A day in Paris, what to do?Lizet Wesselman - 19/09/2023
A day in Paris, what to do?Lizet Wesselman - 19/09/2023
Paris has always been one of my favourite cities. The atmosphere, the buildings, the Eifel Tower, I love it! Despite not being a fan of big cities, Paris just has such a nice vibe that I keep coming back. I would absolutely recommend everyone to visit Paris at least once and enjoy all the beauty it has to offer. On my last trip, I revisited several things to put together the perfect 1-day itinerary. Are you going on a longer trip to Paris? Stay tuned, because a city guide of Paris is coming soon!
Morning: Sunrise at the Eiffel Tower
I think you can imagine that the Paris highlights get incredibly crowded really fast. So it’s best to head out early. Besides the Eiffel Tower being my favourite building, you also have the best light here at sunrise. This is because, from the right angle, the sun rises perfectly under the Eiffel Tower. This allows you to capture a stunning picture of the sun lighting up the Eiffel Tower, and will give you better colours around the tower than you would have in the evening.
The Eiffel Tower itself is a masterpiece of iron architecture and one of the most iconic sights in the world. If you don’t arrive early, you’ll have to share the view with hundreds of others. So if you want to enjoy the tower in peace, sunrise is perfect.
For the best spots around the Eiffel Tower go to:
- The park behind the Eiffel Tower (Jardin de la Tour Eifel)
- Port Debilly or the road next to it, across the Seine
- The park on the other side of the Seine (Jardin d’enfants)
- On the platform of Palais de Chaillot
A typical French breakfast is a croissant with a cup of coffee. So you can find this everywhere. Is such a light breakfast enough for you? Then I recommend picking it up at a bakery (boulangerie) for a picnic by the Eiffel Tower, while it slowly fills up with tourists trying to take a classic “I’m pushing the Eiffel Tower over” photo. Lovely if you like people-watching!
Want a more filling breakfast? Then there’s plenty in the area in terms of Western breakfasts with, for example, eggs benedict, toast, granola and good quality coffee. Some options around the Eiffel Tower are:
- Good News Coffee shop
- O Coffee
- Kozy Bosquet
Late morning: Museum the Louvre
After breakfast, you can visit the Louvre. Whether you are a museum person and actually want to go inside or not, the building is already worth a visit. The museum itself is of course famous for the Mona Lisa, but there is much more art on display, ranging from antiquity to the 19th century. Highlights include the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and the famous wing with Egyptian antiquities. Avoid a long queue by buying a ticket in advance for €17. At the museum itself, it’s €15, but don’t be surprised by an hour wait, especially during high season.
You can take a metro from the Eiffel Tower or take a walk along the Seine towards the Louvre, which is about a 45-minute walk. If you come for the Paris atmosphere rather than a museum visit, I can definitely recommend this walk!
There’s no shortage of lunch options around the Louvre. I can recommend Le Pain Quotidien for organic sandwiches, salads and vegetarian meals.
Early afternoon: Notre-Dame and Île de la Cité
In the afternoon, explore the beautiful Île de la Cité, one of two natural islands in the Seine in the middle of Paris. It’s home to the impressive Notre Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture. The cathedral is world-famous and has a rich history.
In 2019, a fire destroyed part of the building. In early 2024, they hope to finish the repairs, and you’ll be able to climb Notre Dame’s towers. It’s advisable to book tickets in advance. Admission is free, but with 13.5 million visitors a year, you can wait a while to get in, especially in high season.
Île de la Cité is also home to other historical attractions, like the Palace of Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle, known for its stunning stained-glass windows. (€11.50 entry for adults of 26+)
You can walk here from the Louvre in half an hour. Not interested in visiting the Louvre itself? Then, of course, you can go here earlier. On the other side of the island you’ll also find the Panthéon, a beautiful building that was used as a Mausoleum. (€11.50 entry) In addition, you’ll find Jardin du Luxembourg, a large park where you can take a break from all the walking.
For dinner, there are again plenty of choices in the area. You can stay on the island or check out the neighbourhoods next to the Seine. I found Sorbonne and Saint-Vincent to be the nicest neighbourhoods in Paris for food and drinks. This is the area around the Panthéon and the Seine.
- Le Petit Vatel, for creative French dishes. From fish and meat to delicious vegetarian dishes with lots of vegetables.
- Le Verre à Pied for a mix of dishes using seasonal ingredients. They have different daily dishes every day, always with some vegetarian options, typical French dishes and also pastas, for example.
- Le Berthout for typical French dishes, such as snails, French onion soup and fried camembert.
Evening: Sunset at the Sacré-Cœur
Sunset on the steps of the Sacré-Cœur is one of my favourite things to do in Paris. Firstly, you have a fantastic view of the city here, where you can admire almost all the buildings you’ve seen up close from a distance at sunset. But on top of that, it’s also such a great vibe at this hour. Many locals come here and there are daily street performers who fill up the evening with live music and entertainment. Make sure you’re on time! As the steps are quickly filled with people who come here to enjoy the sunset.
Want to have a drink somewhere in the evening? This area is great for that too! Walking down the hill again, you come across a good selection of restaurants and bars where you can enjoy a drink. You’ll also find the Moulin Rouge here. Looking for a budget option? Then head back towards the Seine, buy some drinks in the supermarket and cozy up by the water. This is another popular activity among locals. From many spots along the Seine, you can see the illuminated Eiffel Tower in the distance.
How to get in Paris?
Of course, you can fly to Paris. There are 3 airports, so plenty of flights. From the airport, you can easily take a train to the city centre. But, of course, this blog wouldn’t be this blog if I wouldn’t give you sustainable alternatives.
There is a night train to Paris from Vienna, which takes about 15 hours and also stops in Linz – Salzburg – Munich – Strasburg.
There are also night trains from other places in France. Among others, from Latour de Carol in the Pyrenees. There’s a direct train from Barcelona to this town, so you could take this night train if you come from Spain. These are the only night trains at this point.
However, there are plenty of fast train connections during the day from:
Prices differ, but you could get a € 65 one way ticket with the Eurostar from London or a € 35 one way ticket from Amsterdam if you book early. If you wait until the very last minute, prices can go up to € 160 from Amsterdam and even € 250 from London. So, it’s recommended to book early!
Looking for an even cheaper option? Then you can also take the Flixbus. Of course, this does take a bit more time and you’re more likely to experience delays due to traffic jams. But it could save you about 1/3 of the price of the train. So, especially if you want to book last minute, you can really save money with this.
How to get around in Paris?
Paris is a huge city. I underestimate this every time. You can walk around just fine, but really getting from A to B when you have limited time is hardly doable. Most distances between major highlights are easily 45 min of walking, if not more. So the best thing to do is to take public transport.
Public transport in Paris is great, although busy. There are 16 metro lines with a total of 308 metro stations in Paris. There are also 7 train stations with trains going back and forth between them and, of course, there are buses. More than enough choice if you ask me. You can buy tickets for public transport in Paris at all metro and train stations. A single ticket is €2.10 in 2023, but if you want the flexibility to jump on public transport a few times, a day ticket (Mobilis) is recommended. Those are €8.45 a day. So you have to use it 4 times a day to get more out of it than individual tickets. Don’t think you can make that? Then there are also multi-use cards.
The “Carnets” are slowly being phased out, but if you see one, buy it. That’s the same ticket as the T+ single-ride tickets, but you can use these 10x and then throw them away. They are now slowly moving to the “Navigo Easy”, which you have to buy once and then recharge. This card costs €2. Still, for 10 strips you only pay €14.90, so even with that €2, it’s a lot cheaper than single tickets. Less strips is possible, but then you might not end up saving on it, since they do give a discount on 10 tickets. The Navigo card is valid for 10 years, so if you visit Paris more often, you can use it every time!
Sightseeing in Paris
The only thing missing in the centre of Paris is the tram. This does make things a little better in terms of traffic in the city, but you’re then missing a nice transport option above ground, which normally allows you to enjoy the view along the way. Because in Paris, the trains go underground as well.
So, what should you choose if you want to enjoy the view while travelling from A to B in Paris? You can choose a regular bus, or opt for the tourist hop-on-hop-off bus.
Prefer to see the city from the water? Then you can opt for the hop-on-hop-off boat.