Do you have a layover/free day after work/ short trip planned in Paris? If so, you’ve come to the right place! Here’s my guide to cramming the best sights Paris has to offer into one day.
It’s probably worth saying now that we actually did this itinerary over two half-days, because of the timing of when we arrived in Paris, but it definitely is possible to do it all in one day if you book tickets in advance and work out the tube/metro stops so you can travel around quickly. (Side note: If you’ve got a second day to spare and some extra cash to spend, why not team this with a day trip to Disneyland Paris like we did. It’s definitely worth staying until it closes around 11:30pm to watch the light show if you do this though.)
9am – Eiffel Tower
We didn’t book tickets for this so it took ages waiting in line. If you have time to do this then go for it – if you’ve only got 24 hours you NEED to book tickets to save time. 9am is when the Tower opens so if you want to get the perfect pics “for the ‘Gram” you’ll need to be there earlier than 9am.
Once inside you’ve got to queue again at the bottom of the stairs or the lifts which take you up the Tower. The queues for the stairs are quicker than the queues for the lifts up to the second floor but this only takes you about 1/3 of the way up the tower. To go to the top, you need to buy the combined ticket (either a lift to the second floor then a lift to the top or the stairs to the second floor then the a lift to the top).
We took the stairs; all 670 of them… If you’ve read my previous blog post then you’ll know how much I HATE heights. The top floor of the Eiffel Tower is 276m high and there’s over 1,000 more steps to get up there. Luckily, you have to take the lift to the top floor, but it just feels like you’re going up and up and up and honestly I nearly cried like I did at the Angel’s Landing hike in Zion National Park (read the full post here). Anyway, the view from the top is IN-SANE. You can see the whole of Paris and it’s totally worth the sketchy and never ending lift ride up there. Just note that there can be a large queue to get the lift to the top floor so make sure you arrive in time to be one of the first people in or you’ll be stuck in a queue wasting time.
Prices for the Eiffel Tower vary depending on your age but they’re not much more than 30 Euros for the most expensive ticket. There are also some shops and restaurants on the first floor of the Tower itself which is pretty cool.
11:30am – Moulin Rouge, La Maison Rose, Sacre Coeur – Montmarte
Hop on the metro and head over to visit some of the most famous places in Paris. First stop – the Moulin Rouge. If I’m honest I was a little disappointed when we arrived here. The building itself was exactly as I imagined but I didn’t expect it to be sandwiched between two pretty ordinary looking buildings on such a main road (I’m actually not sure what I was expecting instead to be honest!) but there you go, another sight ticked off the list and it’s still worth a look as it’s just down the hill from the next two places.
Just up the hill from the Moulin Rouge is La Maison Rose, or “The Little Pink House”. This cafe has been visited by some iconic artists throughout it’s history including Picasso, Matisse and Van Gogh. If you’re into Instagram I’m sure you’ll have seen photos of it before but it’s definitely worth checking out in person as it’s pretty and cute and a nice change from the rest of the buildings in Paris. It’s got more of a countryside vibe to it and it’s pink and covered in greenery so it’s cool.
Just around the corner you’ll come across the Sacre-Coeur basilica on the Montmarte hilltop. It’s free to go inside the basilica and there are some lovely little cafes with plenty of outdoor seating on the surrounding streets which are perfect to grab some lunch. The roads are full of artists offering anything from perfect portraits to caricatures, while you enjoy a crepe and some French vino in the sun, and you can also pick up some artwork from one of the many stalls on the hilltop.
2pm – Arc De Triumph, Champs-Elysee
Okay so this is essentially a street and a roundabout but it’s one of the most famous sights and it’s so huge and grand that you have to check it out. The traffic on the roundabout is CRAZY. Don’t try running into the middle to get under the arch for a photo, it’s not worth it.
3:30pm – Notre Dame
Another short metro ride takes you to Notre Dame – the cathedral made famous by Disney’s “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. Just like the Sacre-Coeur, you can go inside the cathedral for free and it’s totally worth queueing up to get in – it’s beautiful! The space is huge and lined with stained glass windows and ornate stonework everywhere you look. When we were inside there was even a young girl singing and the bells were ringing, it was such an amazing experience.
5pm – The Louvre
You can walk from Notre Dame to the Louvre in around 20-25 minutes but if you’re short on time by this point then you can grab the metro to save a few minutes.
Home of the Mona Lisa, possibly the most famous portrait painting in the world, and the Venus De Milo, possibly the most famous statue in the world, the Louvre has so much more than just these two pieces of art. You could so easily spend a whole day in the Louvre itself but if you only have 24 hours you should have plenty of time to see the parts you want to and not have to rush. If you’re 26 or under and from an EU country it’s free to enter the museum. Standard adult tickets are 15 Euros and you can rent an audio guide for another 5 Euros.
I’m obsessed with Ancient Egypt so naturally I headed through the Ancient Greek section to the Ancient Egyptian exhibit. There are endless rooms of statues, paintings, artefacts from all over the world throughout all periods of history so there’s definitely something for everyone here. Not to mention the epic glass pyramid that you have to walk through to enter or the fountains around the pyramid which are perfect to dip your hot tired feet into after walking around in the sun all day (Da Vinci Code deja vu anyone?).
Top tip – if you have snapchat, stick a filter over the paintings and statues and you’ll have a good hour of fun before you’re over it. I’m not a kid, I promise.. haha!
The Louvre is open pretty late so if you find it’s dark when you leave and you’ve got some free time totally head back over to the Eiffel Tower and check it out at night time with all the lights switched on! But remember it’s illegal to photograph it at night due to licensing restrictions on the light show! 😉
If you follow my itinerary let me know how it went in the comments!