Paris is easily one of our favourite European cities, and one that we return to time and again. It has so much to offer, from beautiful views to world class museums to fabulous food. We’ve visited a number of times, both for short breaks like the two days in this itinerary, as well as for more prolonged stays.
Speaking of a shorter visit, we wanted to share with you an itinerary for two days in Paris that will get you to all our favourite sights. It’s a fairly packed itinerary (feel free to adjust accordingly!), but if you’re short on time in the city and want to see as much as you can – this will help you do that.
This itinerary is perfect for a first time visitor to Paris, or even a returning visitor looking for a quick two day Paris itinerary that includes most of the major attractions. After the itinerary, we share some tips and advice for visiting Paris, as well as some ideas for saving money on your trip. Now onto our suggestions of how to spend the perfect:
2 Days in Paris
1. Saint Chapelle
I have to admit, it took multiple visits to Paris before I actually visited Saint Chapelle. Suffice to say, my mind was blown. This is without doubt one of the prettiest churches I’ve ever visited, and I can’t believe it took me so long to actually go inside.
With almost floor to ceiling stained glass windows, this 13th century gothic chapel will literally take your breath away when you walk inside. Don’t feel bad if you stand there, mouth agape with wonder. I certainly did, until I remembered myself and got to taking some pictures. It’s a truly wonderful place, and an absolute must in Paris.
Saint Chapelle normally opens at 9am, and we highly recommend you get here by 9am sharp, if not a little earlier, in order to get in before the queues. It’s a relatively small attraction, and the security and ticket lines can be long, so arriving here when it opens will save you a lot of time.
2. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Just near Saint Chapelle is one of Paris’s most well know religious buildings – Notre-Dame Cathedral. With two huge towers and mighty flying buttresses, it’s not hard to see why this has become one of Paris’s iconic attractions, not to mention one of the most famous churches in the world.
Completed in 1345 after nearly 200 years of construction, Notre Dame is a beautiful building that is well worth the visit. You can walk around and appreciate the exterior, and of course, you can head inside. Entry is free, although if you want to visit either the towers or the crypt there is an additional fee (included with the Paris Pass and Paris Museum Pass), and you need to pre-book a timeslot for climbing the tower.
From Notre Dame it’s a 20 minute walk (or 15 minute metro ride) to one of Paris’s most famous museums – the Louvre. This is of course home to the Mona Lisa (which many visitors make a bee-line for!) and the Venus de Milo, but the largest and most visited art gallery in the world has a great deal more to offer than these two sights, from Islamic art to Greek antiquities.
You could spend a whole day (or more!) just exploring the Louvre, but that would restrict the rest of your Paris sightseeing, so try and limit yourself to two or three hours if you can!
Also, you should be aware that the Louvre is one of Paris’s most popular attractions, and lines can get long. There are two main entry lines, one fast track security line and one slower line for people without an advance ticket.
We’d definitely encourage you to save money and time by either getting a fast track ticket in advance, or buying a pass that gives you access to the fast track line. Both the Paris Pass and Paris Museum Pass offer free entry to the Louvre with fast-track access – see more at the end of the post on which pass is going to best for this two day itinerary.
4. Wine Tasting
France is known the world over for wine, so after you’ve sated your cultural curiosity at the Louvre, why not relax a bit over a glass of wine whilst learning all about the art of French wine making. Sound good?
Well, conveniently, right next door to the Louvre you’ll find the “Caves du Louvre”, a relatively new wine tasting experience set in an 18th century wine cellar, formerly home to the wine collection of the King of France himself.
Here, over the period of about an hour, you’ll try three different French wines, whilst learning all about grape varieties and the factors that go into the making of a French wine.
It’s a fun experience, and you can either do it as a self-guided tour using an app, or with a tour leader. It’s currently €30 for the tour, but it is free for holders of the Paris Pass. If you choose the self-guided option, you even get a free bottle of wine for your effort.
If you’re not keen on drink, or you’re travelling with children, you might instead want to pop along to the nearby Angelina Café for a divine cup of hot chocolate. Or if you’re into tea, check out Jess’s guide to the best afternoon tea locations in Paris.
5. Arc de Triomphe
There are a number of places in Paris that I think offer fantastic views of the city, and the Arc de Triomphe is one of my favourites. Found at the western end of the Champs Elysees, this fifty metre high monument to those who died for France in both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars is a must-see when visiting Paris.
You can of course admire the arch from below, and be amazed at the efforts of the traffic to get around this monumental roundabout. But to be honest, for the best experience, you need to climb the steps to the top (or take the lift) and enjoy the magnificent views of the city. Note – to cross to the Arch, take the pedestrian underpass. Don’t try and cross the traffic roundabout!
From the top of the Arc de Triomphe you get wonderful views of the Parisian skyline, including the Eiffel Tower, and the business district La Défense.
I’d also add, if you take the stairs on your way out, there’s a nice photo opportunity as you look down the stair well from the top of the stairs spiralling down. If you’re interested in more good photo opportunity ideas in Paris, check out my guide to the best photography locations in Paris.
Climbing the Arc de Triomphe costs €12. It’s included with the Paris Pass and the Paris Museum Pass, which both also offer fast-track entry.
6. Seine River Cruise
One thing many people look forward to when visiting Paris is taking a Seine River Cruise. These let you see a good many Parisian sights from a unique perspective, often whilst listening to a commentary. Most tours last around an hour, and are a nice way to see a lot without too much effort. Just sit back, relax, and let the views roll on by.
Jess has written a detailed post to choosing a Seine River Cruise to help you decide between the various operators. There are a lot of options, and even though the view and route will largely be the same, various factors like commentary and boat size should be considered.
Some also offer a meal, although if you go down this route, you might have to adjust this itinerary to suit.
One tip – if you buy the Paris Pass, a Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens is included. This is a good option, and one we took advantage of on a recent trip to Paris.
7. Eiffel Tower
Our last entry for your first day in Paris is an absolute must when in Paris – the Eiffel Tower. You will have already seen this magnificent construction looming over the skyline as you wandered around Paris, but I promise you, nothing really compares to standing underneath her and looking up.
You can experience the Eiffel Tower in a number of ways. Good views can be had from the Trocadero, on the opposite bank of the Seine. You can also get a lovely view of the Eiffel Tower at sunset from the Champ de Mars – the landscaped gardens that run to the southeast of the tower. This is a popular spot for the sunset in Paris, and many people bring a picnic to sit outside and enjoy the view in the warmer months, often with a glass of wine in hand.
If you want to climb the tower, we very much recommend that you book your tickets in advance. This will save you from queuing in the often very long lines at the ticket offices. Tickets can be purchased directly from the official website, which usually has the best prices.
We would say that climbing the Eiffel Tower is definitely something to experience, something everyone should do at least once.
There are also restaurants in the tower, which would make for a romantic spot for your evening meal, and a wonderful way to end your first day exploring Paris! If you do choose to do this, we’d definitely recommend researching which restaurant you want to visit (prices vary), and booking in advance so as not to be disappointed.
8. Sacre Coeur
Your second day in Paris has you starting at the Sacre Coeur in Montmartre. This beautiful basilica is found at the summit of Montmartre hill, the highest summit in the city. As you would imagine therefore, there are excellent views on offer from up here.
The Basilica is relatively new, with construction being completed in 1914. Its white domes are instantly recognisable, and you can climb to the top for a fantastic view of the city. Entry to the Sacre Coeur itself is free, although there is a fee for accessing the towers.
Montmartre itself is an area which has long been popular with artists, and many famous artists of the Belle Époque era had their studios in this area. Today, you can get your portrait, caricature or silhouette painted at the famous Place du Tertre, a short walk from the Basilica.
Note that the steps of the basilica are particularly popular with “bracelet makers”, folks who will try to encourage you to accept a free bracelet from them. Except once they’ve starting tying your wrist with the free bracelet, they’ll expect some money in return. For tips on avoiding this and other common Paris scams, check out our guide to avoiding scams in Paris.
9. Dalí Museum
Whilst you are up in the Montmartre area, we suggest you might want to take in the Dalí Museum – Espace Dalí. For fans of the artist, who was a part of the Surrealism group that was headquartered in Montmartre in Paris, this museum is a joy.
With over three hundred original artworks on display, this is the only permanent museum in Paris dedicated to the artist. There are sculptures, drawings, watercolours and more on display, and the attached gallery even has some of his artwork for sale.
Entry is €11.50, free for holders of the Paris Pass.
10. Opera Garnier Tour
From the Dali Museum it’s around a half hour stroll, or half an hour by public transport, to the next stop on our two day Paris itinerary – the Opera Palais Garnier.
We’re not actually going to the Opera though, although that is of course an option for an evening activity. Instead, we suggest that you take a tour of this spectacular building, which served as the inspiration for the play “Phantom of the Opera”.
The tour will give you full access to many parts of this gorgeous building, including the 2,000 seat theatre, the gorgeous grand staircase, the incredible seven tonne chandelier, and the balcony. The tour lasts for approximately ninety minutes, and is offered in English – check times on the official website here so as to be sure you don’t miss it.
Tours of the Opera Garnier are currently €15.50 per person, and are free for holders of the Paris Pass.
If you are interested in attending a performance at the Opera Garnier, read Jess’s detailed post to booking tickets for the Paris Opera here.
11. Musee d’Orsay
From the Opera Garnier we’re going to head to another of Paris’s famous museums – the Musee d’Orsay. Found in a former train station on the south bank of the River Seine, this spectacular building picks up where the Louvre finishes off, with a focus on artworks dating from 1848.
We think that the building itself make this museum worth the visit alone. What was formerly the main platform area is now a huge exhibition space which looks stunning, and the beautiful station clocks are seriously photogenic. Of course, the museum has no shortage of art either, with works from Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne and Renoir all on display, to name but a few.
12. Stroll along the Left Bank
Paris is a romantic city, and we think that one of the most romantic things you can do is take a wander along the “Left Bank”.
In case you were wondering where the left bank is, it’s the south side of the river Seine. It’s called the Left Bank because it’s the left side of the river as you look downstream.
From the Musee d’Orsay, it’s a nice stroll along the left bank, if you head in an easterly direction, with views of the Louvre, the Pont des Arts and ultimately, if you keep going, spectacular views of Notre Dame.
13. Sunset at Tour Montparnasse
The last two entries on our two day itinerary can be switched around, depending on what time of year you visit. This is because sunset will vary depending on when you visit, and I’d suggest that the Tour Montparnasse is absolutely best experienced at sunset.
The Tour Montparnasse is the second tallest skyscraper in Paris, and from its rooftop observation deck you get what we think are the best views of Paris. From here you can see all the way to the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse and La Defense.
At sunset, the view is truly magical, as the sun lights up the sky, and the city lights start to come on. Then – the pièce de résistance – the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower herself.
Access to the Tour Montparnasse viewing deck is currently €14.50 per person, or free for holders of the Paris Pass.
14. Centre Pompidou
Last on our list of attractions for our two day Paris itinerary is the Centre Pompidou. This is home to a number of things, but we think you’ll be most interested in the Musée National d’Art Moderne – Europe’s largest Museum of Modern Art.
This completes the trilogy of art museums in Paris – the Louvre spanning up to 1848, the Musée d’Orsay covers the 19th and early 20th century, with the Centre Pompidou holding the the masters of modern twentieth century art. I’m talking Picasso, Warhol, Kandinsky, and Duchamp.
Conveniently, the museum is open until 9pm, which means you’ll be able to visit either before or after your sunset at Tour Montparnasse. Don’t miss the “view of Paris”, a balcony which offers one of the better view of Montmartre in the city.
When to Visit Paris
Paris is a city that is good to visit throughout the year. As with most European cities, it is particularly busy in the summer months, and lines for attractions in July and August can be long. The summer months do however promise the best weather.
If you want reasonable weather with less people, then the months of May and September will offer some solace. We also love visiting Paris in both fall and winter, when the leaves on the trees turn golden, and the city lights itself up for Christmas.
Basically, we think you’ll have a good time whenever you visit Paris, but just bear in mind that some months are much busier than others.
How to Get Around Paris
Paris is very easy to get around, with a comprehensive underground (the Metropolitan) as well as buses and local trains. Naturally there are also taxis and private hire cars available.
If you avail of the Paris Pass (see below on money saving tips for Paris), this will come with a transport pass that matches the length of the pass, allowing you to travel on any public transport inside zones 1 – 3. These zones cover all the attractions on this itinerary. Alternatively, you can buy individual tickets for transport on the metro or bus.
The most cost-effective way to do this is to buy tickets in packs of 10, which represents a fairly significant discount on buying them individually. Tickets can be bought at pretty much every metro station from the ticket machines, which accept cash and cards, as well as coming with an English language option.
How to Save Money on Your Paris trip
The itinerary above packs a lot into two days, and many of the sights and activities have an associated fee. At time of writing, if you chose to do everything in the above list, you’d be looking at spending just over €200 per person (including a two day metro transport card).
The good news is that you can easily save money on your visit to Paris. The answer is to invest in a Paris Pass. This includes access to nearly everything we’ve included in our itinerary (except the Sacre Coeur dome and the Eiffel Tower). It also comes with a travel card valid for the duration of the pass and grants you skip the line privileges at key sights.
Calculating if a Paris Pass is worth it for you will depend on exactly which attractions you want to visit – to help you out, check out Jess’s comprehensive Paris Pass review post.
As a guide though, for the itinerary in this post, total attraction entry and transport would cost you €211.5. A two day Paris Pass currently costs €134. Add in the cost of climbing the Sacre Coeur (€6), and a ticket to the top of the Eiffel Tower (€25), and the total cost with the pass would be €165.
This represents a saving per person of €46.50 – enough for a nice dinner somewhere! Click here to buy your Paris Pass in advance.
As well as the above, you should be aware that on the first Sunday of every month, access to most museums in Paris is free – although be aware that popular museums like the Louvre get incredibly busy on these days.
Where to Stay in Paris
We’ve stayed at a variety of locations in Paris, from hosted apartments through to hotels and homestays. There’s a massive choice, and prices are generally reasonable considering this is a capital city. We’d advise picking somewhere within easy walking distance of a metro so that you can easily get around all the sights in this itinerary.
Our favourite way to find the best deals on accommodation is booking.com. They’re easy to use, usually have the best prices, and have everything from hotels to apartments. Try them for Paris and see!
If you prefer an apartment, then we recommend AirBnB. We’ve tried all the others, and AirBnB consistently has the most options for locations around the world. Plus, if you’ve never used them before, you’ll get up to a $100 discount if you sign up with this link.(Discount varies by currency and if you choose to host at some point).
Practicalities for visiting Paris
Safety: We’ve not had any problems in Paris, although there are a few scams to be aware of – check our guide to avoiding common Paris scams so you are prepared in advance.
Power: Electricity is of the 220v standard, with the 2 pin European style plug. Travellers from countries like the UK and the US will need an adapter, and US travellers need to check their equipment supports the 220v standard – it will be written clearly on the power adapter.
Currency: Paris is part of the Eurozone, so the currency is the Euro. You can get these from ATM’s, banks and currency exchanges, although credit cards are of course widely accepted.
Internet: Internet access is widely available in the form of WiFi all around the city and in hotels and coffee shops, so you shouldn’t have any trouble getting online. You can also pick up local SIM cards if you have an unlocked phone. Travellers from the UK on the Three network will be able to use their Feel At Home data, which is a great deal if you’re a regular traveller from the UK.
For more options on getting online when travelling, check out our guide to getting online when travelling to help you figure out the best options.
Water: The water in the taps is safe to drink unless otherwise posted. If you don’t like the taste, bottled water is widely available.
Further Reading for your Paris trip
And that’s pretty much it for our guide to spending the perfect two days in Paris! Before you go though, we wanted to share some resources to help you further plan your trip to the French capital. These are:
- My guide to the best photography locations in Paris, to help you get the best shots on your trip, plus a photo essay of Paris, just to get you excited
- A guide to choosing a Seine river cruise, buying Paris opera tickets, attending a free fashion show in Paris and how to save money on Michelin starred restaurants in Paris
- Our review of the Paris Pass, to help you decide if it might save you money
- A guide to Airbnb Alternatives to help you find the right accommodation
- if you like afternoon tea, check out our definitive guide to the best afternoon tea locations in Paris
- If you want a book, we always like to recommend the Rick Steves guides – here’s the Rick Steves Paris edition
And that’s it! How would you spend two days in Paris? Do you have anything to add to the above, or any questions? Let us know in the comments below!