It can be difficult to decide exactly what to do each day of a vacation. You want to see as much as possible without running yourself into the ground.

I get it. The day we went to Versailles on my last trip to France, 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 our day tour of Paris the following day. We had a packed schedule of visiting the Louvre, walking down the Champs-Éysées to the Arc de Triomphe, and 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.

But as the day progressed, I realized that what I thought would be a miserably tiring itinerary was actually the perfect way to tour Paris in a day and see many of its iconic sights.



The Perfect Itinerary to See Paris in One Day

Let’s establish off the bat that it’s impossible to to actually tour Paris in a day and see all it has to offer. But if you only have 24 hours in the city and your priority is to see its most famous sights, this one-day itinerary is for you.

It prioritizes a few uniquely Parisian experiences related to the city’s history, its art, culture, architecture, and joie de vivre.

I’ve done all but one part of this itinerary and know that it can be comfortably done in a day – as long as you’re prepared (more on that below).

Without further ado, here is my curated itinerary for what to do if you want to see the best of Paris in a day. (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. Be sure to pre-book and pre-print your tickets to save time in line!
  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. Make your way to 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, including ones that couldn’t fit into this itinerary such as the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
  6. 2:00-3:15: Walk down the Champs-Élysées. Take it slow and enjoy the many parks and sights along the way.
  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.
  11. 5:00-6:30/7:00: Enjoy the 360-degree views of Paris. 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.
  12. 7:00-8:30: Eat dinner near where you are staying, and bask in the magnificence of the day you just had!

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!

A Step-by-Step Guide to the Day Tour of Paris 

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 staying near the Cité Universitaire station about 30 minutes away. We left at 8:00 so we could get to the Louvre early and grab a croissant and coffee before heading in.

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

The first stop on our day tour of Paris: the Louvre

Let the day tour of Paris begin!

9:10-12:00: Explore the Louvre. Visit 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, but it is on my list for the next time I go back to Paris.

 

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. No matter the time of year, the light will be lovely at 5:00. If you go around winter you could even catch a beautiful sunset from 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. 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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