The Paris To-Do List: 21 Tips For A Short Stay In The City of Lights

Paris, the city of lights, the city of romance. It's is a fantasy destination for millions of travelers each year; from history buffs to fashion trendsetters to creatives. To many, it’s a living museum. But like other international capitals, it pulses and evolves. The storied bakeries, iconic museums, and corner cafés feel anchored in another time while a vibrant, multicultural food scene dominated by young talents, both French and foreign, leans forward. It’s precisely this combination of old and new that makes Paris the perpetually perfect place to visit. So get lost, explore, eat until your tummy hurts, and then do it all over again.

I’m sharing with you a guide with tips and tricks to seeing it all if you’re in town for such a short time. Of course, I have to give a special thanks to my dear friend Julia of Matheson Travel for her fabulous recommendations on this Paris to-do list.

Louvre Museum – spend an hour or two – maybe a morning.

A trip to Paris would be incomplete without seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louve. To get in, you’ll want to get off at the Tuileries metro stop (it’s the one BEFORE Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre stop), OR if you just are walking, head to L’arche du carouselle (the little pink-ish arch in front of the Louvre.) there are little staircases down to the underground level where there is the metro and a whole mall. From that mall you can just walk right into the Louvre, under the glass Pyramids. Other tourists wait in line to get in the pyramids and it takes forever – besides, you can exit up through them to get the effect. (They are cool). Definitely get a map – it’s confusing and huge.

Lock your love and throw away the key on the Pont des Arts in Paris

Lock your love on the Pont des Arts, which is near the Louve.

Head to the Place de la Concorde…

After spending a morning at the Louve you can go in two different directions: head out through the Tuileries to Place de la Concorde.

…All The Way Up The Champs-Élysées for fabulous shopping….

…To the Arc de Triomphe…

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Élysées.

…Then over to Eiffel Tower

A long walk overall- but do-able from the places listed above. And, of course the Eiffel Tower needs no introduction.


…Or head across the Pont Neuf…


Head across the Pont Neuf (oldest bridge in Paris) to Ile de la Cite where Notre Dame de Paris is.

…And See La Conciergerie…


Also on that island is the little museum called La Conciergerie which is actually the prison where they held Marie Antoinette. Probably skippable, but there is also a little tiny church in the same complex called Sainte Chappelle.

Awe at the stained glass windows of Sainte Chappelle…


Sainte Chappelle has unbelievable stained glass windows. This used to be the royal chapel and it is really cool.

Notre Dame is Amazing, too.


Notre Dame de Paris is amazing. The cathedral is widely considered to be one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and among the largest and most well-known church buildings in the world. You should go to the top of the towers, it’s pretty crazy because the steps are teeeny-tiny and you just wind up and up; and when you get to the very top there’s an amazing view.

Wander through Sacre Coeur in Montmartre…


Sacre Coeur is in Montmartre, a neighborhood known for it’s filming of Amelie. This cute, hilly, and artsy neighborhood is close to the metro station Abesses. There is also the cool staircase that is the famous photo opt there next to the funicular.

…Place du Tertre…


Also up there is Place du Tertre which, while touristy, is full of artists & is very cute.

Admire the works of Rodin…


The Musee Rodin is one of my favorite hidden gems in Paris. This great little museum is where you can see Le Penseur (The Thinker) in person. Located on 79 Rue de Varenne, over by Les Invalides.

Les Invalides…


Les Invalides, which is the gorgeous domed building that used to be the military hospital but now houses Napoleon’s Tomb (skip going in). That is all really close to Champs de Mars, the park that runs under Eiffel Tower. Really nice and pretty area., with great restaurants also hidden throughout. (Image credit: Pantchoa)

Picnic Under the Eiffel Tower…


Pick up a few items and have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. This makes for a quintessential photo opt. While wine isn’t allowed (ooops!) we managed to sip on ours incognito, right after it made a cameo for a photo. If you bring a bottle, do this at your own risk! This was handsdown my favorite, and most memorable, part of our stay in Paris.

Oh hey! that's me and gregg on our honeymoon!

Oh hey! that's me and gregg on our honeymoon!

…Or Lunch In The Eiffel Tower…


If you want to have lunch at the Eiffel Tower’s Jules Verne, keep in mind that it is absurdly nice and expensive. Reservations are necessary. But, if you have reservations you’ll be able to skip the line to go to the top of the tower, which can be very, very long.

There are tons of bars and cafes along St. Germain. The most famous are Cafe Flore…


Experiencing its traditional parisian atmosphere with locals and tourists alike, serving a plethora of French-style dishes. It’s a perfect spot for something simple like brunch.

…And Brasserie Lipp


Sartres, Hemingway, Georges Sand and others hung out there. It is a Parisian experience that shall be had.

Around Marais…


Other cool area might be to go to the oldest part of town, called the Marais, and see the Hotel de Ville (city hall), Place Des Voges, and the Picasso museum. Also Centre Pompidu. There are lots of cute restaurants/bars near Centre Pompidu, but it can also be a bit dogy in areas. The Opera and Madeline are cool too, but then again, everything is pretty amazing in Paris.

Between the Sainte Sulpice Church and the Eglise St. Germain.


Suggested favorite areas to wander around are between the Sainte Sulpice church and the Eglise St. Germain – and then the area around the Pantheon – basically the area around Bouv. St Michel, St. Germain, and Rue de Rennes. Rue de Rennes, which links Boulevard Saint Germain to Montparnasse, is jam-packed with shops selling the best of Parisian chic.

The Luxembourg Gardens are so pretty and worth a stop.


the Luxembourg Gardens are down over there too- sooo pretty!

And, lastly, don’t forget to nosh on the delicious macarons.


I’m a huge fan of the delicious macaron, we’ve tried them from everywhere imaginable while in Paris, and Pierre Herme’s macarons are absolutely the best (in my opinion.) They trump those of Laduree. Delicious and original combinations of flavors, and the cost of them is absolutely worth it. I think I would make a trip to those alone.