3 wonderful days in Paris…what could be lovelier! I was very happy to return to the City of Light this spring break. It seems each time I go back, I love it just a little bit more and for different reasons. I remember the first time I discovered Paris with my best friend, Jenny, we were awestruck. Everything from the Eiffel Tower to the little paved courtyards excited us. And to this day (that was 9 years ago!!! holy crap!!) the magic of Paris is not lost on me. So I would love to take you through my Parisian journey (in Iphone photos) and give you some recommendations for the best to do in 3 days.
Get to know Paris:
- The city is divided into 20 arrondissement (districts) that spiral out from the heart of the city – the first district
- The river Seine divides the city in two – the left bank and the right bank
- The subway system is Paris is one of the oldest and most efficient in the world
Start your morning with a croissant, some cheese and a delicious cup of coffee. Make sure to purchase a pack of Metro tickets instead of buying individual ones. This makes for a better deal and less hassle of buying individuals. Take the metro to Solférino and go discover the Musée D’Orsay. Yes, the Louvre is spectacular and grand and can/will take days on end to see and appreciate! But for something different, this smaller museum packs a lot of punch too! Housed in what used to be a train station are collections of art from the period 1848 to 1914 (the ones that couldn’t quite fit in the Louvre).You can basically say that the museum itself is a work of art with the arched ceiling, incredible light fixtures and massive gold clock. The other original train station clocks throughout the museum make for the perfect picture stop. The collections include masterpieces from Degas, Monet, Manet, Picasso, van Gogh, Cézanne, Rodin, and many more.
Option: buy the combined ticket to also visit the Rodin Museum. Go see the famous Thinker and then wander the small gardens that same day. Then you are conveniently next door to Les Invalides and the greatest tomb I have ever seen: Napoleon’s tomb. It’s a showstopper!
Reminder: Musée D’Orsay is closed on Mondays.
If you spend enough time in the museum, there is a beautiful café on the top floor for lunch. If not, grab a baguette or sandwich on the way to your next stop. Walk along the river Seine and see all the vendors who line the walkways. If your heart is set on purchasing a book, here is the place to do it. You will also come across the Pont Neuf where many lovers’ locks line the bridge.
You will be hard pressed to find a free spot though because the bridge is packed…and also, the weight of locks has started to become a problem and they have begun to close off sections of the bridge’s rails for safety…eek! It is a fun tradition but definitely one that most Parisians don’t love because they affect the integrity of the bridges…A good photo stop though nonetheless
Cross over onto Ile de la Cité to see one of Paris’ most famous landmarks, the Notre Dame Cathedral.
No trip to Paris is complete without seeing this gothic masterpiece and then taking a walk inside. If you are brave enough to conquer the winding staircase, the view from the top is outstanding and then you can see the gargoyles up close.
Spend the rest of your afternoon in one of Paris’ most beautiful areas Le Marais which is a favourite for many. This is where the aristocracy lived for many years and is evident still to this day when you stumble on small palaces and their gorgeous gardens. Later on the Marais became one of the Jewish centres, and then also a happening area for Fashion and posh creatives. Le Marais has so many amazing boutiques, shops and, of course, cafés to discover so take your time here and get lost in the winding, historic streets.A must visit in Le Marais? La Place des Vosges. This square is said to be one of the most poetic and beautiful of Paris with identical buildings on all 4 sides. Originally constructed for royalty and later on the aristocracy of Paris, it still maintains its dignified air. It is the perfect place to grab a coffee or wine, sit and do nothing. You can also gaze upon the corner home where Victor Hugo began working on Les Miserables…
Tip: Instead of entering in from the main road, head to Rue Saint-Antoine and look for the Centre Des Monuments Nationaux. You can walk through the courtyard and be transported back centuries to the days of royalty. There is a lovely bookstore here before you walk into the gardens of the palace and what used to be the greenhouse. There you will see a secret doorway that will lead you into la Place des Vosges.
For dinner, either stay here in La Marais and continue to discover or head back to the river and have a dinner cruise along the Seine. Seeing the city from the water at night is breathtaking and so romantic. Worth the expense!
- Watch: Midnight in Paris, Amelie and Ratatouille
- Listen: Madeleine Peyroux
- Read: The Josephine B Trilogy by Sandra Gulland and Paris The Novel by Edward Rutherfurd
If you got a chance to glimpse the Eiffel Tower from afar or floating down the Seine then you should already have some great photos. But, starting Day 2 with another trip to the Eiffel will be well worth it. Most tend to view this stunner from the south east side with the Champ de Mars stretching out before them. And if a nice picnic is in order then stick with this; however, I love the view from the other side. Take the metro to Trocadéro and walk to the Palais de Chaillot (next to Trocadéro). The square is framed by the Musée national de la Marine and the City of Architecture and Heritage and is a perfect location for photographing the Iron Lady in all her glory. You also manage to miss all the crowds here that are flooding the Eiffel down below.
Take another metro journey to Charles de Gaulle – Etoile to take in the grand Arc de Triomphe and then start your stroll down the famed Champs-Elysées. The shopping here ranges from the typical Zara and H&M stores to Guerlain and Louis Vitton. Regardless if shopping is a priority, the street itself is gorgeous and worth a walk. You can also glimpse Le Fouquet’s, where you may spot a celebrity or two and stop in at Ladurée for the most unbelievable macarons. Try Pistachio and Salted Caramel!Continue walking through the gardens, past the Grand Palais and Petit Palais until you reach Place de la Concorde, the spot of the guillotine and death of many nobles back in the French Revolution. Here you are in the first district of Paris. You could then continue through the breathtaking Jardin des Tuileries towards the Louvre and spend some time there. OR you could follow me to another amazing area.
I recommend going down Rue Saint Honoré and stopping for a quick look at Place Vendome. This area is great for shopping and having lunch. Then continue walking north to the Paris Opera: Palais Garnier. This may be my favourite building in Paris. I highly suggest a walk through to see the splendour and extravagance and, if you are lucky, a ballet rehearsal onstage.
Behind the Opera house is les Galleries Lafayette – 7 floors of dazzling shopping, not for the faint of heart. Head in to see the gorgeous ceiling alone! I recommend going up to the 7th floor and going into the toilette. Never have I seen a better view from a washroom…but seriously, you can also go outside onto a terrace and get stunning views of the Paris Opera and up to Montmartre. So worthwhile!
After your rest here, start walking up to the next gorgeous area of Paris: Montmartre. On the way you can stop on the Boulevard de Clichy and see the famous Moulin Rouge. It is a bit of a hike up to Montmartre, the highest point of Paris, but so very worth it if your legs aren’t toast by now. This area is famous for so many different reasons and one of them is because it is always swarming with massive crowds. Don’t let that discourage you, though. Admire the soaring Sacré Coeur cathedral instead and take in the incredible view of Paris. You’ll soon understand why this is my favourite spot of all.
After a quick visit inside the Sacré Coeur, explore the streets behind the church. This is the Paris of the artists! I always think of the bohemian revolution and the movie Moulin Rouge But it is true…Countless historical figures have lived and worked here, from Picasso to Renoir. And it is easy to see why there are still painters at work here. It is a quaint neighbourhood with the right creative spark. Have a stroll here and dinner on the hill before returning and maybe seeing a Ballet production!
For your last day in Paris, I suggest focusing on food and drinks! What could be better!? Start by touching down in the 5th district of Paris at the Metro stop Place Monge and get ready to immerse yourself in the local fanfare. The french take their cuisine seriously and know how to shop. On one or two streets in each arrondissement (districts) you will have your market – the butcher, the baker, the pastry shop, the cheese shop, etc. all close together. We toured around the area of Rue Mouffetard and sampled some incredible food. I bought enough French treats to put on a delightful meal at home and I even managed to grab a bottle of French wine! If the weather is nice, grab your bread, cheese, meat and wine and have a little picnic in the park nearby.
Also along this street are quaint cafés where you can, once again, drink a delicious latté. Keep your eyes open for some lovely boutique shopping as well. Everything you need on one street!I highly recommend a stop in at this patisserie where I had the best éclairs I have ever tasted. It is close by on the Rue Censier near Rue Mouffetard and the owner/patissier Carl Marletti is renowned for his exquisite creations (including amazing jam and marshmallows!!)
If you are not completely “fooded” out, head to the Marché Monge for a perfect stroll through a french farmers market. You can purchase anything from jams to salt, from flowers to veggies. I highly recommend grabbing a fresh Fig if they are in season. We never get them in Canada and I have never tasted something so sweet and delicious!The rest of the day can be a great time to revisit anywhere you felt rushed or missed…maybe another museum visit and an afternoon trip to the Loire valley. Wherever the wind takes you! We also walked around the 5th district into some small squares filled with antique shops before returning to Boulevard Saint-Germain. A great place to end your day!
Breathe deep because 3 days in Paris is incredible but only a glimpse. Make mental notes of where you can visit and what you can do the next time you visit! I know I’ll go back again!