Paris on a Budget: 2 Days Itinerary

Paris is a city every tourist should see at least once. It is bustling with so much history, culture, diversity, and beauty that you could spend a lifetime discovering all of its streets and cobblestones. Even if you don’t have a lifetime, however, you can still get the most out of the city and discover its most important places and breathtaking sights. Here is an attempt to guide you through the logistics, details, and steps of seeing Paris in just two days.

Eiffel Tower by the Seine river

Eiffel Tower by the Seine river

Some practical advises:

First, let’s start with some good ol’ tips on wandering around the City of lights :

  • Manners are extremely important to the French. Always, always say “Bonjour” when you enter a place, otherwise you’ll be greeted coldly and even rudely.
  • Beware of pickpockets. Keep all valuables in the bottom of your backpack/bag/purse etc., and be aware of your things in the metro.
  • You will most likely encounter extremely rude waiters, don’t take it personally, it’s their way of service.
  • Not all crêpes are created equal. Avoid crêpe stands that are right next to landmarks, they’re always the worst. Never trust a crêpe stand where they have the crêpe already made, make sure they make it right in front of you.
  • Avoid making eye contact with people in the metro. It sounds awful but making eye contact or smiling at people will single you out as a tourist.

Top Things to See:

  • Notre-Dame
  • Arc de Triumphe
  • La Tour Eiffel
  • Sacre Cœur
  • Jardin du Luxembourg
  • Le Louvre
  • Jardin des Tuileries
  • Place de la Concorde
  • Père Lachaise

2-Day Model Itinerary

With so much to see and do, you might be freaking out about how you’re going see it all. Luckily, you have at your disposal a 2-Day model itinerary organized to help you see the most by taking the most efficient route.

*Suggested but not necessary

Day 1:

  1. Notre-Dame
  2. Ile St. Louis*
  3. Hôtel de Ville
  4. Le Centre Pompidou
  5. Père Lachaise
  6. Parc des Buttes Chaumont*
  7. Sacre Cœur
  8. Place du Tertre*
  9. Le Moulin Rouge
  10. La Tour Eiffel
  11. Montparnasse*

Day 2:

  1. Jardin du Luxembourg
  2. Pantheon*
  3. St. Michel
  4. Pont Neuf
  5. Musée du Louvre
  6. Jardin des Tuileries
  7. Place de la Concorde
  8. Champs Elysees
  9. Arc de Triumphe
  10. Opera Garnier
  11. Bastille, Place Monge, or Chinatown*


So now you know what you want to see and you can get excited about all the culture and beauty you’re going to soak up. In the mean time, we can think about more practical side of travel so you can plan your perfect trip.

Where to stay:

First, let’s get started with the most basic of travel needs: where to sleep!

Of course, the most convenient place to stay is the city center. Staying in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, or 4th arrondissements (neighborhoods) is ideal for a visitor on a tight schedule, since they are close to most of the important landmarks and attractions. If staying in the city center is harsh on your budget, a great alternative is to stay in the neighborhoods that are right next to it, especially the lower part of the 5th and 6th arrondissements. These arrondissements are a couple of metro stops or a short walk away from the center and might also give you more of a real Parisian feeling. They are the happy medium where good prices and great location meet.

If you want a more alternative feeling, Montmartre is a good neighborhood to stay at, in terms of good prices and closeness to certain landmarks. However, keep in mind that it is farther away from the city center and important attractions, so transportation could be an issue.

Getting Around:

Now that you have an idea of places to stay, you probably want to figure out how to move to and from where you’re staying. The good news is that Paris has an amazing public transportation system comprised of 14 metro lines, 4 RER lines, 58 bus lines, and 3 tram lines that will get you virtually anywhere in the city.

The easiest to navigate are by far the metro and the RER lines, which cover the entire city. If you want to travel the city without losing a second of sightseeing, the bus is a great alternative, though it might take longer to get from place to place. To save some money, you should buy a 10-ticket pack, which is good for the metro, the RER and the bus. You can even transfer between the three of these with the same ticket if the transfer is made within an hour.

Make sure you validate your ticket every single time you enter into a station or a bus, there are often ticket checks and failing to provide a validated ticket can result in a large fine! Also, if you’re going to go out at night keep in mind that the Parisian metro closes relatively early (11 p.m.- 2 p.m.).

If you’re not one for stuffy metros and slow buses, don’t fret! Paris also offers an amazing bike rental system called the Vélib. There are stations all over the city and bike routes on most streets. Parisians love biking, so with the Vélib you can enjoy the city like a local while taking in the beautiful views and burning off all the baguettes and pastries you will inevitably splurge on!

And finally, don´t forget about your own two feet! Paris is an extremely walkable city and there is no better way to experience it than by walking around the city. If your destination is not very far, consider walking and when you have some down time remember to take a stroll around small neighborhoods or next to the Seine glowing at night.

Where to eat:

So now you’ve kind of figured out where you’re going to sleep and how you’re going to move around. What’s next? Everyone’s favorite thing to do in France is Food!

If there is one thing the French know how to do is eat well, so pretty much anywhere in the city you can find amazing places to enjoy the best of Paris. If you’re looking for cheap food options or a good place for a snack while you walk, go for the street food! Kebabs, Falafels, and crêpes are some of the many delicious options that Parisian street food offers.

If you’re looking to sit down to enjoy more fine cuisine, there’s also tons of options. Obviously, places near tourist attractions are always more expensive but you can also find reasonably priced good food. Champs-Elysees has tons of great international restaurants, though you should watch out for overly priced food. Montmartre is also a good neighborhood to find good food at fair prices; Au Pied du Sacre Cœur is a personal favorite for French cuisine in Paris.

If you like Asian food then Chinatown offers amazing and inexpensive Asian food. There are also some pretty good restaurants on the left side of the Seine, right in front of Notre-Dame, Auberge Notre-Dame has good fondue that’s not too expensive.

Going Out:

Going out in Paris can mean a lot of things: taking a night stroll, getting a couple of drinks, going to a lounge to dance casually or the full-on clubbing experience. One thing is sure though, you HAVE to see Paris by night. Paris is beautiful in the daytime, but at night it is breathtaking!

Paris at night

Paris at night

If what you want is a calm night stroll through the city, walking by the side of the Seine is what you should be thinking of. When you walk along the Seine at night you understand why Paris is called The City of Lights. If you want to get off the beaten path, walking along the Canal Saint Martin, the small streets of the 5th, 6th, 16th, and 17th arrondissements, and most other places offer some of the magic of Paris. Keep in mind that there are certain neighborhoods in Paris that can be a little rough (like the 10th, the 12th, and the 8th). If you are walking randomly anywhere, keep an eye out and follow your instinct.

If you want to get a drink, Place Monge is a good option in the 5th arrondissement. It has a wide array of fairly cheap bars (The Fifth and the Hideout are two of the most popular) and it’s close to the city center. Les Halles and St. Michel also have lots of cool bars, though they are, of course, in a touristy area. The 12th arrondissement has some cool hidden bars that are more local, though you have to know where you’re going, since you’re not guaranteed to find something. However, one of the favorite places to hang out (at any time of day) is the Comptoir General, next to the Canal Saint Martin. It’s a Franco-African restaurant/bar/vintage-store/documentary screening theater/bookstore. Confused? Well, you have to go and check it out for yourself.

If what you’re looking for is clubbing until dawn, this tip is just for you. Paris isn’t the biggest party city in Europe but there’s still a throbbing night life. One of the most popular clubs in Paris is Le Rex Club (in the 2nd arrondissement). If the line isn’t convincing you, there are other clubs and bars close to it that could always work as plan B. Other favorites are The Social Club, which is fairly close to the Rex, and Le Mix, in Montparnasse, which has got mixed reviews.

When out clubbing in Paris, keep in mind that most clubs charge a cover price that is usually steep and that the metro closes early but there’s always Le Noctilien night bus that’ll take you through the city…or you can go all out and wait for the metro lines to open at 5h30!

So now you have a fair idea of all the basics for enjoying your visit to Paris for two days (or longer!). Remember, Paris is full of hidden streets and unturned cobblestones so go ahead and risk going down the small streets, talking to the locals and taking all of the cheesy pictures your heart desires! Bon voyage !

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