So you want to see the sights of Paris in 48 hours? No problem!
Sitting in our London flat planning our next move, we were discussing whether or not to go to Paris. We had a house sit coming up in southern France so it seemed logical that we stop in at the City of Light on our way. The thing was, I had already been there three times and although Nathan had not yet experienced the magic of Paris he said that it really wasn’t on his must see list. No doubt he’d been listening to too many tales of high prices and snooty people. Personally I’ve only found one of those things to be true but regardless why spend the extra money if he didn’t care to go?
However, as has happened to me twice before, Paris has a way of pulling you in. We did the research into flights from London to Toulouse and found that flying from Heathrow was not as cheap as we’d hoped. It rang in at about $200 US one way! There were cheaper flights out of Stanstead or Gatwick but as is always the way they weren’t as cheap once you added in the baggage fees and cost of transportation to the airport (something European travelers know well.)
*Tip: The Ryanair type flights are usually only cheaper if you have no checked bags and can get a ride to the further afield airport.
Feeling our budget dwindling we decided to check the prices of train travel. It just so happened that there was amazing deal on the Eurostar from London to Paris at $45 US. The Paris to Cahors leg wasn’t much more at $50 US. Since a luxury hotel in Paris was out of the question we were happy to have a tip from a friend telling us of the Vintage Hostel where we could get a private room for $65US. Suddenly thinking cafes and crepes.
Note: As with any city the location of you accommodation can make or break an experience. Check out this post on best places to stay in Paris before booking.
Still, once we were in Paris we knew the spending would begin so we opted to stay just two nights in an effort to cut costs. This left us with less than 48 hours in Paris to see one of the most famous cities in the world and with so many things to see in Paris it really deserves at least 5 days. This would be a challenge! Since we do love a challenge we geared up to step out of our ‘slow travel’ box and made it a goal to see as much as possible for as little as possible. Take a look at our itinerary, I think you will agree we did a pretty damn good job!
Day 1 of Paris in 48 Hours
- Start time: 1 PM
- Arrive at Gare du Nord at 1pm and walk 10 minutes to the Vintage Hostel
- Check in and drop bags in the small but very nice private room with ensuite
- After grabbing a map from the front desk go to the nearest metro station and purchase a carnet of tickets. *Tip: Save money by purchasing a carnet or 10 rather than individual tickets
- Take the metro to St-Michel Notre-Dame and pay the 8.50 Euro to climb the Notre Dame Cathedral tower and take the obligatory photo of the gargoyle trying to eat the Eiffel Tower
- Walk 5 min over to Sainte Chapelle and wait in line for about 20 minutes wondering if it is really worth the wait and the 8.50 Euro. It is. The small stained glass filled chapel is like nothing else we’ve seen to date.
- Walk south along Blvd St Michel to Palais du Luxemborg for a quick walk around the gardens then backtrack to the Sorbonne and end in the Latin Quarter.
- Explore the winding streets then pick a restaurant for a lovely French meal
*Tip: The Latin Quarter is not only a fun and colorful cluster of streets to explore, it is also a great place for an inexpensive (in Paris terms) meal. We had 3 courses with a glass of wine for 20 Euro each.
- After dinner try one of the nearby bars for a drink and possibly some live music before heading home.
*Tip: Try to catch happy hour, which usually ends at 9pm, where drinks are half price
- End time: 10 PM
- 9 hours, 5 top sights, 45 Euro
Day 2 of Paris in 48 Hours
- Start time 8:30 AM
- Up at 8:30 for the free breakfast at the Vintage Hostel *Note: The hostel is great but the breakfast is just a selection of bread and croissants, coffee, tea and juice.
- Hop on the Metro to Charles de Gaulle Etoille station and visit the Arc de Triomphe. If there’s the time go to the top for a great view of de Champs Elysees for a cost of 8 Euro.
- Back on the Metro to Champs-Elysees-Clemen station.
*Tip: On a nice day with time to spare opt to walk the entire length of the famous avenue and take in the Parisian vibe
- Quick circuit around the Grand Palais then cross de Champs Elysees to the avenue to Ave Marigny turning right onto the prestigious Rue St Honore. *Note: This almost hidden nondescript street is home to several embassies and also super high end label boutiques such as Hermes, Gucci and Prada. You may not be able to shop here but the outrageous fashions in the windows are worth the walk by.
- Cut back to de Champs Elysees at Rue Royale and come out at the Place de la Concorde then continue on through the Jardin des Tuileries.
- The famous Louvre was next on our agenda and by this time it was a nasty mix of snow and ice rain and there was a massive line up at the pyramid entrance.
*Tip: If you haven’t pre bought your tickets look for a less known entrance. Before reaching the pyramid entrance you will come to an arch. Either side of the arch are columns below which are stairs going down to the underground entrance. You may find this entrance to have absolutely no line up but even if it does at least you are waiting out of the elements.
You can see the line up of people braving the elements from where we were standing about to opt for a much drier entrance
- Make a plan to just visit the most important (or famous) pieces in the Louvre and you will be able to get in and out at a comfortable pace in just 90 minutes. Entrance is 12 Euro
*Tip: The guide that they give out shows the map of the entire Louvre with pictures of the most well known pieces and exactly where to find them which makes a quickish tour very easy if you’re pressed for time.
The Winged Victory is my favorite piece at the Louvre
- After grabbing some crepes and hot wine at a stand (10 Euro) hop the Metro to the Champs de Mars-Tour Eiffel station
- Take about a dozen shots of the Eiffel Tower from every angle…as you do. Then scope out the line ups to decide whether you have time to go up. This will probably not even be a possibility in high season but at other times you may be able to fit it in.
*Tip: If you’re feeling energetic you can forgo the elevator to the top and climb the stairs to the second level. Not only is it faster and cheaper (only 5 Euro instead of 15) but it is a great way to get your exercise in for the day.
- If there’s time go back to the hostel for a change of clothes or 10 min power nap
- From the Vintage Hostel walk a couple of blocks to the Sacre Cour and climb the hill to catch the sunset or the City of Light lighting up and view the temple itself.
*Tip: Although generally safe in the evening be on guard for the scam artists and sellers of everything fake. They may try to tie a string bracelet on your wrist and then expect you to pay for it. Don’t fall for it, just pull your wrist away and keep walking.
- Lastly, take the Metro to the famous red light district of Pigalle with the iconic Moulin Rouge. This is a fun and vibrant area with some decent choices for inexpensive food (we shared a pizza and salad and a litre of wine for 15 Euro each).
*Tip: If you’ve thought ahead and have the budget for it go to a show at the Moulin Rouge itself!
- End time: 10:30 PM
- 14 hours, 9 sights, 50 Euro
So there it is…the best of Paris in 48 hours (actually 43) for 160 Euro! Now obviously there is plenty we did not see, but as a first timer Nathan said he could at least go away feeling that he’d had a Paris experiences. (Oh and the City of Love is now on his ‘must see’ list if anyone asks.) Whatever you may hear about Paris, good or bad, it is most definitely a city worth experiencing for yourself. Even if you only have 24 hours and a limited budget you can still get a taste of the magic that is Paris. After all it is one of the most visited cities in the world for a reason! However, if you are lucky enough to have more time here is a great 5 day Paris guide.
Note: This itinerary is based on visiting Paris in January which is quite possibly the least busy time of year. If it had been high season it is unlikely we would have been able to see as much as we did for as little as we did (one of the perks of low season travel!) However, even in high season, having a plan like this in place will ensure you make the most of your time and money. We would suggest making some of the following modifications for high season travel:
- Allow twice as much time and money! (just joking…sort of)
- Pass on going up the Arc de Triomphe unless there is no lineup
- Skip Rue St Honore
- Go to the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower as early in the morning as possible
- Walk up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower instead of waiting in line for the elevator
- Skip either the Notre Dame tower or Sainte Chappelle
- Allow more time for walking around the parks and de Champs Elysees and sitting