Travel guide: Paris in 48 hours
There is no city that is easier to spend time in like Paris. Every street has something different going on and it doesn’t take long before you fall in love with its remarkable landscapes, rich history and astonishing architecture.
Paris is huge and you could easily spend an entire day in each district. With so many great sights, choices have to be made on what to see. Therefore, we picked the spots we enjoyed most from our various visits and gathered all our Paris travel tips in this guide.
- Currency: Euro (EUR)
- Language: French
- Airport: Charles de Gaulle Airport (largest, internation airport) or Orly Airport (smaller airport, mostly serving low-cost airlines), both with decent bus, train and shuttle connections.
- Train: We travelled by Thalys high-speed train from Brussels
We will spend most of our first day on the Northern part of Paris, exploring the heart of Paris including the beautiful Notre Dame cathedral, the famous Champs-Elysées and the world-renowned Louvre and Musée d’Orsay museums.
It’s not hard to spot great architecture in Paris, but the interior of the Garnier opera house is a true gem. Few venues are as impressive as this one and each room will blow you away.
The Palais Garnier is an essential spot to house the many ballet performances in the evening, but taking a tour is equally imposing.
Walk past the Place Vendrôme and continue your walk on the Rue Saint-Honoré. This chic street is Fashion Avenue, having a spot for all luxurious designer stores. If you’re not into Hermes, Armani, Gucci and the likes, I’m sure you will appreciate the unique sport cars that are often parked in front of the stores.
Proceed towards the Elysée Palace, the official residence of the President of France, and find your way towards the famous Champs-Elysées avenue.
The striking tree-lined avenue is one of the most beautiful and best known avenues in the world and its glory and grandeur is seen all around. Despite having become a big commercial area for tourists, it is still worth strolling the gigantic sidewalks while on the lookout for a piece of true French history.
Place de la Concorde
Walk to the end of the Champs-Elysées to explore the majestic Place de la Concorde. This impressive site played an important role in French history. Today, its very recognizable Obelisk and massive fountains make it a place not to be mistaken.
Regardless of where you look, the square offers spectacular views that are all equally picture-worthy. Whether it is the Egyptian Luxor Obelisk in the middle, the Rome-inspired fountains to the sides or the eight stone monuments at the square’s corners, you won’t get bored looking around.
Cross the bridge over the River Seine to walk towards the gorgeous Musée d’Orsay. Housed in the building of a former train station, this is one of our favourite Paris museums. Its rich collection represents anything from paintings to sculptures to photographs and makes it a must-visit if you are into art.
However queues might be long, buying your tickets in advance allows you to enter through a dedicated entrance.
Cross the bridge opposite the Musée d’Orsay and you walk straight into the biggest park of Paris: the Jardin des Tuileries. Its perfectly symmetrical alleyways and excessively decorated fountains and sculptures as well as the many relaxing terraces make this iconic park hugely popular with both tourists and locals.
After walking under the arch at the end of the park, you will immediately spot the glass pyramid that serves as the entrance for the Louvre museum. A visit inside is definitely remarkable, however there are a few things to be considered:
- Queues are long, so get there about 15 minutes before the museum opens. I know it will be early, but you will find yourself much more at ease! Another option is about 2 hours before closing time, but bear in mind the limited time inside.
- When you get inside when the museum opens, go straight for the Mona Lisa. There will be about 20-30 people there so you can get a good view on the painting. Seen her small size, getting up close is definitely handy!
- There is no way you can see everything, unless you spend the entire day inside. If you have time, stroll around to your likings. If you don’t, get a map at the entrance and go for the things that interest you most.
The Notre Dame amazes us each time we see it. Its imposing architecture and incredibly detailed stained glass windows do not go unnoticed. As a result, big lines of people queue up every day to profit from the free admission to see the insides of this amazing cathedral. It is no surprise to us that this is the most visited attraction in Paris, beating even the Eiffel Tower!
As with pretty much any popular attraction in Paris, if you have the time, queue up or come early in the morning to beat the lines. If not, there is plenty to discover on the outside of this stunning architectural masterpiece.
Rue des Rosiers
If time is with you, take a small detour to the Rue des Rossiers. This Jewish neighbourhood is not what it once was, but the picturesque street and its surroundings are still the home for some amazing bakeries and patisiers.
Our personal preference just a street away is Meert, offering high quality biscuits, cakes and chocolate. And trust us, we’re Belgian, we know a thing or two about chocolate! If you could buy only one thing, go for their delicious macarons. It’s heaven in a box.
An evening in Paris
We are big fans of an evening stroll along the banks of the Seine river. Start out around Pont des Arts for some great evening views on the Notre Dame or make your way towards the Pont Alexandre III to have a view on the brightly lid Eiffel Tower. Or just sit down by the side of the river to absorb the glamourous night scene!
If you had enough of the walking, threaten yourself on a night cruise along the Seine! There are plenty of good choices on the side of the Eiffel Tower and Trocadéro!
We were fortunate to stay at the center of Paris, just steps from the Champs Elysées. The trendy boutique hotel Amastan energized us for the day with a delicious breakfast in their lovely garden right before we hit the Paris roads again!
One of the most historic neighbourhoods of Paris cannot be skipped. Granted, it’s a hugely touristic area and you should be on the lookout for scams (especially with the painters, however some are true artists). Regardless, it’s a spot worth visiting.
Just make your way up the cobbled streets to find the beautiful Sacre-Coeur basilica sitting imposingly at the top. When doing so, take the smaller streets to avoid the big crowds and you will be surprised of the beauty Montmartre has to offer!
Arc de Triomphe
From one iconic view to another: take the metro (excellent service and convenient lines!) from Montmartre to the iconic Arc de Triomphe. When you’re in need for a workout, climb the stairs to the top and be rewarded with a spectacular view over Paris.
Special note to the insane roundabout the Arc is located on. This busy junction has about 10 lanes, without any markings. Perfect example that you need some guts to drive a car in Paris!
You could take another metro to go to the Trocadero area, but we prefer walking the little streets while playing hide and seek with the top of the Eiffel Tower that appears now and then above the rooftops. Each street you take, the puddling iron monument becomes bigger and bigger, until it finally shows up.
Regardless of how you get there, you will immediately be rewarded with an excellent viewing spot of the Eiffel Tower. Take your mandatory selfies with this famous landmark and make your way down the beautiful park.
Its glorious fountains make this an even more spectacular experience, however the place also serves as a public plunge pool on hot days (so we found out).
There’s no way you can go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. There’s something magical about standing on the foot of this majestic monument. The way the structure is built gets me intrigued every time I see it, and its perfect symmetry is a dream for my neurotic mind.
If you want to climb the Eiffel Tower, make sure to book your tickets in advance! There is almost no queue in the dedicated line and you will be standing on the top in a heartbeat!
Champ de Mars
Finish of your day by strolling and relaxing in the huge Champ de Mars park, which also gives you yet another great view on the Eiffel Tower!
When at this point you want to spend some cash, stroll back to the Champs-Elysées or go to the more centrally located Le Bon Marché. This big department store is less touristic than others while offering a broad collection of Parisian Designer products. Its café also serves as a vintage record store with great coffee and – more important – an awesome lemon cake!
All our Paris travel tips gathered on the map:
What we liked
- The rich history of the city is present around every corner. Each district has its own story to tell and you simply never get bored!
- Despite its large size, Paris has an excellent metro system which guides you to just about anywhere in the city, without losing too much time.
What we disliked
- If there is one thing that might get on your nerves, it is the large numbers of pushy “vendors” that approach you in hordes at every touristic spot (Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro, Montmartre), trying to sell you little Eiffel Towers, sunglasses, umbrella’s, wristbands (“for free” so to say, but don’t let them fool you) or other souvenirs.