5 Days in Paris: The Perfect Itinerary

Mike and I went to Paris for the very first time (and definitely not the last!) a few months ago and it was heaven on earth. The history, the FOOD, the sights, the weather, everything about it was a dream come true.

We also had this trip booked for about six months before we actually went, so I had a LOT of time to do research and fine tune our agenda and plans. Because I’m such a type A planner, especially in brand new cities, I legitimately made us a minute by minute itinerary. If you happen to be going to Paris, start your trip on a Thursday and end on a Wednesday, you can replicate it here: http://bit.ly/2qoCOfW. If not, here’s a rough outline of what I’d recommend.

Pro tip: Left bank = South side of the Seine. Think Montparnasse and the Latin Quarter. Also, the Latin Quarter is not Spanish. It’s Latin because the university is there and they taught Latin back in the day. Right bank = North side of the Seine. Where you’ll probably spend the majority of your time. Montmartre, the Louvre, Champs Elysées, the Tuileries, and the Marais neighborhood.

Day 1

Sleep in a little bit. Let your body catch up with the jet lag.

Late morning: Do a walking tour of the city! We did an hour and a half tour through Sandeman and it was great! It was very entertaining and showed us the highlights of the center of the city.

The rest of the day: Get your booty to the Louvre. Also. I cannot emphasize enough — make sure you have your tickets ahead of time. We saw lines that lasted for more than 2 hours. UGH. Don’t waste your precious Paris time on a LINE.

Another thing to know about the Louvre. IT. IS. MASSIVE. Don’t try to see everything. See the big names (Venus di Milo, the Mona Lisa, whatever else strikes your fancy). It also smells like a toilet so that’s a thing.

Find somewhere wonderfully French for dinner since it’s your first day.

Is she smiling? Kind of. But she’s also REALLY small and the crowds are always a pain.

Day 2

Get an early start and head out to Versailles (more on how to get there in a later post). The palace opens at 9am so if you’re coming from the city, make sure you’re on the commuter train out there by about 8:15. Check out some of my other tips on Versailles here.

Grab dinner back in the city somewhere wonderful. Stroll down the Seine after dark (totally safe and great) and jump on a cruise down the river. We booked ours here.

Thank you nice Asian lady who told us to pose like this
We rented bikes and rode through the less formal gardens of Versailles
Hall of Mirrors at Versailles
Just look at my ridiculously elated face. This is what the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles looked like for us — literally EMPTY.

Day 3

Get to the Arc de Triomphe right when it first opens at 10am and beat the crowds. It was probably my favorite view of all of Paris, and there was NO ONE there. There is a big railing on the edge, so if it’s crowded, your view would get really sad really fast. But we could take our time walking up the stairs (there were a LOT), and the crowd at the top was non-existent. The Champs Elysées is not too far and worth seeing to say you’ve seen it, but really, just go to Ladurée for a couple macarons. Or a dozen. It will be worth it I PROMISE.

Grab some baguette sandwiches or crepes and have a picnic lunch in the Tuileries! There are plenty of benches and cushy grass areas to sit. The Orangerie Museum is just on the east side of the Tuileries, so stop in there and see Monet’s “Waterlilies” before crossing the Seine over to the Orsay.

After that – play! Sleep! Eat! Walk along the Seine!

Our view from the Arc de Triomphe
The Orsay Museum is inside an old train museum with this amazing clock!

Day 4 

Hit Notre Dame and hike up it’s towers early in the morning. For photos of my favorite part of our Notre Dame experience (and a really cool secret), check out my favorite Paris tips post. Walk a couple blocks over to see the incredible stained glass rose windows at Sainte Chapelle, then metro up to the north to see the inspiration for The Phantom of the Opera — Opera Garnier.

In the afternoon, take the metro again up to Montmartre for a walking tour. We did this free tour through a different company, Discover Walks, and it was also really great. The tour guide was a native of the area so he showed us some true hidden gems. Our tour lasted about an hour and ended at the Sacre Coeur, which was so so beautiful. Just watch out for gypsies.

Getting to Notre Dame early in the morning was one of the best things we did in Paris.
Strolling the neighborhood of Montmartre on our guided tour

Day 5

Left bank day!

Head down to the Pantheon in the morning (and if it suits your fancy, the steps where Owen Wilson sat in Midnight in Paris. It’s literally right around the corner!). Then, get your creepy on at the Catacombs of Paris. Now this is one place I definitely recommend getting your tickets in advance. The line to get in was more than 2 hours if you hadn’t booked in advance.

Find a cafe lunch anywhere in the Latin Quarter and then metro over to Napoleon’s Tomb. From there, you can either walk or metro over to the Eiffel Tower, where we ended our grand adventure, watching the sun set over Paris from the top of the tower and watching it sparkle from the Champ de Mars down below (after sundown, it sparkles every hour on the hour for about 5 minutes). I’d also recommend getting your tickets in advance if you can. The lines can get reeeeeeally long.

Walking through the formal gardens at the Rodin museum was a welcome change from the indoor museums we’d seen all day
He’s so much cuter than Owen Wilson ❤

The Magic Hour over Paris

Other things to squeeze in when you have time:

  • Shakespeare and Co. Bookstore — very cool little spot, fun cafe and a shop full of history. Definitely a fun place to check out and literally across the Seine from Notre Dame. There are also AMAZING cafes nearby in the Latin Quarter.
  • Do some research and find the hours or days of the week for a local farmers’ market near your hotel or apartment. We went to the Marche Bastille on a Sunday morning and it was a BLAST. So many interesting things you won’t find in the U.S. and the COLORS of all the produce were out of this world.

PRO TIP – At least when we were there, Paris was NOT awake before like 9:30. So since you’re already probably jet-lagged, just make yourself get up by 7am and get out to see the sights before the rest of the city. Granted, a lot of things won’t be open, but our morning strolls on the Seine or out in front of Notre Dame were some of my favorite things we did.

Did I leave anything out?? Fellow travelers — anything else you would recommend?

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