If you only have one day in Paris, the first thing to do is to plan a return trip! But if a day is all you have, then get up early, grab a croissant from a local boulangerie and head straight for the Eiffel Tower.
Tip: The third floor views from the Eiffel Tower are impressive but, since you have to pay extra, don’t bother if it’s not a clear day. You’ll see just as much or more from the second floor.
10:30 am – Take a Seine Cruise on a Bateaux-Mouches. These pleasure-boats operate between 10:00 am and 11:00 pm daily and depart every 30 minutes during the summer high season (less frequent departures in winter). The boat ride lasts about 1hr15. After the boat tour, hop on the metro at Alma Marceau and go one stop to Franklin D. Roosevelt.
12:00 pm – Walk down the Champs-Elysées toward the Arch of Triumph and decide on a good place to eat. Take your time (before eating, you might like to go to the top of the Arch – admission is free with the Paris Museum Pass.
2:30 pm – Take the metro or walk to the Palais Royal/Musée du Louvre stop. From the metro, stay underground and enter through the Carrousel du Louvre entrance, which is usually less crowded than other entrances. Visitors who already have tickets can use a special entrance at the Passage Richelieu between rue de Rivoli and the courtyard.
3:30 pm – At the information desk, look for a pamphlet called “Visitors in a Hurry” that highlights the museum’s star exhibits (or check out the Louvre’s website before you go). Allow at least two hours. After your visit, head over by metro to St-Michel and look for any exit that says “Notre-Dame.”
6:00 pm – Walk through Notre-Dame (ask about guided tours in English). Admission is free, but there are often long lines. When you’ve finished your visit, walk through the plaza in front of the cathedral and hang a left over the Petit Pont to the Latin Quarter.
The Latin Quarter is a great place to buy souvenirs. It has lots of selection and competitive pricing.
7:00 pm – Pick a place that looks inviting among the many restaurants in the Latin Quarter. This area is known for its culinary diversity and selection: you’ll find everything from traditional French cuisine to Greek and Arab food. Enjoy a leisurely meal like the French do, and don’t forget to savor your surroundings. From the Latin Quarter, take the metro to Anvers.
9:00 pm – From the Anvers station, follow the signs to the funiculaire de Montmartre. For a small fee or a metro ticket, this cable car takes you to the top of the Butte de Montmartre for extraordinary views of the City of Light. You’ll recognize several places that you visited during the day. From the Butte de Montmartre and the Sacré Coeur, follow signs to the Place du Tertre.
9:45 pm – The Place du Tertre is the artists’ quarter. Browse around for a painting to take home, if it fits into your budget and your suitcase. Take time out for a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone at one of the quaint (and overpriced) cafés around the square. If you weren’t able to buy souvenirs in the Latin Quarter, you may want to do so here in the Place du Tertre before saying au revoir to Paris and calling it a night.