Who says you can't do Paris in two days?

Tips on covering the Paris essentials, plus a couple less-touristed options.

Crowds gather to take in the view at Paris's Sacré-Cœur basilica, the highest point in the city.
  • Crowds gather to take in the view at Paris's Sacré-Cœur basilica, the highest point in the city.

Arriving in Paris without your luggage might seem like a huge damper for the start of a mini–Euro trip. But with the sights and sounds of the City of Lights, all thoughts of my lost luggage quickly faded.

Arc de Triomphe at sunset.

Arc de Triomphe at sunset.

Anyone who's been to Paris knows how transformative the experience is, and it’s especially a must-see for a first-time trip to Europe. Problem is, I only had two days and three nights before I had to move onto my next destination. Who said you can’t do Paris in two days?

Well, I thought it couldn’t be done until I stumbled upon this website: visitacity.com.

I chose Paris as my city, then the two-day guide option and voila! Eight different itineraries popped up, ranging from "Paris With the Kids" to an "Easy Going Paris" trip to an itinerary that mixed shopping with the top attractions. The site lists your activities in order so each activity is of walking distance of one another. (Hint: via app, download the guide to your phone so you have access to the app’s city maps when WiFi is not available.)

Le grand Paree

I arrived in the middle of a major heat wave and was kind of relieved that I wasn’t lugging around my big travel backpack that was currently having its own Euro trip. Checked into the Hotel Eldorado, a bohemian-style budget hotel that boasted tons of character and a staircase that could be somewhat of a feat after a few glasses of vino. Located in the 17th arrondissement Batignolles neighborhood, I immediately was immersed in Parisian culture as I stepped out of the train station a few blocks from my hotel.

For my first night in Paris, I decided to walk around the neighborhood and scope out the busiest patio to devour my first Paris charcuterie.

Le Petit Poucet was it. And yes, Le Petit Poucet was really the name of the restaurant. Translation: Hop-O’-My-Thumb, the story of a young poor boy whose resilience saves his life along with his brothers. The restaurant was packed, and I was lucky there was a seat for me on the patio. Everything was excellent… the meat, the cheese, the wine, and to end my eating extravaganza, the fruit tart.

One negative: smoking is allowed on the patios and tables are close to one another. Having someone blow secondhand smoke in my direction while having dinner is something I couldn’t get used to, but I chalked it up to being in Europe.

Arc de Triomphe staircase.

Arc de Triomphe staircase.

7 must-do’s. Two days.

I chose the “2 Days Paris Top Attractions” itinerary. Here are a few tips and highlights of my two-day excursion:

Arc de Triomphe: suggested by Visit a City to do first, but decided to do last so I could get pictures of the Eiffel Tower lit up at night. Well worth the hike up. Tip: don’t play frogger on the world’s largest roundabout. Take the tunnel.

Eiffel Tower: save a ton of time by joining an Eiffel tour. Tours get to cut the line and you won’t have to wait to purchase your ticket. Be sure to purchase the correct tour if you want to go to the very top via elevator.

Paris's Orsay Museum is housed in a former train station.

Paris's Orsay Museum is housed in a former train station.

Hotel des Invalides: houses the Army Museum and Napoleon’s Tomb. There was zero wait, so I was able to purchase my museum pass here no problem. I highly recommend purchasing the museum pass, which includes free entry without waiting in line (with a few restrictions) and entry as many times as you wish to 60 museums and monuments in and around Paris.

Orsay Museum: though not as popular as the Louvre (it’s the 2nd-most visited museum in Paris), the Orsay is grand and a must-see. You could really spend a whole day or even days at many of the Paris museums but if you’re strapped for time or really not interested in seeing absolutely everything, just check out what’s highlighted in the museum brochure.

Notre Dame: there will be a line to get in and the museum pass doesn’t let you bypass the line, but the line doesn’t take long.

Dining room fit for a king (or emperor) in Napoleon's Apartments.

Dining room fit for a king (or emperor) in Napoleon's Apartments.

The Louvre: one word. Huge. Two words. Really huge. You could really get lost in all of the art, but the program map was my savior!

Ah yes, the Mona Lisa! A must-see at the Louvre. But what was even more amazing than the Mona Lisa was Napoleon’s apartments – so much detail and so extravagant!

Wine, cheese and charcuterie tasting at O Chateau.

Wine, cheese and charcuterie tasting at O Chateau.

Wine Tasting at O Chateau: while in Paris, wine tasting is a must. O Chateau is a definite must. If you can’t make any of their wine tasting classes, just sip wine and snack on some more charcuterie and do your own wine tasting at the bar. With over 500 bottles of wine to choose from and 40 wines by the glass, the amazing wine team will be able to match your budding taste buds with a perfect glass of wine.

Being in Paris really felt like being on a movie set. That je ne sais quoi feeling that despite the mishaps of my luggage never arriving in Paris and getting heat rash all over my feet (disgusting, I know), the excitement at what I was going to see at every corner I turned put a big smile on my face and awe of wonder in my eyes.

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