I first visited Paris just after my 18th birthday—my first solo international trip. That first trip lasted just three days, but inspired a later move to the city. My trip was financed on a meager student budget, and so I spent much of my time exploring on foot, checking out free or low-cost attractions, and taking the occasional metro ride for longer distances.
I quickly learned that Paris is more compact than meets the eye—meaning you can cover a lot of ground in just three days, particularly if you’re strategic about visiting attractions that are clustered together. Here’s my suggestion of how to do it.
Be prepared for scorching summers—heat waves are common in Paris.
If you only have time for one thing, make it the Louvre Museum.
Spend your first day in Paris checking out the city’s best-known attractions. You can easily spend your whole first morning in the Louvre, but if you don’t book ahead, you may end up spending much of that time standing in a long line. A private tour with skip-the-line access is ideal for seeing museum highlights with someone who knows the way around.
In the afternoon, head over to the Eiffel Tower, a 20-minute bus ride (or leisurely 45-minute riverside stroll) away. Again, you'll want to prebook your tickets to avoid wasting time standing in line.
On your second day, grab fresh pastries from a local boulangerie before setting off to explore Le Marais, one of Paris's oldest and most charming neighborhoods. This area is known for cobbled streets and pre-Haussmannian architecture and is easy to explore on foot.
On your final day, head out to the Palace of Versailles, a majestic palace built by Louis XIV. This massive royal residence can be reached by the RER commuter train from Paris, though you may find it easier to book a tour package that includes tickets, skip-the-line access, and round-trip transfers from your hotel.