4 Days in Paris
We are often asked how much time to spend in Paris. My answer is always – as long as you can. You could spend a month, or even years there, and not see everything. There is so much to enjoy in and around Paris that it will never be enough time. But you can see a lot in 4 days, and then plan to come back another time to see more.
This outstanding 4 Day Paris Itinerary is a great plan for your first trip to Paris. You will get to see a lot, and it will leave you wanting more. When you return, you can dive even deeper into this beautiful, romantic and cultural city. Paris really is one of the most beautiful cities in the world!
Paris Itinerary – Day 1
I love to begin my time in most cities with a walking tour to give me a good orientation, some history, and some thoughts from a local guide about what they love to see and do in their city. There are all kind of walking tours.
If your budget allows, you can hire a private guide who will be able to gear your tour specifically to your interests. If you have kids, finding a private guide who caters to families can really help get your children excited about what they are seeing. If you love history or art or architecture or food, etc., a good personal guide can focus on your particular interests, and they can provide an amazing start to your time in a new city.
Alternatively, you could join a Free Walking Tour with a group of other travelers and at the end of your tour you will be invited to pay what you want, usually €10-€15, to the guide, to compensate them for their time and expertise.
Many guidebooks also offer self-guided walking tours that allow you to go at your own pace, in your own time, see the highlights of an area and learn what makes it so interesting and unique. You can even download terrific audio guides that will also give you a great orientation. We really like Rick Steves if you would like to go with a guidebook or an audio guide.
We recommend and plan all of these kinds of walking tours for our clients, and I have used them all myself. I really enjoy each kind of walking tour and find this to be a great way to learn about the city I am visiting.
In Paris, Begin with Île de la Cité
I would start with a walking tour of the Île de la Cité. Walk the historic center of Paris, see Notre Dame Cathedral in the process of being renovated after the horrible fire in 2019 (see our blog The Best Time to Travel is Now for some thoughts on how this fire impacted our perspective on travel) Stroll the islands and soak up the character of this spectacular city.
After your walking tour that orients you to Paris, continue on. Go to an open-air food market, discover typical areas of the city like the Latin Quarter, the Marais or the Champs Elysees, where you can visit the Arc du Triomphe. Stop for a macaron or gaze in the windows of a pastry shop before entering to choose your croissant or perhaps a caramel éclair. Stop for a coffee or a glass of wine at a quintessential Parisian café. Watch people, and gain a real sense of the atmosphere and essence of this city. Wandering the streets of Paris with no real agenda can be a joy!
To cap off the evening, take a boat ride on the Seine. You could have a private tour or a take your cruise with lots of other visitors to Paris; do whatever you prefer and your budget allows.
Paris Itinerary – Day 2
Now that you have a good orientation to Paris, it’s time to dive into some of its world class museums. Even those who don’t think they like museums may find that what Paris has to offer is hard to resist. If you enjoy museums, you will LOVE those you can visit in Paris.
Visit the Musée d’Orsay for impressionist art, The Louvre for its amazing collection that includes the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, Musée de l’Orangerie (one of my personal favorites) for 2 spectacular rooms dedicated to Monet’s water lilies, Pompidou Center for modern art, St Chapelle for its stained glass windows…the list goes on and on.
You won’t be able to see all the museums you want in a 4-day itinerary, so you will need to pick and choose those that are most important to you. You will want to have a well outlined plan to see the Paris museums that you want to see. Some are closed on Mondays (such as Versailles & the Musée d’Orsay) and others are closed on Tuesdays (such as the Louvre, the Musée de l’Orangerie and Pompidou Centre). Make sure you are planning to visit the museums that are most important to you on the days they are open. I know that sounds obvious, but it’s important to plan accordingly to avoid disappointment.
You may want to get a Paris Museum Pass (PMP) which can save you money and time if you plan to see a number of museums while you are in Paris (which I do recommend!). You will also want to get timed tickets for most of the museums so you won’t have to stand in line to purchase your ticket (although you will still have to go through security). If you have a Paris Museum Pass, some museums still require a timed ticket for entry. See the website so you know which museums have this requirement. The timed ticket is free with the PMP, but still required.
After you’ve had your fill of museums for today, go wander through charming Montmartre. With its cobbled streets, artists, and bistros, you’ll find this part of Paris to be thoroughly delightful. You can admire the beautiful Sacré-Coeur from outside, or step inside this remarkable basilica, and climb to the top for a spectacular view of Paris.
Paris Itinerary – Day 3
Start your day with a walk down Rue Cler, one of the best market streets in Paris (closed Sunday afternoon and Mondays). Wander in and out of the pastry shops, cheese specialists, greengrocers, chocolate shops and specialty food stores. Be sure to find a nice bottle of wine and ask the vendor to uncork it for you. Pick up picnic supplies and if it’s a nice day, walk over to the Champs de Mars to enjoy all your delicious purchases with a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower. This is a great place to people watch and soak in all that Paris has to offer.
After your picnic, go up the Eiffel Tower and enjoy the view from high above the city! If you have a specific time you would like to go and want to take the elevator all the way to the top, you will need to plan far ahead for this. Tickets open up 2 months before the date you want to reserve and they are often snapped up quite quickly. Be sure to review the website carefully so that you know your options, and plan ahead – again, to avoid being disappointed.
If you have time and energy, you may want to visit another museum or two on this day – you can pick another one that is high on your priority list, or maybe one you can go see with the Paris Museum Pass without a timed entry requirement.
Paris Itinerary – Day 4
Today is a great day to go to Versailles (unless it’s Monday, in which case, switch Day 4 with another day’s activities in Paris).
Take the train to Versailles, about 45 – 50 minutes outside of Paris from Gare Montparnasse. We recommend visiting the Versailles market on your own in the morning. This is another great place to pick up supplies for a picnic. After your picnic, perhaps in the Swiss Ornamental Lake, continue to visit the gardens and then enjoy a timed-entry ticket to the Palace of Versailles. If you want to splurge, this is a good place to hire a private guide, or you can visit with an audio guide or a walking tour from a guidebook. This is a spectacular place to visit. You will want to make the most of it.
Take the train back to Paris and enjoy your last evening in the City of Lights!
Plan for Paris
If you follow the above itinerary and sprinkle in delicious croissants, charming bistros, decadent tartes, savory and sweet crepes and spectacular Parisian restaurants, you will be sure to have a wonderful time. Make notes of what you would like to see when you return!
We’d like to thank Betsy’s brother Roy for his beautiful pictures of Paris used in this blog. If you want to see more of his award winning photos from around the world check out his facebook page.
Would you like to plan a trip to Paris or another European destination? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Italy, France, Ireland, the UK and all of Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips to European destinations. Feel free to reach out via email — We’re always available to talk about travel!
Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.
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