Hi Frugalistas! I still think two days is insufficient time to experience Paris. But I also know that sometimes two days is all you have to visit Paris. It is possible to spend a busy two days in Paris and have an enjoyable, and very Paris time. If you read my one day Paris itinerary, I’m going to amend and expand that one day trip to Paris to make a fabulous two day Paris itinerary. And just like my one day Paris itinerary, I’m including some options for special interests. Here is how to plan your two day trip to Paris:
A two day Paris itinerary
Two days in Paris is still not ideal, but it does give you plenty of time to see some things (or see fewer things in more detail). Importantly, I think, it gives you the option to spend more time walking, enjoying the little details that make Paris special.
Plan a two day Paris itinerary
To make the most of your two day Paris itinerary I do recommend buying a Museum Pass or skip the line tickets to popular sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Ste Chapelle and the Orsay museum. The minimum length Museum Pass you can buy is two days. As this itinerary is based around the part of Paris between the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, I suggest a centrally located hotel as being your best option. There are a number of arrondissements to choose from, but my suggestion would be either the first or second for good transport links and easy walking distances.Compare Paris hotels
Just the same as for my one day Paris itinerary, you do need to think about museum closures and special arrangements. The Louvre and Musée d’Orsay are both free on the first Sunday of the month so they are incredibly busy. If big crowds worry you, you might like to change the order of your itinerary (but the Orsay is closed on Monday). The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. Wednesdays both the Louvre and Ste Chapelle are open until about 9.30pm, so you can either go at a more leisurely pace or fit more in. Similarly, the Orsay is open late on Thursdays, and the Louvre is open late again on Fridays.
Basic itinerary for a two day trip to Paris
My basic two day Paris itinerary builds on my Paris in one day itinerary. But we are going to organise our Paris itinerary in a different order to maximise time at what you have come to see, rather than spending a lot of time going from place to place. Like my one day itinerary we are keeping to a small area of central Paris.
On your Paris two day itinerary you will visit:
- Notre Dame Cathedral;
- Ste Chapelle and the Conciergerie;
- The Latin Quarter;
- The Ile de la Cité;
- The Louvre and Tuileries Gardens;
- The Eiffel Tower;
- Arc de Triomphe;
- Champs Elysées;
- Musée d’Orsay.
Start your trip to Paris on day one with a trip to the Louvre. Early birds will spend some time in the Tuileries garden first, but if the morning is a little nippy or you aren’t so early, leave it to the end of your Louvre visit. Allow about two hours for a basic Louvre visit, but do spend longer if you love art.
Regardless of how long you are staying in Paris, do not spend time doing things just because you think you should. See what you want to see at the Louvre and then leave.
Once you are finished at the Louvre (its boutique is a good place to buy some lovely gifts or souvenirs if you are happy to walk with them for the rest of the day), head east along the Seine (away from the Tuileries) until you reach the Pont Neuf, the old stone bridge that will be on your right.
Cross the bridge, admiring the view back to the west, to reach the Ile de la Cité.
As you reach the island, turn left off the bridge and hug the river bank until you reach the Blvd du Palais (there is a clock on the wall of the building if you look upwards).
Your first port of call on the Ile de la Cité is the rather spartan Conciergerie (entrance is free with your Museum Pass). Best known as a prison during the French Revolution (“home” to Marie Antoinette) it dates back to Medieval times. Head through the empty Medieval hall to the prison museum, which is quite interesting.
Outside the Conciergerie turn right and follow the queue to reach one of the stars of your itinerary, the stunning Gothic church, Ste Chapelle. You will need to queue for security even with a Museum Pass, but you can bypass the second queue to buy tickets with a Museum Pass, or skip the line pass.Buy Ste Chapelle skip the line tickets here
St Chapelle is a two storey jewel, so don’t be in a rush to your next destination. Put the camera away, and enjoy one of the most stunning sites in Paris.
At this point it’s tempting to head directly to Notre Dame, but I’m suggesting you give the indoors a miss for a while and enjoy a walk into the Latin Quarter.
Now, I must admit, the Latin Quarter is not my favorite part of Paris, but the architecture is interesting, and there are some places that I do think are well worth your time.
Before we head into the Latin Quarter there are some places that I do not believe are worth taking a detour to. Firstly, Boulevard St Michel is touristy and also vaguely tacky. While the word Sorbonne may sound romantic, there’s little to actually see when you get there. The Pantheon may look impressive from the outside but in reality it’s a place full of old dead Frenchmen.
I know it’s inside, but if you love the Middle Ages or tapestries, the Cluny Museum is well worth visiting. (It’s just off the corner of Boulevard St Germain & Boulevard St Michel). NB: the Cluny is closed for renovations until late 2018.
It must be lunchtime by now (and a late lunch at that), so bypass the tourist places and takeaways around Boulevard St Michel and the riverside and enjoy a walk down some quiet Latin Quarter streets to rue Mouffetard. Rue Mouffetard is one of the great Paris market streets. There are also a number of restaurants with excellent lunch deals.
After lunch, wander back towards the river, but stay on the Left Bank side to visit Shakespeare & Co bookshop.
Buy your Paris map now
frugal first class travel tip: a good Paris map is essential for visiting the Latin Quarter. The best streets to walk along and enjoy are away from the main boulevards.
Now it’s time to visit Notre Dame Cathedral. The Cathedral forecourt will be quite busy at this time of the day so do pay close attention to your belongings. The Cathedral itself is free to enter, however, there is a fee should you wish to climb the Tower.
Before you finish your first day in Paris, it’s time to head along the Seine to the Eiffel Tower. From Notre Dame it’s possible to take the Batobus (one of the companies offering boat tours along the Seine) down to the Eiffel Tower. This is a relaxing way to see the city, and is one of my favorite things to do in Paris with kids.
The Eiffel Tower is always busy and these days security is tight so booking a skip the line ticket in advance is essential.
If you want to enjoy a drink or dinner before going back to your hotel, I suggest the rue St Dominique/rue Cler neighbourhood right near the Eiffel Tower. Rick Steves’ Paris guides are particularly good for well priced eating options in this part of Paris:
I hope you’re not tired after your first day, because there’s still lots to do on your second day in Paris. So let’s get into it and start with the Champs Elysées.
While you can start our morning walk at the Arc de Triomphe, I recommend you start at the Place de la Concorde where the Champs Elysées starts.
Before you leave the Place de la Concorde, take a peak inside the newly re-opened Hotel Crillon. After a four year renovation it is recently reopened (and I’m dying to visit on my next trip to Paris.) Even if you can’t afford to stay there, and really, who can, anyone can pop in and have a look.
Now it’s time to explore the Champs Elysées. Again, it’s another part of Paris that is not my favorite, but there are some gems if you know where to look.
Head down the left hand side of the Champs Elysées where the Grand and Petit Palais are at Ave Winston Churchill. The free exhibitions are nothing to get terribly excited about, but their architecture is interesting and quite well known. The Grand Palais often has fascinating paid exhibitions – I once went to a Marie Antoinette exhibition there for example. If there is something on that interests you, you do have time to visit.
Continue heading down the left hand side of the street, where you will pass the Renault car sale rooms, which some guidebooks think is of interest…..
Far more interesting to me is Ladurée at number 75. While I know you are on tight schedule, and possibly on a tight budget, do stop here for a little sugar fix. A coffee, a little cake and a box of their famous macarons for later is well worth planning the time and money for.
It’s only a short walk from Ladurée to the flagship Louis Vuitton store. It covers a number of floors and is always busy, but still, it is free to look…….
Then finally, it’s onto the Arc de Triomphe. You can visit the Arc de Triomphe and you can even climb it. Do not attempt to cross the traffic of the place d’Etoile where the Arc is situated. It is crazy, and you will either be involved in, or cause, an accident. Instead, there is a pedestrian underpass on the right hand side of the Champs Elysées just near the Charles de Gaulle-Etoile metro entrance. That is also a good spot to photograph the Arch.
When you have finished at the Arc de Triomphe stay on this side of the street and head down back towards the Place de la Concorde. The historic Guerlain flagship store and Arcades Mall are just opposite the Renault show room.
Now cross the road again, and continue back towards the Place de la Concorde until you reach Ave Montaigne (just near the entrance to the Franklin D. Roosevelt metro). Turn down Ave Montaigne to enjoy one of the most extraordinary streets in Paris. It’s terribly posh and home to all, and I mean all the big fashion names. It’s also home to the swanky Hotel Plaza Athenée (a good spot for a little sit down and a very expensive cup of coffee). For car lovers, you can play spot the expensive car. Make sure you stop and look at the Christian Dior boutique – it usually has the most amazing window displays.
At the top of Ave Montaigne, cross the Seine to go to the Musée d’Orsay.
You need a skip the line ticket for the Musée d’Orsay. The entrance for skip the line ticket holders is at the right hand side of the entrance building at Entrance C.
The Musée d’Orsay is smaller than the Louvre, but there is still so much to see. If you don’t want to spend too much time inside, head upstairs to the blockbuster Renoirs, Monets and Degas. From here you can also enjoy some lovely views back over Paris. For more info on what to see at the Musée d’Orsay you can read my detailed Musée d’Orsay private tour here.
On a two day Paris visit there’s time for a spot of shopping. To minimise your traveling time, and maximise your shopping time I’m suggesting you stay local and either walk or take the metro two stops from the Orsay down to the fun and fancy department store Le Bon Marché (metro is Sévres Babylone). There are two buildings to the Bon Marché – the main building housing fashion and general department store stock and the next door Grand Epicerie, which is an amazing food hall. Even if you aren’t into shopping, the main building has amazing architecture that is well worth checking out.
So what to buy? Well, it obviously depends on your taste and budget. Little patisseries or sandwiches can be had for a few Euros (there is a pretty little garden at the Metro entrance where you can sit to eat). The main building has the most wonderful stationery department, with gorgeous notebooks and all sorts of other goodies. There are also beautiful French table and bed linens. And then of course there are the clothes. Scarves, ties and hosiery are very French and not necessarily expensive. The lingerie department is very, very good, but I have found the service a bit hit and miss over the years.
The best Paris two day itinerary with children
Follow on my Paris one day itinerary with children with a second day that is also kid friendly. Rather than walking down to the Arc de Triomphe, take the metro to the Arc. Then do take a trip up it to watch the crazy traffic.
I would then do a short tour of the Musée d’Orsay, focussing on the top floor so little people don’t lose interest. On the top floor make sure you check out the giant clock face that you can look out.
I’m going to suggest you stay on the Left Bank for the remainder of your day. After the Orsay, your next port of call is a crazy shop called Deyrolle at 46 rue du Bac (just near the rue du Bac metro). The last time I was there the ground floor was a somewhat non-kid friendly gardening shop, but it’s definitely upstairs where the good stuff is. Head up the spiral staircase to see every animal you can imagine – taxidermied. Kids love this shop, and no, it’s not at all gruesome.
After Deyrolle, I’m suggesting two options – a visit to the Military Museum at the Invalides, or a fun run around in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Two day Paris itinerary for the art lover
Art lovers can trim back their Latin Quarter walk to make sure they have plenty of time to enjoy the Cluny Museum on the first day.
On the second day, don’t walk from the Arc de Triomphe to the Orsay, but take the metro to the Quai Branly for what is possibly the world’s best collection of African, Polynesian and Asian art. Then tackle the Orsay in the afternoon.
While I appreciate this itinerary doesn’t tackle the Pompidou or Picasso Museums, it does still give you a good overview of Paris, while still enjoying wonderful, world class art.
Two day Paris itinerary for the garden lover
Garden lovers will spend less time inside the Museums and will make time for a visit to Luxembourg Gardens.
On a two day itinerary including Giverny, I would do my first day of this itinerary, then do Giverny on the second day. Catch an early train to Giverny to enjoy the garden without the hordes, then come back to Paris, and take your pick of my day 2 itinerary for the remainder of your day.
Two day Paris itinerary for the food lover
This itinerary works well for the food lover. A stop at Ladurée (or the nearby Fauchon) on the Champs Elysées is a no brainer. Rather than spending time in the main store of Le Bon Marché, enjoy the gorgeous Grand Epicerie food hall. If you happen to be in this part of Paris on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday, shuffle your second day itinerary around to be at the nearby Marché Raspail while it is open between 7.00 and about 2.30pm. The market is on Boulevarde Raspail between rue du Cherche-Midi and rue de Rennes (metro Rennes). On Sunday this market is bio (organic).
On your first day, start the day with a special breakfast at Angelina’s just across from the Louvre and Tuileries.
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