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How to Spend 48 Hours & $250: A Weekend in Paris Itinerary

Grace Lower | Apr 8, 2024

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During my semester abroad, I had what you might call ... ambitious ... travel goals. Could I conquer Paris in a weekend? “Absolutely,” I thought. And that’s exactly what I tried to do. 

My roommate and I didn’t have classes on Fridays, so she and I decided to book our flight for an upcoming Thursday night. That would give us all of Friday and Saturday to explore Paris before flying back to Granada, Spain, on Sunday. 

Two days would be plenty of time, we assured ourselves as we scrambled to book hostel accommodations and research our destination to find things to do in Paris that weekend. With a $250 budget and a hilariously poor command of the French language, I was certain I had everything I needed to see the best of Paris in just 48 hours. 

Paris Itinerary: Day 1

After a few flight delays, my roommate and I arrived in Paris late on Thursday night. Although we were excited to be there, our exhaustion got the best of us. Within our first few minutes in The City of Lights, we were already struggling to navigate the Paris Metro.

After a close call with a pickpocket and a few desperate searches for English-speakers, we made it to our hostel just minutes before the 1 a.m. curfew. I’m lucky my roommate set her alarm for 6:30 the next morning, or we would have slept through our entire first day in Paris.

sacre coeur basilica in Paris7 a.m. — Café breakfast

Although breakfast was provided at our hostel, my roommate and I wanted to take advantage of our proximity to the historic Montmartre neighborhood. We followed our noses to a nearby café, where we ordered a croissant and a pan au lait each, with a bowl of fresh fruit and two coffees on the side.

8 a.m. — Sacré-Coeur Basilica

Since we were already in Montmartre, we decided to pay a quick visit to the gorgeous Sacré-Coeur Basilica. We took in the views from the top of the stairs and spent a blissful hour enjoying the tranquility of Paris in February.

Fast Fact: The basilica’s dome is open every day. There is no elevator, so you’ll need to climb the 280 steps up a narrow staircase to get to the top.

10 a.m. — Walking tour

Following another confusing mishap in the Paris Metro, we managed to find our way to the fountain at Place Saint-Michel. Here, we caught a free walking tour of the city. I’m a huge fan of SANDEMANs free walking tours. Not only are they informative, but they tend to attract a diverse group of students, families, and other thrifty travelers.

The tour was essentially a two-and-a-half-hour crash course in Parisian history, culture, and architecture, and I came away from it with a newfound appreciation for one of the world’s favorite cities.

Fast Fact: At Place Saint-Michel, you’re close to the world-famous university, la Sorbonne. With all those students nearby, you’ll find ample used bookstores and affordable bistros and cafés.

Eiffel Tower in Paris1 p.m. — The Eiffel Tower

After a quick pit stop for sandwiches, we managed to find our way to Paris’s crown jewel: the Eiffel Tower. Neither my roommate nor I had the budget or the time to go to the top of the tower, but we enjoyed taking touristy pictures in the nearby park.

Fast Fact: The price of Eiffel Tower tickets ranges from about 12€ to 30€ for adults depending on which level you want to go to and whether you choose to take the elevator or stairs. There are discounted rates for children, youth (for ticketing purposes, you’re “young” until age 24), and travelers with disabilities.

2:30 p.m. — The Louvre

Although I love art, the Louvre was, tragically, too pricey and too time-consuming for our weekend in Paris. That said, my roommate and I were able to admire the glass pyramids outside the visitor center while we indulged in some fresh chocolate-banana crepes.

Fast Fact: If you have some extra time and the weather is nice, include the Tuileries Garden and Carrousel Garden in your tour. Both are part of the Louvre Estate. As a bonus, the Tuileries Garden is free to visit.

4 p.m. — Paris Catacombs

The Paris Catacombs weren’t as iconic as other landmarks in the city, but they were one of our more interesting stops. The Catacombs took us beneath the city, where we walked among the bones of nearly six million Parisians.

While it may sound gruesome, the Catacombs were a necessary measure in the 1700s, when city cemeteries were at capacity. Today, the bones are arranged to create a spectacular mausoleum that honors centuries of Parisians who were laid to rest.

Fast Fact: Seven Corners picked the maze-like Paris Catacombs as one of the spookiest destinations in the world. It’s well worth the one-hour tour, even when you’re only in Paris for a short time.

6 p.m. — A fancy French dinner

River Cruise

Whenever I travel, I try to sample as much of the local cuisine as I can, and my trip to Paris was no exception. After an exhausting day, my roommate and I enjoyed a relaxing dinner at La Vache et Le Cuisinier.

Was a fancy French bistro a bit outside of our price range? Perhaps. Was it worth every penny? Absolutely.

8:30 p.m. — Seine River cruise

To end our night in style, we took an hour-long cruise down the Seine River. Unlike our earlier walking tour, we were able to sit back and take in the beauty of the city, all while enjoying a glass of wine.

From the water, the bustling city seemed deceptively calm. And when the Eiffel Tower’s lights began to shimmer to mark the top of the hour, my roommate and I agreed that the tour was the perfect end to a busy day.

Fast Fact: Paris undertook the major project of cleaning up the Seine ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics, preparing for its use in the opening ceremonies and swimming events.

Paris Itinerary: Day 2

The next day began with another early morning. We were on our way to Versailles! After nearly boarding the wrong train and fumbling our way through the directions from a well-meaning security guard, we found an older British couple who was able to point us in the right direction. Just because we were young, independent travelers didn’t mean we were too proud to ask for help.

8:30 a.m. — The Palace of Versailles

the Palace of Versailles

Although it involved a 45-minute train ride away from the city, our trip to the Palace of Versailles was time well-spent. My roommate and I spent hours wandering the halls, totally mesmerized by the gorgeous architecture and extravagant art that surrounded us.

What’s more, the chilly February weather meant that the lines were short and crowds were thin.

Fast Fact: Because of the short days and increased chance of rain, February is considered travel’s off season in Paris. That makes visits to iconic sites like Versailles less crowded, perfect for a quick visit if you can tolerate the weather.

12:30 p.m. — Fancy French lunch

Before leaving Versailles, we treated ourselves to a hearty lunch in town. In addition to my soup, I may have ordered an entire baked brie appetizer for myself — because, you know, we were in France. I’m not exaggerating when I say that the cheese may have been the best decision I made during the entire trip.

Fast Fact: When you’re traveling in France on a budget, take advantage of the specials and smaller portions you’ll find during lunchtime at nicer restaurant. It’ll be cheaper than the dinner service.

2:30 p.m. — Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Once we made our way back to the city, we stopped by the Notre Dame Cathedral. I was a huge fan of Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame as a kid, so visiting the cathedral in person was nothing short of awe-inspiring. I especially appreciated seeing different groups of nuns, priests, and parishioners marveling alongside me.

Fast Fact: The cathedral closed after a devastating fire in 2019. It’s expected to reopen in December 2024, followed by six months of celebrations.

Paris Artwork

3:30 p.m. — Champs-Élysées and Arc De Triomph

Although our energy was flagging, we decided to spend the rest of the afternoon window-shopping along the Champs-Élysées. The famous avenue houses enormous retailers familiar at home, like H&M, Sephora, and Gap, along with luxury brands like Louis Vuitton and Lacoste. 

Once we made our way to the end of the street, we took pictures beneath the Arc de Triomphe, an iconic landmark originally commissioned by Emperor Napoleon himself.

Fast Fact: The Champs-Élysées is the site of a countless events throughout the year, from film festivals to the finish line of the Tour de France’s final stage to the Bastille Day parade. This makes the already-crowded avenue even busier, but also certainly an unforgettable experience.

6:30 p.m. — Indian food

Although our decision to get Indian food was mostly a matter of convenience, it was an absolute hit! Having spent all weekend indulging in rich French cuisine, my roommate and I agreed that it was refreshing to have a spice- and vegetable-heavy meal.

Fast Fact: Although India was not a French colony, several other countries were. That’s why you’ll find a strong culinary influence from places like Vietnam, Senegal, and Lebanon in Paris today.

a tower of macaroons in a store window8 p.m. — Macaron tasting

While macaron tasting wasn’t an official item on our itinerary, we did stumble across a gourmet macaron shop later in the evening. It was amazing.

Fast Fact: Macarons and macaroons are different types of cookies. In Paris, you’re mostly likely to find macarons — with a single O — which is a sandwich-style cookie. They come in a variety of flavors and can be filled with jam, buttercream icing, or ganache. Macaroons — with two O’s — are coconut drop cookies commonly served around the world during Passover.

8:30 p.m. — Taking a breather

After a weekend of rushing to complete our checklist, we were grateful for the downtime we built into our itinerary for Saturday night. 

We were too exhausted to fully take advantage of Paris nightlife, but we did enjoy strolling back past the Eiffel Tower and through the sparkling streets. We admired glamorous locals as they walked by, stopped to look at a padlock-covered bridge, and spent nearly an hour enjoying a group of street musicians as they played.

Can You See Paris in a Weekend?

On Sunday morning, my roommate and I boarded our plane back to Spain. The truth was, we had only gotten a small taste of what Paris had to offer. Racing from one destination to the next had left little time for us to appreciate Paris’s beauty and culture.

Despite the exhaustion that came with the trip, however, I’m glad we went on our impulsive weekend adventure. Having experienced Paris as an overly ambitious college student, I can’t wait to return when I have more free time, a larger budget, and a passable knowledge of French.

My only hope is that I won’t have to wait too long before I’m back again.

Protecting Quick Trips and Epic Adventures to Paris

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