Though Paris, France might not be my favorite city in Europe, it does have an undeniable charm that rightfully places it first in the hearts of many. I haven’t been back since I went in 2011, but I still remember enough to provide my recommendations on how to spend a day in the City of Light.
I traveled to Paris from London. This meant that I rolled into the city via the Eurostar at Gare du Nord which is, not surprisingly, in the northern part of the city. My outline for the day takes you on a loop to and from Gare du Nord. Paris, of course, is a very fashionable city so I recommend that while you are as comfortable as possible since this route involves a lot of walking, you also are as a stylish as possible so that you don’t feel out of place.
A natural first stop when arriving to the city Gare du Nord is Montmarte. You can get there by going one stop on the metro to Barbès – Rochechouart. You can also walk, but it’s a long day of walking, so I took the metro. This is a lovely part of town that does have some tourist traps mostly because of the fact that it’s the home of the Sacré-Cœur the Roman Catholic church that was completed in 1914. The walk up to the Sacré-Cœur is steep but more manageable if you take your time. There is a funicular if you feel like you need it. Once at the top make sure to turn around take in the view.
Ahhh…you’re in Paris.
View from le Sacré-Cœur | It was a bit cloudy when I went
There is no entrance fee to the Sacré-Cœur but you will most likely have to fight off tourists to get inside. It’s lovely though and worth it! If there are miscellaneous tchotchkes or souvenirs that you want to purchase, this might be a good place to do it. There are also plenty of cafés where you can enjoy a nice cup of tea or perhaps a lovely slice of quiche. After you’ve explored to your hearts content walk down Montmartre to the Blanche metro station. You’ll be able to take a peek at the Moulin Rouge on your way!
L’Arc de Triomphe & Le Tour Eiffel
Take the metro to Charles de Gaulle – Étoile. Once you get off here you’ll be on the Champs-Élysées and able to see the Arc de Triomphe which was constructed in 1836 to honor those who died for France during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. This area is pretty interesting in itself because it’s a gigantic roundabout. You’re able to go inside the Arc if that catches your fancy.
From here you’ll walk to the Eiffel Tower. Before you cross the Seine you’ll see the Palais de Chaillot. Since we’re short on time you might not be able to go inside but there is where all of the beautiful fountains are that you often see when looking at pictures of the Eiffel Tower. There are going to be five zillion tourists around the Eiffel Tower so if you want to take in views of the structure in relative peace there’s plenty of seating at the gardens in front of the Palais de Chaillot. Once you cross the river you can explore the tower and wait in the line to go up tower if you’d like. This is also a good place to stop for the restroom.
From here you can walk along la Seine and soak in being in Paris. Cross back over the river at Pont Alexandre III bridge. It’s a very beautiful bridge in the Beaux-Arts style. Once across you’ll see two lovely buildings on either side of Avenue Winston Churchill also in the Beaux-Arts style. This is le Grand and le Petit Palais, two art museums. I went to Le Petit Palais because it seemed a bit easier to tackle with the limited amount of time that I had. Admission is free to the permanent exhibitions and the architecture of the building is beautiful enough to warrant a visit.
Once done with the museums you can then head back to L’Avenue des Champs-Élysées, heading towards Le Louvre. I didn’t go inside the museum, but I thoroughly enjoyed the gardens leading up to it. There’s also some good last minute shopping on Rue de Rivoli which runs parallel to the gardens.
By this point it should be pretty late the day and if you’re only in Paris for the day I recommend heading back to Gare du Nord as it’s going to take you a bit to get back to the northern part of the city. I’ll close by saying that there’s so much to see in Paris. This post doesn’t cover Notre-Dame, or some of the lovely bookshops and cafés, or too many of the museums in Paris just to name a few things, but if you’re short on time these itinerary should help you to get a good feel for the city. Enjoy!