For one day in Paris, it’s not too hard to pack in the essentials. Unless you’re planning on visiting a specific museum or monument, forget about waiting in any lines. It’s best just to stay on foot and visit the main sites from the outside, weather permitting.
One day in Paris
Start on the Ile de la Cité
The line for the Eiffel Tower, for example, would waste at least an hour of time, so we opt instead to see it from afar and save the ascent for your next visit.
As far as eating is concerned, sit-down restaurants are suggested here, but there are no shortages of bakeries for a quick cheap sandwich to be enjoyed on a bench or in any of the city’s parks.
Also, this itinerary focuses on the Right Bank and Montmartre, but feel free to see the two-day itinerary for suggestions for a day on the Left Bank.
1. Ile de la Cité
Start where the whole history of Paris started on the Ile de la Cité, in front of the gothic masterpiece known as Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. Construction on the cathedral, one of the most important Gothic-style structures in the world, was begun in 1163 and today's building represents many centuries worth of additions and alterations, most notably during the 1840s.
Take a quick (and free) visit. Then wander the island, away from the church, and head towards the western tip and cross the Pont Neuf. Although the bridge's name means "new bridge," the structure is ironically the oldest bridge standing today in Paris. Construction began in 1578, and it was the city’s first stone bridge. Cross it as you head toward the Louvre on the Right Bank.
Unfortunately, there’s simply not time to visit the interior of the Louvre, unless you really feel an intense need to visit the Mona Lisa and keep moving. (Even this, of course, is unlikely. Once inside, you'll have thousands of great reasons to stay. You've been warned!) If you plan to head inside, check out our list of tips for visiting the Louvre.
Instead, head through its majestic courtyards and appreciate the architecture and IM Pei’s modern glass pyramid, completed in 1989.
3. Tuileries Garden
Next, stroll through the adjacent Tuileries Garden (Jardin du Tuileries), which, when it opened in 1564, functioned as the royal garden of the Tuileries Palace. The present garden was designed in the 1660s by André Le Nôtre, the same gardener who laid out the greenery at Versailles. It was opened to the public following the French Revolution.
At the west end of the garden, near the obelisk in the center of Place de la Concorde, soak up the gorgeous panoramic view including the Eiffel Tower, the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, and the Grand Palais (built 1900).
4. Rue de Rivoli - Rue Montorgueil
Head back toward the Louvre under the arcades that run along rue de Rivoli (to the north side of the Tuileries) and turn left on rue du Louvre. Wander toward the church, St-Eustache (built 1532-1632), and take a walk up rue Montorgueil, a lovely pedestrian street lined with cafes, restaurants and small shops.
Pick a table at any of its numerous café terraces for an affordable lunch. Save room for dessert at Stohrer (52, rue Montorgueil), the city’s oldest pastry shop.
After lunch, take the Metro (line 3 at Sentier at the north end of rue Montorgueil) or walk north to Montmartre. The Moulin Rouge is at the base of the hill, by Metro stop Blanche on line 2, next to rue Lépic.
Follow rue Lépic up the hill and turn right. Get lost in the streets around Place des Abbesses where artists like Picasso and Van Gogh used to live. (If you haven't eaten lunch yet, you can find plenty of places to eat now. Here's a list of some of our favorite restaurants in the Abbesses neighborhood.)
6. Sacre Coeur
Head back to rue Lépic past Van Gogh’s old house (54, rue Lépic) and fight gravity as you continue toward the Sacre Coeur basilica. This Byzantine-styled structure was completed in 1914 and sits at the highest point in Paris.
After visiting the church, take in the musicians or the sunset over the city from the steps in front of the church. Be sure to check out the nearby Place du Tertre and the many artists peddling their paintings.
Once hunger strikes, check out Le Relais Gascon (6, Rue des Abbesses) for a notoriously filling and affordable salad for dinner.
Also in our guide
- Two days in Paris: A Cheapo itinerary.
About the author: Bryan Pirolli is the Paris-based correspondent for EuroCheapo.com. All photos by EuroCheapo.