A two-day itinerary for Paris

The always popular place du Tertre (Photo by Alessandro Tortora)The steps up to Sacre-Coeur (Photo by Pearlsa)One of the two oval Monet Waterlilies rooms in the basement of L'Orangerie (Photo by fmpgoh)The Mona Lisa (1503–16)—called La Joconde in French—by Leonardo da Vinci (Photo Public Domain) (Photo )The Arc de Triomphe at night (Photo by Mr. Jason Hayes)A tree-lined path in Jardin des Tuileries (Photo by Gala Medina)Place de la Concorde (Photo by Guido Radig)The glorious stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle (Photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST)The underground hallway of the Deportation Memorial (Photo by Slices of Light)Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet (Photo Public Domain)The cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris (Photo by Giorgos~)The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is located just beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris. From 1275 to 1636, the pillory of the Abbey was located in the current Place d'Acadie, better known to Parisians as the Mabillon due to the eponymous Métro station located there. (Photo by Luc Mercelis)You share your panoramic views of Paris from the Notre-Dame towers with the gargoyles (Photo )Le Penseur (The Thinker) in the garden of the Rodin Museum of Paris (Photo by Nicholas Boos)Cruising past Notre Dame on the Ile-de-la-Cité (Photo Unknown)La Tour Eiffel from the ground (Photo by Michal Long)The cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris (Photo by Giorgos~)

How to get the most out of just two days in Paris

You will notice these are set up as rigorously timed days. There's no need to treat tem as such. Feel free to use this Paris plan more as a rough guide than a set itinerary. Adjust the times to fit your personal style and desires.

Want to spend longer at the Louvre? Do that. Want to skip the Seine cruise? Fine by me. The point is to give a sense of how much you can accomplish in a day, and how long it takes at each of the top sights to do a quick-but-thorough visit. Just be sure to buy a Paris Museum Pass so you can skip the lines and save time.

The glories of the Louvre, Monet's waterlilies, and bohemian Montmartre

08:30

Take the Métro to Concorde to see the spot where the French Revolution guillotines took the heads of many of nobleman and noblewoman—now an enormous traffic oval centered on an Egyptian obelisk.

08:50
☆☆☆
Place de la Concorde (Photo by Guido Radig)

The epicenter of the French Revolution, where many a nobleperson met the guillotine

 
08:59

There's an opening in the wall right at the Concorde Métro stop that leads up and into the west end of the Tuileries Gardens. Walk across to the south side and the Orangerie, a lovely little museum hiding a surprise in the basement: Two oval rooms with 360 degrees of Monet's Waterlilly paintings.

09:00
★★☆
One of the two oval Monet Waterlilies rooms in the basement of L'Orangerie (Photo by fmpgoh)

Be surrounded by 360º of Monet Waterlillies

 
10:00

Walk east from the Orangerie through the luxurious formal gardens-turned-public park of Les Tuileries. Take it at strolling speed. At the east end, duck under the Arc de Triomphe de Caroussel triumphal arch and pass into the Louvre courtyard with its famous glass pyramid.

10:00
★☆☆
A tree-lined path in Jardin des Tuileries (Photo by Gala Medina)

The Tuileries are the largest and oldest public gardens in Paris

 
10:20

Now head under that giant glass pyramid and into the Louvre, which is French for "ludicrously huge museum." Pay your respects to Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, visit as many galleries as you can, and don't waste precious time on food by having lunch in the cafeteria or at one of the cafe kiosks. You get a total of 3.5 hours in here, including lunch.

10:30
★★★
The Mona Lisa (1503–16)—called La Joconde in French—by Leonardo da Vinci (Photo Public Domain)

So much more than just the Mona Lisa, Paris's Musée du Louvre is one of the greatest museums in the world

 
14:00

By mid-afternoon, give up on trying to see it all and ride the #1 Métro up to the George V stop on the Champs Elysées, Paris's most famed boulevard. You can't miss you next stop, at the top of the street, the iconic Arc de Triomphe.

14:15
★☆☆
The Arc de Triomphe at night (Photo by Mr. Jason Hayes)

This iconic triumphal arch sits in the grandest traffic circle in Europe

 
15:00

From the Étoile, walk N up av de Wagram to the place du Ternes Métro stop to catch the #2 line up to Anvers stop and the original Bohemian quarter of Montmartre. Spend the late afternoon and early evening wandering the streets. Peek at windmills and vineyards, people-watch and write postcards at a classic Parisian café, and pop down to Pigalle to see the Moulin Rouge (that's if you are just curious; if you're set on actually going to the show you can wait until dinnertime, below).

15:30
★★☆
The always popular place du Tertre (Photo by Alessandro Tortora)

The original Bohemian 'hood: The Montmartre district of Paris

 
17:55

Make sure you make your way to the steps of Sacre-Coeur church at sunset to watch the Paris below come to life as dusk falls and live up to the name "City of Lights."

18:00
★☆☆
The steps up to Sacre-Coeur (Photo by Pearlsa)

The Sacred Heart Basilica atop Montmartre

 
18:30

After sunset, it's time to rustle up some dinner—either at a restaurant of your choice or as part of the Moulin Rouge show (if you choose; the dinner-and-show package starts at 19:00, or 7pm; be sure to get there by 6:45pm).

18:30
 (Photo courtesy of Brasserie Lipp)

Paris restaurants, cafes, and everything else you need to know to keep yourself well fed

 
20:30

OPTIONAL: It's certainly not for everyone, but many people would consider a trip to Paris unfinished if they didn't see the famous cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge. (Just to be sure you know: this is not really a family venue; the dancers are—as is traditional—half-naked for part of the act.) The show starts at 21:00 (9pm), so be sure you give yourself time ot get there at least 15 minutes ahead of time, preferably a bit more.

20:45
★☆☆
 (Photo )

Paris's famed cabaret club and the red light district of Pigalle

 

Notre Dame, Impressionists galore, and the Eiffel Tower

07:30

This first tip is for the celver sorts who downlaoded the jeFile/Out of the line app (details are on the Notre Dame page). While getting ready to go/having breakfast, log into the app at 7:30am so you can get first crack at entry times for the Notre Dame Towers. Book an entry for around 10:15am if you can.

07:35
★★★
The cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris (Photo by Giorgos~)

Our Lady of Paris cathedral in Paris, France

 
08:00

Head out to arrive early at the world-famous Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame early to beat the hordes. Spend an hour minutes admiring the stone carvings on the facade and, inside, the amazing stained glass windows, carved stone chancel, and 18th-century choir stalls.

08:30
★★★
The cathedral of Notre-Dame of Paris (Photo by Giorgos~)

Our Lady of Paris cathedral in Paris, France

 
09:30

If you didn't already book an entry time with teh jeFile app, pop around the north side of the catehdral to print out an entry time for the Towers of Notre Dame, then backtrack to walk around the south (right) side of the cathedral so you can admire the sculptures, gargoyles, and flying buttresses festooning the exterior. At the back, cut through little Jean XXIII park—partly to get a nice picture of the church's apse and all of its buttresses, but also so you to visit the Holocaust Memorial at the eastern tip of Île de la Cité. (It opens at 10am.) Spend about 10 minutes in the memorial, then continue your loop around Notre Dame until you arrive back near the front on the north side, where you'll find the entrance to climb the towers.

9:50
☆☆☆
The underground hallway of the Deportation Memorial (Photo by Slices of Light)

The memorial to martrys of the deportation in Paris

 
10:10

Hopefully you managed to snag a 10:15am entry time for the Towers of Notre Dame. Clamber up the North Tower and then cross over into the South Tower to examine the famed gargoyles up close and enjoy a much more intimate view across Paris than the more famous Eiffel Tower gets you (though you will also be visiting that one later today).

10:15
★★☆
You share your panoramic views of Paris from the Notre-Dame towers with the gargoyles (Photo )

The towers and flying buttresses of Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, France

 
11:00

Just two blocks west of Notre Dame lies the jewel box chapel of Sainte-Chapelle, hidden in the middle of a government building complex. There's usually a short line to get in (thanks to airport-style security machines), but it's worth it to go upstairs into this late Gothic chapel, built to house the Crown of Thorns, lined practically floor to ceiling with arguably the most amazing stained glass windows in France.

11:15
★★☆
The glorious stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle (Photo by Jean-Christophe BENOIST)

The stained glass wonderlands of Sainte Chapelle create architectures of light on the Île de la Cité

 
11:45

You can either hop on the #4 Métro at Cité and ride it two stops to Saint-Germain-de-Prés or walk across the Pont Neuf and wend your way through the streets of the lovely Saint-Germain neighborhood to the same spot. (I'd choose the later: S down rue Dauphine, left through the passage Dauphine, left on rue Mazarine, right on rue de Buci.) Just up blvd Saint-Germain are two of Paris's most famous cafés: Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore. Pick one for lunch. 

12:15
Café de Flore (Photo by Arnaud 25)

Café au lait à Paris: The best of the great cafés in Paris

 
13:15

After lunch pop into the church of Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of my favorite in Paris, with roots back to near the beginnings of Paris itself.

13:20
★☆☆
The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés is located just beyond the outskirts of early medieval Paris. From 1275 to 1636, the pillory of the Abbey was located in the current Place d'Acadie, better known to Parisians as the Mabillon due to the eponymous Métro station located there. (Photo by Luc Mercelis)

An ancient church in Paris

 
13:50

The old Orsay train station has been transformed into the Musée d'Orsay, the world's single greatest collection of Impressionist art and other crowd-pleasers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, from Whistler's Mother to Van Gogh's Starry Night, with masterpieces by Monet, Degas, Cezanne, Manet, Gauguin, Rodin, Toulouse-Lautrec, Pissaro, Seurat, and many more in between.

14:00
★★★
Les Coquelicots (Poppy Field) (1873) by Claude Monet (Photo Public Domain)

Did someone say "Impressionists"? The Orsay Museum houses the world's largest collection of Impressionist art

 
16:15

It's only about a 15-minute stroll from the Orsay to the former studio of Rodin, the world's greatest sculptor since Michelangelo, now converted into the Musée Rodin, home to the famous Thinker in the rose garden, The Kiss inside, and dozens of other sculptural marvels. You get an hour to drink it all in.

16:30
★★☆
Le Penseur (The Thinker) in the garden of the Rodin Museum of Paris (Photo by Nicholas Boos)

Rodin's Paris studio is one of the world's greatest small museums, filled with and surrounded by the master's sculptures

 
17:30

Ready for a brisk 20–30-minute walk? Just head around the front (south) side of Les Invalides along Avenue de Tourville up to place Joffre and the Champ de Mars, the long grassy park leading up to the Eiffel Tower.

Climb the Eiffel Tower (well, take the elevator) and enjoy the Parisian panoramas. Stick around for sunset—or even stay for dinner at one of the restaurants up here (overpriced, yes, but still: it's a dinner on the Eiffel Tower!) Once you get back down, you'll be able to look back and see the tower lit up at night.

18:00
★★★
La Tour Eiffel from the ground (Photo by Michal Long)

The world's most famous TV antenna

 
19:00

Eat wherever you'd like, but I should point out that since the next stop is a Seine Cruise. To save time (and add romance), you could sign up for an evening tour that includes the last stop, dinner, and the next activity: dinner at the Eiffel Tower followed by a Seine River cruise. 

19:15
My mother and wife at a Parisian park bench picnic (Photo © Reid Bramblett)

Paris restaurants, cafes, and everything else you need to know to keep yourself well fed

 
20:45

You can either linger over dinner for as long as you like, or—to end the day on a classic note—finish up in time to catch the last nightly departure of a night cruise on the Seine river. Depending on the cruise company and the time of year, the final cruise of the day may be as early as 9pm or as late as 10:30pm (11pm in on summer weekends). Research ahead of time—and maybe book it in advance—to be sure you don't miss out.

21:00
★★☆
Cruising past Notre Dame on the Ile-de-la-Cité (Photo Unknown)

Take a sightseeing or dinner cruise on the Seine River

 
What the grey and blue time bubbles mean

Since this itinerary takes into account travel time (walking, taking the Métro, driving, whatever):

  • The times in grey circles are the times by which you need to start moving in order to go to the next stop.
  • The times in blue circles are the times by which you should arrive at that stop to begin the fun.
Activities, walks, & excursions links
Useful French phrases

Useful French for rail travel

English (anglais) French (français)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...train station la gare lah gar
train train traah
ticket un billet uhn bee-YAY
ticket counter les guichet lay ghee-SHAY
departures within the hour départs dans l'heure day-PAR dohn luhr
local departures départs banlieue day-PAR bahn-LYOO
long-distance departures départs grandes lignes day-PAR grahnd leenyh
departure time heure de départ uhr de day-PAR
arrival time heure d'arrivée urh dar-ree-YAV
first class première classe pruh-mee-YAIR klahs
second class seconde classe say-COHN-duh klahs
one way ticket un billet simple uhn bee-YAY SAHM-pluh
round trip (return) ticket un billet aller-retour uhn bee-YAY ah-LAY RAY-tour
I would like to reserve a seat Je voudrais réserver une place dzuh voo-DRAY RAY-sair-vay ooun plahs
I have a Eurailpass J'ai Eurailpass dzay ao-rail-PAHS
sleeping couchette une couchette ooun koo-SHET
berth in a sleeping car une place en voiture-lit ooune plahs uhn vwa-TOUR-lee
track voie
or
quai
vwa
or
kay
car / carriage voiture vwa-TOUR
punch your ticket composter de billet cohm-poh-STAY de bee-YAY
departures le départ luh day-PAR
arrivals l’arrivée lah-ree-VAY
connection correspondance ko-ray-spon-DOHNZ
coming from en provenance de un pro-veh-NONS de
going to a destination de ah des-tee-nah-tzee-YOWN de
Is this the right platform for the Paris train? Est-ce que c’est le quai pour le train de Paris? es kuh say le kay poo-rh leh traah de pah-REE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
information information een-for-mah-tzee-YOHN
left luggage consigne cone-sah-NYEH
exit sortie sohr-TEE

Useful French for air travel

English (anglais) French (français)   Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
Where is... Où est? ou eh
...the airport l'aéroport lair-oh-POR
the airplane l'avion lah-vee-YOHn
terminal terminal tehr-me-NAHL
flight vol vohl
gate porte pohrt
customs douane do-AHN
to the right à droite ah dwa-t
to the left à gauche ah go-sh
straight ahead tout droit too dwa
departures hall Hall de départ ahl de day-PAR
arrivals hall Hall d’arrivée ahl da-ree-VAY
exit sortie sohr-TEE
delayed en retard hn ruh-TAR
on time à l’heure ah LOUR
early en avance hn ah-VAHNS
check-in l’enregistrement lun-rej-ee-stray-MUN
immigration l'immigration lim-ee-grah-SYON
security check le contrôle de sécurité luh kon-TROLL de say-cure-ee-TAY
shuttle la navette lah na-VET
boarding pass une carte d’embarquement ooun kart dem-bark-eh-MUHn
baggage claim la livraison des bagages la lee-vray-SOHn day bah-GA-j
carry-on luggage les bagages à main lay bah-GA-j ah meh
checked luggage les bagages enregistrés lay bah-GA-j on-ray-jee-STRAY

Useful French for car travel

English (anglais) French (français)  Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
car une voiture
or
une auto
ouhn vwa-TOUR
or
ouhn ow-TOH
scooter/motorboke une moto ouhn mo-TOH
gas station station-service stah-see-YOHN sair-VEES
gas de l'essence deh lay-SAWNS
diesel le gasolio
or
le gazole
leh gah-SOL-lyo
or
luh gag-ZOHL
Fill it up, please faire le plein, s'il vous plaît fair le plahn seel voo play
Where is... Où est? ou eh
...the highway l'autoroute lao-toh-ROOT
...the road la route lah root
...the street la rue lah roo
...the road for Paris
la route de Paris
lah root de pah-REE
to the right à droite ah dwa-t
to the left à gauche ah go-sh
keep going straight tout droit too dwa
to cross traverser trah-vair-SAY
toll un péage uhn PAY-ahj
parking stationner stah-see-yo-NAIR
road map carte routière kahrt roo-tee-YAIR
roundabout rond point rohn pwea
junction carrefour cah-ruh-FOUr


Typical road signs

English (anglais) French (français) 
Speed limit Limit de vitesse
Slow down Ralentissez
Stop Arrêt
Exit  Sortie
Give way Cedez le passage
Give way to traffic coming from the left/right Priorité à gauche / à droit
No passing Interdiction de doubler/dépasser
One-way Sens-unique
No entry Sens interdit
Road closed Route barrée
Detour Déviation
Risk of ice Verglas
Dead-end Impasse
Speed camera Radar de vitesse
Pedestrian crossing Passage piéton
Parking prohibited Stationnement interdit
Pedestrian zone Zone piétonnne

Basic phrases in French

English (anglais) French (français) pro-nun-see-YAY-shun
thank you merci mair-SEE
please s'il vous plaît seel-vou-PLAY
yes oui wee
no non no
Do you speak English? Parlez-vous anglais? par-lay-VOU on-GLAY
I don't understand Je ne comprende pas zhuh nuh COHM-prohnd pah
I'm sorry Je suis desolée zhuh swee day-zoh-LAY
How much does it cost? Combien coute? coam-bee-YEHN koot
That's too much C'est trop say troh
     
Good day Bonjour bohn-SZOURH
Good evening Bon soir bohn SWAH
Good night Bon nuit  bohn NWEE
Goodbye Au revoir oh-ruh-VWAH
Excuse me (to get attention) Excusez-moi eh-skooze-ay-MWA
Excuse me (to get past someone) Pardon pah-rRDOHN
Where is? Où est? ou eh
...the bathroom la toilette lah twah-LET
...train station la gare lah gahr

Days, months, and other calendar items in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
When is it open? Quand est-il ouvert? coan eh-TEEL oo-VAIR
When does it close? Quand est l'heure de fermeture?   coan eh lure duh fair-mah-TOUR
At what time... à quelle heure... ah kell uhre
     
Yesterday hier ee-AIR
Today aujoud'hui ow-zhuhr-DWEE
Tomorrow demain duh-MEHN
Day after tomorrow après demain ah-PRAY duh-MEHN
     
a day un jour ooun zhuhr
Monday Lundí luhn-DEE
Tuesday Maredí mar-DEE
Wednesday Mercredi mair-cray-DEE
Thursday Jeudi zhuh-DEE
Friday Vendredi vawn-druh-DEE
Saturday Samedi saam-DEE
Sunday Dimanche DEE-maansh
     
a month un mois ooun mwa
January janvier zhan-vee-YAIR
February février feh-vree-YAIR
March mars mahr
April avril ah-VREEL
May mai may
June juin zhuh-WAH
July juillet zhuh-LYAY
August août ah-WOOT
September septembre sep-TUHM-bruh
October octobre ok-TOE-bruh
November novembre noh-VAUM-bruh
December décembre day-SAHM-bruh

Numbers in French

English (anglais) French (français) Pro-nun-cee-YAY-shun
1 un ehn
2 deux douh
3 trois twa
4 quatre KAH-truh
5 cinq sank
6 six sees
7 sept sehp
8 huit hwhee
9 neuf nuhf
10 dix dees
11 onze ownz
12 douze dooz
13 treize trehz
14 quatorze kah-TOHRZ
15 quinze cans
16 seize sez
17 dix-sept dee-SEP
18 dix-huit dee-SWEE
19 dix-neuf dee-SNEUHF
20 vingt vahn
21* vingt et un * vahnt eh UHN
22* vingt deux * vahn douh
23* vingt trois * vahn twa
30 trente truhnt
40 quarante kah-RAHNT
50 cinquante sahn-KAHNT
60 soixante swaa-SAHNT
70 soixante-dix swa-sahnt-DEES
80 quatre-vents  kat-tra-VAHN
90 quatre-vents-dix  kat-tra-vanht-DEES
100 cent sant
1,000 mille meel
5,000 cinq mille sank meel
10,000 dix mille dees meel


* You can form any number between 20 and 99 just like the examples for 21, 22, and 23. For x2–x9, just say the tens-place number (trente for 30, quarante for 40, etc.), then the ones-place number (35 is trente cinq; 66 is soixsante six). The only excpetion is for 21, 31, 41, etc. For x1, say the tens-place number followed by "...et un" (trente et un, quarante et un, etc.).

‡ Yes, the French count very strangely once they get past 69. Rather than some version of "seventy,' they instead say "sixy-ten" (followed by "sixty-eleven," "sixty-twelve,' etc. up to "sixty-nineteen.") And then, just to keep things interesting, they chenge it up again and, for 80, say 'four twenties"—which always make me thinks of blackbirds baked in a pie for some reason. Ninety becomes "four-twenties-ten" and so on up to "four-nineties-ninteen" for 99, which is quite a mouthful: quartre-vingts-dix-neuf.