A guide for first time visitors
Paris has two main international airports with many flight options. Charles de Gaulle (CDG) Airport is Paris’ main international airport serving most flights, located about 30 km from the city center.
Orly (ORY) is the other international airport, but is smaller and only about 18 km from the city center. Both are well connected to the center of the city.
If traveling from within Europe, arriving by train may be an option, and has an additional advantage of bringing you to the center of the city. The Eurostar has frequent trains running between London, Amsterdam, Brussels, and Rotterdam to reach Paris arriving at the Gare du Nord station in Paris.
Paris is very large and is broken up into 20 arrondissements. Each area has it’s own vibe and there are perks to picking different areas. Unlike other large European cities, Paris tourist stops are very concentrated in the center of the city. This provides you with more flexibility on areas to stay as it will be easy to travel between key areas.
For proximity to tourist attractions
Very centrally located, this high-end area provides a luxurious stay in Paris while highly accessible to all the city has to offer
For location and local feels
6th Arrondissement – Saint Germain
Not only does this area make it easy to get to key tourist stops including the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Musee d’Orsay, it also is full of cute cafes, wine bars, and restaurants.
For a local feel
3rd / 4th Arrondissement – Le Marais
This neighborhood is east of many of the main tourist sites in Paris. It is an excellent place to stay for non-first time visitors or folks who are willing to stay a bit further from the central touristy destinations to get a more local neighborhood feeling. There are many boutiques, cocktail bars, cafes, and boulangeries in the area which makes meandering through the streets all that much more fun.
For Parisian terraces
18th Arrondissement – Montmartre
The highest point in Paris is at the top of the hill where Sacre Coeur sits. This whole area is called Montmartre and has cute streets dotted with French cafes and nice terraces, boulangeries, patisseries, restaurants, wine bars and shops to explore. It is a great area to wander around and explore when visiting Paris and an area to consider staying in if you do not feel a need to be right near all the tourist sites. It is a great place to stay for non-first time visitors, as it is a fun area to wander around and decide to grab a coffee or drink at one of the many French cafes.
A few hotel options
Cute hotel very close to the Arc de Triomphe and Eiffel Tower. Note there are not a lot of restaurants and cafes in the immediate area, but great access to key sights.
Cute hotel in Le Marais with modern rooms and nice location for shopping, cafes, wine bars and restaurants. The rooms are quite small though.
Boutique and nice hotel close to Montmartre in a very central location
Since many of Paris’ tourist attractions are within close proximity to each other, you will be able to get around with a mix of walking, taking the metro, and grabbing a taxi when convenient.
The metro system in Paris is very easy to navigate. There are different types of passes to purchase depending on how often you plan to use the Metro. I would recommend purchasing the 10 ride pass if you plan to use it a lot so you do not need to buy a ticket each time you use the metro.
As the city is quite large, leveraging the metro can help save travel time and make it easy to see more of the city in a short time period.
Use Google Maps or download CityMapper to help plan out the most efficient way to reach your destination from your location.
Paris Tourist Stops
As the most recognizable landmark for Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a must see. It was originally built for the World’s Fair in 1889 and was supposed to be taken down, but still stands tall today in Parc du Champs de Mars.
To visit the Eiffel Tower, it is important to know that there are three different levels. The first level is one most people do not typically stop at when visiting, the second level provides a good view point, and the third level is the summit. You can buy different types of tickets providing access to different levels.
Book tickets in advance on their website
Tickets are available 60 days in advance and may sell out
Sitting at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe is a beautiful arch which can be admired from the ground or visitors can climb to the top. To climb to the top, you must go underground to buy tickets; you are then brought back up to street level at the center of the roundabout. There are just under 300 steps to get to the top and it has a nice view. You can enjoy the view during the day or at night. Be sure to catch the Eiffel Tower sparkling for 5 minutes on the hour after sunset if you visit at night.
Famous and large, high-end shopping street that leads up to Arc de Triomphe.
Beautiful Catholic cathedral in the 4th arrondissement. Unfortunately, in April 2019, the cathedral caught fire and a lot of the church burned and is now under restoration.
This city park is found between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.
Beautiful park in Paris located in the 6th arrondissement
Famous art museum in Paris, not far from the Louvre, with famous pieces by Monet among others
Known for being a beautiful bridge, the bridge connects Grand Palais and Hotel des Invalides
A few day-trips from Paris
A day-trip to Versailles is common from Paris, where visitors admire the interior and exterior of the palace, the rooms inside (especially the Hall of Mirrors), and the beautiful and extensive gardens. Note that the gardens are free some days, while you have to pay other days (pay on days where there is a fountain and music show).
Getting there: Take the RER C to Versailles stop (last stop). Then walk about 10 minutes to reach Versailles.
This region of France is known for its chateaux and wines. To make this an easy day-trip from Paris, book a guided tour to see a few castles in the Loire Valley region. Consider looking for a tour which also includes wine tasting from the region.
The city of Reims is the capital of the Champagne region in France. The surrounding area is the only place in the world where Champagne is made. In any other region, the beverage produced would be called sparkling wine. Epernay is a small town famous for hosting numerous Champagne company cellars.
Consider an organized day trip from Paris to visit the town of Reims and Champagne cellars.
Snapshot itinerary for 4 days in Paris
Arrival and check-in to hotel
Long walk in Central Paris to see key tourist sights including:
Dinner at L’entrecote
Grab a croissant and coffee at a local boulangerie
Stop by Chez Nous for a glass of wine in Saint Germain
Dinner at Le Petit Lutetia
Catch the train to Versailles
Head back to central Paris after finishing your time at Versailles
Explore Le Marais visiting Marche des Enfants Rouges
Drinks and dinner in Le Marais
Note – if Versailles is not of interest, consider one of the other suggested day trips above to Loire Valley or Reims
Finish up your time in Paris and head to your next destination
Detailed Itinerary for 4 days in Paris
Day 1 | Morning
Arrive in Paris and head to your accommodations. Since you are coming from the United States, you are likely arriving early in the morning and your accommodations may not be ready. For this reason, a hotel might be preferred over airbnb so you are able to drop your belongings off and explore until your room is available.
Day 1 | Afternoon
Make the most of your first day in Paris and get your bearings. Start by heading to the Arc de Triomphe. If you are up for it, purchase tickets to climb to the top. This provides you with a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower and the area around the Arc de Triomphe. Look down Champs Ellysees, as you will soon be walking down the famous street, and generally admire the view around to see what other key Paris landmarks you can spot.
Climb down the tower and head towards Champs Ellysees. Walk along the street towards Place de la Concorde, which is one of the major public squares in Paris. Once you’ve reached the square, begin walking through Jardin de Tuileries. If you are up for a snack, consider veering left outside the park and stopping at Angelina’s which is famous for its hot chocolate and macaroons. Then continue through the park until you reach the Louvre where you can take photos with the well-known pyramids.
At this point, you can either head back to your accommodations to check-in or find a spot for an afternoon drink. Located near the Louvre, O Chateau is a nice wine bar for an afternoon drink and snack.
Day 1 | Evening
In Paris, most restaurants do not open before 7:00 or even 7:30 pm. When at dinner, you will notice the restaurants are not very full until 8:00/8:30 pm. Since dining later is common, you can consider planning drinks before dinner.
Plan to try L’entrecote which does not take reservations and is a very simple meal of steak and frites.
Day 2 | Morning
This morning, start by finding a cute French bakery (boulangerie) for a croissant and a cup of coffee
A few of my favorites include: Maison Landemaine (Le Marais), Du Pain et des Idees (Le Marais), Le Grenier a Pain Abbessess (Montmartre), and Ten Belles
Once you’re satisfied with your French breakfast, head towards the Eiffel Tower. With your pre-booked tickets, head to the top of the Eiffel Tower to get a spectacular view over Paris. After you’ve finished up at the Eiffel Tower, walk along the south side of the Seine river. Pass by Pont Alexandre III (beautiful bridge) and continue until you reach Musee d’Orsay, which sits across the river from The Louvre.
Day 2 | Afternoon
The afternoon is available for visiting museums. For first time visitors, the Louvre is typically the museum to visit in order to see the Mona Lisa among other famous art pieces. Musee d’Orsay is another nice option as it has many Monet paintings on display. You can even consider visiting both museums if you desire.
For those who are done with museums by mid afternoon, head towards Cafe de Flore to grab a bite to eat before continuing to Paris’ mini island where you can see the famous Notre Dame cathedral.
Day 2 | Evening
Day 3 | Morning & Early Afternoon
Today you will head outside of Paris to visit the famous Palace of Versailles. Buy tickets to explore the palace as well as the surrounding gardens. Allow for a good portion of the day to be spent visiting Versailles.
Day 3 | Late Afternoon & Evening
Upon returning to Paris, spend the late afternoon and evening in a different neighborhood. Le Marais is a nice area to wander the small side streets, as it is filled with boutique shops, cute French cafes, wine bars, cocktail bars, local French bakeries and restaurants. Plan to explore the area and find somewhere nice for a drink before dinner. Visit Marche des Enfants Rouges if searching for an afternoon snack.
A few places for drinks include:
Moonshiner – speakeasy found in the back of a pizza shop
Dinner options in the area:
Day 4 | Morning
This morning is your last morning in Paris. Head up to Montmartre to explore the northern neighborhood. Grab a croissant and coffee from Le Grenier a Pain Abbesses. Then make a stop at Pain Pain for a baguette, which won the best baguette in France in 2012! This bakery also has many other dessert options available.
Head up to the base of the Cathedral to visit Sacre Coeur, admiring the view of the church and all around Paris. If you like, you can go inside the church and even climb to the top. Once finished visiting the church, walk a few blocks over to see Place du Tertre which is a small square where many artists set up for the day to paint and sell their pieces.
If time allows, grab lunch or a drink at Le Bimbo or Le Progres.
Finally, pick-up some final macarons at Christophe Roussel
Day 4 | Afternoon
Check out of your accommodations and head on your way to the airport or train station as this concludes your 3 day visit to Paris.
Found in Le Marais, this is a great French bistrot. The hosts are friendly and the menu is very French. You will be able to strike up a conversation with the table next to as the tables are so close together here. The tuna dish here is fantastic, but many of the options you cannot go wrong with ordering.
Call to make reservations
Also part of the same group of restaurants as Chez Janou and Le Petit Marche, now you have an Italian option if you want a change from French. This little restaurant has a variety of pasta options and will help fill your Italian craving. The staff are very kind and it is a lovely place to grab dinner in France.
Call to make reservations
Very typical French restaurant with different locations. There are no menus, no reservations, and often lines outside. You are first served a small salad. Then you receive some steak with a sauce and skinny fries, and then the waitress comes around again and gives you more of both. There is a menu for dessert, but that is it!
No reservations – get in the queue!
This cute corner restaurant is also in Le Marais and owned by the same folks who oversee Le Petit Marche. Try to book this in advance as quite often it will be full for dinner. They are famous for their chocolate mousse.
Call to make reservations
Located in the 6th arrondissement, this is a traditional French bistro. The tables are all close together, and the menu offers a variety of French dishes including foie gras, escargot, steak and frites, among many other options. The food is delicious and provides is a great option for a good French meal.
Call to make reservations
Part of the BigMamma Group with different restaurants across the city and found in other cities as well (i.e. London, Milan, etc.), this restaurant is around Bastille and serves phenomenal Italian food. Do not miss the truffle pasta.
Reservations can be made online