Visiting Paris in Two Days: What To See

Sunset over Eiffel tower in Paris
••• Kiszon Pascal/Getty Images
  • 01 of 09

    Paris in Two Days - Introduction and Overview of the Itinerary

    The Seine River is historic, magical, and a dream to visit and explore.
    ••• The Seine River is historic, magical, and a dream to visit and explore. Joe De Sousa/CC

    A Flexible, Fun, and Self-Guided Itinerary

    A week or more in Paris is absolutely ideal to really get a sense of the city's fabulous sights and attractions, quirky neighborhoods, or gourmet spots.

    But if you're only able to spend a couple of days in the city, or need an introduction to the city's best spots, this two-day self-guided tour of Paris will provide 48 full and exciting hours in the city of light. Who said a weekend in Paris was impossible?

    The itinerary covers both the classic left bank (rive gauche) and the more contemporary right bank (rive droite), where students, artists, and immigrants forge a dynamic cosmopolitan center that has little to do with the Paris of postcards or sugar-coated Woody Allen films. You'll go away feeling like you've seen the city's highlights, and will be ready to explore in more depth next time around.

    Read Related: Have Only 1 Day? Take This Paris Self-Guided Tour

    Overview of the 2-Day Tour

    Keep in mind that this itinerary is...MORE designed to be flexible: feel free to pick and choose between the options , and let your inspiration carry you if you stumble on something that's not on the tour as we've imagined it. In some cases, we've given you a choice between two options-- a bit like the "choose your own adventure" novels you might have read as a child. Also please note that the author of this guide does not give tours herself: it's designed to be entirely self-guided! She does, however, welcome your feedback here.

    Day One: Classic Paris

    Afternoon:

    Evening

     

    Day Two: The Dynamic Right Bank:

    Afternoon:

    Evening:

    • Dinner and show at the Moulin Rouge, or dinner and cabaret at A la Bonne Franquette
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  • 02 of 09

    How to Make the Most of the Tour?

    The Sacré Coeur in Paris crowns the steep heights of Montmartre.
    ••• The Sacré Coeur in Paris crowns the steep heights of Montmartre. Abir Anwar/Flickr/CC 2.0
    • Make sure to have a good pair of walking shoes, as this tour will require a moderate-to-heavy amount of walking.
       
    • During the winter, be sure to wear a warm coat, and have a scarf, gloves, and warm socks on hand. You don't want to let cold weather take away from the experience.
       
    • Since you'll be using public transport quite a bit over two days, consider purchasing a "Paris Visite" transport pass. The two-day pass is reasonably priced and allows for unlimited travel on Paris metro and RER trains, buses, and tramways, as well as access to certain attractions outside of Paris, like the Chateau de Versailles. The pass is available at any RATP metro station ticket vendor.
       
    • You'll be visiting at least two museums on this itinerary, so you may want to pick up a two-day Paris Museum Pass. The museum pass gives you unlimited access to the city's national museums, including the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and the Centre Pompidou's Museum of Modern Art. Also, the...MORE card has no use-by date, so you can purchase it well in advance.
       
    • If you end up taking more time than expected to visit one of the places on the itinerary, don't worry. The itinerary is designed for two jam-packed days of Paris sights and activities, but not everyone will want to see and do everything. Go at a pace that feels comfortable and enjoyable to you, and just as you'd tweak a recipe to suit your tastes, substitute wherever you'd like.
       
    • Be sure to have a trustworthy map of Paris on hand, because you'll need it to get from one place to the next. I recommend the classic Paris par Arrondissement street map. (See How to Use a Paris City Street Map for more info. If you have a smartphone or tablet, you can also easily find and download several free Paris maps and guides.

    Read Related: Have Only 1 Day? Take This Paris Self-Guided Tour

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  • 03 of 09

    Classic Paris Day One - Breakfast and Walk Around the Mouffetard Quarter

    Rue Mouffetard, Latin Quarter, Paris, France
    ••• Jon Arnold/Getty Images

    Morning: You should ideally start your day early (7:30 or 8:00 a.m.).

    First stop: Breakfast at Le Mouffetard or Le Pain Quotidien

    Directions: Take the metro to Censier-Daubenton (Line 7). Go southwest on Rue Daubenton, and turn right up Rue Mouffetard.

    • Le Mouffetard: 116 Rue Mouffetard - Tel. 01.43.31.42.50 - Closed on Monday
      This cozy neighborhood cafe is known for its excellent pastries, brioches (sweet pastry roll) and other breakfast fare.
       
    • Le Pain Quotidien: 138 rue Mouffetard - Tel.: 01 55 43 91 99
      Le Pain Quotidien is a Belgian-owned bakery, "brunchery" and tearoom that has several stores around Paris. You can either sit at a communal table and enjoy a copious breakfast featuring fresh baked bread, or take away goodies from the bakery counter. It may be a chain, but the fare here is generally excellent.

    Explore the Rue Mouffetard Neighborhood

    Ok, so now your stomach is full, and your tour of classic Paris can really begin. Continue walking up the winding Rue Mouffetard. You...MORE are on one of Paris' oldest streets, today a bustling marketplace. Rue Mouffetard is at a far end of the Latin Quarter, the traditional heart of Paris university and intellectual life.

    Take some time to admire the traditional French cheese, wine, and other specialty shops. You may also notice that some of the elaborately painted storefronts on Rue Mouffetard. Some of these date to the 16th century. Also look for quaint passageways and courtyards off the street.

    Corners of Interest:

    Next stop: The Latin Quarter - Pantheon

    Walking directions: From the north end of Rue Mouffetard, turn onto Rue Thouin and continue until it turns into Rue de l'Estrapade. Continue until you get to Rue de l'Ulm. Turn right and walk to the Pantheon.

    By bus: Take bus #47 from the "Monge" stop near 72 rue Monge, direction "Chatelet". Get off at the "Cardinal Lemoine" stop. Walk five minutes to the Pantheon.

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  • 04 of 09

    Classic Paris Day One - Latin Quarter and Lunch at Le Balzar

    Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
    ••• Jardin du Luxembourg, in the Latin Quarter. Natasha Maiolo /Getty Images

    The next stop in your tour of the "Quartier Latin" is the PantheonThis neoclassical-style mausoleum is the resting place of noteworthy French thinkers such as Voltaire and Victor Hugo. Entry is around 7 Euros (free for children under 18).

    From the Pantheon's dramatic plaza, look straight ahead down Rue Soufflot and toward the bustling Boulevard Saint-Michel. You will see the Luxemburg Gardens and, in the distance, the Eiffel Tower.
    Nearby: The medieval Saint Etienne-du-Mont Church is worth a visit. (Place St.-Geneviève)

    Next stop: The Sorbonne

    Directions: From the Pantheon, walk down Rue Soufflot. Turn right on Rue Victor Cousin. Continue until you reach Place de la Sorbonne; the university is to your right.

    Next stop: Luxembourg Gardens or Medieval Museum

    Directions: Luxemburg Gardens is located at the bottom of Rue Soufflot on Blvd Saint Michel (RER: Luxembourg). The Medieval Museum is just North of the Sorbonne, at 6 Place Paul-Painlevé.

    • Luxembourg Gardens is one of Paris' most charming parks. It was constructed by Marie de Medicis in the 15th century and is a wonderful place to stroll. The spring brings dramatic blooms.
       
    • The National Medieval Museum includes a stunning collection of medieval tapestries (including the famed The Lady and the Unicorn) and everyday objects. It also houses a lovely medieval-style aromatic garden. The museum is built atop roman thermal baths, part of which are still visible, and the tepidarium and frigidarium can be visited, often hosting temporary exhibits.

    Next stop: Lunch at Le Balzar

    Directions: Le Balzar is located at 49 Rue des Ecoles, near the Sorbonne.

    • Le Balzar opened in 1898 and was a favorite brasserie among people like Sartre and Camus. The traditional French fare is a solid bet. Reservations recommended: +33(0)1 43 54 13 67

    Read Related: Have Only 1 Day? Take This Paris Self-Guided Tour

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  • 05 of 09

    Classic Paris Day One - Great Monuments and Museums Leg

    View of Arc de Triomphe during the day, Paris
    ••• Arc de Triomphe. Jodie Griggs/Getty Images

    Your next stop on the tour is the sublime Notre-Dame Cathedral. 

    Walking directions: From Le Balzar, take Blvd. St. Michel north; cross the Seine river, and turn right on Quai du Marche Neuf until you reach Notre Dame.

    By bus: Walk to Blvd. Saint Michel and take the 38 or 62 bus north; get off at "Cité". Walk down Quai du Marché Neuf to Notre Dame.

    Next stop: The Louvre or Musée d'Orsay

    To get from Notre Dame to the Louvre, walk back across the Seine toward Saint-Michel, and take bus 27 from Quai des Grands Augustins (direction St. Lazare). Get off at Quai du Louvre; the museum entrance is just northwest of the stop.

    To get to the Musee d'Orsay: Take the RER C at Saint-Michel; direction...MORE St.-Quentin-en-Yvelines. Get off at Musée d'Orsay.

    Next stop: Champs-Elysees and Arc du Triomphe

    Directions: From the Louvre, take metro line 1 to Champs-Elysees-Clemenceau. From Orsay, Take bus #73, direction "Place de Belgique" to Champs-Elysees Clemenceau.

    • The Champs-Elysees is Paris' most famous avenue. Walking down the majestic, wide avenue is always a thrill.
    • The Arc du Triomphe crowns the "Champs" at the west end. Emperor Napoleon's tribute to himself features elaborate sculptures and affords great views of the city.
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  • 06 of 09

    Classic Paris Day One - Eiffel Tower, Dinner, and Boat Tour of the Seine

    Sunset over Eiffel tower in Paris
    ••• Kiszon Pascal/Getty Images

    Your next stop is the Eiffel Tower. 

    Directions: From the Arc du Triomphe, take metro line 6, direction "Nation", to Bir-Hakeim. Walk to Champs de Mars/Tour Eiffel through the underground tunnel.

    Next stop: Dinner at Eiffel Tower Restaurants or Cafe de L'Alma

    Directions:

    • Several Eiffel Tower Restaurants ensure you won't get hungry while visiting the famous tower. Make sure to reserve several weeks to months ahead of your trip to ensure you get a table, as these gastronomic spots are highly solicited.
       
    • To get to the Cafe de l'Alma, take bus line 42 from the "Tour Eiffel" stop, direction Gare...MORE du Nord. Get off at the "Bosquet-Rapp" stop.
      Address: 5 Avenue Rapp
      Telephone: 33 (0)1 45 51 56 74
      Reservations are recommended

      The Café de l'Alma was once a traditional Paris-style brasserie and a hangout of stars. It was recently renovated and is considered a good, middle-range spot for traditional French and fusion cuisine.

    Next stop: Bateaux Mouches Paris Boat Tour

    From the Eiffel Tower, walk 5 minutes to the "Pont d'Iena" bus stop. Take bus #72, direction "Hotel de Ville", get off at "Alma Marceau". Walk to the Bateaux-Mouches dock on Port de la Conference (2-minute walk).
    From the Cafe de l'Alma, walk north down Avenue Rapp, cross the Pont de l'Alma; turn right onto Port de la Conference.

    • What could be more enchanting than an evening boat tour of the Seine river? Bateaux Mouches is Paris' most well-known tour.
      In high season, cruises run every 30 mns. until 11:00 p.m.
      In low season, the last cruise is at 9:00 p.m.
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  • 07 of 09

    Dynamic Paris Day Two - Breakfast, Marais Walking Tour, and the Centre Pompidou

    The Centre Georges Pompidou and its virtual bones and blood vessels.
    ••• The Centre Georges Pompidou and its virtual bones and blood vessels. Ashley Byock

    To start off day two, you'll first have some breakfast to fuel up. A decent choice in the area you'll be exploring is Aux Delices de Manon.

    Directions: Take Metro line 1 to the Saint-Paul stop.
    The bakery is located at 129, Rue Saint-Antoine. Buy some buttery morning treats and you're set.
    Tel: 33 (0)1 42 72 32 91

    Next up: Marais Walking Tour

    From the bakery, walk south down Rue Saint-Antoine; turn left on Rue de Fourcy. The street turns into Rue des Nonnains des Hyères. To your left, you'll see a majestic medieval residence, the Hôtel de Sens. The Marais walking tour begins here.

    • On this tour of one of Paris' oldest and most intriguing neighborhoods, you'll see the city's medieval roots, explore quiet passageways and grand squares, admire Parisian mansions or hotels particuliers, and see Paris' lively historic Jewish quarter, where gastronomic treats call from all corners.

    Next stop: Beaubourg and the Centre Pompidou

    From Rue de...MORE Rosiers, turn left on Rue Vieille du Temple, then a right on Rue Sainte-Croix de la Bretonnerie. Walk 5-10 minutes; cross Rue Saint-Bernard; walk onto Rue Saint-Merri. To your right, you'll see an imposing, brightly-colored building--this is the Centre Georges Pompidou, which houses a cultural center and modern art museum. You are now in the central neighborhood known as "Beaubourg", the heart of Paris cultural life.

    Read Related: Have Only 1 Day? Take This Paris Self-Guided Tour

    Things to see & do around Beaubourg:

    Stravinsky Fountain: This fountain on Rue Saint-Merri is one of Paris' oddest sculptures. Niki de Saint Phalle's "dancing sculptures" of animals and objects were designed as a tribute to Russian composer Stravinsky.

    Try exploring Beaubourg's quirky streets: Rue Saint-Martin or Rue Quincampoix. Art galleries and vintage shops abound.

    Visit the National Museum of Modern Art's stunning collection at the Centre Pompidou. Works by Picasso, Modigliani, and other modern masters await. The center also has a cafe, art bookshop, cinema, and public library to explore.​

    Read Related: Have Only 1 Day? Take This Paris Self-Guided Tour

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  • 08 of 09

    Dynamic Paris Day Two - Lunch, Canal Saint-Martin, and Belleville

    Summer time on the Canal Saint-Martin
    ••• Summer time on the Canal Saint-Martin. Loic Lagarde/Getty Images

    Next Stop: Lunch at Chez Georges or La Quincambosse

    Directions:

    • Chez Georges Restaurant is on the top floor of the Centre Georges Pompidou. (Tel: +33(0)144 784 799.) The restaurant is a favorite among jetsetters, particularly for its sleek architecture and prime views of the city. Reservations highly recommended.
       
    • La Quincambosse is a simple family restaurant serving quiches, salads, or classics with an eclectic spin, with dishes such as pork roasted with honey. From the Centre Pompidou, walk two blocks west; the second street parallel to the Center is Rue Quincampoix.
      13 Rue Quincampoix - Tel: 33 (0)1 42 78 68 48

    Next stop: Canal Saint-Martin neighborhood

    Directions: Take bus #56, direction "Porte de Clignancourt" from the Centre Pompidou stop; get off at Republique. Turn right on Rue Leon Jouhaux, continue until you reach the canal. Turn left at the canal to get to the spots recommended in the Canal Saint-Martin Neighborhood guide.

    • Strolling around the Canal Saint-Martin,...MORE notice that you are in one of Paris' lesser-known neighborhoods. There is real old-village charm commingling with dynamic urban grit here. The area is electrified by the influence of young designers, artists, and musicians who've made the area their stomping grounds.

    Next stop: The Belleville Neighborhood

    Directions: From the canal, walk back to Republique and take metro line 11 to Belleville.

    • Did you manage to catch the wildly original animated film, "The Triplets of Belleville?" It's an oddball story centered around three Parisian sisters who make music with kitchen appliances and subsist on a diet of frogs. Much of it takes place in "populaire" Belleville, a gritty and artistically charged area where artists set up shop and immigrant communities contribute to a cosmopolitan charm.
       
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  • 09 of 09

    Dynamic Paris Day Two - Montmartre Stroll, Dinner, and Paris Cabaret

    Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur
    ••• Brian Lawrence/Getty Images

    Your next stop is hilly, arty Montmartre-- long revered by artists and intellectuals for its inspiring perspectives and quiet niches. 

    Directions: Take metro line 2, "direction Porte Dauphine" from Belleville to Anvers. Walk up Rue Steinkerque until you see an imposing hill with a white basilica atop it-- the infamous Sacre Coeur.

    • The steep cobblestone streets, ivy-covered buildings, and charming cafes of Montmartre are one of the reasons why Paris retains its aura of quirky artistic charm. While many places around Montmartre have become tourist traps, plenty of authentic nooks remain-- and let's face it, the touristy spots are essential, too. Get lost in Montmartre. You won't likely regret it.

    Places to explore:

    Final stop: Dinner and Cabaret at the Moulin Rouge or La Bonne Franquette

    To get to the Moulin Rouge, either take the metro line 2 at Anvers one stop to the Blanche station, or walk from Anvers north down Boulevard de Clichy.
    Address and contact info:
    82 boulevard de Clichy
    Tel: 33 (0) 153.098.282
    Reservations are a must.
    What better way to culminate two days in the city of light than a classic dinner and cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge? Your stroll in Montmartre should have put you in the mood for a Parisian evening like you've dreamed.

    To get to La Bonne Franquette: return to Place de Tertres. The restaurant and cabaret is just behind the plaza, on Rue des Saules.
    Address and contact info:
    Corner of 2 rue des Saules and 18 rue Saint Rustique
    Tel: +33 (0)1.42.52.02.42
    La Bonne Franquette is another Montmartre bistro and cabaret worth spending an evening at.