Buckle up girls! We’re cramming as many bucket list moments as we can into 5 days in Paris. The City of Light is one of my favorite places to visit — I’ve been three times overall, twice as a solo female traveler. This jam-packed itinerary is more bougie than budget, but so full of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, I think you’ll agree it’s worth it. Stop wasting time and dig into an uber-detailed guide from your Type A travel friend.
Table of Contents
When is the Best Time to Visit Paris?
Paris is one of the best places in Europe to visit during summer. Enjoy not-too-terribly-hot temperatures and fun festivals like Midsummers or Paris Plages, which lines the Seine with a man made beach.
If your top priority is saving money or avoiding crowds, the best time to visit Paris is autumn or winter.
But for the sweet spot of moderate crowds, beautiful blooms, and weather that requires little more than a chic trench coat, springtime in Paris is a cliche for a reason. After a few trips at different times of year, mid-April to mid-May is my best time to visit Paris. Earlier in that stretch, cherry blossoms create fluffy pink canopies for some of the city’s best sights, and later, wisteria drapes over charming streetscapes.
How to Get to Paris
If you’re flying into Paris, you are most likely to fly into Charles de Gaulle, but there is also Orly airport which serves many of the smaller flights within Europe. You can get a bus to the city center from either airport and tickets should cost around 10 euro.
The best way to get from Charles de Gaulle airport to Paris is on the RER B train. When you land, go downstairs at Terminal 2 of the airport to the SNCF office and get a Navigo Decouverte card for the week. You’ll need a 3 x 2.5 cm physical copy of your passport photo for them to attach to the card. (This will also help you get around the city easily for the duration of your 5 days in Paris!) Then follow the blue signs to RER B and get on a train. Charles de Gaulle is at the very end of the line so you don’t need to worry about what direction the train is going and the ride should take about 45 minutes to an hour.
There are seven RER B stops in the center of Paris: Gare du Nord; Chatelet Les Halles; Sant Michel Notre Dame; Luxembourg; Port Royal; Denfert Rocherau; and Cite Universitaire. If none of these are close enough to your accommodations, you can quickly and easily change from the RER B to a metro line at any station.
If you are already in Europe, you may be arriving in Paris by bus or train. Gare de Bercy is a major hub for Ouibus, the best bus line in France, and many trains. It is on metro line 14. Flixbus, my go-to pick for cheap bus tickets all over Europe, typically arrives at Porte Maillot on metro line 1. I’ve had my bags searched when arriving in Paris by bus, which doesn’t typically happen in other destinations, so just be aware you may encounter that level of security.
How to Get Around Paris
Paris has a vast and complex public transportation system that is often plagued by strike-related delays. When you begin your 5 days in Paris, download the app Bonjour RATP, which is available on both Google Play and the Apple Store. It will give you the most up to date information on all Paris’ public transport lines.
The Paris Metro has dozens of lines spiderwebbing all over the city, as well as buses, and the RER lines which are larger commuter trains serving both Paris and its surrounding area. A Navigo Decouverte card will give you unlimited access to all of them and include all 5 zones of the Paris metro area, which includes both airports, Disneyland Paris, Versailles, and other great day trips from Paris.
Metro trains can vary widely. On line 1, you’ll see freshly updated trains and stations with extra safety barriers between the platform and the train door to prevent anyone from getting to the tracks. On line 12, you might be on older trains with finicky handles to open the doors at your stop.
Despite the many stops all over the city, it can take time to get from one end of Paris to another. If you’re staying in a neighborhood farther from the center, like Montmartre or Belleville, you may need as much as an hour to get to centrally located attractions.
Despite that, don’t underestimate the time taking the Metro will save you! Even one or two stops can shave off 20 minutes or more of walking time.
5 Days in Paris Budget
A round-trip flight to Paris from the eastern United States on a budget airline is going to be about $400-500. (A one-way flight will naturally cost about half that.) If you’re already in Europe, use Rome 2 Rio to price your budget for arriving in Paris.
Your Navigo Decouverte card will cost 35 euro for the week and will be good from Monday at midnight until Sunday at 11:59 pm.
Hostel dorms typically run $30-50 per night. You can get a private room or an Airbnb for about $100 a night. There are of course lots of luxury hotels in Paris if you’re on a higher budget. (Fair warning: this itinerary covers 5 full days in Paris, so you’ll need to book 6 nights at your accommodations!)
Expect to spend at least 30-40 euro a day on food and give yourself at least one splurge night for a nicer restaurant meal. You can still find these at a reasonable price though! I’ve had a great dinner in Paris for 20-25 euro. The best meal of my life was 70 euro for three courses, a bottle of wine, and a generous tip. You can get great deals by looking for prix fixe menus, especially at lunch.
There are lots of free things to do in Paris and I’ve noted the costs of paid attractions within the itinerary.
Overall, for 5 days in Paris you should budget a bare minimum of $100 per day, aside from the cost of your flight. On this itinerary, you’re more likely to fall in the $150-200 per day range.
5 Days in Paris Packing List
Paris is much cooler than other European cities and a chilly morning can even pop up on a summer trip. Solo female travelers should pack light layers and a lightweight scarf.
Don’t let anyone tell you Parisians don’t wear jeans! While it used to be true that blue jeans were a tourist faux pas, this is now an outdated myth. The trick to blending in with the locals isn’t to avoid jeans, but rather to make sure your jeans look elevated and chic. Choose a tailored pair that fit you well, wear fashion sneakers rather than a pair for the gym, and go upscale with your top. A silk buttondown or nice sweater will keep your look dressier than a t-shirt or windbreaker.
The other must for inconspicuous French clothing is neutral, muted colors. Stick to black, navy, or olive for much of your wardrobe. I would have been way better off with jeans than I was in the bright red pants pictured above!
Comfortable shoes are a must for any solo female traveler, but you’ll especially need them in Paris. My favorites are Allbirds Tree Breezers.
For the non-clothing section of your packing list, I highly recommend a collapsible tote bag! Envirosax is a great brand – they’re roomy when expanded but fold up to almost nothing. There’s something so Parisian about browsing a morning market for picnic fare and you’ll want a handy grocery bag.
Is Paris Safe for Solo Female Travelers?
Paris is pretty safe for solo female travelers, but beware of pickpockets and cat calling.
I didn’t experience much street harassment on my most recent visit, but I’m not sure whether that’s because things have changed or I’ve just gotten old. In my teens and 20s, I experienced quite a lot of street harassment after dark and unfortunately, a fake wedding ring didn’t discourage anyone.
Like most major European cities, there is a risk of encountering pickpockets or petty theft in Paris. Wear a cross body bag and keep an eye on your belongings.
Paris is also home to a fair amount of unrest. I’ve heard folks say striking is a national sport! Parisians are quick to protest and, while I would consider encountering one part of your cultural education, you should be prepared for strikes or demonstrations to potentially impact your travel.
Keep an eye on the news for any unusually large protests, such as the ones against the raising of the retirement age in spring 2023. During times of greater unrest, you may want to avoid Place de Bastille, Place de la Republique, and Place de la Concorde. Those three big squares are common starting and ending points for marches and demonstrations. You’ll also want the Bonjour RATP app for keeping track of delayed or canceled Metro service. There is a small chance protests may close big attractions like the Louvre or the Eiffel Tower.
Bear in mind, this is all just precautionary preparation. Even in big protests, there’s a strong chance you won’t be affected at all. I spent a full week in Paris in April 2023 during the height of the retirement protests and if I didn’t read the news, I never would have known that was happening.
Where to Stay in Paris for 5 Days
I’ve stayed in a few neighborhoods of Paris during my three trips and the safest one for solo female travelers is in the 14th arrondissement near Denfert Rochereau, just south of the Latin Quarter. (That’s where I got this great Airbnb.) The area was more residential and I felt very comfortable walking by myself, even late at night.
There are highly rated and affordable hostels in the Latin Quarter, Montmartre, and Belleville. The Latin Quarter is a lot of fun to stay in with equal amounts of history and nightlife. Montmartre is the hilltop village just north of central Paris. Belleville is an eclectic, off-the-beaten-track part of the city straddling the 10th and 20th arrondissements.
What to Do with 5 Days in Paris
This itinerary for 5 days in Paris is perfect for solo female travelers. It includes lots of the classic must-see Paris attractions as well as more unique things to do in Paris, so it’s great for your first trip to Paris or a repeat visit. It is not a shoestring budget itinerary – there are some big splurges here, like a cabaret, guided tours, special classes and workshops, and a sublime dinner at the oldest restaurant in Paris. This itinerary is also for 5 full days in Paris. That means you’ll need to book 6 nights at your accommodations and give yourself an extra day on either side of the itinerary for your transportation in and out of France. Please also note there are specific days of the week recommended for certain activities, so you’ll need to arrive in Paris on a Monday to start this itinerary on Tuesday.
Day 1/Tuesday: Montmartre & Macarons
Take a self-guided walking tour of Montmartre
Montmartre is one of the most famous neighborhoods in Paris and it actually used to be its own separate village. It came to fame in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as an affordable haven for artists. Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Vincent Van Gogh, and many, many more lived in Montmartre. In addition to these famous artists’ homes, Montmartre is also home to the iconic Sacre Coeur basilica and some of the best views of the Paris skyline.
While you can certainly book guided walking tours or even foodie tours of Montmartre, one of the best ways to see this part of Paris is on a self-guided walking tour. You can learn about the history of the village online and focus on your own experience. Move at your own pace to capture the feel of this classic bohemian neighborhood and take as much time as you like at Montmartre’s many Instagrammable photo ops.
Your self-guided walking tour of Montmartre begins and ends at the Abbesses Metro station. I recommend arriving around 9:00 or 10:00 am and taking two to three hours to complete the tour so you can enjoy lunch in Montmartre around noon.
Two of the most crowded parts of Montmartre are in front of Sacre Coeur basilica and the Place du Tertre artists square. You are also likely to encounter lots of crowds in front of La Maison Rose. The earlier in the day you arrive at these spots, the fewer crowds you’ll encounter.
In these same crowded areas, beware of pickpockets, especially in front of Sacre Coeur, where you may also encounter other scams.
Honestly, you’ll get the best photos even earlier in the morning, but Paris is not an early riser of a city, so the loose 9:00 to 10:00 am start time accounts for opening hours. I wouldn’t let you start this self guided walking tour of Montmartre without coffee!
Stops to include on your self guided walking tour of Montmartre:
- Abbesses Metro station
- Le mur je t’aime (the “I love you” wall mural)
- Moulin Rouge
- Cafe des Deux Moulins (of Amelie fame!)
- Rue Lepic
- Moulin de la Galette
- Villa Leandre
- Square Dalida
- Rue de l’Abreuvoir
- La Maison Rose
- Le Lapin Agile
- Clos Montmartre vineyard
- Square Marcel Bleustein-Blanchet
- Sacre Coeur basilica
- Le Consulat
- Place du Tertre
Learn to make macarons
One of the most unique things to in Paris is take a cooking class and a great option is learning to make macarons. This 90-minute workshop takes place in the Galeries Lafayette, so it’s also a great excuse to admire the intricate stained glass dome of Paris’ fanciest department store, as well as the view of Paris from its rooftop.
The macarons making class takes place in Galeries Lafayette’s Atelier, which you’ll find on the third floor near the concierge desk. The concierge desk is a peach color and the Atelier has a grey curtain.
Macarons are very time consuming to make, so much of this macarons making class is demonstration based. But you will pick up so many tips and tricks, it’s still worth it. And you’ll walk away with two recipes and a few macarons to enjoy. The workshop is about $60 on Get Your Guide. I recommend booking the 2:00 pm session for this itinerary.
People watch at a cafe
One of the biggest mistakes people make in Paris is packing their itineraries too full. Even this itinerary for 5 days in Paris is pushing it with lots more activity than this slow travel lover typically recommends. But I’m still giving you a solid two to four hours between your macarons making class and dinner with nothing more planned than ‘pick a cafe and sit there.’
There is nothing more Parisian than whiling away the afternoon on a cafe patio. Walk around Boulevard Haussman up into Pigalle and choose any spot that strikes your fancy. (Your feet deserve the break after all that running around Montmartre!)
Eat escargots at Bouillon
When dinnertime rolls around, make sure you have a table booked at Bouillon. Bouillon is a restaurant franchise with a few locations around the city and it’s one of the best budget-friendly restaurants in Paris. I see Bouillon Chartier recommended frequently, but I found Bouillon Pigalle, just down the street from Moulin Rouge, to be more convenient to this itinerary.
A generous serving of boeuf bourguignon is about 12 euro and the quality is solid, if not exceptional. The real stand out for me at Bouillon was my first escargot. They serve six good size snails for 7 euro.
Day 2/Wednesday: Catacombs & Cabaret
Descend into the Paris Catacombs
Beyond iconic monuments like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame, one of the most popular things to do in Paris is tour the underground catacombs. Located in the 14th arrondissement, these skeleton-lined tunnels began as quarries in ancient Paris and later in the 18th century became the final resting place for remains that the city’s overflowing cemeteries could no longer safely contain.
The audio guide tour, included with each 29 euro ticket purchase, is spectacularly executed. You’ll receive a smartphone-sized device so you can see a picture of each landmark that marks the proper time to play the next segment of the audio tour. The audio is filled not only with interesting history of the original quarries and the catacombs, but also with lots of evocative ambience that amplifies the macabre sensations of being underground surrounded by bones.
Out of respect for their status as a burial site, and in the interest of practicality, the Paris catacombs are rigorously protected by several rules and regulations. Touching any bones is absolutely forbidden and there’s a strict limit to what size bag you can take inside. It also needs to be a bag you can carry in front of you or at your side – no backpacks!
There is a tricky timing window for securing your tickets to the Paris catacombs. Catacombs tickets only become available for purchase online 5 days before the tour date and they will absolutely sell out in advance. For a Wednesday visit, mark your calendar for the Friday prior so you can book the earliest available tour time when the catacombs open at 9:45 am. It takes about an hour to complete the tour, so you will be free to continue with your itinerary by 11:30 am at the latest.
Pop into any boulangerie you find for a ready-made sandwich before continuing up to the Latin Quarter. (This is also a really budget-friendly way to get a quality lunch in Paris.)
The catacombs are directly across from the Denfert Rochereau metro stop. You can take line 4 to Odeon for the next section of the itinerary.
Get a primer on medieval history at the Musee Cluny
The Musee Cluny is Paris’ headquarter for all things medieval and since its 2022 renovation, I think it’s a must see museum in Paris.
Give yourself at least two hours to admire a wide variety of art and artifacts spanning the centuries. The crown jewel of the collection is the Lady and the Unicorn tapestry series and it really is worth experiencing in person.
Tickets are 13 euro online.
Take a self-guided walking tour of the Latin Quarter
The Musee Cluny’s focus on the Middle Ages is well rooted in its surroundings. The Latin Quarter is so named because it’s home to the Sorbonne University where Latin was commonly used in classes. It was also where the ancient Romans occupied Paris, which they called Lutetia.
A few stops to include on a self-guided walking tour of the Latin Quarter are:
- Eglise Saint Severin
- Rue Mouffetard
- Grand Mosque of Paris
- Jardin des Plantes
- Arene de Lutece
- College des Bernardins
- Quai Tournelle
- Square Rene Viviani
- Shakespeare and Company
- Rue Galande
- Rue du Chat Qui Peche
I highly recommend taking a coffee break at Odette on Rue Galande if it’s not too busy. Not only is it one of the most Insta-famous cafes in Paris, their choux puffs are legit amazing.
See the best cabaret in Paris at Paradis Latin
The Latin Quarter is also home to the oldest cabaret in Paris: Paradis Latin. A ticket to this cabaret is a big splurge at 175 euro but it is beyond worth it. (It’s also a little more affordable than the more famous Moulin Rouge cabaret experience.) Doors open at 7:30 pm, dinner is served at 8:00 pm, the main show begins at 9:30 pm, and you’ll be out around 11:00 pm.
The menu includes three courses (each of which you’ll select from two or three options), a quarter bottle of champagne and a half bottle of red wine. The food is pretty good and often inventive – desserts are shaped like a pair of lips or a cancan dancer’s legs. I’ve read some comparison reviews suggesting that the quality of food is much better at Paradis Latin than it is at Moulin Rouge.
The performance itself is genuinely once-in-a-lifetime. A lot of what you might think of being cabaret (a bit of song and dance with glitzy costumes) is just the pre-show while everyone has dinner. Once the plates are cleared, the real spectacle kicks off. (You’ll know you’re in for it when they warn you against any photos or videos.)
Throughout all the sketches, songs, and dances, there’s a great mix and balance of racy, avant garde and humorous pieces. There are some insanely talented dancers at Paradis Latin. There are also a few reliable crowd pleasers sprinkled throughout the show like Dancing Queen and, of course, the classic can can.
Paradis Latin is one of the most authentic cabarets in Paris. They don’t cater solely to tourists. The audience will be full of people from all over the world, but this is also very much the kind of thing a French couple might do for a special birthday or anniversary. The show is presented in a mix of French and English.
I will offer a word of caution to solo female travelers: while dining alone in Paris isn’t strange at all, going to a cabaret by yourself is unusual. You’ll need to flex some confidence for this particular adventure.
Is there nudity at Paris cabarets?
Somewhere in my initial research, I heard that the only cabaret in Paris that featured topless dancers was Crazy Horse. Not true! Paradis Latin included a lot of partial nudity, as do pretty much all Paris cabarets including Moulin Rouge. It’s fairly tasteful overall, just know what to expect. If you’re looking for a cabaret that absolutely does not include any topless dancers or nudity, you should look for a family-friendly matinee performance.
What should you wear to a Paris cabaret?
Chances are whatever you wear to your Paris cabaret night, you will be neither the most overdressed nor the most underdressed guest. Some people pull out all the stops for a fancy night out. I also saw one or two guests in jeans. If your accommodations are in the Latin Quarter, you can head back to change into a little black dress or something similar. Otherwise, you’ll have the unenviable task of choosing an outfit that suits both daytime sightseeing and a nice evening out. Consider getting your Audrey Hepburn on with a pair of black cigarette pants and a sleek knit top or turtleneck.
Day 3/Thursday: Marais, Opera & Perfume
Take a self-guided walking tour of the Marais
After that big night out, you’ll want to sleep in Thursday morning! That makes this part of the itinerary perfect for a self guided walking tour of the Marais district.
The Marais spans the 3rd and 4th arrondissements of Paris and like the Latin Quarter holds some of the oldest places in the city. It was originally the city’s Jewish quarter. It’s become a little bit trendier than the Latin Quarter though – the hipster cafe energy is strong here! There are lots of popular foodie tours around the Marais, but to give you a really easy, slow paced morning, we’re going self guided.
Places to include on a self guided tour of the Marais:
- Marche des Enfants Rouges
- Nicolas Flamel’s house
- National Archives
- Rue des Rosiers
- L’as du Fallafel (get lunch here!)
- The corner of Rue des Barres and Rue du Grenier de l’Eau
- L’Eclair du Genie
- Musee Carnavalet
- Place des Vosges
- Maison Victor Hugo
Unless you happen to get an early start, you probably only have time to explore one of the museums on this list. If you have to choose, I recommend the Musee Carnavalet. Renovated in 2021, this is one of the best free things to do in Paris because the museum provides a detailed introduction to the full history of Paris.
Make your own perfume at Fragonard
From the Marais, you’ll want to take metro line 8 from Chemin Vert to the Opera station. Nearby on Rue Scribe, the luxury perfumery Fragonard has a petite Musee du Parfum that is one of the most underrated free things to do in Paris.
While the museum itself is free, for 29 euro you can get a guided tour explaining the history of perfume making in France and a workshop where you’ll make your own custom perfume. This is hands down the coolest thing I’ve ever done in Paris (maybe anywhere)!
There are several time slots available throughout the day. The workshop and tour last 45 minutes. I recommend booking 3:30 pm so you’ll be completely finished by 4:30 pm, well in advance of your next tour.
Uncover the mysteries of the Opera Garnier
Directly across the street from the Musee Parfum is the lavish Palais Garnier, home to Paris’ national Opera… and its famed Phantom.
You can take a self-guided tour of the building anytime, but there is one special after hours tour at 5:00 pm that focuses on the history of the opera house and especially its mysterious legends.
You should plan to arrive at least 10 to 15 minutes in advance of your tour time. (In one of my less proud travel moments, I arrived promptly at my tour time only to find an irritated box office employee and an already-departed tour guide.) Because they’re squeezing this tour in between regular opening hours and the preparations for evening performances, they run a very tight timetable and don’t have a lot of patience for anything that might hold up the works. You may also need to be proactive in seeking out your tour guide – several groups speaking different languages will all be gathering in the same meeting place at the same time. You’ll also get a very uncomfortable hard plastic earpiece, allegedly to better hear the guide.
If those mild cons haven’t scared you off, this is a unique opportunity to learn more about the Opera Garnier than you might on your own and also to see the opulent building with fewer crowds. From the red velvet of the Phantom’s private box to the sweeping grand staircase to gilded and chandelier-lined halls, you’ll get so many amazing, beautiful views.
The tour costs 24 euro (compared to the 14 euro self guided tours) and lasts one hour and 15 minutes. You’ll be out promptly at 6:15 pm.
Dine at the oldest restaurant in Paris
For dinner, I’m pointing you to another very worthy splurge night and the site of the best meal I have ever had in my life. Founded in 1680, A La Petite Chaise is the oldest restaurant in Paris and offers a three-course prix fixe menu for a little over 40 euro. It’s more than we budget travelers would typically spend on dinner, but it’s a lot more reasonable than the uber fancy Insta-famous French restaurants like Le Train Bleu.
Service is impeccable thanks to the very attentive, old school staff and everything I ate (french onion soup, duck with baked apple and insanely thinly slivered potatoes, and creme brulee) was fantastic. The dining room is a simple French bistro, but while it might not wow on social media, it will very quickly become your happy place.
Day 4/Friday: The Big Three: Paris’ Most Popular Attractions
Get the best views of the Eiffel Tower before the crowds
You got to sleep in yesterday, but for Friday, you’ll want an early start so you can beat the crowds to the Eiffel Tower. Yes, it’s almost the end of your 5 days in Paris and we are only just getting to the city’s most famous attractions! I promise there’s a method to the madness.
Aim to get up around 7:00 am and reach the Jardins du Trocadero by 8:00 am. In three trips to Paris, I have never gone up the Eiffel Tower and I don’t know that I ever will. The best views of Paris are the ones with the Eiffel Tower in them! So I have another little self-guided walking tour for you, this time of the top 10 best views of the Eiffel Tower.
- Jardins du Trocadero
- Avenue des Camoens
- Port Debilly
- Pont d’Lena
- Carousel of the Eiffel Tower
- Rue de Buenos Aires
- Rue de l’Universite
- Square Rapp
- Rue Saint Dominique
- Champ des Mars
Shop the Rue Cler market
Once you’ve captured all the photo ops you like, the Rue Cler market is just a short walk away. Most shops and vendors will still be opening for business, but you’ll get a crowd-free introduction to one of Paris’ most famous market streets.
Take a leisurely (but light!) breakfast at L’Eclair. Whether you’re in the floral-filled inside or the sunny yellow-striped patio, this is one of the most Instagrammable cafes in Paris.
Around 10:00 or 11:00 am, more shops will be open for you to browse the Rue Cler market. Some stops you might enjoy include:
- Le Repaire de Bacchus wine shop
- A La Mere de Famille chocolatier
- Cler Fleurs florist
- Mariage Freres tea shop
- La Fromagerie cheesemonger
- Various produce stands
- Davoli Italian deli
- Famille Mary honey
And finally, while it’s not directly on Rue Cler, just around the corner is a Lenotre bakery.
Picnic at the Eiffel Tower
I recommended a light breakfast because there are so many great shops on Rue Cler for picnic supplies. If the weather cooperates, pick up some bread, cheese, and fruit for a picnic on the Champs de Mars. If the weather’s not so great, take a heftier brunch at a restaurant like Kozy Bosquet just one street over from Rue Cler and move on to a nearby museum.
Take in a museum or two
If it’s your first trip to Paris, it’s worth an extra busy day today so you can enjoy the Musee d’Orsay. Specializing in Van Gogh and his fellow impressionists, this is my number one pick for the best museum in Paris. The building itself is a work of art, housed in a Beaux Arts railway station. (This is also where you’ll find that classic Paris photo op in front of the big clockface window!)
If you’ve been to the Musee d’Orsay before, and you have time for a museum stop, I recommend the Petit Palais. The sculpture gallery is particularly impressive and this is another Paris museum whose building is as much as an attraction as anything inside. The gold gate entrance is hugely Instagrammable and there’s a lovely courtyard oasis if you need a break. Get off the Metro at the Invalides station so you can cross the lavish Pont Alexandre III on your way to the palace.
Sample Laduree macarons on the Champs Elysees
This will be a quick stop because despite its massive fame, I’m not a big fan of the Champs Elysees. While in its 19th century heyday, the Champs Elysees was the place to see and be seen, today it’s mostly traffic, crowds, and the same large designer stores you’d find in any city’s high end shopping street.
But it is a convenient connection to the Arc du Triomphe, so it fits neatly in this itinerary. If you’d like to make a pit stop, there is a popular outlet of the famous Laduree patisserie. Personally I thought their macarons were a little overrated. The pistachio was disappointing after making my own in the Galeries Lafayette macarons class, and my choice of orange blossom was a big mistake – I felt like I was eating very fancy soap. But the lemon (citron in French) and raspberry (framboise) were very tasty, so maybe I just made questionable choices.
Climb to the top of the Arc du Triomphe
Don’t waste too much time choosing your macaron flavors. You’ll need a long stretch to see the Arc du Triomphe, even with a so-called “skip the line” ticket.
Those advance tickets mean you don’t have to wait in a line at the box office to purchase your ticket. You do still have to wait in line for the security check and by 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon, that line will be very long, wrapping all the way around the monument. (I know they say “skip the line” but did you really think cutting in line would only cost 13 euro? If it was that easy, everyone would do it and the line would just move! Time to exercise that patience.)
One other tip about reaching the Arc du Triomphe – there is an underground passage that will help you reach the monument. This is a very busy roundabout, so don’t risk crossing the street and definitely don’t stop in any crosswalks for photos!
After your wait, there are over 250 steps tightly winding their way up to the top of the arch. But there are two reasons I think the wait, the cost, and the climb are worth it.
First, there is a small museum between the top of the main stairwell and the actual open rooftop of the Arc de Triomphe and it is wonderfully executed. An engaging multimedia presentation explains the rich and complex history of the Arc de Triomphe’s construction.
And then there’s the view. This is one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. There’s also a great view of La Defense, Paris’ business district filled with striking modern architecture.
Taste French wines in the King’s former cellars
Depending on exactly how long the lines are at the Arc du Triomphe, you may have a little time to kill. If you do, you might spend it in the Jardin des Tuileries. If not, you’ll move straight along to the next booking.
Les Caves du Louvre has transformed the King of France’s personal wine cellars into a luxurious, modern museum and string of tasting rooms where they offer super informative wine tastings. Many tastings, at least in my neck of the woods in Virginia, keep things pretty simple focusing on basic wine education or describing the aromas of the wines you’re sipping. Les Caves du Louvre goes in depth on everything from the various soil types in different French vineyards to the nuances of French wine labels. It’s been a long time since I learned so much in a wine tasting!
The wines themselves are also very good. You’ll try one white and two reds, and I’ve become a fast Anjou convert.
Tastings are 36 euro and last about 1 hour. There are loads of times available. I recommend aiming to begin around 4:30 pm.
Explore the Louvre after hours
From Les Caves du Louvre, you can head to the Louvre proper. The wine cellars or “caves” belonged to the King who resided in the Louvre palace, now the world-famous Louvre Museum.
We saved this for Friday because it’s the only day each week when the Louvre is open for additional evening hours past 5:00 pm and the crowds are ever so slightly better.
With an advance online ticket purchase (which should be about 17 euro), you won’t have to wait in line to enter the museum from the lower level carousel. (This is very easily accessible from the line 1 metro stop at Louvre Rivoli.)
The museum will still be crowded, but instead of waiting hours in line to see the Mona Lisa, you’ll probably wait about 30 minutes. You’ll also have an easier time getting clear pictures of the Venus de Milo.
After a very long packed day, I suggest either cooking for yourself at your accommodations or grabbing a quick takeaway crepe for a budget-friendly meal. No need to make tonight’s dinner an event unto itself. If you’ve got the energy though, trek it back to the 7th arrondissement to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle.
Day 5/Saturday: Take One of the Best Day Trips from Paris
If it’s your first time in Paris, you probably have the Chateau de Versailles on your list. It’s the classic day trip from Paris, and it’s easy to get there on the RER C train using your Navigo Decouverte card.
But I would advise you not to default to Versailles. I’m not a big fan of checking off must-see sights just because. If you truly have Versailles on your bucket list, you love opulent palaces, or you’re super into Marie Antoinette, go for it. The gardens are especially gorgeous! Versailles is worth a visit. I just think you should consider all your options before selecting a day trip from Paris!
Another great option, especially if you are visiting in spring or summer, is Monet’s gardens at Giverny. This isn’t an easy day trip from Paris. If you’re going to try to DIY a day trip from Paris to Giverny, you’ll need to cobble together a route from metro to train to shuttle bus. It’s much more convenient to book a guided tour, which should cost about $80.
My personal choice for a day trip from Paris is a guided tour of the Loire Valley. This is a long haul lasting a good 12 hours from pickup to drop off, but it gives you a taste of chateaux, villages, and wine for a France in a nutshell day trip. The tour I took with City Wonders, booked via Get Your Guide, starts at Chateau de Chambord, which inspired the castle for Beauty and the Beast and is home to Leonardo Da Vinci’s famous double helix staircase. From there you have a lunch stop in the medieval village of Blois and a visit to the Chateau de Chenonceau, which belonged to Catherine de Medici and has its own winery. The tour includes a tasting of red, white, and rose wines. The guides are excellent and provide a ton of historical information through an engaging storytelling style. It’s about $150 for the day, but a worthy splurge.
There are so many other chateaux within day trip distance of Paris!
Next to Versailles, one of the most popular day trips from Paris is Chateau de Fontainebleau. It’s one of the largest palaces in France and was used by several kings as well as Napoleon. It’s slightly more difficult to get to by yourself than Versailles, but still accessible by train. It’s also reportedly less crowded.
There are also some smaller, hidden gem day trips from Paris including Parc de Sceaux which you can reach on the RER B train with your Navigo Decouverte card and the Chateau de Monte Cristo. Yes, THAT Monte Cristo! The author Alexandre Dumas built this ornately sculpted castle in the 1840s.
You can also reach Chateau de Chantilly from Paris on a day trip. It was constructed in the 19th century by the last King of France’s son, Henri d’Orleans, Duke of Aumale. Its halls are now home to an extensive art collection, surpassed only by the Louvre in size.
Can’t get enough bubbly? Go straight to the source! You can DIY a day trip from Paris to Champagne by taking the train from Gare de l’Est to Epernay. There are many villages you can visit within the Champagne region, but Epernay is less than a 90-minute train ride and it’s home to the Moet et Chandon cellars. You can book a tasting there for 40 euro.
Mont Saint Michel
Have you ever seen a striking image of an island castle on Instagram? It’s not out of a fairy tale or AI generated. It’s Mont Saint Michel, an abbey perched atop a tidal island off the coast of Normandy, in northern France.
This is not an easy day trip from Paris. There is no direct train route, so you’ll want to book a guided tour and be prepared for a very long day. The drive is nearly 4 hours one way. I would only plan on this day trip from Paris if Mont Saint Michel is your ultimate bucket list must-see.
Finally, I’m going to toss in an honorable mention to Disneyland Paris. If you only have 5 days in Paris, I think there are better day trips to take, but Disneyland is easy to reach on the RER A train included with your Navigo Decouverte card.
What to Do with More Than 5 Days in Paris
If you can spend more time in Paris, you absolutely should.
Take more than one of my recommended day trips.
Visit more art museums – there are SO many to choose from. Some that I couldn’t even fit a mention of within this itinerary are the Musee de l’Orangerie, which is home to Monet’s famous water lilies, the ultra modern Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Musee Gustave Moreau, which is where that Insta-famous spiral staircase is.
Sainte Chappelle is also a must-see if it’s your first time in Paris and there are many other beautiful churches throughout the city. Eglise de la Madeleine and Eglise Saint Germain des Pres are high on my list for future trips. There’s also, of course, Notre Dame, which will reopen to the public in 2024. (I’ll warn you though, from past visits, I don’t remember the interior being nearly as spectacular as Paris’ other churches, so I’d stick to admiring its iconic facade unless you have lots of time to spare.)
You may want to spend more time in Paris’ gardens such as the Jardin du Luxembourg or cemeteries like Pere Lachaise.
There are also many alternative things to do in Paris like the offbeat art of 59 Rivoli, the many covered passages of Paris, or the abandoned railway La Petite Ceinture, which you can legally access from Parc Georges Brassens.
I personally have a bucket list of over 200 things to do in Paris!
Where to Work as a Digital Nomad in Paris
Given the sheer volume of things to do and the great connections to other European cities, I think Paris is a great base for digital nomads and other long-term travelers. Some popular choices for work-friendly cafes include:
- Cafe Cheri in Belleville
- La Mer a Boire in Belleville
- Cafe de la Nouvelle Mairie in the Latin Quarter
France does not have a digital nomad visa, but if you are only planning to spend 5 days in Paris, you can easily plan around Schengen Area visa requirements.
Where to Go After Paris on a Long-Term Trip
If you’re a digital nomad or on a round-the-world trip, Paris is very well connected to other parts of Europe. You can head to another major European city like Barcelona, London, or Amsterdam. Visit another part of France like sunny Provence, the fairytale villages of Alsace, or the city of Lyon. On my own round-the-world trip, I took an overnight bus from Paris into Italy. I recommend Milan as your first stop.
5 days in Paris is still barely enough for you to experience the city’s best attractions, but I think I managed to pack as much as possible in for you! You can grab a similarly stuffed round-the-world trip itinerary here in customizable spreadsheet form.