One Day in Paris – The Best Itinerary + Map, Guide & Tips

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How to See Paris in One Day

Paris may be dubbed the ‘City of Lights’, but this is definitely an understatement! We love Paris for its fabulous art, culture, architecture, and food, as well as its beautifully lit streets and European vibe. With all of that, it’s no wonder the French capital is one of the world’s most popular destinations.

Packed with remarkable major attractions, we’ll show you Paris’s wonderful tapestry of grand boulevards, gardens, and squares, lined with elegant and historic buildings, medieval churches, and world-class art museums, with our one-day Paris itinerary.

In this Paris travel guide, you’ll find a complete itinerary of all the most important must-see Paris attractions, with an interactive map, organized to make the best use of your time. We also share recommendations for central places to stay, ideas about where to eat local food, and tips about how to make the most of your perfect day in Paris.

one day in Paris

Are you planning your trip to Paris last minute?

Be sure to book your accommodation and tours in Paris ahead of time to ensure availability! Here are our top picks!

  • Top Hotels in Paris:
  1. Luxury: Hotel des Grands Boulevards (right in the centre and very lux!)
  2. Mid-Range: Hotel Bastille Speria (in the lively Le Marais district)
  3. Budget: Generator Paris (our fave designer hostel with private rooms)
  4. Hostel: St Christopher’s Inn Paris (centrally located at a great price)
  • Top Activities & Tours in Paris:
  1. For all the best things to see in Paris, grab this Paris private walking tour 
  2. Get your Eiffel Tower direct access tickets to see Paris’s top attraction
  3. Visit Notre Dame’s Sainte-Chapelle for breathtaking architecture
  4. Explore Paris’s art with a Louvre timed ticket and avoid the long lines
  5. End your day with a magical Seine illiminations cruise for a whole new perspective!

When to Visit Paris

A year-round destination, the best time to visit Paris for a day really depends on the traveler’s interests and criteria. The optimum time to visit is during spring and fall as the weather is usually perfect around these times of the year.

The shoulder seasons also offer better deals on hotels and tours and you’ll avoid the tourist crowds that flock to the city during the summer months. Although the city will still be busy, it won’t be quite as busy as it is in high season.

If sightseeing the highlights of Paris is a priority for you, avoid July and August in particular. If you’re more of a budget traveler and the winter cold is no big deal to you, then traveling from November to February is the most cost-effective option for a short stay.

Plus, if you’re a shopping enthusiast in Paris, you don’t want to miss Les Soldes, the winter sales that take place from early January till mid-February.

Paris gardens full of flowers in spring

Is this your first visit to France? Get all the information you need in our France Travel Guide, including what to pack, the best time of year to go, getting there and practical tips to help you have the best trip!

Getting to Paris

Flying

When flying to Paris, you have the choice of two airports. Charles de Gaulle Airport is 33km from the city and is the main international airport with direct flights from North America, the Far East, the Middle East, and all of Europe.

Orly Airport which is only 13km from the city is where many of the low-cost carriers land and is a great option if you’re traveling from elsewhere in Europe or the UK. We recommend using Skyscanner to book your flights for the best deals and the largest selection of airlines.

The quickest and cheapest way to get to central Paris from Charles de Gaulle is by train. The RER B travels between the airport and Paris, stopping at the following stations in the city, Denfert-Rochereau, Saint-Michel-Notre-Dame, Châtelet-Les-Halles, and Gare du Nord.

The train runs every 10-15 minutes and takes between 25-35 minutes depending on which train station you choose. There is a free shuttle bus from the airport terminals to the station.

From Orly Airport the trains run every 4-7 minutes and take 25-35 minutes to get to the city. There is a free Orlyval shuttle that connects the terminals to the station.

For a great way to start your Paris trip book a private transfer from the airport with Intui directly to your accommodation in the city center – it’s more cost-effective than you think! Intui works with a large range of local operators to bring the best options and prices for your transfer.

Are you visiting Paris as part of a longer trip? A French road trip is the best way see this gorgeous country, and our guide to road tripping in France has all you need, including maps, routes, highlights and tips, to help you plan the perfect trip.

Where to Stay in Paris

Luxury: Hotel des Grands Boulevards – Booking.com | Agoda

A simply gorgeous hotel in a historic building on the edge of the 2nd and 9th arrondissements. With a cool rooftop bar, cocktail bars and a restaurant under a glass ceiling plus sumptuous bedrooms, this is the perfect hotel for a celebratory Paris break.

Mid-Range: Hotel Bastille Speria – Booking.com | Agoda

This elegant 3* boutique hotel is located in the trendy Marais district, between the Bastille and Vosges Square. Contemporary decor, comfortable beds and welcoming staff make this hotel a great choice for your Paris trip.

Budget: Generator Paris – Booking.com | Agoda

Close to the Gard du Nord in the 10th, Generator is a hostel come hotel with a lively vibe and great public areas. You can choose from a shared dorm or deluxe private rooms at an excellent price point – that’s why we always stay here when visiting Paris!

Hostel: St Christopher’s Inn Paris – Booking.com | Agoda

Close to Gard du Nord, this hostel offers simple but clean rooms and dorms perfectly suited to those spending a night or two in Paris.

Make sure you have travel insurance you can trust when visiting France. We recommend True Traveller for their 5-star TrustPilot reviews, variety of cover options, best activities cover as standard, great prices, and excellent service.

Things to See & Do in Paris

Our one day itinerary for Paris is walkable, but we suggest using public transportation in some places, especially between Notre Dame and Montmartre. You’ll find details of which stops and lines to use in the itinerary.

Or, if you prefer to have your day organized for you, check out our recommended customizable one day in Paris walking tour and place yourself in the hands of a local expert.

One Day in Paris Itinerary & Interactive Map

How to use this map – Use your fingers (or computer mouse) to zoom in and out. Click or touch the icons to get more info about a place, and click the arrow in the box top left to open the index. To add to your own Google Maps account, click the star next to the title of the map.

Morning

Go Up the Eiffel Tower

The first thing to do in Paris is head to the wrought iron masterpiece that is the Eiffel Tower, high on any Paris bucket list before it gets busy with crowds. You absolutely must book tickets in advance, the queue for the city’s most famous landmark can be crazy!

Completed in 1889 to mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable city landmarks in the world today. The tallest structure in the world until 1930, it took 300 steel workers two years, two months, and five days to construct the Tower. 

From the Esplanade underneath and around the tower to the glass floor on the first floor, the Michelin-starred restaurant on the second floor, and the champagne bar at the top, the Eiffel Tower offers a lot to see and do.

The Eiffel Tower’s famous panoramic views from all the levels level are breathtaking. Take the lift, unless you are super-fit, as there are a punishing 1665 stairs to the top!

Avoid the year-round very long queues for tickets which start to form by mid-morning and reserve a spot on this highly recommended direct access guided tour which includes skip-the-line tickets right to the top and the company of a certified and experienced tour guide who will share inside information about this iconic Parisian landmark and its surroundings.

TOP TIP: One of the best places to get photos of the iconic Eiffel Tower is Place du Trocadero and the Trocadero Gardens. If you’re happy with an early start, then sunrise is a great time to take photos here due to the sun coming up at just the right angle giving you the best views. You’ll also have the place to yourself!

Eiffel Tower from Trocadero at sunrise

Stroll Along the Seine

On your way to the next destination, enjoy a morning walk by Paris’ most famous river, the Seine. It’s one of the best things to do in Paris for a day and a great opportunity to take in marvelous views and experience the vitality and buzz of the city.

It will take you around 50 minutes to walk from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre Museum on the Right Bank, or Rive Droite. If you don’t want to walk then get the RER C Line from Champ de Mars Eiffel Tower to the Musée d’Orsay stop, but we warn you, you’re missing out on street art, live music, cute shops, incredible views, and the best je ne sais quoi in Paris.

TOP TIP: Keep to the Left Bank, or Rive Gauche, of the Seine for the best atmosphere. Although called the Left Bank, it is actually the southern side of the river, an area known for its cultural history and the writers, artists, and philosophers who lived there. In fact, it’s where they say that Paris “learned to think”.

quai Voltaire houses and river seine

Visit the Louvre Museum

Next, you’ll want to head to the Louvre Museum, another iconic site you can’t miss when in Paris and one of the most visited museums in the world. And even if you’re not really into museums, the Louvre is a different experience.

Past home to Kings of France and set in front of the beautifully formal 17th century Jardin des Tuileries garden on the Right Bank, the Louvre is a stunning architectural treasure in its own right. Before you step inside, admire the Louvre Pyramid, a large glass-and-metal structure designed by the Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei in 1989. The pyramid is in the main courtyard of the Louvre Palace in Paris, surrounded by three smaller pyramids. 

The museum boasts an incredible collection of the world’s most prominent works of art from the 7th century BC to the mid-19th century and includes Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, and the statue of Venus de Milo, presumed to be Aphrodite, goddess of love. There will be something that speaks to you here, you just need to find it!

This is another Paris behemoth, which is almost impossible to visit on the day without tickets. And as you don’t have much time and a lot to see, it’s a good idea to book a timed entrance ticket in advance.

Be sure to visit the Apollo Gallery on the first floor, one of the must see rooms in the museum. The walls and ceilings are covered in beautiful frescoes and every surface that surrounds them is dripping in gold – it’s the most golden room we’ve ever seen!

TOP TIP: You may want to visit this fantastic museum more than once, in which case finding a hotel near the Louvre would help with your tight itinerary.

The Louvre glass pyramid from outside

Afternoon

Visit the Luxembourg Gardens

Just a five minute walk south from our recommended lunch spot, Freddy’s (see where to eat in Paris), and situated on the border between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, are the Luxembourg Gardens, home to the splendid 15th century Palais du Luxembourg, now a Government building closed to the public. 

But the real draw here is the gardens, inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence. The gardens were created by Queen Marie de Medici, mother of King Louis XIII, in 1612, and are a haven of lush peace in the manic city, a perfect place to find a few moments of quiet and where locals come to play boules, chess, and bridge, and stroll the tranquil pathways.

Many visitors to Paris are fascinated by the history of the city and the French Revolution in particular, which took place between 1789 and 1794. Find the best French Revolution tours in Paris and visit sites like Conciergerie where Marie-Antoinette spent her final weeks, the Concorde home of the gruesome guillotine, and the Bastille.

gravel path through colourful flower beds surrounded by grass, with historic buildings in the background

Discover Sainte-Chapelle

The royal chapel of Sainte Chapelle is a hidden gem of Gothic style and was intended to house precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns, which is now housed in Notre Dame.

It is best known for its simply stunning stained glass, which is arranged across fifteen windows, each fifteen meters high. The stained glass panes, 70% of which are original, depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments.

This is one of our favorite churches in Europe and a great place to connect with spirituality, even if you’re not religious. As the light comes in through the glass the rich colors are woven together and the atmosphere they produce is breathtaking.

Now that Notre Dame is less accessible because of the 2019 fire, Sainte-Chapelle has become much more visited. We recommend booking skip the line tickets so you can beat the queues and make the most of your time in this wonderful place.

a high wooden roof in a French cathederal surrouned by stained glass windows

Admire Notre Dame Cathedral

If you’re visiting Paris for the first time, you’ll find yourself in awe of the mighty Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris on the île de la Cité. Together with its neighbor Île Saint-Louis, they are Paris’s only surviving River Seine islands. 

This most famous Gothic cathedral from the medieval ages is best known for its magnificent architecture, as well as the historic events it has witnessed. It not only hosted the coronations of Emperor Napoleon I and King Henry VI, but it also survived the French Revolution and two World Wars, to say the least.

The UNESCO World Heritage Site suffered a vicious fire in April 2019. Sadly, some parts of the Catholic cathedral were so badly damaged that you cannot currently visit inside the cathedral itself. Instead, we recommend this external walking tour and Crypt du Paris visit, where you can learn about the reconstruction of Notre Dame and visit tickets to the archaeological crypt of Paris to see the old city’s foundations.

The good news is that Notre Dame is set to reopen on 8th December 2024, five years and seven months after the tragic fire.

Head for Notre Dame Square, or Parvis Notre Dame located in front of the cathedral. Since 2006, this square has been known as Place Jean-Paul II and is a gathering place for people, and also home to the statue of Charlemagne, king of the Franks and creator of France, by sculptor Louis Rochet.

If you have enough time, head north over the Pont d’Arcole and admire the Renaissance Hôtel de Ville. The city hall of Paris stands on the Place de l’Hôtel-de-Ville and Esplanade de la Libération in the 4th arrondissement and has been the headquarters of the municipality of Paris since 1357!

TOP TIP: It’s a good one hour walk from Notre Dame to Montmartre, your next stop, so we suggest using the Paris Metro.

Take the short walk to cross the river on Pont de l’Archevêché, the narrowest road bridge in Paris, and jump onto Metro line 4 heading north at Saint-Michel Notre-Dame metro station, and get off at Barbès Rochechouart.

Once you get to Montmartre, there is a funicular railway to take you up the highest hill in Paris, if you don’t fancy the walk and want to make the most of your limited time in Paris.

Notre Dame before the fire

Wander the Montmartre District

The artsy and unashamedly romantic neighborhood of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement is a wonderful place to slowly meander the cobbled streets, following in the footsteps of legendary artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh, or maybe re-live the movie, Amélie. 

Everything from the charming cafes and bistros to the galleries and professional artists at the busy Place du Tertre helps to immerse you in an unforgettable Parisienne experience.

To end this wonderful stroll, there’s no better spot than the one in front of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Coeur, where you can watch the sunset, with the entire city laid at your feet.

cobbled street with cafes and tables outside, Sacre Couer in the distance

Evening

Pose Next to the Moulin Rouge

If you’re a fan of the Baz Luhrmann film staring Nicole Kidman, then you can’t miss snapping a picture in front of the iconic red windmill, the Moulin Rouge, in Quartier Pigalle, at the foot Montmartre between the 9th and the 18th arrondissements.

Pigalle has a reputation for sleaze, but that’s a bit outdated now. You’ll find a younger crowd who are more interested in the cool music clubs in the area, than the sex shops and peep shows, or the can-can for that matter.

If you’re looking for the real deal, take in the world-famous cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge itself, where a troupe of 100 artists, including 60 Doris Girls, and a parade in 1,000 costumes of feathers, rhinestones, and sequins will make your night!

Moulin rouge lit at night

Take a Seine River Cruise

When the light has gone at the end of the day, discover Paris from a whole different perspective. Departing from Pont Neuf and gliding under the river’s famous bridges with Paris lit up around you, a Paris river cruise is a really special experience, especially if you’re in the city for romance. 

Our highly recommended Seine cruise takes you on a magical journey through Paris at night on board a classic Bateaux Parisiens pleasure boat.

River Seine and Notre Dame lit at night

Go to the Champs-Élysées

The perfect way to end a day in Paris is at the Champs-Élysées, the most famous avenue in Paris. There, you can enjoy the lights the world speaks of, west from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at Place de l’Étoile, and all the fine shopping stores in between.

Or head east along the Rue de Rivoli to spot the history of Paris, from the Place des Pyramides and the statue of Joan of Arc, located near where she was wounded at the Saint-Honoré Gate in 1429 to the Rue de Castiglione and the Place Vendôme, with its Vendôme Column topped by the effigy of Napoleon Bonaparte.

You can also spot the Eiffel Tower as it shines across Paris when it’s lit every evening for five minutes every hour on the hour.

TOP TIP: Did you know that you can climb to the Arc de Triomphe rooftop? The view from the top of the arch is worth climbing the 284 stairs for, as you survey all of Paris.

This is still a slightly more off-the-beaten-track climb than the Eiffel Tower, but becoming more popular by the day, so you should book skip the line tickets to be sure of direct access to the rooftop.

Paris street at night

Where to Eat in Paris

Freddy’s

The busy Rue de Seine, across the Pont des Arts from the Louvre, is home to Freddy’s. This is a friendly wine bar that offers a value for money lunchtime set menu during the week, a selection of delicious small plates that adapt to the seasons, and of course a fantastic wine menu, much of which can be ordered by the glass.

TOP TIP: The Pont des Arts has, in the last ten years or so, become known as the Lock Bridge because of the new tradition of couples attaching personalized padlocks to the railings and throwing the keys into the Seine River, to signify their love.

However, in 2015 the weight of over one million padlocks caused parts of the bridge to collapse and many were removed. People persist in attaching padlocks and you will still see many there, but please don’t place one yourself – use one of the metal padlock trees around the city.

Le Cadoret

Based in a former corner cafe, so typical of Paris, Le Cadoret is an affordable modern bistro with stylish decor, and good food and service, run by a husband and wife team in the off-the-tourist-path Belleville neighborhood.

It’s a good place to enjoy classic and modern French dishes from a menu that changes daily, made with ingredients that are seasonal and sourced from local markets.  

TOP TIP: Although this is not a tourist trap restaurant, it can get busy with locals and Parisians who know where to eat, so make sure to book in advance.

Top Five Paris Travel Tips

  1. The best way to get around is the metro. Paris is a big city and the main attractions are scattered far and wide. The Paris Visite travel pass allows you to use all of the public transport networks including the metro, tramway, bus, RER, and SNCF Transilien networks. A one day Paris pass for zones 1-3 costs €13.20 and in zones 1-5, which includes both Charles de Gaulle and Orly airports, it is €27.80. Be aware that a common scam is for someone to offer to help you purchase metro tickets, only to scam you of money and buy a cheap ticket that’s only valid for one journey. Be sure to only buy tickets online here, from the machines, or at the designated kiosk directly.
  1. Don’t bother buying the Paris Museum Pass – if you follow our itinerary, you won’t save any money at all. In fact, you’ll waste quite a few euros, sacré bleu!
  1. A common misconception about French people is that they are arrogant and rude, which is really not the case. Learn a few simple words of French and you’ll be smiled at all day!
  1. Be comfortable for your day in Paris – you’ll be walking a lot so comfy shoes or trainers are a must, and a rucksack, preferably pick-pocket safe, will help your shoulders and posture during your long and full day.
  1. Don’t waste your time at restaurants, cafes, or bakeries in touristy spots. The best and most delicious croissant is most probably found in an unknown boulangerie in a hidden side alley!
Metro station in a busy Paris street

More Than One Day in Paris

If you have just another half a day or you’re in Paris for one day more, the following attractions would all make great additions to your Paris itinerary.

Explore Versailles

Take a day tour from Paris and explore the wonderfully opulent Chateau de Versailles and its vast gardens, the historic home of King Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette.

The queues at Versailles can be monstrous, so much so that the pleasure you’ll get from visiting evaporates before you even enter the chateau! Make sure to get a priority Versaille ticket online before you visit.

gold filigree decor around a painted ceiling in a grand Parisian palace

Be a Kid at Disneyland Paris

Live your childhood dream and take a day trip from Paris to Disneyland Paris; you can never be too old for that! 44km east of the city, you can get a taxi there for around €60 for the one hour journey, or ask your hotel to arrange a transfer for you. Start early and book your Paris Disneyland tickets well in advance, you want to make the most of the day!

Disney castle at sunset in Disneyland Paris

Discover the Musee d’Orsay & Musee de l’Orangerie

Visit the Musée d’Orsay, housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900. The Orsay Museum exhibits mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1914, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography, and is a great spot for a rainy day in Paris.

Just over the river is the Musée de l’Orangerie, home to a 20th century European art collection and showcasing eight of Monet’s fabulous water lilies murals.

Grand art vmuseum in Paris with the Eifeel Tower in the distance

Go Shopping!

If you’re a shopaholic, splurge at Galeries Lafayette or Le Printemps, the upmarket French department store chains. Both their flagship stores are on Boulevard Haussmann in the 9th arrondissement of Paris. Even if you’re on a budget, both shops are fantastic places for window shopping and people watching.

Find Paris’s History in the Latin Quarter

Become surrounded by history as you step into Paris’ oldest neighborhood, the Latin Quarter. An area in the 5th and the 6th arrondissements, the Latin Quarter is situated on the left bank of the Seine, around the Sorbonne University, which was founded in 1257.

The Latin Quarter is wonderful for strolling, with sidewalk cafés, independent shops, iconic bookstores like Shakespeare & Company, and even a vineyard! It’s also home to must-see 17th century Jardin des Plantes, a true Paris hidden gem of lush gardens boasting 4,500 different plants and a spectacular 19th glasshouse.

Written for The Gap Decaders by Nadine Arab of Curls en Route

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