I have a love affair with Paris, then again who doesn’t! We have been to Paris many times – a holiday trip in December before kids, took our 3 year old daughter and spent sometime when my sister was working there, a couple more short trips after that. Any time there is an opportunity to fly through Charles de Gaulle, we plan for a couple of days in Paris! Can you see Paris in 3 days? We think so! 3 days in Paris is not enough but it is a great start. Here are some must sees and memories of the City of Lights that we seem to have a Love affair with.
What is in this Post
Have you wondered why Paris is known as the City of Light
Paris is referred to as the City of Light or La Ville Lumière for two reasons. Because of the city’s leading role during the Age of Enlightenment and because Paris was one of the first large European cities to use gas street lighting on a big scale on its boulevards and monuments.
When our plane landed at Charles de Gaulle, the sun was setting in the City of Lights and it was perfect to go take a quick look at the twinkling Eiffel Tower and walk along the river Seine. We could see the Arch de Trompe and the Eiffel Tower from our hotel room window (the Hotel has since become somewhat of an Instagram sensation!), but we wanted a closer view and it was also the best way to beat jetlag!
See Twinkling Eiffel Tower
The best time to see the Eiffel Tower is at dusk, and see it twinkle at night! ✨✨ Did you know the famous tower sparkles for 5 minutes every hour on the hour after sunset? There are 20000 light bulbs on the Eiffel Tower that light up randomly to create this effect. Arguably one of the most romantic views in the world!
I started my Instagram account during this trip and you can still see my lame captions from those days if you scroll far enough 🙂
3 days in Paris Itinerary at a glance
Five things we never miss when we are in Paris are – a cruise on Seine River, to be near Eiffel tower during sunset to watch it twinkle and go to Notre Dame to marvel at the Rose Windows and to count the gargoyles, visit at least one museum and eat all the eclairs and macarons as possible. Whether you have 2 or 3 days in Paris, you can surely see some highlights!
Day 1 – Notre Dame | Pantheon | Sainte Chappelle | Louvre | Seine Cruise
Day 2 – Invalides | Sacre Coeur | Musee d’Orsay | Arc de Triomphe
Day 3 – More Museums or Day trips | Shopping | Sunset at Eiffel Tower
Notre Dame Cathedral
I never really sat down to write about Paris or this Grand Lady of Paris since I felt my photos were not adequate, I wanted better pictures of that Stained glass rose windows, vaulted ceiling, statues and the dim-lit wooden interior! I was sure we would do a better job of capturing some of that fine French Gothic architecture next time, now there is no next time!
Those same photos, I cherish looking at now – reminds me of a time before the fire engulfed a structure that has stood since the 12th century. As I watched the Notre Dame Cathedral in flames on TV, I realized Paris will never be the same but it does not change the memories we have, we hold on to them even closer! I have no doubt the cathedral will be built back to its glory… soon!
Pay homage at Pantheon
Begin your day at the Pantheon, France’s collection of national heroes all entombed together here. From there, you can walk to the Ile de la Cite to see the beautiful Sainte Chappelle, a hidden gem in Paris.
See the Stained Glass Windows at Sainte Chappelle
Sainte Chappelle is a hidden gem that should be on your 3 days Paris Itinerary. Sainte Chapelle was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns. Arranged across 15 windows, including some stunning rose windows, the stained glasses in the Chape depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. It recounts the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris.
Then walk over to the Louvre! There is no way you will see it all in a day or even a week. Pick a few sections to explore, make a mandatory stop to visit Leonardo’s masterpiece. A private family tour here is a great idea, that way the kids will appreciate the masterpieces and sculptures more! An expert guide will relate interesting stories behind the masterpieces on this 2-hour tour that also includes fun games for the kids.
Take a sunset cruise on River Seine
After spending enough time at the Louvre make your way to Eiffel Tower. We like to grab dinner nearby and then head down to the docks for a sightseeing cruise on the Seine. You can also book a dinner cruise. You can be treated a gorgeous view on either banks of the river if you plan for a cruise around sunset.
Start the next day at Napoleon’s tomb in Invalides
The building retained its primary function of a retirement home and hospital for military veterans (Invalides) until the early twentieth century now Les Invalides is a museum and national monument. The French military still uses part of the complex as a base. Beneath Invalides impressive gold dome are two churches. One for the common soldiers and the other for the King to be entombed upon his death. The King’s church is now Napoleon’s tomb and you can see some relics there including Napoleon’s armor – it was interesting to see how short he really was!
See the Masters at Musee d’Orsay
Your second stop for your 2nd in Paris will be the Musee d’Orsay Here you can enjoy impressionist paintings in the beautiful setting of a former train station. Be sure to climb all the way to the top of the main hall for a bird’s eye view. You can eat lunch the cafes upstairs.
A visit to Montmartre
Next hop a train to Montmartre and head up to Sacre Coeur. There is an inclined railway up to the top if you don’t want to climb the stairs. On your way back, you can visit the Moulin Rouge before catching another train to the city. You can see a show at Moulin Rouge sans kids if you can arrange for some babysitting. It is a French Cabaret show that opened in Paris in 1889 and kids over 6 can go but keep in mind that the dancers will show skin, a lot of skin!
Catch a sunset from Arc de Triomphe
This is one that many visitors to Paris overlook, a view of Paris from the top of Arc de Triomphe. From the top of the panoramic terrace, you can see over the whole of Paris. Inspired by Roman Arch of Titus, Arc de Triomphe was inaugurated in 1836 by the French king, Louis-Philippe, who dedicated it to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire. The Unknown Soldier was buried at the base of the arch in 1921. The flame of remembrance is rekindled every day at 6:30pm. It is a steep climb up but worth the views! Go there around sunset and then eat dinner nearby. See this post for other great photo spots in Paris.
Day trips from Paris
You can manage a day trip or two from Paris in your 3 days in Paris. We have done a few day trips from Paris but barely scratched the surface though. We have been to Chartres Cathedral to see the Stained glass windows(of course!), to Versailles and a couple more! I still have a visit to Monet Giverny Gardens on my list. My favorite was a visit to a Day trip to Disneyland Paris. Took the then 3 year old Ms. Peachy to go see the Disney Castle and Characters!
Here are a few tours from Paris that you might like
Make time for a few more Museums
There are more museums in Paris than just Louvre, whether it’s contemporary art, architecture or fashion or Monet and Picasso works. If you have time make time for another museum in your 3 days in Paris. Kids will love the colorful and contemporary art in Centre Pompidou, Fashionistas can’t miss Musée des Arts Décoratifs. My favorite though after Musee d’Orsay is Musée de l’Orangerie in Jardin des Tuileries that houses Monet’s waterlilies. You will be surrounded by Monet in the two oval rooms. Petit Palais the Belle Époque exterior building is another nice museum that houses some of the city’s most wonderful fine art and sculpture. Don’t miss the street art in Paris as well.
Shop along the 12 avenues of Champs Elysses
The plane tree-lined boulevards of Champs Elysses offer some really nice shopping! Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous streets in the world, and often described as “the world’s most beautiful avenue.” You can find the Louis Vuitton store, Chanel, Longchamp boutiques and also the Sephora flagship store among others. You can also find more affordable brands like Celio, Zara, H&M, Gap. I bought my first bag at the Chanel brand’s flagship store at Rue Cambon. You can see the stairs that lead up to Coco Chanel’s room upstairs and they have the best collections and a little of the exclusive ones as well and you get them nicely packed in the exclusive white Chanel bags that is available only at the Rue Cambon store!
Tip: If you made any purchases request for a tax free form. Fill it and keep the form with you together with your purchases and passport and present them to the Customs desk when you fly out). Take advantage of the country’s tax free shopping policy that applies to non-European residents! Makes for great souvenirs 🙂 See here for more Paris Travel Tips.
Where to stay in Paris
With so many options in Paris, I got to say we LOVED our hotel, it has become quite popular these days. You can look it up on Instagram! A couple of years ago it was a nice hotel in a great location and an epic view, our little secret! We stayed at the suite here at the Hotel Splendid Etoile with a French balcony that had an amazing view of the city of Light. Not far from the most luxurious hotels of Paris like the Four Seasons Hotel George V and Ritz Paris. We were on the top floor, saw the Eiffel tower twinkling at night and woke up to café au lait with up-close view of the Arc de Triomphe. The hotel had a really good breakfast as well or you can walk to the different avenues on Place de L’etoile (Place Charles de Gaulle), there are 12 after all and stopped at a café for breakfast each day. See my friends post here on what to eat it Paris, has everything from eclairs to macarons!
Like Audrey Hepburn said, “Paris is always a good idea.” You can never really check Paris off your list no matter how many times you have been or how much time you spend there. Every time it is a new experience! Hope this little guide inspired you to plan a trip even if you only had 2 or 3 days in Paris!
Je t’aime, Paris! Until next time…
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