France

ONE DAY IN PARIS

Eiffel Tower Paris

Only have one day in Paris? Don’t worry! This guide will show you how to make the most of your time and the top things to see and do if you’re only in Paris for 24 hours.

Ah, Paris. The city of light, love and croissants. Honestly, I didn’t love it as much as I thought I would.

I ended up in Paris for a day because of a mistake with my visa. Embarrassingly, I arrived in London the day before my visa started. I could get into the country as a tourist, but to activate my working visa I’d have to leave the United Kingdom and then re-enter it.

Where to go? Paris. I’d never been, and I had romantic notions of strolling along the Seine, crepe in hand. I’d visit the Notre Dame and take some spring time snaps of the Eiffel Tower behind a cherry blossom. Maybe check out the Louvre and see the famous Mona Lisa.

Paris Le Marais

 In my one day in Paris I did all of that and there were parts of the city that I found beautiful and interesting.

But there were also parts that were dirty, sketchy, and made me feel unsafe – something that as a solo traveller I hadn’t experienced in either Singapore or London. Part of my negative experience was due to an encounter with an older Frenchman who invited me back to his apartment for a massage and shower.

Don’t worry; there’s a good chance that on your visit you’ll be lucky enough to avoid creepy perverts, and hopefully walk away with a better impression than I did.

Would I go back? Definitely. And to really experience Paris, I’d love to stay at least 3-4 days. But if you do only have a day in Paris, here’s how you can make the most of it.

GET UP EARLY TO SEE THE NOTRE DAME

Well, this is awkward. The fire that destroyed large portions of this incredible cathedral happened two days after I visited, so I’m grateful that I got to see it while it was there.

If the Notre Dame has been rebuilt by the time you read this, it’s definitely worth checking out. There are a lot of cathedrals in Europe and it’s easy to get cathedraled-out, but the Notre Dame is a beautiful building and true Parisian icon. If not, maybe just skip over this part.

Blossoms in front of the Notre Dam, Paris
Notre Dam, Paris

WANDER THE LATIN QUARTER & LE MARAIS

From the Notre Dame I refuelled with a Nutella crepe and spent a couple of hours wandering the streets of the Latin Quarter and Le Marais. Home to Sorbonne University the Latin Quarter is filled with picturesque student cafes and book shops.

If you’re a book lover make sure to check out Shakespeare and Company, an iconic English-language bookshop steeped in literary history. Nearby the fashionable Le Marais is lined with boutiques, beautiful architecture and gay bars.

Both the Latin Quarter and Le Marais are great neighbourhoods to take the camera and explore; you’ll find countless pretty streets that feel quintessentially Parisian. If you’re only in Paris for a day, spending time here will really give you a feel for the ‘real Paris’.

Old white car drives down charming street, Le Marais, Paris
Le Marais, Paris

SEE THE MONA LISA AT THE LOUVRE MUSEUM

Did you really go to Paris if you didn’t see the Mona Lisa? Honestly, I think it’s a bit overrated and didn’t join the massive queue to snap a selfie with her, but you should still pay a visit.

The Louvre is a fascinating museum home to numerous works of art besides Da Vinci’s (small) masterpiece, including the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Venus de Milo. The Louvre is massive and to see everything would take days, so if your time is limited plan on spending around 2 hours and be selective on what you see. Don’t forget to take photos by the iconic Louvre pyramids!

Tickets to the Louvre are €17 online and €15 at the museum. You can get free entry if you visit on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm (though you can expect it to be very crowded).

Louvre pyramids outside the Louvre Museum
The Louvre Museum

EAT A PICNIC BY THE EIFFEL TOWER

By this point you will have done a lot of walking and you’re probably in need of a break (and some food). Walk along to Rue Cler. One of the most famous market streets in Paris colourful Rue Cler is lined with cafes, delicatessens, pastry shops and butchers.

You could eat here, but instead grab a picnic and head to the park for lunch by the Eiffel Tower. Even if you only have one day in Paris take the time to sit on the grass, do a bit of idle people-watching, and munch on a delicious French baguette. You’re in Paris, and this is what exploring Paris should look like.

Handing holding berry tart with Eiffel Tower in background
A picnic by the Eiffel Tower

FIND THE BEST VANTAGE POINTS OF THE EIFFEL TOWER

I didn’t climb up it as the line was massive but I did spend my afternoon trying to find the best Instagramable views of the Eiffel Tower.

There are many articles out there on the best places to photograph this Parisian icon (like this one) so I won’t add to them, but the places I went were Avenue de Camoens and Trocadero. The avenue was picturesque and almost deserted, save for a couple doing a wedding shoot in front of the tower. Trocadero on the other hand was packed with people although it did offer spectacular views of the Eiffel Tower.

WATCH THE SUNSET FROM MONTMARTE

The view from Montmarte is stunning and you’ll find crowds of people at the lookout watching the sunset over the city. Do check out the Sacre Coeur while you’re there as it’s a magnificent building (and if the Notre Dame is still closed at least you’ll get your basilica fix).

It turns out my sense of geography is terrible (surprise surprise) because I had expected to get the perfect sunset shot of the Eiffel Tower. In reality the Eiffel Tower was quite far in the distance and mostly obscured by buildings. Plus, I got accosted by a Frenchman who wanted to give me a massage… Anyway, the views are beautiful, and Montmarte is definitely worth checking out.

Sunset from Montemarte with Eiffel Tower in distance
The view from Montmarte

At the end of the day I was exhausted from all the walking and slightly shaken by my creepy Frenchman encounter. I had seen the Mona Lisa, the Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower, and yet felt that I hadn’t really scratched the surface of Paris. It’s an enchanting city, if not altogether likeable on first impressions. But I’d definitely go back. In fact, I’m planning my return for later this year.

Stay: I stayed at St Christopher’s Inn Gare Du Nord and paid €39.40 for a bed in a 8-bed female dorm. The hostel was in a good location – only a few minutes’ walk from Gare Du Nord and within walking distance of Montmarte. If you’re a light sleeper and not into parties this probably isn’t the place for you. I stayed over the weekend and didn’t get to sleep until 3:30am.

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