Guide to 5 Days in Paris

When you think of the most iconic and well-known cities throughout the world, what are the first ones that come to mind? New York City, London, Paris?  History, art, culture, romance, gastronomy, fashion – Paris has it all! It can be overwhelming to cover everything in just a few days, but the itinerary that we’ll share below will give you a great start to exploring the best that Paris has to offer. Use our itinerary as a guide to what you can accomplish within a day, and sub in your favorite museums, restaurants, day trips, etc.

Guide to 5 Days in Paris

Itinerary

5 days, 4 nights

  • Day 1: Airbnb check-in, Notre-Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées
  • Day 2: Day trip & bike tour at the Palace of Versailles
  • Day 3: Brunch in Canal Saint-Martin, The Louvre
  • Day 4: Shopping, Eiffel Tower, River Seine Boat Tour, Tour Montparnasse
  • Day 5: Shopping & food, early evening flight home

If you have extra time:

  • If the Palace of Versailles isn’t of interest, there are also many day tours offered to France’s Champagne wine region.
  • The Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are easily the most popular and well-known museums in Paris. Take a look at reviews and descriptions to decide which one you may like better if you don’t have time to visit multiple museums.
  • Take a trip to the Luxembourg Garden if you have a sunny afternoon free. The beautiful gardens are perfect for an afternoon walk, reading, or just relaxing away from the busy streets of Paris.
  • The Sacré-Cœur (Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus) is a Roman Catholic church sitting atop a hill in Paris. Climb to the top of the dome for panoramic views of Paris.
  • Sainte-Chapelle is another chapel near the Notre-Dame with incredibly beautiful stained glass windows.

Tips for a great trip:

  • Pay attention to what you have planned for Sunday or any holidays while you are in Paris. Many shops, restaurants and attractions will be closed on these days.
  • You’ll hear and read many stories about how ‘rude’ the French are before your trip. While I wouldn’t describe everyone we met as ‘warm’, locals weren’t nearly as rude as we were expecting. Learning the basics (bonjour, merci, au revoir) can go a long way! In French culture, you should always say bonjour when entering a restaurant, store, or cafe and au revoir when you leave.
  • The city of Paris is divided into twenty arrondissements (or neighborhoods) starting with 1 in the center of the city and spiraling outwards. Many of the sites you will want to see can be found towards the center of the city. We would recommend staying in the 3rd or 4th arrondissement (Le Marais) or the 5th arrondissement (Latin Quarter).
  • Always go for the croissant au beurre over a croissant ordinaire. Beurre = butter.
  • Call ahead to restaurants to make a reservation even if its the same day. We were often seated without one, but the preference seemed to be to an advance notice.

Day 1: Airbnb check-in, Notre-Dame de Paris, Arc de Triomphe, Champs-Élysées

We landed in Paris around 11am on our first day. It took 30-40 minutes to get through customs and a 50 minute ride via Uber to make it to our Airbnb in Le Marais. The best way to fend off jet lag is to get outside, so we started our day with a walk to the Notre-Dame de Paris.  The Notre-Dame is free to enter and doesn’t require much time to walk through.  It’s a great activity for the first day if you’re attention span is a little shorter. 🙂 For a drink or snack nearby, try Les Deux Palais.

From the Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe is a short ride away on the Metro. The Paris Metro is fairly simple to use. Google maps will provide great directions on train lines and stops, and there’s often an agent working at the ticket counter if you need help purchasing a ticket. This is one of the most comprehensive guides I could find online if you need help.

Once at the Arc de Triomphe, locate the line to either purchase tickets or ascend to the top. I would recommend purchasing tickets in advance if you want to skip the lines. After security, you’ll make your way up many, many flights of round staircases to the top. At the summit, you’ll be rewarded with one of the best views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower. A lot of Paris attractions include a trip to the top for panoramic views of the city. I personally find that once you’ve seen the view from the top once, it doesn’t change much from other vantage points. This view is one that you shouldn’t miss! In total, we spent about an hour at the Arc de Triomphe.

As you exit the Arc de Triomphe you’ll find yourself near the Champs-Élysées, the famous avenue full of high-end shops and restaurants. This wasn’t really our scene, so we caught the Metro back to Le Marais for dinner at Chez Janou. The patio and atmosphere at this restaurant were perfect, but we weren’t as impressed with the food. I would give it another shot with the hope they were just having an off night. For dessert, we stopped at Rachel’s. I usually try to avoid American restaurants in other countries, but we were desperate for something sweet. 🙂

Day 2: Day trip & bike tour at the Palace of Versailles

Our tour of the Palace of Versailles with Bike About was by far my favorite part of our trip to Paris.  We learned so much of the history of Versailles in a fun format that really made the palace come to life. There’s so much to share from this day, so we’ll be doing a separate blog post in the coming weeks!

After our tour, we arrived back to our Airbnb around 7:30pm to shower. We had dinner at a French tapas restaurant, Sourire. This is one of my favorite restaurants in Paris! The food, drinks, and atmosphere are all good. They have menus in French or English. The waiters also spoke English, but there did seem to be a fair amount of locals in the restaurant.

Day 3: Brunch in Canal Saint-Martin, The Louvre

Our third day was a Sunday, so we slept in a bit before heading to Canal Saint-Martin for a delicious late brunch at the trendy Holybelly. Most shops are closed on Sundays, but we spent a good amount of time wandering around the canal to the those that were open in between glasses of wine at local cafes. 🙂 It started raining late afternoon, so we decided to hop on the Metro for a trip to the Louvre around 3pm.

The Louvre is only open until 6pm on Sundays, but 2-3 hours was enough for us to see some highlights.  We purchased tickets online on our way there to avoid waiting in the ticket queue. The Louvre is most famous for housing the Mona Lisa, so we made a beeline to the Denon entrance once inside to view it.

The Mona Lisa with the late day crowds

We then headed to the Richelieu entrance, which I preferred over Denon. There many interesting sculptures, landscape paintings, and the apartments of Napoleon III. The opulent rooms within Napoleon’s apartments were my favorite part of the Louvre. It’s incredible to think that people lived and entertained within those very rooms!

If you’re in need of a glass of wine after touring the Louvre, Willy’s Wine Bar is a good option nearby. We headed to dinner at Les Temps des Cerises, a small restaurant nearby with great service and food. Try the duck and chocolate cake!

Day 4: Shopping, Eiffel Tower, River Seine Boat Tour, Tour Montparnasse

Day 4 was a holiday (WWII Victory Day) in France, so many shops and restaurants were still closed, but we still managed to get in some great shopping. Here are some of my favorite stores:

  • Merci – A 3-level fashion and home concept store in Le Marais. You’ll find literally everything in this store. It’s a little hidden, but if you find the restaurant called Merci you’re in the right place. The nearby bakery on the corner of Rue du Pont aux Choux and Boulevard des Filles du Calvaire has delicious butter croissants. Or try Grazie for lunch, a nearby Italian pizzeria. The spicy salami pizza is the bomb.
  • BHV – Department store with two separate buildings for men and women. You’ll find a little bit of everything here as well.
  • Fleux’ – Home design and decor. There are three separate entrances to different sections of this store (all next to each other). You’ll also find a lot of other great shops along this street.
  • Pierre Herme – So technically not a store, but Pierre Herme has the best macarons in Paris.

Colette is another concept store that was recommended to us. We were told it was similar to Merci, but we found it to be much more modern and not really our style.

In the afternoon we made our way over to the Eiffel Tower. We choose not to go to the top since we had already seen views of Paris from the Arc de Triomphe, and we had purchased tickets to the Tour Montparnasse. If the weather is nice, I would highly recommend packing a picnic to eat in the grass in front of the Eiffel Tower. After taking a ton of pictures from every angle, we headed to the River Seine for our boat tour. We went at dusk which turned out to be a great time to view Paris from the water.

We then grabbed an Uber to the Tour Montparnasse to view the Eiffel Tower lights. Every hour on the hour between sunset and 1am, the Eiffel Tower puts on a sparkling light show for 5 minutes.  The location is very off the beaten path, but the observation deck gave us a perfect view of the lights.

Day 5: Shopping & food, early evening flight home

We didn’t have much planned for our last day in Paris but ended up walking almost 9 miles! We stopped at some of the shops that had been closed over the weekend and grabbed our last bites of Parisian food. My favorite stop was Breizh Cafe for savory crepes.

We took the RER-B train line from Paris to the Charles de Gaulle Airport to catch our flight home. Tickets were 10 euros each. The stops were a little confusing, but Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 1 is the stop for terminal 1 and terminal 3. Aéroport Charles de Gaulle 2-TGV is the stop for terminal 2 (A-G).

Be on the lookout for more blog posts about our five days in Paris including our day trip to the Palace of Versailles and our expenses from the trip. Also check out the map we created of many of the shops, restaurants, and attractions that we’ve mentioned here. If you’re planning your own trip to Paris, we’d love to hear from you! Leave a comment or shoot us an email.

What tips do you have for anyone traveling to Paris? 

26 thoughts on “Guide to 5 Days in Paris

  1. I experienced the same thing – I was expecting grumpy haughty French but what I met, were polite people (way more polite than in my country) who just did their job. After all, France is not Thailand or Turkey, where you get occasionally hugged by a stranger 😉

  2. Ive been dying to see Paris. This is def on my list. Next year Im doing Italy and France. Thanks for those tips at the beginning. Throughout my travels, I’ve learned that 90% of the time the stereotypes don’t stick. thanks for this!

  3. This is a great itinerary! I haven’t been to Paris (yet!), so I’ll have to keep this in mind! I loved your tips– great for a first timer!

  4. Great tips! Unfortunately i had only 3 days in Paris and we really wanted to cover landmarks than relax. I love your little notes and local pictures giving a very local feeling.

  5. Great ideas for a great trip! I’ve been to Paris twice and you still have me new ideas! I love it there! Now I can’t wait to go back!

  6. I spent a month in Paris and I have always struggled with coming up with the best places to see for someone visiting because I love EVERYTHING about Paris (for the most part at least). I return to Paris in August with my boyfriend for a week and I love this comprehensive 5-day guide. Great post!

    Subscribed to your adventures now Bethany. 🙂 X

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