First-timer's Itinerary to Paris

A First-Timer’s Week Itinerary to Paris

The City of Lights. The City of Love. Paris by any other name is just as sweet. France’s magical capital is full of art and culture and a certain je ne sais quoi that keep it as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. We recommend spending your first day on a hop-on hop-off bus to get a lay of the land and check all the major landmarks off your list. After that, you can spend time exploring its different arrondissements (districts) by foot which is the best way to soak up the city’s charm.

This 7-day itinerary will provide you with the best of tourist and local activities. Our daily guide can be re-ordered, just keep in mind most museums and Versailles are closed on Mondays and the Louvre is closed on Tuesday. Don’t be scared to deviate and go French, stopping at a sidewalk café for a sip of wine or coffee or visiting local markets to grab a baguette and cheese for an impromptu picnic.

Paris' Eiffel TowerThe Eiffel TowerSacré Coeur Basilica in ParisTourists gather at Sacré Coeur Basilica in Monmartre

If you arrive in Paris with half a day to spare, start slowly with a simple stroll on the Right Bank of the Seine river to steal glances at Notre Dame Cathedral, passing boats, and the stands of bouquinistes book sellers. Start at Hotel de Ville and finish at Place de la Concorde or Champs Elysées.

Monday: Hop-On Hop-Off Bus
  • Take the day to orient yourself around the city on the l’Open Tour bus
  • Purchase tickets in advance or pay the bus driver
  • You can switch lines for free, try to hit major sites like the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and Basilique Sacré Coeur
  • Grab lunch and spend extra time exploring the out-of-the-way Monmartre neighborhood. Amble its quaint village side streets at the base of the hill including the fabric and notion shops around Saint Pierre.
  • Next get views at the top of the hill by the Sacré Coeur Basilica with a stop at the touristy but picturesque Place du Tertre.
  • End the bus tour on the grand Champs-Élysées, making sure to duck into some side streets to escape the major chain brands. Don’t forget to sample the classic, fluffy macarons from Ladurée.

Notre Dame Cathedral in ParisNotre Dame Cathedral

Tuesday: Left Bank
  • Start the day at Notre Dame with a side excursion through the Quai aux Fleurs flower market along the Seine behind the cathedral.
  • Get lost in the cheerful side streets between Fontaine Saint-Michel and around Rue Bonaparte around Saint-Germain-des-Prés.
  • After lunch, stop at Pierre Hermés to compare its bold, creative macarons and desserts to those of Ladurée.
  • Get fresh air at the palatial Luxembourg Gardens. Grab wine by the gazebo or watch visitors sail miniature boats in the park’s pond.
  • Wander east through the Latin Quarter with a stop at the Panthéon.
  • Finish the day on Rue Mouffetard. This narrow street bustles with produce vendors and specialty food shops. Enjoy dinner at one of the many cafés around the street.

The Louvre in Paris

The LouvreParis TuileriesTuileries

Wednesday: Louvre & Boulevard Haussmann
  • Begin your morning at the Louvre. Start with the museum’s “Masterpieces Visitor Trail” to see major oeuvres like the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory.
  • Avoid museum fatigue and choose only one other exhibit to tour.
  • Stroll half-way down the Tuileries to grab lunch, pastries, or hot chocolate (if nothing else, the hot chocolate) at Angelina.
  • Optional: If you’re craving more art, make a quick detour to the Orangerie Museum to see Monet’s murals of water lilies, Les Nymphéas. The museum is located at the end of the Tuileries Gardens. Click here for our detailed post on l’Orangerie»
  • Walk through Place Vendôme, past the opulent Palais Garnier to Boulevard Haussmann. George-Eugene Haussmann was the urban planner who renovated Paris by replacing overcrowded, unsanitary streets with wide boulevards and stately Beaux-Arts architecture.
  • Stop at the famous department store, Galeries Lafeyette, to see its stained glass dome. Make your way to the top “terrasse” floor for stunning skyline views of Paris.
  • Cross the street to Galeries Lafeyette’s Food Hall. There are plenty of gourmet vendors here to satiate your appetite. The grocery area is a smart place to stock up on edible souvenirs like Christine Ferber’s seasonal Alsace jams (strawberry is hands down the best when in season).
Louvre Ticket Tips
Avoid the crowds and purchase tickets in advance online or from any FNAC store. You can also bypass the craziness at the pyramid entrance by buying tickets from the Le Carrousel, an underground mall, connected to metro stop ‘Palais Royale-Musee du Louvre’ on line 1 and 7 or accessed from the Rue de Rivoli.

Versailles GardensVersailles Gardens

Monet’s Giverny Estate

Thursday: Pick a Day Trip
  • Depending on your interests, take the train for a side trip to either Versailles Palace, Monet’s Giverny Estate, or Chartres.
  • Versailles is France’s royal chateau, most famous as the residence of  the Sun King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. Its parks and gardens are open every day and free to roam. The Palace, Trianon, and Coach Gallery are closed on Mondays and have entrance fees. We recommend at very least paying for a guided tour of the palace to appreciate its historical context. It is approximately a 40-minutes train ride  on RER Line C from Paris.
  • Giverny, Monet’s colorful estate is best viewed between spring and autumn. His gardens served as his muse for his many of his Impressionist landscapes. Go early and set aside at least half a day to tour the gardens and town. Expect a 45-minute train ride from Gare Saint Lazare. Read our Giverny post here for the full details.»
  • Chartres is a medieval city known for its well-preserved Gothic cathedral, particularly its intricate, stained glass windows. There are some lovely gardens, museums, and scenery to discover as well. From Gare Montparnasse, it’s little over a one-hour train ride.
  • If you’ve got extra time when you return to Paris, swing by the Pere-Lachaise cemetery to pay respects to literary and artistic greats like Chopin, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison then dine on Asian or global fare in Belleville.

Fondation Louis VuittonFondation Louis Vuitton

Friday: Museum Morning
  • Spend the morning perusing one of Paris’ other museums. Architecture and contemporary art, lovers should make their way to Fondation Louis Vuitton designed by innovative architect Frank Gehry (read our full post here»). Other star Paris museums include: Musée d’Orsay – housed in refurbished train station; Centre Pompidou; Maison Européenne de la Photographie, and Musée Picasso.
  • Get lost in the Bastille neighborhood later in the day. The revolutionary fortress is now replaced by Place de la Bastille square and the commemorative July Column. This is also the site of a large food market on Thursdays and Sundays and an art one on Saturdays. The Bastille, as well as the neighboring Oberkampf and Marais neighborhoods are easy spots to find trendy bars and restaurants, galleries, funky boutiques, and performance venues.
  • If you’re craving a hole-in-the-wall bar and resto with ambiance, duck into Ave Maria in Oberkampf for a cocktails and Brazilian-inspired fare among kitschy, colorful decor and a laid-back crowd.
Art Until Midnight
For a late night cultural activity, visit the avant-garde art museum, Palais de Tokyo. it is open from noon until midnight every day except Tuesday.

Portes de Vanves Flea MarketPorte de Vanves Flea Market (photo by Claudius Dorenrof)

Saturday: Flea Market 
  • France’s flea markets, called “marché aux puces,” are fascinating places for collectors or fun for those wanting to soak up some local ambiance. The best known and largest in the world is the Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen set north of the city. With over 3,000 traders covering seven hectares, this market can feel overwhelming and bargains are tough to be had. The smaller morning flea market at Porte de Vanves is set in a more residential area and focuses on unique, vintage bric-a-brac that’s easier to fit in a suitcase.
  • Swing by Les Catacombes on the way back from Porte de Vanves. It takes about 45-minutes to walk the labyrinth of bones that date back to the 18th century.
  • Practice joie de vivre with a sip of coffee or wine by a pretty, secluded square like Le Palais Royal or Place des Vosges. Or pack a light picnic for Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, a sloped public park in the 19th arrondissement with lovely meandering paths, waterfalls, and a lake.

Place des VosgesPlace des Vosges

Sunday: Canal Saint-Martin & The Marais 
  • Take a 30-60 morning walk along Canal Saint-Martin. Start at Jaurés metro and head south, zig-zagging over the canal’s shady footpaths, ending at Place de la République.
  • Hop on the Metro to Bastille. From here, it’s a 10-15 minute stroll west on Rue de Rivoli and cut right into to the Jewish Quarter on Rue des Rosiers in the Marais. On Sundays, the day after the Sabbath, this street is alive with crowds gathering at with kosher bakeries and falafel restaurants. Eat a scrumptious falafel lunch at Mi-va-mi finished with fresh mint tea then window shop for the best looking falafel for dessert.
  • On Sundays, the cobblestone streets of the Marais are closed to drivers and the area becomes a pedestrian-friendly frenzy. Shop the boutiques and seek hidden street art around Rue Vielle de Temple and Rue des Francs Bourgeois.
  • Loop your way back east to the royal Place des Vosges, Paris’ former royal residences, and lounge on its grassy lawn with locals and tourists.

What’s your favorite spot in Paris? Share your questions and tips below.

Use our Google Map below to locate all the places mentioned, plus bonus recommendations!

Discover more of our articles on Paris here»

Lara Dalinsky

Lara DalinskyLara was instilled with the travel bug at an early age and has visited over 25 countries. Her mother’s job as a flight attendant enabled a childhood of discovering the world. She recently relocated to Seoul, South Korea, where she hopes to explore much of Asia for the next few years. In addition to being the founding editor of En Route Traveler, Lara also works as a freelance graphic designer. In her spare time, she contributes as a Local Expert to AFAR, is an ambassador for FIG Clothing, enjoys vegetarian cuisine, instructs Zumba, practices yoga, dabbles in photography and, of course, travels as much as possible.

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  1. Sally Mericle
    Sally MericleMarch 13,17

    I’ve always enjoyed Pere Lachaise Cemetery in many famous people. Fun to take stone rubbings of your favorites.