There are two types of travelers in Paris. The first is the sight-seeing addict that wakes up at 8 a.m. with an itinerary for the day down to the hour. The second is someone that would rather spend a weekend in Paris moving at a leisurely pace, combining some sight-seeing while absorbing the essence of Parisian life.
If you identify as the latter, this 3-day Paris itinerary is definitely for you. The energy within the city of lights usually gives people a knee-jerk reaction: people either love it or hate it. Sure, the city isn’t for everyone, but a well-crafted itinerary can make a world’s difference.
I created this 3-day itinerary to give you a combination of a little sight-seeing, and a little R&R along the Seine. Here’s how to spend a 3-day weekend in Paris exploring the best elements the city has to offer.
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Go for a cruise on the Seine
The Seine River flows through the heart of Paris as the lifeblood of the city. As the second largest river in France, it also connects the capital city along a path of almost 500 miles, ending in the English Channel. It’s no surprise why the River is considered to be one of the “great historic rivers” of Europe.
Naturally, a river cruise along the Seine is an epic and practical start to a weekend in Paris. If you arrive in Paris on Friday afternoon, you can book a cruise during the day or at sunset. Otherwise, you can also book a romantic cruise here in the evening and bask in the city of lights at nighttime.
The great thing about a river cruise is that you can still see popular sites like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame under reconstruction while avoiding the masses. Most cruises are under two hours and depart from the ferry station across from the Eiffel Tower. Many of these cruises sell out, so I would recommend booking in advance.
Have a Picnic by the Eiffel Tower
If you’re ambitious, you could climb the Eiffel Tower and take in the epic view from up top. Otherwise, you can skip the lines and take in the view from below. Pack a picnic in true Parisenne style with a bottle of wine, a baguette, and some brie cheese.
The best views of the Eiffel Tower for a picnic are at Champ de Mars and Trocadero Jardins. These are both on opposite sides of the Tower and the Seine. While it does get pretty crowded here during the summer, you can still find a romantic, quite spot somewhere within either park.
End your first night in Paris on a magical note by watching the Iron Lady sparkle in the night sky. The evening with seeing the Eiffel Tower sparkle in the night sky. After sunset, the tower will twinkle for a 5 minute light show on every hour. This goes until 1 a.m. and is definitely worth seeing!
La Vie Bohemia! Start Saturday by heading to the 18th arrondissement to explore the most iconic neighborhood in Paris. As birthplace of bohemia in Paris, Montmarte captures the old-world charm of a French village. You may recognize the neighborhood from the popular Amelie film, and of course, the Moulin Rouge!
The district is North of the city center, so the easiest way to get here is by metro. Depending on where you are, you may have to take a bus and then transfer to take the metro. You’ll want to look for either the blue line 2 or the green line 12, and get off at either the Blanche, Pigalle, or Abbesses stop. Plan on about 35-40 minutes of a commute.
Explore the Je t’aime Wall and Moulin Rouge
Right off the Blanche metro stop the Moulin Rouge will greet you into Montmarte. Extravagant champagne-popping dance parties in the late 1800s gave birth to the French Cancan. Today it is the most popular cabaret venue in the world, with two shows a day everyday of the year.
I have to admit that seeing the Moulin Rouge from the outside was slightly anti-climatic. I would recommend seeing a show here if you’d like to truly experience what it’s like. The theatre inside is half the magic, and where you can see the original can-can show.
The Eiffel Tower is not the only symbol of love in Paris. Less than a 10 minute walk from here you will find the adorable “Je t’aime. This wall displays “I love you” in every language from around the world.
Check out the painters in Place du Tertre
The legends of Van Gogh, Monet, and Renoir, once called this district home. If you want to learn about the history of art in this district, you can head to Musee Montmarte and take a peak at what the artist studios looked like over the past two centuries.
Today this artistic energy still heavily influences the bohemian district. At the heart of Montmarte you’ll find Place du Terte, a cobblestoned plaza packed with artists painting and mingling with one another. If you’re looking to pick up a unique piece of art in Paris, this would be a great place to support local artists.
Otherwise, strolling through here is great for people watching. There are several quaint cafes along the Place du Terte, so I recommend sitting for a coffee and soaking it all in.
Checkout the panoramic view and quaint cafes
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The most popular monument in Montmarte is the Sacre-Coeur Bascillica. The Roman- Byzantine interior features the largest mosaic work in all of France. As many people solely travel to Montmarte to see this Church, it does get crowded here. If you’re interested in the history you can go inside, otherwise seeing it from outside is still pretty spectacular.
The Sacre-Coeur sits atop the highest hill in Montmarte overlooking all of Paris. Some people lock up there love here or relax along the steps and take in the view. It’s definitely one of the best free panoramic views you’ll find in Paris.
Not far from here you also have many of the popular cafes, such as La Maison (pink house above) and Le Consulant. If you wanted to spend a little bit more time experiencing the quainter side of the city, I would definitely recommend booking one of the guided walking tours below to dive into the neighborhood’s rich history.
Shop around the Galeries Lafayette
After exploring Montmarte in the morning, I recommend slowly making your way back into central Paris. First stop on the list is the most extravagant department store in the city. From Montmarte you’ll jump on the green line 12 at the Abbesses station and get off at Trinite.
Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann street may look more like a church than a department store. There are several entrances to get in, but walk through the accessories section you’ll find yourself looking up at the view above while walking through the cosmetic section. I definitely recommend checking out the sneaker brand, Veja sold here, a sustainable shoe brand that all the cool French kids wear.
To take a little breather, head up to the top floor of the department store to checkout the rooftop terrace. Grab a drink and something to eat and take in all the views. Sante!
Explore the Domaine National du Palais
From Galeries Lafayette you’ll walk about 15 minutes South and find the most iconic columns in Paris. Located right across from the Louvre, the Domaine National du Palais-Royal is like having a mini Versaille in the heart of the city. The royal palace was built in the 17th century and is known for its striped columns in the courtyard.
The gardens of the Palace are equally impressive and great for some shade on a hot day. There are several water fountains, rose gardens, and green walkways to explore. The best part about the palace and gardens is that it is completely free!
See the Iconic Louvre Museum
You can’t go to Paris without at least seeing the Louvre, right? I have to admit although the Louvre was never at the top of my list in Paris, it is really impressive in person. The glass prism in contrast with the ornate building is probably why this is the most famous museum in the world.
Many people don’t know this, but the building was actually used in the 11th century as a fortress, and then reconstructed to be a palace in the 16th century. The works of many monarchs to turn the Louvre into a public museum started in the 18th century.
Today the Museum is known for its wide collection of European art. You can find the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, treasures from French royalty, and Egyptian antiques.
If you do decide to go inside the Louvre, do know that it closes at 6 p.m. on Saturdays. If you’d like to make sure you have a lot of time here, I’d go here first and then visit the Palais Royal afterwards.
You can end the day by walking across the famous Pont des Art Bridge and having dinner and drinks anywhere within the 7th District.
Get Lost in Shakespeare and Company
A weekend in Paris is not complete without heading over to the Ile Saint Louis, the island on the Seine River. This District is known as the Latin Quarter of Paris, and is definitely one of my favorite areas to stay in the city.
Much like Montmarte, this quarter is heavily influenced by artists and creatives throughout the centuries. At the core of this movement was Shakespeare and Company. This bookshop has been a popular meeting point for writers and poets since opening in the 1950s.
The founder George Whitman referred to his shop as “socialist utopia masquerading as a bookstore.” Known as “tumbleweeds”, the shop has provided an estimated 30,000 young creatives free housing since it opened. In exchange writers had to help with the shop a few hours a day and read a book a day.
Today the shop is still a meeting point for members in the community with writing workshops, tea parties, and publishing opportunities.
Have brunch near the Notre Dame
Strolling through the Ile Saint Louis you’ll likely stumble upon the Notre Dame, which is now under construction. Currently you cannot go inside the building since the fire, but you can at least go and pay your respects.
After this I recommend going to Le Loulou, an adorable cafe that is perfect for brunch while in the 7th arrondissement. The cafe is a fusion of Australian brunch with a French twist, and all the charm of a Parisian street cafe.
They have incredible smoothies, homemade green juices, avocado toasts, pancakes, and a killer club sandwich. The best part that I loved about this place is that it has plenty of gluten free and vegan options PLUS menu items are sustainably sourced!
Visit the Mosque de Paris
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Tucked further East into the 7th District, this is without a doubt one of the most underrated attractions in the city. The Paris Mosque is a tranquil oasis away from the bustling city life with Hispano-Moresque design surrounded by lush gardens. The tile work and the prayer room is particularly amazing, like a little slice of Morocco right in the center of Paris.
Although the main site is the mosque, this place functions more as a community gathering place. The site also has a library, hammam, restaurant, tearoom, and shop. We almost left forgetting to see the library, and the woman that worked there was so excited to show it to us.
When we were here there was a watercolor painting class being taught by a nun in the gardens, which was seriously the most heartwarming thing I saw during my weekend in Paris. I could spent hours looking at the details of these tiles throughout the site! For only about 3 euros, it’s definitely worth the 15 minute walk from the Latin Quarter area.
Visit the Luxeumbourg Gardens
To end the afternoon I recommend making your way over into the 6th arrondissement to visit the picturesque Luxembourg Gardens. About a 15 minute walk from the Paris Mosque, these gardens house yet another Parisian palace from the 16th century.
As one of the biggest parks in central Paris, it’s filled with a variety of activities. You’ll see old men playing chest and smoking cigars, kids playing with boats in the water, and couples relaxing in the rose garden. There are a few places to relax at a cafe here, or ideally you could end your weekend in Paris with another picnic in the park!
Other Secret Paris Attractions
If you find yourself with a little more time to kill in the city, there are a variety of secret Paris attractions and alternative things to do around town. Many of these you can explore on your own, while others it may be best to book a guided tour.
Catacombs of Paris
Recently the Catacombs of Paris have more become popular for tourists to explore. And yet many people walking the street of Paris have no idea they are walking above a graveyard of skulls and bones *shivers*.
Underneath Paris are a series of quarries that were left empty up until the 18th century. Overcrowded cemeteries throughout the city lead for Paris to think of another solution for where to lay the dead. At first many of these bones were just thrown in the quarries with really no care. Then there was a movement to thoughtfully organize the bones and skulls in a visually pleasing way.
The Catacombs eventually opened to the public, and are now open for tourists to visit. There are even reports of locals sneaking into the Catacombs and throwing raves. Although many think the site is morbid, the Catacombs bring a new light to the circle of life.
L’Atelier Des Lumineres Light Show Museum
I have to admit that I am not much of a museum person. However, this was without a doubt one of the best museums I’ve ever been to. L’Atelier Des Lumieres essentially means “light show” in French, and it is one of the newest museums in the city hidden within the the 11th arrondissement of Paris.
By combining prominent art of the past with technology of the future, this place is more than a museum. It’s a fully immersive visual and sound experience. Currently the museum displays a light show of Van Gogh and Japanese art. Van Gogh displays all of his famous works for 30 minutes with music and some animation.
The Japanese art exhibit combines floating lanterns with cherry blossoms, colorful fan paintings, and forests that take you into a completely different virtual reality.
The museum is open everyday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can book tickets online, and each show lasts about 30 minutes. You can get here by metro by taking the 9,3 or 2 metro line.
Louis Vuitton Foundation
Another newer art exhibit in Paris is the Louis Vuitton Foundation tucked away in the green spaces of Neuilly Sur Seine. The futuristic and colorful building is an example of contemporary architecture in Paris.
On the inside the exhibit is an arts and cultural center with a rooftop terrace. You’ll find modern and contemporary arts, as well as concerts and various workshops. Check out their Instagram to keep up to date with their newest exhibitions!
French Cooking Class
What’s the biggest secret Paris attraction? Well it may not be an attraction at all, but the ingredients within the world-famous cuisine have been a mystery for centuries. Take a cooking class and learn from the experts the secrets to cooking like a true Parisian.
Many of these traditions have been passed down for centuries, so it is a great way to interact with locals. Parisians take pride in themselves and their cuisine, and one of the best ways to experience this is to learn from the best themselves.