Paris is one of the easiest weekend vacations we can take from where we live in Germany. The direct ICE train from Kaiserslautern to Gare de l’Est takes only two and a half hours and can be booked for as cheap as €29 per person, per way. It’s the perfect trip to take if you’re limited on time but still feel like escaping for the weekend!
Tip: Book your train tickets 90 days in advance for the best rates.
There is a lot to do in Paris. We’ve visited three times and found something new to do each time. Below is a sample 48-hour itinerary along with additional recommendations to pick and choose from to create the perfect weekend.
Walk through the Catacombs of Paris
Five stories below the city, this underground ossuary holds the remains of more than six million people. Beginning in 1786, mass quantities of bodies were moved to the former mines in an effort to solve overcrowding in Parisian cemeteries. Over the next hundred years or so, the bones were organized, the caverns were renovated, and the catacombs opened to the public. Today, you can walk through the winding hallways filled with bone displays and get as close as you’d like — no touching though!
Tip: Book your tickets in advance! This is one of the top attractions in Paris, and without a ticket you risk having it be sold out or waiting in a four-hour line to buy tickets. The online reservation includes an audio guide and allows you to skip the line during your chosen entry time. We visited at 10 a.m. when they opened and were out soon after 11 a.m.
Visit one of the many museums
During our most recent trip to Paris, we visited Musée de l’Armée — the French military museum located at Les Invalides. Les Invalides is a complex of buildings that includes a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, museums and monuments related to military history, the tallest church in Paris (Dôme des Invalides), and the tombs of Napoleon and other French war heroes.
We spent our time here exploring the church, the very impressive tombs and the World War I and II exhibits. Our visit was approximately two hours long, but you could certainly spend more time here looking at the other exhibits.
Another great option is the world-famous Louvre — the largest art museum in the world. Be advised, you could spend your entire 48 hours in Paris exploring the Louvre and barely make a dent. The best plan is to research what you’re most interested in seeing and plan a route to make it to those areas. When I visited, my goal (along with many others) was to see the Mona Lisa — but I spent about three hours wandering other parts of that wing as well during our visit. This article contains helpful tips for visiting the Louvre.
There are several other museums worth visiting in Paris, including but not limited to the Musée de l’Orsay, the Musée Rodin, the Centre Pompidou and more. Research what interests you most and choose one or two for your visit so you aren’t overwhelmed rushing through exhibits trying to see as much as possible.
Tip: We purchased tickets for Musée de l’Armée and Musée Rodin on the spot with no queues, but if you plan on visiting the Louvre, it is highly recommended to purchase tickets online to avoid long lines. Getting into the Louvre is always crowded, but once inside the crowds tend to thin out due to the vastness of the museum.
Go up the Eiffel Tower
One of the greatest views in Paris is the view from the Eiffel Tower. Depending on how much you want to pay, and how many queues you want to stand in, you can go up to the first level, second level or the very top.
Our decision to go up the Eiffel Tower was spontaneous, so we didn’t have our tickets pre-booked. We had to wait in line for nearly two hours to buy tickets and the top was sold out. We enjoyed a beautiful sunset from the second level though!
Being there for sunset was a special experience, and soon after sunset the light show began. Watching the lights from the ground is spectacular, but experiencing them while you’re standing on the tower itself is also quite a treat!
You can also pay a pretty penny and make a dinner reservation at one of the restaurants on the Eiffel Tower. We considered it as a way to skip the queue, but both were closed for renovations during our visit. There are also snack bars and drinks available on the first and second levels.
Tip: Don’t be like us — BOOK TICKETS in advance! You’ll avoid waiting in very long lines and have a much more enjoyable experience all around. The downside of booking in advance is that you take a risk when it comes to weather. If you don’t buy tickets in advance, the best time to beat the lines is probably right when the tower opens for the day.
Say ‘Good Morning’ to the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro square
The early bird gets the worm here. If you’re an early riser, you can get some stunning pictures of the Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro square around sunrise or just after. We’re not early risers, so we made our way over to Trocadéro closer to 10:30 a.m., after leisurely getting out of bed and hitting Starbucks.
It was still considerably less crowded at this time than it is later in the afternoon or around sunset when golden hour lighting hits the Eiffel Tower perfectly. This is definitely one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, so it’s worth stopping by for a few pictures!
Take a lunch cruise along the Seine
There are numerous options for lunch, dinner or sightseeing cruises along the Seine. Due to the close proximity to Trocadéro, we decided to board right by the Eiffel Tower for a lunch cruise with Bateaux Parisiens.
This two-hour cruise took us up and down the Seine while providing great food and beautiful live music. We bought the “Privilege” service to ensure we got window seats and the views were spectacular. The service was on point, and the wine flowed endlessly for the duration of the cruise. It was a fabulous way to spend our afternoon!
Visit the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées
After the lunch cruise, we decided our best course of action was a leisurely stroll in the beautiful sunny weather — our bellies were full of food and wine!
We made our way over to Champs-Élysées and decided to go up the Arc de Triomphe for some more beautiful views. There was a line for tickets, but we were able to bypass it by buying mobile tickets. After 284 steps up a winding staircase, we were greeted with this sight.
We hung out at the top for a little while before heading back down and strolling the Champs-Élysées.
Watch the Eiffel Tower light show
Every evening, the Eiffel Tower sparkles for five minutes at the top of the hour from sundown until 1 a.m. It’s without a doubt one of the most magical sights I’ve experienced throughout my travels — the first time I saw it, it simply took my breath away. It never gets old, even after seeing it time and time again!
During your trip, ensure you’re in the right place at the right time to catch the light show at least once or twice. Trocadéro is one of the best places to watch the show, but it can be wildly crowded there after sundown. Honestly, anywhere with a clear line of sight to the tower will provide a great viewing experience. We watched from Alexander III Bridge.
There is no shortage of things to do in Paris, so if time allows, here are some other recommendations!
Walk through the Montmartre district of Paris and visit the Basilica of the Sacre-Cœur at the top of the hill for splendid views over Paris.
Head over to the famous Moulin Rouge, famous for its cabaret — but do some research. We planned to see a show here but once I found out there were snakes and ponies involved, I couldn’t confidently support it knowing I might be endorsing animal cruelty. You can still snap a picture from the outside if you don’t decide to see the show.
Visit the Notre-Dame de Paris — this is currently under renovation at the time of this article due to a destructive fire that tore through the building in April 2019. Once renovations are complete, this will surely be a wonderful place to visit.
Take a trip to the outskirts of Paris and visit the Palace of Versailles, home to incredible art and gardens.
We had perfect weather during our fall visit to Paris, so we decided to visit all of the above locations via e-scooter. It’s simple to pick up an e-scooter no matter where you are in Paris, just download the app(s) for the scooter you want to use, scan and go!
Riding the metro is cheaper than riding e-scooters, and it’s a quick and convenient way to get all over the city. We’ve made great use of the metro during past trips. We just had too much fun on the e-scooters to use the metro this time around!
What else would you add to a 48-hour itinerary in Paris? Let us know by leaving a comment!