A 5-Day Paris Itinerary for First-Timers

For my mom’s 60th birthday last year, my family surprised her with a trip to Paris. My parents had come to Germany a few times at this point to visit me, and together we’d all been to Sweden, but she’d always dreamed of going to Paris. Because she couldn’t plan the trip herself, I wanted to make sure she got to see all the highlights. So as part of her gift, I designed this Paris itinerary for first-timers to the City of the Light.

Look at my momma! Isn’t she cute? (Her name is Lorraine)

5 days in Paris might not feel like a ton of time, but you’d be surprised! This agenda hits the highlights while still leaving time to explore, shop, relax, and most importantly—eat! One last thing to note: I highly recommend getting a Paris Museum Pass for this itinerary.

Read more about why a Paris Museum Pass (not the Paris Pass!) is worth it here.

A 5-Day Paris Itinerary for First-Timers

Getting Around Paris

The first thing you need to know is how to get around. Luckily the Paris metro is pretty straight-forward. The Paris Visite travel pass lets you use all of the public transport networks: the metro, tramway, bus, RER and SNCF Transilien networks. You can purchase a pass for 2, 3, 4, or 5 consecutive days. For this itinerary, get a pass for zones 1-5, which will include transport to and from the airport and Versailles. These can be purchased at any RATP metro station, either at the desk or at the vending machines.

Day 1:

In the Morning: Start the trip off one of the biggest highlights: The Louvre*. Plan for at least 4 hours.

Tips for visiting the Louvre:

  • Go to the pyramids to take photos, but do not use this entrance, as it’s likely to be packed. Use the entrance of Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre metro station (on line 1), or the one at the 99, Rivoli Street by the Carousel du Louvre.
  • Try to see the Mona Lisa as early in your visit as possible, as it gets really crowded around her.
  • Don’t miss the Apollo Gallery, which has an ornately painted ceiling

In the Afternoon: Walk through Jardin des Tuileries. At the far end, stop at the Museum of the Orangery*, which is famous for Monet’s water lily murals. Walk across Place de la Concorde to explore the stores lining both sides of Champs-Élysées.

In the Evening: Head towards the Eiffel Tower. Arrive around the hour mark to watch the light show. It lasts for 5 minutes, so make sure you’re in place!) Then walk towards the Seine and the Bateaux Parisiennes for a River Cruise.

The river cruises depart every hour. A ticket allows you to come at the time of your choice, from 10:30 to 22h (except at 13h and 19h30, where there’s no departure). Departure subject to a minimum of 10 participants)

Dinner Recommendation around the Eiffel

Day 2:

In the Morning: Take the M10 to La Motte-Picquet – Grenelle station. Get out and walk along Avenue La Motte-Picquet until it turns into Place Joffre (5 minutes). Walk through the gardens for views of the Eiffel Tower. When finished admiring the tower, cross the Seine to the Jardins de Trocadero to take photos.

In the Afternoon: Take the M6 from Trocadero to the Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. Visit the Arc de Triomphe* and go to the top. I prefer this view to that of the Eiffel, since you can actually see the Eiffel from the top of the Arc.

In the Evening: Take the M2 from Charles de Gaulle – Étoile to Blanche. Stop by the Moulin Rouge (will be lit up as soon as it gets dark). Stop at Lux Bar for a coffee or glass of wine. In the mood for a show? Check out the recommendations below.

Paris Cabaret Recommendations:

  • Moulin Rouge
  • Lido
  • Crazy Horse

Day 3

In the Morning: Visit Eglise Saint-Sulpice. It’s one of the churches on the “Rose Line” from The DaVinci Code and the second-largest cathedral in Paris.

In the Afternoon: Take M12 back into the heart of Paris Visit the Musee D’Orsay*. Plan for 3-4 hours. The upstairs galleries have Art Deco furniture (my favorite!) and wonderful views of Sacré-Cœur. There is also a nice cafe / restaurant at the top floor.

Don’t Miss D’Orsay

  • Van Gogh’s “Self-Portrait” and “Starry Night”
  • Monet’s “Blue Waterlilies” and “Poppy Field”
  • Whistler’s “Mother”
  • Pompon’s “Polar Bear”
  • Gauguin’s “Tahitian Women”
  • The Photography Gallery

In the Evening: Take the M4 to Château Rouge. Wander around the base of Montmartre, then take the tram or the stairs to the top. Snag a seat on the stairs to watch the sun set. Then visit the Sacré-Cœur and go inside. If you walk around the corner to the left of the Sacré-Cœur, there’s an ideal spot to watch the Eiffel do its glitzy dance on the hour. Grab dinner before heading back to your hotel.

Dinner Recommendations:

  • Le Babalou (Italian pizza restaurant)
  • La Balançoire (French) 
  • Le Miroir (French) 
  • La Table D’Eugène (French) 

Day 4

Day trip to Versailles! While it may be tricky to fit a day trip into a shorter Paris itinerary, 5 days Take the RER C line to get to Versailles Château-Rive Gauche. Train takes about 45 minutes, and from the “Versailles Château-Rive Gauche” RER station to the Château de Versailles, you will have to walk for about 15 minutes.

In the Morning: Aim to arrive at 9 am to beat the crowds! Visit Palace of Versailles (3-4 hours for castle + 1 hour to walk through the gardens)

In the Afternoon: Walk 15 mins to the Halles Notre-Dame food market for lunch. Explore the city of Versailles. You can even rent bikes, if you prefer to get around a little faster.

Don’t miss Versailles:

  • Royal Opera of Versailles
  • Versailles Cathedral
  • Notre-Dame de Versailles
  • Christmas market Versailles (if that’s the time of year)

In the Evening: Take the train back to Paris. Relax or explore.

Day 5

In the Morning: Head in the direction of the Notre-Dame. Stop at Shakespeare and Co. to see the first (and most famous) English bookstore in Paris. Leave a note on the famous walls.

Do the Notre-Dame Tour*. Then walk 6 minutes to the nearby Saint-Chappelle* and visit the cathedral. Grab lunch around the Île de la Cité.

Lunch Options:

  • Le Quasimodo Notre Dame (French)
  • Au Vieux Paris d’Arcole (French)
  • Sur le Pouce (Sandwiches / Casual)

In the Afternoon: Check out the Crypte archéologique de l’île de la Cité*—a museum near the Notre-Dame with archaelogical and architectural ruins.

Afterwards, head to the Pantheon*. Many famous French men and women are buried here including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.

In the Evening: It’s your last night in Paris! No Paris itinerary would be complete without a designated “Treat yourself” night.

“Treat Yourself” Paris Dinner Recommendations:

  • Le Relais de l’Entrecôte (steakhouse)
  • Le Chalet du 8ème (crepes)
  • Le Corner (French)

Want more ideas to pad your Paris itinerary? I asked travel bloggers for their favorite Paris recommendations. Read them here!