Wondering how to spend a weekend in Paris? Here’s my expert guide!
Whether you’re in France for a few romantic days or just a layover within Europe, I wanted to share my itinerary for a perfect weekend in Paris. A weekend is enough time to let you sample the City of Light, but it can be a bit inaccessible without some guidance.
Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world and I’ve visited it many times, having had the distinct luxury of a local friend to show me around. I respectfully disagree with those who claim that Paris is overrated.
This is the itinerary I’d follow if I were showing you around for a weekend. Whenever I could, I included specific restaurants to try because finding great restaurants in Paris can be more challenging than in other cities. The restaurants that cater to tourists are unlikely to impress you; instead, try to eat where the locals eat.
I assume you’ll have three mostly full days in Paris – Friday, Saturday, and Sunday – but I’ve also included some guidance in case you only have two days to work with.
How to spend a perfect weekend in Paris
A perfect weekend in Paris consists of a mix of activities, including eating delicious food, wandering through expansive museum collections, sipping espressos, marveling at architecture, and relaxing in thoughtfully designed public parks. Here’s a step-by-step itinerary to help you plan your trip.
I strongly recommend that you download an offline map of Paris on Google Maps so that you’ll be able to navigate even if your cellular signal is weak.
The first day of your perfect weekend in Paris is all about getting your bearings in the city. You’ll start with a classic breakfast, then explore some of the city’s landmarks on a self-guided tour, either by bicycle or e-scooter. You’ll watch the sunset over the city from Montmartre, then go out on the town for music, drinks, and dancing.
Breakfast: A croissant and a coffee from a local boulangerie
Start your day like a local: with a croissant from your local boulangerie. My favorite boulangerie in the city is Liberté bakery, which has multiple locations. If you’re not staying near a Liberté, just look for a highly rated bakery nearby.
You can order a plain croissant or one with chocolate, called a pain au chocolat; they’re both delicious. Unless you’re near a proper coffee shop that piques your interest, grab a cappuccino or espresso at the boulangerie before heading off for the day. If you’re at all worried about being peckish before lunch, grab a premade sandwich from the boulangerie to hold you over.
Self-Guided Bicycle (or e-scooter) Tour
You could always take a Free Walking Tour of Paris to get oriented, but if you’re feeling more adventurous you can try my DIY self-guided version.
To take this tour, you’ll want to rent a bicycle or an e-scooter to see the sights along the Seine. There is a bike path that goes along the Seine, and it will be filled with bicycles, e-bikes, and e-scooters, so just watch for traffic and pay attention to your surroundings. It would also be possible to walk, but you’ll need to take the metro or a taxi to reach Montmartre in the evening.
It’s not imperative that you make every stop on this list – it’s simply meant as a guide of the sights you might want to see as you cycle along.
Bike and e-scooter rentals
You can rent city bikes from Velib stations throughout the city, and the rates are very affordable. When renting Velibs, the standard bicycles are green and the e-bikes (electric bikes) are blue. You can buy affordable bike helmets at Decathlon. I love biking in Paris because it gives you a chance to really see the city and get a sense for its layout.
There are e-scooter rental companies throughout Paris, and the pricing can vary dramatically between them so I’d recommend you shop around before you commit to a company. If you’ve never tried an e-scooter, it’s easy to hate them. Less physically demanding than bikes, e-scooters let you look around, navigate, and stop whenever something catches your eye. I guess what I’m trying to say is: don’t knock ‘em ‘til you try ‘em.
The Eiffel Tower
Start your tour at the Eiffel Tower or the adjacent Champs de Mars park. If your hotel is in the 7th arrondissement, it shouldn’t be too long of a walk to get to this landmark, and there are Velib bike rental stations on both ends of Champs de Mars park. There is a Liberté boulangerie on Rue Saint-Dominique, a 13 minute walk or 5 minute cycle from Champs de Mars, so you could pick up some baked goods and eat them in the park if you prefer.
Place de la Concorde
Your first stop on your self-guided tour is Place de la Concorde, one of the major public squares in Paris and the site of many famous executions during the French Revolution. In the center of Place de la Concorde is an obelisk (large spire) from ancient Egypt, covered in hieroglyphics. Atop the obelisk is a golden pyramidal cap, said to be of “incalculable value.”
Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre
Your second stop is at the Jardin des Tuileries and the Louvre Museum, both of which are iconic Parisian landmarks. This itinerary brings you back to the Louvre and surrounding area another time, so for now I’d recommend just taking in the architecture and physical beauty. From the main traffic circle, you can see the iconic glass pyramid of the Louvre and one of the city’s famous arches at the beginning of the Jardin des Tuileries.
Lunch galette and cider at Breizh Cafe
When you start to get hungry, make your way to Breizh Café, a crepe restaurant with a few locations around the city. Breizh serves traditional gallettes or open-faced buckwheat crepes. Be sure to try their cider if you drink alcohol; I prefer the smoky cider, but the sweeter variety is also very tasty. The side salads here are usually very fresh and delicious if you’re feeling like you need some veggies.
Don’t skip a butter and sugar crepe to finish your meal. One of the hallmarks of French cuisine is a chef’s ability to take a simple dish and, while embracing its simplicity, make it extraordinary. I can all but guarantee that it will be the best sugar and butter crepe you’ll ever eat. If they offer a flavored butter, try it – the flavoring is natural, made by mixing fresh raspberries, lemon, etc. in with the butter.
Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle
There is an island along the River Seine, and on it you’ll find the famous churches of Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle. Notre Dame famously caught on fire in April of 2019, kicking off a long and involved restoration process. Although it’s unclear when Notre Dame will again be open to the public, you can still visit the outside to see the church with scaffolding along the back (charred) sections.
Sainte-Chapelle is a 13th century chapel, known for having beautiful and ornate stained glass windows. If you have time, you could enter the chapel and look around after paying the entrance fee. Otherwise, just take a moment to admire it from the outside.
While you’re on the island, cycle out to Pont Neuf, where you can watch the Seine river cruises pass by full of passengers.
Shakespeare and Co
Shakespeare and Co is an English language bookstore located in the Latin Quarter of Paris. This is an iconic tourist spot in Paris, you can expect to find lines that stretch back from the entrance. Despite its popularity, this bookstore is very charming, with books on topics from feminism to French cocktails to children’s books. If you like to give books as gifts, a book from Shakespeare and Co would be a great present, and they hand stamp it with their logo for added effect.
While you’re in the Latin Quarter, notice how the narrow, medieval streets differ from the large, wide boulevards you see in most of Paris. The Latin Quarter is home to the Sorbonne University, a 13th century research institution that is still operating today, as well as several other universities. Accordingly, the Latin Quarter is known for being the part of town for students.
Sunset at Montmartre
When it starts to get late in the afternoon, make your way north to Montmartre, an iconic hill that overlooks Paris and is perfect for watching the sunset on a clear day. While on your way to Montmartre, bring a small picnic of bread, cheese, wine, and olives so that you have something to munch on while you watch the sunset over the city.
When the sun has set and it’s time to move on, make your way to a nearby restaurant for dinner. At this point, you’ll be pretty far north of the Seine, so you can either find a spot nearby or make your way back south to the more central areas for dinner.
Optional: After dinner drinks and dancing at a jazz bar
Paris is famous for its jazz bars – booze-filled clubs with live music that play into the night. There are many jazz clubs throughout the city, but I’d recommend that you start by researching the events happening while you’re in Paris and choose based on the performer you’d most like to see. The styles of jazz vary from artist to artist and club to club, so pick something you’re likely to enjoy.
While you’re researching, you’ll find that the cover charges will vary. There should be at least a couple of free options, so opt for those if you’re traveling on a budget. It’s not a jazz bar, but if you’re looking for cheap drinks and a familiar feel, head to Tennessee, a dive bar in Paris. It’s often full of expats, and there’s plenty of seating.
Your Saturday itinerary is all about seeing classic Paris. You’ll spend the day at the Louvre Museum seeing gems around the world, sipping hot chocolate, and enjoying the Jardin des Tuileries. Finish off the day with a delicious and classic dinner from a French restaurant, then watch the Eiffel Tower twinkle under the stars.
The Louvre Museum is one of my favorite museums in the world, with renowned works like the Mona Lisa and the Winged Victory of Samothrace as part of its massive collections. By some metrics, the Louvre Museum is the largest museum in the world, and a tour guide once shared that it would take four days to see the entire collection if you spent 10 seconds looking at each one. So, it’s a big place.
Have a plan before you go and accept that you’ll never see the whole thing in one day. Decide what time you’d like to arrive, buy your tickets in advance, and decide, roughly, which collections interest you. If you want to see the classics, be prepared to stand in large crowds and share the space with lots of other visitors. If you’re more interested in niche works, like Persian statues or royal jewelry, you’ll have a lot more breathing room in each exhibit.
There are free lockers of various sizes; you can find them in the downstairs portion of the museum.
As I mentioned elsewhere in this post, the best food in Paris is not going to be found anywhere near the tourist areas. Since you’re spending most of the day in Parisian hotspots, you’ll have to either settle for expensive and mediocre food for lunch, hope for good luck, or make your way to another part of the city.
About a 10 minute bike ride from the Louvre Museum is Le Marais, which has lots of great options that aren’t too expensive. There is a Breizh Cafe for crepes, Hank’s Burgers for vegan burgers, and several falafel restaurants all fairly close together.
If you visit on a day other than Saturday, definitely get a falafel from L’As du Fallafel, a legendary spot in Paris (unfortunately, they’re closed on Saturdays).
Sip Angelina’s Chocolate
After the Louvre Museum – and a possible side excursion for lunch – make your way to Angelina’s for a hot chocolate or a chilled chocolate, depending on the weather. The chocolate drinks from Angelina’s are delightfully rich, without being too sweet. If it’s chilly outside, I love to order a hot chocolate from Angelina’s and sip it while I wander through the Jardin des Tuileries.
There is often a line outside of Angelina’s, but it is almost certainly just for people waiting to sit in the cafe. If you don’t want to sit inside, you can walk right into the separate set of doors for the to-go orders and grab pastries, hot chocolate, and small gifts.
Stroll through Jardin des Tuileries
Across from the Louvre is the Jardin des Tuileries, a large garden with a ferris wheel, small seasonal market, and lots of green space for lounging or strolling through the gardens. There are plenty of places to sprawl out if you want to take a self-care break to meditate or journal. If you’re enjoying the fresh air, you can walk straight through the garden to Place de la Concorde to see it from another angle.
Dinner at a classic French restaurant
Paris is famous for its classic cuisine, and Saturday night is the perfect time to try some local fare. My two favorite classic French restaurants are Le Florimond and Augustin Marchand d’Vins. Note that these two restaurants are on the pricier side, so if you’re traveling on a budget you may want to look at the menus online before you decide to try them.
Le Florimond is a classic French bistro with a small dining room and a knowledgeable staff. The menu features local ingredients and seasonal dishes. If you enjoy French cheese, don’t skip the cheese course at the end of the meal.
Augustin Marchand d’Vins, by contrast, is an intimate wine bar that serves small dishes for a few tables at a time. You can choose a bottle of wine from the extensive collection on the walls, then pair it with dishes made from local ingredients. The owner and server, Augustin, will be happy to guide your dinner and make sure that you order plates you’ll love.
Make a reservation to ensure you’ll be able to get a seat at either restaurant.
Sit in the Champs de Mars park and watch the Eiffel Tower lights
There could hardly be a more classic thing to do while in Paris than to sit in the Champs de Mars park and watch the Eiffel Tower as it glitters into the night. The park is huge, so even in the peak of tourist season you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a spot to spread out your blanket. When I travel, I like to always bring a sarong, which can serve as a picnic blanket in a pinch and weighs almost nothing in your bag.
The lights only twinkle for about 4 minutes each hour, on the hour, so if you’re just passing by try to time it so that you catch the show.
The first two days of this itinerary were action-packed, so you may want to spend your Sunday exploring the city at an intentionally slower pace.
Laid back breakfast
If you’d like classic American brunch fare, make your way to Zia, a small but tasty breakfast joint with a Southwestern twist. From Zia, you’re only a short walk to Champs de Mars, so you could swing by for another quick peek of the Eiffel Tower before you head home.
Alternatively, choose a classic boulangerie or restaurant for breakfast. You can grab a laid back Sunday breakfast from your local boulangerie and either eat in your hotel or sprawl out in a nearby park. If you’re near a Carrefour or other grocery store, you could pair your breakfast with some fresh squeezed orange juice and fresh fruit.
If you’re craving something a little more filling, most Parisian restaurants will serve simple omelets on their terraces.
Explore the Jardin du Luxembourg
If you’ve read books about Paris, you may remember scenes of young children using sticks to push boats through a pond in a tranquil park. That park is the Jardin du Luxembourg, one of the most iconic places in Paris. Here, you’ll find the trademark pond full of small ships flying flags from countries of the world, complete with children racing to push them towards the center with special poles.
This is one of the parks where you are not allowed to sit on the grass, so try to find some metal chairs to recline on while you enjoy the public space. If you get hungry or just want a snack, there is a Breizh Cafe that serves gallettes and crepes nearby, and you can sit outside on a nice day with a glass of cider.
Bonus: If you have time
Depending on your schedule and when your flight leaves, here are a few activities you may want to add to your itinerary.
See “The Thinker” at the Musee Rodin
Even if you’re not familiar with the French sculptor Auguste Rodin by name, you’ll probably recognize “The Thinker” when you see it. The Musee Rodin is an estate that was transformed into a museum of the late sculptor’s work, and it includes an outdoor sculpture garden as well as an indoor gallery of smaller pieces and artwork from other artists.
Visit Rue Cler and sip espresso on a terrace
Rue Cler is a charming street in Paris full of small boutiques, cheese shops, wine shops, and restaurants. If you have some extra time in your itinerary, make your way to one of the restaurants with a terrace that faces the street and order an espresso or a glass of wine and watch the world go by.
If you bought a book from Shakespeare & Co, this would be a great spot to read the first few chapters. If you’re worried about feeling the post-vacation blues, you could also do a little journaling and reflect on your trip.
Have a savory crepe at Au Petit Grec
If you’ve never tried a savory street crepe, make your way to Au Petit Grec, a wonderful spot for a cheap – and delicious – bite to eat. My go-to order at Au Petit Grec is a feta crepe with all of the complimentary toppings. There are lots of vegetarian and meat options here, but I’d recommend keeping your order as simple as possible.
There’s no seating in the current configuration of Au Petit Grec, so you’ll need to either sit or stand in front of the restaurant while you eat or find a nearby park. There’s a very small park with a few benches about a block away from Au Petit Grec.
Stop for a few foodie gifts at Le Bon Marché
Le Bon Marché is a massive department store that carries just about every food item you could imagine. They have classic French liqueurs, chocolates, and baked goods, all of which make great gifts for people at home. Additionally, you’ll find items from around the world, like dried pastas imported from Italy, wasabi snacks imported from Japan, and even boxed mac and cheese, of the foods I’ve missed most since moving abroad.
There are other levels to Le Bon Marché, including clothing and homegoods. If you’ve had the urge to shop while you’re in Paris, Le Bon Marché would be a great place to do it.
Helpful information about Paris
Paris, in all its beauty and luxury and history, can be a surprisingly hard city to get to know. Here’s my best advice for customizing this itinerary, getting to know Paris, and, most importantly, enjoying your trip.
What if I only have Saturday and Sunday?
If you’re visiting Paris for a weekend, instead of a long weekend, do the Friday and Saturday itineraries only. If you’re going to eat out at a nice restaurant, you’ll probably want to go on Saturday night instead of Sunday night, so shift the evening portion of the itinerary accordingly.
This itinerary is meant as a guide, so you can absolutely skip activities, make substitutions, and otherwise customize it to make the most of your weekend in Paris.
How to find great food in Paris
It always breaks my heart a little when I hear from a friend that they visited Paris and weren’t impressed by the food. Usually, I’ll start by asking where they ate and what they ordered, and the answer is usually that they tried several restaurants in crowded touristy areas. Beware: the touristy restaurants are not where Parisians eat, and you’ll probably be disappointed if you try.
I’ve included some of my favorite restaurants in this post, but there are a few more in another post I shared about relaxing things to do in Paris.
Is a weekend in Paris worth it? Is 2 to 3 days enough for Paris?
Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world, so I’d definitely recommend a visit for a weekend. Over the course of two to three days, you can see many of the city’s landmarks, try classic French cuisine, and marvel at the Parisian architecture.
However, you won’t really get to know the city or adopt its pace in this amount of time. Think of a weekend in Paris as a sample visit, but if you want to really get to know the city you’ll need more time. I fell in love with Paris during my first day or two in the city, but I didn’t feel like I started to really understand it until about halfway through my third visit.
How many days is enough in Paris?
If you can, try to visit Paris for at least two full days to get a sense of the city and see some of the major attractions. Paris is a city of over 2 million people and the city center is a large area along the River Seine, far too much to see in one day.
If you want to start to feel like you really understand Paris and have a feel for the layout of the city, I’d recommend that you spend at least 5 days. However, there’s plenty that you can squeeze in for a perfect weekend in Paris, if that’s what your schedule allows.
Is food expensive in Paris?
The best description I’ve ever heard about the prices of food in Paris is this: Paris is like New York. You can spend almost any amount of money on food in Paris, from a very tight budget of 10 euros per day on food in grocery stores to small plates that are over 40 euros each. If you’re on a budget, you’ll need to be careful and choosy about where you eat.
On average, Paris has comparably priced food to many large cities, like San Francisco and New York. If you eat out for every meal and don’t spend some time searching for good deals or hunting down places to save money, you’ll probably spend about 20-50 euros per person per meal, especially if you order any alcohol. Breakfast and lunch will be on the lower end of that price scale, dinner will fall towards the higher end.
If you’d like to eat a meal or two at a really nice restaurant, be sure to choose a spot at least a few blocks away from major tourist locations and one that has good reviews. My two favorite splurge restaurants are Le Florimond near the Eiffel Tower and Augustin Marchand d’Vins, a small wine bar near the Latin Quarter and Sainte-Chapelle.
How to save money on food in Paris
If you want to save money on food in Paris, be sure to cook some of your own meals using ingredients from Carrefour or another grocery store. You can also buy baked goods, including premade sandwiches and quiches, for less than 10 euros from boulangeries throughout the city.
When the weather is nice, you can always pack a picnic and head to one of the iconic parks of Paris, like the Jardin des Tuileries or the Jardin de Luxembourg. Alternatively, you can take your picnic and sprawl out along Pont Neuf or along the River Seine, where you’ll be joined by plenty of locals.
Advice for choosing a restaurant
Like in London, I’d recommend that you avoid restaurants in crowded tourist areas, such as those set along the River Seine and near the major museums. Once you get several blocks away from the main attractions, start to look for small restaurants that are busy with locals (listen for people speaking French).
You’ll find great, cheap eats throughout the city, but Le Marais and Canal Saint-Denis are good places to start your search.
A few amazing and affordable restaurants include Au Petit Grec and L’as Du Falafel, both of which are fabulous options for cheap eats in Paris.
Be wary of any restaurant that has a menu in English, and don’t go near any restaurants that have menus in multiple languages posted in front of their door. Parisians would likely never eat at these restaurants, so they’re probably going to be lower quality tourist traps.
Where to Stay in Paris
It’s important to know that there is not a singular city center in Paris, but rather a collection of landmarks and tourist attractions scattered largely along the River Seine. Most any itinerary in Paris will involve a decent amount of walking, cycling, and/or taking the metro.
Here are my top budget hotel picks for Paris. So long as your hotel is in an interesting neighborhood and comfortable – and is less than a 30 minute walk from, say, the Louvre or the Musee D’Orsay – you should be OK.