Paris - does this city really need any introduction? France’s capital remains a must-visit city for foodies, fashionistas and culture vultures. The ever captivating French city has some of the most iconic tourist attractions in the world - already a picture comes to mind to those all around the globe, from The Eiffel Tower, historical Notre-Dame to strong standing The Arc de Triomphe. However, Paris is not lacking in any hidden gems and quirky attractions that make it so well-loved among locals but have yet to be on most traveller’s radar.
Historically, France’s capital was synonymous with royalty, decadence and romance; traces of which can still be found, whether it be through the Haussman Architecture or through sampling croissants and baguettes from the local patisseries. However, certain areas of Paris, such as Pigalle and Le Marais, offer travellers a trendy and more contemporary introduction to the city.
The beauty of Paris is that you can visit the ‘classic’ areas and attractions, taking you back in time, whilst also indulging in the city's more cosmopolitan and contemporary locations - showing how Paris is still a city for tastemakers today. It is for that reason that Paris is the ideal 4-day city break!
How to get around
Paris is organised by arrondissements which are numbered from 1-20 and arranged in a spiral. The city is incredibly accessible and mostly walkable.
- The metro, which has over 16 lines, is the easiest way to traverse the city. For a 4-day trip, I would recommend buying the day ticket, which is 10 euros for zones 1-3 (which is all you need).
- Alternatively, you can use the e-scooters which are peppered throughout the city. You simply download the Lime scooter app, scan the code on the scooter and away you go! The various cycle and scooter lanes make it a very safe option for travel.
- Equally, uber trips are reasonably priced compared to other major cities such as London.
Since a lot of the hotspots in Paris are museums and fantastic art spaces, getting a Paris Museum pass is a great way to not worry about tickets at the door. The Paris Museum Pass opens doors to not only museums, but monuments like the Arc de Triomphe too. You can reserve your Paris Museum Pass in advance here for a hassle-free trip when you're in the City of Lights!
Day One: Latin Quarter
On your first day, I would recommend wandering the beautiful Latin Quarter, located in the 5th arrondissement. The Latin quarter is home to the Sorbonne, one the best (and most stunningly architectural) universities in the world. The area got its name from the universities who taught Latin in the area.
As the Latin Quarter is somewhat of a ‘student area’, you will find art and humanities students meandering around the streets in search of a café (or bar) to discuss their latest lecture topic. The lively and youthful atmosphere can be felt throughout the rues, bars and restaurants. The influence of students is the reason for various bookshops around the area which are equally a must-visit!
Jardin de Luxembourg
The Jardin de Luxembourg was conceptualised by the former queen of France, Marie de’Medici; a former member of the Medici dynasty. The sprawling gardens are filled with trees, flowers and immaculately cut lawns. There are various statues and fountains where model sailboats float atop in the height of summer. Feel free to pull up a chair (they’re free!) and watch the boats meander, with a book in hand.
The Cluny museum, a street away from the Jardin du Luxembourg, is perhaps a lesser-known museum in Paris. The museum is home to a variety of art belonging to the Middle Ages and perhaps most famously; The Lady and the Unicorn. The Lady and the Unicorn is a tapestry, consisting of 6 individual tableaus. Each of them depicts one of the 5 senses and the final telling the story of courtly love (À Mon Seul Désir). The sheer size of the tapestries is enough to inspire a visit!
The Abbey Bookshop is one of the most elaborate and interesting bookshops in all of Paris. This second-hand bookshop is filled from floor to ceiling with used books ranging from the classics to children's books. Here you will find literary bargains and groups of trendy university students searching for their next novel!
Shakespeare and Company
Shakespeare and Company is an English bookshop located on the left bank, just a short walk from the Notre Dame. The bookshop specialises in antique books predominantly in English. The site itself has become popular in recent years for appearing in films such as Before Sunset and Midnight in Paris. Despite fears of closing down during the pandemic, the bookshop has returned to its former glory and is more often than not queued out the door.
The Pantheon is perhaps one of the grandest buildings in Paris. The Panthéon was historically a church, however, at the end of the 20th century, the building became the home for various tombs. Here lies the tombs of famous French writers and revolutionaries such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire and Emile Zola. If brave enough, you can climb the dome of the Panthéon to get incredible views over the Latin Quarter!
This beautifully ornate church is located on the same island as Notre-Dame, Ile de la Cité. Saint Chapelle appears rather unassuming from the outside; however do not be fooled. The stained glass windows themselves exceed 15 metres in height and depict over 1,000 religious scenes from the Old and New Testament. Avoid the queue and book tickets here to head straight up to this magnificent site!
Notre Dame Cathedral
Simply known as the Notre-Dame, a medieval Catholic cathedral standing on Ile de la Cité is an iconic beacon of Paris through the centuries. French Gothic architecture never has looked so good with this prime cathedral - and anyone standing in front of it will feel awashed by an awe due to its sheer size harking back to Paris days of yore. The line outside to get in tend to be long -so if you can get there early, say before 8am, or visiting during high noon around 1-2pm, you won't have to queue too long to step into one of the oldest cathedrals in the world.
Must Visit Places to Visit:
La Grande Cremerie is a quaint wine bar serving delicious food and organic wines. The perfect place to rest your feet after touring the Latin quarter.
Located on Saint Germain, this hotel is the ideal location for wandering around Paris!
Mid-range - Hôtel Albe Saint Michel
A contemporary boutique hotel which has everything you might need for a quick trip.
Luxury - Hotel Parc Saint-Servérin
This sleek hotel is just 550 metres away from the Notre-Dame.
Day Two: Le Marais
Le Marais is perhaps the trendiest arrondissement and is often referred to as the Soho of Paris - where Brooklyn meets the the edge of Berlin, all wrapped in one neighbourhood. In the buzzing streets you will find LGBTQ+ venues, karaoke bars and themed pubs. The place for many rendez-vous, Le Marais has great cafés, restaurants and some of the finest museums.
Le Marais was formerly the Jewish quarter in Paris and you can still see Jewish influences all throughout the arrondissement. The street names are both given in French and Hebrew and there are a variety of brilliant Kosher restaurants. Equally, this area is the BEST location to search for some vintage clothing gems and nail the chic French style!
The Centre Pompidou, with perhaps the wackiest exterior in Paris, is a modern art gallery situated in the heart of Le Marais. The building resembles that of a rabbit run, with various coloured chutes leading in and out of the building in all directions. The building is the place of various exhibitions and even film screenings. The building juxtaposes with the classic buildings that surround it, making it the ideal location for an interesting Instagram pic! Be sure to visit the bookshop inside which sells marvellous coffee table books! To reserve your tickets in advance, you can book it here.
Le Marais is home to some of the finest vintage shops in Europe. Every street you walk down you will find at least one Free’p’star or friperie just waiting to be discovered. The vintage shops range in era and price. There are a variety of luxury vintage shops (Come on Eileen) selling the likes of vintage Chanel, whereas there are other more unassuming locations where you can pick up some gems at great prices!
- The King of Frip
- Vintage Désir
Galerie Vivienne is the perfect place to wander leisurely after a bit of shopping in Le Marais. The ornate arcade is home to various wine shops, clothing boutiques and quaint cafés. The warmly lit passage, with a glass ceiling and intricately mosaic floors is an architectural heaven. Be sure to pass by for a café crème (a french latte) or perhaps une verre de Sauvignon.
Galeries Lafayette Haussaman
If you are still in the mood to shop, visit Galeries Lafayette located just behind Opéra. In this stunning building you will find a variety of luxury clothes, jewellery and cosmetics from a wide range of brands. Look up when you are wandering around the bottom to see the gloriously adorned stained glass cupola that hangs over your head. If you ascend the various floors, gathering goods as you do so, you can sit down for a coffee or a glass of wine at the Lafayette Café and admire the spectacle above.
The Eiffel Tower was constructed for the World Fair in Paris in 1889 and is the most visited tourist attraction in the world. Although a bit mainstream, it is obligatory to visit when in Paris! Take the metro (line 9) from Republique to Trocadéro for the best and most intimate viewpoint of the Tower. From the metro, walk down the steps till you reach the banks of the Seine. This is the best view you get of the tower, away from the crowds. The Tower only sparkles when the sun sets and for five minutes every hour. Be sure to arrive early so as not to miss the show!
Arc de triomphe & Champs Elysée
The Arc de Triomphe is perhaps one of the most famous buildings in Paris. The huge arc is the axis for 12 main avenues in Paris, most notably the Champs Elysée. The building itself is a war memorial for those who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. The building is open to the public and is perhaps one of the best viewpoints in Paris. Skip the queue and get rooftop tickets here!
Why not walk down the Champs Elysée after your visit and pass the numerous luxury shops that occupy this rue. Designers, such as Louis Vuitton, construct elaborate displays in shop windows to lure customers in from the street. The most recent installation is that by Yayoi Kasama for Louis Vuitton. The building's facade is adorned with various coloured polka dots and a replica of the artist's visage preys over the corner of the building. Be sure to visit this while the installation is still on!
Originally built as a hospital for the wounded in the war, Les Invalides is now a grand military museum located in the south west of Paris. The huge building and sprawling gardens give the feeling of being outside of Paris. Here you will find the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte which lies in the ostentatiously decorated gold dome. There are various buildings within Les Invalides however most interestingly is Le Musée de Plein Reliefs. Here, in the hidden turrets of the building you will find 3D military maps of areas that France invaded or planned to invade. Every few weeks, the museum opens its doors to the public to reveal this hidden delight. Be sure to keep an eye on the dates when this opportunity is available.
Must Visit Places to Eat
Chez Denise -also known as the ‘chefs’ restaurant’ was historically open late to accommodate chefs needing to be fed after their evening shift. If it’s good enough for the best of chefs in Paris, it’s good enough for us!
L’as du Falafel - grab a quick falafel at the best rated Falafel place in Paris. With over 15,000 reviews online you won’t be disappointed!
Le Perchoir - this bar is situated at the top of BHV Marais and has the best viewpoint in Paris overlooking the Hôtel de Ville and the Seine.
A beautiful hostel located in the centre of the Marais. This accommodation has a shared lounge and even a terrace bar.
Mid-Range - Hotel Le Compostelle
A bonus being in the heart of Le Marais, this minimally chic hotel is the perfect place to take refuge after a day of exploring.
Luxury - Hôtel du Vieux Marais
This eclectically decorated guest-house is located just next to Centre Pompidou.
Day 3: Montmartre
Montmartre is located in the 18th arrondissement and is where the famous Sacré Coeur proudly stands. Montmartre resembles something of a Disney film; everything here is beautifully quaint, vibrant and incredibly romantic. Locals hang out of their shuttered windows, of their pastel coloured houses, listening to the accordion players lull around the main square paying homage to French classics such as ‘La Vie en Rose’.
Historically, Montmartre was known as the artist quarter, as artists would wander the street searching for inspiration. This is still the case today, where painters, clad with paintbrush and palette in hand, will offer to draw you for a small price. The houses in Montmartre are painted in delicious colours such as baby blue and canary yellow. Montmartre is however the highest point of Paris, so be prepared to break a sweat climbing the stairs to the top!
The Sacré Coeur was constructed at the end of the 19th Century and is the heart of Montmartre and an essential visit. The church is perhaps the lesser visited part of Montmartre as most people tend to only stop and enjoy the views of Paris. However, access to the church is free and is not one to be missed. Beautiful stained glass shines pink and orange hues into the vast church, The views over Paris from the steps of the Sacré Coeur are unmatched and are a gathering place for locals, tourists and lovers alike.
Wall of Love
It is obligatory, when visiting the city of love to also visit the Wall of Love. This tiled wall, created by artist Frédéric Baron et Claire Kito has “I Love You” written on it in over 400 languages. The aim of the wall was to bring people together in an era of hate and violence. You cannot help but smile when you visit!
La Halle Saint Pierre
Another interesting library in Paris is that of La Halle Saint Pierre located just next to the Sacre Coeur. The library specialises in art and design books and it is also a cultural hub for exhibitions and community events. If you want to escape the crowds of the Sacré Coeur and indulge in some art, stop by here!
The eponymous Moulin Rouge is the birthplace of cabaret in Paris. The Moulin Rouge provided its audiences with evenings of entertainment and fun, through various performances. Be prepared for elaborate costumes, incredible sets and of course luscious interiors. The exaggerated windmill and red neon sign lead you into the venue, promising you a night of entertainment! Nights can easily be sold out, so to make sure you get a seat - reserve your tickets in advance here.
Montmartre Cemetery is the lesser-known cemetery in Paris, being overshadowed by the famous Le Père Lachaise. However, a short walk away from the Sacré Coeur you will find this quaint cemetery, hidden under a huge wrought-iron bridge. Amongst the cemetery, there are dozens of tombs and mausoleums, housing Parisian natives and even a few celebrities such as Dalida, Stendhal and Gustave Moreau.
Catacombs of Paris
When visiting Montmartre Cemetery it seems fitting to visit the Catacombs of Paris at the same time. The catacombs is an underground burial site that contains the remains of over 6 million people. After years of Parisians cemeteries overflowing with remains, the catacombs were introduced at the end of the 18th century. In fact, the catacombs were used during the French resistance during World War II.
This is one of the top underrated places to explore in Paris, so don't leave your bookings to the last minute! You can reserve your spot here in advance.
Musée De L’Orangerie
Situated on the periphery of Jardin du Luxembourg, is the wonderful Musée de L’Orangerie. Here is where you will find Monet’s famous Waterlilies which is a place in an elegant panoramic room. Book tickets here to head straight into this wonderful exhibition.
Must Visit Places to Eat
Grenouille Paris- a cute café serving the finest baguettes and coffee in the 18th arrondissement
Budget - Caulaincourt Monmartre
Save and save money at this little hostel neighbouring the Sacré Coeur
Mid Range - Hotel France Albion
Choose this intimate hotel located at the base of Montmartre to avoid the crowds
Just five minutes away from the Sacré Coeur this hotel has incredible balcony views
Day 4: Obligatory Royal Visits
In the morning, let’s venture into the heart of Paris, into one of the richest arrondissements on the right bank to discover the Louvre and the famous Palais Royal. Upon becoming more comfortable with Paris, it seems like the right time to venture a little further to the edges of Paris. The periphery of Paris tends to get a bad name for being dangerous and sketchy, however this is simply not the case. There are hidden gems that are waiting to be discovered that are more than accessible by the metro. On the outskirts you will find the largest flea market in all of Europe and also some quirky restaurants.
On your visit to Paris, it is essential to visit the Palais Royal, the former Royal Palace. The blonde sandstone buildings stand rather unassuming in the first arrondissement, overshadowed by the likes of the Louvre and the Jardin de Tuilleris. However, hidden in the gardens of the Palace is a café frequented by locals and tourists alike. The former palace rooms have been converted into luxury clothes shops and chic cafés. Be sure to visit them and you’ll maybe even be mistaken for a local!
An obligatory visit to Paris is the famous Louvre Museum. Pre-book tickets here to avoid queuing and begin your perusing the hundreds of art pieces. The Louvre is home to various famous art pieces and is an obligatory part of visiting Paris. Formerly a Palace for French Royalty, The Louvre contains a vast array of art, sculptures and antiques. Of course, you can queue for the Mona Lisa (also known as La Jaconde) however there are hundreds of different eras and movements of art ranging from the civilisation of Uzbekistan to the furniture found in Marie Antionette’s bedroom. Wear comfortable shoes as you will be here for hours!
Pont Alexandre III
Paris has quite a few famous bridges that join the left and right back of the seine. However, Pont Alexandre III is arguably one of the most beautiful. Two golden statues glow day and night on each side of the bridge. From the bridge you have a beautiful viewpoint of the Eiffel Tower and Les Invalides.
The Musée D’Orsay is situated in a former train station and is now home to a variety of famous art pieces. The museum houses some of Vincent Van Gogh’s most famous art pieces and is therefore not one to be missed. There is in fact a huge clock that resides from the time when the museum was once a train station. You can look out through the clock onto the seine and onto the right bank. Be sure to get tickets here to avoid waiting in long queues and missing your instagram opportunity in front of the oversized clock!
Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen
Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen is based just on the periphery of North Paris and is the biggest flea market in all of Europe. If you are looking for XVIII century furniture, 1920’s lace gowns or something more reasonable like a poster, this market will accommodate you! Be sure to bring snacks as this place is huge!
La Chope de Puces
You cannot visit Marché aux Puces Saint Ouen without visiting one of the jazz restaurants hidden amongst the hundreds of market stalls; the best of which is La Chope de Puces. The facade is rather unassuming, however, it is not until the hostess brings you into the questionably decorated back room that you are transported into a different era. Jazz artists play on top of a petite stage for enthused guests who sing and tap along. The jazz player takes off his fedora and passes around the room looking for a small contribution, so bring change!
Must Visit Places to Eat
Un Jour à Peyrasol - if you are looking to treat yourself on your final day in Paris, visit this restaurant where every dish incorporates the ingredient of truffles.
Must Stay Hotels
Situated just few streets back from Palais Royal, ensuring you get a peaceful sleep.
Mid Range - Hotel Choiseul Opera
a cleanly decorated hotel situated just 550 yards away from Galeries Lafayette!
Luxury - Hotel Edgar & Achille
If you are looking to splurge on a bespoke hotel then this is your Hotel! Each room is individually designed and there is even a terrace to enjoy a drink.