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2.5 days in Paris for first timer

Hi All,

it is going to be my first trip to Paris this summer. I have planned rough itinerary as follows. Is it too ambitious? Any other input is very welcomed
Day 1 : Arrive at CDG Airport at 7am. I'll allow ample time until 1pm checking in the hotel and having lunch nearby.
1. Starts from the Louvre Museum, Royal Palais; part of the Tuileries Garden and Arc De Triomphe du Carrousel.
Since it is summer, does the Garden would be too much of a heat?
Could I finish Louvre in 2 hours?
2. Heading to Montmartre to catch sunset at Sacre Coeur. Could I manage to get there before sunset since I need to still get into the cable car? since it's summer, i think the sunset would be around 8pm? is it better to switch with the itinerary to ile de la cite and ile st louis as mentioned below?

Day 2 :
1. Eiffel Tower. I heard there's going to be long queue that's why I plan to do it first thing in the morning. How early would it be best? or I'd better book 'skip the line' tour? How long approximately could be spent to get to the top of the Tower if I come first thing in the morning?
2. strolling along Champ Elysees; Madeline; Rue St. Honore and Plaza de La Concorde. Might take the train to Arc de Triomphe du Etoile.
3. Ile de la cite's Sainte Chapelle and Notre Dame. Where is the best area to get the view of this ile?
4. dinner and ice cream at ile st louis

1. Versailles
2. Jardin du Luxemborg. Is it going to be too much of a heat in the summer? is it similar to Jardin Tuileries? I see the pics and feel the landscape is similar but more flowers in Luxemborg but it's going to be summer when I visit not spring.
Musee de l'Orangerie.

I'm also thinking between Montparnasse or Le Marais as I am not a really shopping person and for this trip does not really have the budget for cafes. Which neighborhood depicts more of a Parisian?

Thank You in Advance for all input

Posted by
3580 posts

Your schedule looks busy to me. On your first day you may want to leave the Montmartre part until day 2. I think you can reserve time for the Eiffel Tower, thus saving time in line. The Louvre can take 30 minutes or all day, it depends.... I don't usually spend more than one hour in any museum. Gotta keep moving! Check the schedule of weekly closing of museums and adjust accordingly.

Where will you be staying? If in arr. 4, 5, or 6, many of these places are in walking distance.

Luxumberg Gardens are not like the other, but both are good places for strolling and sitting. Tuilleries are handy to the Louvre.

You won't have time to "do" all of Paris this trip. You will want to stay longer or return. When you get tired or thirsty, find a cafe or park bench.

Posted by
1464 posts

The first thing to do to my opinion is taking care of the jetlag and getting used to your new environment. So first get enough energy before starting exploring and enjoying the city. Hard to plan how long, but anyway it needs time. Why for instance not go first to the Jardin de Luxembourg or a similar place close to your hotel to relax before heading to the Louvre if possible.

With a bit of smart navigating you can move around quite efficient and quick with the metro as the centre of Paris is fairly compact. It´s really worth to study the metro map and to understand how it works as you can save a lot of time and so making the planning more efficient and also more flexible if things don´t work as expected, changing plans on the spot.

Personally I like to use metro Line 1, running along the “Rive Droite” and underneath Champs-Élyseés, most attractions are located within easy walking distance. (Bastille, Notre-Dame, Pompidou, Louvre, Tuileries, Concorde, Vendôme, St Honoré, Arc deTriomphe) From the Arc you can take Line 6 to Trocadéro for that famous view of the Eiffel Tour and ofcourse a visit. Try to figure out the best metro tickets for the three days.

Being a bit used to the metro it will be not too difficult going to Montmartre on time viewing sunset.

If you be in Paris on Wednesday or Friday, good to know that the Louvre is open till 9:45 p.m.

Posted by
11731 posts

Hi Jen -
At a first glance,I think your itinerary is too ambitious and yet it's missing a lot of what Paris has to offer. But without knowing what your interests are, it is difficult to make alternate recommendations. I love art museums, and couldn't have covered the Louvre in 2 days let alone two hours; we went three separate times over a week in Paris and didn't see it all. I would also place the d'Orsay and Cluny on the must-do list but that's just me.

Your schedule is also heavily dependent on weather: you're banking on every day being dry for your various walks, garden visits, etc. The view from the Eiffel will not be wonderful on a day of heavy rain, and there may be no sunset to enjoy at the Sacre Coeur if it's overcast so flexibility is advised. It's impossible to predict how wet, dry, or hot it's going to be on any given day.

Montmartre is a fun neighborhood to explore that deserves more than a quick stop, and I think after time at the Louvre that you may be too tired to enjoy it. Just my humble opinion but the Champs is one of the most overrated streets in Paris, and if you're not interested in shopping, I'd give it a skip; better things to do with the time you have.

Versailles needs an entire day. This is another one I'd skip in favor of other attractions in Paris itself as your time is so limited.

Posted by
5718 posts

With so little time you need to be aggressive about pruning your list to the most important things and then taking enough time to really enjoy them. With only a couple of days you might want to skip the Louvre for the Orsay but it depends on your particular artistic interests. The Orsay is a lot more manageable as a two hour visit than the Louvre, but be sure you have purchased tickets ahead if you do that. Or you might choose a small museum like the Orangerie or Marmotan for Monets either of which can be 'done' in an hour. I like the idea of a walking tour the first day and if it is nice,no reason not to stroll the Tuilleries up to the Arc du Triomphe or to stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens.

Montmartre is worth a stroll -- I am not sure I would rush up there for sunset. And definitely don't go to Anvers metro and walk up and use the funicular -- that is such an unlovely approach to the place. If you want to experience the charm of Montmartre get off at Lamarck Caulaincourt, climb the stairs above the metro to Caulaincourt, turn left and wander up to Sacre Couer through some of the prettiest streets in Paris. This route brings you to the back or side of the basilica and you can than walk along the side to the front for the view out over the city. This avoids the bracelet jerks, the touristy trashy area below the mont and is a much nicer Paris experience.

I would not do Versailles with so little time especially in July when it will be so crowded and hot. I am a big fan of Montparnasse area as a place to stay but would not make a special trip there in so short a trip.

Figure out what is most important and build each morning and afternoon around one of those things. I think your instinct to walk around is a good one, so perhaps get a 'Paris Walks' book of self guided walking tours to give you maps of good routes and information about what you are seeing.


Posted by
216 posts

Hi Jen,

I don't think it's too much but then my 5 year old daughter's idea of a good time was climbing Notre Dame, climbing the Eiffel Tower, lunching at the Eiffel Tower, climbing the Arc de Triomphe, climbing the stairs instead of the funicular, climbing the dome of Sacre Coeur and going to the Pompidou on the same (long) day in March.

In order to comment in detail on your itinerary, one would need to know:
1. When you are going - lines will be longer in summer and it will be hotter. End of June can be cool; end of July/August can be jump-into-the-fountains-at-Trocadero really, really hot.
2. What days of the week are you going? Mondays and Tuesdays (and to a lesser extent Sundays) are the WORST days to see what you have listed because various of the sights are closed those days. That means the ones which are not closed are very busy.
3. How much walking, climbing stairs can you do? Can you walk 8 miles and climb 6 flights of stairs?
Many of us on the forum are "of a certain age" - as in middle-aged. I am staring at 50; others appear to be in the 60-70 range. What each person finds "too much" colours their views. How about your travel companion(s), if any?

Now the comments on your itinerary:
1. Save money by buying your lunch and/or picnic foods in a grocery store. Look for a Monoprix and head to the basement where you will find a grocery store often with a deli counter, excellent cheese, cooked foods and bread (and Parisens). Take the food to a bench in any garden (or in the underground shopping mall attached to the Louvre if it's raining) and enjoy! If you can, splurge on tea or a snack at one of the museum cafés. Outdoor balcony at the Louvre, beautiful room behind one of the clocks at the d'Orsay.
2. Assuming you are going Wednesday to Saturday, nothing wrong with day 1. You can see the major highlights of the Louvre in 2 hours: Mona, Nike, Venus, very large, famous French paintings. Keep your purse in front of you. You will miss much of the rest but you can save it for the next trip! Make sure you rest a little but don't go to sleep! Have dinner on Montmartre. Either a snack a le Coquelicot (rue d'Abbesses?) or something more substantial later. If you can climb 6 flights of stairs, don't bother with the funicular. Lots of people watching and performers at Sacre Coeur.
3. Day 2: I'd climb the stairs. You can buy a ticket from Level 2 to the top either on the ground or the ticket booth on 2. Get in line for the elevator to the top. The people with timed tickets are also in this line so all they saved was getting to level 2. Once I got there early and waited in line for an hour with all the other early birds. Ate my bread, cheese and croissant breakfast while waiting and chatting to people in line. Be nice to the people you line up with; they will be around to take your photo while you're on the tower. Could be 2 hours, could be 4 hours. It depends on how many other people are there.
I'd walk over the bridge to Trocadero and enjoy the views of the Tower. Then walk to the Arc de Triomphe and climb that (no elevator, line moves quickly) for more views. You can check out the Champs Élysées from there and decide if you want to walk. There's a shady side if it's too hot. Take bus if you want or Métro. I understand Notre Dame interior is best enjoyed in the morning. But it will be lovely. Have dinner on the Left Bank. Comptoire? It always has a line of Parisiens. Or be a vrai Parisienne and picnic with wine on the western tip of Île de la Cité and watch the boats go by and the sunset. Have ice cream at Berthillion and watch the performers on the bridge connecting to Île de la Cité.
4. Day 3: take it easy. Versailles is a whole day to enjoy. RS at times has suggested 1/2 day on some itineraries. Skip it. I'd do the d'Orsay and l'Orangerie - across the bridge from each other. If you want to enjoy the atmosphere, head to the Marais for free Carnavelet and Place des Vosges to relax.
Enjoy! :)

Posted by
11440 posts

I have been to the Louvre about a dozen times now.. everytime for at least 3-4 hours.. sometimes more, and I have not "finished" it yet.. it is huge.
Pick two or three areas that will interest you ( may I suggest Napoleons Apartments) and just see them.

As for heat.. where are you from.. I find parks in Paris a bit of a relief from heat if you can find a shady spot.. as building are poorly if at all air conditioned .. and often filled with people,, and the cement and pavement of the streets can really reflect heat if it is hot ( its not always hot in Paris.. even in summer I have had cool rainy weather,, as well as heat waves) . Its just luck of the draw.

Posted by
463 posts

Hi All thanks for the inputs and recommendations :D
At the end, I extend my trip to 3 full nights, I sacrifice my Belgium's Brussel trip at the moment or perhaps taken one day from the other countries ie. Netherlands 2 nights and Germany 7nights.

In Paris, I plan to stay at Mercure hotel just nearby Gare de Lyon Station. What do you guys think of the area? I see that the station is crossed by many Metro and RER Lines

i'm going to research for the booked Eiffel Tower visit. thanks for the info :) . I'd check Louvre's part that'd would interest me. I plan 2 hrs at most.

It's a nice input for the stroll in Jardin du Luxembourg. that's definitely refreshing. hopefully the heat is bearable then I'd consider having a stroll there first. Thanks for the Louvre info too since I do arrive on Frid 10th of July :D

sorry not being specific. hmm i'm most probably looking for the sightseeing, the view. I definitely interested with the cultural part too but i have very little knowledge about the Arts there so I'm not quite sure with the visit to the museums.

Thanks for giving me view about the Louvre's landscape. I'd go see the Monalisa firsthand then :)

i think your daughter and I are alike :D We don't like being in the same spot for too long lolz. Your daytrip itinerary really encourage me. I'll be in Paris right on the weekend so that could be bad for lines too though. the good part is I don't need to worry about closing schedule. Thank You for all the recommendations, i'll take note of them :) btw what time did you go to the Eiffel? i'd be one of the early birds too to avoid too long queue.

hi, i come from a tropical country which is very humid. we only have 2 seasons, rainy and sunny weather. Is paris more humid or dry during summer? if it's humid, the sweat is the main concern. if it's dry but still windy it's still better i think.

thank you so much for the link :)

Posted by
1464 posts

Hi Jen,

Line 1 runs through Gare de Lyon, so for using the metro Hotel Mercure is perfect. Estimate a ride from there to Jardin de Luxembourg about 20min. And a bit more to Lamarck-Coulaincourt or Anvers for visiting Montmartre. For quicker travel you can also make use of Line 14 or the RER lines having lesser stops, for planning you can use for instance the RATP website:

Posted by
216 posts

Hi Jen,

My daughter read what I wrote and she said "I'm 7 and I'd still do the Awesome Foursome!"

Here is an address for a list of sites open in the evenings with the days and times:

Then you can be going from dawn to well past sunset! Check each site's website for construction which could affect the experience. The l'Arc de Triomphe is under construction (probably repairs!). The warning is on the Museum Pass website.

Speaking of which, get the 4 day museum pass. It's worth wasting the fourth day to save you hassles on day 3. An ambitious itinerary requires the Pass. Give it to some tourist at the end of the day 3; feel good!

In 2008, we went an hour before opening and waited in line for more than an hour but ate breakfast. In end of June 2012, we went in the morning (I think 10 am) and walked up the stairs to Level 2. I'm no gym bunny and it was fine. I do tend to lose weight on these trips because of all the walking. On July 2, 2012, our friends came and we walked up the stairs at 2 or 3 pm. Each of these times, we got tickets to the top either at the ticket booth on the ground or on Level 2. Later that week, we went at our reserved time because my friend heard you need reservations. That time, the elevator to the top was broken. Yes, the one time we had a reservation we couldn't go to the top. I would have been choked if we hadn't already summited twice that trip! The elevator may be closed for the following reasons: high winds, broken elevator, security concerns. In March 2013, we walked up the stairs around 1 pm or so, after climbing Notre Dame (got there an hour before opening and waited more than an hour). For the record, there were light flurries. We've now had lunch at the cheaper restaurant - picnic basket place not snack bar three times as a reward for walking up the stairs, saving 10€ + and not standing in line! Apparently, we are going back next trip. Don't settle for a seat away from the window. I did last time and it was not nearly as special. Just another room. Meh.

I've never noticed a line up for the stairs that is longer than 15 minutes. All times are possible. I believe it's the west leg. If that's closed, all bets are off!

Posted by
216 posts

I just checked the Eiffel Tower website and you can make a reservation for lunch (at noon or 1:30 pm) and you get your reservation for the elevator to Level 1 all for 41.50€ including a glass of wine! If you have no intention of walking up the stairs or winging it in any way, this seems like a steal of a deal. It is "chic pique-nique" which means you order your drinks then go to a serving window to order your entrée, main and dessert. They give you a metal basket with your bread and your 3 courses are brought by the servers. The main comes with a plastic lid like on a plane. The food has been mostly quite nice. It's not fabulous (comparable to a very nice business class meal on a good airline) but compared to the restaurant on Level 2 and the dinners, it's a reasonable price and you're eating In the Eiffel Tower, people!! Well, the kids will be impressed anyway!

Or you can take your chances and show up after hoofing it up the stairs any time between 11:30 and 3:30 pm for 17.50€ of adult and 8€ for kids. 8€?! You WILL go to the ball, Daughter of Mine!

The elevators are in the North, East and West towers so the stairs must be in the. . . South Tower. It's the one with no line up!

Posted by
7124 posts

I too suggest dropping Versailles, and build your days around the following.

Day 1
Arc de Troimphe+Champs Elysess
Notre Dame
Pompidou Centre (opens til late)

Day 2
Eiffel Tower
Musee d'Orsay (open late Thurs)
Sacre Coeur+Montmartre

Day 3
St Chapelle+Conciergerie
Louvre (open late Wed and Fri)
Place des Vosges+Marais+Picasso Museum

Posted by
508 posts

Consider getting a two day hop on hop off bus pass which will get you around Paris to all the big sights and you have the flexibility to get off and see what ever attracts your attention ( you can look at their schedules and route online before you leave). The subway in Paris is also easy to use. They have a Paris Pass you can buy which includes all of the museums and other attractions as well including the subway and bus system. As far as your itinerary, I agree with others that you have a lot of quantity, but could use a little less of that and more quality. Three days, especially when jet-lagged, is not a lot of time to even scratch the surface and I fear you will find yourself rushing through a lot of places that require time for you to appreciate them. If you want to say to your friends and family that you've "been" to these places you can easily do it. If you want to truly appreciate them, well, slow down and smell the roses. Rick always says "assume you will return". That is so true, and for me no place in Europe, with the possible exception of Rome, has such a strong pull to come back as Paris. One thing we did two years ago when we arrived about the same time you will was, after dropping off our luggage at the hotel, stroll the length of the Champs Ellysees, then over to the Eiffel Tower where we bought our Hop On Hop Off bus pass and rode the entire circle throughout the city. The fresh air and exercise helped us overcome our jet lag and the rest of the time there went very well. Lastly, when you go to see the Mona Lisa take some time to enjoy the spectacular painting on the opposite wall, The Wedding Feast at Cana. It's 20x30 FEET, but you'd be surprised how many people miss it because they came to see something 20x30 inches and then rush out to see the rest of the Lourve. Enjoy.

Posted by
463 posts

Hi Sandra,
thanks so much for the Eiffel Tower info. really2 appreciate it :) So as long as we decide to take the stairs to the 2nd floor, we should be fine with the queue. Me and my partner also need to lose some weight lolz. hopefully it's not too hot. does the stairs partially sheltered? i've taken note it's in the South leg , the one without long queue :D. Do you think that going later in the afternoon would be better for the congestion than in the opening time? I'll be there on 11th of July which according to its website not the peakest yet but almost.

i also have some questions in regards to the Eiffel Tower if i may:
1. should i buy the ticket online since i'll be there on the peak period? stair entrance ticket couldn't be bought online though, just the ticket to the top. the bad thing about buying it in advance, if it's for example closed due to weather, the timed ticket is void and non refundable but i read that ticket to the top is quickly sold out online and availability on the ground tickets depends heavily on the numbers of visitors during the time?? i just think that it's summer and the weather should co-op better

  1. how does the ticket get calculated? so for example if i want to go to the top and stop on the 1st floor on the way down, that means E15.5 + E5? or the ticket to the top E15.5 has included the stop on 1st floor? at the moment, the web does not show the price for stopping on the newly refurbished level 1

  2. i read that there's an ongoing construction there with the newly refurbished level 1 was completed last year. was the construction visible and obstruct the view if we want to take a shoot of the Eiffel Tower from the ground?

also i don't see construction notice on the Arch de Triomphe website. this is the website that I find
it says that the top could only be reached by the last 40 stairs which means there is an elevator prior to that level (thinking of saving up energy after the Eiffel, no longer an Energizer Bunny :D). Could we use this elevator as I read mostly people climb up the 200+ stairs?

thanks a lot Sandra and XOXO to your awesome daughter. hmm i don't think i could climb stairs that much on her age so kudos to her!

thank you for the recommendation and reminding me of Place des Vorges which is within Le Marais area. my hotel is in Rue de Bercy which is still walking distance from it :D

thank you for reminding me to ease the jetlag. yes it's very important. it's been a habit i prepare more visits for the itin in the beginning but then if at the end of the day our body given up by itself , we forgo the rest of the itin lolz but at least i've prepared the routes for them. we've done this in the past travels hahahh. my other half never agrees to go more than 2 weeks hence all the rush and we're not that privilege to get to EU often. Wedding Feast at Cana, take note of that! TQ

Posted by
11440 posts

No.. Eiffel Tower tickets are one price if you take the elevator.. meaning you can buy a ticket on the elevator that goes to first and second levels.. OR you can buy a ticket that goes to the top. If you buy a ticket to the top,, you can still get off and visit 1st and 2nd levels.. and in fact you will have to get off on 2nd level anyways as the elevator to top STARTS from 2nd level. You get off 2nd level.. and have to walk to elevator that goes to top.. you will likely wait a bit ,, but nothing like regular line below.

Now.. if you choose to buy a ticket just to the 2nd level you can still change your mind when you arrive there and purchase a ticket to the top.. so if weather looks iffy.. that's a good option.. the views from top are not great if its real rainy or hazy.

So basically two prices. Price to second level from ground. Price from ground to top.. which includes stops at 1st and 2nd level.

Personally I think 2 nd level is more then enough.. top is crowded. , completey enclosed and I just don't like it.. its kind of a " we have done it" thing to me.

Posted by
3696 posts

Try to leave a little bit of time for just hanging out in some cafes... or going to a market...
Also...I would not want to leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up a night. Not sure I saw that in your agenda.
I would also forget Versailles this trip. I have stayed at that Mercure and it was a good location for me, but I was there in the winter, so most areas were not too crowded. I have also been a few times in the summer, and not only is it hot... it is crowded and hot and full of lots of cranky tourists. I would get up as early as possible to wander around some of the parks and try to do indoor things in the heat of the day (or take a nap) and then come back out after the sun goes down.... Have a wonderful trip!

Posted by
7124 posts

Depending on any delayed arrival, jet lag and time waiting for your hotel room, I would consider this:
Expect to get to your hotel around 10-11am. If you cant access your room immediately to freshen up, dump your gear and get the metro line 1 from Gare de Lyon to Etoile for Arc de Triomphe & Champs Elysees. Grab some lunch and by this time your room should be ready. Afterwards kick on by metro to Notre Dame (Hotel de Ville stop also on line 1), taking time to explore both Isle de la Cite and Ile St Louis - a little bridge connects them.