A Weekend in Paris: 3 Glorious Days in the City of Lights

3 days. 72 hours. 4,320 minutes. What if you only had one weekend in Paris for your very first visit. How would you spend it? What would you do?

Just before my last birthday, my husband asked me about the perfect breakfast. I glibly replied that my perfect breakfast would be croissants because on the perfect morning I would be waking up in Paris. At the time, I never imagined that only 5 months later, I would be waking up to pain au chocolat in Paris.

When I bought tickets to visit Amsterdam in the spring, I knew we absolutely had to take the train down and spend a weekend in Paris. I think basically every girl dreams of going to Paris. In my home, I even have a gigantic canvas print of the Eiffel Tower hanging in my living room. And now it was my chance to enjoy a magical weekend in Paris.

Although you could spend years there and still have plenty to explore, a long weekend in Paris is just enough time to give you a solid taste of the city. I’ve suggested a 3-day itinerary for your weekend in Paris, but obviously you should take my suggestions and mix and match them to your personal preferences.

I know there are a million ways to enjoy a weekend in Paris, but here are my suggestions for a glorious 3-day weekend in Paris.

A Weekend in Paris: Wheels inside EIffel Tower

A Weekend in Paris: Day 1

Eiffel Tower

What better way to kick off your weekend in Paris than by visiting the Eiffel Tower. Everything I ever read before visiting told me I had to buy my tickets right away or I would face horrendous lines at the ticket office. Of course, I postponed buying tickets to the Eiffel Tower until just before we left, and, naturally, they were all sold out. I was so frustrated with myself for not buying them sooner.

It turned out to be a true blessing in disguise. Instead of taking the elevator the whole way up, we ended up climbing the stairs. If you have to choose, take the stairs at the Eiffel Tower if you can. The architectural detail of the Eiffel Tower is fascinating. You get a completely different perspective of the structure.

It only took about 5 minutes to climb up to the first platform. Since the first level is only accessible to people taking the stairs, we basically had it all to ourselves. Additionally, the pictures we took from the first level ended up being my favorite ones.

After another short climb, we arrived at the second level. One thing to understand is that the elevator from the ground only goes to the second level. After that, everyone going to the top has to switch to a new set of elevators. After a short visit to the top, back down we went.

I’m so glad that we ended up taking the stairs. The experience would not have been nearly as memorable if we had just taken the elevator up. Cheaper and more interesting? A win-win in my book.

Related: The Best Things to Do in Amsterdam in Spring


A Weekend in Paris: the stained glass windows of Saint Chapelle, Paris, France

Sainte Chapelle

After lunch, our weekend in Paris continued with a visit to Ile de la Cite, the island that was originally the location of the medieval city of Paris. Tucked away inside the Palace of Justice is the Sainte Chapelle. When we first entered on the ground floor, I thought it was a waste of my money. Sure, the stained glass was nice, but not worth the 10 euros each we had paid.

I didn’t realize that the main attraction is the upper floors. As you enter the upper room, the sight of the sun streaming through the 50 foot tall stained glass windows will leave you spellbound. The intricate detail is simply awe-inspiring. Definitely worth your 10 euros.


A Weekend in Paris: Notre Dame Cathedral


The bells were ringing as we arrived at Notre-Dame Cathedral. However, I did not spot any hunchbacks swinging from the belfry. Once we were inside, we realized the bells were ringing because services were about to begin. I’d have to say that Notre-Dame was my favorite of the churches we visited on our trip. It just astonishes me how old the building is.

Admission to the cathedral is free. If you are interested, you can pay extra to descend to the crypt or to ascend the tower for a view of the city. Although not as impressive as the windows of Sainte Chapelle, the stained glass at Notre Dame is still remarkable. Notre-Dame is definitely worth a stop on a weekend in Paris.

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A Weekend in Paris: Sacre Coeur Basilicia

Sacre-Coeur Basilica

While you are exploring churches, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart is a must see for a weekend in Paris. Set on the highest spot in Paris, you’ll get a gorgeous view of the city. The Basilica is free to enter, but you can pay extra if you want to visit the dome or the crypt.

Ever seen a two-story carousel? I was actually standing right next to one when I took this picture. If you have kids with you, the carousel would be a fun way to entertain them. Or if you are like me and really enjoy riding carousels and ferris wheels.

The lawns and stair leading up to the Basilica were full of people enjoying the sunshine. Just watch out for pickpockets and the typical Parisian scams, like the friendship bracelet or the fake petition.


A Weekend in Paris: Palace of Versailles

A Weekend in Paris: Day 2

Palace of Versailles

The second day of your weekend in Paris is a great time to get out of the city and explore Versailles. The main attraction of Versailles is the Palace of Versailles. Honestly, the palace itself was my least favorite. Don’t get me wrong. The Hall of Mirror is stunning, and the craftsmanship and attention to detail is astounding. I’m glad I was able to see it.

It was the gaudy display of opulence and wealth that made me a bit sad. I couldn’t help but think how much money was wasted building it. Think of the economic difference it would have made to France if they had employed their time and money in a more productive manner.

I’m sure the intense number of people visiting didn’t help. I did not visit the gardens because they cost extra, but I don’t think I really missed much there.

I’m not saying the Palace of Versailles is not worth a visit. While the Hall of Mirrors and some of the larger rooms were impressive, the whole thing just was way too much for me.

Related: My Year of Travel: 10 Places I’m Visiting This Year


A Weekend in Paris: Red bicycle next to the Grand Canal at Versailles

Palace Grounds at Versailles

On the other hand, the grounds at Versailles are an amazing place to spend a sunny day. Undoubtedly, the best way to explore the rest of Versailles is on a bike.

The Grand Canal behind the Palace is in the shape of a cross, and the image above is taken for one of the shorter ends. The longer section of the canal is a mile long! King Louis XIV used to hold mock battles on it, it so big. All along the canal is a tree-lined path where you can get shade as well as a gorgeous view.

We actually booked a bicycle tour for our visit and had so much fun. Our tour taught us a ton about the history of Versailles. Knowing all about the history of Versailles definitely put it into more perspective. And I loved that our tour guide explained all this one the grounds instead of in the crowded palace.


A Weekend in Paris: pink marble columns at the Grand Trianon at the Palace of Versailles, Paris, France

Grand Trianon and Petit Trianon

I had no idea that there are other buildings at Versailles besides the Palace. I’m sure I wouldn’t even have bothered to stop if I had been on my own. I much preferred the style of rooms at the Grand Trianon than at the Palace. I can see why Napoleon’s family decided to live there instead. Though the pink marble columns picture above cost their weight in gold.

My favorite part would have to be Marie Antoinette’s gardens outside the Petit Trianon. Sick of the meticulously planned gardens, she wanted one that felt much more natural.

But the real treat was Marie Antoinette’s fantasy land. She had a fake peasant village installed where she could go an pretend to be a peasant instead of a queen. Think a lighthouse on a pond. A mill with a waterwheel that was actually turned by hand. A farm where the animals were washed before she arrived. They even dyed the sheep’s wool to match whatever color of dress she was wearing that day.

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A Weekend in Paris: Woman on Eiffel Tower with view of Trocadero

The Eiffel Tower at Night

After a day at Versailles, the best way to continue your weekend in Paris is to unwind with a meal and a visit to the Eiffel Tower at night. One of your best free vantage points for pictures of the Eiffel Tower is the Trocadero. It sits directly across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower and gives you an unimpeded spot for your photos. By the way, another awesome vantage point is on the bridge Pont de Bar-Hakeim.

The Eiffel Tower is beautiful by day, but even more stunning at night. I would put up a picture, but apparently the Eiffel Tower at night is copyrighted. Crazy, huh? I figured I’d play it safe, and just include of me on the Eiffel Tower with the Trocadero as a backdrop.

One thing to know: There is a 5-minute light show every hour on the hour after dusk. Be warned. It is the most disappointing thing I saw on my trip. It even beats the Manneken Pis. Random lights just flash all of the tower in no set pattern. It’s like a Christmas tree gone haywire.

Just enjoy the Eiffel Tower at night. Walk along the Seine. Visit the Trocadero. Hang out on the lawns at the Champ de Mars. Enjoy the lights the city is so famous for.


A Weekend in Paris: The Pyramid at the Louvre

A Weekend in Paris: Day 3


I might not have set foot in a museum while I during my visit to Amsterdam, but I figured I would make up for it in Paris. Contrary to what you might read elsewhere, the Louvre is not free the first Sunday of every month. They recently switched the free Sundays to just the winter months.

I could pretend that I’m super knowledgeable about the best time to beat the crowds at the Louvre for your weekend in Paris, but I’m not. I can say that buying tickets beforehand won’t help you because the real wait time occurs just getting through security.

We entered through the Carousel de Louvre entrance around noon, and there was absolutely no line to get through security. When we left around 4pm, I was surprised how much a line there was. Maybe entering at lunchtime saves the day? It worked for us, but don’t count me as an expert.

I particularly enjoyed the exhibit on the history of the Louvre itself. Watching it transform from fort to palace to museum was fascinating. Seeing the original structure of the fort was one of my favorite parts.

The Louvre is gigantic, so don’t even attempt to see all of it.  Make sure you snap at least one picture of the Mona Lisa, but then go and find some lesser known art pieces. My husband and I were particularly impressed with the works of Hubert Robert.

Related: Walking Tour of Brussels: See All the Highlights in One Afternoon


A Weekend in Paris: The Musee d'Orday at night

Musee d’Orsay

Confession: I did not actually visit the Musee d’Orsay. Unlike the Louvre, admission is free the first Sunday of every month, so I could have gotten in for free! Sadly, I had injured my leg previously, and after visiting the Louvre I could not walk another step. Literally.

Walking through the Louvre, I kept looking for the French impressionist paintings. I scoured every room in the French painting exhibits, and I could not find them. Apparently, they are all at the Musee d’Orsay. If I had know that, I would have chosen to visit the Musee d’Orsay instead of the Louvre. I guess I will just have to visit Paris again. If you have two healthy feet, I would suggest fitting both into your weekend in Paris.


A Weekend in Paris: Arc de Triomphe ceiling

Arc de Triomphe

Built as a memorial to honor fallen soldiers, the Arc de Triomphe stands radiantly at the western end of the Champs-Elysees. Beneath it’s detailed arch is the tomb of the unknown soldier from World War I. If you are looking for another great vantage point to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower, you can pay to climb the stairs to the top. I’ve heard the view at night is spectacular.

The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of the craziest traffic circle I have ever seen. It’s worth a visit on your weekend in Paris just to marvel at the fearless drivers willing to navigate it. As a pedestrian, the Arc is accessed by underground tunnels. So you don’t need to brave the traffic, unless you are desperate for that perfect photograph.

Related: Best World War II Novels of the Last Decade


A Weekend in Paris: View of the Louvre at night from a Seine River Cruise in Paris, France

Seine River Cruise

For the perfect end to your weekend in Paris, go on a cruise on the Seine. As we were walking along the Seine near the Eiffel Tower on our last night, we decided on a whim to try one out. It ended up being a great value for the price. Fifteen euros for an hour-long cruise sure beats 12 euros for a five-minute Ferris wheel ride.

You absolutely want to go at night. During the day, the open top cruises would just get too hot. At night, you’ll enjoy the gentle breeze. Since most of the main attractions are along the river, you’ll get to see them all lit up at night. Plus, if you are like me and don’t feel comfortable walking around a large city after dark, a cruise is a much safer option. At least for me, it was the perfect end to the perfect weekend in Paris.

What would you most want to see on a weekend in Paris?

A Weekend in Paris:3-day Itinerary of Paris covering the best things to see in Paris, including the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Palace of Versailles and more. The perfect guide to your first visit ot Paris, France.

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  • Reply kiyashmi June 6, 2018 at 11:13 am

    Paris is my dream destination and I can’t wait to be there. Your blog post has made me fly to Paris in my imagination. Excellent Blog post.

    • Reply Rachael June 7, 2018 at 10:00 am

      Thank you! I hope you get to go someday!

  • Reply Kirsten Brusse | The Beauty Blotter June 6, 2018 at 1:39 pm

    I am dying for a romantic getaway! This sounds so nice!

    • Reply Rachael June 7, 2018 at 9:59 am

      It really is the perfect spot for a romantic getaway.

  • Reply Shauna June 6, 2018 at 3:00 pm

    Wow what a weekend! I love finding posts like these that give a concrete plan of how you can be a tourist without having to stay for a week or so. The photography is incredible too!

    • Reply Rachael June 7, 2018 at 9:58 am

      Thank you! I was actually worried about photography since I decided to leave my DSLR camera at home. I’m really proud of how the pics turned out.

  • Reply Stephanie Tallent Hobbs June 10, 2018 at 6:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing!! A trip of a lifetime!!

  • Reply Em June 11, 2018 at 4:56 am

    Thanks for sharing! I did the Eiffel tower when I went to Paris when I was a kid, I’d love to go back again now that I’m older! I’m with you on the light show, it’s exactly like a haywire christmas tree!

  • Reply Jay | Life of Creed June 11, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Paris on my travel bucket list. Seeing the Louvre, Palace of Versailles, and the Sainte Chapelle. Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply Amelia June 12, 2018 at 12:37 am

    Looks like you had a wonderful time! I love Paris!

  • Reply Clare June 13, 2018 at 6:23 am

    This looks incredible! It’s making me long for my travelling days…I will get back at it someday. What a perfect time of year to visit too. Do you find it hard to get back to “normal” life after a trip like this?

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