It’s a sad truth that we often fight to balance our desires to see everything worthwhile in a new place with the amount of off-work days we can afford to take.
When we look at Paris, the question drives us in circles: How many days do I need to stay in Paris? Do I want to use up my yearly quota in one city, or do I want to make a Paris stop in a Europe-wide tour?
As a Parisian for many years now, I still get asked this question quite often. So let’s take a look at this definitive answer and the reasons behind it.
How Long To Stay In Paris?
At least 7 days and up to 2 weeks of stay for first-time visitors. At a bare minimum, you will need 3 days to get a quick sweep of essential attractions and not much of anything else – not cost-effective and not recommended.
But why 7 days?
Consider this scenario: you are flying over from a country that is over 5 hours away and Paris is your only stop. Since it is not a leg of a longer European tour, the first and last days will be spent recovering from jetlag or preparing for the flight home. That’s two days lost already!
To thoroughly explore the city while enjoying it requires between 7 days and 2 weeks.
Otherwise, you will be in a constant rush, running between attractions, and you will not feel and live the Parisian vibes.
Dedicate a few days to touring well-known destinations such as Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, and Concorde, as well as its top-tier museums and the not-so-known Paris Mosque.
Elegant Sacre-Coeur, Saint-Eustache Catholic Church, and Notre-Dame are also must-see venues that could take up an entire day. You can expect huge crowds to contend with at all official tourist or religious spots.
Don’t forget to factor in the opening and closing hours of the attractions either! Waiting time can also steal up one to two hours depending on how popular an attraction is, so chances are you’ll see less of what you set out to.
Allow some time for a cruise on the river Seine with Bateaux Mouches too.
Whether you try for this unique tour or choose to stroll along the Seine, you can easily while away the hours snapping shots of the distinct Paris bridges.
There is no shortage of Parisian neighborhoods to explore either.
Branching off from River Seine (which seems infinitely long), you can delve into piquant districts with hidden enclaves and spellbinding urbanscapes.
Quartier Latin alone can entertain you from dusk to dawn with independent bookstores, Jardin des Plantes, the National Museum of Natural History and grand Pantheon.
Montmartre too is a whole day affair, featuring the Sacre-Coeur in daylight and an artsy vibe come sunset.
Disneyland is a must if you’re traveling with children or simply wish to relive your childhood dreams! Spend a day there as lines are long and ride many – and stay for the colorful fireworks that round off its signature parade.
And that’s not even to say of attractions outside the city.
While Paris’ urban parks are stunning, garden-wrapped chateaux combine gardening mastery and luxury architecture to stun the eyes.
Visit Château de Vincennes which is near Parc de Vincennes in the suburbs if you hesitate to travel far, but Chateau de Versailles is a must if you can spare a day (absolutely get a skip-the-line ticket). It is a bit far from the city, but how can you pass up a glimpse of this gold-gilded royal domain?
Some tips to help you save time
Before you start fretting about not having enough time, here are some easy time-saving tips that will ensure smooth and efficient travel:
- Book a hotel inside of Paris and avoid accommodation in the suburbs. What seems cost-saving actually demands more commute time and extra travel fare.
- In fact, try to book a hotel near one of these major metro stations: Saint-Michel, Odeon, Etoile, Montparnasse, Denfert-Rochereau, Nation, Saint-Lazare, Chatelet. If possible, stay within 10 minutes walk to a station.
- Use the metro as much as you can! The trains are generally on schedule and you won’t have to deal with traffic jams.
- Get a Paris Pass to save money and skip the line in major attractions – this is a major time-saver since popular attractions can take up to two, three hours of queuing up for entry.
- Take the Hop-on-Hop-off bus to hit up all the major attractions without having to navigate the public transportation and the crowds. You can also choose which attractions to spend more time at, and which ones to simply snap a photo of from the bus.
- Plan your itinerary smartly by clustering attractions according to region and arrondissements; don’t make the mistake of wasting time running from one end to the other.
- Don’t just tackle well-known sites as there are plenty of hidden spaces and charming neighborhoods that don’t operate on a schedule and show a glimpse of local living.
- Read carefully this guide with 20 travel tips you need to know before going to Paris.
- As well as these 16 stupid mistakes you should avoid during your stay in Paris.
So to answer the question:
How long should I go to Paris for?
Here is the definitive answer: You should spare at least 7 days to explore Paris.
The intrepid Europe trooper might try and squeeze in 3 days (I wrote a 3-days travel guide to Paris for travelers in a rush you can check it out), but I highly recommend between 7 days up to 2 weeks for an authentic Parisian experience.
Allow yourself 2 full travel days as jet lag and fatigue (or simply a long-haul flight) can put you out of commission.
Also remember to allocate time for travel and waiting, as some top-tier attractions are based outside city fringes. Opening and closing hours may adversely affect your schedule as well.
Fortunately, you can make up for the lost time by purchasing a Paris Pass to boost entry speeds or strategically booking a hotel near the major metro stations.
You can also plan your route smartly by visiting one district at a time instead of hopping back and forth.
Little tricks can get you a long way.
If you’ve been to Paris before or have general travel tips to share, I’m very curious! Leave a comment below and let’s chat!