2 days in Paris!?!
I know what you’re thinking. You’re right, that isn’t a lot of time. Most people would suggest at least 5, not a mere 2 days in Paris. But sometimes 2 days is all you’ve got. And 2 days in Paris is better than no days, right?
If your time in the City of Lights is limited, you can still make the most of it. Here’s your perfect itinerary for 2 days in Paris!
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Day 1 in Paris
Get up bright and early on the first of your 2 days in Paris, grab a croissant, and head to the Arc du Triomphe. This is one of the icons of Paris and is not to be missed. This giant structure was built in the early 1800s and honours the fallen French soldiers of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
If you’re taking the metro, you’ll first emerge a few car lanes away from the Arc. But you’ll want to get up close to check out all of the details. Instead of risking your life across a multi-lane round-about, take the underground walkway and you’ll pop up right underneath the Arc du Triomphe. This is also where you’ll enter and stand in line if you plan to climb up the Arc du Triomphe and take in the view.
Should you climb up the Arc du Triomphe?
Maybe. If you’re dead set on climbing up something in Paris to take in the view, I’d suggest the Arc over the Eiffel Tower. It’s cheaper and the line is shorter (grab your skip the line Arc du Triomphe tickets here!). Plus, you get a much better view of Paris from the Arc because the Eiffel Tower is part of that view! You can also see the twelve avenues that spread out from the Arc, which is cool. But if you don’t want to pay, stand in line or go up lots of stairs, you can skip it.
From the Arc du Triomphe, walk down the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous shopping streets in all of Paris. This is a window-shopping only activity unless you’re a frequent customer of Cartier, Tiffany and Louis Vuitton. Though other brands, like Gap, Zara and H&M, also have shops on this street.
Pro tip: avoid eating on the Champs-Élysées as most of these restaurants will be incredibly over-priced and catering to tourists only.
Continue walking down Champs-Élysées, pass another round-about, until you reach Avenue Winston Churchill. Turn right, and take in the Grand Palais and Petit Palais. Full disclosure: I’ve never been in these buildings but they sure are pretty from the outside!
Avenue Winston Churchill quickly turns into Pont Alexandre III – aka the most beautiful bridge in Paris! Take your time snapping pictures of the bridge from all angles, with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Continue across the bridge and over the Seine. Next stop: Rue Cler. Rue Cler is a cute little street just behind the Eiffel Tower where you can grab a bite. You can get there by walking along the Seine or through the park – it’s 10-15 minutes from the bridge.
Once on Rue Cler, load up on cheese, crepes, quiches, pastries and whatever else you need. You can also pop into a grocery store to buy some wine and other picnic items. Turn right off of Rue Cler and we’ve reached the Champ de Mars park – aka home of the Eiffel Tower!
If it’s a nice day, find yourself a spot on the grass or an empty bench and enjoy a little Rue Cler fix-ins picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. After, you can walk up close and take in the Tower from different angles or head up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
From the Eiffel Tower, we’re heading north to another part of the city. A direct bus will get you to Montmartre, a historic artists’ district, in about 40 minutes. Montmartre, set on a hill, was once home to famous artists like Monet, Picasso and Van Gogh. Nowadays, it’s a bit more touristy but there are still street artists and craft markets to remind you of the area’s history.
But the shining jewel of Montmartre would have to be the Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur. This white domed church lies right at the top of the hill. The building is beautiful and offers a nice view over the rest of Paris.
To get up to Montmartre and Sacre Coeur, I suggest taking the stairs up the side, approaching Sacre Coeur from the left, as opposed to the stairs through Square Louise Michel Park, approaching Sacre Coeur head on. If you take the side route, it feels like there are fewer stairs, and you get to wander through charming Montmartre before getting to Sacre Coeur. You can then walk down Square Louise Michel when you’re done viewing the church. There’s also a funiculaire for those with mobility issues.
Once down from the hill, it’s a short walk over to another Parisian icon, Moulin Rouge. While Montmartre feels touristy and artistic, the streets around Moulin Rouge definitely feel a bit more seedy. I wouldn’t suggest spending a ton of time in the area. And if a Moulin Rouge ticket isn’t in your budget (97-420 euro per ticket!), then all you need is a quick picture out front in honour of the movie.
Whew! That was a full day. Are you ready for day 2? I told you we could fit a lot into 2 days in Paris!
Day 2 in Paris
On day 2 in Paris, we’re up early again, croissant in hand, and heading straight to the Louvre. You’ll want to get there as soon as it opens, to avoid crowds, but know that it will always be busy. Pro tip: buy your tickets online to save a few dollars and skip the (longer) line.
Once inside, head straight to Mona Lisa. This room is only going to get busier as the day goes on so you want to get it done quickly. You’ll also want to lower your expectations because, in my humble non-artist opinion, Mona Lisa might be the least exceptional piece of art in the entire building. Having seen her twice now, I really don’t get the hype. I much prefer the colourful and giant painting directly opposite her. But, since she’s so iconic, you do have to see her – at least to laugh at the huge crowd pressing their cameras and phones as close as they can get to the glass.
August 2019 update: Due to renovations in the Louvre, the Mona Lisa has been temporarily moved from the Salle des Etats to the Galerie Medicis. So it’s still in the Louvre, but instead of being house in a giant room, you now have to go up a bunch of escalators and through a single doorway. Which means… major line ups! Visitors report lining up for more than an hour to see her (and she is not worth that). So now more than ever, it’s important to get to Mona Lisa first thing! PS: She will be moved back to her old home in mid-October, renovations permitting.
Remember, the Louvre is giant. Even if you don’t stop to look at anything, you likely won’t finish the entire museum. And what would be the point if you’re not stopping to look at the art? So grab a map and prioritize what you really want to see. The wings by Mona Lisa will be the busiest while my dad and I found an African sculpture exhibit that was a total ghost town.
After you’ve had your fill of art, head out from the Louvre and find yourself some lunch. Rest your tired feet and refuel for your afternoon in Paris!
From the Louvre, walk east along the Seine until you reach Pont Neuf. Cross it and stop at the island in the middle of the Seine, Ile de la Cite. This is where we find Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris. There’s also Sainte-Chapelle on this island, which I hear is stunning but I haven’t been inside.
When I visited Paris in 2018 with my dad, the line to go through Notre Dame moved surprisingly quickly and it was free to walk around. My favourite part was the architecture on the front of the church – so different from most churches in Paris. When we returned to Paris with our dog in 2019, of course Notre Dame was closed due to the fire. You could still take photos from a distance!
Once you’ve admired the churches, continue crossing the Seine on the Pont Notre Dame to arrive at the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. This famous bookstore was frequented by the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce in the 1920s.
Shakespeare and Company is everything you want in an independent bookstore. There’s creaky stairs, low ceilings, couches for reading, a shelf on feminism in the children’s section (YES!) and a resident cat. Photos are not allowed inside and reading is encouraged. So it’s pretty much the opposite of every other attraction – here they actually want you to linger and not take a selfie.
From there, head south into the Latin Quarter. This is a super cool area of Paris for shopping, eating and taking in the sights. It’s not as touristy, which will be a nice relief. Enjoy a break at a cafe and stroll around the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg.
If you happened to race through this day 2 itinerary quickly, you could also add a visit to the Marais district, back on the north side of the Seine. Or if you’re craving more art and museum time, visit Musee D’Orsay just across the water from the Louvre.
Where to stay in Paris
Luckily, there is no shortage of options for accommodation in Paris. With a city this big and this popular, there are luxury hotels and dirt cheap hostels, cute B&Bs and budget apartments.
If you’re on a budget but still want to stay somewhere nice and central, I recommend ibis Paris Gare du Nord Chateau Landon. I love this hotel for a few reasons: it’s budget-friendly, it’s located right next to the train station (which is also a super easy transit from the airport), it is easily connected to the metro and bus lines so you can see the rest of Paris, and it’s also very close to some of my favourite eats in Paris. Bonus: it’s dog-friendly!
Ibis hotels are known for being budget but also being very clean and modern. Yes, the rooms are small and it’s not luxury. But it has everything you need. I have no problem staying in a small space but I really need it to be clean and somewhere that I feel comfortable. That’s exactly what Ibis delivers.
More than 2 days in Paris?
If you have more than 2 days in Paris, that’s great! There’s so much more to see, do and EAT in this amazing city. Here are a few suggestions of itinerary items for more than 2 days in Paris:
- A day trip to Versailles is a must on most people’s Paris itineraries. Dedicate a full day to checking out the palace and walking around the gardens.
- Want to go off the beaten track? Check out Paris’ secret abandoned railway!
- If you have more than 2 days in Paris, you could extend the time spent at some of the attractions above. For example, you might have time to go up to the viewpoints of the Arc du Triomphe or Eiffel Tower. Or you might want to spend an entire day at the Louvre (I couldn’t handle that much art, but good for you if you can).
- Besides the Louvre, Paris is well-known for its museums. People always rave about Musee D’Orsay and Musée de l’Orangerie, if you want to check out more art. Another museum that doesn’t get talked about too much but that I personally really enjoyed is the Holocaust museum, Memorial de la Shoah.
- Paris is known as the city of fashion and shopping. I even went to a fashion show on my first visit. So if that’s your thing, check out some of these shopping districts.
- Paris is also known as a foodie haven. The next time I visit, I can’t wait to do a food tour or sign up for a pastry class. If I’m going to learn how to make macarons or eat my weight in cheese, it better be in Paris!
- If you luck out with good weather, I’ve often been told to visit the Tuileries Garden and the Père Lachaise Cemetery, where Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried.
- Of course, if you have little ones with you (or you’re just a kid at heart), you might have to check out Paris’ Disneyland!
- Lastly, Paris tourists always rave about the catacombs. This underground tour shows off some of Paris’ history complete with bones, skulls and tight spaces. Unfortunately, this attraction is often closed and the hours seem to be pretty unreliable. Due to that, and the fact that tight spaces freak me out, I likely won’t be heading here. But I’ve heard great things!
Tips for 2 days in Paris
Here are a few things to keep in mind during your trip to Paris:
- Take the metro. It’s super easy to use. The buses are also quite easy to use and the entire city is well connected. Public transport is definitely the best way to go – easy to use, cheaper than taxis and a far more local option.
- Try a little francais! It’s always nice to learn a couple words in the local language. Yes, most people in Paris will be able to speak with you in English. But it’s always fun, and welcomed, to do your best with the “bonjours” and “mercis.” When it gets too much, just ask, “Parlez-vous anglais?”
- This is a tip for every city, but especially for Paris: Do not eat next to a tourist attraction. It will be crowded, inauthentic and overpriced. Walk a few blocks away from the Eiffel Tower before you grab a bite.
- Many restaurants and cafes in Paris have different prices depending on whether you eat in or take out. Don’t be alarmed if the price you saw posted on the display case is a few euros cheaper than the price on the menu. If you’re on a budget, get your coffee and pastries to go.
- Speaking of pastries, Paris is the place to go absolutely wild on crepes, croissants and quiches. There are countless markets and bakeries where you’ll find the freshest pastries ever. Indulge!
- Like with most tourist attractions, if you buy your tickets ahead of time online, you’ll often save some money. And you may be able to cut the line! Buy skip the line Louvre tickets (or a guided Louvre tour), Eiffel Tower tickets (to the second floor or the summit), and skip the line Arc de Triomphe tickets all online to save time and money.
- With a lot of Paris’ big attractions, like the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe, if you want to go in or go up, you’ll need to pay and wait in line. If you’re short on time and money (or full of a fear of heights), consider staying on the ground and just admiring these icons from the outside.
- Watch out for scams and pickpockets. Paris is known for them. Do your research ahead of time on what scams are prevalent. Always be aware of your surroundings, including your person and your purse/wallet. Don’t be afraid to walk away or come off as rude if you feel unsafe. For more safety tips, including tips for solo female travellers, check out my travel tips post.
And there you have it – the perfect itinerary for 2 jam-packed days in Paris. I’d love to know, how would you spend 2 days in Paris? Tell me your favourite thing to do in Paris or what tops your Paris wish list!