A Weekend in Paris is ALWAYS a Good Idea if You Follow this Guide
Nothing like the perfect weekend in Paris! It has to be one of the most popular trip ideas out there and for good reason. After a few trips to this iconic city, I’ve put together this little itinerary to help you have the best time.
I have to say first and foremost, if you’ve never been to Paris, it’s very much worth visiting at least once. Even if you do only the most touristy things in a few days, what you’ll see and do will feel special. No, Paris isn’t something out of a Miss Dior Cherie ad, but it is an insanely beautiful city with incredible architecture, excellent food if you know where to go, and tons of history that has been romanticized and demonized ten times over.
I first went in as a student in 2012 during the lead up to Christmas, it honestly fulfilled every hope and expectation I had. Even with the gray weather, we were enchanted. Everything from our very sweet bed and breakfast hosts (Airbnb before Airbnb was even a thing) to the food we managed to eat on our shoestring budgets, and the many times we saw the Eiffel Tower – it was the most perfect introduction to the city of lights.
Recently I returned in during the month of May and still found it charming despite some things that really got on my nerves. Mostly it was the ungodly amount of smoking and lack of personal space when doing so, the occasional rude interaction (offset by the sweet interactions!), and the smell of urine in way too many places for what’s supposed to be one of the most elegant cities in the world. Even so, the weather was beautiful, the crowds weren’t too bad, and I managed to do some more things I’d been wanting to do since my first trip over a decade ago.
Between all these experiences, I’ve put together the most perfect weekend in Paris for anyone who’s thinking of booking a little getaway and has never been before. Enjoy!
Quick Paris Travel Tips
- When to Go: Honestly, any time of year is sure to be lovely. Just know that summer is high season and with Paris being the most popular city in the world, things get crowded (and sweaty). The big thing I would do is check if anyone is striking when you visit. My friend went in the summer when the trash collectors were striking, and let’s just say the smell put her off from ever wanting to go again.
- Getting in: It’s a pain in the butt to get into Paris no matter which method you use. I’d just use Uber or pre-book your private transfer from either Charles de Gaulle or Orly.
- Getting Around: Prepare your most comfortable shoes because you’re going to be doing a lot of walking! I wore my Vejas and Birkenstocks!
- Where to Stay: Stay near the Latin Quarter if this is your first visit. I have more below if you’d rather stay in Montmartre, but it’s not recommended if you want to do more in the city. I personally loved my stay at Hôtel & Spa Saint Jacques. Very pretty hotel in a good location to get around. Other lovely options: Hôtel Jardin de Cluny, Les Rives de Notre-Dame, and Hôtel Parc Saint-Séverin.
- Popular Tours:
- Be warned: Pickpockets thrive in Paris, so always keep an eye on your belongings. Also the smoking here is next level horrendous, so anyone with asthma, be extra prepared. Additionally, if a someone comes up and asks you to extend your wrist or asks you to sign something, don’t do it.
How to Spend the Perfect Weekend in Paris
Friday – Check in
Squeeze in a museum if you get in early enough
Depending on what time you get in, kick off your weekend in Paris with a visit to one of the 136 world class museums in Paris. I have the most famous option scheduled for Saturday, but if you have time, I suggest squeezing in another to kick off your trip.
For my last trip, the museum at the top of my list was the beautiful Musée d’Orsay. It’s housed in a former Beaux-Arts-designed railway station and has the largest Impressionist and post-Impressionist collection in the world. Its most famous work is probably Starry Night (1888) by Vincent Van Gogh (his other Starry Night (1889) is in NYC).
You’ll want to book tickets ahead of time as this museum is one of the most popular in the world!
Get some picnic supplies for dinner
Head to your nearest grocery store to pick up some picnic supplies. Even if you visit during the colder winter months, I think nothing is quite as fun as picking up some food and having yourself a little picnic along the Seine or in one of Paris’s many green spaces.
While you can, of course, go all out and have the most picture-perfect set-up, you can also just pick up the essentials, plop down, and enjoy. I won’t judge if all you really want to eat are a bunch of macarons from Ladurée.
Find the views of the Eiffel Tower
I mean is any weekend in Paris complete without seeing the Tour Eiffel at least once? Finish off your night finding some of the best views of this famous creation. It sounds kind of cliche, but I swear there really is something pretty magical when you see one of the world’s most famous landmarks sparkle in the night sky. The first time I saw it, I had to pinch myself!
The tower lights up every hour for five minutes from sunset to 1:00 AM, though apparently this changed to 11:00 PM very recently to save energy.
There are so many viewpoints – I think I went to three different ones on my first trip. A really cool perspective is to go right up to the tower and view it from below. Other classics are Champs-de-Mars, which is also a huge greenspace in front of the tower, and Jardins du Trocadéro.
Yet another option is to see it from the Seine on a nighttime river cruise. And if you really want to get fancy, you could forgo the picnic and do a 3-course dinner aboard a night cruise.
Then it’s time to hit the hay. I know, I know; this is a pretty magical way to start a weekend in Paris!
Saturday – Montmartre
Get croissants and coffee at Blé Sucre
What better way to start your first morning in Paris than with a classic café and croissant? I had saved Blé Sucre in my Google Maps as it was recommended in a newsletter I love (morning person by Leslie Stephens), and it’s a short walk from the first sightseeing stop of the day.
As if it wasn’t enough that Leslie was recommended this spot by Mexico City Chef Eduardo Garcia, a local in front of me in line also made sure to tell me these were the best croissants in the city.
I can’t say I’m a croissant connoisseur, but I have to say these were absolutely delicious. To me a good croissant strikes that fine balance between being soft and flaky. Underbaked, it’s doughy and disappointing, and over baked, it’s too flaky and hard. Blé Sucre definitely knows how to hit that balance. I think I went back for another before walking off!
Check out Rue Crémieux, Paris
After you’ve had breakfast, walk over to the very pretty Rue Crémieux. This residential block looks like it’s straight out of a painting with cobbled streets and candy-colored houses. It really is very cute, and if you’re lucky you’ll see a little black cat roaming about.
Keep in mind, it is a residential neighborhood, so be respectful when taking photos and walking around. The residents are already pretty irritated by how crazy some visitors get (which is hilariously documented on the @clubcremieux Instagram). Keep your voice down. don’t play music out loud, don’t get too crazy about getting the right shot, and, for the love of all that is holy, don’t stand on peoples’ doorsteps and in their doorways.
Once you’ve seen your fill, time to hop on the metro for your next stop!
Explore the Louvre
Another must when spending your first weekend in Paris? A visit to the incredible Musée Louvre. I’d give yourself the rest of the morning to enjoy.
Now, here’s the thing – if you try to go the Louvre on a whim without any planning, you could very easily find yourself waiting in line for 2-3 hours. I’m not even kidding, this museum sees 10 million people yearly and is one of the most famous museums in the world. When I went back in 2012, we dedicated a whole day to going here because we didn’t know any of the tricks to getting in besides just waiting. Hopefully, these tips help you avoid this:
Regardless of which entrance you go through, you’ll want to book timed entrance tickets. Now, the popular way to go in is via the I.M. Pei Pyramid., which is the main entrance. Keep in mind you can start to queue up to 30 minutes to your ticket time, but you still may have a long security line as well. If you want better chances of speeding up your entrance is through the Portes de Lions, which is much less popular and thus might be less crowded.
Another, even more full proof way, of minimizing wait times is to book a tour. The Louvre is absolutely massive, so I recommend booking a tour regardless. This 2-hour tour will take you around the masterpieces and ensure you skip the line.
Whatever you do, make sure you see Psyche Revived by Cupid’s Kiss by Antonio Canova. It’s my favorite Greek myth, and the statue is breathtakingly romantic in person.
Once you’ve gotten a thorough introduction to the Louvre, it’s time to hop on the metro and head towards another Parisian gem – Montmartre!
Grab some lunch at Breizh Cafe
Right after you get off Abbesses station, it’s time for lunch! Breizh Cafe has a location literally 2 minutes from the station exit and is the perfect stop for a bite before doing some more exploring. Choose from a menu of galettes and crepes. They have both more savory ones as well as sweet, dessert-y ones. I did a late breakfast here, and it was the perfect light meal.
Spend the afternoon wandering around Montmartre
After you’ve finished lunch, it’s time to head up and enjoy Montmartre. You can walk up or take the Funiculaire. I’ve always taken the stairs, and I promise they’re not that bad.
If you’re wondering what to do in Montmartre, the answer is – a lot! This is probably my favorite neighborhood of Paris, which isn’t saying much because most people feel the same way. Once you walk a little away from the many tourist area, it feels a lot quieter and calmer. The streets are smaller, and it really feels like a village within the city.
One spot I highly recommend not missing is the Musée Montmartre. Located in the former home of a few different artists, it gives you a nice little history of the bohemian neighborhood by focusing on the artists and dreamers that once lived here. There’s also a nice garden area and a cafe that you can enjoy if you want a little break.
Stay for sunset
Make sure you stay for the sunset, though so far the two times I’ve been here it’s been cloudy! There’s a reason the area in front of Sacré Cœur is one of the most popular tourist spots in the entire city. Yes, there’s a bunch of crowding but I promise it’s not unbearable, and you get really incredible views over the whole city. And, of course, when there is a sun to see, this is the spot for sunsets.
Dinner at Le Poulbot
Stay up in Montmartre for some dinner. Right around the corner from Le Consulat, Le Poulbot is a nice little restaurant a local friend picked for us to meet at. They’ve got a lot of good, classic French food, and a pretty good menu deal with a starter, main, and dessert for less than 40 euros. Just be sure to make reservations – the restaurant has very limited seating!
Once you’re finished, wander a bit and enjoy Montmartre at night before headed back to your hotel for some sleep! In case you’re wondering, yes, you’re probably going to have to climb back down the stairs to leave Montmartre and get the metro from Abbesses station.
Sunday – A Day for Wandering
To cap off your weekend in Paris, we’re doing the best thing there is to do here – wander! With so many rues and alleys and architecturally beautiful views, you really should allow yourself a day to stroll and see what catches your fancy!
Start at Boulangerie Liberté for breakfast croissants
After a pretty heavy sightseeing day on Saturday, Sunday is more for relaxing and wandering! If you really wanted to, you could just put on some comfortable shoes and walk without any real direction. The architecture in Paris is really that beautiful. I will, however, give you some points of interests below for those that don’t just want aimless wandering.
To start, head towards Liberté for some of truly delicious croissants. They have a few different locations, but I believe we stopped by the one on Rue Saint-André des Arts.
Explore Paris’s the two natural islands
If you want a route to follow, I’d first head to Île de la Cité (City Island). This historical island in the Seine is best known for the Notre-Dame, but it also has the royal chapel, Saint-Chapelle, and Paris’s first hospital Hôtel-Dieu. It also has Pont Neuf, the city’s oldest surviving bridge! Next to Île de la Cité is Île Saint-Louis (St. Louis Island). I want to wander here on my next visit because it’s supposed to have really beautiful views and feel quieter and and calmer.
Enjoy Jardin des Tuileries
If you cross over Île de la Cité, you’ll find yourself in the Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries Garden) which is such a beautiful place next to the Louvre. The gardens get their names from Palais de Tuileries, a palace that lasted from 1564 to 1883 and was used by most of France’s royalty. Originally a private garden built under Catherine de’Medici, it eventually became a public park after the French Revolution, and is just a really gorgeous place to come and relax. Well worth strolling around; especially if you’re here in the spring when the flowers are in bloom.
Walk along the Seine
Finally – just stroll along the Seine. It runs through Paris and will bring you to all sorts of places. If you’re there in warmer weather, it’s fun to people watch and see everyone out and about enjoying the sun. If you’re really feeling ambitious, you can walk back to the Eiffel Tower. It’s maybe 3-4km from Jardin des Tuileries.
Checkout the many independent bookstores
Before you go, I’d save some bookstores on Google Maps so you can pop over to them! Shakespeare & Co is the most popular but it had a huge line when we went by and there are so many cute, little independent bookstores you could peruse instead.
As I said, this day is really loose. It’s all about relaxing and just letting yourself be a bit curious. Besides Liberté, I have no concrete recommendations on where to eat because the goal is for you to find places on your walk.
And there you have it – the most perfect weekend in Paris for any first time visitor! A lot of ground is covered but nothing too crazy, and you’ll get the a fantastic introduction to one of the most enigmatic cities in the world.
For more France travel, read these posts next:
- 16 Splendid Things to Do in Strasbourg All Year Round
- Visiting Colmar Feels Exactly Like Entering a Storybook
- Nice Travel Guide: Tips for this French Riviera City
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