How to Spend 5 Days in Paris

Updated: 8/9/2018 | August 9th, 2018

Paris: the city that takes too many lifetimes to see. I’ve spent weeks and weeks in Paris, and I’ve barely scratched its surface. Just when you think you’ve seen everything, you find new attractions, new cafés, or new markets to explore. It’s impossible to try to see it all or even begin to think you can. Many travelers come for about three days and try to see the highlights of this beautiful city. You need more time than that. I think you should plan on spending at least five days in Paris in order to see the bare minimum of what the City of Lights has to offer.

There’s just too much to do. Paris is a city I love to death. It is a city I contemplate spending my life in. If I could live anywhere, I think it would be Paris. I’ve been going for over a decade and have spent more time than I can count in the city. I’ve even run tours there!

If you’re planning a trip to Paris, here’s my suggested Paris itinerary for a 5-day visit (and some other suggestions in case you decide to spend longer there!)

What to See in Paris: Day 1

a day in paris

Spend your first day walking around Paris. There’s a lot to see here and you can cover spend a good half day (or whole day) wandering the cobblestone streets, parks, and areas of the city. If you want to orientate yourself to the city with a free walking tour, these are really good:

However, if you want to follow my walking tour, here’s my suggestion on an “orientation walk” around Paris:

Start at the Champs-Élysées and see the Arc de Triomphe. There isn’t usually line and you’ll get sweeping views of the city to start your day. Stroll down Champs-Élysées and through Place de la Concorde where you will see the Luxor Obelisk, an obelisk the French stole from the Egyptians. This square was also where they guillotined people during the French Revolution.

Walk down the Champs-Élysées through the Jardin des Tuileries, a beautiful garden that was once home . to a palace that burnt down in the 1800s. Stop and admire the Louvre before continuing down Rue Rivoli and crossing into the original part of the city on the Île de la Cité. This is where the Romans built their settlement. Enjoy the Pont Neuf and the statue of Henry IV. This bridge was built in 1578 and was the first stone bridge in the city. Stroll to my favorite church of all time, Saint Chapelle, with its incredible 12th century stained glass. There’s usually a line so book tickets in advance.

After that, head to the underground Roman ruins and then visit Notre Dame, the world’s most famous Gothic church. It’s free to enter but if you want to go up the Bell Tower, get there early to avoid the lines.

Head south toward the Latin Quarter. This area is pretty touristy, but if you get off the main drag you’ll find yourself in a labyrinth of alleys and café-lined squares that are far away from the local tourist hangouts.

Visit the Pantheon and honor France’s most famous dead citizens before heading west toward the Jardin du Luxembourg, where you can relax and watch life go by. There’s great people-watching here and it’s one of the best parks in the city.

After that, head north to see Saint Sulpice. If you’re into The Da Vinci Code, you’ll be looking for symbols and hidden meanings throughout this church. If symbols don’t interest you, just marvel at how grandiose this place is.

By this time, it should be late in the afternoon and a perfect time to stop in a café, order some wine, and relax the Parisian way.

With the rest of your time, continue walking around or see some museums.

What to See in Paris: Day 2

Use one day to see Paris’s three most popular museums. They will take hours to visit and it’s a good way to spend a day.

The Louvre
people waiting to get into the louvre museum
With over a million pieces of art, you could spend a whole month in the Louvre and still not see everything! I don’t particularly enjoy medieval art; it’s too religious for me, and I can only see so many pictures of Mary and Jesus before I get bored. Nevertheless, the museum is worth seeing and I spent about five hours exploring all the masterpieces and marveling at the old royal palace.

Musée du Louvre, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 40 20 53 17, Opening hours: M, Th, Sa–Su (9am–6pm), W, F (9am–9:45pm), Tu (closed). Price: €15. Free days: first Sunday of each month (Oct–March), Fridays after 6pm for those under 26.

LEARN MORE: How to Visit the Louvre

Musée d’Orsay

iconic clock at musee d'Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay, located in close proximity to the Louvre, houses the best impressionist and post-impressionist work in Paris. This is my favorite museum, and I always go when I’m in Paris. You’ll find masterpieces by all the great artists of the world, including Degas, Monet, Manet, and Van Gogh, to name a few. I could spend hours there.

1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 7th arrondissement, +33 1 40 49 48 14, Opening hours: Tu–W, F–Su (9:30am–6pm), Th (9:30am–9:45pm), M (closed). Price: €12, €9 after 4:30pm every day but Thursday, free first Sunday of the month.

Musée de l’Orangerie
a woman admiring art at Musée de l'Orangerie, photo by Adrian Scottow (flickr: chowhound)
Finish off a wild museum day with this Monet showcase. The museum displays eight tapestry-sized Nymphéas (water lilies) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms. Monet painted these images later in his life, and each one represents a different time of day and season. There’s a bottom floor that shows other works too.

Jardin des Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, 1st arrondissement, +33 1 44 50 43 00, Opening hours: W–M (9am–5:45pm), last entry at 5:15pm, Tu (closed). Price: €9, free first Sunday of the month.

Budget Travel Tip: Get the Paris Museum Pass. This four-day pass costs €62 and covers over 50 museums and attractions in the city. It covers all the museums above so getting this pass and using it to see all the attractions listed in this article will save you around €50! You can also get a two-day pass for €48 and a seven-day pass for €74.

What to See in Paris: Day 3

The Palace of Versailles
the golden gates at the palace of versailles
A trip to the Palace of Versailles takes a full day to really enjoy the site. Spend the day exploring the château, get lost in the surrounding gardens, and make sure you see Marie Antoinette’s estate, which includes a fake peasant village. Versailles is beautiful, so don’t rush it. Most people see the Palace first, then the gardens, and then Marie-Antoinette’s estate. If you do everything in reverse, you’ll be able to avoid the crowds. Go on weekdays to avoid paying for the gardens since they charge for them on weekends.

Place d’Armes, Versailles, +33 1 30 83 78 00, Opening hours: Tu–Su (9am–6:30pm), last entry at 5:45pm, M (closed). Price: “The Passport” ticket gives you admission to all the palace tours (grounds, Trianon Palaces, and Marie Antoinette’s estate), the Musical Fountain Show, the Musical Gardens, and the exhibitions: €27 (one day, with passport), €30 (two days).

What’s the inside of the palace like? Here’s a video tour of the Palace of Versailles to wet your taste buds: