Day one - A good way to start a visit to Parisis at its historic centre – the islands. Visit the Notre-Dame cathedral on the Ile de la Cité between the two banks of the Seine. After admiring this beautiful gothic 12th century church from the outside, queue up and enter the building free of charge and this time admire the impressive rose windows made of stained glass. You could also climb the cathedral at a price and get a stunning view of all ofParis. On the same island is Sainte Chapelle – a beautiful structure with several stained glass windows.
After visiting these monuments go to the neighbouring islandof Ile Saint Louis and have a delicious ice cream at Berthillon. The flavours are rare and exquisite but be ready to wait in another queue. Then walk to the Pont Neuf – one of the city’s famous bridges, and head down to the Seineby the stairs next to the equestrian statue of Henri IV. Here take a cruise on the Seineto get familiar with the city on one of its main lifelines. Buy tickets online to get a discounted rate: http://www.vedettesdupontneuf.com/. On the cruise you get to see the Eiffel tower, the Musée d’Orsay, the Notre Dame itself and several other places that you could visit later.
After the cruise, go to the Musée d’Orsay which is worth a visit since it isn't too big and has a great collection of art. Then go to the left bank in the 5th arrondissement and wander around theLatin Quarter. The two main roads here are the Boulevard Saint Michel and the Boulevard Saint Germain. This was an area frequented by intellectuals and even today you will find lots of book shops here. You will also see the Fontaine Saint Michel where a lot of youngster gather and watch street artists and their histrionics. There are many restaurants offering every type of cuisine conceivable in the Saint Michel area but most of them are tourist traps and are best avoided. However, you could try some authentic organic Lebanese fast food at Chez le Libanais at 35 Rue Saint André.
Facing the Seine, turn left and walk along the river until you reach the Eiffel tower. If you are tired take the metro up to Bir Hakeim. The Bir Hakeim Bridge has been immortalised in films like Inception. The Eiffel tower is best viewed by crossing the Seine and climbing the stairs at Trocadéro. In the evening it is lit up and it sparkles every hour for a few minutes. You could climb the tower on foot midway or take a lift all the way up for views of the city. At night, from up here, you could see the city of lights in all its luminous splendour. End your day with a stroll through the Champ de Mars, the park around the tower.
You could speed it up by using the metro. There are stations every 100 to 200 metres.
Day two - Start your day in the Marais in the 3rd and 4th districts (metroSaint Paul or Hôtel de Ville on line 1). This lively area is one of the oldest parts of the city and has an eclectic mix of Jewish and homosexual residents. It is teeming with restaurants and delis and a stroll through the area is a must do inParis. The Centre Pompidou or Beaubourg (metro Rambuteau on line 11) is a modern art museum in this part ofParis. The square in front of this bizarre structure is vibrant and alive with street artists, sometimes musicians and people sipping coffees, eating ice creams or just idly sitting around. Named after former president Georges Pompidou, this museum is built inside out with all its colourful pipes on the outside. Inside there are interesting modern installations, some temporary exhibitions and an exhilarating slide you can use to descend from one floor to another! The museum has a restaurant with a view in keeping with the style of the rest of the building.
It also has a very impressive library. If you decide you want to spend more time outdoors, I recommend just walking around this museum and then visiting les Halles – an underground shopping centre – considered to be a technological marvel for it was not expected to stay up. Walking past the Église Saint Eustache – a church – you have the option of visiting the sumptuous Opéra Garnier. Otherwise, you could book an actual performance (schedule and reservations available on http://www.operadeparis.fr/en/L_Opera/Palais_Garnier/PalaisGarnier.php and if you are a student and have a card to prove it carry it with you as you might get a discounted rate) and experience a concert in this beautiful monument in the evening. If you are interested in some shopping the enormous Galeries Lafayette shopping centre is just around the corner.
In the afternoon you can relax in the Jardin des Tuileries – the garden in front of the Louvre museum and later on you can shop on the Rue de Rivoli, a long street that runs along the garden and the Louvre. Walking away from the Louvre and through the Tuileries garden, you will arrive at the impressive Place de la Concorde with a tall Egyptian obelisk and a beautiful fountain. On your right is Le Crillon, one of Paris’ most luxurious hotels and on the left is the Assemblée Nationale or the National Assembly. This was the square where the king and queen of Francewere guillotined after the French Revolution. Cross the Place de la Concorde to arrive on the Champs-Élysées. Walking on this famous avenue you will see the Grand Palais with its glass and metal roof on your left. Continuing further you will see flagship shops of luxury brands like Louis Vuitton. There is also the Lidowith its cabaret performances and at the end of this street you will arrive at Place de l’Étoile (meaning star) where 12 roads converge to meet at the Arc de Triomphe – like a star. You can pay and enter the building where there are exhibitions explaining the history of the place and on the roof you will be treated to views of the Eiffel tower, the Champs-Élysées and the business district of La Défense with its modern arch called the Grande Arche. If you climb up at sunset, the view of La Défense with the sun descending behind it is charming. End your evening with a cabaret performance at the Lidoon 116 bis Champs- Élysées if your budget allows it. Reservations are possible on their website: http://www.lido.fr/us/. You cannot go in wearing shorts and they have a casual yet elegant dress code.
The following could be done on day three if you don’t have time on the second day.
Next stop is the charming and village-like Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement (metroAnvers on line 2). This hill can be climbed on foot or using the funicular and at its summit you will find the bright white Sacré Coeur basilica. It seems this church is constructed with a stone that gets bleached in the rain keeping it as white as ever. There is another view ofParis from up here but you cannot see the Eiffel tower. Montmartre is the only wine producing part ofParis and the grapes grown on this hill produce around 700 to 1000 bottles a year the proceeds of which are used for social work in the area. There are some beautiful houses on this hill and you will be surprised by its rather rural feel. Not far from the Sacré Coeur is the Place du Tertre. This square is filled with artists painting portraits, scenes ofParis in general andMontmartre in particular. Around the artists are numerous cafés and restaurants but most of them are tourist traps. If the ambiance appeals to you pick a restaurant for dinner, but the slopes of this hill offer some less touristy bars and restaurants. You could spend a lot of time admiring the live art and exploring the quieter streets. If you are fan of French cinema and have watched the Oscar-winning film Amélie be sure to stop for a coffee at the Café les Deux Moulins on Rue Lepic where the film’s protagonist worked as a waitress.
In the evening, the foot of the hill comes to life and the star of this area called Pigalle is the Moulin Rouge, Paris’ most famous cabaret. Pigalle is the red light district of Paris. End your evening at the Moulin Rouge if you didn’t already go to theLidoor just relax in a restaurant before retiring for the night.
Day three – Like I said earlier, if you haven’t been able to do all the above in two days, you could shift something to the third day likeMontmartreor the Lain Quarter. If you choose the latter, then you could visit the Jardin (garden) du Luxembourg and the Pantheon where you will find the tombs of many important French personalities. From here go to Rue Mouffetard, a lively street, full of cafés and restaurants. Nearby is Grande Mosquée, the big mosque with a nice café serving mint tea and Arab sweets.
You obviously don’t have to do things exactly the way I have written them. It also depends on when you get in and out of Paris.