3 days in Paris

Best things to do in Paris in 3 days – how do you make the most of your trip especially with teens?

Paris! The one city that seems to be on everyone’s bucket list.  I was fortunate to visit Paris years ago with my mum and dad and this time, over 18 years later, when we went back as a family with our teens, it seemed a lot had changed and yet, time had also stood still.

We were there for 4 nights and 3 days and were determined to make the most of it. For the kids, Paris was about food and IG moments. So, here’s our packed 3-day, 4-night itinerary!

Day 1:  Ile de la Cité including Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf, The Place Dauphine, Sainte Chapelle, Notre-Dame, Shakespeare and Company, the Latin Quarter, and Pantheon. Head over then to the Champs Elysees. the Arc de Triomphe and finally, the Eiffel Tower before watching it sparkle from the Place du Trocadéro

Day 2: Versailles for a half-day trip (because it was winter, or else, I’d recommend a day trip), followed by self-guided walking tour of Montmartre ending in front of Moulin Rouge

Day 3: Louvre, Jardin de Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Paris St. Germain stadium tour

Let’s go! 

We took an afternoon train (Eurostar) from London that got us into Paris at about 6pm. We then hopped the local metro, getting us to our rental apartment by about 6pm. We bought the 10 pack of tickets because we were centrally located and planned on walking a lot. Alternatively, there are many options, and this site has good information on how to get around Paris affordably.

We had intentionally kept our evening free as we had planned on grabbing a nice dinner that set the tone for the rest of our time there. Did I mention that for the kids this trip was about food?!

After settling into our apartment in the 1st Arrondissement, we took a short walk to our restaurant – Brassiere du Louvre, Bocuse, a Michelin restaurant, something the kids were really looking forward to. According to his website, 1987, Paul Bocuse created the Bocuse d’Or in Lyon, clearly one of the most prestigious cooking contests in the world and was named President of the Meilleur Ouvrier de France competition (in the cooking and restaurant management category) in 1989. He was also named Chef of the Century and the Pope of Gastronomy. The meal was a gastronomical journey and one we enjoyed. Because they were shutting down in two days for renovations, they even topped the chicken with truffles at no additional cost. The service was amazing. And the snails are now on the kids’ list of favorite appetizers.

The restaurant looked out to the Louvre and after dinner, we took a walk through the grounds of the Louvre. And what a magnificent sight it was – the lights glittered and cast beautiful shadows on a wet ground. We then walked back to the hotel, excited for the days ahead.

Where we stayed: we stayed in the first Arrondissement. I booked through booking.com. The location was fantastic but the place was really small. Manageable for 4 of us but the location truly compensated for the tiny apartment. The Louvre was a stone’s  throw away as was shopping and restaurants in all price ranges along with a mall.

Day 1:

  • Morning:  Ile de la Cité including Pont des Arts, Pont Neuf, The Place Dauphine, Sainte Chapelle, Notre-Dame, Shakespeare and Company, the Latin Quarter, and Pantheon
  • Afternoon:  Champs Elysee, Arc de Triomphe
  • Evening:  Eiffel Tower and then watch it sparkle from the Place du Trocadéro

We started our day with freshly baked Croissants and fresh fruit from the bakery and grocery store near us. Most grocery stores have juicers that enable you to pick up bottles of freshly squeezed orange juice. What a delightful surprise and we made optimal use of these throughout our stay

Since we were in the 1st arrondissement, we were within walking distance of our day 1 sites so we headed off to the Pont des Arts, in Ile de la Cité.

Two islands sit in the middle of the Seine at the very heart of Paris. The more majestic one, Ile de la Cité, sparkles with history. This is the birthplace of Paris, between 250 and 225 BC, the birthplace of Paris, then known as Lutetia. It is the home of the Gothic Sainte-Chapelle, and the site of the prison where Marie Antoinette was held before her execution. Tourists flock to see the iconic Notre Dame and the beautiful bridges that straddle the Seine. Ile Saint-Louis, the more provincial island, welcomes you with cozy traditional eateries, small boutiques, and what some people say is the best ice cream in the city. This is the Paris that you must see – from the historical sites to the modern.

Make your way to Pont des Arts: The Pont des Arts or Passerelle des Arts is a pedestrian bridge linking the Institut de France and the central square of the Palais du Louvre. The most visited bridge in Paris because of all the love locks placed on it by thousands of visitors over time. As the weight of the locks took its toll, the locks and railings were removed, being replaced with a few symbolic locks and loctite panels.  The bridge now has inviting benches to relax and enjoy the views. Then you can walk over to the Pont Neuf bridge.

The Pont Neuf (or “New Bridge”) is the oldest standing bridge across the Seine in Paris. It stands by the downstream point of the Ile de la Cité, the island in the middle of the river. The bridge is composed of two separate spans, one of five arches joining the left bank to the Ile de la Cité, and another of seven joining the island to the right bank. Today the tip of the island is the location of the Square du Vert-Gallant, nicknamed the “Green Gallant”. and another park, The Place Dauphine.

The cobbled streets leading to the Place Dauphine
The Place Dauphine

The Place Dauphine is a public square that was initiated by Henry IV in 1607, who named it for his son, the Dauphin of France and the future Louis XII. While it’s called a square, it’s really triangular in shape and accessible via the Rue Henri-Robert.

Head southeast on Pl. Dauphine toward Rue de Harlay and be dazzled by the 1,113 stained glass windows in this gem of Rayonnant Gothic architecture, Saint Chapelle.

Sainte-Chapelle, built in seven years, is the finest royal chapel to be built in France. It was built in the mid 13th century by Louis IX, at the heart of the royal residence, the Palais de la Cité. It was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, acquired by Saint Louis. Having these sacred relics in his possession made the already powerful monarch the head of western Christianity. Adorned with a unique and exceptional collection of fifteen glass panels and a rose window forming a veritable wall of light, it is simply stunning.

This place gets busy so buy your pass ahead of time through the official site.

Sainte Chapelle

From Sainte Chapelle, it is less than a ten-minute walk to Notre Dame. Notre-Dame de Paris – little needs to be said about it! Referred to simply as Notre-Dame, it is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. The stunning facade has been replicated in a few churches in the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, due to a fire in April 2019, the spire, and most of the roof were damaged. Thankfully the Catholic relics housed there were rescued. However, the church continues to be under renovation.

Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris

From there, it’s a quick walk past the Shakespeare and Company bookstore to the Latin Quarter. The Latin Quarter is situated on the Seine’s Left Bank, and is known for its bookshops, lively atmosphere and student-filled cafes, given its proximity to Sorbonne University.

Within sight of Notre-Dame, across a bridge into the Latin Quarter, on the Left Bank of the Seine, is an English-language bookstore called Shakespeare and Company.

It was opened in 1919 by American Sylvia Beach who ran it as a casual bookstore and boarding house for up-and-coming writers. Ernest Hemmingway wrote his memoir, A Moveable Feast here and at one-point, other writers like James Joyce and Ezra Young gathered here. Eventually the store closed during the German war, but at some point, reopened by George Whitman, a young American. Today, it’s a favorite for readers and writers. While slightly cluttered and crowded, it’s worth a visit.

We then ventured out into the narrow streets of Le Quartier Latin past the Sorbonne University and to the Pantheon.

The Pantheon: Perched atop a little hill known as Montagne St-Geneieve, this stately church turned mausoleum pays homage to the remains of great French minds, from Victor Hugo to Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie and Alexander Dumas. This neoclassical building with its distinctive off-white dome was originally built as a church but transformed to a “temple of the nation” during the French Revolution. When we got there, we had doctors and med students protesting the long hours and low pay! It was quite an interesting experience, as we watched the protestors amplify their concerns making a din with their whistles, drums and fireworks! When we finally made our way in, we walked around the nave and visited the crypt.

The Dome within the Patheon
The Pantheon doorway

Right beside the Pantheon, is Saint-Étienne-du-Mont, a church, that contains the shrine of St. Genevieve, the Patron Saint of Paris. When we got there, we were blessed to see her relics being brought out.

After spending time at the Pantheon, grab a sandwich from one of the bistros near you, and head to a bench in the Jardin du Luxembourg. Relax and immerse yourself in the sound of water running through a fountain, while enjoying the sights of the grand garden with its expansive lawns, sublime statues and rows of deciduous trees. Don’t forget to stop by the stunning Medici Fountain in a corner of the park, which is steeped in French history.

Jardin Du Luxembourg
The Medici Fountain

After catching a snooze on the bench or just people watching, you can make your way to the Catacombs, or hop an Uber/cab or the metro and head to the Champs Elysees, where you can window shop or pick up the latest in fashion before walking down the promenade to the Arc de Triomphe.

While the Champs Elysees was a mecca for fashion conscious high rollers, it’s now very touristy.


Le Arc de Triomphe: This colossal, magnificent, 164-foot triumphal arch was ordered by Napoleon—to celebrate his military successes. Decorative sculptures celebrating military victories of the Revolution and the First Empire adorn the facade of the arch’s four pedestals. A winding stairway of 284 steps will get you to the top of the monument; an elevator goes partway up the monument, but from there the top, where an observation deck is located, can only be reached by climbing the remaining steps. The traffic circle around the Arc is named for Charles de Gaulle. However, locally, it’s known as L’Étoile, or “the Star”—a nod to the streets that fan out from it. Climb the stairs to the top of the arch and you can see the star effect of the 12 radiating avenues and the view down the Champs-Élysées toward Place de la Concorde and the distant Musée du Louvre. France’s Unknown Soldier is buried beneath the arch, and a commemorative flame is rekindled every evening at 6:30pm.

Finally, we head to the Eiffel Tower where you can either walk around the base or ride up and enjoy the expansive views of the city. We booked our trip to Paris only a month in advance and by then, we weren’t able to get tickets to ride to the top. Tickets can be bought as part of a package or on the official site.

After walking around the base, we walked over to and watched it sparkle from the Place du Trocadéro. Since the year 2000, the lights have sparkled on the hour for five minutes from nightfall until 1am (if night falls at 7.40pm, the lights sparkle first at 8pm).

Day 2: Versailles, The Basilica de Sacre Coeur, a walking tour of Montmartre

We started the day by taking the RER to Versailles. Note that Admission to the Palace, the Estate of Trianon, and temporary exhibitions is free for visitors under 18 years (and under 26 years for UE residents) upon presentation of proof of identity. In 1667, 28-year-old all-powerful king of France, Louis XIV, decided to build the greatest palace in the world – Versailles. This Palace of Versailles was the principal residence of the French kings from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI. It was used as the principal residence until 1789 when they had the French Revolution. After the revolution, the palace was nearly destroyed. In 1837 King Louis-Philippe restored it and turned it into a museum. The Palace is well known for its extravagant rooms and expansive gardens.

To make the most of your trip, make sure you book tickets in advance. Check out this official link for suggested itinerary and download the free app, as well.

Once you are done with the palace, head out back to Paris. We’ll start at Abbesses Metro station, then make a few stops before we visit Sacre Coeur and then explore the rest of Montmartre.

To get there from Versailles, take the train back to Paris to go to the Abbesses (on the metro 12 line), metro train station. The entrance to this station is one of the only remaining glass-covered Guimard original Metro entrances in Paris.  Abbesses is the deepest metro station in Paris, and it has stairs – a lot of stairs – it is indeed a hike! Then, for a self-guided walking tour of Montmartre, use Google maps and plug in Abbesses metro, Wall of Love, Fric-Frac, Place Saint-Pierre, Sacre Coeur, Place du Tertre (the Painters of Montmartre), Le Consulat, La Maison Rose, Buste de Dalida, Le Pass-Muraille, Moulin Rouge

First about Montmartre – it is a popular neighborhood located in Paris’ 18e Arrondissement, atop a large hill.  The name Montmartre was named for the namesake hill from Roman times (Mount Mars). In the medieval ages, most of Montmartre was an abbey, however this abbey was destroyed during the French Revolution. To explore Montmartre, it’s best to start from the train station and head over to the Wall of Love.

The Wall of Love:Mur de je t’aime” is a literal mural of love located in Jehan Rictus square, the park just behind the Abbesses metro stop and across the way from the big red brick church. A wall within the park displays over 300 ways to say I love you in over 250 languages.

Fric-Frac: There is a reason why food vloggers rave about Fric Frac. The ubiquitous French snack, croque monsieur (toasted cheese-and-ham sandwich) gets a contemporary makeover. You can enjoy some of their creative combos like Winnie (Crottin de Chavignol cheese, dried fruit, chestnut honey, chives and rosemary) or the more exotic Shaolin (king prawns, lemongrass paste, shiitake mushrooms and Thai basil) served with salad and fries. The service was quick and friendly and the food delicious. Well satisfied, we continued our walk up to Sacre Coeur.

Croque Monsieur

The Sacré-Coeur basilica is Montmartre’s crown jewel that attracts millions of visitors. As you walk up the stairs, you will pass picnickers on the lawn and buskers seeking to entertain you. Along the way to the top, you will marvel at the mosaics and domes as well as the angelic statues. While the 237 stairs to the dome are a tight spiral climb, the views are worth it. Alternatively, you can get a ride up via the Funiculaire de Montmartre. The ride up takes less than two minutes and costs the same as a Metro ticket.

In the same area, you can also see the back of Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, the oldest church in Montmartre dating to the beginning of the 12th century. For more than 600 years it was a parish church and part of the Abbey of the Benedictine Sisters of Montmartre. It is the only vestige of the ancient abbey that exists today. 

As you make your way to the church from the Sacre Coeur, enjoy the panoramic views of Paris including views of the Eiffel Tower in the distance.  After the church, you’ll find yourself at the Place du Tertre.

A visit to Montmartre Paris is not complete without stopping by the lively Place du Tertre also known as the Painters of Montmarte. This charming public square sits just below the Sacre Cœur and provides a hub for artists and authentic Parisian cafes. Artists, who can wait up to ten years to get a coveted spot here, chat and are ready to capture on their easels whoever comes their way.  Perhaps it’s your day for a caricature or sketch. Continue your way down to Le Consulat.

Le Consulat: During the time of the impressionists, Montmartre gained a reputation for cafes, cabarets, and dance halls, attracting many artists including Vincent Van Gogh and Picasso. Le Consulat is now a coffee house and restaurant and an Instagram favorite. Grab a coffee and people watch before you continue to La Maison Rose.

La Maison Rose:  This house, a gathering place for artists, was purchased in the early 1900s by Germaine Gargallo, the wife of a well-known painter. The pretty ‘Pink House’ located on the corner of rue de l’ Abreuvoir and rue des Saules, inspired a painting by Maurice Utrillo that he called ‘The Little Pink House’ in the 1930’s which became famous not because of the subject of the painting, but rather because it sold for so much at an auction. 

La Maison Rose
The beautiful winding cobblestone streets
Another pretty street

Continue down the stunning Rue de l’Abreuvoir, one of the most beautiful streets in Paris with a view of the Sacre Coeur, La Maison Rose and ivy-covered buildings. Wind you way down the street to see the bust of the famous French-Egyptian singer and actor Dalida who lived nearby in Montmartre.

Buste de Dalida: Dalida – born Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti – was a singer and actress who was very popular across much of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.  Her career lasted from the 1950s through until her tragic suicide in 1987. A bust on the small, shaded square commemorates her, and visitors can also glimpse her house on nearby Rue d’Orchampt.

Buste de Dalida: Dalida – born Iolanda Cristina Gigliotti – was a singer and actress who was very popular across much of Europe, the Middle East and beyond.  Her career lasted from the 1950s through until her tragic suicide in 1987. A bust on the small, shaded square commemorates her, and visitors can also glimpse her house on nearby Rue d’Orchampt.

Le Passe-Muraille is based on a fictitious character Dutilleul who discovered that he had an unusual talent of being able to walk through solid walls.  But instead of just using his talent for good, he abused his power and one day Dutilleul lost all his powers and ended up stuck in a wall. We had fun trying to get him through the wall but didn’t succeed. You can read more about this interesting story by Marcel Ayme here

We then made our way through the winding streets of Montemartre and stopped for snacks along the way, making our final destination Moulin Rouge.

Moulin Rouge: The birthplace of the Can-Can. Who hasn’t heard of the once notorious cabaret Moulin Rouge? It is easily recognizable by the windmill at the front of the building. Not meant for kids, we took our pictures and headed home but not before stopping for some delectable pastries at Aux Merveilleux de Fred.

Make this patisserie a stop on your tour. It makes traditional specialties from Flanders, one of which is The Merveilleux. Their merengue is just out of this world and is a fantastic way to end the day.

Day 3: Louvre, Jardin de Tuileries, Place de la Concorde, Paris St. Germain stadium tour

A word of caution…the Louvre is massive and gets a ton of visitors. So, it’s best you start your day there and also chart a plan so you can maximize your visit. We had teens who weren’t that interested in museums, so we had a must-see list that enabled them to make the most of the trip. Here’s how we got through the Louvre in half a day. Follow the itinerary if you have kids or teens and want to make the most of your time here.

Now, of course, despite several reminders, the kids said they didn’t have any must-see places on their list. And yet, halfway through the morning at the Louvre, Sean decided he wanted to visit PSG stadium, the home of his beloved Messi.

The good news though was that if we left the Louvre early, we would be able to come back in. So, after our tour, we headed off to PSG, did a museum tour and then came back to the Louvre, went back to see the Mona Lisa, then recovered in the Tuileries Garden. If you don’t want to jet around like a crazy family, I would recommend going through the Tuileries Garden, after which you can go across the street at Rue de Rivoli to Angelica’s for some decadent hot chocolate and pastries and continue to the Place de la Concorde.

Place de la Concorde – From Angelica, stroll through Tuileries Garden or along the Rue de Rivoli to Place de la Concorde. This famous square is full of French history. This was the spot during the French Revolution where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre were executed by guillotine. This place has a magnificent arrangement of fountains and statues, held together in the center by a 3,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk which was a gift to France from Egypt in 1829. From the Plaza, look down the Champs-Élysées and see the Arc de Triomphe in the distance.

Another interesting stop for soccer lovers is a visit to Les Parc des Princes, the home of Paris St. Germain (PSG) football club since 1974. They have a really nice Experience Tour, which is worth taking. With the tour we had a chance to explore the change rooms, the grounds, and even kick balls into a net. While ours was a last minute decision which meant booking the tickets in person at the stadium, you can also book it online. Overall, a fun experience that was a great way to end our trip in Paris.

And we had to grab one last bite of macarons before we headed home!

Laduree Macarons