“We’ll always have Paris” is a famous quote from the movie Casablanca that remains as accurate today as it was 78 years ago. Paris is one of those cities that probably has never failed to meet someone’s exceptations as it offers something for all tastes.
I was actually in Paris during the last week of January for the first time ever and I must say: it didn’t disappoint. Not at all. Even with rainy weather you only get wet if you want to because there’s plenty to do indoors.
That being said, I came up with a full guide of Paris’ top things to do and visit in 4 days with all the places you can’t miss visit and even some restaurants’ recommendations!
***Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. Purchasing through these links earns me a commission at no extra charge to you. I only recommend things I use and love, and all opinions are my own.
I flew in with six more friends and we were lucky enough to go on an early flight and we arrived in Paris (Orly) around 11 a.m., which was perfect as it gave us plenty of time to drop our luggage and grab some lunch before starting to explore the city.
Our Airbnb (more about it later) was super central – no more than 10 minutes walking to the Louvre – and we barely never used public transportation (only in the evenings coming back home when we were so sick of walking).
As it was so close to our rented apartment, our first tourist-y destination was the Jardin des Tuileries. These are some huge gardens right in front of the Louvre museum with a big lake in the centre and plenty of chairs and banks where people can sit.
This is the perfect place to get some rest or simply to take a stroll in such a big green place right in the centre of Paris.
After that, we headed to Place de la Concorde, the biggest square in Paris, standing right between the Jardin des Tuileries and the Champs Élysées, and one full of History: it was here that both Marie Antoinette and Louis XVI were killed.
The obelisk at the centre was a gift from the Egyptian monarchy and there it’s possible to have a look at both the Louvre and the Arc of Triumph.
From there and right after entering the Champs Élysées, we went to the Petit Palais, a palace that is also an art gallery/museum. If you’re someone who’s into art, I totally recommend you visiting this place as it not only has numerous rooms full of art but also an incredible garden with a coffee shop. Besides that, the entrance is also free for everyone.
Next to the Petit Palais you also have the Grand Palais that work as an exhibition hall as well but that is worth passing by simply to see its magnific architecture.
Something that is totally unmissable is walking down the almost 2km of the Avenue de Champs Élysées, one of the most famous streets in the world and known for the French as La plus belle avenue du monde (“the world’s most beautiful avenue”).
And it’s definitely not for less. Paris is known for its architecture and here you’re able to see it at its finest. Alongside some of the most famous stores in the world such as Louis Vuitton, Abercrombie & Fitch and, let’s not forget, Ladurée, this avenue is something to crave for. Especially because it offers not only great places to shop but also incredible views, particularly of the Arc de Triumph and the Place de la Concorde.
Once you reach the end of the Champs Élysées, go and climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to get what is claimed to be one of the best views of Paris’ skyline (even better than the one from the top of the Eiffel Tower because you actually get to see the Iron Lady).
We also wanted to visit Le Palais de L’Élysée, the official residence of the President of France, when coming back home (as it is on the other side of the Avenue de Champs Élysées from both the Grand and Petit Palais), but unfortunately it was closed for construction. However, I highly recommend you to visit it if you have the chance as it is another beautiful display of the Parisian architecture.
On the second day we woke up to quite a cloudy rainy day and we decided that we would then take advantage of the weather to visit some museums.
First, and since it was so close to our apartment, we visited the Louvre. This is the biggest art museum in the world and it would probably take days to visit everything it has to offer. Besides that, I have to admit that I’m not the biggest fan of museums, so what I wanted mostly from the Louvre was to see the Mona Lisa (shame on me, I know).
However, I ended up really enjoying the exhibitions I had the opportunity to see, especially the ones related to the Egyptians and also the ones with paintings from several European and American paintings.
And no one can deny how impressive the museum itself is, so it’s also another great opportunity to be astonished with unique architecture and decoration.
In spite of all the Louvre’s magnificence, my favorite museum of the day was by far the Museé d’Orsay, a former railway station, that it’s worth visiting even if it’s just to appreciate the museum itself. However, just like the Louvre, it also presents exhibithions from famous painters, such as Van Gogh and Monet.
Though it’s not as big as the Louvre, the Museé d’Orsay also has numerous different exhibitions (when we went we only had access to three of the five floors and we still had plenty to see, so imagine when the museum is fully working) and I felt like this one has a much more “chilled” environment. So, even if visiting museum isn’t exactly part of your bucket list program when visiting a new city, I highly recommend you visiting this one!
After we left the Museé d’Orsay we headed south along the river Seine and we soon reached both the Jardin des Invalides and the Pont Alexander III (this is actually a quite famous bridge – especially for Instagram photos – but the day was so cloudy that we didn’t manage to take any photo or even went there).
When you enter the Jardin des Invalides, you soon find yourself at Rue de l’Université, another famous place because it gives you, for almost its entire lenght, an amazing view for the Eiffel Tower.
If you follow this street until its end, you’ll reach the famous Champs de Mars, where you will find the Eiffel Tower.
We didn’t climb to the top of the Iron Lady (essentially because the last floor was closed), but this is a possibility and one that gives you another 360º view of Paris. You can choose to either climb through a lift or by the stairs (though with the stairs you can only climb until the 2nd floor).
However, there’s no doubt that the best view to the Eiffel Tower is definitely the one from across the river, especially at Jardin du Trocadero.
Near the Trocadero, you also find the Avenue de Camoens, another street where you can find a great view to the Eiffel Tower surrounded by these typical Parisian buildings.
Besides, if you happen to be around the area in the evening (from 6pm forward), don’t miss the show that it is seeing the Eiffel Towel sparkling – it lights up at 6pm (at least in winter time), but every hour, for five minutes, it actually sparkles and it’s an incredible thing to see!
On our way home, we catched the subway and even got to visit the Place Vendôme, one of the highlights of the city of Paris. This square is the ultimate emblem of the French luxury, where the most prestigious French haute couture brands and the finest jewellery houses own whether a store or an atelier.
Day 3 was probably the day when we used the subway the most. We first headed to Montmartre, known as the artistic neighborhood in Paris, and immediately went to visit the Sacré-Couer.
We used the subway line 4 to get there and were lucky enough to avoid having to climb the infamous stairs that lead to this basilica (we can also use the funiculaire to get there).
Visiting the basilica is free and so is visiting its catacombs, however, you have to pay if you want to climb to the top. I was told this view is totally worth it as you have a 360º view of Paris from above (as Montmartre is located in an hill), but since the day was super cloudy we thought it wasn’t worth it spending the money and probably not being able to see a thing.
Montmartre is also famous for its cute cafés, so if you have the chance go and grab a seat at one of these cute terraces.
Also in this cute neighborhood, you can find Le Mur des Je t’aime, a wall with the sentence “I Love You” written in all different languages, and the Moulin Rouge, Paris’ most famous cabaret.
It’s also in Montmartre that is located the only restaurant I really wanted to visit in Paris: Pink Mamma. This is quite an Instagrammable restaurant, but it’s totally worth the hype! Those Marguerita pizzas were delicious!
After lunch, we took once again the subway and headed back downtown, this time to visit two famous churches: Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame.
The first is a gothic chapel really worth visiting for its marvelous interiors. This church is famous for hosting the largest collection of stained glass from the 13th century and has easily become one of Paris’ symbols.
The second one needs no presentation, but unfortunately, due to the fires from last year, it’s now impossible to visit or even to get near it. The closest you can get is at the bridge (where the photo above was taken) right in front of it.
Right from across the bridge in front of Notre-Dame stays the famous bookshop Shakespeare and Company. This is probably the world’s most famous independent bookstore and it was the hangout for many famous writers, such as Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.
From there we walked to the Panthéon and Le Jardin du Luxembourg, but unfortunately both places were closed when we got there and we didn’t manage to visit either of them (during winter these monuments close earlier so make sure to check the opening and closing hours in advance).
On our last day, after leaving our Airbnb, we headed to the Place de la Bastille, a famous square known for having been the place of the notorious Bastille prison, which was then stormed on the 14th of July 1289, triggering the start of the French Revolution.
This square is located in one of Paris’ most famous neighborhoods: Le Marais. This is the ideal place to visit if you’d like to see how medieval Paris as it has more pre-revolutionary buildings and streets left intact than any other part of the city. Besides that, it’s also a great place to go shopping.
At Le Marais, you also find the Musée Picasso, a museum featuring several paintings and sculptures from Pablo Picasso and it’s also an important research center of Picasso’s life and work.
One of our last stops was the Ópera Garnier, considered one of the most important buildings in Paris. We weren’t actually able to go inside because there was a huge line and we still had to have lunch, but if you have the time I totally recommend it! For what I’ve seen in photos it is absolutely stunning!
Our last stop were the Galeries Lafayette, probably the most famous department stores in Paris. Here you find everything, from clothes stores to restaurants, but the Galeries are most know for its amazing rooftop with a 360º view from the city. If it was amazing during a cloudy day I can only imagine how incredible it must be during spring/summer time!
Important things to know when visiting Paris:
Free entries in monuments: most places mentioned in this blog post have free entry every first Sunday of the month (with exception from the Eiffel Tower, the Opera and the top of the Sacré-Couer), however, if you’re under 18 or an EU citizen under the age of 25, the entry to these places is free always.
Restaurants: at most restaurants (or maybe even all of them), if you don’t ask for any kind of beverage they will offer you a water jug (from the tap, but it’s better than nothing). We actually even went to an Italian restaurant where they offered us bread for while we were waiting for the food.
Where to stay:
There are numerous places where you can stay in Paris from hotels to apartments, but if you are visiting on a budget or simply trying to save money to spend on other activities, I highly recommend you staying at an Airbnb. Most of the times they’re cheaper than hotels and you even manage to stay at a better location so it’s a double win!
We stayed at this apartment right in the 1st arrondissement (10 minutes walking to the Louvre) and if you want to book a stay yourself (anywhere in the world) you can do it through this link and win €41 discount (€30 on a stay plus €11 on an activity) on your first booking!
Hope this was an useful guide! Let me know in the comments if there is anything else you would like to know or any other place you would like to suggest!