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3 Days in Paris: Our Ultimate Guide

With landmarks spanning every architectural and artistic movement from the Middle Ages to now; patisseries, boulangeries, and charcuteries practically begging you to step in for a fresh bite; exceedingly chic locals roaming romantic streets; and an un-rushed, savor-the-moment vibe, Paris' appeal is an absolute no-brainer. Here, how to spend three days in the City of Light whether you're a first timer or an honorary Parisian.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart

Day 1

When it comes to iconic Parisian stays, the 16th arrondissement’s Hôtel Molitor Paris ranks with the best of them. Prior to its life as a luxury hotel, the spot was Piscine Molitor—a legendary Art Deco swimming pool that attracted Paris’ chicest locals, socialites, and starlets for refreshing dips, provocative fashion shows (the bikini was debuted here), and swanky galas. Though it closed in 1989 and fell into utter disrepair, 2014 saw the space reopen as a luxury hotel, spa, and sports club. Suave Jean-Philippe Nuel-designed guestrooms—which look out over the pool—are done up in shades of cream, while common spaces embrace local artists with commissioned graffiti works.

Once you’ve perused the Molitor’s extensive art collection—including changing cubicles turned into artist-styled “cabins of curiosity”—keep the culture coming with a visit to one of the city’s best—if not underappreciated—museums. The fashion-obsessed among you will love Palais Galliera for its temporary exhibits which show off everything from 18th-century costumes to present day haute couture (they own pieces from the closets of Marie Antoinette, Audrey Hepburn, Christian Dior, and more). If you’re traveling with art history buffs, Musée Marmottan Monet features a collection of more than 300 Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works from the likes of Claude Monet, Edgar Degas, and Edouard Manet. From there, it’s just a leisurely 20-minute walk (or Metro ride) to Place du Trocadéro, a hilltop terrace that delivers Paris’ best view of the Eiffel Tower.

Before you tuck in for the night, grab an haute French-meets-Far-East plate at chef Pascal Barbot’s three-Michelin-starred L’Astrance. Since it consistently lands itself on "50 Best Restaurants" lists, scoring a shot at the tasting menu isn’t as easy as walking in—make sure you set your reservation ahead of time.

Back at the Molitor, go for a cocktail at the rooftop bar and restaurant—Le Toit-Terrasse. The trendy spot attracts a youthful crowd with a hanging herb garden, unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower’s light show (it sparkles for five minutes every hour, on the hour), and tempting drinks like the Piscine Molitor (Tanqueray, peach liqueur, lemon juice, and tonic).

RELATED: 10 Best Boutique Hotels in Paris

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Day 2

The next day, switch up neighborhoods by checking in at Le Boutet Paris Bastille near the trendy Marais district. Housed in Maison Boutet—the former abode of an exotic wood importer and cabinetmaker, then a chocolate factory—the hotel holds steadfast to its industrial roots with guestrooms that feature sleek dark woods, high ceilings, warm tones, and floor-to-ceiling windows.

Once you’ve unpacked, grab breakfast in the Marais at old-school Cafe Charlot. Be warned: the spot is majorly en vogue, so you might have to wait, but with a location on Rue de Bretagne—the cafe’s al fresco terrace faces the 17th-century, maze-like Marché des Enfants Rouges (Paris’ largest covered market)—it’s worth your time. Laze about in the sun flanked by fashionable Parisian crowds and people watch as you go all in on crisp croissants, Eggs Benedict, herbed creme fraiche, and smoked salmon.

If you’re a Paris first-timer, we’re all in favor of spending the day the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay, but if you’ve been-there, done-that, then the brand-new Le Grand Musée de Parfum is ready and waiting. Taking up stately residence in a 17th-century bourgeois mansion, the immersive olfactory museum is dedicated to all things scents with interactive exhibits about the history of fragrance and how the industry’s top noses create signature perfumes like Chanel No. 5.

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Come dinnertime, make for the 1st arrondissement’s Les Halles neighborhood—one of Paris’ OG foodie hubs. There, you’ll spot Clover Grill, the latest endeavor from Michelin-starred chef Jean-François Piège. Though killer dining room design is enough to temporarily distract you from the menu (see: polished marble floors, slick mahogany tabletops, bold floral wallpaper, and geometric light fixtures), ember- and spit-roasted courses deliver the ultimate punch. With champagne cocktails all around, tuck into carnivorous dishes like wood-smoked noire de Baltique beef and duck foie gras, then follow them up with indulgent desserts like grilled pineapple with vanilla-chili ice cream.

Post-dinner binge, if drinks are still in the cards, head east along the Seine to Sherry Butt. Past its inconspicuous exterior, the spot conceals two sizable rooms done up in dark furniture, dim lighting, lots of mirrors, and raw stone walls. The cocktail list is relatively short, but executed expertly under the direction of owners Amaury and Cathleen (previously of Prescription Cocktails Club and Curio Parlour).

RELATED: 10 Killer Restaurants to Try On Your Next Trip to Paris

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Day 3

On your final day, take in any Left and Right Bank sights you might have missed with a Bateaux Mouches ride along the Seine. Hour-long open-air cruises—for just 13.5 €—zip passengers past the Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Musée d’Orsay, Pont Neuf, and Pont Alexandre III. Photo ops are constant, so make sure everything is charged and ready to go.

Post-cruise, get in some last-minute shopping. First, go for Shakespeare & Company, Paris’ emblematic bookshop, just a five-minute walk from Notre-Dame. Once you’ve secured a couple new titles and a classic tote, make for Rue Mouffetard, the 5th arrondissement’s liveliest market street. There you’ll find quintessential cafes, boutique clothing shops, and bohemian bars rubbing shoulders with charcuteries, boulangeries, and supermarches. Even if you’re only in it to window shop, it’s the best way to say goodbye to all that is Paris.

RELATED: 25 Places to Visit in Paris Now

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