If you only have two days in Paris, you may be wondering how to maximize your time so you can see as much as possible without being in a constant mad rush. Indeed planning what to see in Paris in 2 days can be challenging: the city offers so much the big problem visitors have is deciding what not to see, rather than the other way round.
However, the good news is that Paris has an excellent public transport system so while you will have to prioritize attractions, you can also cover a lot of ground quickly.
Out of the many ways I can think of to spend two perfect days in Paris, I am sharing to day the itinerary we followed during our last weekend in the city.
How to see Paris in 2 days
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How to use this itinerary
Paris is a city I know well. I have been to Paris many times as a student, on a girls’ weekend getaway, and on a romantic weekend. This itinerary is therefore a mix between some of Paris main landmarks and some slightly off the beaten path locations which I wanted to explore or enjoyed revisiting.
I believe this is a good 2 day itinerary to see Paris for the first time but also suitable for people who may want to get a taste of several parts of Paris in a short amount of time.
The main itinerary follows our footsteps but at the end of the post you will find alternatives to suit different tastes and travel style.
How to get around Paris for the weekend
We are great walkers and large parts of this itinerary we simply covered on foot. Whenever that was not possible, we used the metro and the RER, the train systems criss-crossing the city.
In particular, we found ourselves using the metro twice on the first day and three times on the second, so we used single tickets for each ride.
If you don’t like to walk as much or if the weather is against you, you may want to instead buy a carnet of 10 tickets, which gets convenient if you are using the metro extensively or if, like us, you have more than one person in your party.
Each ticket is individual so you can buy a carnet of 10 and share. You can find official info on Paris public transportation here.
Paris day 1: Latin quarter, Notre Dame, Tour Eiffel
We spent our first day in Paris visiting some of the city’s most famous landmarks and areas.
Jardin de Luxembourg
Our first stop of the day was in the gorgeous Luxembourg gardens.
Located right in the heart of Paris’ left bank, the gardens are a pleasure to visit thanks to their beautiful tree lined pathways, perfect to escape the city busy streets, and the beautiful Palais du Luxembourg.
Here you can take a stroll, rest in the sun on one of the many park benches and chairs available or you can join the crowds watching the mini sailing boats taking to the waters in the large park fountain.
The park is popular with Parisians and visitors alike and a delight in good weather.
If you are visiting Paris with kids this is likely to be one of their favourite places of all, but adults should come as well.
Coffee stands make it also a good stop for a caffeine fix in the sun, if you are so inclined.
The Pantheon, La Sorbonne and the Latin quarter
After the park we took a short stroll to the Pantheon, just a few minutes up the road.
Pantheon and la Sorbonne
The Pantheon is a famous landmark in Paris and one I believe it is worth seeing, at least from the outside.
Originally built as a church, the Pantheon has an impressive facade surmounted by a large dome and, inside, operates as a mausoleum with tombs of illustrious French citizens.
The visit doesn’t take long and you often find exhibitions here that make for a worthy stop.
In the same area you have several of the buildings making up the large complex of La Sorbonne university, which are also impressive and always teeming with students.
La Sorbonne can only be visited with an organised tour with advance booking, but is interesting to see even just form the outside thanks to the great atmosphere of the area.
Place de la Contrescarpe
This area of Paris is part of the famous Latin Quarter and has a wonderful intellectual atmosphere as well as a vibrant coffee scene.
My favourite way to visit the Latin Quarter is to get lost among its many meandering roads. However, I had a bit of a plan and headed straight to one of my favourite bits of Paris: Place de la Contrescarpe and the Jardin des Plants.
I know this area of Paris well, since this is where I lived when I spent a full summer in the city, and I find it one of the best neighbourood in Paris for a lazy stroll.
In place de la contrescarpe you have plenty of cafes and bars, filling the square with people pretty much at all times of day and night and lots of literary connections.
Balzac used to live in this area and so did Hemingway, although at their times the areas was way less gentrified than now and had no doubt and very different feel!
After Place de la Contrescarpe, we tool a walk down dusty Rue Mouffetard, full of bric-a-brac shops and restaurants, and ended up in the Jardin des plantes, nearby.
Jardin de plantes
The jardin des plants is a lovely Parisian garden famous for having the city’s natural history museum, a zoo and a collection of exotic plants (as the name suggests, this is the city’s botanical garden).
The garden is lovely to explore both if you have kids or you want a brake form the sidewalk cafes and their crowd and has some really cute corners.
My favourite where the Alpine garden, filled with interesting species and crossed by a meandering path, and the so called ‘Dodo carousel’, a vintage carousel with rides in the shape of extinct animals!
Arene de Lutece
A couple of minutes down the road from the jardin des plants sits an ancient Roman amphitheater, the ‘Lutetia’s arena’. Lutetia is the ancient name of Paris and this is one of the locations in the city that bears witness to the Roman presence in this area.
The arena is not particularly impressive (It is by no means the Colosseum!) but it is interesting to see and sits in a pleasant garden which again, proved invaluable after our long walk.
Institute du Monde Arabe
A few more minutes down the road we came to the other place I had identified as a must see during our Paris weekend: the Institute du Monde Arabe (Arabic World Cultural Centre).
The institute is a large , impressive building sitting on the bank of the river Seine.
The first thing you notice when approaching it is its incredible facade, built with windows operating like camera shutters, but the inside is equally as impressive.
The institute has several interesting exhibitions and aims at disseminating knowledge about all the facets of Arab culture to foster understanding and consolidate links between the French and Arabic culture.
The institute is open to the public and draws visitors part because of its interesting exhibitions and part because of its terrace, open to visitors and offering unforgettable views over the city of Paris.
Ile St Luis
Just in front of the institute lies Isle St Luis, the smallest of the Parisian islands on the Seine.
A stroll along its small streets is a must on any Paris itinerary and the charm is guaranteed: we stopped here for lunch and while it is a pretty touristy spot, the views over the river make up for the crowds.
Notre Dame and Shakespeare and Co.
Our next stop was Notre Dame but I have to be honest: we only stopped to marvel at its facade and did not go in.
The main reason for this is that we had already seen the inside on previous occasions and other one was that the line to get in was insane!
It meandered around the square and was moving so slowly it was out of the question to even begin to tackle it.
However the good news is that you can book skip the line tickets so while we were not so inclined, there is a opportunity to visit even if you are short on time.
A similar experience is the one you get at Shakespeare and Co.
We were keen in getting at least a glimpse of this legendary bookshops and printing press and indeed we did: however, our hopes of browsing though the books and explore the famous upstairs rooms were quickly crushed.
The bookshop is very much on the tourist pah and the line to get in was exceptionally long.
We resorted to take a shot of the outside and got on the nearby RER in the direction of the Tour Eiffel
The Eiffel tower
I don’t often include the Eiffel tower in my Paris trips but this time I did and I am delighted with my decision.
While the tower is crowded and the new security measures mean you cannot walk under it like you used to, it is still a sight to behold and always makes an impression.
We took a long stroll around it, got some great photos and made a point of exploring the neighborhood around it.
We discovered a couple of gems: one was a very peculiar building called ‘The right of man’ filled with really weird masonic symbol and the second one is rue de l’universite, which is a small street gifting you with a perfectly framed view of the Eiffel tower.
Drink with a view in Printemps and shopping at the Galerie Lafayette
The last stop of our day included shopping and a drink.
I had read that Printemps, the big department store, had a gorgeous terrace with view over Paris and so we took the metro to check it out.
It turned out to be true: the department store develops over 9 floors and if you go all the way p, you have free access to the terrace overlooking the whole of the city.
We had a drink here and then headed to the nearby Galerie Lafayette for shopping, which were kinder to our wallet!
Dinner near the Louvre
At this point we were very ready for dinner and took a walk to the area of the the Louvre, where we had dinner.
I know better than advising you where to go for dinner in Paris (there are so many places!) but we were delighted with our choice which was an Indonesian restaurant close to the museum.
We topped the day with a stop in a jazz club and drew our first day in Paris to an end.
Day 2 in Paris: Canal st Martin and Montmartre
On our second day in Paris we moved away from main landmarks and decided to explore the area of canal St Martin.
This area is in the North-East of Paris and has grown in popularity in the last few years becoming popular for its many bars, food hangouts, artsy corners and brunch spots.
The main landmark in the area is the canal St Martin which flows slowly in the middle of this neighborhood. Iron and wooden bridges cross the canal and the areas has a nice, local feel, perfect for a lazy stroll on a Sunday morning.
Here we saw people in hipster bars (brunch offerings are aplenty here) but also kids playing soccer on the streets, which made us tap into a side of Paris you forget exists if you only hang out around the large boulevards.
We loved taking out time and simply stroll around this area.
We found the best way to see Canal St Martin was to get off at metro stop Republique and walk up, then follow the water. We particularly enjoyed the St Martin market, nearby, although we liked a little less the brunch price tag: make sure you check the menu before sitting anywhere!
Stroll along hilly Montmarte
I couldn’t possibly craft a 2 days in Paris itinerary without including one of the most charming areas of the whole city, Montmartre.
Sitting on the North of Paris, Montmartre looks over the city from the top of a hill and it is a great place to discover on foot.
We always get off at metro strop Abbesses, worth a photo in itself thanks to its elaborate entrance and then wander in the direction of the Sacre Coeur, the church on top of this area.
What is truly wonderful here is the atmosphere so more than landmarks my suggestion is to just take your time and tackle the small streets.
Things not to miss and easy to come by are Place du Tertre, with its cafes and artists and the view of Paris from outside the Sacre Coeur, the perfect place to say goodbye to Paris before jumping on the metro again and head to the airport.
Other things you can do in Paris in 2 days
Visit a museum
The one big thing missing in this 2 day itinerary are of course Paris museums and the reason is simple: there are so many and about so many different topics I cannot simply pick one to recommend as ‘the best museum in Paris’.
Personally, I believe if this is your first time in Paris you should devote half a day to one of the majour museums such as the Louvre, the centre Pompidou or the Musee D’Orsay.
Make sure you buy skip the line tickets if interested in visiting any of these.
If you are after a smaller space and enjoy sculpture, I love the Musee Rodin near the Eiffel Tower.
Visit le Marais
When I devised this itinerary it was a toss up between Canal St Martin and le Marais. This is a gorgeous area of Paris with amazing architecture (check our Place des Vosges), cafes and museums.
Go to the areas of the grand boulevards
If this is your first time to Paris, consider having a stroll along the most monumental part of the city, the Champs Elysee and the Arc de Triomphe. if you go up the arc in the evening, you can see the many boulevards departing form it and forming the famous ‘etoile‘ fully lit, Paris from above is pretty incredible!
Take a Seine cruise
A typical but fun way to visit Paris is to take a river cruise. Several are available ranging from family friendly tours to full on dinner cruises and they are a great way to see a lot without having to walk. Have a look at some clicking on the links below.
Take a cooking class
Paris weather is unpredictable and it is not unheard pf to find yourself in the city under torrents of rain.
If this happens it can be a god idea to book an indoor activity such as a cooking class. You can choose among the many available including French meal, macaroons and chocolate.
I hope you enjoyed these suggestions for 2 days in Paris. Happy travels!