If you’re able to spend longer than a weekend getaway in the City of Light, then 5 days in Paris is the perfect amount of time to get to know the French capital on a more local level. Whether you want to eat the best food, see the quirkiest of museums, or simply soak up some of Paris’ charm, here’s your ultimate guide and itinerary on how to spend five perfect days in Paris…
An overview of this 5 days in Paris itinerary
In it, there’s the chance to see the major tourist highlights, see some more secluded locations and experience life in the French countryside! Day one is all about the birthplace of Paris (Ile de la Cité), day two is all about the Eiffel Tower and the Museums, day three focuses on taking day trips from Paris, day four in this Paris itinerary is all about Montmartre and getting off the beaten path, while day five is the chance to experience some real life and fairytale French châteaux.
Day 1 in Paris – Île de la Cité & Le Marais
Day one is all about seeing the tourist hot spots that make France, and therefore Paris as its capital, one of the most sought-after dream destinations in the world. Take yourself on a walking tour, soak up some history, and try some French sweets. After all, day one of this five-day itinerary is all about indulging your inner tourist!
Morning: Explore the 1er arrondissement
This morning starts at Notre Dame, an ecclesiastical building which may well be the most famous cathedral in the world. Nearby, you’ll find the ever interesting Rue Chanoinesse is home to that coffee shop you see everywhere on Instagram (Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole), as well as a courtyard paved with repurposed gravestones.
Elsewhere on Île de la Cité, the medieval glass of Sainte Chapelle (purchase your tickets in advance here) is well worth a visit if you have time, as is the Conciergerie, a former prison where Marie Antoinette was held prior to her very public execution. Want more ideas? Here’s a quick guide to the best things to do on Île de la Cité!
Afternoon: 3e & 4e arrondissements
Chic, trendy, and once a marshy swampland outside the Parisian city limits, Le Marais is now one of Paris’ must-see districts. Covering the 3e and 4e arrondissements, the area is complete with one of the oldest houses in Paris, plenty of hôtels (which were not places where you can pay to stay but instead were once mansions for the uber-wealthy).
Elsewhere in the district, the oldes public square, Place des Vosges offers up many of the best bistros and coffee shops the city has to offer. Visit Carettes for some of the best macarons in Paris and take yourself on this self-guided walking tour of Le Marais to be sure not to miss any of the 3e or 4e arrondissement’s highlights.
Day 2 in Paris – Eiffel Tower & the Parisian Museums
Wander along the Seine, soak up some artwork and see the Iron Lady for yourself. Day two of this 5 days in Paris itinerary is about expanding on what you experienced yesterday. Learn how to order coffee just like a Parisian and make sure to bring your camera along- you’re going to need it!
Head to Trocadéro for sunrise. Now that you’ve spent a little time getting adjusted to the time in Paris (that is, if you’re visiting from a completely different time zone!), it’s time to make the most of your French adventure and head to the Eiffel Tower to see the sunrise up over Paris. Make sure to arrive at least fifteen minutes before sunrise to find a prime photography position and you can expect candy coloured shades to dance across the sky behind the Tour Eiffel.
Post-Eiffel Tower visit, head to a French coffee shop and order a warm beverage. Then, it’s time to take out your camera and play hide and seek with the Eiffel Tower. Nearby places of interest following your Trocadero visit include Champ de Mars (ie where you’ll find all the best Magnolia trees and cherry blossoms come springtime) and Avenue de Camoëns, a somewhat hidden cul-de-sac in the 16e arrondissement which provides breathtakingly beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower and is never too busy!
Afternoon: Museum tour
Museums, museums, museums. Opt for the Louvre Museum if you’ve never been before. Purchase your Louvre skip-the-line tickets here. After all, if you’re an art lover, then you can’t go to Paris and miss the largest museum in the world which is home to the likes of the Winged Victory of Samothrace, as well as the ever-smiling Mona Lisa.
If you’re looking to see other famous artworks, then the former train station of Musée d’Orsay is home to many of the best impressionists works in France and the Orangerie, located in the heart of Jardin des Tuileries, is where Monet’s waterlilies can be seen.
Otherwise, choose lesser-known and slightly off the beaten tourist track option if you’re looking for something a little quirkier. Musée de la Vie Romantique is dedicated to all things Paris vintage, the Sewer Museum tells the fascinating story of waste in the capital (though it is literally a little smelly), and Musée Jacquemart André is so sumptuous that it’s hard to believe it was ever someone’s home.
Day 3 in Paris – Escape the City
The most famous of all day trips from Paris is that of Versailles. And there’s a reason why. Visit any day of the week apart from Monday (where everything but the gardens is closed to the public) and you can expect to find plenty of things to do and oodles more to see…
Morning: Versailles Palace
Versailles Palace, Gardens, Petit Trianon, Grand Trianon, and Hameau de la Reine- you’ll be able to explore all these exciting places and more should you choose to visit Versailles. Though you can take the train directly to the Palace and purchase your tickets in advance, I recommend buying these skip-the-line tickets so as to save as much of your precious time in Paris as possible!
While many believe the golden gated palace to be the best attraction at the palace, it’s actually the less frequented ‘Hameau de La Reine‘ (i.e. where Marie Antoinette used to play dress up with her ladies in waiting) which has really caught my eye time and time again. This often missed highlight of Versailles makes the crowds in the rest of the palace well worth the wait!
Afternoon: Versailles Town
Stay in Versailles for the rest of the day and it’s possible to experience a French city that’s not Paris. This afternoon is all about life in France outside of the French capital, though it’s worth noting that prices in Versailles are incredibly similar to those found in Paris.
Wander around Versailles and enjoy plenty of the museums the town has to offer. After all, there’s the Lambinet Museum dedicated to the history of the town, the Jeu de Paume where you’ll find out more about the origins of tennis and Versailles, as well as plenty of markets should you choose to visit Versailles at the weekend.
Evening: Latin Quarter
The evening of day three of this 5 days in Paris itinerary is your chance to experience the Latin Quarter, a district so called because students of the nearby Sorbonne university would solely converse with one another in Latin during the Middle Ages. Today, it remains the seat of plenty of universities and institutions of learning. As a result, the 5e arrondissement is filled with plenty of clubs, bars, and even independent cinemas showing movies from times gone by.
So whether you’re looking for happy hour, some late night shopping (in the form of Shakespeare and Co, one of the best Anglophone bookstores in Paris), you’ll find all this and more in the Latin Quarter. If you arrive in the arrondissement early enough, also make some time to visit the Paris Pantheon, a former church that has since come to be the place where French citizens of note are interred.
Day 4 in Paris – Montmartre & the Parisian Villages
If you want to make the most of Montmartre (and I highly suggest you do), then dedicate an entire day to exploring the 18th arrondissement and its surrounds. Day 4 of this 5 days in Paris is all about seeing a lesser-known side of Paris, away from the Haussmannian architecture, and away from the other clichés which have become so synonymous with France.
Morning: 18e arrondissement
Head to Montmartre earlier in the day to enjoy the 18e without the crowds which inevitably flock to the district later in the day. Start your day bright and early if you want to photograph Montmartre in the best possible light and with the fewest crowds possible. Fancy a self-guided tour of the district? Here’s my completely free guide to the highlights of Montmartre.
Afternoon: Quirky and offbeat Paris
While the morning was in one of Paris’ more famous ‘village vibe’ areas, the afternoon is dedicated to getting to know the city on a more local level. Following lunch, head to Butte Bergeyre, a micro-arrondissement accessible via just one winding road and two steep footpaths. Complete with its own hidden vineyard, a visit to Butte Bergeyre can easily be combined with a trip to the nearby Parc des Butte Chaumont.
Evening: Traditional French Fare
Take yourself out for dinner where there are only two options on the menu (meat or cheese) and the wine is served in baby bottles. Yes, you read that correctly! Pay a visit to Le Refuge des Fondues (17 Rue des Trois Frères, 75018 Paris) for a truly French experience on your final night of this 5 days in Paris itinerary. The friendly restaurant is always packed with the sound of tourists and locals alike, and while the cheese isn’t the best in town, the atmosphere certainly is!
Day 5 in Paris – The French Châteaux Experience
Day five of this 5 days in Paris itinerary is all about the French château experience. Because let’s face it: you can’t spend an extended period in l’Hexagon and not see some of the sumptuous castles which are so synonymous with the European country!
Option 1: Fontainebleau. ‘Versailles without the crowds’ would be the best way to describe Fontainebleau, a one-time hunting lodge that has since been transformed into a palatial seat of kings with epic proportions. Purchase your Fontainebleau priority entry ticket in advance here.
Option 2: Château de Chantilly. Home to Chantilly Cream and Chantilly Lace, the fairytale-like château of Chantilly is just half an hour’s train ride from Paris via Gare du Nord. Best visited over the course of an entire day, the French masterpiece is home to the original hamlet which inspired that of Marie Antoinette’s at Versailles. Other highlights of Chantilly include Musée Condé, the second largest art collection in France after the Louvre, and various landscaped gardens.
Option 3: Vaux-le-Vicomte and Blandy-Les Tours. If you want to experience two very different châteaux within a quick drive of each other, then you simply must head to the sumptuous and original baroque architecture of Vaux-Le-Vicomte. So luxurious is the palace, that the King of the time grew jealous of the owner, locked him up in jail for life, and confiscated Vaux-le-Vicomte for himself.
Option 4: If you prefer to take guided tours from the city, then there are plenty to choose from! I personally use and love GetYourGuide thanks to the variety of tickets they have for many French attractions (and at many different price points). Some of the better day tours from Paris include this Loire Valley Castles tour and this Full-Day Mont Saint-Michel Guided Tour from Paris.
Things to know before visiting Paris for the first time
Paris can be busy any time of the year, but particularly so during high season (i.e. the summer, late spring, and early autumn), school holidays, and special events. As such, you’ll want to book your place to stay well in advance, so as to secure the best rates and places.
One of my favourite places in the city is Montmartre, and you can see the best of Montmartre hotels here. Otherwise, there are plenty of other wonderful places to stay in Paris priced for every budget. From luxury hotels to budget hostels, check the best accommodation rates for Paris here.
Next, you should also know that while nearly everyone you meet will speak a good level of English, it’s only polite to learn a few words of French before you go. Learning a few simple words like ‘hello,’ ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ and ‘sorry’ is a great place to start. In order to help you get by, I recommend bringing along a simple French Phrasebook like this one.
Paris, like much of mainland Europe, uses type C and E. This means that if you’re travelling from the US, Canada, the UK, and many other countries, then you’ll need to pack and purchase a travel adaptor. This all in one adaptor contains USB ports and works with several different plugs.