How to be efficient to visit Paris on foot during a long weekend.
You have decided to visit Paris in 3 days… But how can you be organized to see everything in such a short time? This is the big question to which I give you an answer in three parts, one for each day of your trip.
For the first day, I suggest you go to the west of Paris and take a little height to see everything that awaits you. On the 2nd day, explore the Latin Quarter, then the Ile de la Cité and the surroundings of the Louvre. Finally, on the 3rd day, leaving from Bastille, cross the Marais and then Île Saint-Louis, before discovering Les Halles and ending with the Palais Royal.
A rich program but which will introduce you to the major tourist attractions of the capital. Montmartre is never far away and can be visited in the evening, especially after the third day. I leave you of course the choice, and propose for each day of visit proposed, to find the associated guided tours.
As you begin to visit Paris in 3 days, meet us at the foot of the Montparnasse Tower. From there, you have to enter the tower built in the 1970s, and take the elevator to the 52nd floor. You will arrive in a large room which hosts a restaurant, and which offers you a panoramic view over all of Paris. The best show is above you. Take the stairs up to the roof and from there, without glass or a gate, you will have a 360° view of the whole of Paris. In the morning, the light is ideal to see far away, and allow you to take stock with your guide of all the elements you will discover. You can even admire the Eiffel Tower, the final point of this day but for which the ascent is not recommended because it is too busy while there… you are protected from the crowd.
We go down again, and we take the direction of Les Invalides by passing in front of the rue de Rennes, a shopping street par excellence on the left bank of Paris. Go down the boulevard du Montparnasse which becomes the boulevard des Invalides. Walk past the church of Saint François-Xavier, and find on the left the avenue de Breteuil. In front of you now stands a few dozen metres away, the imposing Hôtel des Invalides and its golden dome, which is part of the Army Museum and houses Napoleon’s tomb.
Going along all the buildings to the right, you will return to Boulevard des Invalides a few metres from the Rodin Museum and its superb gardens. You can choose to visit only the gardens, recommended because the day is busy, or the whole museum. In the garden, you can admire the artist’s iconic statues such as the Thinker, the Bourgeois of Calais and the Three Shades.
Next stop: the Esplanade des Invalides, on the other side of the army museum, with the Seine as its direction. To cross it, you will take the Alexandre III bridge which will take you in front of the Grand Palais and the Petit Palais. These last three buildings were built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition. Access to the Petit Palais’ permanent exhibitions is free and recommended, if only to admire its magnificent interior garden and sublime decoration.
From there, you are no longer far from the Champs-Élysées, named after the place of hell in Greek mythology, where the good souls were led. Turn your back on the Arc de Triomphe, and walk down the most beautiful avenue in the world. Here you are, Place de la Concorde, marked in its centre by the imposing obelisk offered to France by Egypt. The square is one of the most beautiful in Paris with its two fountains and eight statues of the cities of France. Nearby is the Tuileries garden, but it will be for tomorrow.
Head for the Madeleine, via Place Royale to the north. You will pass in front of some of the most beautiful luxury boutiques in Paris, notably at the intersection with Faubourg Saint-Honoré. A few meters before arriving in front of the church, which looks like a Greek temple, notice the passage of the name of Cité Berryer, cross it and resume reading once it has been crossed.
Now turn left and then right in the rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré. Continuing straight ahead, you may be surprised to find a police roadblock. It simply indicates that you are arriving in front of the Elysée Palace, the main residence of the President of the Republic and also his place of work.
Continuing straight ahead, you will arrive at Place Beauvau, known to house the sumptuous Ministry of the Interior. Further on, take the avenue de Matignon which takes you back to the Champs-Elysées.
At the roundabout, continue straight ahead towards Avenue Montaigne, a street known for its haute couture and luxury fashion stores. At the very end, you will arrive at the Alma Bridge, made famous by Lady Di’s accident, recognizable by the scale reproduction of the Liberty Flame that dominates the entrance to the port of New York.
Going up President Wilson Avenue, you will arrive in front of the Palais de Tokyo, the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, as well as the Palais Galliera. Take your time, the whole thing is sublime.
At the very end of the avenue, you will arrive at Place du Trocadéro, which houses the Palais de Chaillot. In its two wings are respectively to the east and west, the Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine and the Musée de l’Homme. In the first one, you will find the plaster reproductions of French buildings, especially the parts that are high up. Thus the summits of some churches or the Arc de Triomphe, are within sight.
Return to Place du Trocadéro where you will notice the most famous monument in France, the one that no one else presents: the Eiffel Tower. Built for the 1889 Universal Exhibition, which corresponds to the centenary of the French Revolution, you do not need to wait to reach the summit.
On either side of the Iron Lady, there are the Trocadero gardens you have crossed, which house impressive fountains, and the Champ de Mars. It is on this magnificent and gigantic green space that your journey ends on this first day to visit Paris in 3 days.
Yesterday we climbed up, and we went to meet historical monuments. For this second day of visit, let’s go back a little further to the Gallo-Roman era by going through two former kings’ residences.
Today, go to the RER B Port Royal station to discover the Latin Quarter. Head towards the Garden of the Great Explorers, where one of the most beautiful fountains in Paris is located, and its statue of the four times. Not far from you is one of the most unusual and majestic churches in Paris, whose first stone was laid by Louis XIV as a child, Notre-Dame du Val de Grâce. You can see it from the entrance of the alley that bears its name.
Then, the rue Saint Jacques, the Cardo Maximu (a major north-south axis in Gallo-Roman times) takes you to the charming Saint-Jacques du Haut-Pas church, where you must take the rue de l’Abbé de l’épée. Atypical and winding, it leads to Boulevard Saint Michel and as you continue your way, you will arrive in front of the majestic gates that mark the entrance to the Jardin du Luxembourg. This majestic green space is full of statues of women who marked their time, as well as a replica of the Statue of Liberty. You can also take advantage of the many chairs and benches to rest while admiring the Palais du Luxembourg where the French senators sit.
Before leaving, you must absolutely pass in front of the Medici fountain to appreciate its statue, but also its unusual perspective. After the garden, the rue de Vaugirard, which borders the north of the “Luco”, allows you to reach Boulevard Saint-Michel once again. At the crossroads, your next step is in front of you. The Chapelle de la Sorbonne, the religious building of the Latin Quarter hidden behind the trees, stands on a charming square lined with cafés and restaurants, and animated by the water jets of its fountains. There is still a trace of Lutetia’s ancient past here: an old well now closed by a gate.
At the end of the square, at the foot of the Chapel, I advise you to go up the street on the right until you reach the crossroads with Soufflot Street. Look around you… The Hall of Fame! If you decide to visit it, you will start with the crypt, where the great figures of the nation who served France are buried. The soldiers are buried at the Hôtel des Invalides, which you saw the day before.
Among its residents, you will find Victor Hugo, but also Voltaire, Rousseau, Louis Braille and Marie Curie among others.
In the shadow of the Pantheon, you can see a church with a strange appearance, mixing different architectural styles, it is Saint Etienne du Mont, remarkable for its lack of internal and external symmetry. It is dedicated to Sainte Geneviève, patron saint of Paris, whose shrine it shelters. At the end of the nave, admire the last Jubé de Paris, one of the last in France.
To continue to visit Paris in 3 days, I invite you to join the Place de la Contrescarpe which marks the top of rue Mouffetard, famous for its nightlife and for being one of the oldest in Paris. If you wish to take a break, the many bars and restaurants that make its reputation are there to welcome you. Alternatively, you can go directly to the next step: the Lutetia Arena. Hidden by a discreet door along rue Monge, they are surprisingly large. You will arrive in the heart of the place where the fights were played, and where today petanque is on the agenda.
Exiting by the rue Monge, and going straight down, you arrive near the square René Viviani on the banks of the Seine. From there, you can see the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Walk along the banks of the Seine to the Saint-Michel bridge before crossing the river. The Palace of the City, former residence of the kings with the Holy Chapel are absolutely to be discovered. At the end of the island, before crossing, walk along the Palais de la Cité and head towards Place Dauphine, one of the four royal squares of Paris. The next one is for later, and the other two arrive tomorrow.
At the end of the square stands proudly the statue of King Henry IV, in the middle of the Pont Neuf, the oldest bridge in Paris. The origin of his name is misleading today, but at the time he was referring to the first bridge in Paris that did not include dwellings.
The next bridge along the Seine is the Pont des Arts, formerly famous for having been the bridge of lovers. It was customary for couples who came to hang a padlock on its gates before throwing the key in the water to last a lifetime. Although the gates have disappeared, the bridge remains particularly attractive because it links the Collège des Quatre Nations and the Palais du Louvre. The perspective is beautiful and so are the photos.
The next bridge is the Carrousel bridge, because it joins the eponymous garden located between the Tuileries garden and the Napoleon courtyard where the impressive pyramid of the Louvre is located. After seeing the Tuileries on your first day of visit, the garden is the next step. Reach the middle, turning your back on the Seine, and head for Place Vendôme, the second royal square of the day. In the middle of the watch shops, of the Ministry of Justice (where one of the last standard meters of Paris is located), stands the Vendôme column.
Then what? Cross the square, always going straight ahead. You can stop to admire, on your left, the magnificent and richly decorated Palais Garnier and its fabulous opera house. This stage also marks the end of this second day rich in historical monuments and exceptional tourist sites.
The first two days have been busy, the last one is calmer but just as rich. This time, the departure is to the east, on one of Paris’ emblematic squares, the Bastille Square. High place of the French Revolution, on this square stood at the time one of the defence towers of the former fortified enclosure, and called the bastille. Of the eight that were originally there, only two remain: the one at the Porte Saint-Martin, and the one at the Porte Saint-Denis, which are about a hundred metres away. The July column in the centre of the square commemorates the following revolutions, those of 1830 and 1848. At the top is the statue of the Genie, an allegory of freedom spreading its wings.
The other great monument of this square is the opera house, built for the bicentenary of 1789, and to democratize this art to Parisians from the more popular districts. By taking Boulevard Beaumarchais, you will head towards the Place des Vosges, the gateway to the Marais de Paris and the first royal square of the day. All around, the buildings have a common architecture that is easily recognizable, and in the middle is the magnificent square that houses sumptuous fountains, lawns to relax. The square also houses Victor Hugo’s former residence, and has a very discreet passage that leads you directly to the garden of the Hôtel de Sully. At the end of it, you will be very close to Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church, a sumptuous Jesuit parish, both inside and out.
Then, take the direction of the Village Saint-Paul, bordered by Philippe Auguste’s surrounding wall. Your next medieval site in the Marais is a few blocks away: the Hôtel de Sens and its magnificent garden. Heading towards the Seine, you will cross the Pont Marie which will take you to Île Saint-Louis. On the other side of the island, you will arrive at the edge of the Tournelle bridge. From the latter, walk along the banks of the Seine towards Notre-Dame, which you can see in the distance. On the tip of the island, look for the Louis-Philippe bridge, for your last crossing of the Parisian river.
For the next stop, head towards the Hôtel de Ville, which hosts the City Hall of Paris, passing in front of the Saint-Gervais church. Then head towards the Tour Saint-Jacques, in the middle of the eponymous green space. My advice for the rest is to go up rue Nicolas Flamel, which brings you closer to the church of Saint Merry. Then, along the latter, you will discover the Stravinsky fountain, dominated by the Centre Pompidou. This exhibition space dedicated to modern art is a must for Parisian museums, and the most visited after the Louvre and in front of the Musée d’Orsay.
To take a break and/or have a meal, head for the Forum des Halles and its imposing canopy. The great monument next door is the Saint-Eustache church, the second largest religious building in Paris in terms of size and capacity, after Notre-Dame. Opposite, the round building is the former Paris Stock Exchange.
A few streets away, the fourth and last royal square of Paris, the only one open to traffic and marked in its centre by an equestrian statue of Louis XIV: the Place des Victoires. A few steps away, it will allow you to reach the passage of the two pavilions that leads you to the entrance of the Garden of the Royal Palace. It houses artists’ galleries as well as Buren’s columns, unmistakable for their black and white stripes. A little thought for Molière who founded the Comédie Française, which played in the Richelieu room and was the last historical monument of the day.
If you still have time and energy, go visit the Montmartre hill. Once at the top, you will finish visiting Paris in 3 days in the same way you started: on the natural high point of the capital, to contemplate all that you have discovered.