Paris is one of those cities that captures the imagination. The Louvre. The Eiffel Tower. The Champs-Élysées. Notre Dame (sob).
There’s no question — there’s plenty to do in this massive French city. But how many days do you actually need to spend in Paris?
In my opinion, 3-4 days in Paris is plenty. Why? It’s plenty of time to hit all of the big sights — and more importantly, to wander along the Seine and sip wine in sidewalk cafes.
Because let’s be honest: drinking big fat glass of pinot noir while you people-watch in the Left Bank is the real reason to come to Paris. If you want to wear a striped top and a scarf (a la Audrey Hepburn), more power to you!
Questions to Ask Yourself when Deciding How Long to Stay in Paris
My idea of the perfect Parisian vacation might be different than yours — so as you’re figuring out how may days to spend in Paris, these questions can help:
What is your ideal sightseeing pace?
You know that I think 3-4 days in Paris is the perfect amount of time. However, I might pace my travel differently than you!
Here’s my pace: I like to spend a couple of hours (or less) at a big tourist attraction, and then go outside and just take in the vibe of the city for a while. In Paris, that might be eating a street crepe while people-watching by the Eiffel Tower, or wandering around the Left Bank with a coffee.
Then, I do another tourist thing, and then recover again. At a max, I’ve got about two big attractions in me per day — and only one museum.
If you only like to do one thing a day, or if you’re planning to do a lot of shopping in Paris, you might want a few more days. On the other hand, if you’re a traveler who loves to pack in three museums or historical sites a day, you can do Paris in two days.
Do big cities stress you out?
No matter how romantic the movies make it out to be, Paris is a big, chaotic, dirty city. (Have you read about the air pollution?) If you get stressed out in traffic, or if crowds freak you out, you’ll want to spend fewer days in Paris.
In your case, I’d recommend booking two nights — that way, you can see the big sights and then hightail it out to the gorgeous French countryside. Do you adore cities? Go for it and spend a full week in Paris; there’s certainly plenty to do.
If, like me, you’re somewhere in between, 3-4 days in Paris is the perfect amount. Revel in the fun city energy, and then get out.
There’s one exception: if I needed to spend a week in Paris, I would book an Airbnb in a beautiful neighborhood and avoid the big tourist sights entirely. I’d wander around, go running along the river, eat a ton of macarons — you know, to refuel after the run — and just soak up the Parisian vibe.
How long is your vacation, and do you want to spend it all in Paris?
Is this your first trip to France or Europe? Don’t spend it all in Paris! Spend 2-3 nights in Paris and then move on. London is an easy train ride away. You can hop a cheap flight to anywhere in Europe and be there in 1-3 hours. (Need an idea? Spend a couple of days taking in the ridiculous fjord-style views in gorgeous Kotor, Montenegro.)
Will you be dealing with jet lag?
If you’re coming from the United States, Australia, Asia, Africa, or another far-flung destination, jet lag is a giant pain. Basically, your first day or two in Paris will be a complete wash. You’ll be falling asleep at 4pm and waking up at 2am, ready to go.
When jet lag is a factor, and you have only a week to travel, I’d advise spending 3-4 days in Paris and then heading into the countryside for your remaining nights. Hop a train to Montfort l’Amaury or one of these other beautiful small towns in France. That way, you minimize transit time and maximize your French experience.
Have you been dreaming of Paris your whole life?
You’re not alone! If Paris is your ultimate dream destination, stay 7 days. Hell, stay 10 and really go all in. That gives you more than enough time to soak in the culture and put on a few pounds of delicious, buttery French food.
A longer trip also gives you time to spread out your sightseeing — that way, you’re not plowing through one museum after another. Plus, more time for wine!
What is your budget?
Like other European cities, Paris is not cheap. If you want to save money, you’re better off spending fewer days in Paris. Then, head to another city or book an Airbnb in the country. You’ll get the sense of Paris, but you’ll have more money to spend on macarons. (Priorities.)
What to Do During 3 Days in Paris
If I had three full days to spend in Paris, here’s exactly what I’d do to hit my favorite sights:
Day 1 in Paris
- 8:00 am: Coffee and a pastry while walking to the Louvre
- 9:00 am: Arrive at Louvre right when it opens, spend 2-3 hours there — don’t miss Napoleon’s apartments! They’re my favorite part.
- 12:00 pm: Hang out on a bench in the Jardin de Tuileries (right next to the Louvre) and people watch while my feet recover
- 1:00 – 4:00pm: Walk through the gardens, past the Paris Eye, up the Champs-Élysées to the Arc de Triomphe. Stop for shopping and lunch en route.
- 4:00 pm: Metro back to hotel/Airbnb for a shower/tiny nap/coffee
- 6:00 – 8:00 pm: Out to dinner. Maybe a Seine cruise, but probably not.
- 9:00 pm: Hang out by the Trocadero and watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle (Don’t care if it’s touristy; it is freakin’ magical)
Day 2 in Paris:
- Sleep in/lazy breakfast because I’m tired from Day 1 (#old)
- 10:00 am: Metro or walk to Notre Dame
- 10:30 – 11am: Wander around Notre Dame; it’s closed after the fire, but the exterior is lovely
- 11am – 12pm: Walk to Shakespeare & Company bookstore (my favorite place in Paris!), pretend to be Hemingway
- 12pm – 3pm: Lunch, walk along the Seine, explore the adorable streets in the Left Bank
- 4:00 pm: Metro back to hotel/Airbnb for a shower/ nap/coffee (seeing a pattern?)
- 6:00 – 10:00 pm: Montmartre for dinner, exploring, sitting on the steps of Sacré-Cœur, getting a glass of wine
Day 3 in Paris:
- If I’m feeling energetic: Day trip to Versailles
- If I’m tired: Lazy morning, exploring Le Marais in the afternoon
- If it’s raining: Lazy morning, Musée d’Orsay in the afternoon
- 7:00 – 10:00 pm: Dinner, lots of wine, maybe a Seine cruise — but more likely, back to watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle
That is my ideal trip to Paris. As you can see, I don’t care to spend my time hidden away in museums — I think Paris (or any city, really) is best explored on foot.
I love to wander through new neighborhoods, pop into French bakeries, and browse through the book-selling carts that line the Seine. How many days do you like to spend in Paris?