We talked about a Perfect 3 Day London Itinerary now I have the Perfect Paris 4 Day Itinerary!Have you ever finally made it to a dream destination and realized that it actually lived up to your lofty expectations? That all the pictures and all the gushing over the years hadn’t managed to do the place justice even through you knew it would be amazing? My point is that I think you should go to Paris! Well duh, it’s Paris! All I’m saying is that, for me, Paris exceeded a lifetime of always growing expectations.
I’m excited to share my Perfect Paris 4 Day Itinerary. This is exactly what I would tell my best friend to do on a trip to Paris, well except that my best friend is Jaime, who has been to Paris a bunch of times and even wrote our 24 hours Paris Itinerary. So here is what to do if you have three days in Paris instead of one.
Since we had just spent 3 Days in London (which you can read about here in my Perfect 3 Day London Itinerary) we caught the high speed EUROSTAR train from London St Pancras Int’l to Paris Gare du Nord. It was a wonderful experience. Both train stations are architecturally beautiful and filled with cafes and shops. It was interesting to see small villages as we sped by, especially since this trip didn’t include any stops outside of the city centers of Paris and London.
From Gare du Nord, we took an uber to our hotel in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. Friends had recommended a street called Rue Cler as a desirable hotel location for first time visits to Paris. Rue Cler is a cobblestone street filled with bustling bakeries, delicatessens, fromageries, and wine shops along with cafes, flower shops and even a book store and a post office.
In addition, it’s close to the Eiffel Tower, the Hôtel des Invalides (Napoléon’s resting place), and a concentration of such world-famous museums as the Musée d’Orsay and Musée Rodin. It’s also less than 5 minutes walk to both the École Militaire and La-Tour Maubourg Metro stops.
We found Cler Hotel in Rick Steve’s Paris 2018 (which I highly recommend reading before, and during, your trip) and it proved to be the perfect accommodations for our stay. A boutique hotel owned and operated by a friendly young French couple, Cler Hotel is pretty and modern, with views of the perfect Parisian street below and even a few rooms with a view of the Eiffel Tower. It was a warm and happy place to return to every afternoon with a feast of champagne, fine meats and cheeses, and a perfectly crispy/chewy baguette in hand. An added bonus? A waterfall shower tall enough for a 6’3″ husband. I’ve heard this is a unicorn shower by Parisian standards.
After we checked into our lovely room and got a fantastic overview of the city from the adorably cheery desk staff at the hotel, we couldn’t resist venturing out in the drizzle to catch our first chilly glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. On the way home, we dipped into a place called Cafe Grenelle for a late lunch. A cheese plate, a croque madame, a glass of wine, and a Coke (that cost more than a glass of wine) it was a totally tasty introduction to the city.
From here we walked to the Musée de l’Armée at Invalides, one of the few museums other than the Louvre that is open on Monday.
We took this opportunity to purchase 4-day museum passes. As a history buff, my husband was completely engrossed. While Napolean’s tomb was the main attraction, I most enjoyed the excellent WWI and WWII exhibit.
When they ushered us out at closing, we strolled back to the hotel, loving it’s proximity to so many sites. Across the street from the La-Tour Maubourg Metro stop I spotted a walk-up window serving espresso drinks and mulled wine made from scratch with aromatic diced orange. It was the perfect treat for the chilly walk back.
After creating a plan for the next day, we ventured out for dinner at Café Constant, a cozy and casually chic restaurant bustling with close together tables and the jingle of happy conversation. We feasted on old style deviled eggs, tartare of oysters, seabass, and salmon seasoned with ginger and lemon, french onion soup, and blonde Aquitaine steak with shallots and homemade mashed potatoes, served with an amazing bottle of wine. It was my favorite restaurant meal of the trip.
Early the next morning I met up with a friend from Texas who is working on her Masters Degree in Paris. She suggested the world-famous Fauchon which serves the American-style drip coffee that she craves. We chatted over a tasty assortment of pastries and she gave me a run down on the sites that could not be missed. She also gave me a lesson in buying and using metro tickets. You get a significant discount when you purchase packs of 10 or 20 tickets. We parted ways and I headed back to the room to get that husband out of bed.
Many people had suggested that I would love to stay in Montmarte which is one of the more bohemian sections of the Paris. It was the center of the impressionist art movement of the late 19th century as well as the home of the Moulin Rouge and other famous artists including Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec and has maintained its quirky charm. While we ultimately decided to stay in the centrally-located Rue Cler area, I was most eager to explore Montmartre.
We took the Metro and then the funicular, which also costs one metro ticket, up to the summit for an amazing view of Paris and a tour of the magnificent Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
Unfortunately the museum no longer accepted the museum pass but I was eager to see it so I paid the entrance fee. Enclosed in three small historical buildings, It was a cool small museum, especially if you are interested in the french poster art of the late 19th century and included the audio tour in the price.
The museum also features the Renoir Gardens, as the artist lived and painted here from 1875-1877.
We continued on the walking tour which included a glimpse at the exteriors of buildings which once housed the studios of artists such as Picasso, Toulouse-Lautrec, and Van Gogh. Along the way, you wind up and down charming Parisian streets and eventually land at the famous Moulin Rouge.
After a lunch of delicious sandwiches to-go, we took the metro back to the 7th Arrondissement for an afternoon at the Musée d’Orsay, home to the best general collection anywhere of the art of Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Cezanne and Gauguin. Basically it’s an impressionism wonderland and it’s been a long time dream of mine to see it. If you are in a time crunch, head to the top floor for the core of the Impressionism collection.
On our way home, we picked up another delicious spread of fine meats and cheeses, champagne and carb perfection and promptly ruined our dinner back in the room.
A few hours later we were ready to give dinner our best shot and stepped across the street to Le Petit Cler for a cozy and romantic, light dinner.
I awoke on day 3 realizing that I hadn’t had a crepe! Quoi?!? Luckily right on our street there was a humble restaurant that prepared crepes from a sidewalk cart. Rick had a sweet crepe with strawberries and creme, I tried a savory crepe with cheese, mushrooms and onions.
They are close together and in January there was no wait time. If you find yourself having to choose one, I would pick Sainte-Chappelle. Make sure you find the small staircase up to the second floor. Rick Steves has an excellent audio tour on his APP.
Before my trip, I had polled friends for the must see/do/eats for Paris and a friend had highly recommended L’AS du Falafel in Marais. This casual hotspot run by Israeli hipsters offered the best falafel I have ever tasted. Like most everywhere in Paris, the tables are packed side by side which allowed a chatty lady like myself the opportunity to strike up conversations with visitors from around the world.
Since we were already in Marais, we walked to the Musée National Picasso-Paris. This exquisite historical building is thoughtfully updated to give the works of Picasso a more modern backdrop.
The current exhibit was a chronological display of Picasso’s life and work from the year 1932. It was a truly unique way to experience his art. If you need a little break, make your way up the the cafe on the top level, where there are delicious-looking offerings and a large patio to enjoy in the nicer months.
After our daily cheese break we headed over to the Louvre, 2 hours before closing. We had a list of the 5 stops that we wanted to hit and got to all but one, and never waited in a line. I highly recommend “The Wednesday Night in January Louvre Speed Tour.” Im so happy we went but also so happy we didn’t spend a whole day there.
For dinner we stopped into Cafe Roussillon, another restaurant just across the street from our hotel. I continued Tour de French Onion Soup and was rewarded with my favorite bowl of the trip. Also, don’t call it French Onion Soup when in France, just Onion Soup will do.
Is there anything I’ve missed in my Perfect Paris 4 Day Itinerary so far?
I woke up on my last full day in Paris feeling like I had seen most of the requirements and looking forward to a leisurely day of snacking and museum strolling. I had saved two of the most highly recommended museums for last.
We first walked through the grounds of the Musée Rodin. I suspect that this is a much different experience when the sculptures are surrounded by the lush gardens of spring and summer. Instead the famous sculptures were surrounded by photos of lush gardens printed on vinyl banners, hiding construction. So funny.
This made me realize that I had made the right choice in picking museums and culinary destinations over the famous gardens of Paris on this winter trip, although I hear they are still lovely. Ill be sure to see all the flowery beauty the next time I come to Paris.
Fortunately the interior of the museum more than made for it. Each room was nearly filled with Rodin’s sculptures and the building perfectly compliments the work. Having the opportunity to see museums completely dedicated to a single artist was my favorite Parisian experience. Clearly inspired, I took a ton of photos and even some cringe-worthy artistic selfies. I guess this is what Paris does to you.
From there we ventured on to the Musée de l’Orangerie, making a stop in a bakery for sandwiches to go.
I felt like it was very American of us to walk down the street eating a sandwich but the streets were pretty empty on a chilly Thursday in January so we snacked away on the best baguettes filled with truffle cheese, pate, and arugula without fear of offending others with our mobile munching.
Musee de l’Orangerie was a dream. Once again we enjoyed zero lines and a minimal crowd as we view Monet’s famous Water Lilies murals and a stunning collection of 19th and 20th century art from artists including Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo. Musee de l’Orangerie is also one of the places that you will find modern exhibits in addition to their impressionist offerings.
Our day of Museum-ing complete, we worked our way back to our nearby hotel. Rick wanted to take a rest before dinner and I had one last site that I needed to see before I left Paris, The Catacombs.
Visiting the catacombs at night in the off season made for the perfect eerie and spiritual experience. Added bonus: no 5 hour line. At one point the lights were out and I nearly turned back but eventually another visitor came along and guided me through the tunnels, stacked floor to ceiling with human bones. The audio tour is worth a few extra dollars.
On my way back, I timed a stop at the Eiffel tower to FaceTime the kids at home right on the hour so they could see the hourly sparkling light show. It was a magical event to share with them. Isn’t technology amazing?
For our last dinner in Paris we headed back to Marais for what many yelp reviewers call the best crepes in Paris at Breizh Café. Man oh man, my scallop and leek crepe, complimented by a bottle of fine hard cider and fresh oysters, was a culinary experience I will not soon forget.
The next morning we packed up and zipped back to London on the Eurostar train. I can’t wait to come back to France to explore the countryside, wine country, and the coast. It’ll be the Perfect Paris 4 Day Itinerary Part 2. While I think Ill make that trip in the warmer months, I highly recommend a trip to Paris in January, we felt like we had the city to ourselves.