’s a list, waiting for you to explore:
- Musée Grévin hosts wax figures of people from the French history and contemporary celebrities.
- Metiers Art Museum, despite the name, is a technology museum. The building is a converted church, which hosts scientific, industrial and technological artworks and artifacts, including the original Foucault’s pendulum.
- Place de la Bastille is the former site of the Bastille prison. The July Column rises above the iconic square, which is lined with bars and cafés.
- Les Pavillons de Bercy host Musée des Arts Forains, which showcases a collection of objects from theaters and music halls.
- Bois de Boulogne, the former royal hunting grounds, is currently a huge public park. You can spend hours walking the nature trails and picnicking at the lakes. And if that becomes too boring for you, visit the botanical gardens.
- Le Palais Royal is a 17th -century palace with lovely gardens and arcades of shops.
- Père Lachaise Cemetery is the home of Jim Morrison’s tomb on one end and the tomb of Oscar Wilde in the opposite direction. Behind metal railings to stop visitors to actually go to the graves, of course.
- Palace of Versailles lies about an hour away from Paris and is reachable by public transportation. You’ll need at least half a day to see every room and hall of the 18th-century palace and walk every alley in its huge gardens. Best time to visit is early in the morning before the tour groups arrive. No matter how early you’re there, though, you’ll still share the halls with a crowd.
- There are, of course, also less touristy things to do in Paris than the above.
Perhaps you’re crazy enough to include one or even more of these stops in your current 3 days itinerary in Paris? Who knows!
Congratulations, You’ve Survived 3 Days In Paris Without Going Mad!
So why only 3 days in Paris when there’s so much more to see?
Because if you spend more time, you’ll start seeing the imperfections of the big city.
For example, the streets are washed every morning, but every evening they’re again filthy and covered in trash and vomit. A lot of homeless people sleep in doorways and metro stations. A lot of weirdos ride the metro trains. And the city of love is overcrowded even in off-season months like November or March.
But more important, your feet will hurt like hell from all the walking, and your head will spin like a Ferris wheel from all the glorious sights and emotions if you try to stay for more than three days in Paris.
So why do this to yourself? You can always return and there’s enough to see on a second and a third visit as well!
P.S. Have you been in the French capital? Did you spend 3 days in Paris or more? Share your best tip in the comments!