Paris, France – a collection of sweeping boulevards, marble statues gilded in gold, and endless wine, chocolate, and cheese, all housed within glittering city limits. It’s a place to bring out your inner glutton – a feast for the senses as you wander streets teeming with history, art, fashion, and indescribable allure.
Some say Paris is the most beautiful city in the world. Spend three days here in the following crash course for Paris beginners, catching its top sights and soaking up its glittering drops – then see if you agree.
Think of this as part 3-day-guide to the city, part love letter.
Kick-start your whirlwind adventure in the City of Lights by loading up on a three-day Metro pass – it’s an insanely good value, and will keep you moving and grooving throughout Paris’ well-connected and easily-navigable public transport system.
Get straight to the point by heading for the Eiffel Tower (if you’re a first timer,you’re likely already dying to get there.) Prepare to have the breath knocked out of you and your heartbeat frozen in place; it’s one of those sights in which, no matter how many times you’ve seen it on a Pinterest board, movie theater screen or desktop wallpaper, nothing can compare to the real thing.
Pick up a crepe from one of the stands across the street, then wander over to the manicured Champ de Mars, the lovely expanse of greenery stretching beneath the Eiffel Tower. Kick back on the turf, pull out your camera, and take in the monument in all its fabled glory.
Savor the moment, but don’t feel too sad waving good-bye; you’ll be back to get up-close-and-personal with the Iron Lady later in your trip. For now, you’re off to the Tuileries for a stroll past leafy gardens, shimmering ponds and distant glimpses of the Arc de Triomphe, before ducking into Angelina for the best cup of hot chocolate you’ll ever taste. Relish the melted semi-sweet chocolate of the beverage, and rest assured this sip of heaven is only the beginning for your taste buds.
Upon exiting Angelina, wander through the Tuileries some more until you hit the Place de la Concorde, where fans of The Devil Wears Prada can throw their phones into the ornate Fontaine des Mers just like Andy Sachs did (but…maybe don’t actually do that?).
As you stand in the little square, allow yourself to be swept up in the surrounding urban buzz for a few moments. Soak in the sweeping boulevards inlaid with cobblestones as they surround you, their intricate, strikingly pretty networks humming with traffic. Admire the winged statues doused in gold as they glitter at you beside street lamps, and feel the excitement as tiny European cars zip past on all sides, whisking away chic Parisians as they go about their chic Parisian lives.
You just may find yourself, as I did, a little overwhelmed by the beauty – perhaps even at a loss for words.
Venture up the Champs Elysee for a closer look at the Arc de Triomphe, taking in the sights and sounds of one of the world’s most famous streets along the way.
The Champs Elysee is beautiful; an enticing fusion of Rodeo Drive meets Oxford Street with an overlying flair of Parisian elegance. On one side of the road, an enormous Louis Vuitton store rises into the frost-colored clouds, as the sparkling storefront of a Tiffany and Co. beckons across the street. Macarons of every color shimmer inside Laduree whilst a Cartier shop stands smartly a few doors down. It’s luxury, excess, and refinement rolled into one – a setting for a daydream involving a white-gloved hand as it pulls you into a Rolls Royce, pressing chocolate-covered strawberries and Dior handbags into your arms while the vehicle speeds through a puddle of Dom Perignon and Louboutins rain from the sky…
The entirety of the Champs Elysee, however, seems trivial compared to the Arc de Triomphe. Prepare to be dumbfounded trying to comprehend it all. Every minute detail, every perfectly sculpted face, every word etched into the surface…it’s truly an incredible sight. Allow yourself some time to admire the stoic and stunning icon, before scurrying underground to the Metro stop down below (don’t worry, you’ll be back for more later!).
Enjoy dinner as the sun sinks down, and savor a glass of wine as the City of Lights lives up to its moniker. Finish off the day with a stunning, unquestionably romantic night cruise on the Seine with Vedettes du Pont Neuf, who offer hourlong cruises departing every 45 minutes from the Pont Neuf (14 euro/person). Whether you’re with your pals or a special someone, snag a seat on the top deck and prepare to be wowed as you take in the city past sundown.
Paris at night is spectacular – there’s really no other way to describe it. Pass the Eiffel Tower as it erupts with glitter during one of its light shows, all 5 million orbs glimmering just for you. Feel your heart swell at every bridge you glide beneath, so artfully crafted they’ll seem fake. Watch as the Louvre and Musee Orsee rise like golden monoliths into the navy sky, while the Notre Dame winks enigmatically.
If nothing else has managed to do so already, you just may be sold watching the waters of the Seine ripple gracefully away beneath spirals of golden light, the city glowing mesmerizingly around you as your first day in Paris comes to a close.
Begin day two at Notre Dame, where you’ll step back hundreds of years in time to explore one of the most magnificent cathedrals in the world.
Tackle the 300-something stairs to the very top if you wish, and don’t forget to peek at the back of the cathedral. Let the grandeur and intricate detail of the place overwhelm and fascinate you, as you discover something new and interesting around every corner (like those infamous gargoyles holding court along the side of the church – did you know they’re meant as a drainage system?).
Venture over to the infamous Shakespeare & Company bookshop for modern and ancient reads alike. Inner bookworms will be singing as you explore the shop’s lopsided rooms, the entire place thick with the smell of fresh ink, scribbled daydreams and whole worlds just waiting to be explored. For the writers and readers of the globe, it’s about as close to heaven as you can get.
After Shakespeare & Co., devour the best crepes of your life at Creperie Genia, a hole-in-the-wall in the 5th arrondissement. The savory crepes will have your taste buds in a victory lap, while the sweet options (nutella and banana, anyone?) will do you dirty.
Once your food coma subsides, head to the Sainte Chapelle, and – if your head hasn’t already exploded from the all the beauty, grandeur and goddamn crepes you’ve experienced thus far – prepare to be dumbfounded.
Sainte Chapelle is positively glorious – panoramas of carefully crafted stained glass arching high above you into an abyss of color. As you stand and admire the sheer beauty of it all, the late afternoon sun may peek out from behind the clouds, sending the chapel into an ethereal glow and causing your jaw to hit the floor.
Jetsetter-in-Training tip: If you’re studying abroad in Europe, be sure to bring your student ID when you visit Paris! With EU university credentials, you can get into the Sainte Chapelle for free. Entry is also free for EU citizens.
As the sun retreats beneath the horizon once more, head back to the Eiffel Tower – it’s time to journey to the top!
Getting there requires riding in two very rickety elevators, a challenge for anyone acrophobic like me. Alas, the anxiety-inducing ride is entirely worth it.
The views from the top may just be some of the most spectacular you’ll see in your life. The Eiffel Tower feels like the epicenter of Paris – a glittering heartbeat pumping life into every jewel-toned street. Simply being present in that moment, standing on top of the Eiffel Tower – seemingly on top of the world – just might have you feeling invincible.
Throw back a glass of champagne or three atop the monument and prepare to witness at least one proposal, before descending the tower in a fit of unstoppable glee. Have dinner at midnight down the street, and peruse a list of authentic champagne while filling up on doughy pizza (it’ll keep your heart so happy you’ll only spend a moment puzzling over the fact you went to order a 22-euro bottle and somehow ended up with one costing 60.)
Who the hell cares? You’re in Paris, and you may never have felt so free.
Rise and shine with a trip to the Louvre, that famed and fetching spectacle of glass pyramids and palatial corridors decorated with da Vincis and Coldplay album covers (I kid.)
You could spend weeks inside the Louvre – in fact, you’d need to in order to truly catch every detail. If you’ve only got a few hours to spare, however, be sure to hit the big ones (the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Liberty Leading the People, the Sphinx, etc.) before taking some time to wander around anything that catches your fancy. The museum is overwhelming but you’ll be anything but bored.
Jetsetter-in-Training tip: Headed to Paris on the first Sunday of the month? You’re in luck; many major attractions across the city, including the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe, are free admission! Because of this, expect sizable crowds and plan your day accordingly.
Afterwards, head across the street to the Pont de Amoureux – i.e., the famed Love Lock Bridge. Gaze at the knots of colorful locks decorating the bridge, each inscribed with couples’ names and filling the air with fragrant eau de Cupid. If you’re lucky, maybe someone will be playing “La Vie en Rose” on the accordion.
For lunch, duck into a bakery and pick up a baguette and handful of macarons (confession: the macarons sold at random little bakeries like these are unquestionably tastier – not to mention, cheaper – than anything sold at Laduree.) You may also be tempted by the dozens of artfully-decorated tarts, pastries, croissants, and other sugar-dusted confections on offer.
Once you’ve eaten to your heart’s content, it’s back to the Arc de Triomphe for a climb up 284 stairs to the top.
Whilst the top of the Eiffel Tower showed you Paris at night, this shows you Paris by day; hundreds of cars whiz along the Champs Elysee as the distinguishable Sacre Couer rises above the city in the distance. A handful of skyscrapers on the outskirts of town reveal a hint of modernity, and minuscule street performers garner crowds on boulevards down below. It’s a beautiful send-off for a weekend well spent.
Enjoy one last glass of French wine before returning to your hotel, collecting your bags, and preparing to bid the city au revoir as you catch the RER to Charles de Gaulle.
Upon departure, perhaps you’ll feel inspired to write a love letter of your own. The city has this incredible way of evoking romance within you, even if you came to town seeking anything but.
Regardless, three days is barely enough to scratch the surface in Paris, which means there’s even more history, culture, romance, and intrigue to discover on your next venture to the glamorous French capital. Upon your return, you just may realize your love letter is, in fact, the beginning of a saga.
Until next time, Paris – je t’aime!
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Caught up in your own romance with the City of Lights? Desperate to pay the city a visit? Drop a note in the comments below, and don’t forget to catch more wanderlust by following Jetsetter-in-Training on Instagram!