Early December 2012, I was able to spend 72 hours in Paris with some study abroad friends. It was my penultimate trip in Europe and a city I had been eager to see for years. Not to mention, we were in time to see the Avenue des Champs-Élysées decorated for Christmas!
Don’t let anyone try to dissuade you from the glorious beauty of Paris. My whole trip was comprised of gray skies and cold weather, and I could still embrace how amazing this city was. Of course, I’m going to be back!
I discovered that between the girls I was with, we did a considerable amount in Paris in our short stay. I don’t think any of us left, thinking, “Oh I wish we had spent more time here…” or “I wish we had done this…”
It was a lovely introduction to the city, and at the same time, if we’re never able to return, we have no regrets in what we did or didn’t do. With this in mind, I thought I’d share a small guide of what to do if you only have 72 hours in Paris.
1) Book this place ASAP.
La Maison Bacana is by far the most charming place I have ever stayed at. The owner was beyond pleasant, sitting us down for some cookies and coffee as soon as we arrived, providing us with a sweet breakfast, and setting our rooms up to be absolutely cozy. We all agreed that if we ever returned to Paris (as if that’s a question for me!), we’d book this place no matter how wealthy we were, it was just that charming.
2) Decide what you have to see.
For my first time, I wanted to see everything you see and hear about, no matter how touristy they might be. I knew I’d be back in the future no matter what. I’d leave finding new eateries and off-the-beaten-path shops to those future adventures. In the meantime, I wanted to make sure I at least saw some of the best Paris tourist attractions.
The Eiffel Tower
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
Arc de Triomphe
3) Schedule your days.
If you stay at the B&B I recommended, he’ll actually help you plan out your days complete with little tidbits to answer questions like, “Oh we want to treat ourselves one night, where should we go?” I don’t remember specifically how we planned our days, but I know we made the first 48 hours a little busier so we could relax on Sunday.
4) Set aside a whole day for the Louvre, it deserves it.
We actually made the Louvre the only tourist attraction on our Sunday itinerary. Apparently, there’s somewhere you can go so you don’t have to wait in line…We didn’t know about that. However, we planned it so we saw the Mona Lisa, and then after we each chose what we wanted to see the most. I chose Psyche Revived because I had been dying to see that statue in person for quite a while, and the Eros & Psyche story is my favorite Greek myth.
5) Don’t go clubbing.
Listen, I love dancing probably more than the average person (which is a bad combination because I definitely have less rhythm than the average person), but there is a time and a place to experience the clubs of a foreign city. I just frankly don’t see the point. You have 72 hours in Paris, do you really want to waste time being drunk, recovering, and hungover? I just don’t see the fun in it. Save clubbing for a weekend trip near home.
6) Eat like a poor person 2/3 of the time…
…And splurge 1/3 of the time. Breakfast provided by your hotel/hostel, a lunch comprised of a sandwich and a snack, and dinner at some nice restaurant. Snacks in between, including a trip or two to Ladurée…
7) Pack light, I mean light.
Especially if you’re going in the winter like we did. My jacket covered any sort of outfit I had, so there was no point in worrying about what my top looked like. I fit everything I owned into a very small weekender bag, and I think it was filled with a pair of leggings, a pair of jeans, and three thin tops to wear under a sweater and a pea coat. Plus underwear, bras, and socks, it all fit. You don’t need much more than that.
8) Don’t waste time on souvenir shopping.
You’ll probably stumble across a shop en route to a tourist attraction or restaurant, so there’s no need to carve out time to specifically souvenir shop. Plus if you take photos, you’ll have those the rest of your life to turn into printed pictures. I don’t think I bought anything except maybe a quirky postcard. Which, now that I think about it, I definitely lost.
9) Don’t worry about “blending in.”
I know Parisians have some sort of rudeness reputation, but I don’t remember a specific time when I was caught off guard by it. I discovered in traveling that worrying about blending in is a pointless concern. You’re going to stick out. I’m not advocating rollin’ up in running sneakers, a fanny pack, and your cheesiest visor, but don’t be so concerned about taking photos or eagerly finding some famous landmark. It’s way cooler to be genuinely excited by something than pretending to find it something ordinary. Geek out when you pass the Eiffel Tower on the metro, it’s worth geeking out over!
10) Take a moment every once in a while and just stand there.
Soak it in. You. Are. In. Paris. I repeat. You. Are. In. Paris. Let that sink in. Let the fact that you are standing underneath the Eiffel Tower sink in, and breathe. You did it. You made it to one of the most famously beautiful cities in the world. Celebrate it.
Have you been to Paris? How long did you have? I can’t wait to go back!
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