Paris is the Heart of Europe
Paris is an incredibly romantic city with charming cobblestone streets and a vibrant history. Few cities blend the traditional and modern as well as Paris. When planing your trip to Paris, it can be overwhelming to know where to start. It’s a large and busy city with so many museums, restaurants, wine bars, and upscale shops. Many things have to be reserved in advance and it’s important to ensure you plan things around the same neighborhood, or arrondissement, each day to minimize unnecessary travel across the city. Even with careful planning, we walked about eight or more miles each day (so bringing comfortable shoes is a must).
We tend to walk everywhere, but after a few days our feet were pretty tired. If you don’t want to walk all over Paris, the underground metro is quick and usually reliable, although employees strike somewhat regularly. You can also rent a bicycle, electric scooter, or buy a pass for the hop on hop off bus. After extensive research and planning, here is the epic 7 day itinerary I’ve put together for your trip to Paris.
Where We Stayed
While planning our trip to Paris, we knew we’d stay at a Hilton hotel because we have a Hilton credit card and have been working toward earning points for a trip. There are a few Hilton hotels around Paris, we chose Maison Astor because it’s a fairly short distance to all major attractions, yet far enough from the touristy crowds. Paris is a large and busy city, yet this neighborhood was very quiet at night. They have a concierge available 24/7 to help you with any questions you have, like how to order a taxi for transportation to the airport. It was a great experience and we would definitely stay here again.
Upon your first day in Paris, I suggest you take it slow and don’t do too much. You’ll probably be tired as you adjust to the time change. Spend your first day walking around the meandering streets of the 9th and 18th arrondissements. The Montmartre neighborhood is beautiful and charming with hilly cobblestone streets and the unbelievably impress Sacre-Coeur church on top of a steep hill in Paris. Enjoy the beautiful church, great views of the city and an old carousel. Grab a ham and cheese sandwich or a beer in Place du Tertre, a charming square with artists painting and classic Parisian gifts for sale like berets. Stop by Quarter Pigalle, a fun district with neon lights, or grab a snack at La Maison Rose, a charming pink cafe. Finish the evening by catching a show at Moulin Rouge, which is the birthplace of the can-can dance. Then, head back to the hotel to rest for a bit before grabbing a late dinner. Most restaurants don’t get busy until 7pm or 8pm. Parisians eat dinner much later than Americans, so we tried to fit in with the locals and go out later than we normally would. For something easy and close to the hotel, check out La Pépinière for a delicious charcuterie board or Café Pastis for fried fish.
For your second day in Paris, spend time exploring the 5th and 6th arrondissements, and the Latin Quarter. As you head out from the hotel, make your first stop the Palais-Royal. This palace is the former royal palace and first opened in 1639. Stop for a photo in the Instagram-worthy, and free, courtyard with black and white striped pillars. Next, walk past the Louvre and on to a bridge that takes you over the Seine River. Spend several hours of your morning at the Musee d’Orsay. This beautiful museum was once a railway station. Today, it houses mainly French art from 1848 through 1914, including sculptures, furniture, photography and paintings from Monet, Van Gogh and Degas.
After the museum, head over to Saint-Etienne-du-Mont, a beautiful church made famous for its steps that were filmed in the movie Midnight in Paris. It’s the spot where Gil, played by Owen Wilson, waits for the car at midnight. Across the street is the Pantheon, where Voltaire and Marie Curie are buried. Then, stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens as you begin to make your way back toward the Seine River. Before crossing the river, however, you may be ready to give your feet a break. Stop into the bustling Cafe Bonaparte for a drink. This busy corner is a great spot for people-watching and it became a regular resting place for us during our week in Paris. After you’ve enjoyed a class of wine and feel rejuvenated, head back over the Seine River to Juveniles for lunch. For just 18 euros, we had a delicious fish, potato and vegetable dish that came with a basket of bread, a glass of wine and coffee. It’s such a tiny place that we initially walked right past it, so keep your eye out for it.
As you make your way back to the hotel to rest, stop by the Tuileries Garden. I was surprised to see vibrant tulips and daffodils bursting with color in March. The park is filled with chairs and benches, so you’ll have no trouble finding a warm spot in the sun to relax. When you’re ready for dinner, walk over to Le Louis XVI. This restaurant is a bit on the expensive side, but it’s quality food and service. I highly recommend the pork dinner with red wine and the chocolate mousse for dessert.
Spend your third day in Paris in the 7th, 8th and 16th arrondissements. Kickoff your morning by climbing to the top of Arc de Triomphe. This may seem like a bit of a touristy thing to do, but it’s a really awesome way to get a 360 degree view of Paris and learn about the Arc de Triomphe’s wild history. I recommend you go early before it gets too crowded. Know that you do need to actually climb your way up the stairs as there is no elevator. So sadly this is not handicap friendly.
Afterward, stroll along Champs-Élysées, a street lined with expensive stores, and much wider sidewalks and streets than other parts of Paris. By this point, you’ll be pretty hungry for breakfast. Stop by Le Grand Palais for a latte and toast with honey and butter. Afterward, stroll along the Pont Alexandre III bridge. This bridge is decadent and covered in gold statues that glisten in the sun. You’ll also find a really great view of the Eiffel Tower from this bridge. The Eiffel Tower is not far from here, so swing by to take that iconic photo you’ve been wanting. Then make your way over to the Musée de l’Orangerie to see stunning, and massive paintings by Monet. What makes this museum so unique is that Monet actually helped plan out the space and was able to see his vision come to life. After spending about an hour at Musée de l’Orangerie, walk past Place de La Concorde, a public square where 1,200 people were killed by guillotine including King Louis XVI and his wife, Marie Antoinette.
When you’re ready for lunch, pop across the river to grab lunch at Cafe Nona, a tiny spot serving delicious options like ratatouille, fresh bread, vibrant wines and creme brûlée. As you head back to the hotel, stop for a rest at Tuileries Garden, or walk through Place Vendome. And if you’re interested in doing some upscale shopping, check out Chanel Cambon, a neighborhood with high end brands like Dior, Givenchy, Ralph Lauren and Gucci. When you’re ready to enjoy dinner, walk over to La Boissy D’Anglas and grab a seat outside with the locals. This spot serves delicious classic Parisian food like French onion soup, sausage with fries and one of the best creme brûlées I’ve ever had.
Day four is mostly spent in the 1st, 6th and 7th arrondissements. Start the day with a stroll over to Paul, a bakery and coffee shop close to the hotel. We later learned Paul was a chain and we usually avoid chains, but it was so delicious we ended up going back several times. Treat yourself to a latte, a chocolate croissant or a pastry with a thinly sliced baked apple. Next, head over to the Louvre Museum. The Louvre’s most famous painting is of course the Mona Lisa, which was painted by Michelangelo in 1503. This is an absolutely massive museum that requires at least a half day, if not longer. It’s absolutely worth it though, as the Louvre is the world’s most visited museum.
When you’re ready to move on, pop over the Seine River and stop into Shakespeare and Company, a popular bookstore that often has a line of people waiting outside. After you pick up a book by Fitzgerald or Hemingway, walk over to Café Flore or Les Deux Magots, two restaurants next to each other that were frequented by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway. We had lunch at Les Deux Magots, which opened in 1885!
Afterward, head over to 27 Rue de Fleurus to visit the old apartment of Gertrude Stein. Stein was a woman ahead of her time who regularly hosted parties with her friends Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Picasso. Although you can’t go inside, it’s pretty significant to stand outside and imagine the energy from famous party goers that once walked here. When you’re ready to rest, swing by the Luxembourg Gardens or head back to the hotel. Then, for dinner, head over to Flotte, which is only a few blocks from the Maison Astor hotel. This is a bit of a fancier spot and definitely worth it. Sit at the bar so you can see the chefs work, then enjoy a delicious white fish dinner, or pasta with ham and cheese. Finish the evening with a glass of wine and chocolate crepes.
For your fifth day, you’ll probably feel like you have a good understanding of Paris. You may be ready to venture out for a day trip. Depending on how far you want to travel and what you’re interested in doing, you may consider a day trip to the Mont St. Michel castle near Normandy, Monet’s Garden and house in Giverny, crepes and a cathedral in Chartres, an underground wine cellar and Roman ruins in Reims or the gardens at the Palace of Versailles. For your day trip, you can travel by train, rental car or private group tours. Read my blog post on the best day trips from Paris for more details and ideas.
For your sixth day in Paris, you’ll spend most of your time moving around the 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th arrondissements. Kick off your morning by walking over to Hotel de Ville, Paris’ City Hall, which is enormous and impressive. Then, stroll along the Rue de Rosiers checking out a variety of unique thrift shops in search of a Parisian gem. Begin to wind your way over to the Ile Saint-Louis island. You’ll find a ton of restaurants, and narrow windy streets with pastry shops and brasseries. Then, cross over the Pont Saint-Louis bridge to see the Sainte-Cathedral and Notre Dame up close. As of 2022, Notre Dame remains closed to the public as it undergoes repairs from the 2019 fire. You can still walk around the church and get a close look, you just can’t go inside. The hope is that the restoration project will be done by 2024 when Paris hosts the Olympics.
Find the Pont Saint-Michel bridge, and cross over the Seine River, to the Latin Quarter. There are so many great places to eat in the Latin Quarter. And of course, while in Paris, one must eat macarons. Stop by Maison Georges Larnicol to try a variety of flavors like lemon, chocolate, salted caramel or rose, then bring them over to a bench along the Seine River to enjoy in the sun. When you’re ready for dinner, walk a few blocks over to l’Huîtrerie Régis for oysters, cheese and wine. This was one of the more memorable meals of our trip as we slurped oysters in a tiny, no-reservation raw bar with a carafe of white wine. It was a perfect way to end the day.
For your final day in Paris I recommend you leave it mostly unplanned and revisit neighborhoods you most enjoyed. Maybe stop by the bakery or bar that had the most memorable glass of wine or croissant and take the city in slowly before you head home. For your final dinner in Paris, check out Le Saint Augustin, which is a few blocks from the hotel. Sit outside shoulder-to-shoulder with Parisians listening to the conversations in French as secondhand cigarette smoke wafts past you.
Nic and I spent our final day stopping into a variety of our favorite places, drinking wine and eating as the hours past by. Paris is a magical city and deserves it’s reputation as being an awesome, beautiful and romantic place. As Anthony Bourdain said, “Make the most of your time in Paris by doing as little as possible.”
Plan Your Trip to Paris
I hope everyone has the chance to visit Paris as least once. It’s an incredible city that deserves the praise it regularly gets. Paris has long been considered the culinary capital of the world. With great food, incredible museums and vibrant city streets, it’s a fantastic place to spend a week, or two! Looking for more Paris inspiration? Check out Nomadic Matt’s in-depth guide to Paris or my blog post on the 5 Best Day Trips from Paris. And if you’re looking for more local ideas, check out my blog posts on 9 Epic State Parks along Lake Superior’s North Shore, and 8 Incredible Waterfalls Near the Twin Cities.