Carousel and Eiffel Tower

It can be hard to decide exactly what to do each day of a trip. You want to see as much as possible without running yourself into the ground. I get it. The day we went to Versailles, we walked 11 miles between roaming the grounds and doing a couple of things in Paris afterwards. I was wiped.

As long as our day was in Versailles, we were even more concerned about the following day. We had a packed itinerary of visiting the Louvre, walking down the Champs-Éysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and finally going to the top of the Eiffel Tower before meeting friends for dinner. Getting from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe alone is a 50-minute walk. Factor in traversing one of the world’s largest museums and, well, it could have been a recipe for disaster.

As the day progressed, however, I realized that what I thought would be a miserably tiring day was actually the perfect way to spend one day in Paris.

It’s impossible to pack all of the sights of Paris into a single day, but if you only have 24 hours in the city you will want to experience a combination of things: the history, the art, the culture, the architecture, the joie de vivre. We got almost all of that as we explored the City of Love that Friday in July.

Our day was so wonderful that I wanted to document what we did and share it with all of you. So without further ado, here is my curated itinerary for what to do if you only have one day in Paris. (You can also download it here.)

  1. 7:00-8:00: Wake up and eat a full breakfast. You’ll need that energy!
  2. 8:00-8:30: Depending on where you’re staying, start making your way to the Louvre. Don’t forget to pre-print all your tickets!
  3. 9:00: When you arrive, take some pictures in the courtyard and then get in line. There are metal detectors and x-rays but backpacks are allowed.
  4. 9:10-11:45: Explore the Louvre. Hit up the Mona Lisa first, before the swarms of tour groups make it impossible to get close.
  5. 11:45-2:00: Grab a bite to eat near the Pont Neuf before heading to Vedettes du Pont Neuf for a 12:45 Seine River cruise. This is a one-hour guided cruise where you can see many of Paris’s sights from the water.
  6. 2:00-3:15: Make your way down the Champs-Élysées. Take it slow and enjoy the many parks and sights along the way. Take some snaps at Place de la Concorde where a huge Egyptian obelisk stands in the middle. And be sure to stop in the Guerlain store along the Champs-Élysées – it is a feast for the eyes!
  7. 3:15-3:45: Walk around the Arc de Triomphe and use your ticket to go to the top. Enjoy the views of the city! Spend a moment paying your respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
  8. 3:45-4:15: Head toward the Trocadéro from the Arc de Triomphe. Grab a quick snack along Avenue Kléber if you need a pick-me-up.
  9. 4:15-4:30: Take pictures of the incredible head-on view of the Eiffel Tower from the Place du Trocadéro before walking down the steps and across the garden toward the tower.
  10. 4:30-5:00: Go through security and get in line to go up the Eiffel Tower. If you reserve your tickets for 5:00, you should have no problem doing all of the stops on this itinerary and arriving at the Eiffel Tower in time. Depending on the time of year, entering at 5:00 could land you a gorgeous sunset at the top!
  11. 5:00-6:30/7:00: Enjoy the 360-degree views of Paris from the top. Be sure to go to the third, open-air level if you also want to feel what it’s like to be at the top – swaying, winds and all. That might be the first time in my life that I was actually terrified of heights! Grab a drink at the bar on the first level on your way back down just to say you did.
  12. 7:00-8:30: Eat dinner near where you are staying, and bask in the magnificence of the day you just had!

Here’s a map of our full journey.

Tickets you should purchase in advance (links go directly to ticket pages):

  • Louvre. We bought standard entry tickets for €15.
  • Vedettes du Pont Neuf. We bought a one-hour cruise ticket for €14.
  • Arc de Triomphe. Standard entry tickets are €12 for those over 25.
  • Eiffel Tower. We bought tickets that gave access to the summit for €17.
  • Be sure to print all of your tickets to ensure you can gain entry!

If you want to see for yourself what the itinerary has in store, here is a step-by-step recap of our experience.

7:00-8:00: Wake up and eat a full breakfast.

8:00-8:30: Depending on where you’re staying, start making your way to the Louvre. We were at the Cité Universitaire stop, about 30 minutes away. We left at 8:00 so we could get there early and grab a croissant and coffee before heading in.

9:00: Take some pictures in the courtyard and then get in line.

Marissa at the Louvre in Paris, France

 

Dress: Target (similar)
Leather jacket: Las Pepas (similar – note that the price is listed in Argentine Pesos)
Shoes: Keds (similar)

 

9:10-12:00: Explore the Louvre. Hit up the Mona Lisa first, before the swarms of tour groups make it impossible to get close.

We focused our visit on seeing the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo, with a lot of hallway-wandering in between.

Marissa at the Louvre

This reflective black wall made anyone who walked past it look like an impressionist painting.

I particularly liked these statues we came upon: The naked guy who looks like he just woke up from a nap, and the female figure with an intricately carved dress. (I’m sure someone out there is offended at my casual descriptions of these priceless works of art. Sorry to whoever you are.)

 

We left around 11:00 feeling good about what we were able to see, though I would like to spend a full day at the museum on a future visit to see even more of its treasures.

For this itinerary, I’ve blocked out some extra time for those who want to explore more than we did.

12:00-2:00: Grab a bite to eat near the Pont Neuf, but make sure you’re done in time to catch a 12:45 Seine River cruise! When you’re done with lunch, walk halfway across the bridge to Vedettes du Pont Neuf for the cruise. Tickets are normally €14 for adults for a one-hour guided cruise where you can see many of Paris’s sights from the water. It’s also a welcome opportunity to rest your feet after walking around the Louvre.

Full disclosure: we actually did the cruise the day before (yes, on our epically long day of walking Versailles. Apparently we are gluttons for punishment). But it was so easy and enjoyable that I thought it would be the perfect addition to this itinerary.

 

2:00-3:15: Make your way down the Champs-Élysées. Take it slow and enjoy the many parks and sights along the way. Take some snaps at Place de la Concorde where a huge Egyptian obelisk stands in the middle. And be sure to stop in the Guerlain store along the way – it is a feast for the eyes!

3:15-3:45: Walk around the Arc de Triomphe and use your ticket to go to the top. Enjoy the views of the city! Spend a moment paying your respects at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Full disclosure: we didn’t go to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, though it is on my list for the next time I go back to Paris. I don’t know how long the wait is to get to the top, but if you have insight into this, let me know in the comments!

 

 

3:45-4:15: Head toward the Trocadéro from the Arc de Triomphe. Grab a quick snack along Avenue Kléber if you need a pick-me-up.

4:15-4:30: Take pictures of the incredible head-on view of the Eiffel Tower from the Place du Trocadéro before walking down the steps and across the garden toward the Eiffel Tower. It is striking!

4:30-5:00: Go through security and get in line to go up the Eiffel Tower! If you reserve your tickets for 5:00, you should have no problem doing all of the stops on this itinerary and arriving at the Eiffel Tower in time. If you get there early, relax in one of the many parks around the tower. Depending on the time of year, entering at 5:00 could land you a gorgeous sunset at the top!

Elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower

Nothing like a rickety elevator carrying you up to the top of an open-air iron structure to make you feel secure!

5:00/6:00-7:30: Enjoy the 360-degree views of Paris from the top. Be sure to go to the third, open-air level if you also want to feel what it’s like at the top – swaying, winds and all. That might be the first time in my life that I was actually terrified of heights! Be sure to grab a drink at the bar on the first level on your way back down.

7:30-9:00: Grab dinner near where you are staying, and bask in the magnificence of the day you just had!

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