The city of love offers more than just the Eiffel Tower. From museums and monuments to food and shopping, there are a ton of things to do in Paris. I could have easily spent weeks or even months exploring every crevice in this wonderful city, but with only 48 hours at my disposal, I had to prioritize and only do those things at the top of my list. Hopefully you will get to spend more time in this city, but those who find yourself short on time, here is a great 2-day plan for seeing Paris.
Get yourself up early to go on a bus tour through Paris. There is so much to see, and a bus tour is a great way to get acquainted with the city. You’ll at least get to catch a glimpse of all the main sights, even if you don’t get a chance to come back and visit them in depth. You may also be surprised at what not-so-famous spots grab your attention. You may even change some of your plans around because something a tour guide said really peaked your interest. That’s one of the reasons I will always vouch for city tours--the local guides know some really amazing sites that the internet may leave out.
After you get the low-down on the city from your tour guide, stop in at one of Paris’ many creperies for a lunch crepe. Before I visited Paris, I always thought of crepes as a breakfast food, but trust me, a crepe filled with lunch meat, cheese, and veggies is amazing--you won’t regret it.
After lunch, spend some time walking through Versailles and the royal gardens. Warning: if you are claustrophobic or have a hatred of intense crowds, skip the actual castle, and spend your time exploring the royal gardens. The castle is beautiful; every room is decorated with the most exquisite furniture and art, but the sheer number of tourists there can make it unbearable. The royal gardens, on the other hand, are a lot more relaxing. There are fountains and sculptures galore, and there really wasn’t any crowds at all! There’s also a lot more to see in the gardens than expected, and I could have easily spent an hour or two walking around.
When it’s time for dinner, opt for a picnic under the Eiffel tower. Go to the local market, pick up some bread, cheese, and meat, then go get your favorite bottle of wine and sit under the Eiffel tower. There are locals that walk around trying to sell cheap bottles of wine to the tourists, but don’t be conned! You can get the same bottle cheaper in the store.
When dusk hits, watch the Eiffel Tower illuminate the sky with its sparkling lights. When you’ve finished your wine, take a trip up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to get the most beautiful look at Paris at night. It costs a couple extra euros to take the elevator up rather than taking the stairs, but it’s worth it. There are over 500 steps just to get to the second level and 1,700 steps to get to the very top. There are two separate lines to enter the Eiffel Tower, one is for the elevator and the other is for the stairs. Naturally, the line for the elevator was much longer, so I opted for the stairs thinking it was the same price and I could just catch the elevator on the second level…boy was I wrong! I almost died from exhaustion three separate times on my way up to the second level, and I couldn’t muster up the strength to go any higher after being denied entrance to the elevator. However, the view from the second level is still breathtaking, and it was worth all the leg cramps.
Indulge in some pain au chocolat (literally a croissant filled with chocolate) for breakfast then head out to the Notre Dame Cathedral. Even if you aren’t religious, the architecture and detailed decorations are worth the visit. It doesn’t take very long to see everything, so plan on a quick visit before heading over to the Louvre. The most famous piece of art in the Louvre is Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, however, much like Versailles, skip this if you have a profound hatred for crowds. It’s much smaller than you’d think, and it’s surrounded by a thick sea of tourists trying to take pictures. I’m not an art expert, but I found much more interesting pieces in the Louvre; the museum itself is huge so if you are an art buff plan to spend a decent portion of the day here. If not, take a couple hours to appreciate some art then head out for lunch. Note: there is a food court in the Louvre, but it’s nothing special. If you’re planning on leaving around lunch time, go to a local café or restaurant instead.
Take the rest of your afternoon to explore the city. Go to a local pastry shop and taste famous French pastries (the macaroons are my personal favorite), take a scenic river cruise (totally cheesy but still fun), visit the Arc de Triomphe, go shopping, or walk through one of Paris’ many museums. This is your chance to go back and do the things you haven’t gotten a chance to do yet or to revisit the things you may have passed and thought “I should really check that out later.”
On your last night in Paris, I’d recommend doing a full three-course dinner at a French restaurant. One of the best parts about traveling is tasting food, and Paris has some amazing chefs. Do some research on restaurants; if you pick a fancy restaurant right under the Eiffel Tower, expect it to be an expensive dinner. However, there are some restaurants that are less fancy but still let you experience a nice three-course meal for a cheaper price. Try some escargot (or something else that’s out of your comfort zone) for your appetizer. You might never have the chance again, so try it now!
Spend your last few hours in Paris walking through the city. Even if the shops are all closed, you can still grab a bottle of wine (if you didn’t get a chance to buy a bottle before the shops closed, don’t worry--those locals are there at all hours of the night selling wine) and enjoy the Eiffel Tower all lit up. Stay up late; you’ll have plenty of time to sleep on the plane.