Pack your bags, because Paris is calling your name! Like everyone else in 2023, we decided to take a European Vacation. Our group included my son (13) mother (75) and me (44.) Here’s what we did that we loved + what I’d recommend doing differently if you are planning a trip to Paris!
First, a quick French lesson.
One of our guides told us to learn at least three basic phrases to be more polite in Paris:
- Say Bonjour instead of hey.
- Say Merci instead of thanks.
- Say s’il vous plaît instead of please.
Planning tip: We found that booking experiences through Get Your Guide (a trusted affiliate partner of the GTG) made visiting the attractions a LOT easier. Don’t expect to walk into museums and landmarks and easily purchase tickets. Book as many guided walking tours as you can – it’s absolutely worth skipping the long lines and having a person show you the sights.
Note – I’ve included a lot of video in this post to show you the beautiful landmarks and tours, but also to show you the crowds! I cannot stress this enough: you have to book tickets in advance.
Good news for early diners though: French people must eat late thought because when we were ready for dinner around 6, no place was crowded!
Paris in 4 Days: Itinerary
skip ahead to any of these links
- Paris Day 1: Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe: An Iconic Parisian Experience
- Paris Day 2: Guided tour of Versailles + Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour to see the City Sights
- Paris Day 3: Pantheon, Walking Tour of Notre Dame, Dinner In MontParnasse neighborhood
- Paris Day 4: Eiffel Tower and the Louvre
- London & Paris Travel Guides
Paris Day 1: Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe: An Iconic Parisian Experience
Take a selfie at the Arc de Triomphe, then stroll Champs-Élysées, filled with the most elite fashion brand in the world. Indulge at a French bistro, they all have outdoor seating and a great rosé by the glass.
Discover the Allure of the Champs-Élysées
About the Champs-Élysées: The Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous avenues in the world, known for its allure and beauty. Strolling along this iconic Parisian street, you’ll be surrounded by luxury shops, charming cafes, and magnificent architecture. It is home to some of the world’s most prestigious luxury brands, making it a mecca for fashion enthusiasts. From high-end fashion boutiques like Louis Vuitton, Chanel, and Dior to iconic flagship stores like Sephora and Zara, the Champs-Élysées offers a shopping experience like no other. It’s a must-visit destination to experience the vibrant energy and grandeur of Paris!
Arc de Triomphe
You have to take a selfie in front of this gigantic monument, like everyone else! We did not attempt to cross the busy street to get to the Arc de Tromphe but plenty of people risked their lives to stand in the street for a better selfie. I’m sure there is a pedestrian path to walk but we stayed in the park across the street.
About the Arc de Triomphe: The Arc de Triomphe is an iconic Parisian monument that stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 to honor the French army’s victories during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. However, construction of the arch was halted due to the fall of Napoleon’s regime and was finally completed in 1836 during the reign of King Louis-Philippe. The majestic arch is a symbol of French national pride and a magnificent example of neoclassical architecture. Standing at a height of 50 meters, the Arc de Triomphe offers breathtaking views of the city and is adorned with intricate sculptures and reliefs depicting significant moments in French history. It is a must-visit attraction for anyone exploring the enchanting streets of Paris.
Dinner at a French Bistro
Paris streets are filled with so many charming French bistros! They all have outdoor seating on the sidewalks because Parisians love to smoke. This may be shocking… because food & wine is my focus on this blog, but I did zero research into restaurants to try. Menus are posted on the sidewalks to help you make your pick!
French wine: Every restaurant had rosé on the menu, and I chose the ones from Provence even though I was unfamiliar with the brands. All were excellent! Plus, so many had excellent champagnes by the glass! Santé 🥂
Paris Day 2: Guided tour of Versailles + Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour to see the City Sights
We started the day with a guided tour of Versailles.
We booked both the Versailles guided tour and a 3-day Hop on Hop Off tour on GetYourGuide.com. I cannot reiterate this enough: this app and website makes booking tours and experiences so EASY.
About Versailles: The Palace of Versailles, located in the outskirts of Paris, is a magnificent royal residence that stands as a symbol of absolute monarchy and the grandeur of the French monarchy. Originally a hunting lodge, it was transformed by King Louis XIV in the mid-17th century into a grand palace that would become the center of political power in France.
- When it was built: The construction of the palace began in 1661 and lasted for several decades, with many architects and artists contributing to its design and decoration. The palace is renowned for its opulent architecture, exquisite interiors, and vast landscaped gardens.
- Who lived there: Versailles served as the primary residence of the French kings and queens until the French Revolution in 1789. It witnessed numerous lavish ceremonies, court intrigues, and important historical events. The palace also became a hub of artistic patronage, where renowned artists and architects showcased their work.
- What you’ll see: Today, the Palace of Versailles is a UNESCO World Heritage site and a major tourist attraction. Visitors can explore the opulent state apartments, the royal chapel, and the Queen’s Hamlet, a charming retreat designed for Marie Antoinette. The expansive gardens, with their fountains, sculptures, and meticulously landscaped grounds, offer a peaceful retreat from the bustling city.
Why book a guided tour? Versailles is enormous and overwhelming and filled with thousands of people. Had we attempted this on our own, we would not have had a clue where to go or what we were seeing. Plus, the guide enables you to skip the long lines and go through the separate group entrance.
What to book: We booked the Versailles: Skip-the-Line Tour of Palace with Gardens Access. A knowledgeable guide explains the history and each room as you walk through. 10/10 recommend.
Booking tip: Book the first available time. When we arrived, the lines were much shorter than when we left.
Getting to Versailles: While there are many bus and train options, I didn’t want to attempt to navigate and we took an Uber which dropped us off right at the Get Your Guide office and tour meeting spot. It was about a 30 minute drive, and we spent about $30.
Hop on Hop Off Tour on the Toot Bus
After the tour of Versailles, we hopped on the Hop on Hop off tour and did not hop off. This was an excellent way to see the city and relax, which we needed after marching around the palace. We listened to the entire tour on the top of the bus, taking in the sights.
About the Hop on Hop Off Tour: Embark on a convenient and informative hop-on hop-off bus tour of Paris, where you can explore the iconic sights at your own pace. Sit back and relax as you glide through the city streets, taking in the breathtaking architecture, historic landmarks, and vibrant neighborhoods. With multiple stops along the route, you can easily hop off to immerse yourself in the rich history and culture that Paris has to offer. Don’t forget to capture those picture-perfect moments along the way. Whether you choose to visit the majestic Eiffel Tower, walk the charming streets of Montmartre, or discover the artistic treasures at the Louvre Museum, this bus tour allows you to tailor your itinerary to your interests and make the most of your time in the City of Love. So hop on board and let the sights of Paris unfold before your eyes!
book the HOP ON HOP OFF BUS TOUR
We loved the convenient and informative hop-on hop-off Tootbus tour of Paris, where you can explore the iconic sights at your own pace. We got a 3-day pass to see all of the sights!
Paris Day 3: Pantheon, Walking Tour of Notre Dame, Dinner In MontParnasse neighborhood
We loved exploring the Pantheon! This was the least crowded historic landmark we visited.
Purchase Pantheon Tickets in Advance
About the Pantheon: The Pantheon in Paris is a historic building with a rich cultural and architectural significance. Originally built as a church dedicated to Saint Genevieve, it later became a mausoleum for eminent French citizens. The impressive neoclassical structure features a grand dome, Corinthian columns, and intricate details. Inside, you’ll find the tombs of notable figures including Voltaire, Rousseau, Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo. The Pantheon offers visitors a glimpse into France’s cultural and intellectual heritage, making it a must-visit destination in Paris.
Ticket tip: We purchased our tickets through Get Your Guide, which let us skip the longer line and get immediate entrance. Of all the tours we did on our trip, this was the least crowded. We purchased the audio tour which was an excellent way to learn about the building, the art, and the history.
About the Notre Dame: The Notre Dame is a medieval cathedral located in the heart of Paris, France. It is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture and is known for its elaborate stained glass windows, intricate stone carvings, and towering spire. The construction of Notre Dame began in the 12th century and took almost 200 years to complete. It has served as a symbol of French heritage and Catholic tradition throughout history. The cathedral is also famous for Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” which brought attention to its architectural significance and spurred efforts to restore and preserve it. Today, the Notre Dame is not only a place of worship but also a popular tourist attraction, drawing millions of visitors each year. The Notre Dame is currently closed for repairs due to the devastating 2019 fire, but the hope is it will reopen in time for the Summer Olympics in Paris in 2024.
The Notre Dame is still closed after the devastating fire in 2019, so this is an outdoor walking tour. We loved this – our guide talked about the history of Paris, architecture, cultural highlights, and of course the Notre Dame. Highly recommend! This includes a ticket to see the archaeological crypt of Paris and see the old city’s foundations.
What to Book: Notre Dame Outdoor Walking Tour with Crypt Entry
Dinner at La Coupole
My mom remembered this Art Deco restaurant from a previous visit, and we made reservations for our crew. I LOVED the decor. This dinner was easily the best on our entire trip.
Plus, Louis Roderer champagne by the glass. YAY.
I wish we had explored the neighborhood a little more prior to dinner but it was raining so we did not stroll the streets.
History of Montparnesse: Montparnasse is a vibrant neighborhood in the city of Paris, known for its rich history and artistic heritage. In the early 20th century, Montparnasse became a hub for renowned artists, writers, and intellectuals, such as Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, and Jean-Paul Sartre. Today, it continues to exude an energetic atmosphere, with its charming cafes, art galleries, and the iconic Montparnasse Tower offering breathtaking views of the city.
Paris Day 4: Eiffel Tower and the Louvre
The Eiffel Tower
Start your trip by checking out the mighty Eiffel Tower. I mean, it’s the Eiffel Tower and you need to have at least a few selfies!
Book a GUIDED TOUR OF THE LOUVRE
Ticket tip: We got a regular timed ticket to the Louvre (which were nearly sold out a week in advance!) I wish we had gotten a guided tour because the largest museum in the world is – not surprisingly – overwhelming. I would have loved a guide to answer questions and talk about the artwork and lead us through the museum.