Are you dreaming of a romantic escape or a cultural adventure in the City of Love? A weekend in Paris can be the perfect way to experience the charm, history, and beauty of this iconic city. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll provide you with the best things to do, places to eat and more to make the most of your short stay in Paris.
Read more on Paris
Paris, often referred to as the “City of Light,” is renowned for its rich history, world-class art, delectable cuisine, and romantic ambiance. Situated in the north-central part of France, it’s the country’s capital and one of the most visited cities in the world. Paris is known for its iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum, which houses the famous Mona Lisa.
With its charming neighbourhoods, vibrant street life, and countless opportunities to explore art, history, and fashion, Paris has something for everyone. Whether you’re strolling along the Seine River, savouring a croissant in a local café, or admiring the city’s architecture, you’ll find yourself immersed in its unique and timeless charm.
When to Visit Paris
Paris is a year-round destination, and the best time to for a weekend in Paris largely depends on your preferences.
Spring (March to May): Spring is a popular time to visit when the city’s gardens are in full bloom. The weather is usually mild, making it perfect for sightseeing.
Summer (June to August): Summer is peak tourist season, with long daylight hours and warm weather. However, it can be crowded, so plan your visits to popular attractions accordingly.
Autumn (September to November): The fall season brings cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. The changing foliage adds an extra layer of beauty to the city.
Winter (December to February): Paris in winter is a magical experience, especially during the holiday season when the city is adorned with festive lights and decorations. Be prepared for chilly weather, but fewer tourists.
Where to Stay in Paris
Choosing where to stay for a weekend in Paris largely depends on your interests, budget, and the kind of experience you seek. Paris offers a wide range of neighbourhoods, each with its own unique character. Here are some of the most popular areas to consider:
- Le Marais: Known for its historic charm, Le Marais is home to narrow, winding streets, historic buildings, and a vibrant arts and LGBTQ+ scene. It’s a great choice if you want to be in the heart of the action and enjoy trendy shops, cafes, and galleries.
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés: This Left Bank neighbourhood is famous for its intellectual and artistic heritage. It’s a great area for exploring classic French cafes and enjoying the bohemian atmosphere.
- Champs-Élysées: If you want to be in the heart of luxury and high-end shopping, staying near the Champs-Élysées is a great choice. It’s also close to iconic landmarks like the Arc de Triomphe.
- Montmartre: Perched on a hill, Montmartre has a unique, artistic, and village-like charm. It’s famous for the stunning Sacré-Cœur Basilica and panoramic views of the city.
- Latin Quarter: Known for its lively atmosphere and proximity to historic sites like the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Latin Quarter is a great choice for those who want to be in the midst of a student and intellectual scene.
- Île de la Cité: Staying on this island in the Seine River puts you right in the heart of Paris and near iconic landmarks like Notre-Dame Cathedral and Sainte-Chapelle.
- La Bastille: A trendy neighborhood known for its vibrant nightlife, the Bastille area is perfect for those looking to enjoy the local bar and restaurant scene.
- Louvre/Palais Royal: If you want easy access to the Louvre Museum and the elegant Palais Royal gardens, this is a great area to stay.
- Canal Saint-Martin: Located in the 10th and 11th arrondissements, this neighbourhood is hip, artistic, and offers a range of cafes, shops, and cultural experiences.
- Bercy Village: This area is known for its modern architecture, shopping, and entertainment options, including the Bercy Arena for concerts and events.
Check the interactive map below for some recommended hotels in Paris!
How to Get Around Paris
Getting around Paris is relatively easy, thanks to its efficient and extensive public transportation system. Here are some of the ways you can navigate the city:
- Paris Métro: The Paris Métro is a comprehensive and fast subway system with 16 lines that cover the city and its suburbs. It’s one of the most convenient ways to get around, especially during peak hours when traffic can be congested.
- Buses and Trams: Paris also has a vast network of buses and trams that complement the Métro. They can be handy for reaching destinations not directly accessible by the subway.
- RER (Réseau Express Régional): The RER is a commuter train network that connects Paris with its suburbs. It’s especially useful for reaching destinations like Versailles or Disneyland Paris.
- Taxis: Taxis are widely available in Paris, and you can flag them down on the street or find them at designated taxi ranks. Rideshare services like Uber are also popular.
- Vélib’ (Bicycles): Paris has a bike-sharing system called Vélib’. You can rent a bicycle from numerous stations throughout the city, making it a fun and eco-friendly way to explore.
- Walking: Many of Paris’s attractions and neighborhoods are best explored on foot. Walking allows you to soak in the city’s ambiance and discover charming cafes, shops, and hidden gems.
- Navigo Card: If you plan to use public transportation frequently, consider purchasing a Navigo card for unlimited travel on the Métro, buses, trams, and RER within Paris.
While Paris does have lots of options for public transport, I’d recommend sticking to the metro for your weekend in Paris. It’s very well connected, cheap, and will take you to all of the places mentioned in this travel guide. Plus you get to avoid any traffic jams that may come about using taxis/Uber!
Places to Eat in Paris
Paris is known for its incredible culinary scene, and you can find a wide range of dining options, from Michelin-starred restaurants to charming bistros and street-side cafés. Keep in mind that the best places to eat can vary depending on your personal preferences and budget. Here are some popular and well-regarded options:
- Le Train Bleu – a historic and opulent restaurant located within the Gare de Lyon railway station in Paris, known for its exquisite Belle Époque decor and exceptional French cuisine.
- Pink Mamma – celebrated for its delectable Italian cuisine, sumptuous steaks, and a stylish, multi-story dining space that exudes charm and elegance (you may have seen this one on insta!).
- La Maison Rose – a charming Montmartre restaurant, as famous for its pink facade as it is for its delicious French cuisine, making it a beloved gem in the heart of this artistic neighbourhood.
- Septime – a renowned Michelin-starred restaurant in Paris, celebrated for its innovative and seasonally inspired cuisine.
- Le Châteaubriand – located in the 11th arrondissement of Paris, a renowned Michelin-starred restaurant celebrated for its inventive and ever-evolving approach to French cuisine.
Cafes and bakeries
- Stohrer – established in 1730, one of the oldest and most renowned patisseries in Paris, known for its delectable pastries and traditional French desserts.
- Café de Flore – a historic café in the heart of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and a beloved Parisian institution that has hosted some of the world’s most famous writers and intellectuals (also famous for it’s hot chocolate!).
- Carette – a renowned Parisian patisserie and tearoom, famed for delectable pastries and the quintessential French café experience it offers to both locals and visitors.
- Boulangerie Utopie – a popular Parisian bakery known for its exceptional artisanal bread and pastries, where every bite is a taste of French perfection.
- La Maison d’Isabelle – a delightful haven for those with a sweet tooth, known for its exquisite pastries and artisanal treats.
- Sale e Pepe – antipasti, pizza & gelato in a traditional space with exposed stone & white marble, located in the lovely Montmartre district.
- L’As du Fallafel – located in the Marais district of Paris, is renowned for serving some of the best falafel in the city, a must-visit for food enthusiasts exploring this vibrant neighbourhood.
- Chez Aline – a beloved sandwich shop known for its mouthwatering, artisanal creations, offering a taste of delicious simplicity in the heart of the city.
- Chez Alain Miam Miam – a beloved Parisian eatery famous for its delectable crepes and inviting, cozy atmosphere.
While we’re here, why not dinner and a show? Of course i’m talking about the infamous Moulin Rouge!
Having dinner and attending a show at the Moulin Rouge is a classic and iconic experience in Paris. The Moulin Rouge is a world-famous cabaret known for its spectacular revue shows, high-energy can-can dancing, and historic significance.
The Moulin Rouge offers a dinner and show package where you can enjoy a sumptuous meal before the show. The dinner menu typically includes French cuisine and a selection of fine wines. Keep in mind that dining at the Moulin Rouge is a luxurious experience, and it’s a good idea to make a reservation well in advance!
Things to Do
Now, let’s delve into the heart of your Parisian adventure with some of the most iconic and unforgettable activities in the city. Below I’ll list all the best things to do in Paris that you can fit into a weekend city break!
See the Eiffel Tower
Of course, it wouldn’t be a Paris itinerary without a visit to the Eiffel Tower right? The Eiffel Tower, an enduring symbol of both France and Paris, stands as an awe-inspiring testament to human engineering and creativity. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, this iconic iron structure soars 324 meters (1,063 feet) into the sky, making it one of the most recognisable landmarks in the world. Constructed for the 1889 World’s Fair, the Eiffel Tower was initially met with skepticism but has since become an integral part of the city’s identity. Its lattice-like design, intricate wrought ironwork, and panoramic viewpoints make it a must-visit attraction.
While you can climb the tower, I personally never have as if I want a Paris skyline view I’d like iconic the tower to be a part of it. Instead, here’s 5 of the best places to view the Eiffel tower:
- Seine River
- Rue Saint-Dominique
- Top of the Arc de Triomphe
- Galeries Lafayette Rooftop Terrace (free viewpoint!)
- Rue de l’Université
For more information about each location, check out my post on 5 must-see spots for incredible Eiffel Tower views
Visit the Louvre
The Louvre, a masterpiece of art itself, is a world-renowned museum that sits in the heart of Paris along the banks of the Seine River. Originally built as a royal palace in the 12th century, it has since evolved into one of the largest and most celebrated art museums globally. The Louvre is not just an institution; it’s a treasure trove of human history and creativity. Housing an astonishing collection of over 38,000 works, including the iconic Mona Lisa and the majestic Venus de Milo, it is a sanctuary for art enthusiasts and history aficionados. Its iconic glass pyramid entrance is as famous as the art within, and the museum’s sheer size and grandeur make it an architectural marvel.
A visit to the Louvre needs a bit of preparation in itself, because the Louvre is absolutely massive and you can easily get overwhelmed. To make the most of your time (and for efficiency!) be sure to plan out which pieces you’d like to see in advance. My favourite collections are the Greek and Roman sculptures so we headed to visit these first.
As the Louvre gets very busy, it’s well worth booking the first time slot of the day (usually around 9am) to avoid long queues to enter.
For the best of the best, I’d recommend booking this skip-the-line Louvre Museum masterpieces guided tour.
Climb the Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe, a monumental triumphal arch that crowns the western end of the Champs-Élysées in Paris, stands as a powerful symbol of French patriotism and resilience. Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 and completed in 1836, this iconic structure honours the French soldiers who fought and died during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
What I’ve realised a lot of people aren’t aware of is that you can actually climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for some of the best view of Paris! I’d fully recommend climbing to the top at sunset to watch the city bathed in a lovely golden glow.
Tickets are free for those under 18 and 18 to 25 year old’s who are EU citizens. Otherwise, it costs 13€ to enter and you can book your tickets online.
Browse the Book Shops
Paris, often hailed as the “City of Literature,” boasts a rich tradition of bookstores that range from historic institutions to cozy, independent shops. The city’s book culture is a treasure trove for both bookworms and casual readers. Three must-visit bookstores in Paris are:
- Shakespeare and Company: This legendary English-language bookstore is a literary institution in the heart of Paris. It has a history dating back to the 1920s when it served as a gathering place for famous writers like Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce. The shop’s eclectic collection and cosy reading nooks make it a haven for book lovers.
- Librairie Galignani: Located on the prestigious Rue de Rivoli, Galignani is often considered the world’s first English-language bookstore. It exudes a sense of old-world charm and offers a curated selection of books that span a wide range of genres. It’s a delightful place to explore while strolling through the city’s historic centre.
- Halle Saint-Pierre: The Halle Saint-Pierre’s museum and bookstore are brimming with a remarkable collection of art books, exhibitions, and eclectic art pieces, creating an atmosphere that’s both thought-provoking and inspiring. This venue stands out not only for its dedication to showcasing unconventional and marginalised artists but also for its stunning location in Montmartre, near the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Try a Choux Bun at Odette
Odette, a charming pastry shop nestled in the heart of Paris, is renowned for its delectable and iconic choux à la crème, or cream puffs. The delicate pastry puffs are filled with a variety of delightful cream flavours, each a mouthwatering work of art. What sets Odette apart is not only its exquisite pastries but also its delightful, vintage-inspired interior. The shop’s art deco decor, complete with elegant mosaic tiles and soft pastel hues, creates a whimsical and inviting ambiance. It’s a delightful spot to savour an authentic French pastry and bask in the nostalgic charm of Paris’s culinary heritage.
Stroll around Montmartre
Montmartre, a charming and historic neighbourhood in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, embodies a unique blend of artistic allure, village-like charm, and breathtaking views. This iconic district is perched on a hill, crowned by the magnificent Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and has a rich history as an artistic hub, once home to luminaries like Pablo Picasso and Amedeo Modigliani. Strolling through its winding, cobblestone streets, you’ll encounter quaint cafes, street artists, and hidden vineyards that transport you back to a bygone era. Montmartre’s artistic spirit is palpable, and the bohemian ambiance still lingers in its studios and galleries. The neighbourhood offers stunning panoramic views of Paris, making it a must-visit spot for visitors who can appreciate both its artistic heritage and the timeless allure of its streets.
Visit the Catacombs of Paris
The Catacombs of Paris, a subterranean labyrinth beneath the bustling streets of the city, are a place where history and macabre intrigue intersect. These underground tunnels, originally limestone quarries, have been transformed into a unique and somewhat eerie ossuary housing the skeletal remains of millions of Parisians. Dating back to the late 18th century, the Catacombs were established as a solution to the problem of overcrowded cemeteries. Walking through these dimly lit passages, you’re met with an otherworldly atmosphere, where carefully arranged stacks of bones and skulls form intricate and haunting patterns. While it’s an unconventional and somber experience, the Catacombs provide an opportunity to delve into the darker, more enigmatic aspects of Paris’s history and offer a perspective on how the city has grappled with its deceased over the centuries.
Uncover Paris’s secret past with a ticket to the chilling Catacombs and appreciate the city’s beauty on a Seine River cruise. Experience an informative audio guide in the Catacombs and in the cruise.
£70 per person, 3 hour duration
Relax at Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin du Luxembourg, nestled in the heart of Paris’s 6th arrondissement, is a serene and splendid oasis that embodies the city’s charm. Created in the early 17th century, these impeccably landscaped gardens surround the Luxembourg Palace, now home to the French Senate. The garden’s allure lies in its harmonious blend of formal French and English-style layouts, providing a captivating backdrop for leisurely strolls, picnics, or simply basking in the tranquil atmosphere. Visitors can explore tree-lined promenades, admire picturesque fountains, and even set sail with rented toy boats on the central pond. The Luxembourg Gardens offer a perfect refuge from the urban hustle and bustle, where visitors can absorb the essence of Paris in a lush and artistic setting.
See the Seine on a River Cruise
River cruises in Paris offer a unique and enchanting way to experience the city’s beauty and charm. Sailing along the Seine River, you’ll be treated to breathtaking panoramic views of some of Paris’s most iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum, all illuminated by the city’s romantic lights. Whether you opt for a daytime cruise to soak in the historical and architectural wonders or an evening cruise for a more magical and romantic ambiance, the Seine River reveals Paris from a new perspective. Many river cruises also offer dining options, allowing you to try exquisite French cuisine while gliding along the water, making it an unforgettable experience that combines sightseeing with the city’s culinary delights. River cruises are a must for anyone seeking a different angle on the City of Love, offering an alluring blend of relaxation, history, and elegance.
Top cruises to book:
- 1-Hour River Seine Cruise – Admire the iconic sights of Paris on a relaxing Seine River cruise. Enjoy audio guide commentary or the interactive web app and learn about sites such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
- 2-Hour River Seine Lunch Cruise – Enjoy an à-la-carte lunch on board a panoramic pleasure boat on a cruise through Paris. See the monuments lining the banks of the French capital’s historic waterway, such as the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, as you relax with onboard entertainment.
- Dinner Cruise on the Seine River at 8:30 PM – Enjoy an à la carte dinner on-board whilst cruising on the River Seine. Discover Paris, the City of Lights, from the water and see the iconic monuments of Paris illuminated.
Chill at Sacre-Coeur Basilica
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica, also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, stands as a beacon of tranquility and spirituality atop the picturesque hill of Montmartre. This stunning white-domed basilica, consecrated in 1919, is both an architectural masterpiece and a symbol of hope and resilience. Its brilliant white exterior, adorned with intricate Byzantine and Romanesque details, radiates a sense of serenity that contrasts beautifully with the artistic energy of Montmartre below. Inside, the basilica’s grand interior boasts a vast, awe-inspiring nave, resplendent mosaics, and a sense of reverence that welcomes visitors to reflect and admire the magnificent artwork and craftsmanship. The true highlight, however, is the panoramic view from the basilica’s esplanade, offering a breathtaking vista of Paris that captivates visitors day and night.
Explore Père Lachaise Cemetery
Père Lachaise Cemetery, located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris, is more than just a burial ground; it is a place of profound historical significance and striking beauty. Established in 1804, it is the final resting place of numerous illustrious figures, including literary giants like Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust, musical legends such as Jim Morrison, and countless others from diverse fields. Wandering through its winding pathways, visitors encounter a vast array of ornate tombstones, mausoleums, and sculptures, all set amid lush greenery and tranquil avenues. The cemetery’s funerary art, ranging from grand memorials to simpler graves, offers an insight into changing burial customs and artistic styles through the centuries. Père Lachaise is a site of reflection, remembrance, and artistic appreciation, drawing both history buffs and those seeking a serene escape in the midst of a bustling city.
Sainte Chapelle, a jewel of Gothic architecture, is a captivating and intimate religious structure tucked away within the heart of Paris on the Île de la Cité. Built in the mid-13th century by King Louis IX to house religious relics, this stunning chapel is celebrated for its towering stained glass windows that fill the space with ethereal light. These remarkable windows, with their intricate designs and vibrant colours, tell biblical stories and transport visitors to a world of spirituality and beauty. The upper chapel, especially, is a breathtaking example of the Gothic style, with its soaring ceilings and delicate stonework.
This travel guide for a weekend in Paris captures the essence of Paris, offering a perfect blend of iconic landmarks, cultural experiences, and culinary delights. Remember to make reservations in advance, when possible, and to leave room for serendipitous discoveries. A weekend in Paris is an opportunity to fall in love with a city that has captivated hearts for centuries, and this itinerary will help you make the most of your unforgettable journey. Enjoy your stay in the City of Love!