24 hours in Paris: 1 day cultural itinerary

French capital is definitely a place which every art, culinary, history or architecture connoisseur will enjoy. Paris enchants its visitors with vast offer of museums, impressionists paths, world class restaurants and historical landmarks spread all around the city. If you’re searching for good entertainment you will find here numerous exhibitions, concerts, festivals and cultural events as well as many activities for younger travellers.  With such diverse options it’s rather difficult to choose your activities especially if you come for a short stay. But even if you have just one day in the City of Lights, it’s worth to explore it and just have a flavour of the city. Paris is a very important European city and it’s always a good idea to experience it at least once.

In this post I will give you an example of a one day itinerary in which you will see many of the most characteristic landmarks of Paris. Take from it as much as you want. You can follow the entire path or choose the sites which interest you most. It’s ok if you just grab a cup of coffee or glass of wine in Parisian chic district and just watch the locals. If you want to see some specific museum, don’t hesitate and just book your ticket. Paris can be discovered in many ways and each of them which makes you enjoy it, is the right one.

This itinerary is rather intense (personally I like immersing in cities this way) but it gives you quite fair feel of the city with many important sites included. Take it all or choose the options that appeal you most. If you want to quickly see the Practical tips how to navigate around Paris, simply click here.

8:30 Breakfast

Start your day with breakfast to fuel yourself with energy for full day of discoveries. Since you’re very short in Paris, I suggest to have your breakfast in the hotel to save your time, alternatively have French breakfast in one of Parisian bakeries called boulangerie. It’s not difficult to find a good one and they are all around the city so choose one close to your hotel or starting point of your explorations. I suggest searching for place serving artisanal products, you can simply check the boulangerie’s Google rating to make your decision.

French boulangeries are very charming

9:15 Walk along the Seine

I suggest to start your sightseeing with a walk, starting from the area of Notre-Dame cathedral and follow in the direction of Louvre museum. During this walk you will see typical Parisian architecture with many elegant houses facing the river banks. Stop on the bridges for good city views, you can also sit for a while and sip your espresso when enjoying Parisian ambiance. Check the progress of renovations of Notre-Dame cathedral, with ongoing works every picture will make the history. Have a look at the picturesque Île de la Cité and observe the locals playing boules, a very popular French game enjoyed as a pastime.

Enjoy the views from the Parisian bridges, stop for a shot of espresso, admire Haussmann architecture, shop some vintage books from street vendors along Seine, they stalls are situated here since centuries!

10:15 Time for the Louvre museum

The Louvre Museum is second largest in the world (after Hermitage in Saint Petersburg) and contains more than 380,000 objects and displays 35,000 works of art including masterpieces such as Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci or Venus de Milo. The Louvre museum is worth visiting both if you’re an art lover or just want to see Gioconda. Since you’re short in Paris I suggest to visit just the most interesting for you parts of the museum. In this post I’m explaining how to approach the Louvre to make most out of your visit. Since there may be long queues to enter the museum I suggest to book your slot and buy the tickets in advance so you will just skip the line and enjoy your visit straight away. 

The Louvre museum collection

11:45 Quick shopping in Carrousel du Louvre

One day stay in Paris doesn’t leave plenty of time for shopping. If you want to buy some typical French products as a souvenir I suggest to walk through Carrousel du Louvre which is the underground passage attached to the museum’s exit. You will find here a vast bookstore, French clothing, cosmetics and chocolate brands and many other shops selling made in France products (you will also find there some interesting non-French brands). This is a nice alternative to low quality items being sold on stands along the most touristic streets. If you search for good French quality and don’t have much time for browsing in other districts, Carrousel du Louvre is good solution.

12:30 Tuileries Gardens

After your visit to the Louvre and shopping, I suggest to have a short relaxing walk in Tuileries Garden few steps away from the Louvre. Tuileries is a formal French garden with many sculptures, fountains and alleys. There is many chairs which you can grab. Sit for a while and enjoy the relaxing atmosphere, admire perfectly manicured gardens, stately sculptures and the locals reading their books, sunbathing or having a small snack with friends. Depending where you sit you will notice The Triumphal Arch, the Louvre building or nearby Haussmann style buildings. If you like nature, there are ducks bathing in the fountains and on some days goats are hired to maintain the lawns. 

13:00 Lunch in le Marais

After so much sightseeing it’s time for lunch. A 15 minute walk or a short metro drive (line 1, Hôtel de Ville or Saint Paul metro station) will take you to a very Parisian district filled with bistros, bars and restaurants. Many locals come to eat here too. Le Marais is a very historical and chic neighborhood so apart of having a meal you will absorb Parisian vibe, admire the architecture and walk along narrow charming streets with speciality shops, art galleries and museums which can be found at every corner. You can decide for restaurant serving typical French cuisine but if you like Italian, Spanish, Asian you will find all of it in Le Marais. On the rue des Rosiers you will find many restaurants serving excellent kosher food. Bon appetit!

14:15 Coffee time

French people will often go for a small espresso after their meal to enhance digestion and get a shot of energy for the rest of the afternoon. I suggest to search for some Parisian style cafe bar instead of drinking in the same restaurant where you had your lunch. If you’re thirsty ask for a tap water to accompany your coffee (Une carafe d’eau s’il vous plait), it’s served for free in entire France.

Go for a coffee to other place than your lunch restaurant to experience a bit different ambiance

14:30 Triumphal Arch and Champs-Élysées

After refreshing meal I suggest to take metro to get to famous Triumphal Arch and the Champs-Élysées avenue. You can get off at Charles de Gaulle–Étoile which brings you directly to the Triumphal Arch or opt for a walk along Champs-Élysées (then every station between Champs-Élysées -Clemencau and Charles de Gaulle–Étoile will be fine).

I strongly recommend to get on the top of Triumphal Arch for splendid panoramic views at Paris, you will have a really good view at Eiffel Tower, business district of La Défense and Champs-Élysées). To get on the top you will need to take winding stairs which is an attraction on its own but won’t be suitable if you have mobility problems. Moderate fitness is necessary here. Alternatively, you can get the elevator. Be prepared that there can be queues but it’s worth to wait, the experience is amazing.

I suggest to go first to the Triumphal Arch since you never know how long you need to queue it and only then have your walk along Champs-Élysées . You can do some shopping or just stroll around, I suggest to do a small detour and have a look at the magnificent buildings of Grand Palais (currently in renovation) and Petit Palais. Few steps away you will find famous Alexander Bridge, the most spectacular bridge in Paris. You have a very nice view at Eiffel tower from there.

16:45 Time for Eiffel Tower

Most of first times visitors want to visit Eiffel Tower, probably the most characteristic landmark of Paris. You can get on top of Eiffel Tower to get magnificent views. The building structure is also the most convenient to be studied when getting up. You can opt for stairs or take the elevator. Expect long queues here so I recommend to book your time slot in advance to skip the line. When climbing the Eiffel tower you can look closely at the building construction and admire the views but you don’t see the landmark in full perspective. For good views at the Eiffel Tower I recommend to observe if from the bank of Seine and Trocadero square. All mentioned areas are very crowded so stay alerted and mind your belongings. There is a lot of pickpockets looking for their prey.

You will have splendid views at Eiffel Tower from Trocadero area. To have a close look at the Eiffel Tower, stroll along Pont d’Iéna and along Seine banks. Mind pickpockets, there is plenty of them around Eiffel Tower.

 

18:30 Cruise along Seine

After your Eiffel Tower experience I suggest to take a cruise on Seine river. The boats departure nearby the Eiffel Tower and the ride takes approximately one hour. You will often have a guide (and audio-guide available in many languages) who tells you about the landmarks you pass, you will also learn a bit about history of Paris and some anecdotes about the city. There is plenty of ferry companies, on some boats you can have a dining experience or choose longer itinerary. The cruise is a really nice option if you’re short in Paris since you can really grasp the good perspective of the city.

You can choose a cruise with a guided tour…

…or opt for a smaller boat to have more private venue

You will get the feeling of the location and distance between major landmarks in Paris. Most cruises pass the Louvre Museum, d’Orsay Museum, Notre-Dame cathedral and continue just until end of Île Saint-Louis. Usually, the ships come back to the starting point. Some people prefer to do the cruise later in the evening when it becomes dark and you can observe the city lit up (so you really see why Paris is a City of Lights and enjoy watching Eiffel Tower blinking, if you are nearby at the full hour). Evening cruises are often chosen by couples for a bit more romantic experience. Thus if you opt for an evening cruise you can choose to have an early dinner before or opt to dine on a ship (make sure that you choose ferry with dining option, those are different type of boats). The nice part of taking a cruise just after visiting Eiffel Tower is convenient location of ships departure, just in front of Eiffel Tower.

20:00 Dinner at Saint-Germain-des-Prés

I recommend Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter for a nice dinner. Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a very elegant Parisian neighborhood filled with art galleries, small boutiques and charming restaurants, the further away you get from the river, the more locals you find.  The restaurants also become less touristy and the quality increases since French are very demanding concerning their food. As I’ve written before you can exchange the order and first have an early dinner and then take a cruise or go for a meal after. As you fancy. When searching for the restaurant take your time to enjoy unique atmosphere of  Saint-Germain-des-Prés streets, appreciate the medieval churches, Parisian architecture and small green areas where Parisians search for shadow during sunny summer days. You will find all possible places serving French cuisine but also kitchens from all around the world. Surely you’ll find the restaurant that serves whatever you crave for today.

Saint-Germain-des-Prés offers not only cool restaurants but also art galleries, boutiques and small green areas, creating a true Parisian ambiance.

21:30 – onwards Relax with a glass of wine

After intense day I suggest to just sit with a glass of wine or champagne in one of Parisian bars or cafeterias and enjoy the rest of the evening, observing the locals, spending time with your travel companions or just absorb the Parisian atmosphere alone. Metro works until midnight so take it into account, alternatively, Uber and taxi work the whole night.

If you like parties you can choose from many options of discos, you can also go for a late concert (but probably you need to book your tickets much in advance). Paris is rather safe city (the problem is mostly pickpockets in tourist areas) so it’s fine to have a late evening walk along the river or Parisian streets. You can also go to Montmartre for a drink and watch the night views at Paris from the hill.

Practical tips

  • If you plan to use plenty of metro,  get a one day Navigo ticket to save on public transport. You have metro, trains, trams and buses included. It’s definitely worth to take day ticket if you arrive in the morning from the airport. In that case purchase your daily Navigo for 5 zones. If you move only within Paris, 2–zone ticket (around 7 euro) is perfectly sufficient.
  • Book tickets for highly demanded attractions in advance to avoid queues. This applies especially to the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre Museum.
  • Note that entrance to most public museums and cultural sites is free for young EU citizens under 26 years old. This includes free entrance to the Louvre Museum and the Triumphal Arch. The Eiffel Tower is not free in this scheme.
  • Many museums are free to enter for everyone on the first Sunday of the month.If you arrive to Paris just for few hours, the best option is to take RER B from CDG airport and change for metro 1 at Châtelet to get fast to the Louvre museum, you can also change for RER A at Châtelet to get to the Triumphal Arch, or go with RER B to Denfert-Rochereau and change for line 6 to get to the Eiffel Tower. 
  • If you land in Orly Airport, it takes only around 40 minutes to get to Denfert-Rochereau. From there take line 6 to get to Eiffel Tower. 
  • The tap water is free of charge in most Parisian restaurants so don’t hesitate to ask for it when ordering your food.
 
Have you fallen in love with Paris yourself?

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