Visit the Major Sights of the French Capital in One Weekend
Paris merits an extended sightseeing trip, but for travelers with limited time, the subway system provides an easy way to see as much as possible in just a few days.
Paris, the city of lights, of romance, of art and culture, is something to experience over the course of several days, weeks, even months. But for those just passing through the city, or with a tight schedule, it is possible–with the purchase of a 3-day card on the Métropolitain, or Métro (subway)–to see many of the sights that make Paris one of the most magical cities in the world. Here is a sample breakdown of three days in and around the French capital.
Day 1: Art, Napoleon, and the Eiffel Tower
The Louvre: File past the Mona Lisa, and view famous sculptures such as the Nike, also known as Victory. The sprawling museum requires more than one day to see absolutely everything, so choose a few key points and focus on them. Museum maps are available at the entrance. The Louvre’s Métro stop is on yellow line 1 or pink line 7.
The Champs-Elysées and the Arc du Triomphe: After hitting the Louvre, head just three stops over on yellow Métro line 1 to the Champs-Elysées. Get a spectacular view of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower in the distance, from the top of Napoleon’s Arc du Triomphe. To make the most of this area of the city, stroll through the gardens off of the Champs-Elysées after enjoying the view from the Arc du Triomphe and browsing the (many) shops along the way.
The Eiffel Tower: No visit to Paris is complete without at least seeing the icon of the city’s skyline, the Tour Eiffel. The view from the top is particularly stunning at night, when it’s easy to see why Paris got one of its nicknames as the City of Lights. Because of the long lines, going to the tower in the evening saves time during the day that can be spent at locations like museums that are closed after a certain hour. Take the yellow C train or light green 6 train to Tour Eiffel or Bir-Hakeim.
Day 2: Churches, More Art, and Other Well-Known Areas of Paris
Sacre Coeur: Climb the steps to this church on a hill overlooking Paris, the site of a scene from the popular 1998 French film Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amelie Poulain. Visit this church during the day (especially if children are along for the trip), as it is located right near Paris’s red light district, home of the infamous Moulin Rouge. This area is slightly out of the way, on blue line 2 near Anvers, but is close to the Gare du Nord (north train station).
Musée d’Orsay: This used to be a train station, as evidenced by the architecture of the main hall. Complete with large clocks reminding travelers that the train was about to leave, and an arched ceiling similar to that at the Gare du Nord, the museum has a bright, airy atmosphere, and is known for its extensive collection of Impressionist art. Accessible from the yellow C line, or from the green 12 line at Solférino or Assemblée Nationale.
Notre Dame: Save this cathedral for the end of the day, because in the evening it is a lovely place to enjoy dinner (and some delicious local wine) at one of the many restaurants nearby. Accessible from several Metropolitain stations and close to the central Chatelet station. Located on the yellow C line, just a stop away from the Musée d’Orsay.
Day 3: The Palace at Versailles
Even with a time crunch, it is possible to get to this famous palace. A ride on a regional train is under an hour. Because it is located outside of the center of Paris, it is necessary to purchase either an extra ticket, or the Métro card package that allows for travel outside the central Paris zones. While the palace itself is exquisite, the gardens are spectacular. Spend the afternoon walking the tree-lined paths dotted with flowers and fountains along the way.
Seeing all of these Paris attractions and more in just one long weekend is definitely doable with a bit of planning, a map of the Métropolitain system, and a lot of energy.