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I Go To Paris All The Time & These Are The Best Ways To Spend A Weekend

Between the Eras Tour and the Olympics, all eyes are on the City of Lights.

Paris is always a good idea — but particularly if you have plans to visit sometime in 2024. With a Taylor Swift tour stop and a Summer Olympics on deck for the City of Lights in the coming months, travelers from all around the world are flocking to this cultural mecca for a taste of the history, sports, arts, fashion, and more it has to offer (Emily in Paris hot spots included).

As a frequent visitor, I can’t blame fellow travelers for their Parisian wanderlust. Each of my visits to the French capital has carried its own distinct flair, a credit to the vast selection of sights and cultural experiences available in its 20 arrondissements (or neighborhoods).

It offers a rare sense of unhurried relaxation in a place where there is so much to do.

But the common thread that binds my time in Paris together is the feeling of true vacation, as it offers a rare sense of unhurried relaxation in a place where there is so much to do.

My most recent trip to Paris was thanks to a two-day layover before heading to the southern coast of France, so I donned my walking shoes for this 48-hour stint to make up for the days I would spend idly on the sand afterwards. Plus, with the Seine river walk at my fingertips, I’ve found the most effective way to see the city is on foot.

For the weekend warriors with a brief jaunt in fair Paris coming soon, here’s what I had on my itinerary, all for under $500. And don’t worry, I pencilled in time for you to end up “in an alleyway, drinking champagne” before Miss Swift sweeps you away to La Defense.


12:30 p.m.: Arrive at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport

For U.S. travelers, the easiest trek across the pond is a red-eye flight that lands the following afternoon. For me, this meant an 11 p.m. flight out of New York that landed around 12:30 p.m. in Paris.

I flew into Charles de Gaulle Airport (CDG), one of two international airports serving Paris. While CDG is bigger and has more amenities, the smaller airport, Orly, is less crowded and closer to the city center by car. For either option, there is train service, known as RER B, that can get you from your terminal to the heart of Paris.

CDG travelers like me will need to purchase a ticket just outside the terminal for around $13. Orly fliers will have a quick transfer in between the terminal and the RER B via the Orlyval shuttle, which has a combined ticket price of around $16.

Train into Paris: ~$15

3 p.m.: Picnic at the Eiffel Tower

At first glance, it might feel slightly aggressive to hop off the plane and go straight to the most touristy attraction possible in Paris. But trust me, a picnic at the foot of the city’s most iconic sight is the least aggressive way to begin a whirlwind weekend chock-full of sightseeing.

While many Paris picnickers will go on a fromagerie (cheese shop), boulangerie (bakery), or farmers market adventure to curate the perfect spread, I opted to keep things simple after dropping off my bags by stopping by a nearby supermarket.

I grabbed the basics — a baguette, a wedge of brie, some strawberries, and a bottle of wine — before taking public transit (called the RER) away from my Airbnb in the 9eme arrondissement. Try to do the same near your hotel, as supermarkets near the Eiffel Tower prey on picnicking tourists with outrageous price markups.

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If you decide to go the wine route like I did, find a screw-top bottle or remember a bottle opener, otherwise you’ll have to tip one of the wine sellers wandering around the Champ-de-Mars to open it for you). Besides that, snag a blanket and a glass from your hotel room, park on the grass for a few hours, and let that “Oh mon dieu, I’m in Paris” moment sink in as you take that first bite of your impromptu spread at the base of the Eiffel Tower.

For those itching to get those views from the tower itself, tickets will set you back $13-$20 for second-floor access, and $23-$30 for the summit. The views from up top, however, are worth the price point for a vantage point (aka IG-worthy view) over the city.

Picnic spread budget: $20

Transit to the Eiffel Tower: $3

Eiffel Tower access: $13-$30

6 p.m.: Walk along the Seine

The best way to get a lay of the land in Paris is by strolling along the Seine riverside walk. The waterway that slices the city in two gives idyllic views of the Louvre, Grand Palais, and more — if you’re willing to put in the steps along the way.

Luckily, a walk along the Seine can be as leisurely as you like, with dozens of restaurants and bars on the riverbanks to pop into if you get hungry. I was feeling particularly ambitious on my walk from the Eiffel Tower and took the almost 3-mile trek to the Île de la Cité, home of the famed Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle churches.

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After a brief glance at both facades, I ventured over to the Rive Droite (The Right Bank, or north side of the Seine) for dinner at Maison Maison. A glass of wine, a divine endive, apple, and walnut salad, and some beef empanadas set me back about $38, and the views at sunset over the river made the journey well worth it.

Depending on how far you wander (and where you’re staying), you can use the RER to get home, as there are ample stops peppered along the river. For the truly beat (like me), an Uber is easy to book in Paris, as well as cabs from G7 Taxis, which you can book through their app.

Taxis beyond G7 ones are fairly easy to hail near tourist destinations as well, though you will need euro notes on hand to pay, as they don’t accept credit cards.

Dinner: $38

Transit home: $3-$15

DAY 1 TOTAL: $121


8:30 a.m.: Grab a coffee and a pastry from a nearby café

No matter where you are in Paris, a coffee and classic French pastry are available on nearly every block you walk. I grabbed a café au lait (coffee with steamed milk) and pain au chocolat (chocolate croissant) from the nearest boulangerie to start my long day of sightseeing.

Breakfast: $8

9 a.m.: Get cultured at Paris’ myriad of art museums

One of the pinnacles of Paris’ cultural influence is its art, so you would be remiss to pass up a morning in one of its many famed galleries.

For first-timers with a mission of seeing the Mona Lisa, the Louvre is your obvious destination. This expansive museum has one of the most impressive collections of Renaissance art in the world, and one day here will only scratch the surface of all there is to explore within its walls.

Admission is currently 22 euros (~$24). Pro tip: Buy them in advance online.

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For those with more of an Impressionist disposition, I’d recommend fitting two museums into your itinerary for the day in place of the Louvre. Your first stop, the petit but mighty Musée de l’Orangerie, boasts eight of the Crown Jewels of Claude Monet’s work: his large-format Water Lilies compositions. The enormous canvases cover over 2,000 square feet of the sun-soaked circular room where they live and are a must-see for admirers of the famed Impressionist’s collection.

Entry costs 12.50 euros (~$14), and I would recommend booking tickets ahead of time since they have limited daily entry.

Once you’ve had your fill of this collection, step outside for a quick stroll through the nearby Jardin de Tuileries (a mainstay of Emily in Paris, for eagle-eyed fans). And if you feel like dramatically throwing your cellphone in a fountain à la Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, the fateful Place de la Concorde is just steps away from the museum’s entrance.

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Otherwise, venture over the Seine to your next stop: the Musée d’Orsay. Once Paris’ central train station, the Beaux-Arts-style building with its enormous arched ceilings is as beautiful as the art it contains. Its top floor houses the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world, ranging from Edgar Degas’s ballerina sculpture, petite danseuse de quatorze ans, to Vincent van Gogh’s Starry Night Over the Rhone, a more tranquil precursor to his most famous work.

Entry is 16 euros when booked ahead or 14 euros at the door, setting you back around $16-$18 for your visit.

Museum entry: $24-$30

1 p.m.: Grab lunch at La Palette

If you’ve spent your morning in the galleries, you’ll probably be hungry around this time. Try to resist the urge to eat at one of the museum restaurants (they’re bland and very overpriced), and head to a nearby café like La Palette instead.

This brasserie is nestled on a quiet street in the 6eme arrondissement just past the Musée d’Orsay, and it features all the classics of French dining (moody servers included). But hey, it’s part of the ambiance, along with its ornate, mirrored dining room and wicker streetside seating.

The hero of my lunch was feeling plopped right into a storybook Paris, complete with chic locals sat to my right and a classic car parked on the street to my left.

An entree and a drink here will set you back around $30 — I went with the ham omelette and a glass of chablis — but the hero of my lunch was feeling plopped right into a storybook Paris, complete with chic locals sat to my right and a classic car parked on the street to my left.

Lunch: $30

2:30 p.m.: Go vintage shopping on rue Tiquetonne

Since this quick stint in Paris is about hitting the city’s greatest spots, my Saturday needed to involve a shopping stint. As much as I would love to stop by the Louis Vuitton flagship on the Champs-Elysées, the vintage scene in Paris was decidedly the more interesting (and cost-effective) choice.

Enter: rue Tiquetonne in the 2eme arrondissement, a short walk over the Seine from our lunchtime locale. The streets here are lined with fun vintage shops at an array of price points, from the massive (and wallet-friendly!) Episode to the remarkably curated Kiliwatch.

Those looking for a memorable souvenir, you’ll undoubtedly find your next favorite piece for your closet on this block — even if you’re aiming for a budget under $100 like I was.

Vintage shopping budget: $100

Transit back to the hotel: $3

7 p.m.: Grab dinner at FrenchParadox: Canard & Champagne

After an optional stop at your hotel to freshen up (and drop off your vintage finds), make your way back to the 2eme arrondissement for dinner within the Passage des Panoramas. This *ahem* alleyway is one of the oldest covered passages in Paris, named for the elaborate panoramic paintings lining the walls.

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If you arrive before your reservation, feel free to pop into one of the many artisan shops housed within the historic market. Eventually, you’ll arrive at Canard & Champagne, which, as the name in English suggests, hosts a menu anchored in the classic French pairing of duck and wine.

While the à la carte menu offers a slightly wider selection with vegetarian options, the three-course prix fixe boasts a luxurious, duck-forward Parisian dinner with three champagne pairings for only 69 euros. With the prix fixe, I chose the duck fois gras, the duck breast, and the (I was told, unlimited) chocolate mousse, all of which were fantastic with their champagne accompaniments.

While on the pricier side of dining for this trip, it’s hard to argue with three courses — champagne included — for around $75 in the heart of the city. The service was also some of the best I had in Paris, with attentive waitstaff who gracefully tolerated my rusty French.

Dinner: $75

9 p.m.: Catch sunset on Montmartre

As you walk around Paris, you’ll often spot in the distance the white domed spires of Sacré-Cœur atop the summit of Montmartre. So, naturally, this is one of the best places in the city to watch a sunset.

Depending on when you roll out of dinner, your next stop will be either a 30-minute walk, a 25-minute RER ride, or a 10-minute cab north to the base of Montmartre. From there, you can either ride the funicular up to the top for 1.90 euros or save the two-euro coin by climbing its iconic steps.

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From the top, you have an unbelievable view of Paris to share with with dozens of tourists and locals alike parked on the Sacré-Cœur steps. Often at sunset, live musicians will play for the crowd, while sellers will walk around selling bottles of beer for those interested. The camaraderie on the steps is quite charming and unique, making for a truly colorful close to the day.

Walking to Montmartre: FREE

10 p.m.: Grab a nightcap at Le Très Particulier

If you want to meander a little longer along the cobblestone streets of Montmartre before heading back to your hotel, this neighborhood is ripe for a nightcap. While my personal favorite spot, Lulu White, is sadly no more (RIP), you’ll find an equally delicious cocktail at Hotel Particulier’s ornate cocktail lounge, Le Très Particulier.

Soaked in gold trimmings with plush red velvet chairs, the space is decadent and fun with a cocktail menu to match. Cocktails range from 15 to 30 euros apiece (with a few mocktail selections as well), but after all, this is a nightcap, so it won’t hurt to treat yourself to just one.

Cocktail: $20

DAY 2 TOTAL: $266


9:30 a.m.: Breakfast at a café

For a final taste of the 9eme arrondissement, I left my Airbnb around 9 a.m. for breakfast around the corner. Most cafés will serve breakfast until about 11 a.m., with a streamlined selection of pastries, eggs, coffee, and other drinks. I treated myself to all the above, then took a stroll through the neighborhood, grabbing a last glance at the famed Palais Garnier opera house en route to my final stop.

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Breakfast: $30

10:30 a.m.: Pop into a CityPharma for some French beauty essentials

The French beauty industry stands as a titan of the clean girl aesthetic, where extensive skin care and natural makeup reign supreme. So, I decided to wrap up my stay with a visit at one of Paris’s famed pharmacies to capture this “je ne sais quoi” in a bottle — literally.

Walk into any green-crossed “pharmacie,” and you can buy staples from La Roche Posay, Caudelie, and more French brands at a fraction of American prices. The viral Embroylisse Lait-Crème Concentré Moisturizer, for example, costs a mere 14 euro, about half the price you’ll snag it for at your local Sephora. La Roche-Posay’s cult favorite Cicaplast Baume B5 will similarly run you only $7 for a full size.

But the true holy grail of French pharmacies is the humble A313 Vitamin A cream, a retinoid that packs a powerful punch on wrinkles, fine lines, and general skin texture. With a $7 price tag, it’s no wonder that beauty experts stock up on this catch-all cream whenever they’re in Paris.

Pharmacy essentials: $50

12:30 p.m.: Head off on your next adventure

With a final adieu to your beloved home base to collect your bags, your weekend in Paris has drawn to a close. Whether you’re heading to your next destination by train or plane, the RER will be your best bet to the Gare du Nord or either airport.

Train to the airport: $13

DAY 3 TOTAL: $93

Total Cost: $480

Even in a bite-sized portion, Paris always seems to leave me satisfied with my time there. With so much to explore, the reality of not seeing it all makes me more hopeful for my next visit rather than sad to depart.

With so much to explore outside the city limits with Versailles and Monet’s Giverny home nearby — let alone the rest of France within reach — Paris seems to be the kind of destination you can’t just visit once.