Paris In One Day: Itinerary For An Epic Day In Paris

paris rooftops and the eiffel tower at sunset - paris in a day

Paris is a captivating city, densely packed with things to see and do – but with so much choice, how can you choose what to do on a day trip to Paris?  This article is a guide to how to make the most of a short amount of time, such as a day trip to Paris or a very short stay.

Maybe you live not far from Paris (like me) and are considering a day trip there; maybe you’re travelling elsewhere in Europe and want to add Paris into your itinerary, or maybe you’re stopping over in Paris on the way to somewhere else entirely. Whatever your scenario, this article will help you make the most of Paris in a day.

I’ll outline my rationale for building the perfect Paris day trip itinerary and then I’ll share the itinerary – but if you want to jump straight to the details – use the table of contents below.

Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links. These are links to products or experiences I recommend and if you were to buy something after clicking on them, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Any earnings go towards the upkeep of this blog, which I appreciate.

Can you explore everything in Paris in One day?

I’ll start by laying it out plainly: no you definitely can’t see everything in just one day in Paris. The capital of France is a big city with a lot of sights, varied architecture, plenty of museums, great restaurants and so many gorgeous streets to wander. You could easily stay a week or two and still not have seen everything, so you definitely can’t see it all in one day in Paris!

So does this mean that you shouldn’t bother going to Paris if you only have a short amount of time?  No!  I don’t accept the view that if you can’t spend x amount of time in a place in order to see everything you shouldn’t go. Sure, a week or two or three in Paris would be much better than one day in Paris, but equally, one day in Paris is better than no days in Paris!  My view is that it is worth going to Paris even if you only have one day or a small amount of time because whatever you can experience in that time is likely to be wonderful!

Paris rooftops and the domes of Sacre-coeur on a hill in the distance
Paris rooftops

However, you should accept that you won’t see it all and make a plan to maximise the time you do have, specifically to cover the key things and themes that are unique to Paris.

Living in London, Paris is relatively easy and quick for me to get to, and I have done lots of short trips there, most recently as a solo traveller in Paris. My trips have included three day trips, where I went there and back without staying overnight, and one overnight stay of just 24 hours in Paris (on my way to the Luxembourg Christmas Markets)– and I loved every minute of all of them! This itinerary is based on a combination of the day trips in Paris I have taken.

Now, it’s worth noting, some people get disappointed by Paris, driven, I believe, by having unrealistically high expectations of the city. So if this is your first time in Paris, consider this post I wrote on Paris Syndrome and how to avoid disappointment in Paris.

One Day In Paris: Itinerary – In a Nutshell

In my opinion, there are a number of key things you’ll want to experience in Paris, no matter how long you are there – so the question is, how to fit them into 24 hours? Here are the highlights of this itinerary for one day in Paris:

  • The Eiffel Tower
  • The Seine: a trip on a Batobus
  • Notre-Dame Cathedral
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Sacré-Cœur & Montmartre
  • World Class art at Musee de l’Orangerie
  • Pompidou Centre
  • Classic French Cuisine

One Day In Paris: Itinerary – In Detail

Here’s the itinerary for a great one day in Paris. There’s a lot in this itinerary – but this is about maximising your day. To stop it from feeling like a rush, I’ve built in plenty of time into the itinerary, so if you want to linger in some places, that’s fine; you can still do everything else.

For the timing of daylight hours, I have assumed you will visit in Spring or Autumn (both lovely times of year to see Paris, after all) when the sun sets around 8 pm. If you go in Summer or Winter, you will need to adjust for different daylight hours.  For example, in winter the sun sets so much earlier that you’ll want to start earlier and finish earlier to catch the sunset.

The Eiffel Tower

Start early, for example 9:30 am, to make the most of your day.

The Eiffel Tower is normally on the list for people visiting Paris because it is so iconic, you won’t be able to resist seeing it.

However, if you are only in Paris for a day, I don’t recommend you go up the tower.  There are queues and it takes a long time; you will spend a lot of your precious single day in Paris here if you go up the tower.  And, frankly, there are better views of Paris elsewhere because the view of Paris from the Eiffel tower doesn’t have the Eiffel tower in it!

You can wander the Champ De Mars gardens in which it is located.  If you are interested in photography, there are some good locations from which to capture the tower frames by trees and buildings on the side streets off Avenue de la Bourdonnais: Avenue Silvestre de Sacy and Rue de l’Universite.  

iron structure of the eiffel tower seen from a street in Paris
The Eiffel Tower

However, if it is your dream, of course, you should book a ticket to go up the Eiffel tower – you should always try to do things you’ve longed for.  If you go this route, dress warm, because it can be windy up there even in summer, and freezing if you’re visiting Paris in winter. You’ll also need to adjust this itinerary if you do go up the tower, because you’ll need 2-3 hours for that.

Musee de l’Orangerie

At around 10:30, travel to Musee de l’Orangerie (~30 minutes). You can take the Metro from Champ de Mars or Pont de I’Arme to Invalides and then cross the Seine over Pont de la Concorde. When crossing the bridge, enjoy the view to the left of Pont Alexandre III and the Grand Palais, and you’ll pass Place De La Concord, a busy intersection with an Egyptian obelisk in the centre. Alternatively, you could get the hop-on-hop-off Batobus river cruise from the Eifel Tower to the Musée d’Orsay, but this will likely take longer.

wide panoramic painting of waterlillies in a white oval room at musee de l'orangerie in paris
Monet’s Waterlilliews at Musee de l’Orangerie

I’m suggesting an hour in Musee de l’Orangerie, but if you are short of time or not so keen on art, you could be in and out within 15 minutes without being disrespectful, as the main exhibit is simply the two rooms with Waterlilies in. If you don’t spend an hour in the Musée de l’Orangerie, you could wander eastwards towards the Louvre to admire its architecture from the outside.

The Louvre art gallery in Paris
The Louvre – admire it from the outside

Seine River tour

At around midday, start your Seine River tour.  

In many cities, the river is the life of the city; and the Seine is no exception. Lining the river are some stunning examples of Paris architecture: The Eiffel Tower, the Grand and Petit Palais, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay and the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. Crossing the river are 37 bridges, including the famous Pont Neuf.

There are various boat tours on the Seine, but I recommend the hop-on-hop-off kind, which gives you flexibility about where you get on and off and how long you spend on the boat. Batobus is a good option.

Batobus boat glides on the Seine river in Paris, with grand renaissance-style buildings behind
A Batobus on the Seine by Île de la Cité

With this itinerary, the best place to get on is across the river at Musée d’Orsay – this is because from here the boats head east.  Boats depart every 25 minutes and it takes 2 hours to do the whole tour.  However, my recommendation is to go from Musée d’Orsay to Hotel de Ville and get off there.  Taking this route you will see the best parts of the river once, including passing by the famous gothic cathedral, Notre Dame and Île de la Cité.

Notre-dame cathedral and trees with green and red autumnal leaves
Notre Dame Cathedral

Pompidou Centre & Le Georges (Lunch)

From the Batobus boat stop at Hotel de Ville, you can walk to the Pompidou Centre, which takes around 15 minutes. The Pomidou Centre is famous for its unusual architecture where it has its pipeworks etc on the exterior of the building. It is also an art gallery

Le Georges is on the top floor of this iconoclastic building. If you don’t appreciate the building itself, that’s OK because you will undoubtedly appreciate the view from the top floor restaurant. You can see to Sacre-Coeur and the Eiffel Tower on one side and to the Gothic Tour Saint-Jacques on the other side. The food is also amazing: when I went, I had icy strawberry and tomato soup and a Spritz Hugo and it was divine.

cream buildings and blue-gray rooftops with the eiffel tower in the distance
View from the top of the Pompidou Centre

Sacré-Cœur & Montmartre

Around 15:30, travel to Anvers metro station via Metro line 4 (~30 minutes). Coming out of this station, take a moment to notice the Art Nouveau-style entrance.  You’re now in prime Belle Epoque territory.

Art Nouveau Design at the Anvers metro station in Paris
Art Nouveau Metro station entrance at Anvers

I’ve allowed plenty of time for you to take it easy and explore Montmartre at a leisurely pace here. You can follow my free self-guided walking tour of Montmartre, which will starts with the Sacré-Cœur Basilica and also covers Place du Tertre, a leafy square normally packed with artists and a great place to people-watch – although, as you’d expect, the prices at cafes here are high.

Basilica of Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

While you’re in the neighbourhood, you might be tempted to take a look at the Moulin Rouge on Boulevard de Clichy (but be warned: it’s a bit seedy around there!).

Arc de Triomphe

Around 18:00, travel to Arc de Triomphe (~15 minutes). I’ll assume you make it as far as Pigalle, from where you can catch metro line 2 to Charles de Gaulle, which is near the Arc de Triomphe.

ornate stone Arc de triomphe seen across the cobbles of the road around it in Paris
Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is a triumphal arch built in 1836 to commemorate those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. As well as admiring the arch from the outside, you can also go up into the arch to the viewing platform on top.  This is a wonderful place from which to view Paris and I highly recommend going at sunset, so you can see the sunset over Paris and watch the lights come on: it is really special.

From the Arc de Triomphe viewing platform, you can look down the 12 straight boulevards that go out from Place Charles de Gaulle, including the one that goes to La Defense, and the famous Champs Elysee. And of course, you’ll have a brilliant view of the Eiffel tower, which puts on quite the light display at night. If you have time, you could check out Champs Elysee before you go up the arch.  Top tip: check the sunset times for the day you are going and plan your visit around that.

Sunset views of the Eiffel Tower from the Arc de Triomphe in Paris
Sunset views from the Arc de Triomphe

Dinner At A Classic Brasserie

Around 20:30, travel to Les Philosophes (~20 minutes): via metro line 1.

There are lots of great places to eat in Paris, but I am recommending Les Philosophes for its authentic Frenchness – it is a classic and high-quality brasserie that both looks & feel perfect (cosy interior; wicker seats outside on the street) – but also offers high quality traditional French food. I can highly recommend the onion soup and the crème brûlée.

classic french onion soup topped with melted gruyere cheese at a bistro in Paris
Onion soup at Les Philosophes

Map: Paris In One Day

Here’s a map of the main attractions and optional detours you can take with my Paris in one day itinerary.

Staying in Paris

I have done day trips to Paris, without staying over, but I have also taken some short trips where I stay just one night. If you need a place to stay in Paris after exploring the city, I can recommend these hotels, which I have stayed in recently as a solo traveller:

  • 3-star: the Hotel Auberge Flora, also called La Finca, which is close to the Bastille area. The rooms are small but it is bright and comfortable and has everything you need. I liked the cheerful bar downstairs and they offer a simple, affordable breakfast in the morning
  • 4-star: the Terrass Hotel is very comfortable and located on the edge of Montmartre, making it easy to explore that charming neighbourhood on foot. It also has some wonderful views across Paris to the Eiffel Tower
  • 5-star: the Hotel Regina Louvre, which is a luxury hotel next to the Louvre. It is old-school, very luxurious and has some lovely Art Nouveau design features. Some rooms have a view of the Eiffel Tower, which is pretty special. I only stayed here one night, but it was a real treat – I loved it!

I hope you enjoy your day in Paris!

It is a wonderful city, one of my favourite cities that I have visited anywhere in the world and one that continues to delight me more than 20 years after I first visited it. If you feel like there’s too much in Paris for one day only, consider 2, 3 or even 4 days in Paris. And if you are going to Paris in the winter months, do check out my guide to what to do in Paris in winter.

And if you are considering solo to Paris alone, I have a detailed guide to solo travel in Paris, full of tips and suggestions that might help you plan.

How to explore Paris in a day - Pinterest pin
Pin Me!

If you like this article, I'd be delighted if you shared it!

2 thoughts on “Paris In One Day: Itinerary For An Epic Day In Paris”

    1. Thanks for your feedback! I’m so glad it is helpful! There’s a lot in the itinerary, so it will be a busy day, but you’ll get to see so much of the city :-). When are you going to Paris?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Scroll to Top