How To Spend 4 Days In Paris – A First Timer In The City Of Lights
Whether you are a full time backpacker, a city break lover, or simply enjoy the odd luxury holiday, Paris is more than likely on your bucket list and somewhere most people aim to visit during their lifetime.
Living in the southeast of the UK, Paris is but a 45 minute plane journey away, I could even take a train if i so wish. Despite all of this, it took me years to actually visit. But in the end i got there, and boy was i glad i did. Although very much within easy access, I’d put visiting Paris off for so long simply because it was expensive. Instead I opted for cities like Prague or Budapest which are substantially cheaper. Although being an expensive city and something you should prepare yourself for, Paris is unlike anywhere else in the world. It is considered one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and one that will not disappoint.
Here’s how I spent four days in Paris
Where To Stay In Paris
My hotel of choice was the Hotel Eiffel Seine. The hotel itself is pretty small, but has all the amenities you would need for a short stay. This hotel is a good mid-level basic hotel with friendly staff and receives a 4.5 rating on Tripadvisor.
The Hotel Eiffel Seine has really good transit connections, having the Bir Hakeim metro station immediately opposite, while the Champs De Mars station is a 2-minute walk. The Eiffel Tower is a 5-minute walk from the hotel, with lots of major attractions nearby. There are cute relatively affordable cafes just outside the hotel, so make sure to get your morning crepe!
The best part of the hotel? The resident cat in the lobby! FYI he doesn’t like cuddles as I come to discover, but the cat lady in me just couldn’t resist.
I don’t remember how much I paid in total for the hotel as I booked my trip as a package. You can check current prices through Tripadvisor, as a quick search the average is £120 per night, this will differ depending on the time of year you go.
Address: 3 Boulevard de Grenelle, 75015, Paris
With the icon of Paris being so close to our hotel I was very eager to see it…
Yep, you guessed it! The Eiffel Tower. Along with the Statue of Liberty the Eiffel Tower was a big landmark on my must-do-before-i-die bucket list, as it is for millions of other travellers around the world. The Champs De Mars is the most popular spot to get views of the Eiffel tower but there are many more amazing views of the Eiffel Tower you need to check out!
Is it all it’s hyped to be? In my opinion, yes! There are few places in the world that make me stare at them with awe like i am in some sort of fantasy dreamland. The Eiffel Tower was one of them.
Is it worth paying to go to the top? As a first timer i would say yes, simply because if you’ve never done it, you’ll never know. Perhaps if you are returning to Paris you might want to skip the journey to the top, but I found the view of the city from the viewing platform second to none. What a beautiful city Paris is at night! The view allows you to see for miles, it’s astonishing. A lot of traveler’s say it’s a waste of money because you want to have the Eiffel Tower in your photos – which you obviously can’t do while ON the Eiffel Tower. But hey you get something else which is just as magical.
Entry Fee: €10.20 – €25.50
Duration: 1 Hour
Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007, Paris
Get That Insta Shot
If you’ve ever wondered where all those Instagram photos are taken, the Trocadero is your answer! Venture up to the Trocadero for stunning views of the Eiffel Tower. Here you can get the entire tower in your photos without having to crouch down or cut half the tower from the photo.
Entry Fee: Free!
Duration: 1 Hour
Address: Place du Trocadéro, 75016, Paris
Arc De Triomphe De l’Étoile
The Arc De Triomphe sits at the end (or beginning depending on your perspective!) of the Champs Élysées, at the Place Charles De Gaulle.
The Triumphal Arc was inaugurated in 1836 and is a monument dedicated to the soldiers who gave their lives during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars.
You can purchase tickets to climb to the top of the Arc De Triomphe, which will give you panoramic views of the city. I chose to do this nearer to sunset so that we could experience the view at day and night. We watched as the Champs Élysées slowly came to life at night, as one by one the lights turned on.
(Don’t worry guys! there’s an underground walkway that will take you to the Arc De Triomphe so you won’t have to risk your life running through traffic – like I originally thought!)
Entry Fee: €12
Duration: 1 Hour
Address: Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008, Paris
One of the most famous streets in the world, the Avenue du Champs Élysée is filled with designer stores and eateries. Even the McDonalds here is a league above the rest – selling pastries and macarons. This McDonalds comes complete with a security guard on the door – inspecting those bags and making you feel fancy as fuck all while eating a big mac.
While I didn’t do any shopping in Paris, no trip would be complete without a leisurely stroll here. I did peek in the Sephora store and met a nice lady who’d previously lived in London and did my makeup for me. And I visited the famous Laduree – as was expected it was very busy so we planned to come back but sadly never had time.
Duration: Shop ’til you drop!
The Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral is located on the île de la cité in the 4th arrondissement and was built in 1345. This was one of the highlights of my trip and I could not wait to see the Gargoyles at the top. In my opinion going to the top is a must-do, but remember that there are a LOT of stairs and I wouldn’t recommend it for people who are claustrophobic – it’s pretty small up there!
As soon as I entered the Cathedral I felt the urge to burst into a rendition of “The Bells Of Notre Dame” from The Hunchback Of Notre Dame (yes, I’m a Disney nerd!)
Entry Fee: €8.50 (Access to Tower) €6 (Access to Crypts)
Duration: 2-3 Hours
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004, Paris
Wander The Streets Of The Latin Quarter
The latin quarter is an area, located in the 5th and 6th arrondissements of Paris, just across the bridge from the Notre Dame cathedral. This area is known for it’s quaint little cafes and bistros. You’ll also find cheaper souvenir shops here. I never spent too long in the latin quarter and heard good things about the restaurants. While the prices were substantially cheaper than the main area the food was still average.
Duration: 1-2 Hours
Nestled along the banks of the river Seine is the Conciergerie, once part of the Palais de la Cité and formerly a prison during the French Revolution, it was the last prison to hold Marie Antoinette.
This was a really beautiful building to wander through with an interesting history attached. But was it a must do? In my opinion, no. This was included in the Paris Pass so we did it as it was close to the Notre Dame.
Entry Fee: €9
Duration: 1-2 Hours
Address: 2 Boulevard du Palais, 75001, Paris
See The Grandeur Of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was the Royal Residence of France from 1682 to 1789. Famous for being the former residence of Marie Antoinette, the palace is now a UNESCO world heritage site and receives up to 7 million visitors per year.
The Palace of Versailles was a must for my trip to Paris and can be done by booking a tour or a self-guided trip. Usually I book tours for this kind of attraction, as I feel with so much history to learn, a tour guide can tell the story in a more immersive way. However on this visit I decided to do a self guided tour, including getting to the Palace via train.
Once we arrived at the Palace, we were greeted by one of the longest lines I’ve ever seen! We had bad weather on the day we were visiting too, so got stuck outside for a while in the rain. The line in total took around 30 – 40 minutes.
The Palace of Versailles is always going to be busy, but I would recommend buying tickets in advance if you can. You can purchase what is called a “passport” which will be your ticket for the day. There are different tiers available depending on what you’d like to see and can be purchased in advance via the official website.
If visiting between April and October the Palace offers a “musical fountains” option, where you can witness the fountains in all their glory alongside classical music.
How To Get There:
From our hotel, the total journey time was around 40 minutes. A short walk from the Hotel Eiffel Seine is the Champ de Mars RER train station, take the C line direct to “Gare de Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche” station. From here the Palace is a ten minute walk.
Entry Fee: €20
Duration: 4-5 hours
Address: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Get Lost In The Louvre
The Louvre is the most visited museum in the world with over 8 million visitors per year.
Like every other tourist in Paris, I went to the Louvre for it’s most visited painting – The Mona Lisa. My recommendation? See the Mona Lisa first, then spend a few hours exploring the rest of the museum. I think I spent around 20 minutes looking at Mona Lisa, got my photos and then headed to the other rooms.
The Mona Lisa may be one of the top reasons people visit the Louvre, but there are millions of world-class paintings, sculptures and exhibitions right at your fingertips.
Entry Fee: €17.00
Duration: 3-5 Hours
Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris
The Galeries Lafayette is a designer department store, famous for it’s incredibly ornate ceiling, located in the 9th Arrondissement on Haussmann Blvd.
This isn’t a must-do in my opinion but the insta-girl inside me had to see this beautiful store. I’d seen the magnificent ceiling of this store on so many Instagrams and just had to see it for myself. It was just as beautiful as the photos, but if you don’t plan on doing any real shopping here I’d skip it. If you are planning to shop – this store offers so many brands, you could spend hours here.
Entry Fee: Free!
Duration: 30 minutes – unless you plan to shop!
See A Show At The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge first opened it’s doors in 1889 and after the original location was burned down in 1915, a new location was erected in the Paris district of Pigalle in the 18th Arrondissement. It was originally founded by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller and it is best known as the birth place of the can-can dance.
Unfortunately my time in Paris had come to end so I wasn’t able to see a show at the Moulin Rouge but if you’d like to book in advance you can do so through the official website.
Entry Fee: From €87
Duration: 30 mins – 2 Hours
Address: 82, Boulevard of Clichy, 75018, Paris
Let Them Eat Cake (Or Overpriced Bland Food)
Unfortunately I didn’t learn my lesson from Rome last year, and once again gave into the tourist traps. There are SO many cute cafes in Paris, and they are lovely to look at.
So naturally we believe the food will be as good at the place looks, right? Nope.
The nearer to the Eiffel Tower we ate the shittier the food was. I can remember the food from Cafe Champs Des Mars because it was that awful. I remember it for the wrong reasons. I was hangry so anything would have sufficed, but this was terrible.
The cafes just below our hotel weren’t bad, they actually turned out to be the best places we ate at while in Paris. But the food definitely didn’t wow me.
If you want to spend €40 on slop, go to those cute cafes right next door to the Eiffel Tower. If not, please do your research, because my biggest regret from Paris is that I never really experienced authentic Parisian cuisine.
End Your Trip To Paris With A Twinkle
On our last night in Paris, I remembered that I hadn’t taken any photos of the Eiffel Tower at night. So we headed out to the park to take a few. I’d previously read online that the tower twinkles at night, but I’d totally forgotten this information! So when looking up to snap a quick photo, it took me by surprise! Which just made the moment so much more magical.
If you know me, you’ll know I love twinkly lights at night, like fireflies or stars. Something so simple made me stop in my tracks and stare in awe. It gave me goosebumps, and was the perfect way to spend my last night in Paris. I like to think the Eiffel Tower was saying goodbye.
What Did I Learn From My First Trip To Paris?
- four days won’t give you enough time to see everything the city has to offer – but it will allow you to see a good chunk of the city.
- Take time to spend time outside the city centre on a day trip. Some day trips from Paris include Disneyland Paris & Bruges.
- If you are visiting as a citizen of the European Union and you are under 26, you can get into many museums for free! This is pretty amazing and a great way to save some cash.
- Don’t rush, take your time to wander the streets and appreciate the beauty of the city.
- Do your research for places to eat. Paris is full is beautiful cafes, but that doesn’t always mean the food reflects that. I never ate at any restaurants that stood out, and regret not researching beforehand. Don’t give in to the stereotypical Parisian cafes that cater to tourists. The food will not be good!
- Utilise the metro system. Even in French I could figure out out the metro system pretty easily – if you’re used to any cities major metro system you’ll have no trouble figuring it out.
- Always keep valuables in your hotel or close to you when walking around the city. I never witnessed any pickpocketing and never had any trouble with people, but there are lots of scams around the Eiffel Tower and it’s always better to be safe than sorry. When traveling I always bring an over the shoulder small bag big enough for my purse (wallet) and any other essentials. I try to make sure the zip is facing me too and the bag sits on my front rather than the side
- Here are some tips on what not to do in Paris
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What would you do on your first visit to Paris? Do you have any first timer recommendations?
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Great tips, especially regarding researching restaurants. I’m lucky that my husband’s favorite thing is to research the restaurants now… but our honeymoon in Europe was a disaster when it came to food. I wish we could redo that trip sometimes now that he’s learned all those tips. 😉 You got really lucky with your Versailles visit. It looks fairly empty! We went in February and it was definitely more crowded than that!
no way, that’s so funny! I honestly thought it was really busy the day we went to Versailles! I’d love to go back to Paris some day as I feel I’d have such a better understanding of the city now. Thanks for reading!
I have been to Paris many, many times and with my experience, I can safely say you nailed it for a first time trip! Paris is a big city and it can be pretty overwhelming so first timers appreciate the perspective of another first timer!
Thanks Andi! I’d wanted to visit Paris for as long as I could remember, and planning a trip over four days is not easy! As a first timer I wanted to see it all! After having read your posts on Paris, I definitely want to return!