The Perfect Weekend in Paris

If you only have three days in the City of Light, you at least need to watch the world go by from a street café, relax in one of the many parks and gardens, and explore world-famous art museums. Savor pastries and discover local restaurants for moments that will leave you craving a taste of Paris for years to come.

Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
This former royal palace is one of the largest museums in the world, and its art collection is considered one of the most comprehensive. It contains around 400,000 works, although—mercifully, perhaps—not all are on display at any one time. There are some pieces that never get taken off the walls. The Mona Lisa and her smile attract millions of visitors each year. Other must-see masterpieces include the sculptures Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave, and the Eugène Delacroix painting The Death of Sardanapalus. There’s no real trick to avoiding crowds at the always-packed museum. The best you can do is try to go in the off-season, early or late in the day, and on a weekday. Your chances of being alone with the Mona Lisa will still be slim to none, but you might be able to actually see that enigmatic smile behind the Plexiglas.
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
Small enough to get around without being overwhelmed, the Musée d’Orsay is a favorite stop in Paris not just for its size but for its collection of Impressionist, Postimpressionist, and art nouveau art. Perfectly set in the center of the city, on the banks of the Seine, and opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a railway station that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900—so the building itself could be seen as a work of art. The extraordinary collection spans art created in the period between 1848 and 1914.
5 Rue Daunou, 75002 Paris, France
In 1911, American star jockey Tod Sloan took a bar in Manhattan, dismantled it, and shipped it to Paris. At the time, American tourists and members of the artistic and literary communities were beginning to visit the City of Light in ever-increasing numbers, and Sloan wanted to capitalize on his fame and make the place a spot where expats would feel at home. Over the years, Harry’s New York Bar has been frequented by a number of famous Americans and international celebrities, including Sinclair Lewis, Ernest Hemingway, Coco Chanel, Jack Dempsey, Rita Hayworth, Humphrey Bogart and the Duke of Windsor. Whether or not you have star status, you can still settle in on a stool with a drink and soak in the history.
Place de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 Paris, France
While “haughty” may be be a little extreme, this imposing building, Paris‘s City Hall, stands very proudly, indeed, in the heart of the 4th arrondissement’s Marais district. Not only does Hotel de Ville serve as seat of Paris‘s government, but, its grand front square is often the site of a sundry list of community and commercial events.
40 Boulevard Haussmann
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is worth a visit if only to stand under its magnificent glass dome. The family business has survived as a one-stop-shopping hub for five generations, thanks to steady innovation and an emphasis on high fashion and design. Shoppers appreciate its easy VAT refund policy. There are also multiple restaurants, a rooftop terrace with stunning city views and a cultural space for rotating art exhibitions.
8 Rue des Plantes, 75014 Paris, France
Taxi drivers know where they’re going when clients ask for the Rue des Plantes around lunch or dinner time. The destination? Le Severo, a simple bistro tucked in a quiet neighborhood in the 14th arrondissement, set with vintage chairs and chalk illustrations of cuts of meat on the walls. While some of the starters here are light and may even be vegetarian, Severo is all about the beef. And fries. The crispy-creamy frites are the perfect accompaniment for the expertly grilled steaks, a quintessentially Parisian meal that’s served here by waiters wearing red-and-white-striped butcher aprons.
72 Rue Bonaparte, 75006 Paris, France
The great macaron debate may forever wage on, but from the first time I tucked into a small box of Pierre Hermé's diminutive cookies, perfectly crisp on the outside and melt-in-your-mouth soft on the inside, I knew I’d remain loyal to his interpretation. Perhaps best known for his unique flavors—foie gras and chocolate, lemon and fennel, vanilla and basil, among many others—it’s his Ispahan croissant, with rose almond paste and crushed raspberry flakes, that really keeps me going back.
8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Sainte Chapelle is a true Gothic masterpiece located on Île de la Cité. Sainte Chapelle was founded by King Louis IX as a chapel for the royal palace. Sainte Chapelle houses a small chapel downstairs that is dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The ceilings down here are stunning but are nothing compared to the stained glass windows on the second floor, which will take your breath away. The stained glass windows in this chapel are possibly the most impressive in the world. There are over 6,000 square feet of well-preserved stained glass that range in color from deep reds to rich blues. The windows picture about 1,100 scenes from the Bible. Tickets to Sainte Chapelle have the option to include admission to the Conciergerie. This is Paris’ oldest prison and the site where Marie Antoinette was held before the her execution during the Revolution. This is a must-see for history buffs.
6 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
One part tourist trap, one part beloved café, Les Deux Magots is a legendary spot that everyone should visit at least once when in Paris. Most famous as the place where the likes of Simone de Beauvoir, Jean-Paul Sartre and Ernest Hemingway spent their days writing at its tables, the café serves decent coffee and hot chocolate—but skip the spendy menu unless you’re really hungry. The best seats are on the terrace, under that iconic green awning, where you can just sit back and people-watch on this busy corner of Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
At the summit of Montmartre, the highest point in the city, you’ll find the Basilica de Sacré-Cœur. Contrasting with the Gothic churches like Notre-Dame, the Romano-Byzantine architecture is both beautiful inside and out. While outside, take in the panorama of Paris and while inside, marvel at the Apse Mosaic—one of the largest mosaics in the world. The Sacré-Cœur website has instructions on how to download the free audio guide on your phone before your visit which is recommended. Also, research the well-known (and apparently tried-and-true) scams before traveling to Paris. Overall, the city seems pretty free of tourist scams, but around Sacré-Cœur especially, visitors should be on alert.
Rue Intérieure, 75008 Paris, France
For Michelin-starred chef Eric Frechon, opening a 110-seat restaurant in the heart of Paris‘s busiest train station (Gare St.-Lazare) was effectively a way to reconnect with his democratic, bistro past. The Bristol Hotel chef is an avowed proponent of no-fuss, simple food executed to perfection. He jumped at the chance to dedicate a space to his special brand of cooking when he was approached by the SNCF transport company to create a restaurant worthy of the station’s newly renovated image—a destination for transients and locals alike, open morning, noon, and night. Frechon stepped in to offer a wildly accessible, haute casual menu of French comfort classics in a gorgeous, lofty space that is equal parts café-bar and swish restaurant. In addition to the full menu, expect daily specials, a robust wine selection, and a standout dessert that will have you returning time and again: the Paris-Deauville, a sweet homage to Normandy, his birthplace, in the form of a caramelized, cold soufflé. The classic brasserie has experienced considerable decline in recent years, but with Lazare, Frechon revives the iconic lieu de vie with deft style.
6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
A devastating fire on April 15, 2019, has closed the interior of the cathedral to visitors. Plans to rebuild and reopen the structure are being made, but at present, visitors are not allowed near the site.
For a first-time visitor to Notre Dame, investing in the audio guide is essential to understand this overwhelmingly significant Paris icon. There’s a lot to see and absorb—history, architecture, artifacts, theology—and the audio guide gives a much-needed sense of direction and context. Even without spiritual ties, the awe-inspiring grandeur of the cathedral is not to be missed from every angle—tour the naves, stroll around the entirety of the exterior, take in the city from the top of the towers, walk along Quai de Montebello to view it from across the water, or admire it from a river cruise down the Seine. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is everything everyone says it is and more.
8 Place de la Concorde, 75005 Paris, France
Paris is a wonderful city to explore on one’s own, but sometimes it can be nice to have a guide to bring the city and its history to life in a special way. Group tours aren’t for everyone, though—get the personal touch with Paris by Tuktuk. It offers themed private tours throughout the city, day or night, by electric tuk-tuk. Melting Pot tours take visitors along graffiti-adorned streets and are fun for families, the Romantic Stroll tour is the perfect excuse for a surprise proposal, and the Wine-Tasting tour works well for foodies, couples, and hen parties.
Port de la Rapée, 75012 Paris, France
Board an elegant 1930s Venetian taxi boat for the most romantic Seine River tour on the waters of Paris. Champagne is chilling in the ice bucket and a few snacks are served as well, but the real show is life on the river, up-close and more personal than you could ever get on the larger boat tours. Wave to picnickers on the berges, spy on lovers canoodling under the bridges, and peek into barge homes from your 30-foot wood and chrome beauty. Take the evening tour, and you’ll witness the Eiffel Tower sparkling every hour on the hour.
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe was inspired by Rome‘s Arch of Titus and commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. It was inaugurated in 1836 by King Louis-Philippe, who dedicated it to the armies of the revolution and the empire. The Unknown Soldier was buried at its base in 1921, and the flame of remembrance is still rekindled each day at 6:30 p.m. Take the stairs or the elevator to the top for a panoramic view.
75006 Paris, France
On sunny days, Parisians head for the Luxembourg Garden, built by Marie de’ Medici in 1611 and modeled after the Boboli Gardens in her native Florence. In addition to the magnificent Medici Fountain, there are more than 100 statues arranged around the garden’s 20 hectares (50 acres), which encompass both formal French and English gardens. Here you’ll find chess players, puppeteers, children sailing tiny boats on the octagonal pool and sometimes a free concert in the gazebo.
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
Nothing is a more powerful symbol of the City of Light than the Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Paris Exposition, it’s one of the world’s most-visited monuments, with nearly 7 million people ascending the 1,062-foot wrought-iron structure each year. Glass elevators spirit you to the top—hardy souls can take the stairs part of way—where in addition to unparalleled panoramic views of Paris, you can toast your arrival with a glass of bubbly at the Champagne bar. Evenings there’s a grand light show: every hour on the hour, the tower sparkles for five minutes with 20,000 bulbs.
52 Boulevard de Vaugirard, 75015 Paris, France
Galettes—savory crepes made from buckwheat flour—and regular crepes are specialties of Brittany. Trains from that region arrive in Paris at the Gare Montparnasse, which explains why there are so many Breton restaurants in the quartier around the station. Ty Breiz serves some of the city’s best galettes, made from buckwheat ground to its specifications and topped with artisanal garnishes. In the fall, fresh chanterelle mushroom galettes are irresistible, and lemon sugar crepes hit the right note of refreshing sweetness in any season. The wood-trimmed dining room is full of memorabilia from the Brittany seaside.
Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris, France
Before the French Revolution, this park used to be the site of the Royal Palace. Today, the garden, which separates the Louvre from Place de la Concorde, is a place where Parisians and tourists stroll amid Rodin and Maillol statues or relax alongside the many fountains after a long afternoon spent at the city’s museums. Done in a formal French style, the garden features manicured rows of trees and grassy areas punctuated by gravel walkways. There are benches throughout but the green metal chairs are the most popular choice of seating; pull one around the ponds as the Parisians do and enjoy your book or a snack while taking in the view. On warm days, people gather at shady cafés around the park; during chilly months, vendors sell mulled wine. Whenever you come, though, we recommend you don’t wear your finest shoes, as the gravel paths will get your kicks quite dusty.
3 Quai Malaquais, 75006 Paris, France
Dinner cruises on the Seine have been on the Parisian visitor’s bucket list since they were first introduced. Some of the modern boats lack charm, and the expensive food they serve is often less than stellar, two developments that threaten to give the tradition a bad name. Le Calife, a 1939 wooden barge full of nautical brass, is a glamorous exception. The boat cruises the river twice a day on two-hour itineraries and serves a light and creative menu with inspired vegetarian options for each course. A glass-enclosed dining deck provides a clear view of the city, regardless of the weather.
10 Rue de la Grange aux Belles, 75010 Paris, France
If the coffee scene in Paris is as robust as it is today, it’s thanks in large part to Thomas Lehoux, one of the city’s star baristas and co-owner of Ten Belles, just off Canal St-Martin. He collaborated with two Englishwomen, Anna Trattles and Alice Quillet from Le Bal Café, to open this intimate espresso bar in the fall of 2012, and success was immediate. Lehoux and his team turn out some of the finest, if time-consuming, drip coffees in the city, while Trattles and Quillet serve up a small menu of comforting fare—soups, sandwiches, and salads—that rotates daily. The Anglo-inspired desserts—cakes, scones, peanut-butter brownies, and raspberry crumb bars—go down beautifully with a host of coffee drinks. Escape the crowds by heading to the mezzanine, where there are usually seats available, along with a view of the bar from above. But if the weather permits, grab one of the stools and take your coffee outside, or opt for a takeout cup and enjoy it alongside the canal.
34 Rue Yves Toudic, 75010 Paris, France
Situated a block from the Canal St-Martin in the 10th arrondissement, Du Pain et des Idées is your favorite corner bakery—only better. The owner, Christophe Vasseur, was named best boulanger in Paris in 2008, and for good reason. From hearth breads to viennoiseries, everything is crafted to perfection. If you’re discerning about your bread, don’t leave without a slab of the signature loaf, the pain des amis—masterfully crusted on the outside and airy and fluffy on the inside, just waiting to be buttered. But Vasseur’s masterpiece is the chocolate-pistachio escargot pastry, a snail-shaped treat with pistachio paste slathered in between layers of puff pastry and punctuated with dark chocolate chips. This isn’t an optional stop along your Paris visit—it’s a must. But be aware: The shop is open only Monday to Friday.
37 Rue Saint-Sauveur, 75002 Paris, France
The Experimental Cocktail Club was one of the first to bring the craft cocktail scene to Paris, landing here in a dark and moody room with stone walls. This once-simple bar has become the flagship of an international empire with satellites in Ibiza and London. But the scene here grooves on and on, much like the DJ tunes that spin until 2 a.m. Order a Bee’s Kiss (Jamaican rum, cream, organic honey, and crushed Indonesian pepper), or if you prefer wine, head to the sister establishment, La Compagnie des Vins Surnaturels, a natural-wine bar in St-Germain-des-Prés.
24 Rue de Sèvres
A five-level emporium specializing in French luxury brands (Louis Vuitton, Dior, Chanel), Le Bon Marché traces its origins to a stall run by a hatmaker’s son and his wife in 1852. The beauty department is under an Art Deco glass ceiling; the third floor features an extensive children’s department with toys, books and clothing. La Grande Épicerie de Paris, Le Bon Marché's expansive and extraordinary food hall, is across the street.
3 Rue Victor Masse
Le Pantruche—the name is an old slang term for Paris—uses its excellent food to lure Parisians out of their flats and across the Seine. The ambience here is bright yet cozy and nostalgic, with brown leather banquettes, wood trim, and mirrors hung on the walls. Chef Franck Baranger has modernized French classics, using the best ingredients available. The produce is so fresh, in fact, that the menu is written on a blackboard and updated daily. Past favorite dishes include clams in green sauce, duck breast with Swiss chard, and a deconstructed lemon meringue tart. It is a tiny restaurant so reservations are recommended.
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