Planning a weekend in Paris
Going to Paris for a weekend and want to see the Louvre, Versailles and also few main city attractions in two days? It’s possible, and you won’t even need to book a guide or a bus tour. In this post I’m going to share a perfect itinerary to see Paris, Versailles and Louvre in one weekend.
When we went to Paris for the first time we have visited all popular sightseeing places in the city. We didn’t go to the Louvre and Versailles though. Our boys (especially the younger one) were not that interested in art museums back then. Instead, they wanted to go up the Eiffel tower and tour around the city on a double decker bus. So we decided to leave visiting Louvre and Versailles for the next time.
That ‘next time’ came a year later, when we could leave the boys at home with their grandpa. So, Yuriy and me went to Paris for a weekend planning to see Versailles and the Louvre this time around. We ended up spending a perfect weekend in Paris seeing even more than planned.
We flew from Amsterdam to Paris on Friday evening and then back to Amsterdam on Sunday evening. Arriving in Paris on Friday let us spend additional evening in the city and start fresh and early on Saturday morning.
Another thing I would advise is booking an accommodation near the Louvre. It will save your time on commute and let you start early in the Louvre on the day you plan to visit it.
Day 0 – Paris at night
Catch a glimpse of Paris at night
Arriving on Friday evening, we checked into the hotel, left our suitcase there and went for a walk. Here is an example of an easy evening walk in Paris:
Walk via Jardin des Tuileries, towards Place de la Concorde and onto Pont De la Concorde. From the Pont De la Concorde bridge admire the night view to Seine river illuminated by the city lights and the Eiffel Tower.
Cross the bridge and return by the other side of the Seine crossing back by Pont Royal and moving towards Carrousel Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre Pyramid.
You can make the walk shorter or longer or perhaps stop for a dinner – it’s up to you.
We didn’t want to make the walk too long – after a full working day on Friday for both of us, flight to Paris afterwards and getting to the city from the airport we felt a bit tired. So, the 1.5-2 hour walk to get some highlights of the night city was enough for us to call it a day.
Day 1 – Versailles
Have French breakfast
On Saturday we planned to visit Versailles. But first things first! Indulging yourself with delicious French breakfast in a local café is part of the experience we came to Paris for and is a perfect start to the day. Let’s not forget to enjoy small things when travelling 🙂
Most of the cafes have menu on display at the entrance, so before going in check if they have breakfast options. We went to a brasserie near our hotel – Le Musset – and they served eggs, fresh croissants with butter and jam and freshly brewed French coffee. Not something to miss!
After breakfast we decided to call Uber for a ride to the Versailles. There are lots of Uber cars available in the city center and almost instant a driver was available for us. We have paid 31 euros to get from Rue Saint-Honoré (area near the Louvre) to the Versailles palace.
You don’t have to take a car if you don’t want to. Versailles is easily accessible by public transport. RER trains go to Gare de Versailles Chateau Rive Gauche, from where it’s a 7 minute walk to the gates of the palace.
The Versailles Palace is open every day starting from 9am. You can book tickets online at their official website. Which we did, so we could go to the entrance A and start our visit straight away. We have chosen ‘Palace’ ticket that includes access to all rooms in the Palace, access to the gardens and the park.
If you’re willing to spend more time in the Versailles then buy a ticket called ‘Passport’. In addition to the Palace ticket it includes access to the estate of Trianon.
We have started with the Palace and spent about 1.5 hours exploring the rooms and taking pictures. Keep in mind, there is a one way flow of visitors inside the palace. You won’t be allowed to go to the opposite direction and return to the rooms you’ve already passed. So, take your time, don’t rush through the rooms and enjoy the visit.
Apart from the public favorites such as The Hall of Mirrors and The Gallery of Great Battles, we have also enjoyed many sculptures and paintings inside the palace. Like Cardinal Richelieu statue, Napoleon Crossing the Alps painting, and many more art pieces.
Versailles gardens and parks
After the palace we went to explore the gardens and the park. If you want to see The Gardens in their full beauty it’s better to visit from late spring to early autumn. However, be prepared for big crowds of visitors at that season – long security lines, crowded rooms in the palace, busy gardens and the park.
We visited Versailles at the end of November and I loved yellow and red colors of the park, which can be seen only in fall. Don’t be afraid to go to Versailles (or to Paris in general) outside of spring or summer. I bet even in winter it’s well worth visiting (plus you will be happy to avoid crowds and enjoy cheaper rates on flights and hotels).
The park, gardens and groves of Versailles are huge. We walked around the park enjoying its alleys, gardens, sculptures and water features. We could easily spend there even more time exploring every hidden corners of the park and its smaller estate of Trianon.
In total we spent about 3.5 hours in the Versailles (including half an hour break for a coffee). Plan a minimum of 3-4 hours visiting Versailles unless you want to rush through it and miss the majority of the sights there.
Go to Coach Gallery near the Versailles
After exploring Versailles palace and park visit the Coach Gallery, which is located outside of the main gates in the Great Stable.
The Coach Gallery is opened daily from 12:30pm and access to it is free. Even though your Versailles ticket states that it includes entrance to Coach Gallery, you can actually go there without any ticket at all.
The exposition of royal carriages is relatively small (but beautiful nevertheless) and you only need about half an hour to see it all.
Explore Paris on foot
We have finished in the Versailles by 2pm and took RER train back to Paris. Direct train from Versailles Château Rive Gauche to Invalides station takes about 30 minutes. You can buy the tickets in the ticket machines right at the station (ticket machines have multi language support).
Get off the train at Invalides station right in the city center and go see the beautiful Pont Alexandre III. Staying on the left/south bank of the river start walking along the Seine towards Musée d’Orsay. Then continue to Pont Neuf and up to Pont Saint-Michel. It’s a nice spot to take photos of the Notre-Dame de Paris (from Pont Saint-Michel you won’t even see the part of the cathedral that is closed for restoration after the fire).
Take a walk in the Luxembourg Gardens. Then head towards Pont Saint-Michel, then continue to Pont Neuf, Musée d’Orsay and to the Pont Alexandre III.
After the walk we had a dinner (did I mention we love French cuisine?), recharged and headed to Jardins du Trocadero to see the Eiffel tower.
Enjoy the view of flashing Eiffel Tower and Paris at night
Take a metro to ‘Trocadéro’ station (or take a walk if you’re still up to it after the busy day) to see the Eiffel Tower from there.
It was getting dark by the time we arrived to Jardins du Trocadero, and that was exactly what we planned – to see the Eiffel Tower all lit up and sparkly.
The Eiffel Tower lights up once it gets dark and it flashes every hour on the hour (for about 5 minutes). So, if you want to see flashing Eiffel Tower then plan your arrival to Trocadero 10-15 minutes before that. Find a viewing spot (the place is always busy with people) and get your camera ready.
After that, you can walk down towards Pont d’Iéna and enjoy the view from the foot of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re walking back to the hotel (like we did) then you will also be able to admire the lit up tower on almost every bridge on your way.
We walked to Debilly footbridge, and then to the Avenue Winston Churchill to see Grand Palais and Petit Palais lit up in the dark.
Another beautiful view in the night is Arc de Triomphe. If you don’t walk all the way there, you can at least admire the view from the distance from the avenue des Champs-Élysées.
We have finished that day at Place de la Concorde at around 9pm. There is a metro station on the Place de la Concorde, so it’s easy to take a metro to any part of the city you still want to see. I would advise to go see Montmartre. It’s a direct line between Concorde and Abbesse station so you can get there easily.
We didn’t go to the Montmartre that night – we have been there during our last visit to Paris, and this time we decided to go to a Christmas market (yes, at the end of November!) in the Jardin des Tuileries park. So, we have finished Day 1 by tasting French street food and drinking mulled wine – not bad 🙂
Day 2 – Louvre
Start the next day with visit to the Louvre museum.
We have checked out of the hotel in the morning, but left the suitcase there to walk baggage free on the last day of the trip. By 9am we were at the Louvre museum.
We spent about 6 hours there and seen everything we planned to see and even more. Apart from booking the tickets in advance and staying in a hotel nearby to save your time, I would also recommend to make a list of the things you absolutely want to see in the Louvre.
I wrote a dedicated post on how to better plan and prepare for a day visit to the Louvre, read it here – 20 things to see in the Louvre in one day.
After the Louvre if you still have time before your flight or train back home – have a lunch in a cafe and take a walk around. There are few places not far from Louvre you can visit in under one hour: Palais-Royal (with its nice park area and fountains), Stravinsky Fountain (quite an unusual fountain) or maybe even take a metro to see Galeries Lafayette – the famous Paris department store.
We didn’t have too much time before our flight back home. So, after picking up our luggage at the hotel, we headed towards ‘Châtelet’ RER station to catch a train to the airport. We stopped for lunch in one of the cafes on our way. Where we enjoyed our food and recapped our weekend trip to Paris – it was just perfect!