1 Day in Paris Itinerary Intro and Warning
There is something quite powerful about being a single, solo traveler in the city of love. The romance of the city overwhelms you, not in the expected places (at least not for me) but in the book stores and paper stands alone the Seine, tucked-away cafes in Montmartre, and alleyways in the Latin Quarter. It may be tempting to run wildly around the city, trying to see as much of Paris in one day as you can. But, try to resist the urge. You’re more likely to get a true feeling of the city on a 1 day Paris itinerary that covers some of the must-sees, but also highlights quaint, picturesque parts of the city as well that make Paris, well, Paris.
I expected to not like Paris. Every time the subject of Paris came up in conversation, casual or otherwise, people would throw in their thoughts and opinions: “You have to go to Paris once in your life,” they say, “even if it’s not the greatest city in the world.” “People are really rude and do not help you at all.” “The city is crawling with tourists,”
This couldn’t be right, I thought to myself.
There are songs about Paris! Movies! Books! Carrie Bradshaw reunited with Mr. Big in Paris! My beloved F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway haunted the streets of Paris. There is art, culture, history, architecture, amazing food, wine, how could you not love Paris?
Despite people’s warnings, I had to visit Paris anyway.
Airport to the City Center
You can fall in love with Paris, and have the most perfect Paris 1 day itinerary, but consider the practicals first. Paris has two major airports: Roissy Charles de Gaulle (CDG) to the north (the larger of the airports) and Orly (ORY) to the south.
CDG to the City Center
You will want to take the RER train into the city center. There are two stations, one in between Terminal 1 and 2, and the other one is beneath Terminal 2. The ticket to the Paris city center is 9.50 euros.
Depending on where you stay you may need to switch trains, but the cost of the RER Airport-Paris ticket includes those connections.
To get to the station from Terminal 1, take the airport shuttle or CDGVAL light rail to stop “railway station” at Roissypole. Then you can buy your ticket for the RER.
From Terminal 2, simply follow signs for Gare TGV/Railway Station. From there you can buy your ticket for the RER.
ORY to the City Center
For 12.10 euro you can take a train to the city center. You will take the Orlyval metro to the Anthony Train Station and then change and take RER B or C to your destination. It will take about an hour to get into central Paris.
Another option from this airport is to take the Orlybus for 8.30 euro. This will take you about 45 minutes to get to the city center.
Paris is a large city, walking is amazing, and there are certain places where it is easy to take an enjoyable 30-minute walk. However, since you are completing 1 day in Paris itinerary, for the sake of time, you will want to get familiar with the Paris metro.
For a single journey including connections, it will cost you 1.90 euros which you can buy at a metro station. Another great option is a day pass that will cover multiple zones including the airport-the valid times are 530am-530am. I simply purchased one-way tickets the entire time as I mostly walked around the city.
Paris uses the euro which fluctuates with the US dollar, but is almost a 1:1 conversion. Credit cards are widely accepted, and ATMs are abundant. If you’re visiting a small market it’s always a good idea to carry some cash on you.
French is the official language of France, although most people who work in the tourism industry will speak at least some English.
It is very important to learn a few keywords and phrases in French before your visit.
The first word you should learn is “bonjour.” It is translated as ‘hello’ in English but in France saying ‘bonjour’ is a way of acknowledging another human, young children are taught to welcome everyone with ‘bonjour’. Say it to shop owners, waiters, guides, everyone.
The next phrase is ‘Parlez vous Anglais?’ Which translates to ‘Do you speak English?’ 90% of the time (at least in my experience) people will say yes, and you can continue your conversation in English. It is polite to show that you are attempting to speak a bit of French. Not a lot is needed.
If on the other hand, someone starts speaking to you in French, you can say ‘Je parle Anglais’ or I speak English. They will switch to English if they speak it.
These three phrases will make your time in Paris so much easier and more enjoyable.
Paris is a safe city. Most of the places that you will visit are full of tourists and locals and workers day and night.
Mugging is probably the crime that happens most often to tourists, and usually happens in the most popular areas (Eiffel Tower, Louvre area, etc). Use common sense. Do not put your wallet or cell phone in a pocket. Pay attention to your backpack if it has a zipper.
I suggest investing in a Pacsafe bag or purse-slash-proof and stylish. Do not keep all of your money in one spot, but divide it up on your person and keep a backup card and some cash in your hotel room.
Where to Stay
Paris is a big city and major attractions are spread out-so you have a lot of different areas that you can stay in. I recommend staying no more than a 5 or 10-minute walk from a metro station. This way, you can navigate Paris easily by metro.
Paris is broken up into 20 Arrondissements or neighborhoods. The 1st Arrondissement is at the center of Paris, and the rest of the neighborhoods spiral out in a circle.
Montmartre (18th Arrondissement) is my favorite part of Paris and a wonderful place to stay. You’ll be close to lots of restaurants and cafes and cute streets. It is also relatively inexpensive.
Another option is to stay in the 4th Arrondissement. You’re walking distance to the Seine River and Notre Dame as well as the beautiful Latin Quarter.
To be close to the Eiffel tower, and if you have a bit more money to spend, you can stay in the 7th arrondissement to be walking distance to the tower or the 8th for beautiful views of the tower.
Even if budget didn’t matter I would still choose the 18th or 4th arrondissement to stay because they (to me) are what makes Paris truly beautiful. But you can really stay anywhere, as long as it’s close to a metro station!
Paris 1 Day Itinerary
Begin your 1 day Paris itinerary in the beautiful Latin Quarter. Aptly named because of the language spoken in the area by scholars in the middle ages. Now, this area houses several higher education establishments, cute bistros, and amazing bookshops.
Stop into a cafe for some breakfast. La Closerie des Lilas Cafe is famous for its 1920’s patrons, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald. The cafe is quite fancy now, other options include La Petite and Cafe Delmas. There are a multitude of cafes to choose from-make sure to try and avoid the tourist traps (overpriced meals, kitschy decorations, or pushy waiters trying to usher you to sit down).
I enjoy cafes where you can sit outside, eat a simple meal, drink some coffee, and people watch before you begin your day.
After breakfast wander around the green-roofed pop-up book stores along the Seine. Selling all kinds of paper products, you can purchase books, posters, postcards, etc. Another great store for book lovers is Shakespeare and Company Bookshop.
Stop by and see the Square St-Michel and admire the gorgeous statue, but don’t stay too long as this section of the quarter is crowded with tourists. Rather, make your way to the cute neighborhoods of Rue Mouffetard and Jussieu. Here you’ll find adorable, story-book streets and cute cats roaming around.
If you have some extra time stop into Jardin des Plantes or Jardin du Luxembourg and take a walk around the romantic gardens. Or stop by the beautiful Pantheon, the resting place of Victor Hugo, Voltaire, and Marie Curie.
Slated to reopen to the public in 2024, Notre Dame Cathedral was one of my favorite parts of Paris. You can still admire the church today, although you cannot go inside or climb to the top. Because I am an optimist, I believe that the church will be restored. When it is, this is what you can look forward to.
The best part of Notre Dame is hiking to the top. The views at the top are unreal.
You can see out over Paris, over the Seine River where book and print vendors set up shop to sell to locals and tourists alike, and the Eiffel tower is seen in the distance.
Perhaps the best part are the gargoyles on top of Notre Dam. I never liked the movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame-the the character reminded me of someone very dear to me and it made me physically sick watching people make fun of poor Quasimodo. But the gargoyles were always nice to him. They were Quasi’s friends. And I liked these little creatures too.
They were so life like-and I could easily imagine them coming to life, protecting the church from evil of all kinds. Hopefully, they will be there once again to protect the church and the city of Paris.
The Louvre is about a 15-minute walk from Notre Dame. I recommend walking along the Seine, admiring the city as you make your way to the famous museum.
You could spend weeks in the Louvre and not see everything. The best time to see the museum is first thing in the morning. The museum opens at 9 am, book your 17 euro ticket in advance.
I never went inside the Louvre, not having that much time and preferring to spend my time wandering the streets. I did get a photo of the glass top of a part of the museum.
Avenue des Champs-Élysées
After touring the Louvre (or just getting a photo of the glass structure) make your way to the Avenue des Champs Élysées. It is about a 30-minute walk, so if you’re short on time you may want to hop on the metro to get you there faster! Take the Palais Royal Musee du Louvre metro to station Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Described as “The Most Beautiful Avenue in the World” take your time and stop into some of the luxury clothing stores, cinemas, or world-famous restaurants.
If you’re on a budget, simply walk and enjoy the sites as you make your way to the Arc de Triomphe.
Arc de Triomphe
Commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon, and completed in 1836 by French King Louis-Philippe, the Arc de Triomphe honors the French who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. All of the names of the French victories and generals are inscribed on its surface. And the monument stands atop of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI.
Climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for stunning views of the city. But your ticket in advance online so you can skip the line!
The Eiffel Tower
Take the 30-minute walk or hop on the metro at station Estació de Charles de Gaulle – Étoile and go to Bir-Hakeim.
It’s a 9-minute walk from the metro station to the Eiffel Tower, now is a great time to grab some lunch.
Although restaurants around the Eiffel tower are pricey, you can grab a snack like a crepe or go to a cafe for some soup and bread.
Once you get to the Eiffel Tower, stay awhile. I loved the Eiffel tower; I find it so breathtakingly magnificent. The statue towers over the city, but the structure is rather delicate, intricate, and beautiful. It is sleek and slender, even though it is the center of the city.
Stroll around the tower, linger on a bench reading a book or just relaxing, gaze up every so often and smile at this famous landmark that is right in front of you, in the flesh.
You can walk on the tower, buying tickets in advance will help you avoid wait times. You get a pretty good view of the city. Walking in the tower is amazing and learning its history, but I still enjoyed admiring the tower from the ground more.
If you have some time, return to the tower at night. The tower puts on a light show every night, sparkling gold and silver in the darkness. You can watch the show at the top of every hour for 5 minutes from dusk to 1 am, or 2 am in the summer.
Take the metro from Bir-Hakeim to Blanche. You’ll land right at the Moulin Rouge, the beginning of the most beautiful part (in my opinion) of Paris.
Birthplace of the modern can-can dance, Moulin Rouge hosts wonderful cabaret shows. Buy tickets to see a show or simply admire the red windmill that marks this famous spot.
Oh, how I love Montmartre. I highly recommend staying in this part of the city. You’ll end your Paris 1 day itinerary here and be able to walk back to your hotel.
Colorful buildings, cobblestone streets, bursts of greenery and parks, tons of cafes, this place is stunning. Grab yourself some dinner and then have a walk around.
Montmartre is filled with ghosts of old artists: painters, writers, musicians, etc. I could easily see them meeting in a park for a coffee, or going out on the town dancing, or going out to lunch and discussing gossip.
Or, maybe I have just watched Midnight in Paris too many times and could easily imagine F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway meandering around this section of Paris.
Either way, I loved it.
There are some things you can ‘do’ while in this section of town including visiting museums (I recommend the Museum of Romance, personally), graveyards (Montmartre Cemetery is the resting place of a score of famous authors), climbing the steps of Sacre-Coeur for an amazing view of Paris, or buying some beautiful artwork at Place du Terte.
But the best thing to do in this neighborhood is to wander. Sit in a cafe and people watch, get lost in the alleyways, sit on the many steps in the neighborhood, and just be.
One night, I was eating dinner from a grocery store on one of the many sets of stairs in Montmartre. I saw many Parisians walking up and down the flights of stairs. Young students walked briskly up the stairs, a young couple made their way up slowly, laughing and breathing heavily the whole time, a mom carried her sleeping baby on her back, and groceries in her hand.
Then, I saw a father with his son, stop to talk to a woman going the opposite way. I didn’t understand what it was they were saying but they were so kind, and thoughtful towards each other. Their conversation was sweet and light. I could tell they were friends and were inquiring about each other’s lives.
I understood in that moment that no, Parisians are not the most outgoing of people. They may not smile all the time, or go out of their way to be your friend. But, they are kind. They love their family, and friends, and have genuine respect and kindness in their hearts for others. They don’t go out into the world and be loud, but instead reserve themselves to appreciate what is important.
Paris surprised me. No one was ever rude to me (as I had been anticipating from what everyone said); in fact, people were quite helpful. I had a good laugh with a guard at a metro stop. In French, I greeted him (bonjour) and asked him (in French) if he spoke English. He replied, “only when I’m drunk,” with a smile. I was a little taken aback and said, “well, I hope you’re drunk now because I need help.” We both broke out in laughter, he was very sweet and wished me a pleasant afternoon.
You can’t see everything in Paris in 1 day. But, you can see some of the major sites, as well as enjoy the ambiance of this beautiful city. Have a wonderful time in Paris!
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