3 Days in Paris: A Quick Guide to the City of Lights

November 23, 2020

by Hillary Anne

an aerial view of Paris' buildings and the Eiffel Tower
Photo by edmondlafoto from Pixabay

Paris is a romantic city that embodies elegance and tradition. From its cobble-stoned alleys, palatial gardens and centuries-old architecture to world-class fashion, quaint cafes and grandiose restaurants, Paris is a dream destination by many. There are just a million reasons why people dream of filling their travel journals with all the incredible things to do in Paris. However, if you’re short on time and you can only spend 3 days in Paris, it will be a challenge to sort out your itinerary.

 

Not to mention, if you’re traveling with other people who also have certain preferences for their own Paris adventure, it can be difficult to maximize your visit if you can only stay 3 days in Paris. So, before you pack your must-haves in your travel bag, take a look at our ‘3 days in Paris’ itinerary to jump-start your Parisian holiday!

 

Ultimate Itinerary for 3 Days in Paris 

Let’s say that you booked a flight from Los Angeles Airport (LAX) to Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG) via United and Lufthansa. You will arrive in Paris at 7:25 AM and leave Paris at 5:55 PM on your third day. Here’s how your 3 Days in Paris itinerary will look like:

Day 1 in Paris

elegant room at Hotel Grand Powers in Paris, 3 days in Paris

Photo from the Hotel Grand Powers website

 

Check-in at your Hotel

Upon arrival, you will be picked up by a private sleek car and head to Hotel Grand Powers (around US$428 per night). This is a five-star hotel that exhibits a deluxe ambiance through a mix of elegance and heritage. Aside from its imposing marble interiors and deluxe furniture, they also have an in-house restaurant and spa to pamper you. Moreover, in the morning, you will wake up to a bountiful breakfast to warm you up for a full day of venture.

 

But if you’re on a budget, you can check-in at Hotel Aida Opera (around US$69 per night) instead. This is one of the recommended three-star hotels for less than US$100 a night in Paris. Since it is located near most tourist destinations, such as Palais Garnier (15 minutes away) and Musée du Louvre (1.21 miles away), you will not spend much on your transportation. Moreover, a buffet breakfast is already included, so you will be able to reallocate your budget to visiting more museums instead. Besides, Paris is dotted with tons of museums and galleries to satisfy your creative thirst.

 

Also, to lessen the hassle and maximize your time, you can speak with the hotel on how to avail of their airport shuttle. Then drop your baggage at the front desk since the check-in time is still at 3 PM, and start exploring the city.

 

Enjoy Brunch at Bouillon Chartier

a Paris railway station turned affordable restaurant, 3 days in Paris

Photo from the Bouillon Chartier website

 

Make your first meal in Paris memorable by dining in a former railway station turned classic restaurant. Opened in 1896, Bouillon Chartier has a 120-year history of serving classic French food for those with shoestring budgets.

 

Their main menu ranges from EUR6.50 (around US$8) for a Frankfurter sausage and chips to a Rump steak with Pepper sauce and fresh fries for EUR11.40 (around US$14). They also have a Vegetarian plate at EUR6.50 (around US$8) and a Homemade Chocolate Mousse for EUR3.10 (around US$4) for dessert. They also serve alcohol to help you properly celebrate your arrival in Paris.

 

But if you want more luxurious dining, you can suit up and head to a triple-Michelin-starred restaurant, the Epicure, set in a vintage French hall overlooking Le Bristol Hotel’s garden. Some of the must-have dishes on their main menu include the Line-caught Whiting Fish from Saint Gilles Croix de Vie for EUR75 (around US$89) and the Bresse Farm Hen Poached in a Bladder for EUR145 per person (around US$172). They also offer desserts as well as champagne and wine.

 

Take Photos at Eiffel Tower

Paris' iconic landmark, the Eiffel Tower

Photo by Anthony Delanoix from Unsplash

 

Start your 3 days in Paris by visiting the most iconic landmark of Paris, the Eiffel Tower. Since it was constructed in 1889 by Gustave Eiffel for the celebration of the centennial anniversary of the French Revolution, the Eiffel Tower continued to stun its spectators. Let everyone know that you’re finally in Paris by taking a photo from the grounds of Champs de Mars and from the immense marbled stairs at Trocadéro Garden.

 

You can also buy Eiffel Tower tickets (starts at EUR10.40 or US$12) to access the stairs or lift to the observatories to get a 360-degrees view of Paris beneath you. You can also visit the restaurants, gift shops, and bars in the tower.

 

Explore Trocadéro Garden

a curved edifice embracing the lush Trocadero Garden

Photo by Herry Wibisono from Pixabay

 

The Trocadéro Garden is another historical landmark in Paris that was constructed for the 1937 World’s Fair in Paris. It boasts almost 10,000 square meters of perfectly-manicured garden with 20 water cannons. Also, you can find family-friendly museums and an aquarium in the building.

 

But if you’re looking for a museum without an entrance fee, you can head to the Musée de la Marine. There, you can see a lot of naval paintings and artifacts, as well as centuries-old navigational equipment.

 

Visit Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris

a person surrounded by colorful walls

Photo by Hermann Traub from Pixabay

 

Just less than 10 minutes’ walk from the Trocadéro Garden, you will see the Palais de Tokyo. Inside you will find the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris, which displays an abundant collection of more than 15,000 contemporary masterpieces in different art forms and art movements.

 

But unlike other museums that you need to pay to see beautiful art pieces, here if you’re just visiting the Permanent Collections, you can see them for free!

 

Get a Panoramic View of Paris from Arc de Triomphe

a massive arc at the center of Paris

Photo by Ian Kelsall from Pixabay

 

Your 3 days in Paris will never be complete without visiting Arc de Triomphe. In the middle of the bustling traffic in Paris, you will find this gigantic monument that stands 50 meters high and 22 meters wide. Aside from the statues, you will also find 500 names inscribed on its walls.

 

But to maximize your visit, you can climb up the arc for only EUR12 (around US$14) per adult. However, if you have the Paris Pass, you can enter for free along with 60+ other monuments, museums, and galleries. Likewise, you can use the pass to take the Paris public transportation.

 

Marvel at L’église de la Madeleine

An iconic church in Paris surrounded by Corinthian columns

Photo by wagner51 from Wikimedia Commons

 

A striking neoclassical edifice in Paris, L’église de la Madeleine is a catholic church with outstanding architecture in every turn. Outside, you will be welcomed by a whopping 52 Corinthian columns standing 20 meters high. While inside, you will marvel in its dimly lit nave with three domes adorned with frescoes depicting Christian history. Either you want to attend their Sunday Mass at 10:30 AM or 6:00 PM or you just want to marvel at this ethereal edifice, you can enter the church for free.

 

Dine at Bistrot Victoires

outside a classic French restaurant in Paris

Photo from the Bistrot Victoires Facebook

 

Bistrot Victoires is another affordable restaurant in Paris that you can find in the premier location. They have a considerable menu with main dishes that range from EUR10.90 (around US$13) to EUR13.50 (around US$16).

 

Some of the must-try dishes are Pasta in Tomato sauce, Duck confit with Sarladaises potato, and Beef ribeye steak. Then, you can also satisfy your sweet tooth with their mouth-watering Warm Chocolate Fudge Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream for only EUR5.50 (around US$7). You can also order some wine or any liquor at the bar to make your first night in Paris more romantic.

 

However, if you’re looking for a more fancy option, you can head to Anahi. Although they have an extensive menu, they are particularly known for their steaks made of high-quality beef. They offer various beef dishes importedfrom Argentina, Australia, Japan, and the U.S. Some of their well-known dishes include the Filete Miñón for EUR39 (around US$46) and the Japanese Kobe Emperor’s cut for EUR150 (around US$178).

 

Admire Paris’ City Lights atop the Printemps Haussmann Maison

a shopping mall with purple-lit domes

Photo by Thierry Faula from Adobe Stock

 

With its facade, domes, and statues, you might catch yourself giving it numerous glances because it looks like a museum or a cathedral. But the Printemps Haussmann Maison is actually a grandiose department store in Paris. It houses mid-range to luxury brands.

 

However, if you are on a budget and shopping is not your intention in dropping by here. You can just go up to the rooftop where you can appreciate Paris at night.

 

Explore the Palais Garnier

an intricate and palatial interiors of an opera house in Paris

Photo by Caleb Maxwell from Unsplash

 

For your last stop for the day, you can drop by Palais Garnier. Just a six-minute walk from the Printemps Haussmann Maison, you can find the Palais Garnier, which is one of the best opera and ballet houses in the world. It was constructed with the mission to maintain the heritage of French opera and ballet. With this, many great composers, choreographers, as well as ballet companies have performed in this magnificent opera house. In fact, every year, more than 350 performances are done here. Aside from watching a performance, you can also just drop by and see an illuminated 19th-century architectural masterpiece inside.

 

You can explore this grandiose edifice through a self-guided tour for only EUR14 (around US$17). But if you don’t want to spend money, you can just admire it from the outside.

 

Day 2 in Paris

For this 3 Days in Paris Itinerary, your second day will be your last full day. Let’s make sure that you get to maximize it! Start your day by filling your stomach with a hearty breakfast at your hotel.

 

Stand in Awe at the Centre Pompidou

a unique building with tubed escalators in its exterior

Photo by Gerhard Bögner from Pixabay

 

For your first destination, head to the Centre Pompidou, where you can find the National Museum of Modern Art. Marvel at its avant-garde architecture, with eye-catching tubed escalators and colorful pipes that surround its building. They exhibit a collection of prominent artists from the modern period (1905-1960) to the contemporary period (1961-present).

 

You can just appreciate them from the outside. But if you want to see their collections and the building’s architecture, you can pay EUR15 (around US$18) to watch “Matisse, comme un roman,” and also explore the entire museum and exhibitions.

 

Satisfy the Artist in You at Musée du Louvre

glass pyramids of Louvre Museum in Paris

Photo by Silvia Trigo from Pexels

 

Another iconic landmark in Paris, the Musée du Louvre is the largest museum in the world. If you are only planning to see one museum during your 3 days in Paris, the Musée du Louvre is definitely it. It stretches up to 160,000 square meters and houses 300,000 works. However, the public can only access 35,000 of it. Some of the notable artworks that you can see here include The Mona Lisa painting by Leonardo da Vinci and the ancient Greek statue of Venus de Milo. You can book your Musée du Louvre tickets online to skip the queue. But you can also purchase a ticket at the museum to save EUR2.

 

After admiring the art pieces at Musée du Louvre, you can head to the Tuileries garden. It is an idyllic garden re-landscaped in the 17th century into a signature French formal style garden. If you come to Paris from June to August, you can catch the garden become more alive with a carnival and cotton candy stalls.

 

Take a Leisurely Lunch at La Coupole

an elegant Parisian restaurant with a remarkable centerpiece, 3 days in Paris

Photo from the La Coupole website

 

Take an 11-minute car ride to La Coupole. Aside from its exquisite interiors that mix polished wood, teal couch, and white table cloths, the restaurant is also known for having a famed clientele. The American singer-songwriter Patti Smith played the guitar here, and the multi-talented beauty icon Jane Birkin used to also dine here. Their menu has a wide variety of seafood, meat, dessert, and liquors. But they also offer a Boulevard Menu that includes your choice of starter, main dish, and dessert for only EUR19.50 (around US$23).

 

Or you can also take a 10-minute walk to Chez Gladines Halles, an atypical French restaurant. Unlike most classic French restaurants, it has a more casual ambiance with its raw columns, eccentric flooring, colorful chairs, and vintage pop culture wall designs. Moreover, you can find luscious classic French dishes with friendly price tags here. Some of their specialties are Duc Confit with cep and fried potatoes at EUR16.50 (around US$20) and 380 grams of Prime Rib Steak at EUR19.50 (around US$23). They also serve salads, snails, desserts, and cheese to go together should you decide to drink wine for lunch.

 

Shop at Les Passages Couverts de Paris 1

a sophisticated shopping mall in Paris, 3 days in Paris

Photo by Benh LIEU SONG from Wikimedia Commons

 

The antecedent of modern-day shopping malls, the Les Passages Couverts de Paris, or Covered Passages of Paris, are glass-roofed 19th-century arcades with mosaic floors. Just like the regular shopping malls, you can pass time here unconsciously. From shops, restaurants, to art galleries and bookstores, you will never run out of things to see and buy at Les Passages Couverts de Paris.

 

If you’re looking for antiques and vintage postcards, head to Passage Verdeau. While Passage Choiseul or Passage du Caire is lined with boutique shops of cheap clothes. You can also find art galleries and offices at Passage du Bourg-l’Abbé, as well as bookstores that also sell second-hand art books at Passage Jouffroy. Then, if you find yourself tired from walking and shopping, you can head to Passage du Grand Cerf or Passage des Panoramas to grab some snacks or refreshments.

 

However, if you’re in Paris to purchase another item to add to your collection of designer items. You can head to any of your favorite brands like Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Hermès. You can find them along Champs-Élysées.

 

Savor Your Last Dinner in Paris at Le Train Bleu

a luxurious restaurant near a station in Paris, 3 days in Paris

Photo from the Le Train Bleu website

 

Make your last dinner in Paris momentous when you dine at Le Train Bleu. This palatial restaurant boasts a grandiose ambiance with its massive chandeliers and intricately-designed ceilings and walls. Dining at this restaurant will surely make you feel like the time stopped in the 1900s. They also have an elaborate menu of seafood, meat, and vegetarian choices. But they also offer a Train Bleu Menu for EUR110 (around US$130), which serves the whole table with starters, main dishes, and dessert. They also serve wine to cap off your second day in Paris.

 

Or you can head to Bistrot Vivienne. The restaurant is just located beside the exit of Galerie Vivienne, and with its Victorian-era interior design, it will be impossible for you to not notice it. On their menu, you will see an array of seafood, meat, and vegetarian options. Some of their must-try dishes are Végétarian Shirred Pasta shells in Truffle cream at EUR18.50 (around US$22) and Grilled Octopus Salad and Arugula with Parmesan cheese at EUR21.50 (around US$26). They also have a wine menu, with offerings ranging from EUR5 (around US$6) for a 14-centiliter wine to EUR120 for a 75-centiliter wine.

 

Day 3 in Paris

On your last day in Paris, try to see more of the local Parisian scene. Have a relaxing breakfast with a view and find out how Parisians spend their normal days. 

 

Sip Coffee with a View at a Local Café

a restaurant overlooking the glass pyramid of Louvre museum, 3 days in Paris

Photo by Joe deSousa from Wikimedia Commons

 

Skip your hotel’s breakfast and head to a local cafe to get a glimpse of the local life. Alternatively, instead of dining at the cafe, you can just buy coffee and croissants for take-out. Then head to River Seine to watch the sunrise, which is usually at 8 AM. Check with your Weather app for the exact time for sunrise during your visit.

 

The Caféothèque of Paris is only less than two minutes away from the River. You can get Americano, Macchiato, and Flat White with two shots, which cost from EUR2.50 to EUR8.50 (around US$3 to US$10). While their pastries, such as croissant, muffins, and pies cost from EUR2 to EUR5 (around US$2.3 to US$6).

 

Or you can also head to Le Café Marly and watch the sunrise glisten on the pyramids of the Louvre Museum. You can partner a toasted baguette with butter and jam at EUR5 (almost US$6) and a vanilla latte at EUR6 (almost US$7). Or you can have a full breakfast of Veal chop and chanterelles at EUR45 (almost US$53) with a cup of an Espresso at EUR5 (almost US$6).

 

Visit Paris’ Pantheon

a gigantic building housing the tombs of great French people,  3 days in Paris

Photo by Mistervlad from Adobe

 

The Pantheon is another must-visit during your 3 Days in Paris. This iconic monument was originally made to surpass Rome’s St. Peter’s Basilica and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. But today, it’s crypt is the last dwelling place of prominent French writers, scientists, churchmen, and politicians. Some of them are Alexandre Dumas, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and Pierre and Marie Curie.

 

The entrance fee here costs EUR9 (around US$11), but you can enter for free every first Sunday of the month (November to March).

 

Stroll Around Luxembourg Gardens

an expansive garden with centuries-old monarchical buildings, 3 days in Paris

Photo by Kosala Bandara from Wikimedia Commons

 

Lastly, end your 3 days in Paris with a leisurely stroll at the scenic Luxembourg Gardens. Created in the 17th century, this 25-hectare land was inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence. You can find two gardens here, the English and the French gardens that are divided by a forest and a pond. You can also find greenhouses with blossoming flowers, more than a hundred statues, and fountains. Most of all, you can play chess, tennis, and remote control boats in the garden, just like how royal families spend their leisure time. It’s a very expansive area, so just make sure to get back to your hotel before 1:00 PM so you won’t be late for your flight.

 

Final Thoughts

Three days in Paris is definitely a short time to see the city because you will often find yourself standing in awe at every turn. Although most tourist attractions are confined in nearby arrondissement or districts, which makes it easier to navigate around, deciding on your tour highlights still require considerable planning. Start by pointing out your preferences and those of the people you’re traveling with, as well as the range of your budget. From this, you can plan a ‘3 days in Paris’ itinerary that will work for everyone.

 

Just remember that there are countless museums and restaurants in Paris. Whether you’re an aesthete or gastronome, you might need months to completely explore the museums or taste all the best restaurants in Paris.