Last fall, I convinced my two best friends to join me on a spontaneous Paris getaway and I’m now convinced fall is the best time to visit the city. Paris in November is an absolute delight because you can experience fall foliage, holiday festivities, and comfortable weather, all with the added benefit of fewer crowds.
Undoubtedly, Paris is one of the most romanticized cities in the world but a trip to the French capital can be magical no matter what you’re interested in. Below is our 4-day itinerary covering a number of popular Paris attractions.
Day 1 (Arrival)
8:00 am: We land early in Paris and pick up the official 4-day Paris museum pass from the airport’s tourism booth. The pass provides entry to most museums as well as Versailles but I recommend doing the math to see if the pass is worthwhile for you. We added up the entry costs for the places we intended to visit and decided the pass was a great option for us. The pass also allowed us to skip ticket lines and potentially go to places we hadn’t planned on visiting.
9:00 am: We get a cab and travel to our Airbnb. Our neighborhood is the Saint-Germain district where the architecture is an Instagrammer’s dream. Saint-Germain is also convenient for walking to many major attractions.
11:00 am: We’re too excited to relax so we immediately go exploring. We cross the Seine River and wander into the Louvre’s courtyard before continuing on to Jardins des Tuileries. Jardins des Tuileries, the largest park in Paris, is a public space designed in the French formal garden style. There you can relax near one of the two ponds, visit one of the amusement rides, or enjoy views of some of Paris’s most iconic attractions. We get coffee in one of the garden cafes and enjoy the park’s fall foliage.
12:00 pm: After leisurely exploring the garden we headed to our first museum, Musée de l’Orangerie, which is located right in Jardins des Tuileries. Although this is a smaller museum, it is wonderfully curated with works by major artists. The museum’s big highlights are the large Monet Water Lily paintings located in two oval rooms. They are simply serene and an unforgettable experience, whether you’re an art lover or not.
2:00 pm: We next eat lunch at a nearby restaurant and move on to Musée d’Orsay, an art museum housed in a former railway station. People always talk about the Louvre when discussing Paris’s art scene but we found Musée d’Orsay to be more manageable and to have a lovely range of exhibits. The actual museum has great architecture as well as a stunning cafe that looks as if you’re eating inside a clock tower. Don’t overlook this museum when in Paris!
6:00 pm: Our final stop of the day is Village de Noël des Champs Élysées. This Christmas Market stretches on and on along the famed Champs-Élysées and is a complete sensory overload (in the best way possible). Children run past with sticky fingers, friends are flushed from wine or the chill or a combination of both, the air assaults you with a different smell every few feet, and hearty laughter is echoing all around.
We grab a mix of foods that smell delectable and call it dinner. While munching on food we take the time to explore the artisan goods being sold. Overall, this was a great first day of vacation!
9:00 am: We did more than we intended to do yesterday so our original itinerary is in flux (why does this always happen?). Our first stop on day 2 is Notre Dame, which we are able to walk to. Notre Dame is notorious for large tour crowds but thankfully it is still pretty quiet this early in the morning.
Next, we walk across the river to Shakespeare and Company, which ends up being one of my favorite bookstores I’ve ever visited! Walking into Shakespeare and Company is like walking into the embrace of an old friend; you’re immediately put at ease by the overabundance of books and the musky smell of paper. Don’t let the storefront fool you, the place is quite large and you can spend a good deal of time exploring the maze of aisles.
The first floor is bustling with casual pursuers and children craning their necks to find the perfect book (“Just one Jack!” a nearby mother exclaims) but on the second floor you can find more serious bibliophiles exploring old editions or reading their discovered treasure is one of the bookstore’s many cozy corners.
The affiliated cafe next door also serves great tasting food. Be warned though, if you come to Shakespeare and Company later in the day there can actually be lines to get into the bookstore! Yes, we came back a second time the next night and had to wait in line to get in. However, it was pretty exciting to see a bookstore with an actual bouncer!
11:00 am: We continue walking with the intention of reaching Centre Pompidou however, along the way there we stumble upon Sainte-Chapelle. We discover this gothic chapel is included in our 4-day museum pass so we wander in and are pleasantly surprised by how lovely it is inside. The chapel is a quick visit but the stained glass and vivid colors make it a worthwhile detour.
12:00 pm: We then continue on to Centre Pompidou. This abnormal building houses the national modern art museum, which holds the largest collection of modern art in Europe. I geek out over everything at the museum until we finally break for food at the Centre’s rooftop. The rooftop has great views of the city and is a much-needed break from museum wandering.
3:00 pm: After our break we make our way to the Louvre. People say you can’t do the Louvre in one-day, let alone one afternoon, but if you know what you’re interested in seeing it’s doable. Although the Mona Lisa is underwhelming, there are so many gems to find within the palace turned museum! We particularly enjoyed the Napoleon III apartments.
7:00 pm: We next get dinner in Saint Germain (with lots of wine) and call it a day.
8:00 am: Today we plan to spend our morning at Montmartre, the famous hill neighborhood located in the 18th arrondissement. We take an Uber to the base of the hill and grab brunch in one of the many cafes in the area. We then begin the walk up towards Sacré‑Cœur, the beautiful cathedral with uninterrupted views of Paris. We choose not to look at the best paths to reach the top and instead wander in whatever direction seems uphill. This actually works out for the best because we avoid the touristy street with gift shops and instead see the beautiful, small streets with lovely homes. After spending some time exploring the top of the hill we take the more beaten path down and get the true tourist Montmartre experience – lots of people and lots of artists trying to sell us things.
11:00 am: We take an Uber to Le Petit Palais, another stunning art museum, where we spent more time admiring the building than the art. We then opt to walk around the main fashion district because when in Paris! We end up at a free exhibit called Designer Christmas Trees where designers like Dior create holiday trees that will eventually be auctioned off. The trees are only on public display for a brief period so it’s a pretty unique stop.
2:00 pm: We stop at a tea house for lunch and then make our way to the Eiffel Tower. We decide not to go to the top of the tower since we got our fill of city views at Montmartre. Instead, we get pastries and have a picnic in the nearby park.
4:00 pm: Next we take a stroll along the Seine River before wandering around in search for dinner. Although Paris is known as a culinary delight, being a vegetarian can be challenging. It was difficult to just walk into a restaurant and find a vegetarian option, but doing research beforehand (which we did not) would remedy that issue.
6:00 pm: After a small dinner we get coffee and head back to the Eiffel Tower to watch the evening twinkling lights. We climb onto the fountain in front of the Palais de Chaillot for an unobstructed view.
Afterward, we decide to indulge ourselves and we head to the famous Cafe de Flore for dessert. The cafe is one of the oldest coffeehouses in Paris and is known for having hosted high-profile writers and philosophers back in the day.
8:00 am: We get a full breakfast spread at Angelina before catching a train to Versailles. The trip is right around one hour and extremely affordable. We spend the morning exploring the Palace of Versailles and its beautiful grounds. The palace is absolutely stunning and since it was a primary royal residence for a long period, there is a lot of interesting history associated with the location.
2:00 pm: We head back to Paris and arrive at Galerie Vivienne for lunch. Galerie Vivienne is a covered passage with storefronts and restaurants. These passages are a far cry from the sterile ones I’m used to seeing in the U.S.!
Our luck regarding weather has run out and it starts pouring rain. It’s alright though, somehow Paris still manages to look stunning in the gloom. We take a bus to get near Rue Cremieux, the famed side street with beautiful colored houses, to check it off our bucket list.
4:00 pm: Since it’s our last day, we decide to go shopping and end up at Merci, part used bookstore, part cafe and part department store, which has something for everyone.
We end the day at a tea house before visiting the Christmas Market again to taste the food we missed last time.
Day 5 (Departures)
All in all a very fun and charming four days in Paris! This trip focused on the major landmarks and museums of Paris, but any recommendations for the next time I go? Let me know!