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How to spend two days in Paris

Photo of Mary NovakovichPhoto of Mary Novakovich
By Mary Novakovich

18 November 2023 | Updated 18 November 20235 min read

Aerial view of the Eiffel Tower, the River Seine and the cityscape of Paris on a sunny day

Paris always leaves you wanting more. You could spend a week there and feel as if you’ve only just scratched the surface. So how can you make the most of two days in the capital of France?

Some visitors are happy to run around manically ticking off the major sights; others prefer to drink in Paris’ atmosphere and architecture, and linger over lunch. This 48-hour itinerary offers a bit of both.

Day one

Morning

Start with a coffee and a croissant (or two) at one of the pavement tables at Camille in the heart of the Marais district. If you want to get a quick handle on the fascinating history of Paris, pop into the free-to-enter Musée Carnavalet, which is a one-minute walk away. Alternatively, walk the three minutes it takes to reach the renowned Musée Picasso.

Afternoon

Stroll through the atmospheric streets of the Marais district and browse the independent boutiques. Stop for a light lunch at the artfully rustic Le Voltigeur before strolling for eight minutes to the Centre Pompidou. If you don’t have time to take in its engrossing collection of modern and contemporary art, take the lift to Restaurant Georges and have a coffee on the roof terrace. It’s pricey, but worth it for the sweeping views of Paris.

From here, it’s a ten-minute walk to Rue Montorgueil, one of the most picturesque streets in Paris. It’s lined with old-fashioned food shops and numerous cafés and, if you’re in need of an afternoon pick-me-up, you can buy a delicious pastry from Stohrer at No 51.

At this point, you can hop on the Métro at nearby Etienne Marcel station and arrive half an hour later at Sacré Coeur, where you can take in panoramic views of the city from the elaborate basilica. Wander around the streets of Montmartre, where you might come across the unusual sight of a city vineyard – Clos Montmartre – on Rue des Saules.

Evening

In Montmartre, stop in charming Le Poulbot for mouth-watering French classics such as onion soup and confit duck. Or if you want to head back to the Marais, check out the courtyard garden of Jaja, a lively bistro that knows a thing or two about wine.

For a sunset or late-evening treat, ride the Metro to the Arc de Triomphe, which is open until 10.30pm. Climb to the top for a lofty view of Paris’ twinkling skyline, including a grandstand view of the Eiffel Tower covered in lights. Time your visit to catch the on-the-hour light show that makes the tower sparkle magically.

Night owls who want some late-night, Brazilian-style fun can head over to the Canal Saint-Martin area for cocktails and DJ sets at Favela Chic.

Day two

Morning

Grab a pastry and freshly ground coffee from Noir Coffee Shop in the relative calm of Ile Saint-Louis. Then, cross the Saint-Louis bridge over to Ile de la Cité, towards the Notre-Dame. Before you reach the cathedral, turn left into the park that contains the stark memorial to the French Jews who were deported during the Second World War. While the Notre-Dame remains closed for renovation (due to reopen in December 2024), you can still admire its exquisite gothic exterior, plus see the exhibits detailing the cathedral’s reconstruction.

On the Left Bank of the Seine, look out for the jetty for the Batobus, the boat service that shuttles along the river. A ticket gives you a whole day’s worth of travel. Sit back and enjoy the enchanting riverside aspects of Paris as the boat chugs along to the Eiffel Tower.

Afternoon

For the best chance of seeing the Eiffel Tower without the queues, you need to book a ticket and time slot in advance. If time is short, cross to the Right Bank and take in the splendid view of the tower from the Trocadéro.

Refuel at Chez Francis, a classy bistro just 15 minutes away on foot with its own boast-worthy view of the Eiffel Tower.

Reserve a ticket online to avoid the lines at Musée d’Orsay, about a 30-minute walk. Once you’ve toured this captivating temple to 19th-century art, cross the Seine for a walk through the Tuileries Garden and then gaze upon the giant glass Pyramide opposite the Louvre. (Save this colossal museum for your next visit).

Take the Métro at Concorde to Notre-Dame-des-Champs, a short walk from the Luxembourg Gardens. This green space teams up with a palace to create one of the most relaxing and endearing places in Paris.

Evening

From the gardens you are only a short walk from Les Papilles, a convivial bistro with top-notch food. Take a post-prandial stroll through the buzzing streets of the Latin Quarter past the Sorbonne and towards the imposing Pantheon. You could head to the student bars around Place de la Contrescarpe and Rue Mouffetard, or have a drink at the more grown-up Le Café de la Nouvelle Mairie. There’ll be just enough time for a final moonlight stroll along the Seine.

Top tip: book tickets online in advance for the sights you definitely want to see and save time by avoiding the queues.

Mercure Paris Alésia

  • Paris, France
  • 2 June 2024
  • Room Only
  • From Gatwick

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