I spent a whole 4 days in Paris over the New Year period from 28th December – 2nd January with my boyfriend. Yeah, that’s longer than 4 days but I didn’t get to do much on my travel days. I think this is the perfect amount of time for your first weekend in Paris. It’s just enough to do all the Paris ‘musts’, and if you decide you like it, there’s still plenty left to do on a return visit.
I’ve put together this itinerary for 4 days in Paris which includes all the main attractions, food and drink recommendations, accommodation suggestions, travel information and also a day trip out of Paris! So really, you could do this itinerary in 3 days but I think a day trip mixes things up nicely.
Things to note: I’m a vegetarian so all of the food recommendations are veggie friendly. I’m also a fairly budget traveller and will only splash out if it’s worth it so this isn’t a luxury travel guide.
4 Days in Paris Itinerary
Because we flew from Manchester Airport in the UK with Ryanair, we arrived at Paris Beauvais Airport. It’s one of those ‘middle of nowhere’ airports that only Ryanair seem to fly to. However, despite not being as convenient as Charles de Gaulle, it was still easy to get into the city and we only paid £79.54 per person for return flights.
There is a shuttle bus that departs right outside of the airport and there is a ticket office at the bus stop. I think a single ticket is roughly €17. You simply wait for the next bus (they are very frequent) and travel for about an hour and a half to the Paris shuttle bus arrival point, Porte Maillot. It’s honestly really easy to navigate!
On your return journey, you’ll just need to go back to Porte Maillot. There is a shuttle bus that leaves Porte Maillot four hours before every flight but I would get there even earlier than that tbh. There’s one huge queue for everyone and if the bus you wanted to get is full, then it’s full. And the next bus might not get you to your plane on time. The Porte Maillot metro station is just across the road from the bus station so it’s easy to get from anywhere in Paris to the bus station.
We chose to stay in an Airbnb in Montmartre because it was too much of a good deal not to. Even over New Year, for 5 nights and 4 days in Paris we only spent £229 on this cosy studio flat. Montmartre was a great neighbourhood to stay in and I thoroughly recommend it. In fact, this itinerary is based on using Montmartre as a base.
I always stay in hostels when I travel solo, but since I was travelling with my boyfriend, Airbnb made the most sense. If you would prefer to stay in a hostel on your trip, I ALWAYS use HostelWorld to book hostels.
If you prefer to stay in hotels or want a greater choice, I always use Booking.com.
The Paris metro is so much cheaper than the London Underground, and you’ll definitely be using the metro at some point. I like to walk about in new cities as often as possible but you don’t want to waste too much precious time. A normal one-way ticket is €1.90 (as of January 2018).
Since we spent 4 days in Paris over New Years, for a short while the metro was free! If you’re interested in visiting Paris over New Year, check out my guide…
Day 1: 4th & 6th Arrondissements
Le Studio Café, 15 Place Saint-Pierre, 75018.
If you’re staying in Montmartre, start your first day in Paris with some cheap and cheerful crêpes!
From Le Studio Café, head to the Pigalle metro station which is about a 10-minute walk. Take the train to Notre-Dame des Champs. That will take about 20 minutes.
When you arrive at Notre-Dame des Champs metro station, you’re not far from the Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens are probably the most popular gardens/open space in Paris and they are very beautiful. Walking around the Gardens could take anywhere from half an hour to two hours – it’s entirely up to you!
From the gardens, it’s about a 15-minute walk to the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Be prepared to queue outside for about half an hour to enter Paris’ most famous Cathedral. Entrance is free and opening times are generally 7:15am – 6:45pm.
Shakespeare & Company Café, 37 Rue de la Bûcherie, 75005
Hop back across the River Seine and have a bite to eat at the famous bookshop’s next-door café which opened in 2015. It serves largely vegetarian food and offers a stunning view of the Cathedral.
Pop over to the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore to soak in a hec of a lot of Parisian literature history. The bookshop was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Gertrude Stein… everyone worth knowing in the 1920s!
Top tip: Don’t be afraid to buy a book as a souvenir at the shop. If you think ‘well they are just cheaper online’ you will be delighted to know every book bought is imprinted with a unique Shakespeare & Co. stamp.
Walk slightly further along the Seine river and stop by the Pont Des Arts. This bridge used to be the love lock bridge but for safety reasons, most had to be removed.
Afterwards, walk a little further down the river and spend the afternoon soaking up the art at one of Paris’ top galleries and museums, Musée d’Orsay. Open from 9:30am – 6pm every day except Monday. My boyfriend and I got in for free because we were under 26 and from the EU! Bonus!
Bistro-Style Seine River Dinner Cruise, Ile de la Cité near Pont Neuf
I personally love evening cruises in cities that have a famous river, which is more than you might think. They’re so much better in the evening, and this dinner cruise is the perfect way to eat on the move.
Take the Musée d’Orsay metro station to Saint-Michel – Notre-Dame if you’re short on time, it’s about a 20-minute walk to the dock from the museum.
This Paris river dinner cruise is not that expensive (just under £40 per person) and there’s even a vegan option! The cruise departs at 6pm or 8pm and lasts 75 minutes.
Teddy’s Bar, 3 Thouin Street, 75005
After you dock back on Ile de la Cité, walk about 20 minutes to Teddy’s bar. It might not be worth it for you, but Teddy’s Bar is known for its popularity among students of the Sorbonne and it’s beer selection – and that’s worth a bit of a trek in my book.
Day 2: 1st, 4th, 7th & 8th Arrondissements
Eric Kayser Bakery, 33 Rue Danielle Casanova, 75001
There are a fair few Eric Kayser Bakeries around Paris, but this one is near to the morning activity.
Take the Pigalle metro station from Montmartre like yesterday, but this time to Concorde and walk 10 minutes to the bakery. You can grab croissants and other pastries and hot drinks for breakfast. You cannot spend 4 days in Paris without eating at least one croissant, I’m pretty sure it’s illegal.
Walk from Eric Kayser to the Louvre Museum. You know: where the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo live. Try to get here as early as possible because the queues will be huge and you want as much time as you can spare inside the actual museum because it’s also HUGE. Don’t worry about seeing everything, it’s virtually impossible.
It’s usually open from 9am – 6pm but is open later some nights. And, being under 26, my boyfriend and I got in for free again! I love that this is a thing in Paris.
Top tip: If the weather is bad and you can’t face waiting for hours in the cold, it might be worth going to the nearby shopping centre and trying the entrance that way. We did it and the queue wasn’t nearly as long.
Juice Lab Saint Germain, 11 Rue Jacob, 75006
After wearing yourself out at the Louvre and eating a lot of sweet treats for breakfast, lunch is a little healthier. Walk 10 minutes across the bridge to this veggie-friendly healthy restaurant. They serve things like vegan chilli and refreshing juices.
Head back to walk along the Seine towards the Pont Alexandre III. It’s a very stunning bridge and has appeared in just about every movie that has ever filmed in Paris.
Keep walking along the Seine until you reach the Eiffel Tower! There are so many angles to get the best photograph, but really you just need to keep trying. Start far away (like at the edge of the grass) and then head closer.
Top tip: Don’t go up the Eiffel Tower. I have been up to the top of the Eiffel Tower when I was about 15, and I have to say the vantage point I am going to suggest later is less busy and cheaper. And don’t you want the Eiffel Tower in your photos? It’s also got heavy security and the queues are ridic.
After you’ve done with the Eiffel Tower, walk past it towards the Seine and use the Pont de Bir-Hakeim bridge to get across. This is the bridge in Inception (2010) and it’s got an unusual design.
Head up towards Carette from here, a master maker of macarons, and you’ll also get another great view of the Eiffel Tower to take more photographs.
I personally despised the macarons I tasted for the first time in Paris, but I feel like if you’re going to try them anywhere it may as well be here. I heard Carette was a good shout and if I remember correctly, they weren’t too expensive.
From Carette, it’s simple to walk down the street to reach the Arc de Triomphe.
There was a bit of a wait to go up the Arc de Triomphe, but I don’t think it was longer than 45 minutes. Plus, it was well worth it because it only cost €5 for us and we were there for sunset so the views were beautiful.
Take the Charles de Gaulle – Étoile metro station straight to Blanche in Montmartre.
Tonight, you’re dining with Amélie! Have a traditional French dinner at the Café where Amélie works in the film. It’s a relaxed spot with the best crème brûlée I ate during my trip to Paris.
If you don’t visit often and you’re spending 4 days in Paris, I recommend that at least one night you go big.
The Moulin Rouge Cabaret is the ultimate touristy thing to do on your first trip to Paris. It was a dirty show back in the day but now it’s a pricey, classy show with only a little bit of boob. There are two nightly shows at 9pm and 11pm and both will cost you upwards of €100 a ticket with half a bottle of champagne.
I think it’s definitely worth the money, it’s such a surreal and dazzling experience. But I’m not going to pretend that it isn’t a lot of money.
Day 3: Palace of Versailles
To break up your days in Paris, I recommended taking a day trip. If you’re anything like me, then big cities are slightly overwhelming and also very tiring.
The Palace of Versailles is a great day trip option as it’s DEFINITELY worth seeing and only 45 minutes away. I’ve written a whole blog post on the Palace of Versailles which includes how to get there from Paris, what there is to see and food options.
Dinner: Piccolo Rosso Trattoria Pulcinella, 2 Rue Eugène Sue, 75018
And after you’ve spent a day in Versailles, head back to Montmartre for dinner, drinks and probably an early night. I’ve listed lots of recommended bars in Montmartre at the end of Day 4, so read on!
And yes, I’ve recommended an Italian restaurant for dinner. I’m the least authentic person ever and I LOVE Italian, I’ll eat it anywhere. And this is supposed to be a really good restaurant.
Day 4: Montmartre & the outskirts
Soul Kitchen, 33 Rue Lamarck, 75018
This is a really quirky and cute looking café in Montmartre! The perfect place to start your last day in Paris.
The morning is all about Montmartre, the Parisian neighbourhood to the North. Head first to the famous cake-like Basilica, the Sacré-Coeur. Entrance is free and you shouldn’t have to wait long to get in. Its opening hours are generous at 6am – 10:30pm.
Next, head to Le Mur des Je T’aime – or in English, ‘The Wall of Love’. This is literally just a wall of blue tiles with ‘I Love You’ written in several different languages all over it. Corny and touristy, yes, but free so why not pop by and take a few snaps?
Next, head to the Pigalle metro station and take the train to the Père Lachaise stop.
Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris and lots of famous people are buried there. These include Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison from The Doors and Georges Méliès, the famous filmmaker.
In fact, the Père Lachaise cemetery is on my list of the best things for film lovers to do in Paris.
Au Rond Point, 65-67 Boulevard de Ménilmontant, 75011
If you’re feeling hungry earlier, you could eat lunch before visiting the cemetery, it’s up to you. Au Rond Point may just look like your typical overpriced tourist fare, but I found it to be great for vegetarians. I had a gorgeous vegetable soup and quiche and it’s right next to the cemetery.
You could take the 30-minute walk to the next activity if it’s a nice day. Or, ride a few metros. This afternoon is about visiting slightly more awkward things to do in Paris that aren’t near anything else!
Head to the Gambetta metro station at the other side of the cemetery to République and then change and head to Bastille.
Firstly, take a walk along the Coulée Verte René-Dumont or Promenade Plantée. It’s a former railway turned into an elevated walkway. Just like New York’s Highline!
After a little wander along the walkway, head back to the Bastille metro station. Then, take a ride to Place d’Italie and then onto Denfert-Rochereau.
Here you can see the Catacombs of Paris. Last admission is at 7:30pm so it’s definitely doable to squeeze in this last activity. The Catacombs are essentially another cemetery (sorry, not a very cheery afternoon!) But it’s an underground bunker type of thing with bones and skulls covering the walls. Nice. But only €5 a visit!
Le Bouillon Chartier, 7 Rue du Faubourg Montmartre, 75009
The restaurant is recommended as a true Parisian experience by top blogger Adventurous Kate, which is why I’ve included it.
Go back to the Denfert-Rochereau metro station and head to Strasbourg – Saint-Denis. It’s about a 10-minute walk away from the restaurant. Apparently, there’s often a queue outside but it’s not too expensive and is a legend among Parisians and tourists alike.
Go back to the Strasbourg – Saint-Denis stop and take the metro up to Barbès – Rochechouart. Now you’re back in Montmartre, you can stay out for as long as you like! The perfect way to end your first 4 days in Paris.
Some bars that come recommended are…
- No Problemo, 14 Rue Charles Nodier, 75018
- Le Supercoin, 3 Rue Baudelique, 75018 (supposed to have a good beer selection)
- Au Clair de Lune, 1 Rue Ramey, 75018
- Le Café du Commerce, 13 Rue de Clignancourt, 75018
- La Divette de Montmartre, 136 Rue Marcadet, 75018
And that’s my itinerary for spending 5 days in Paris on your first trip! Is there anything else you’d add? Are you heading to Paris soon? Let me know in the comments below!