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Five Hours in Paris

What would you do with 5 hours in Paris?


Paris. My spiritual home. The city that holds my heart captive. The place that feeds my inspiration, awaits my return just to seduce me all over again. Five hours seem like a cursory glance, a knowing smile, a stolen kiss or a hurried rendez-vous with a secret lover. And like all stolen moments, I would cherish every minute spent together until it is time we part.

Five hours in Paris may be the equivalent of a tweet in lieu of writing a travel article. And this is exactly the inspiration behind this post.  Food Lover Kathy of Food Lover’s Odyssey asked me the question in a tweet as she prepares to go on a holiday which allows her just five hours in Paris.

What would I do given the chance to see Paris again? I may not have time to lose myself in Montmartre, or shop at Lafayette Gourmet for zizi-shaped mints, or rub Victor Noir’s bulge for luck at Cimetière du PèreLachaise. But once I have dropped my luggage at Gare d’Austerlitz, I would make every minute a memory to last.

Hop on the Métro

Le métro. A quintessential part of Parisian life. I cannot imagine seeing Paris without traversing its tunnels, marvelling at the interior of its stations and catching a glimpse of daily life.

Catch the metro to Cité, avoiding any line changes at Châtelet or Montparnasse-Bienvenüe as these stations run for kilometres underground. Catch Line 10 in the direction of Boulogne/Pont de St Cloud, change at Odéon, taking Line 4 in the direction of Porte de Clignancourt to reach Cité.

If you’re in luck, an accordionist may hop on a train and play La vie en rose. You may be entertained by a puppet show, or get a feel for the significant population of the homeless begging for food or money. You can never predict what the métro will show you. A young demoiselle may kindly give up her seat for you, someone may pinch your bottom or you may just quietly observe the Parisians going about their daily activities. Snap a photograph of the interior of your originating station, then one of the steel interior of  Cité and another of its art nouveau entrance.

Cite Metro Station

Stroll Along the Seine

From the métro station Cité, veer past the Préfecture de Police and head towards la rive gauche, the left bank, passing by Place du Parvis de Notre-Dame. Walk along Quai de Montebello which leads to Quai la Tournelle, pausing in front of Les Bouquinistes for a quick browse through old books and vintage art. Take in the grandeur of Notre-Dame de Paris on Ile de la Cité. Feel a sudden warmth envelop you as your mind captures the scene better than any photograph can.


Indulge in an Ice Cream

From Quai de la Tournelle, look up at the grand building that houses the pinnacle of dining, La Tour d’Argent. When you reach the bridge Pont de la Tournelle, cross over the Seine into the delightful Ile-St-Louis. Treat yourself to the best ice cream in Paris at Berthillon. The tiny shop is synonymous with the best glaces. Don’t dawdle too long choosing from the various parfums that will invariably tempt you. Keep an eye out for cerise, cherry, if you prefer sorbets to ice cream.


Enjoy a Traditional Bistro Lunch

Work up an appetite with a brisk walk or catch a short taxi ride towards boulevard st-germain where good bistros and brasseries abound. Choose from either Les Editeurs, Le Procope, Vagenende, Le Comptoir, Le Danton, or any place that serves good Parisian bistro fare. Smile and tell your waiter that you have a train to catch in an hour but couldn’t pass the chance to lunch there.

Depending on your choice of bistro, sit outside and watch le beau monde Parisien pass you by as you sip on your apéritif , a Kir Royale, made with crème de cassis and a sparkling wine. Order a little glass of Sauternes to go with your foie gras. Enjoy a glass of red such as a Côtes du Rhône with your confit de canard and a Badoit water. Skip dessert and end your meal with un petit noir, or an espresso.

Le Comptoir

Pick up a Box of Macarons

From boulevard st-germain, turn into rue Bonaparte and you’ll see the unmistakable colours of Ladurée Bonaparte at number 21. Pick up a selection of macarons in a gorgeous box of your choice to enjoy en route. Aren’t you glad you skipped dessert now? Step out of Ladurée wearing a smile and showing off with your little green bag like the latest Dior accessory. Wait… how did that little gateau sneak into your bag?


While on rue de Bonaparte walk down to number 72 for more macarons from Pierre Hermé. You’re only buying them for research purposes, n’est-ce pas?

See All the 3 Arches at Once

Catch the métro to Louvre-Rivoli station and as you alight onto the platform, take a few photos of the museum artefacts. Head towards the Pyramide du Louvre. With your back to the controversial glass pyramid, you can see the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, the Arc de Triomphe and La Grande Arche at La Défense all in a straight line. Marvel at the town planning of this beautiful city. If you’re in the mood for another stroll, walk through Le Jardin des Tuileries towards Place de la Concorde. From there, you can see the ornate fountain and catch a view all the way up the Champs-Elysées and the Arc de Triomphe.

3 Arcs

Embrace Paris

Walk along the right bank, la rive droite, towards the most beautiful bridge, Pont Alexandre III. Admire the gilded statues, the ornate pillars and the cherubs on the street lights. It can’t get more romantic than this bridge at any time of the day. You may even spot a bride and groom posing for wedding photographs. And just when you think you can’t prise your eyes off its detail, turn around for a view of La Grande Dame de Fer, the Eiffel Tower.

Pont Alexandre III

Time is quickly running out but there’s one more thing left to do. Open your arms wide and turn 360 degrees in a slow pan taking in all the sights and sounds around you. You have just embraced Paris one more time, encore une fois, with open arms.

As you take your leave with a heavy heart, quietly say your au revoir. And quickly follow it up with à la prochaine.

Until next time.

~ ~ ~

Addresses and Resources to help you plan your time in Paris

Métro Trip Planner
Useful tool for pre-planning your metro rides

31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Ile
75004 Paris

21 Rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris

Pierre Hermé
72, rue Bonaparte
75006 Paris

Les Editeurs
4 Carrefour de l’Odéon
75006 Paris

Le Procope
13 Rue de l’Ancienne Comédie
75006 Paris

Le Comptoir
9 Carrefour de l’Odéon
75006 Paris

142 Boulevard Saint-Germain
75006 Paris

Le Danton
103 Boulevard Saint-Germain, Paris
75006 Paris

Don’t miss our Paris Guide for First Time Travellers: What to See in Paris, Things to Do in Paris, What to Eat and Drink in Paris and General Advice and Tips.

About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is a drinks writer, author of GROW YOUR OWN COCKTAIL GARDEN, SHRUBS & BOTANICAL SODAS and founder/editor of Gourmantic, Cocktails & Bars and The Gourmantic Garden. She has been writing extensively about spirits, cocktails, bars and cocktail gardening in more recent years. She is a spirits and cocktail competition judge, Icons of Whisky Australia nominee, contributor to Diageo Bar Academy, cocktail developer and is named in Australian Bartender Magazine's Top 100 Most Influential List. Her cocktail garden was featured on ABC TV’s Gardening Australia and has won several awards. She is a contributor to Real World Gardener radio program and is featured in several publications including Pip Magazine, Organic Gardener, Australian Bartender and Breathe (UK). Read the full bio here.


  • Thank you this guide for a five-hour food lovers’ stroll through Paris!  You have some scrumptious suggestions, and I hope my stomach can fit them all in.  I’ll be spending my five hours in Paris next Monday and will let you know how it goes. 

    • You’re welcome, Kathy! I’ll be looking forward to reading your five hours in Paris.  Please give Paris a big hug from me!

  • A lot to cover in five hours, I would probably do half of that given my slow pace. Does look good though.

    • Normally, I too would be going at a slower pace. But for the opportunity to cram as much as possible in 5 hours, I’d push myself. I can always sleep it off on the train! 🙂

  • Sigh. Paris. My spiritual home also. I miss it SO much. Even after so many years. If I had only 5 hours in Paris, I don’t know what I would do with myself – too much choice – but your list is a great starting point!

    • Mardi, it’s almost a bitter-sweet opportunity, isn’t it? Given 5 hours or nothing, I know what I’d choose…

  • all excellent suggestions.  My husband often has just a few hours in places and is always looking for this kind of action packed itinerary. I’d be tempted to head straight for Lauderee then Cafe Bonaparte for kir royales.

    • Margo, he must have some experiences to share! Yes, it’s be tempting to turn it into a macaron expedition!

  • Hmm, 5 hours, here we go:

    1. Go to Fouquet’s on the Champs-Elysees where I order the Foie-Gras with Black Truffles for entree followed by Confit de Canard washed down with a bottle of post-war 1945 Bordeaux (I wish)
    2. Grab some chestnuts in a paper cone on way to metro where I alight at near Saint Germain
    3. Espresso at Brasserie Lipp
    4. Hot Chococlate at Deux Magots (yes I cross the road!!)
    5. Get back on the RER to the Eiffel tower and up I go again.
    6. Fall asleep in the Jardins Trocadero then begrudgingly make my way to Gare du Nord back to Charles de Gaulle for a 24hr trip home

    • Hi Frank. Good to see you round here again 🙂
      1. I wish too!!
      2. I’m with you on that one provided it’s in autumn, of course.
      3. 4. One after the other?
      5. I wouldn’t be able to go up the Eiffel Tower for just an hour. I’d miss the train!
      6. Sleep in Paris?! Ce n’est pas possible! 😛

  • 2 weeks ago, I had 5 hours in Paris (believe it or not!!) as I waited for my wife to arrive but sadly I forgot this article but somehow managed to do 1 thing on your list and a couple on mine. This was the agenda as I checked into my hotel in Saint Germain (call me a snob but I wouldn’t stay in any other arrondisement)> OK:

    1. Bought the Macarons at Madame Laduree, much appreciated by my wife
    2. Beer at Bar Saint germain Tavern, near Brasserie Lipp
    3. Walked along the Seine
    4. Visited Notre Dame Cathedral (saw it sans scaffolding)
    5. Searched for gifts in the souvenir shops near St Michel metro
    6. Had my portrait sketeched on Blvd St Germain
    7. Found a ‘locals only’ restaurant for dinner, shared my pichet with table next to me
    8. Had the molten Hot Chocolate at Cafe de Flores (not deux magots), waiter and I discussed whether we could swap jobs for a few months. Visiting Australia I found, is a dream of many of the French people

    • What a coincidence 🙂 Your 5 hours in Paris sound divine! The locals only restaurant sounds like it would have been fun. I’d enjoy that very much.

      Like you, I don’t stay anywhere but in Saint-Germain, except the one time we splurged at Hotel Meurice but that’s a story for another time 🙂

      Well done on your 5 hours and thank you for sharing your experience in the comments.

  • I am confused. I also have 5 hours in Paris. I read one person’s comment that said there is not enough time to do anything but stay at the airport. My flight arrives at 11:00 a.m. and I have to board at 6:30 p.m. I am not staying over night. What would you suggest?
    Can I store my suitcase at the airport and hop a bus and be able to be back in time? Thanks so much!

    • Hi Pat – I wouldn’t suggest a bus as the airport is a fair distance away and traffic can be a problem at the best of times. I’d catch the RER but allowing for connections from the airport to the centre of Paris and back, you would have maybe around 2-3 hours playing it safe. In that case, I’d probably choose one or two places to see/do and hop around on the metro. Not sure if this is your first trip to Paris and what you’d like to see, but keep in mind there are queues to get into the major sites unless you can book online eg to go up the Eiffel Tower.

      I’m not sure if you can store luggage at the airport considering security. I’d check if the luggage can be checked in directly to your destination flight if that’s possible with your itinerary. I hope that help, and boy voyage!