Paris in One to Seven Days

By Rick Steves, Steve Smith, and Gene Openshaw

Paris is magnificent, but it's also super-sized, crowded, and fast-paced. These suggestions from my Paris guidebook will help you prioritize the many sights. With the proper approach and a measure of patience, you’ll fall head over heels for Europe’s cultural capital.

In the day plans below, I’ve listed sights in descending order of importance. Therefore, if you have only one day, just do Day 1; for two days, add Day 2; and so on. When planning where to plug in Versailles, remember that the Château is closed on Mondays and especially crowded on Sundays and Tuesdays — try to avoid these days.

Paris in One, Two, or Three Busy Days

If you want to fit in Versailles on a three-day visit, try it either on the morning of the third day or the afternoon of the second day.

Day 1

Morning:  Follow my guidebook's "Historic Paris" walk, featuring Ile de la Cité, Notre-Dame, the Latin Quarter, and Sainte-Chapelle.

Afternoon:  Tour the Louvre.

Evening:  Enjoy the Trocadéro scene and a twilight ride up the Eiffel Tower.

Day 2

Morning:  Follow my book's Champs-Elysées walk from the Arc de Triomphe down the grand Avenue des Champs-Elysées to Tuileries Garden.

Midday:  Cross the pedestrian bridge from the Tuileries Garden, then tour the Orsay Museum.

Afternoon:  Tour the Rodin Museum, or the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb.

Evening:  Take one of the tours by bus, taxi, or retro-chic Deux Chevaux car recommended in my guidebook. (If you’re staying more than two days, save this for your last-night finale.)

Day 3

Morning:  Ride the RER suburban train out to Versailles (tour the Château and sample the gardens).

Afternoon:  Follow my book's Marais walk or Montmartre walk.

Evening:  Cruise the Seine River or have dinner on Ile St. Louis, then take a floodlit walk by Notre-Dame.

Paris in Five to Seven Days without Going In-Seine

Day 1

Morning:  Follow my book's "Historic Paris" walk, featuring Ile de la Cité, Notre-Dame, the Latin Quarter, and Sainte-Chapelle. If you enjoy medieval art, visit the Cluny Museum.

Afternoon:  Tour the Opéra Garnier, and end your day enjoying the glorious rooftop view at Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores.

Evening:  Cruise the Seine River.

Day 2

Reversing the morning and afternoon activities on this day works well because the Champs-Elysées walk leaves you near the Louvre — but most people have more energy for museums in the morning.

Morning:  Tour the Louvre (arrive 30 minutes before opening). Have coffee or lunch at Café le Nemours (across the street from the Louvre).

Afternoon:  Follow my book's Champs-Elysées walk from the Arc de Triomphe downhill along the incomparable Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Tuileries Garden, and possibly the Orangerie Museum.

Evening:  Enjoy dinner on Ile St. Louis, then a floodlit walk by Notre-Dame.

Day 3

Morning:  Tour the Orsay Museum (arrive 15 minutes before opening).

Midday:  Tour the Rodin Museum (café lunch in its gardens).

Afternoon:  Visit the Army Museum and Napoleon's Tomb, then take my book's Rue Cler walk and relax at a café.

Evening:  Take one of the nighttime tours by taxi, bus, or retro-chic Deux Chevaux car recommended in my book.

Day 4

Morning:  Catch the RER suburban train by 8:00 to arrive early at Versailles (before it opens at 9:00) and tour the palace’s interior. (If you get a later start, reverse today's plan by doing the gardens first and the château's interior later in the afternoon.)

Midday:  Have lunch in the gardens at Versailles.

Afternoon:  Spend the afternoon touring the gardens, the Trianon Palaces, and Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, or return to Paris and do this book’s Montmartre Walk.

Evening:  Have dinner wherever you are — in Versailles town or on Montmartre.

Day 5

Morning:  Follow my book's Marais walk and tour the Carnavalet Museum. Have lunch on Place des Vosges or Rue des Rosiers.

Afternoon:  Tour the Picasso Museum, Pompidou Center, and the Jewish Art and History Museum, or explore the cemetery at Père Lachaise.

Evening:  Enjoy the Trocadéro scene and a twilight ride up the Eiffel Tower.

Day 6

Morning:  Take an Impressionist escape to Giverny or Auvers-sur-Oise, or take a day trip to historic Reims, Chartres, or Vaux-le-Vicomte. If you get back to Paris in time, consider the following options:

Late Afternoon:  Follow my book’s Left Bank walk (featuring art galleries, boutiques, historic cafés, and grand boulevards), mix in some shopping on a stroll from Sèvres-Babylone to St. Sulpice, then relax in Luxembourg Garden or at a nearby café.

Evening:  Join the parade along the Champs-Elysées (which offers a different scene at night than the daytime walk you enjoyed on Day 2). If you haven't hiked to the top of the Arc de Triomphe yet, consider doing it by twilight.

Days 7

Choose from:

  • More shopping and cafés
  • My book's Bus #69 tour, followed by Père Lachaise Cemetery
  • Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur
  • Marmottan or Jacquemart-André museums
  • Day trip to Vaux-le-Vicomte and Fontainebleau
  • Day trip to Disneyland Paris

Evening:  Night bus or boat tour (whichever you have yet to do)


Steve Smith and Gene Openshaw are the co-authors of the Rick Steves' Paris guidebook.