There’s so much to see and do in Paris but if you only have 1 day, this is (in my opinion) the best things to see & do!
Before you start your day a few things to note:
- This itinerary is not for people that like to travel slow. It’s a packed itinerary combined with timing metro strikes and I ended up walking 44,000 steps this day. However, you could purchase a hop on hop off bus ticket to save some walking. I did the hop on hop off bus the first day to get an idea of where things are and see things from a different perspective, then did this itinerary the following day
- Check if there is a strike, it may affect all metro lines or only a few
- Wear walking shoes. I wore boots and my feet were swollen by the end of the day (I had been averaging 30,000 + steps per day for 2 weeks before this) but after that day I switched to Sketchers even if it didn’t look very ‘fashionable’ with jeans. Cobblestones and boots do not mix well!
- There isn’t much shelter (e.g. sidewalks and the Champs Elysee so if there’s chance it may rain, definitely take an Umbrella, and sunscreen if you’re visiting in Summer)
- If there’s a skip the line ticket for an attraction you want to see – buy it! (I’ve found it’s always worth paying a little extra to see more and skip queues)
Here’s a map of the 1 day Paris itinerary
Summary of the itinerary
- 7am – Trocadéro & Champ de Mars
- 9am – Metro to Notre Dame
- 10am to 1pm – there are a few options which I go over in more detail later in this post
- 1pm – Lunch
- 2pm – Walk along the riverfront around Notre Dame
- 3pm – The Louvre & Jardin De Tulleries
- 4pm – Champs de elysees
- 5pm – Arc De Triomphe
- 6:30 – 7pm – Dinner
- 9pm – Trocadéro
Now for the details!
7am – Trocadéro
Metro stop: Trocadéro
Yes it’s an early, 7am start. There’s a lot to see in Paris so if you want to see the highlights you’ll need to start early!
Take the closest metro strop from your hotel to the Trocadéro (the metro stop is easy to remember – it has the same name!).
Sidenote: I stayed in Notre Dame and really enjoyed that area – definitely recommend.
The Trocadero is that iconic paved square that provides one of the best photo spots of the Eiffel Tower. This is where you can get all those photos sitting on the ledge of those iconic steps.
Hopefully you time better weather than I did! It was clear blue skies every day I was in Paris except for the day I took this photo 🙁
After taking that iconic photo, head down the steps, past the fountains and across the river. Behind the Eiffel tower (or in front of it if you come from the other direction) is that famous green lawn (Champ de Mars). After taking dozens of photos, you have a few options for the rest of the morning. You can stay and go up the Eiffel tower or do one of the other things on my list a little farther down this post.
If you only have 1 day to see Paris I wouldn’t go up the Eiffel tower. You’d need to buy a skip the line ticket otherwise you’d lose a lot of time queuing. The view is great and it’s very cool to go inside the Eiffel Tower – it’s definitely worth it – but it’ll chew up a lot of time. If you have more than 1 day, definitely put it on the list. However, for your 1 day, there’s another great view of Paris from the Arc De Triomphe which is later in the day if you follow this itinerary.
Metro stops: Take the metro from Alma-Marceau, École Militaire or Gare du Pont de l’Alma (depending which way you walked around the Eiffel Tower) to Saint-Michel Notre Dame.
9am – Notre Dame
Metro stop: Saint-Michel Notre Dame or Hôtel de Ville depending which station you catch the metro from
What’s a day in Europe without some gelato or crepes?!
There are quite a few gelato shops on the Île Saint-Louis Ile but be warned: the queues can get very long (see photo below!) Since you don’t want to waste too much of the day queuing, I’d go to an Amorino (there are a few around the Notre Dame area).
For crepes, I recommend Crêperie du Cloître. Yes they are a bit expensive and in a very touristy spot (you’re looking at the iconic Notre Dame as you eat) but they were really good crepes! If it’s busy, don’t fret, there are plenty of other crepe places nearby.
10am to 1pm
You have a few options for the rest of the morning. I’ve put them in the order of what I recommend the most:
- 1 hour boat cruise & walk around the Notre Dame riverfront
- Monte Marte & the Sacre Cour
- Go inside Notre Dame and / or visit the Jardin De Tulleries
- Go up the Eiffel Tower (but make sure you book a skip the line ticket)
- Visit the Louvre (although you won’t have enough time to see everything)
The 1 hour boat cruises conveniently leave from Notre Dame so you could do the boat cruise, come back and have some lunch before heading to the Louvre.
Unfortunately it was raining when I did the boat cruise so I don’t have many photos (didn’t want to get my camera lens wet). The boats do have indoor covered seating. Even though it was raining it was still very relaxing and I’d definitely do it again on my next trip to Paris (whenever that may be!)
View from the top of the Eiffel Tower (wear multiple layers – it’s really cold up the top!)
Monte Marte is where you’ll find plenty of Insta-worthy streets including the Le Consulat cafe … and lots of steps
Jardin De Tulleries
1pm – Lunch
There’s plenty of food places to choose from in Paris, I’ll leave this up to you to decide! Just pick something nearby where you decided to spend your morning.
I found plenty of food places around Notre Dame (hence why I picked a hotel in this area). There was an Italian restaurant that had a really good lasagne called l’isolotto.
2pm – Walk along the riverfront
There’s plenty to see along the riverbank so take the scenic route and walk back and forth across the bridges.
There’s also plenty of stalls to look at with prints you can buy for a couple of euros
3pm – The Louvre & Jardin De Tulleries
By this time, if you haven’t already, make your way across to the Louvre.
I wasn’t too fussed on going inside the Louvre and if I do one day, it’d probably be to admire the building moreso than the art. So I didn’t go inside on my trip to Paris.
After taking your photo with the iconic glass pyramid, head straight up through the Jardin De Tulleries all the way to the Champs Elysee.
Jardin De Tulleries
4pm – Champs Elysee
There are some cafe’s along here if you need a snack although they’ll be expensive! There’s Laduree if you want some macaroons (which I found to be overrated).
Don’t forget to stop in the median strip for that iconic photo
You’ll also pass through Place de la Concorde square where Marie Antoinette was beheaded
If you didn’t do the boat cruise earlier in the day, do a quick detour past the Grand Palais to see the Pont Alexandre III bridge
5pm – Arc De Triomphe
The Arc De Triomphe can be a bit of a head scratcher on how to actually get to the middle of the roundabout. You’ll need to cross the road to the back of the Arc De Triomphe and look for the stairs leading down to a tunnel that runs underneath the road.
Again, I recommend a skip the line ticket so you can go straight up without queuing.
Once you get to the Ace De Triomphe it’s not quite time to rest yet! You need to walk up 284 steps first… Unless you look so wrecked (like my Mum did) that a staff member asks if you need to use the lift! (My Mum was quite offended and insisted on taking the stairs)
Once you get to the top you can rest your feet and watch the sunset!
Wait until it gets dark so you can enjoy the view of Paris all lit up at night. You may need to adjust the timings of this itinerary depending on the time of year that you visit and when sunset is due.
Stay to watch the Eiffel tower light up (it does so only once per hour and only for 5 minutes).
Nighttime view from the Arc De Triomphe
6:30pm / 7pm – Dinner
After the Arc de Triompe, head somewhere for dinner, or if you had a few too many macroons, gelato or crepes you may prefer to skip to the last item on the itinerary and have dinner afterwards.
9pm – Trocadero
End the day where you started – at the Tocadero!
Every hour, on the hour, for 5 minutes only, the Eiffel Tower lights up – do not miss it!
Try and time the light show no later than 11pm so you can get back to your hotel before your metro day pass expires at midnight.
If you don’t like some of the things on this itinerary, you could switch them out for these:
- Palais Royal – although this was quite boring and is seems to just be for a place where fashion bloggers / Instagrammers pose
- Saint Chapelle
- Montparnasse tower – I don’t think this is necessary though as you’ll already get a great view from the top of the Arc De Triomphe
- More gelato stops (can never have too much gelato!)
- Or maybe some maracoons or hot chocolate at a cafe and people watch
- Food Markets (on certain days of the week)
- Wander aimlessly at all the pretty streets
- Go shopping e.g. Galeries Lafayette
If you want to avoid using the metro you could use the hop on hop off tourist bus – it stops at all the major landmarks and you can just stay on the bus for a full loop taking everything in before choosing where to get off. Just take note of when the last bus of the day is – you may need to cut the itinerary short a few hours.
For the metro, you’ll need a zone 1 day pass ticket which can be purchased at the train station.
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