Bonjour! My husband and I have just returned from an AH-mazing trip to the City of Lights…sigh. Our trip was beautiful and everything we hoped it would be and we are so excited to be able to share our Paris itinerary with you. If you are considering a trip, I am so thrilled for you! I now agree that it is always a good time for Paris!
Here is our trip in a (not so small) nutshell with all the details. If you would prefer the summarized version of our itinerary,you can check it out here.
Either way, I hope our perfect 5 day Paris itinerary gives you a few tips to make your own trip all that you wish it to be!
Here were some of our goals for this trip:
- See the most amazing places, even if they were tourist-y, because it was our first time here, and well, we are tourists! 😊
- Avoid standing in line as much as possible
- Have an itinerary, but be flexible and allow time to stop and smell the roses (or eat macarons)
- Walk as much as possible in order to notice the small things that wouldn’t make an itinerary
- Most importantly, enjoy each other and our kid-free time away together!
Here are a few things that were not goals for our trip:
- Hit up fancy restaurants – I admire the foodies out there, but that’s just not us! We are more grab and go type eaters, preferring picnics and easy food choices, allowing for more exploring and easier on the budget.
- Go shopping. Other than chocolates for our parents, books for our boys, and a scarf for our daughter, we didn’t buy a thing to bring home. Our sunrise photo shoot was our only souvenir for ourselves and definitely the best travel souvenir ever!
- Getting up early. We adjusted to the jet lag much better than we’d hoped, but we loved the city so much at night, that we ate dinner late, explored even later, and slept in almost every morning.
- See everything that are on all the must-do lists. We skipped a few really popular things to do because they just weren’t perfect for us – see more on that below.
Paris Itinerary – Day 1
We arrived in Paris at 8:00am on a Wednesday morning. After a loooong travel day with with little to no sleep, we were tired but happy. We navigated through the many arrival steps smoothly, but slowly. Thankfully, we were not in a rush, so our arrival was peaceful and stress free. I saw a few different groups around us in a panic. One young woman was trying to fly out but had lost her passport at the check in counter. Another American family was ahead of us in line at Border Control and was in tears at the counter for several minutes for an unknown reason. Please make sure, your documents are in order! Nothing can ruin your trip faster than not being allowed into the country. 🙁
After finally completing immigration and collecting our bags, we followed the “train” signs and made our way to the station. The kiosk offers an English option and was easy to use.We purchased tickets to the city center from the ticket kiosk for €10.30 each and hopped on the RER B to the St. Michel stop about 45 minutes away. It was so centrally located to all that we wanted to see. We found the metro system to be very simple to use, but preferred to walk when possible so that we could soak up the true feeling of Paris while wandering its beautiful streets.
We checked into Hotel Artus on the lively Rue de Buci and were instantly pleased with our gorgeous room, comfortable bed, and rainfall shower. Our room was ready early for us which was such a nice surprise. We dropped off our bags and headed out to lunch before we could realize how tired we were!
Explore St. Germain & Latin Quarter
We soaked up our first few minutes of Parisian beauty and grabbed a quick panini from one of the many quick eat boulangeries.
We walked past the gorgeous Saint-Sulpice Church and St. Michel Fountain. We headed over to the gorgeous Luxembourg Gardens and breathed in the fresh air of flowers and peacefulness. We gazed in awe at the fountains, smiled at the children sailing their wooden boats in the pond (available for rent for €4), and photographed the beautiful flowers.
A little bit of rain and a lot of exhaustion caused us to grab a quick, light dinner before turning in early. We had been up for 33 hours (minus a very short cat nap on the plane) and going to sleep before dark never felt so good! Bon soir!
Paris Itinerary – Day 2
Explore Ile de la Cite & Ile Saint Louis / Seine River Cruise
The second day dawned with gray, but dry skies and we woke up excited for a new day. We had a slow morning and picked up crossaints and beignets for breakfast and made our way over to Ile de la Cite.
We had picked up our Paris Museum Passes the day before at Musée Delacroix for convenience and to avoid lines at busier museums. Musée Delacroix was a small, beautiful museum located in a quaint courtyard near St. Michel. We planned to head back to it another time to browse inside but unfortunately never made it.
Notre Dame was our first stop of the day. I had heard that lines to enter would appear long but actually move very quickly. We were lucky that at about noon, there were not any lines and we walked right in. Entry is free. The beautiful reverence of the sanctuary was palpable. We browsed the interior and photographed the gorgeous stained glass.
If you would like to climb the towers for gorgeous views of the city and to get up close and personal with the gargoyles, I highly recommend the Je File Duck the Line app, which allows you to hold your place in line while you browse the city or seek out a café au lait. Unlike the line to the cathedral, the line for the towers can move very slowly. If you forget to use the app, there are also ticket machines which assign you a return time on the left side of Notre Dame. There is an entry fee for the towers, but they are covered under the Paris Museum Pass.
Lastly, don’t forget to walk all the way around Notre Dame as some of its most beautiful architecture is around the back side. We did forget to walk all the way around and actually went back another day to do so. We entered the gate on the right for Square Jean – XXIII for gorgeous post card views.
Next we headed to Sainte Chapelle to check out the amazing stained glass windows. Entry is included with the Paris Museum pass as well. This church is much smaller than the close by Notre Dame, however, its beauty can hold its own. Lines for security can be lengthy as the security line is shared with the courthouse next door; however you can skip the ticket line with the Paris Museum Pass. However, our arrival at 4:00pm allowed us to encounter a nonexistent security line and we happily walked right in.
After looking around downstairs and picking up an info card if you wish, turn back around and head up the stairs next to the entrance. This is where you will encounter the true beauty of the building. We had heard time and time again how breath taking the windows are on a sunny day. We unfortunately encountered them on a gray day, but still appreciated their detail and color.
Explore Ile de la Cite
We stopped by the cutest and so very Parisian Café Au Vieux Paris. We rested our feet in the little park around Sainte Jaques tower. The former 16-century church was destroyed during the French Revolution leaving only the beautiful tower standing.
Seine River Cruise
As sunset approached we fulfilled my top bucket list item of taking a cruise down the Seine River at sunset. We booked discounted tickets online that afternoon with Vendettes du Pont Neuf. That saved us some euro and made sure that they didn’t sell out. The sun was due to set at 8:45pm, so we booked the tour to depart then. The tour departs from the tip of Ile de la Cite right next a cute little park at the tip of the island.
We sat on the top left hand side of the boat which gave us the best view among all of the selfies and cameras in the area. As dusk fell, the monuments and bridges lit up in a beautiful display of glowing light. We approached the Eiffel Tower and had front row seats to see its sparkling performance on the hour. It was romantic, beautiful evening event and it remained a highlight of our trip.
We topped off the evening with dessert from Amorino’s near our hotel. We ordered the gelato on a cone (strawberry and cheesecake – yum!) topped with a macaron (mango and raspberry). It was a sweet ending to a perfect day.
Paris Itinerary – Day 3
We knew when we planned our day at Versailles that long lines would be in our future which went against one of our main goals. We decided to avoid the crowds by arriving later in the day and choosing carefully what we wanted to see. The gardens and the Trianon were of more interest to us than the palace itself. If you would rather head out early and see the palace too, you can check out a few other tried and true ideas for skipping this lines in a new post coming up.
We hopped on the metro at around 10:30am. Note, a t+ ticket will not get you to Versailles, as it is outside the center of the city. It requires a “Paris Region” ticket the costs just under €8 roundtrip. You will choose to go to Versailles – Rive Gauche (the train is labeled “VICK” when it arrives). Typically you can take the RER C directly from St. Michel to Versailles but construction interrupted this route during our trip, so make sure that you do a check on this before departing to avoid any last minute headaches.
We arrived smoothly and made our way down the street of the cute little town of Versailles. The grandeur of the palace is quite a sight to see! Arriving at noon, meant that there was not a line for security. Hooray! With our Paris Museum Pass, we could have entered the palace for free, but had already decided that the exterior of the palace was our first priority and so we headed straight there. We entered on the left of the Palace, therefore skipping that line as well. If it is not a musical garden day, you can enter the gardens for free, however it was a musical garden day for us so we paid a small fee.
The landscaping of the gardens was breathtaking. The lines were clean and the design was immaculately laid out with perfect precision. Be sure to grab a map in your language of choice to help you navigate around the expansive grounds.
The sun was out hot and bright that day and we found great relief and peacefulness in the long rows of shade between the trees. A café or two also make their home among the trees making for the perfect spot for refreshment and to rest your feet. We decided on La Flotille for a casual and tasty lunch of hamburgers and Caesar salad.
This area, called Little Venice, is also the area offering tram rides, golf cart rentals, bicycle rentals, and rowboats for a float around the canal. In order to rent a vehicle, you will need to leave an ID as a deposit. We had planned to rent bikes to tour the ground more efficiently, however, only had our passports on us and were not comfortable leaving them at the rental booth. Had we known, we would have brought our Drivers Licenses to leave instead. So take note if this is of interest to you!
Trianon and Queen’s Hamlet
We made our way on foot toward the Trianon which held our priority for the day – the Queen’s Hamlet! We took brief tours through the Grand Trianon and Petite Palace before we ended up at the quaint little peasant village created by Marie Antoinette. Causing bitter resentment by her people, she created a haven so that she could escape the rigors of palace life. Though she had certainly turned the hard life of a peasant into a dreamy fairytale, the area was my favorite part of Versailles.
The Queen’s hamlet holds the Queen’s house, the gardener’s house with growing garden (and a public restroom!), a barn with animals, a water wheel and once upon a time, a dairy farm. Around each corner was a post card view and often a hidden cove with a bench to rest in the shade. Each building was created with charm and beauty. I wish we would have packed a picnic and spend the entire afternoon.
While walking the entire grounds rather than renting some type of wheels helped us log almost 10 miles on our pedometers that day, it appears that renting bikes would have still been complicated, as they did not seem to be allowed all the way to the hamlet, but rather only on the main pathways. Does anyone have another experience?
As we made our way back to the main entrance, had it been only slightly earlier in the day, we would have probably taken a quick line-less tour through the palace. But at that point, we felt that we had absorbed the grandeur of the grounds and did not feel that we missed out at all by not seeing the interior. My sister, a high school history teacher, thinks its completely heresy that we missed the Hall of Mirrors, but hey, you do you (wink)!
We hopped on the train back into Paris to rest our weary feet. After a quick freshen up at the hotel, we took our crazy selves on a walk over to the Louvre. I would not necessarily recommend doing the Louvre and Versailles in one day! However, we had planned to go to Versailles the day before and made a last minute switch. This day happened to be a Friday, which meant late night at the Louvre – it didn’t close until 9:45pm and we really wanted to take advantage of a few hours at the Louvre without lines and crowds.
Musée du Louvre
We entered the Louvre in the early evening without a person in front of us to hit up some highlights (with our Paris Museum Passes of course). We admired the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory, Dying Slave, and Venus de Milo among other beautiful sculptures and paintings. It was a bit of an exhausted rush, but we are so glad that we made it work, even though the timing wasn’t ideal.
As we exited the monumental museum, the outdoor exhibit of beauty took our breath away. We loved our evening relaxing in the courtyard with the glowing pyramid and surrounding impressive architecture. Some of our favorite photographs happened as the sun set on a very full and exhausting, but very wonderful day.
Paris Itinerary – Day 4
Sunrise Photo Shoot at the Eiffel Tower
Saturday dawned bright and early after our previous late night, but we awoke with excitement because it was the morning we had been waiting for. We were scheduled to meet our photographer, Olga, with Flytographer at the Eiffel Tower at sunrise.
Uber was scheduled to pick us up plenty early and we are glad that was had built in extra time because some police activity blocked a road on our route and the Uber driver apologetically dropped us off to walk the last half mile. We were told that taxis are better than Uber in Paris, but that was our only experience, so who knows? *shrug*
I am a lover of all things travel and all things photography, so when I was first referred to Flytographer, I knew without a shadow of a doubt that it was something that I wanted to do. My husband wasn’t so sure at first, but he ultimately agreed because he loves me. 🙂 He even upgraded our half hour planned photo shoot to an hour long session. Because he really loves me!
Trocadéro is a lovely spot with gardens and an ideal view of the Eiffel Tower at any time of day, although nothing beats sunrise, in my humble opinion. After a few gray mornings, this new day dawned in all its warm glory and was perfect for our sunrise photo session.
Olga made our session a comfortable and fun experience for us from beginning to end. We took the majority of our photos cuddling and trying to be romantic (without giggling too much) at the Trocadéro and then made our way over to a street I had found via my best friend Google, called Avenue de Camoens. The cute street offered a more quaint and intimate view of the Eiffel Tower after the impressive, grand presence of it at Trocadéro. I’m so glad that we took the time to take photos in both locations, and Olga captured them beautifully with her expert eye.
You can see my full review of our complete Flytographer experience here. And a couple more images just for fun…
Just one more…
Explore the Eiffel Tower
As we parted ways with Olga, we walked closer to the Tower made of iron and lace to get up close and personal. Its structure is both solid and graceful and we loved the view from below. We did have to go through security to enter the area, but since the elevator to the Tower opens at 9:00am and it was only 8:30am, you guessed it, there weren’t ANY lines.
We were very close to joining the 10 person line to climb the stairs rather than take the elevator. It is only €10 to climb to the second floor and we felt that it would give us a more accurate perception of its massiveness. However, my pencil skirt dress and open toed shoes from our photo shoot just really weren’t climbing attire. We decided to pass on the opportunity, but did so with only a little regret. My quads did not have any regrets all.
*Side note, we have had family members and friends gaze at us in disbelief for not going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, spending more time at the Louvre, and visiting inside the Palace of Versailles, among other things. However, these decisions were not made lightly. I researched my little travel-loving heart out and knew exactly what big sights would mean the most to us. We then actually changed many plans and ended up in many cute courtyards that we didn’t even know existed, just because they caught our eye. I give you permission to make this YOUR trip-whatever that happens to look like. 🙂
After making our way through Champs de Mars, we came across a cute little patisserie that I wish I had noted. I ate my favorite pain au chocolat of the trip and my husband thoroughly enjoyed his beignet pommes. We nibbled our pastries as we walked in true American fashion and made our way back to our hotel.
At this point, we checked out of Hotel Artus and hopped on a train to Bruges, Belgium for 24 hours before returning to Paris for our last two nights. For cohesiveness, I will continue our Paris itinerary here without interruption, but you can read about our one day in Bruges side trip in a post here.
We checked into Hotel Baume for the last two nights of our trip. We also booked this hotel with credit card rewards which you can read more about coming up. It was in the same arrondissement as our first hotel, but just a few streets over offering a much quieter area, although still very central. Our greeting was quite warm and welcoming and our room was beautiful. For a moderately priced hotel, we enjoyed the luxury touches like evening turn down service with chocolates and very accommodating staff. Both hotels were so lovely that we were hard pressed to choose a favorite.
We spent the afternoon crossing a few items off of our bucket lists. We decided on a late afternoon self- guided walking tour from our hotel in St. Germain all the way to the Arc de Triomphe (about 3 miles). We took Rue de Seine until we hit the river and we crossed over the bridge leading us to the Louvre. We walked through the courtyard and out to Tuileries Gardens.
They were as beautiful as I had imagined them to be and ended up being my favorite gardens that we experienced on our trip. I loved the contrast of the lush natural beauty and the impressive buildings that were built centuries ago. They were many iconic iron green chairs placed around the garden. So we had no difficulty finding two to relax in for a bit and soak up the Parisian sunshine with many other tourists and locals alike.
We left the gardens a bit reluctantly and headed toward Place de Concorde. The monument is impressive as are the fountains on either side. We reveled in the shadow of the majestic obelisk before continuing on our way down Champs-Élysées.
Once the Arc de Triomphe loomed in the distance, it appeared that our walk was nearing an end. But ha! Not a chance, that street is muuuch longer than it appears. In hindsight, we would have paid a few euro to the one of the pedicab drivers to save our feet. But instead, we window shopped as we walked and took a photo of the Eiffel Tower inside the Disney store for our three kiddos. I hoped to find a cute souvenir for them but there were only a few Paris Disney themed items and nothing was quite right.
Our stomachs began to growl and we had a hard time finding a place on Champs-Élysées that appealed to us. We ended up at Pizza Vesuvio which I had on my list of easy, yummy food options. I ordered the ham and veggie pizza and it did not disappoint. My husband ordered a seafood misto special which had fried shrimp, calamari, and little fish. He was pleased as well. His special came with 2 boules de glace, and we ordered lemon and vanilla. The lemon ice cream was so refreshing I could eat it every day of the week.
Arc de Triomphe
Once our stomachs were full, we walked the last several minutes to our final destination. We arrived at the Arc at 10:00pm which gave us one full hour to climb the stairs and admire the scenery. It is necessary to go down the steps of the metro to follow the tunnel under the street to reach the Arc. I have heard of people trying to cross the traffic circle like a game of Frogger – eek! I promise the tunnel is much safer.
We climbed the 284 stairs fairly easily; my legs only felt a little like jelly. The view from the top was beautiful. We knew that had we climbed the Eiffel Tower instead, we would have seen the beautiful Paris skyline, except without the Eiffel Tower. The view from the Arc de Triomphe included the Iron Lady which suited us quite well. We enjoyed the impressive view and took some unimpressive selfies until the staff kicked us out to close it down. Reluctantly, we departed feeling joyful at the rejuvenating experience.
We fell into bed tired but happy… a definite pattern on this trip.
Paris Itinerary – Day 5
Explore Le Marais & Montmartre
We started our morning off by sleeping in and then heading out to a boulangerie for our favorite pastries one last time. Our goal for the day was to see two last areas of Paris that we hadn’t seen yet, Le Marais and Montmartre.
Shakespeare and Company & Choux Pastries
We set out on our last walking tour by heading toward the Seine River again to visit Shakespeare and Company. This American bookstore has been recommended to me more times than I could count and I was determined to check it out before we left the city. This quaint store with its low beams, thousands of worded treasures, and upstairs reading nook was well worth the stop.
There was a cute section of children’s books all with a Paris theme which beats the generic imported souvenir items that we saw in the little stands on every block. We picked up an autographed book for one of our children with adorable illustrations of Paris’ most popular sights, Louis goes to Paris (http://daisycheynes.com/louis-goes-to-paris-signed-book.asp). We had to miss out on the coveted Shakespeare and Company stamp upon purchase because the pages were too glossy, but we received a branded sticker instead.
Next door to the iconic bookstore is an adorable little patisserie, Odette’s. My mouth had been watering for her delicious choux pastries ever since I had heard about them. Well worth the quick stop, the vanilla and chocolate filled mini-pastries were delicious.
Place des Vosges
We took the 20 minute walk across the Seine River and then northeast a few blocks to Place des Vosges. There are many restaurants in the area to grab lunch, but we decided to backtrack to the Monoprix grocery store for some picnic supplies to enjoy in the park. The park was full of locals and tourists taking the time to stop and enjoy their beautiful city. Unfortunately, the bees were also enjoying the beautiful weather, and refused to let us eat peacefully. We inhaled our lunch and then enjoyed the park for a short while before moving along.
We then trusted our handy google maps to direct us to the metro where we rode to the Abbesses station in Montmarte. This station is deeeep, so if stairs are a challenge, feel free to take the elevator without shame. We made our way up on foot, but looked a bit enviously at those who had chosen the easier way.
Being our last day after a week of walking 8-12 miles each way, we were honestly pretty worn out at this point. We intended to take the funicular ride up the hill for 1 euro each but happened to miss it, so made our way up the several flights of stairs shaking our heads but still smiling. The walk up the hill is not the most pleasant and is more run down and littered than other areas we had walked through.
The top of the hill afforded nice views over the city. Place de Tertre did not disappoint with its square filled with artists and their wares. We enjoyed the cute street of Rue de l’Abreuvoir and noted where Renoir used to live. Sacre Couer was lovely from afar but we chose not to go up the steps. We purchased an adorable scarf for our daughter that we knew she would love.
I hate to admit it, but we were a bit disappointed with our time in Montmartre. After researching it, I had expected to love it and even considered booking a hotel there for part of our stay. However, we seemed to miss something. I suppose that Montmartre is filled with hidden gems and that if one approaches it like a treasure hunt, its true value is well worth the while. We were honestly just worn out that afternoon, and I fear that we were not up to the hunt and therefore missed its treasures. But ah well, we headed down the hill (much easier than up!) and hopped back on the metro to our hotel to freshen up.
Last Evening in the City of Lights
We decide to have steak and lobster for dinner that night and headed to Les Pinces. We thoroughly enjoyed our simple, but very tasty meal. Amorino’s won the contest for our last dessert of the trip. We stopped in for our favorite rose-shaped gelato on a cone – stracciatella and cheesecake gelato this time.
We loved staying in St. Germain, filled with so many iconic cafes, happy, laughing conversations, and walking distance to almost everything. We took one last stroll down the busy streets and absorbed the lively activity and beautiful buildings glowing with light and love. Au Revoir, Paris! We will be back.
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