Tour Eiffel, Paris

How To Do Paris In 24 Hours

Paris is the must-go destination for anyone going to Europe for the first time. If you skip it people would look at you funny. So though it is almost sinful to “do” any city in one day, sometimes that’s really how much time you have, and you’ve gotta do what you gotta do.

I’ve been to Paris two times, first for a few days, and the second time for one day (we were just on the way back to London from Lourdes). Admittedly you probably would not like Paris very much if you do it in one day, as the subway system is probably the worst in Europe. It is confusing, dirty, there are endless gates and pointless stairs just to irritate you, sprinkled with homeless people and crooks. But once you leave the underground it is (almost) worth all that effort.

And really, who wouldn’t experience Paris once in their life? It is unique, historical, and there are lots to see. Though it is a city I love to hate, I would go back there again and again, and experience different things every trip.

So for you all Paris newbie out there, this is how I would do Paris in one day, guilt free! (tested first hand by Mee)

I’m going to start in the late afternoon, assuming that you’d be leaving around the same time the next afternoon. The itinerary can of course be shifted depending on what time you arrive in the day.

First stop, The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur, is a white church on top of a hill that is also the highest point of Paris. You can have a great view of the city. At sunset if you’re lucky.

I recommend going via Rue Foyatier, which is a very famous street in Paris that consists of a series of stairs going up to Sacré-Cœur. You can go down using the funicular for a different experience (or heck, use the stairs again!).

Rue Foyatier, Montmartre, Paris

up Rue Foyatier

Rue Foyatier, Montmartre, Paris

my company wasn’t so excited with the prospect of climbing all those flights of stairs

view from Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Paris

view from Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre

Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Paris

Sacré-Cœur, Montmartre, Paris – generally crowded with people also chasing after that top view of the city

Have a nice dinner. Eat snails. Check out Moulin Rouge if you get a chance, which is located somewhat nearby in Montmartre. (We didn’t get a chance.) Then prepare for a full on day the next day!

Wake up early in the morning. Get croissant for breakfast. Anywhere will do. All croissant is good in Paris!

Now my first item in the morning is rather controversial. But if like me you’re into dead people (uhum) I recommend spending some time at Père Lachaise which is the biggest cemetery in Paris interning many famous characters, the full list you can check from their website. It even has maps and numbers to make your hunting easier. I can forewarn you however, that the cemetery is huge, and unless you have a few hours at your disposal it is almost impossible to find more than a few famous people tombs.

But even if you don’t find everyone you want the cemetery is interesting by itself, and it is great fun just to check out all the intricate design of the tombs. For me I went straight to Oscar Wilde‘s tomb at one end of Père Lachaise and gave it a kiss. Note that Paris has four major cemeteries, all of which interning famous characters, so it’s worth checking their maps to see if you can find your favorite famous people.

Père Lachaise cemetery, Paris

one of the tomb heads at Père Lachaise cemetery – tons of cool ones!

Oscar Wilde tomb, Pere-Lachaise, Paris

Gave Oscar Wilde’s tomb a kiss (or just the glass surrounding the tomb to be exact)

If you’re not into dead people (I totally understand), I recommend going to Musée du Louvre first thing in the morning and check out those pyramids you see in Da Vinci Code movie. It is extremely challenging to go inside the Louvre and again unless you have at least half a day to do all the queueing and the looking for Mona Lisa, just spend an hour or two to enjoy the fabulous courtyard!

du Louvre, Paris

take that photo opportunity at du Louvre (winter trip)

Next stop, Avenue des Champs-Élysées – one of the most expensive strip of street in the world for all your high street brand need (Louis Vuitton is at number 101). It also brings you straight to Arc de Triomphe, which is one of Paris iconic spots. Tips: you can go inside and up the arch.

Arc de Triomphe, Paris

Arc de Triomphe (excuse the gloominess)

Tour Eiffel, can’t miss it for the world! Tips: You take better pictures with Eiffel Tower from afar, so stop at Trocadero station for a great view of the tower. I went up the tower at another trip, but the queueing alone takes minimum 2 hours, so don’t bother if you only have a day. For 24 hours in fact, don’t bother to get close to it, as the tower isn’t very pretty up close.

Tour Eiffel, Paris

Another controversial stop today is Galeries Lafayette – an upmarket French department store. My hands were tied and I had to go for various reasons as it is apparently a very popular shopping destination for Indonesians (so my aunties and mom said). But on the up side, the interior is rather gorgeous!

Galeries Lafayette, Paris

Galeries Lafayette – ceiling

Our last stop in Paris is Notre Dame de Paris, which is made famous (for me) by Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame. Note that Sainte-Chapelle is just nearby and it is really worth going as it is known to retain one of the most extensive in-situ collections of 13th century stained glass anywhere in the world. Unfortunately this is said by someone who has never actually seen it herself, as I did not have the chance to go to Sainte-Chapelle both times I went to Notre-Dame/Paris! Outrageous I know! But you have to queue for both Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame, and I had to pick Notre Dame both times because I went with different set of people. I swear though that I will go to Sainte-Chapelle the next time I go to Paris!

So if you are able to move faster than us, or if you have more hours, definitely take that queue to Sainte-Chapelle. I’m not sure whether it’s free, but Notre Dame is free to go in, so even if the queue seems long, it moves pretty fast (since there’s nothing holding people at the entrance). Another tip is that you can go up Notre Dame and the entrance is at the side of the building, not inside.

Notre Dame, Paris

finally, a bit of sunshine at Notre Dame de Paris

Congratulations, you (will) manage to do Paris in 24 hours! Not ideal, but you do what you can. The important thing is to list your priorities and do them first, in case you have to miss the ones near the end of the list. Proper planning of the your route is crucial to save traveling time.

Have a blast running around Paris! :)

ps: Wondering which are the best Paris hotels? Consider checking expedia. Where to stay in Paris probably warrants a whole different post. I stayed around Cadet the first time, and Gare de Lyon the second time. I heard friends really enjoyed staying around du Louvre, Tour Eiffel, the Latin Quarter, or Montmartre. It all really depends on your budget, but remember that if you’re short on time, where you stay is quite important to be efficient with travelling time considering that changing metro line in Paris with suitcases is quite painful (remember the pointless stairs I mentioned at the beginning of the post?).


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The Traveling Reader
I left home when I was 17 and never stop exploring the world since. Most days I'm a digital technician at one of the London's biggest visual effects studio. My alternate persona writes and travels and dreams of doing these as a living. I alternately call myself Indonesian or Australian whichever is more beneficial at the time, and I've been a Londoner since 2011.