Edited by Jessica Wright
In this dynamic, cosmopolitan city it’s impossible to get bored - There’s always something new on the go. Paris has a rich and glorious history, an undeniably romantic charm, and all the trendiness of a modern city when it comes to food, fashion, and nightlife. To explore Paris in one day is a daring and ambitious endeavor, but one that – with a little help – is entirely possible. With my carefully crafted one day in Paris itinerary, containing all the precious sites and secret little nuggets that I’ve discovered in over ten years in the city, you can cover a great deal of the city of love.
While my itinerary of things to do in Paris in a day is a zealous one that will leave you craving for your bed by the end, it is tried, tested and doable at a fairly easy pace. Feel free to mix it up, linger a little longer at some places and omit others entirely at your leisure. Here I’ve plotted a path that will send you on a journey through this lovely city sure to result in the most beautiful memories and one that will have you booking your tickets quicker than you can say bonjour!
Indulge In A Cafe ́ Breakfast Among Literary Greats
When planning what to do in Paris in one day you should take into consideration where you would like to stay. My itinerary for Paris in one day begins in the picturesque and conveniently located St Germain Des Pres area, but there are many beautiful Parisian suburbs that will serve you equally well as your home away from home.
This comprehensive Parisian neighborhood guide has all you need to select where to stay in Paris for one night. Start off your one day in Paris itinerary at the St Germain Des Pres metro station, where you can take a seat at a sidewalk cafe´ once graced by the likes of Ernest Hemingway. Enjoy your coffee among the intellectual and artistic élite of Paris at classic literary spots like Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots – both legendary for their famous clientele.
After a quick breakfast with a romantic view in summer, or a cosy interior on a cold winter morning, visit the charming streets of rue de Buci and rue de Seine and enjoy some leisurely browsing. The eclectic rue de Buci is lined with a quaint array of delicatessens, bookshops, bakeries, and a market of its own, while rue de Seine boasts both a prime location and the highest concentration of art galleries and antique stores in the world.
Embark On A Morning Of Historical Exploration
After browsing art and antiques you could make your way to the foodie market Marché St Germain – a hidden gem often overlooked by tourists passing through – to pick up some fresh nibbles for the road.
Once you’re well stocked, take a scenic stroll past the prestigious Théâtre de l’Odéon and La Sorbonne – one of the oldest universities in Europe, boasting many Nobel Prize laureates among its alumni – before finally entering in the famous Panthéon; a masterpiece of architecture that overlooks all of Paris.
Designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot who applied all the classical principles of a Gothic cathedral in its conception, the iconic building is the resting place of many great figures.
The crypt houses the remains of famous writers and philosophers Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau among other famous names integral in important political, scientific, and religious historical developments. The 70 illustrious tombs include Emile Zola, Alexandre Dumas, Pierre, and Marie Curie.
Indulge In A Leisurely Lunch
After an awe-inspiring trip through history you could work up a bit of an appetite with some shopping in the lovely pedestrian street of rue Mouffetard, another feature on my list of favourite Paris neighbourhoods to stay in. The chic but no-frills area of Mouffetard offers an authentic Parisian shopping experience that captivates all the senses.
The beautiful street market offers a stunning selection of fresh produce, pastries and cheese, as well as several quaint restaurants to stop at for lunch. The fanciful L'enclos de Ninon, in English the “Sugarplum Cake Shop” offers a delightful quiche and is one of my top personal recommendations for where to eat with one day in Paris.
At this quiet spot in the heart of Paris you can expect a warm welcome and a dazzling selection of pastries – homemade with quality ingredients. Of course Paris has many excellent options for lunch so if for whatever reason L'enclos de Ninon is not an option you can find several more in this enticing guide for non-touristy lunch spots.
Enjoy A Relaxing Nap In The Botanical Gardens
After a delicious lunch break head to the Arènes de Lutèce to see the only remains of the Gallo-Roman period still visible in Paris today, constructed in the 1st century AD.
Once you’ve had your fill of ancient history and basked in the residual glory of gladiatorial combat you can cross the 28-hectare Jardin des Plantes – a perfectly uniform labyrinth of flora and fauna with gardens abundant in bird and insect life, alpine gardens, a hothouse, and a zoo – to the Museum of Natural Sciences.
The Jardin des Plantes is the main botanical garden in France and the crowning jewel of the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle (the French National Museum of Natural History). While the interior of the museum is well worth a visit, to do it justice you would need several hours and with only limited time in the city, there is still so much left to do and see!
Take some time to enjoy the well-maintained gardens, perhaps enjoying a quiet moment to snack on your spoils from the food market or to catch a catnap, and be sure to get regal in front of the museum before moving along to the beautiful Seine River.
Meet “Our Lady Of Paris” On Île de la Cité
Enjoy a peaceful walk along the Seine until you see Île Saint-Louis, one of two natural islands in the Seine river and a place untouched by the march of time. By following rue Saint Louis it is possible to walk the length of the island, along old-world cobbled streets that wind between some of the most expensive properties in France due, of course, to the view they share of Notre Dame and the Seine.
Pass through the narrow streets of the historic neighborhood, which has a little village feeling despite its being at the center of a cosmopolitan, and on to Île de la Cité to the legendary Notre Dame – an absolute must for what to do in Paris in one day.
The Notre Dame, which translates to “Our Lady of Paris”, is everything you think it will be; stunningly beautiful, very old, and one of the most exceptional and world-renowned examples of French Gothic architecture in the world. While it was recently ravaged by a tragic fire, it is already on the mend and remains one of the must-see attractions in Paris.
Take in some art
After breathtaking views – up close and from afar – of Notre Dame, you might imagine there are no better views to be had; but you’d be wrong! Cross the Seine and take the elevator to the roof of the Pompidou Modern Art Museum for the most astounding view yet! The museum itself is a 20th-century icon, housing the biggest collection of contemporary art in Europe.
No ticket is required to enjoy the art, or the view which is accessible from 12.00 am to 10.00 pm. Pair your sunset view with a reviving cup of coffee and perhaps splash out on some fine-dining nibbles at Georges where you can watch the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower switch on while you eat. Once energized head onward to Le Marais – a lively, newly revitalized neighborhood with picturesque streets lined with cafeś and eateries, small boutiques, and beautiful architecture and gardens.
Be sure to look up while you walk to take in the gorgeous display of street art adorning the area and if you happen to be an art fanatic you might consider a small detour to the Contemporary Art Gallery to admire the exclusive of contemporary work. For dinner stop in at Le Barav, where you can enjoy a dinner accompanied by wine purchased from their shop, sold with a selection of cheese and charcuterie.
Sundowners With Dazzling City Views
Finish off your one day in Paris with a visit to some trendy drinking spots. At Oberkampf street – renowned for excellent street art – there are many bars and clubs to choose from, including the hidden cocktail bar of Hotel 1K; the perfect place to kick the night off!
The bar of Hotel 1K is a quirky spot with an enormous selection of Mezcal – one that offers an authentic Oaxaca experience – as well as a truly original menu. Afterward, you could enjoy a beer on the bustling terrace of the no-frills l’Autobus (Bus Cafe´) an affordable joint with Parisian jukebox music.
Go out dancing to excellent live rock music in the grungy setting of l’International or – for a more eclectic crowd and a 1970s New Orleans vibe – head to L'Alimentation Générale to mingle with hip students and intellectuals, ringing in the dawn to a soundtrack of anything from reggae to classical jazz.
After a stimulating 24 hours in the city of love, the only love you’ll be seeking is that of your bed! When, however, you come back – as they all inevitably hope to do – why not make it Paris in 2 days next time?
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