What To Do If You Only Have 24 Hours in Paris | Urbansider (2024)

If it’s your first time visiting the French capital and you only have a short time to see the most celebrated landmarks of the city, this one-day Paris itinerary will help you discover the best of the city.

Prefer to explore the city with a local guide? Reserve a full-day private guided tour of Paris.

How to spend your morning in Paris

Very few things are more enjoyable than breakfast on the terrace of a café in Paris, so start the day properly with a pain au chocolat and a café crème while the city is waking up.

Take in the sights, the smells, and the sounds. The waiters are hurried and efficient, the scent of coffee and pastries permeates the air, and the clinking sounds of cutlery and china come together in a pleasant and familiar melody.

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Head for the Eiffel Tower — it is on everyone’s list, and for good reason. If you’re athletic, you can get some good exercise climbing the stairs all the way to the second floor — the views are outstanding. Can you imagine a better morning workout?

Descend toward Champs de Mars and take a left on Rue de Grenelle. In about 15 minutes you’ll be reaching Rue Cler, one of the prettiest streets in Paris — and one of the most animated, no doubt.

If you have the time, take a second to stop by a fromagerie and have a taste of Ossau-Iraty or Fourme d’Ambert.

From there, stroll towards the Dôme des Invalides. Napoleon’s tomb is there, and the building itself is worth a quick stop even if you’re not interested in France’s former military glory.

Further on, head towards the Seine and cross the Alexandre III bridge. It is the most flamboyant bridge in Paris. An Art Nouveau jewel, it is adorned with cherubs and nymphs and offers superb views of the Seine and the Eiffel Tower.

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Once on the other side of the river, make a stop at the Petit Palais. The building itselfis an architectural masterpiece and the permanent collection is free to visit. If you need a mid-morning snack, the museum’s café offers tasty treats as well as a beautiful garden setting.

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Now you’re faced with two options. You can either stroll up the most famous boulevard in the world, the Champs-Elysées, all the way to Arc de Triomphe. Or, you can turn the opposite way and walk towards Place de la Concorde.

I recommend the latter.

Just 10 minutes later you’ll find yourself in the large square, at the entrance of the Tuileries Gardens.

Fans of Monet: please note that the small but gorgeous Orangerie Museum is located at this entrance to the Gardens. You might want to go take a peek at the water lilies while you’re here.

Everyone else, keep going towards the Louvre Museum, you’ll see it soon.

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Admire the magnificent buildings, I.M. Pei’s modern steel and glass pyramid, and the water fountains. If you wish to go inside, your tour of Paris might end right here, as it will take you several hours to visit the museum’s many exhibits.

For those of you who think the Louvre can wait until a second visit to Paris, maybe stop by Café Marly for lunch. You can read our review of this restaurant to make up your mind.

If you’d rather have lunch elsewhere, let’s hurry up and cross over to Palais-Royal via Rue de Rohan and Avenue de l’Opéra. The gardens here are superb, complete with boutiques, cafés, and fancy restaurants.

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Café Véfour is beloved by Parisians in the know, and you’ll most likely need a reservation to have lunch here, so plan ahead.

Speaking of lunch, keep in mind that many Paris restaurants close at 2 pm and don’t reopen until 7:30 pm, which can seriously limit your options. To avoid disappointment, don’t delay lunch past 1 pm.

Browse our favorite lunch spots in the City of Light.

How to spend your afternoon in Paris

After enjoying a delicious French déjeuner, I recommend you keep walking north on Avenue de l’Opéra.

In a few minutes, you’ll arrive at Opéra Garnier. A stunning building inside and out, it’s certainly worth a stop.

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If you’d rather enjoy an hour or two of high-end shopping in Paris, continue on.

Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is right around the corner. Shopping here is a pleasure, but there is so much more to it than shopping.

This Art Nouveau masterpiece will wow you with its graceful lines, wrought iron balconies, intricate moldings, and spectacular stained glass cupola. Look for directions or ask the staff how to get to the rooftop terrace.

The panoramic views are superb and shouldn’t be missed. Across the street from the vast department store, at Galeries Lafayette Gourmet, you’ll find a plethora of fine French food to enjoy on-site or take away.

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How to spend your evening in Paris

It’s been an intense several hours and you’re probably ready to wind down a bit. Paris can be tiring if you don’t pace yourself!

So why don’t you take a leisurely stroll towards Le Marais neighborhood, via Rue des Petit* Champs and Rue Montorgueil? The latter is one of the most picturesque streets in the city, lined with cafés, restaurants and a variety of shops.

It’s an amazing spot for people-watching, should you care to stop for a drink and rest awhile.

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Only minutes away, the Centre Pompidou is a modern art museum that offers superb views from its top floor.

From here, meander through the medieval streets of Le Marais and get a taste of what Paris must’ve looked like in centuries past. Musée Carnavalet and Musée Picasso are also in this area, as is the stunning Hôtel de Soubise, home to the French National Archives.

If you made it this far, you’re only a few minutes from Place des Vosges. The brainchild of King Henri IV, this beautiful square stands as a timeless testament to the Renaissance architects.

Stroll around and admire the architecture as well as the avant-garde art exhibited in the several galleries hiding under the 16th-century stone arcades.

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How to spend your night in Paris

Sadly, your 24 hours in Paris are coming to an end. But there are still a few ways to soak up more of the city before you have to leave.

Head south towards the Seine and cross the river into Ile de la Cité.

Although Notre Dame Cathedral remains closed, it’s still a breathtaking sight and a mandatory stop on your Parisian itinerary.

From the nearby Pont au Double, board a dinner cruise of the Seine back to the Eiffel Tower. You’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable view of the city at night, and at the very end, the Iron Lady will be waiting for you, all lit up and glamourous, twinkling on the hour — guaranteed to steal your heart and make you promise you shall return.

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All that’s left is to return to your hotel for a good night’s sleep or make your way to the airport and set off on your next adventure!

What To Do If You Only Have 24 Hours in Paris | Urbansider (2024)
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