Let’s face it, just one day in Paris is never going to be long enough. It’s a city meant for enjoying, for people watching, romantic strolls and getting lost down the narrow alleyways. But if you really only have 24 hours in the city of light then it is possible to see the best of Paris in one day.
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During our recent trip to Paris we were staying in Versailles which is just a twenty minute train ride from central Paris. So we started our day with an early train ride. If you’re staying in the city centre then you’ll have a rather more leisurely start and can enjoy breakfast (obviously a flaky croissant and strong coffee) at one of the many pavement cafes.
Read more about our visit to Versailles with kids.
If you only have one day in Paris you’re going to need a quick and easy way to cover the city. The metro is a great way to get around but being underground you’ll miss the sights and sounds the city is famous for. An open topped bus is a great option. Most will allow you to buy a ticket for the day and you can get on and off as you please. With 24 hours to spare, you’re not going to be able to spend much time in each place but it’s still worth getting off the bus at several stops to explore.
We got off the train at Javel Station, and were rewarded by our first amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. We followed the river towards the city centre, excitement rising as we went. Our daughter had wanted to visit Paris for so long, the walk was full of oooos and ahhhhs and even a few dances!
After a quick coffee stop at the cafe next to the Seine we made our way to the first stop on our bus tour. This one is located right under the Eiffel Tower. You cant miss it just, head for Quai Branly at Eiffel Tower entrance 2. You can pre order your bus tickets on Get Your Guide or just buy them when you get on the bus. (Although this may be a little more expensive.)
Our Route Around Paris
The Eiffel Tower
Your journey begins by traversing the Champs de Mars park so you’ll get the chance to see the Tower from all sides. This is also a brilliant place to enjoy a picnic lunch on a sunny day.
Hotel Des Invalides
Then it’s off past The Hotel des Invalides and its glorious gold dome. Built in 1671 under the rule of Louis XIV to house homeless or injured French Veterans. Amongst other things it remains a hospital to this day. It is also home to one of the largest military museums in the world. Book your tickets online to save money.
You’ll be heading across the Pont Alexandre III, look out for the gorgeous gold statues standing proud at the entrance to the bridge.
Next you’ll be passing the Grand Palais, home to the Nave, The National Galleries and the Palais de la Decouverte. Then the Petit Palais, home to the city of Paris museum of fine arts. Two beautiful beaux arts masterpieces. If you’re an art or history lover then it’s well worth getting off for a look around but if you’re trying to see Paris in one day don’t linger too long.
Place de la Concorde
Next up is Place de la Concorde situated at the end of the Champs-Elysees. It’s one of the largest public squares in Paris and another great place for a picnic lunch. Although it was once an execution site during the French Revolution, you’ll notice nothing of its bloody past during your visit. Here you’ll find the impressive Luxor Obelisk and a couple of gorgeous fountains.
Paris Opera House
After winding through some chic Parisien streets you’ll get to the Opera Garnier, a 1979 seat opera house built in 1861. This was made famous by the Phantom of the Opera and the Baroque revival architecture evokes all the excitement of the show. You can hop off and take a tour of the Opera Garnier.
Stay on the bus and you’ll soon reach the Louvre Pyramid. This is one of my favourite places in the whole of Paris and even if you have just 24 hours in the city, it’s well worth getting off to explore further. As I’m sure you know, the Louvre is home to one of the worlds most famous paintings, Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Smaller than you would probably expect but utterly mesmerising up close. It’s not all about this one pretty painting, you’ll also see the Venus de Milo, Liberty leading the people and many more. Book your skip the line tickets for the Louvre in advance.
Make sure you save some time for a wander round the building, to view the glass pyramid up close and listen to a busker or two. The architecture and atmosphere is absolutely breathtaking.
You might want to attempt a Louvre trick shot, especially if you’re in Paris with kids. Trust me, it’s harder than it looks!
As this is around halfway round the bus route this stop is a good place for lunch. Head to one of the many riverside restaurants and grab a pavement table or just wander into the gorgeous Tuileries Garden between the Louvre and the Place de La Concorde.
From the Louvre, it’s back on the bus, crossing over the river to Notre Dame. Another of my favourite spot is Paris. The famous gothic cathedral is still bing restored after the devastating fire in 2019. It’s still absolutely glorious to view from the outside.
If you want to leave the bus here there is still plenty to do in the area with many cafes, street vendors and places to grab a snack. Or stay on the bus which will take you past the Institute de France, another stunning Paris landmark.
Next up is the Musee d’Orsay which is located on the banks of the Seine. This building was once a train station which has now been converted to a museum dedicated to historical art. If you would like to visit then tickets can be bought in advance online.
Arc De Triomphe
Eventually it’s back across the Seine and down the Champs-Elysees to the Arc de Triomphe. This is bound to be a bit slow going which makes it all the more wonderful. The Champs-Elysees is a fabulous place for people spotting. Watch the shoppers spend at the high end stores and see the grand architecture of the luxurious hotels.
Next you’ll be heading back through the city centre and past another gorgeous museum, the Palais Galliera. It’s a must visit for fashion lovers and Francophiles alike. It’s dedicated to the fashions of France since the 18th century.
Then up to the Trocadero at the Palais de Chaillot which offers some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Definitely pop off the bus here to stretch your legs and take in the stunning Jardins du Trocadero which slope gently down to the city.
Back to the Eiffel Tower
Finally you’ll be headed back down to your starting point. the Eiffel Tower itself. Take the time to wander around the base and end your day with a trip up to the top. You can book a ticket to the summit of the Eiffel Tower for around £40. The views from the top are absolutely worth it.
Then all there is to do is head back to your hotel or favourite restaurant. Or if you’re staying outside the city hop on a train back to base. We slowly wandered down the Seine to the train station but made sure to stop at the wonderful Quai Liberte on the river banks for a delightfully chilled bottle of wine and delicious dinner. The perfect way to end our trip to Paris in one day.
Tips for seeing Paris in One Day
Firstly, don’t try and see it all. For me, just the experience of being in the city and seeing the famous sights is enough. Just 24 hours in Paris will not allow you to visit every museum and attraction. Work out your top three must sees and then just take in the views from the bus. In my opinion it’s the Louvre, the Trocadero and the Eiffel Tower but it really is a personal choice.
If you’re anything like me, you’re going to want to cram in as much as possible. But please do take time out to enjoy a lazy lunch or dinner. Food in Paris in most part is excellent and there’s nothing better than people watching from a pavement cafe. We had no plans to stop for lunch until our daughter had a mini meltdown on the pavement. I was so grateful for the enforced break!
Take the bus! I’m sure I’ve convinced you by now that a great way to see all the sights of Paris in 24 hours is by bus. It’s just so easy. It’s great to be able to sit outdoors on the top deck to make sure we didn’t miss anything. We found all the buses to be very clean and never too busy. They were super reliable, the longest we had to wait was 20 minutes. Plus an audio tour is included in the ticket price so you’ll learn heaps as you go. I do recommend you pre order your bus tickets on Get Your Guide, it will save you a bit of money and stress when you arrive in the city.
Read Next: Our French Road Trip Itinerary
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