Writing about Paris is simple… said no one ever.
How does one fit everything the city has into a 4 day Paris itinerary on a budget? I tried.
When all is said and done, Paris is the most visited city on earth for a reason. Some may say it’s overhyped, but I adored it. The food, the art, the architecture and history all rolled into one unforgettable trip. I’m itching to go back.
This 4 day Paris itinerary will show you the biggest sites on a budget, plus a few hidden food gems in the Latin quarter!
4 Day Itinerary Paris for Budget Travelers
Map of Paris
Introduction to Paris
Official Language(s): French
Emergency phone number: 112
When to Go to Paris
September – October
I visited in August, and while it wasn’t super crowded (many Parisians prefer to vacation during this time) it was pretty hot by my standards. Admittedly, I am more heat sensitive than most.
Still, I’d recommend September – October as ideal months, with cooler weather and smaller crowds. If you don’t mind chilly weather, Paris at Christmas is stunning.
Where to Stay in Paris
St Christopher’s Inns Canal
Yes, folks, you read that right. An actual hostel on an actual canal. This location will put you at roughly a 30-40 minute metro ride to all of the Paris attraction. So not too bad.
Although, if you’d like a spot more conveniently located, St. Christoper’s also has a hostel next to the Gare du Nord stop.
Transportation Options in Paris
Metro and RER
Paris and the transportation system can be classified into two systems; the metro for short stops and the RER for longer rides. If you’re planning on visiting Versailles, you’ll likely end up taking both.
There are several options to pay; single ride, single day pass, multi-day pass, but the best option is likely the Navigo Decouverte. It’s not aimed at tourists, for reason we’ll get into, but it’s a weekly pass for unlimited rides on all metro, RER, and bus lines in all zones 1-5, which includes Charles de Gaulle airport.
Here’s the catch, because there’s always a catch. Although this comes cheap at 27.15 euros and can be bought at the airport, the pass is only good from Monday thru Sunday. So if you start using your pass on Thursday, it’ll be good until Sunday night. Does that make sense?
If you can’t manage to work the Navigo Decouverte into your schedule, don’t sweat it. It’s only 10 euros to get from CDG to central Paris. You could also very easily walk to most of the destinations, and I speak from experience.
The Navigo Decouverte pass can be bought at a ticket counter at CDG. To save a few euros, have a passport size photo on hand.
Where to Eat in Paris
Café Panis was so nice and in such a charming location in the Latin Quarter. I had the best cappuccino of my life, and repeatedly returned for breakfast as a result.
La Fourmi Ailée
La Fourmi Ailée is an absolutely delightful spot to grab an afternoon tea or coffee. The atmosphere is whimsical and relaxed. You can grab a book off of their shelves, or bring your own, and just sip, read and chill in this cute little cafe.
Near Montmartre is every craft beer lover’s dream. It’s a fun stop to taste anything and everything they have on tap. Also… the child in me would like you to know that some of the beer names are funny.
La Maison d’Isabelle
Everyone should visit at least one bakery in Paris and grab a few supplies for a picnic. La Maison d’Isabelle makes for a wonderful stop, but if you’re nowhere nearby, just follow your nose to find a sweet little bakery.
Day 1 in Paris
Pro tip: before your trip to Paris, buy an online ticket to enter the Louvre, and pay a little extra to skip the line. It’s worth it.
Start your day off at the Louvre Museum, right when it opens for better crowd control.
Fun fact: It’ll take you about 4 months to see every single item in this gigantic palace.
While you can’t necessarily expect to see all 35,000 works (I’d be impressed if you did), the museum has compiled a Masterpiece Trail, detailing what to see and how to see it. It takes roughly 90 minutes, depending on your pace.
From there, feel free to wander around for bit then grab lunch at one of the museum cafes.
I loved taking a walk through the Luxembourg Gardens. No matter what time of year you stroll through, they’re beautiful.
Before you leave the museum, grab a snack or two to go if you can and have a mini picnic on a bench and people watch. It’s way fun.
*Update: Visit this page to stay updated on the restoration process.*
Day 2 in Paris
Musée d’Orsay was hands down my favorite of all the museums I saw while in Paris. It’s much smaller than the Louvre and easier to navigate.
If you’re like me, and love nothing more than a fabulous Impressionist wing, you’re in the right place.
Champs-Élysées roughly translates to “Elysian Fields” or heavenly fields, for us heathens. It’s the most recognized street in the world, and fun just to take a walk down and admire everything that’s going on. There are so many shops and restaurants, it’s a great way to spend an evening.
Not to mention the Arc de Triomphe smack dab in the middle of it all. It’s really cool to see up close, but be very careful crossing the streets to get there. It’s a hectic area of Paris, and cars wait for no tourist.
It’s a bit of a walk, but consider taking in the Montmartre district for a few hours. Most people come here for the iconic Sacré-Cœur, which is admittedly very cool.
But have a look around if you have the time. It’s an artist district, meaning there’s plenty of cool cafe’s and markets to check out.
(Oh, and there’s a funicular in case you don’t want to walk all the way up to Sacré-Cœur. I completely understand.)
Day 3 in Paris
Take a day trip
On day 3, I’d say it’s time to get outside Paris and explore the fabulous Palace of Versailles.
You’ll find several tours that will take you there, and… they’re expensive.
Don’t worry! Transportation is pretty easy to DIY, and you’ll save a bunch of cash in the process.
To get to the Palace of Versailles: Begin at the RER stop Saint-Michel Notre-Dame. Take the RER C for 13 stops to Gare de Versailles Château.
Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is opulence in its finest form.
Walking through King Louis XIV royal residence really gives you an idea of how the Sun King viewed himself. And let’s not forget the Gardens, where during the his reign, it used more water than all of Paris. Not even kidding. The man was extra.
To return to Paris for our next stop, take the RER C to Saint-Michel Notre-Dame, and then switch to RER B for three stops to Denfert-Rochereau.
The Catacombs of Paris
I tried to schedule this eery stop when there would likely still be light outside, but then again, I’m a coward.
These tunnels are endless, so it would entirely depend on how long you’d want to explore. Me? I’d check the place out for a few minutes then quickly peace out. Up to you.
A reservation in advance is required.
See a show
While you’re visiting one of the biggest artistic hubs in the world, might as well see a show, right?
Paris has so many options to choose from; Moulin Rogue, the Opera House, Paris Theater, etc.
If you’re overwhelmed, or don’t know where to start, this site will show you what’s showing during the month of your planned stay.
Day 4 in Paris
Of all the churches I saw in Europe (so… about 15,000), the Sainte-Chapelle was my favorite.
If you can, plan your visit during sunrise or sunset. The second story glass windows are meant to be seen that way (probably). The view is break-taking. I haven’t seen anything like it since.
A lesser visited stop is the Conciergerie, where Marie Antoinette spent her final days. The building architecture is every bit as creepy and ghoulish as it’s history.
It walks you through the entirety of the French Revolution and the struggle to establish a democracy.
Is going up the Eiffel Tower a giant tourist cliche? Duh. But I fully endorse it.
Paris is meant to be seen from above. It’s truly something special. Go in the evening or at night, fewer people and prettier views.
Also, after dark, the tower sparkles for five minutes every hour on the hour at night. It’s a beautiful send off.
Know Before You Go
Whenever you enter a building, say “Bonjour!” Also, round the check up if you’d like to leave a tip.
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