If you only have one day in Paris, what is the best way to make the most of it?
While having 4 (or more) days in Paris would almost always be better than one, Paris in a day is nothing to sneeze at!
Yes, it’s true that Paris is a large city and you can easily spend weeks enjoying it without seeing everything there is to see. But….
If one day in Paris is all the time you have (maybe you’re on a day trip from London to Paris) you can really focus your time and attention on what you’d really love to see and do in Paris. In this case, one day might just be the perfect amount of time!
Maybe you have a passion for museums? Or you’ve heard that Paris is the perfect city for shoppers? Maybe you’re in Paris to try all the delicious French food? Or, perhaps you have an enduring love of beautiful churches (like me!)?
Perhaps you’re a fan of The da Vinci code and yearn to see all the Paris locations mentioned in the book? Maybe you’re a total architecture nerd? Or perhaps, you’ve always heard that Paris is the ultimate walkable city and you’re just dying to amble along classic Parisian streets and see everything for yourself.
If any of these archetypes sounds like you, I’ve got you covered!
If all you’ve got is 1 day in Paris (or maybe 1 day left of your vacation in Paris or one free day in Paris to do exactly what YOU want), just click below to go straight to the one day in Paris itinerary that is perfect for you. You’ll find everything you need to have one of the best days of your life in Paris. I promise 🙂
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Paris in a Day (If you love museums)
Paris is home to some of the best museums in the world, and arguably THE best museum – The Louvre.
If you’ve come to Paris for one day to check out the best museums you’re definitely in the right place!
There are literally 100’s of museums in Paris and many more within an easy distance.
You can easily spend a whole day in some of the bigger museums. Some of the more specialized smaller museums can readily be enjoyed in an hour or less.
Pro Tip: Consider getting a Paris Museum Pass if there’s a possibility of you spending more than one day visiting museums in Paris. The pass allows access to a wide variety of museums and attractions and can save you some money.
Major Paris Museums in a Day Itinerary
Many of Paris’ major museums are within an easy walking distance from each other, clustered on both shores of the Seine. There are quite a few bridges across the Seine so walking across is easy. You’ll be able to easily walk to each of the museums in this Paris in a day itinerary.
The Louvre Museum
I recommend getting to The Louvre as soon as it opens at 9am. As the world’s largest art museum and one of the most important historic monuments in Paris it is a very popular place! If you arrive early and buy your tickets in advance, you’ll not only skip the long lines outside, you’ll be able to enjoy the beautiful works of art without such a big crowd.
My favourite way to visit the Louvre is with a guided tour. Not only do you get to skip the long line outside but you also get to hear in-depth stories and information from really knowledgeable local guides. I always enjoy a museum so much more when I really understand and fully appreciate what I’m looking at. A guided tour also really helps to minimize the dreaded museum fatigue!
Musee de l’Orangerie
A short walk down the shore of the Seine from the Louvre you’ll find this charming little museum, the perfect reprieve from the hustle and bustle of The Louvre. Located in the gorgeous Jardin des Tuileries, this museum is famous for being the permanent home of Monet’s giant Water Lilies murals.
Although this is a smaller museum it can still get quite busy. If you don’t book an advanced entry ticket you may be required to wait outside in a long line.
If you see nothing else in the Musee de l’Orangerie, you must see the Water Lilies rooms. The method by which these famous painting are displayed is exactly to Monet’s specifications. The rooms are oval, incorporating natural light, plain walls and sparse interior decoration.
The Water Lilies rooms are a perfect place for a quiet, meditative experience. The design of the oval-shaped rooms and the gorgeous natural light gives a really airy feel to the canvasses, despite their enormous size. You’ll be able to see every detail of Monet’s masterpieces. I love spending time in these rooms really taking in all the details of the Water Lilies. I see something new every time I visit.
The lower levels of the l’Orangerie are worth some time as well, with a good collection of Impressionists. However, if you’re continuing on to the Musee d’Orsay, don’t worry if you give it a miss. Just don’t miss the Water Lilies!
A quick jaunt across the Seine from Musee de l’Orangerie is the stunning Musee d’Orsay.
Renown as the home of the best collection of early modern and Impressionist art, the Musee d’Orsay can’t be missed.
While not as large as The Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay is still quite big and it’s the second most visited museum in Paris!
Expert Tip: Focus your time at Musee d’Orsay on one or two wings. My recommendation is to focus on the Impressionists, as there is no better place in the world to see the full depth and breadth of these Impressionist masterpieces.
The top floor (Upper Level 1) houses works by impressionists Degas, Monet, Renoir, Sisley, Pissarro and many more. As well, there are entire galleries devoted to Monet and Renoir. Don’t miss the Gachet collection to see amazing Van Gogh and Cezanne works.
Musee d’Orsay is also home to excellent temporary exhibits featuring important artists from the 19th century and early 20th century. If you have additional time and energy, check these out.
Make sure to Buy your tickets to Musee d’Orsay in advance. Given the popularity of this museum, there are constant lines of people waiting to get in. But, if you have an advance ticket you’ll be able to skip the line.
There’s also an excellent fully guided tour of Musee d’Orsay available. You’ll have an expert English-speaking guide and learn fascinating details about the Impressionists. You’ll see all the major highlights as well as other beautiful masterpieces. This is a real treat!
If you’re more interested in the smaller museums of Paris, check out this excellent guide with great suggestions.
One Day in Paris (if you love walking)
Paris is the perfect city if you have a love of exploring by walking through some of the most picturesque and beautiful neighbourhoods and streets in the world!
Walking is the perfect thing to do if you’re wondering what to do in Paris in one day. It is such a walkable city with an abundance of beautiful streets, amazing sights and interesting people.
If you have one day to spend in Paris, you have lots of time to get in some long walks and really explore different parts of the city.
Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe
I’ve done this walk on foot and on an electric scooter and while the walk allowed more time to see the sights, the scooter was really fun too!
Start from the iconic glass pyramid at the Louvre and follow one of the three options shown below.
I love walking through the Jardin de Tuileries on a Paris one day tour (the big green space to the left of the Louvre on the map). As you leave the Louvre you’ll see what looks like a mini Arc de Triomphe – it’s the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel built in 1806 to commemorate Napoleon I’s military victories.
If you exit the Tuileries at Place Vendome you can duck up the street just a bit to get a glimpse of one of the most beautiful squares in Paris. In the centre of the square is the Vendome Column, erected by Napoleon I to commemorate the Battle of Austerlitz.
Retrace your steps back to the Rue de Rivoli or Avenue Gabriel and you’ll soon see the Eiffel Tower coming into view. If you’re doing the walk at night, you might be lucky enough to see the Tower twinkle, as it does every hour from sundown until 1am, at the beginning of each hour.
Just after the end of the Tuileries Gardens you’ll come to the Place de la Concorde. There’s a beautiful Egyptian Obelisk at the centre – it’s over 3000 years old!
Following the Place de la Concorde, keep walking straight until you reach the Champs-Elysees. At the very end of the street you’ll see the Arc de Triomphe.
The Arc de Triomphe was also commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon I, dedicated to the armies of the French Revolution.
If you’re able to climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, notice the pattern created by the Arc, the Egyptian Obelisk, the Tuileries, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel and the glass pyramid at the Louvre. You’ll see that each is aligned with the others, creating the Axe Historique or Voie Triomphale.
The Arc de Triomphe is in the centre of the axis, with the Avenue de la Grande Armee leading to Porte Maillot, the Avenue Charles de Gaulle in Neuilly-sur-Seine, leading to Pont de Neuilly, the Esplande de la Defense, the Grande Arche de la Fraternite in la Defense and the Seine-Arche project completing the series.
The axis is oriented on a 26 degree angle, following the course of the Sun from rising in the east to setting in the west. Now that’s what I call city planning!
Walking Through Île de la Cité
This walk is really high on my list of favourite places to walk in Paris. It’s the perfect place to explore on a one day Paris itinerary.
Île de la Cité is one of two natural islands in the Seine, within Paris. It’s the very centre of Paris and the original location of Paris.
As you can see from the map above, two of the most beautiful sights in Paris are on this walk: Notre-Dame de Paris and Sainte-Chapelle.
Sadly, Notre-Dame is still closed to the public as a result of the fire of April 15, 2019. However, the exterior of the cathedral is well worth a visit as it is still stunning, despite the current scaffolding that encompasses parts of it.
Sainte-Chapelle is a real jewel, famous for its 15 stained glass windows depicting 1113 scenes from the Bible. Photographs hardly do it justice – it’s simply stunning. Don’t miss it.
Sainte-Chapelle is a super popular visitor destination in Paris and often has long lines of people waiting to buy tickets outside. Make sure to get your ticket in advance. I highly recommend saving a few dollars and getting the combined ticket for Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie.
Just a short steps from Sainte-Chapelle is the Conciergerie. This was Marie Antoinette’s last home in Paris, before she faced the guillotine!
The Conciergerie was a originally a royal palace but was later converted for use as a prison. You’ll be able to see the cells of criminals as well as tombs of heroes of the French Revolution. You can also see one of the largest preserved medieval Gothic halls in Europe.
Another interesting spot on this walk is Rue Chanoinesse, former home to many of the canons of Notre-Dame. Rue Chanoinesse dates back to Medieval times and is still remarkably intact. I love spending time there.
Paris in One Day Sightseeing Tour – WithLocals
One of the walks we enjoyed most in Paris was with a local Parisian via WithLocals.
WithLocals is a unique tour company that provides visitors to Paris with local tour guides with the same passions as you. You can create a genuine connection with locals and their culture by spending time with a Parisian this way.
All WithLocals tours are 100% private and customizable. You can plan your itinerary in advance with your local guide or go with an itinerary the local guide suggests.
We’ve had such great experiences doing tours WithLocals. Our favourite so far was a walking tour in Montmartre (see my complete review here) but we’ve also done walking tours in other parts of Paris as well as in other cities.
One of the best is this tour. It starts at Shakespeare & Co. and takes you to so many of the best places in Paris. It’s a particularly great idea if it’s your first visit to Paris or if you really want to get an overall feel for the city during a one day visit to Paris. I feel that this is the best Paris one day tour we’ve taken.
Check the latest price of a walking tour WithLocals here.
Paris 1 Day Itinerary (if You Love Architecture)
Paris is a dream destination for architecture buffs. You can’t walk a block with seeing an iconic building or beautiful church. It’s amazing how Paris is absolutely chock-full of beautiful buildings! If you’re looking for things to see in Paris in one day, beautiful architecture is an excellent idea.
I know what I love to see in terms of gorgeous architecture but I thought I’d consult a learned source no less than Architectural Digest for some of the absolute best buildings to see in Paris.
Among the 25 building selected by Architectural Digest as the best in Paris, here are my picks for the best ones to see if you’re only in Paris for one day.
Arc de Triomphe – #1 for a Paris 1 Day Tour –
It’s hard to imagine how big this structure is until you’re actually standing near it. The brainchild of architect Jean-Francois Chalgrin, this beautiful work of art was modeled on the ancient Roman Arch of Constantine. It only makes sense that, given that the Arc de Triomphe was ordered by Napoleon, that it was double the size of the Roman inspiration 🙂
This building is one of the newer ones on my list, built in 1970. This unique building is hard to miss in Paris, situated in the midst of so much classical architecture.
A high tech, colour-coded tubular facade and an elevator that climbs diagonally makes this building a definite must-see.
You’ll be able to recognize this stunning building by its gilded golden dome. Originating in 1670 as a home for old and sick soldiers, this structure is the home to several museums and a church. It remains a home for retired soldiers as well – I love that!
Les Invalides is interestingly the home to some notable tombs – Napoleon Bonaparte among them.
La Grande Arche
This building and monument in the west of Paris is a 110 metre high cube, and forms part of the Axe Historique. It was designed by Danish architect John Otto von Spreckelsen and Danish engineer Erik Reitzel. They won the design competition for a late-20th century version of the Arc de Triomphe, but as a monument to humanity and humanitarian ideals.
I think La Grande Arche is simply stunning, particularly when juxtaposed against the Arc de Triomphe.
Located in the Latin quarter of Paris, the Pantheon was originally a church dedicated the patron saint of Paris, Saint Genevieve. It was secularized during the French Revolution and converted into a mausoleum.
The beautiful dome of the Pantheon was completed in 1790 and was designed to rival St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The facade is modelled after a Greek temple and features Corinthian columns.
Philharmonie de Paris
This is a complex of concert halls in Paris that also houses exhibition spaces and rehearsal rooms. Located in the northeastern edge of Paris, this building was only finished in 2015.
This shimmering metallic structure is absolute marvel of architectural achievement. Conceived by Jean Nouvel, this building features floating balconies and suspended cloud-shaped sound reflectors. Unusually, the furthest distance between the conductor and the farthest spectator is just 105 feet. The concert hall has retractable seating which can expand from 2400 to 3650.
The construction and cost of the building was controversial, as it cost nearly 3 times as much as originally planned!
Paris One Day Itinerary (If You Love French Food)
What can I say about the food in Paris that you don’t know already? If you’re going to spend one day in Paris and you’re a foodie or just wanting to sample some delicious French food, you’re definitely in the right place! Restaurants and Parisian shops are great places to visit in Paris in 1 day.
Great Parisian Restaurants
There are several ways to approach a day in Paris if you’re a lover of French food. The classic approach is to make reservations at several of the finest French restaurants and enjoy the beautiful experience of eating some of the best food in the world. Paris is home to many Michelin-starred restaurants, after all.
For a classically beautiful French restaurant complete with opulent dishes and an outstanding wine cellar, there’s no better place to go than Le Pre Catalan in the Bois de Boulogne. Open for lunch and dinner, reservations are available online at this 3-star establishment. Le Pre Catalan has been in business since 1856! It gained 3 stars in 2007. I suggest reviewing the website before you go to familiarize yourself with the chef and the menu options available.
If you’re in the mood for a classic French Cafe, Cafe de la Paix is one of the best choices. This iconic cafe has been seen in many paintings, films and other works of art. It’s quite close to the Opera Garnier so is a great place to stop before or after a performance. It’s so beautiful inside that you’ll really feel like you’re part of a Old Masters painting. Cafe de la Paix is open for lunch and dinner.
Food Tours in Paris
My favourite way to enjoy a culinary experience in Paris is going on a food tour. There’s no better way to discover great food and wine than by seeing where the locals shop, eat and drink.
Food tours are led by French gastronomy experts who take you to their favourite places to shop and eat. You get to actually taste delicious chocolate, baked goods, cheeses, meats and wines. Take my advice and don’t eat a meal before your tour!
You can choose which area of Paris the tour takes place in. My favourite areas for food tours are Le Marais and Montmartre.
One Day in Paris, France (If You Love Beautiful Churches)
Hands down, seeing beautiful churches is one of the reasons I love visiting Paris. The sound of church bells ringing is a sound I associate with adventure and travel, as I only hear them when I’m in Europe. Visiting churches is one of the great things to do in Paris in 1 day.
I can sit in a church for hours, just taking in the beautiful architecture, amazing stained glass and the myriad details that make up these wonderful structures. Every once in a while, I’ll get to hear a choir or organist rehearsing and that’s when the amazing acoustics of these churches really shine.
Paris is home so many beautiful churches and cathedrals that it’s hard to choose just a few to feature here.
The most famous church in Paris, Notre-Dame de Paris, was sadly damaged by a fire in 2019 and is not open to the public. The reconstruction required is extensive but France has determined that it will be rebuilt to what it was before.
Here are my favourite churches and cathedrals to visit in Paris.
Standing at the very top of Paris in Montmartre is this beautiful white church. Given the age of most of the churches in Paris, Sacre-Coeur is relatively new, having been finished in 1914.
Designed with Roman Byzantine features and built of travertine stone, Sacre-Coeur is home to an enormous pipe organ and 5 bells. The biggest bell can be heard from 10 kilometres away!
Cathedral Basilica of Saint Denis
Located in the northern suburb of Paris, this gorgeous old church is of tremendous architectural and historical importance as its choir (from 1144) shows the first use of all of the elements of Gothic architecture. I’m always surprised to learn that Gothic architecture originated so early!
There has been a church on the site since the early middle ages. This is where the kings of France and their families were buried from the 10th century until 1789. It is often referred to as the necropolis of France. The cathedral is the home of important church treasure including crowns of Charlemagne, Henry IV of France, and other liturgic objects.
Church of Saint-Sulpice
Located in the Latin quarter of Paris you’ll find this enormous church (only a bit smaller than Notre-Dame). This is the church that plays a large part in the story in The Da Vinci Code (although the Church officially denies the history of a pagan temple on the site, the Rose Line and the Priory of Sion).
The present church was started in 1646 but not completed until 1870. It’s built over a 13th century Romaneque church. There’s a beautiful baroque interior in the Lady Chapel with a unique dome containing a fresco depicting the Assumption of Mary.
The Marquis de Sade was baptized at Saint-Sulpice and Victor Hugo was married there. Saint-Sulpice has an enormous organ and there are organ concerts on Sundays at noon that is very much worth attending.
Located in the Île de la Cité, this beautiful jewel of a church was consecrated in 1248 and is considered a high achievement in Gothic architecture. It was the original home of Christ’s crown of thorns (although this was moved the Notre-Dame, where it escaped the recent fire).
The stained glass in Sainte-Chapelle is arguably the finest in the world and is the most famous feature of the chapel. There are 15 huge mid-13th century windows that fill the nave and apse. The windows illustrate the New Testament.
Sainte-Chapelle was named as a national historic monument in 1862.
One Day Tour in Paris (if You Love Shopping)
If you’re in Paris for one day to engage in some retail therapy, I would say you are one smart cookie as Paris is one of the best places in the world to shop.
From bargains to haute couture, you’re bound to find something unique in Paris. There are many parts of the city where the shopping is second to none, although some areas are best known for particular items, such as clothing, haute couture, home items, and food.
Look no further than Rue Saint Honoré for high-end boutique shopping in Paris. The area is split between the Rue du Faubourg Saint Honoré where the famous fashion houses are found (Dior, Givenchy, Hermes) and the Rue Saint Honoré where you’ll find well-known brands as well as niche designers.
This area is just steps from the Tuileries. Look for Dior at 25 Rue Royale and Chanel at 31 Rue Cambon.
The Triangle d’Or is also a wonderful area to get your luxury shopping fix. This is the area around Avenue Montaigne, Avenue George V and Rue Francois 1er. Here you’ll find Louis Vuitton, Ferragamo, Dolce e Gabbana, Max Mara, Christian LaCroix, Valentino, Prada, Ungaro and so many more.
Saint Germain des Pres is an excellent area for browsing luxury goods. From Le Bon Marché, Hermès and La Grande Épicerie on Rue de Sèvres to Sonia Rykiel on Boulevard Saint-Germain, you’ll find all manner of beautiful things to acquire.
This area doesn’t usually attract huge crowds of shopping tourists so is more enjoyable to spend time at. Don’t miss the Hermès store – it’s quite spectacular inside as it’s in a former Arc Deco swimming pool and includes both a cafe and library.
The Rue du Commerce is the perfect destination if you’re looking for the latest trends without a shocking price tag.
You’ll find a great assortment of stores along this street including popular brand shops to small boutiques. Retailers such as Sephora, Libertie, Comptoir des Contoniers, Gap, L’Occitane and more are here.
I also recommend stopping at Monoprix. This legendary department store is great for fashion finds, cosmetics and skin care products. There’s also a supermarket on the upper level.
What’s your favourite way to spend one day in Paris? Share your thoughts down below in the comments!
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