2-Day Best of Paris, France Itinerary

Our 2-day Paris, France itinerary takes you to the most popular things to do in the City of Light, and provides an enjoyable and efficient walking tour through most of the iconic districts. Included are the best art museums, historical monuments, and a few places with great views of Paris.

Note that it’s physically impossible to see all of Paris’ highlights in two days. Even if you literally walk into each of the museums on this list and immediately walk out to “check them off” (not a recommended strategy, for what it’s worth). However, we really try–and these are two morning until nighttime days in Paris that should leave you exhausted but satisfied, having spent the perfect two days in Paris.

If you’re still planning your vacation to France, we’d recommend allocating more time in Paris. For first-time visitors, we would recommend at least 4 days in the city, and ideally 5 days. Even with two full days, this perfect 2-day Paris itinerary is confined to a relatively condensed area of Paris, and doesn’t venture much outside of that, save for Montmartre.

More time is definitely necessary if you also want to visit Versailles, Disneyland Paris, or make a day-trip farther outside the city. We will have 3-day to week-long itineraries very soon, we’re just starting with a shorter itinerary because it’s easy to build these out.

We’d also highly recommend purchasing the 2-day Paris Museum Pass, as you will more than break even using it for this itinerary. You can read our Paris Museum Pass: Is It Worth It? post for more info, but the answer to that question is yes if you’re following our 2-day Paris touring plan here–and that’s true even if you have to skip a couple steps.

The order of these two days can be switched as necessary; we’ve ordered them this way simply because there’s more walking on the first day that will familiarize you with the city, and because it’s the more ‘intense’ day that’ll require fresh legs.

Day 1

Sainte-Chapelle – With Notre-Dame Cathedral likely closed for between 3 and 5 years (our bet is that it reopens in time for the Paris 2024 Summer Olympics), that won’t be an option for any near-term trips to France. The good news is that the lesser-known Sainte-Chapelle is arguably the more awe-inspiring experience, and is located mere steps from Notre Dame.

We suspect this is going to be a pretty common itinerary pivot going forward, and the smaller Sainte-Chapelle is simply not equipped for an influx of crowds. Even previously, we recommended arriving at Sainte-Chapelle right when it opened or shortly before closing, and we’ll double-down on that recommendation now.

Other Museum Pass Options – During your half-hour walk from Sainte-Chapelle to the Rodin Museum (you could take the RER or Metro to cut some time off that, but it’s a lovely walk), there are a few Museum Pass eligible spots you might consider visiting quickly.

Chief among these are Conciergerie and Musée Delacroix, both of which can be pretty quick visits. Of the two, we’d more highly recommend Conciergerie, which was formerly a prison, presently a law court, and is also part of the former royal palace. It’s a pretty and unique space, with fascinating history that can be experienced in relatively short order (if you want).

On the other hand, Musée Delacroix is interesting because it’s the artist’s former apartment and studio, but the exhibit area is very small. It’s not something we’d seek out, but you’ll walk literally right past it, and it’s an easy and interesting way to spend 30 minutes.

Rodin Museum – While we wouldn’t rank Musée Rodin among our top 5 museums in Paris, that’s largely a matter of personal preference; the sculptures are beautiful, but they’re not so much our cup of tea. Nevertheless, the Rodin Museum is highly regarded and beloved by visitors…and also, it’s included in the Paris Museum Pass and you’ll walk right past it.

Our full post about the Rodin Museum offers a variety of info and tips, but the big recommendation is to do the outdoor areas first. This is especially true on a nice autumn or spring day, when the weather makes it more enjoyable to be outdoors. We far preferred these green spaces, and as noted above, there are a number of exquisite works on display outside.

Army Museum – This name may not exactly rouse enthusiasm or curiosity, but this is one of the best museums in Paris. Le Musée de l’Armée offers a fascinating collection of all things war related, and recounts the tumultuous military history of France.

With over 500,000 military artifacts and basically the framework for an entire French History 101 course laid out on placards in the galleries, you could easily spend an entire day here. Our first visit, we ended up spending over 4 hours here and still barely scratching the surface.

Even if have even a passing curiosity about Napoleon, the French Revolution, France’s involvement in the World Wars, or literally any historical events that have shaped contemporary France, the Army Museum is a must-visit. Budget 2 hours here, focus on a specific area or topic, and try not to overshoot.

Petit Palais – Located directly across the street from Grand Palais, we recommend Petit Palais since admission to the permanent collections is free, and getting inside the building is the main goal here. Both were built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition and are fascinating as much for their art as their architecture.

There are some nice pieces in the permanent collections, but what we love about the Petit Palais is its Beaux-Arts architecture, triple arcade, and domed roof. It has a light and airy environment that’s a departure from other art museums in Paris. (It’s an especially nice change of pace after the decidedly dark Army Museum.)

Tuileries Garden – This public garden between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde is popular with tourists and locals alike, probably skewing a bit more towards the latter.

We don’t consider Jardin des Tuileries a “destination” point of interest, but there’s lovely horticulture, views of the adjacent icons, and places to sit. Plus, you’ll stroll right through it en route to your next stop on the itinerary.

Palais Garnier – The opulent Paris Opera House is one of our favorite places in the city. Featuring a medley of architectural styles, the overarching theme of Palais Garnier is lavishness. It’s an architectural gem, and arguably the most extravagant building in a city renowned for its grandiosity.

It’s an odd comparison, but we also view Palais Garnier as a way to experience a slice of Versailles if you’re not making the half-day trip out there. They’re two totally different things, but the impression on visitors is very similar. Note that the Palais Garnier does not accept the Paris Museum Pass and sometimes has inexplicable closures, so check the online schedule day-of before you visit.

Galeries Lafayette ParisAt Christmas, this luxury shopping mall is a must-visit. During the holidays, the beautiful rotunda is adorned with a giant Swarovski Christmas tree that’s suspended in mid-air. The design of the tree changes yearly, with it looking like the above photo a couple of years ago. All other times of year, it’s a lovely mall, but you may feel uncomfortable there.

After Galeries Lafayette, you might consider walking to the Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette Metro Station and taking that to the Palais Royal Musée du Louvre stop. It’s about a 5 minute ride versus a 20 minute walk.

Louvre – In an ideal world, you’re doing this day of the itinerary on an evening when the Louvre is open late. At present, this is Wednesday and Friday, when it’s open until 10 p.m. (Shuffle these two days to achieve that, if necessary.) If not, you’ll very likely have to cut out a stop or two to arrive at the Louvre with enough time to experience a few of its exhibits before it closes at 6 p.m. (on other nights).

Don’t budget more than 3 hours on the Louvre, and don’t go in with any agenda whatsoever. The Mona Lisa is just as disappointing in person as everyone says, and I can’t think of a single exhibit in the museum–even the famed ones–that are actual must-sees. Rather, the highlight of the Louvre is the museum itself, and simply being there. The presentation is phenomenal, so soak that and the museum’s decadent design and architecture up, rather than racing from forgettable exhibit to forgettable exhibit.

Arc de Triomphe – Even if you finish up at the Louvre close to 10 p.m., there’s still time to hop aboard the Metro at Palais Royal Musée du Louvre Station and take the Line 1 to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and walk to the Arc de Triomphe, which is open until 11 p.m. nightly.

Paris is aglow with color and lights during the evenings, and the best way to see this is from the Arc de Triomphe. This is actually our favorite view of the Paris skyline, as it offers the ideal elevation and the view includes the Eiffel Tower, which, for obvious reasons, cannot be attained when you’re in the Eiffel Tower.

Day 2

Morning in Montmartre – Our second day of the itinerary bears striking resemblance to our 1-Day Paris Highlights Itinerary, albeit with a couple stops from that moved to Day 1 here, and other options added.

As with that, we highly recommend getting to Montmartre early to beat the crowds. This won’t save you any times in any lines, but this quaint, art village feels intimate and pleasant early in the morning, and that atmosphere gives way to touristy madness later in the day.

Ideally, you’ll want to take a relaxed stroll up the hill of Montmartre coming from one of the western Metro stations (we recommend Lamarck-Caulaincourt), which is the village’s more charming side. Spend some time wandering side streets, perusing art shops, and perhaps stopping for café au lait and breakfast.

End your morning in Montmartre by visiting the stunning Sacré-Cœur Basilica, which we think is another more than ample substitute for Notre-Dame. After that, you’ll leave for the Latin Quarter via one of the stations to the east. No need to linger on that side of Montmartre.

Pantheon – Rather than returning to Lamarck – Caulaincourt, we’d now recommend seeing a different side of Montmartre by walking to Gare du Nord and taking the RER B to Luxembourg. From there, you’ll walk to the Pantheon.

This is yet another stop that’s included with the Paris Museum Pass, and is a relatively quick visit (if you want it to be). Admittedly, the Pantheon is not among our favorite spots in Paris, but others absolutely love it and it’s worth at least a quick visit.

Latin Quarter & Luxembourg Gardens – As with Montmartre, the Latin Quarter will be overrun with tourists later in the day, so after a quick visit to the Pantheon, make this area your next stop. There are intimate alleyways full of antiques shops, independent booksellers, charming cafes, and it’s all a lot of fun to explore…so long as it’s not wall to wall tourists.

By the time late morning hits and the area starts getting more crowded, escape to Jardin du Luxeumbourg. This formal park and garden rounds out our “Versailles Consolation Duo” for those who don’t make that trip. The Luxembourg Gardens feature detailed statues, vibrant flowers, plenty of water features, and–most importantly–shade and seating. This makes it perfect for a picnic, so stop into a boulangerie for sandwiches and sweets before heading to Jardin du Luxeumbourg.

Musee d’Orsay – This is the top museum in Paris, and arguably the best art museum in the world. Our full Musée d’Orsay post discusses the “why” of this in detail, but suffice to say, this is not to be missed. Even with 2 days in Paris, you’ll want to limit your time here to under 3 hours.

The bulk of that time being spent in the upper Impressionist gallery, which is home to several masterworks by Monet, Renoir, Seurat, Degas, and other key members from the movement, including pieces on display at the Impressionist Exhibitions in Paris. However, be sure to also see the lower level exhibits, which also contain stunning pieces and great variety.

Musée de l’Orangerie – A short walk across the Seine, is the Orangerie Museum. This has a number of works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, but is most famous for being chosen by the impressionist painter Claude Monet as the permanent home for his Water Lilies (Nymphéas) paintings, which are displayed in two large oval rooms.

We love Musee de l’Orangerie, which is small but packs a powerful punch thanks to Water Lilies and a heavy concentration of masterworks in its lower levels. From here, you’ll have a long walk on the banks of the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. Taking the RER between the two is a time-saving option, but we love this scenic Seine stroll, so we’d highly recommend taking the leisurely walk instead of the train.

Eiffel Tower – We disagree with the consensus that recommends doing Eiffel Tower first thing in the morning to beat the crowds. Instead, go shortly before sunset and get a ‘2 for 1’ by experiencing the view during the day and at night. Seeing the City of Light transition from daytime to sunset to dusk to night is an incredible experience that’s worth the elevated crowds.

Our Eiffel Tower: Tips & Mistakes post covers what to do and not do for more thorough planning. Visiting the Eiffel Tower can be frustrating and time-consuming, so you’ll definitely want to avoid common pitfalls and time things so you’re up there for the window between sunset and dusk. After this, we’d recommend culminating your 2 perfect days in Paris with a late night dinner in the area; there are countless options within a few blocks of the Eiffel Tower!

If you’re planning, we recommend starting by consulting our Ultimate Guide to Paris, France to plan all aspects of our vacation. You should also check out our other posts about France for ideas on other places to visit! 

Your Thoughts

What do you think of our 2-Day Perfect Paris Itinerary? What are your must-dos for a single day in the City of Light? Anything on here you’d skip? What about snubs you think are essential? Any thoughts or tips of your own to add? Questions about the itinerary? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts or questions below in the comments!

5 replies
  1. Liz
    Liz says:

    My favourite thing to do in Paris is take the Metro to Montmartre prior to sunset, buy a crepe suzette from one of the street carts, sit on the steps of Montematre and watch the lights of Paris come on. Also at the Louvre I love the Coronation of Napoleon paintings. The fur on his cloak looks so real you feel you could touch it.

    Reply
  2. Marcia
    Marcia says:

    I actually was not disappointed in the Mona Lisa.

    But more importantly, I would not go to the Louvre without being sure to see Winged Victory. She’s simply magnificent.

    Reply
  3. Comfort
    Comfort says:

    Thanks again for these great itineraries. I am looking forward to the 3 and 4 day itineraries.
    Do you think you will do any Loire valley itineraries, or tips on navigation or car rentals etc?
    Thanks again.

    Reply
      • Comfort
        Comfort says:

        Thanks. I am just looking to plan a two week or so France vacation. I always like to see your suggestions and guides first. I was wondering how reasonable it would be to go from the north all the way down south of France in one trip. These itineraries a really a great resource to help me organize.

        Reply

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