Paris is one of our favorite cities in Europe. If you are on a layover, and wish to visit Paris in a day, you will find this post useful. We have 2 – one day in Paris itinerary samples to help you make the most of your trip, in a super efficient way!
One day in Paris: How to explore the best of Paris in a day
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For the purposes of this Paris one day itinerary, you can either start in Notre Dame Cathedral, explore city highlights, and end at the Eiffel Tower. (Option 1)
Or (our favorite) visit the Trocadero Gardens and Eiffel Tower in the morning, then make your day to pretty Montmartre, and end with a Seine River cruise at night! (Option 2)
So let’s start with option 1 (and continue reading as we share useful Paris travel Tips and sightseeing map)
Morning: Start at Notre Dame Cathedral
Start bright and early for your one day Paris itinerary. Visit the beautiful Notre Dame Cathedral in the morning (say around 08:00 am), and then spend 1 to 3 hours in the Île de la Cité area.
Notre Dame is one of the most popular sites in Paris, and is well known for the Gothic architecture. The construction of the cathedral began in the 12th century, and its location on the Île de la Cité signifies the city’s medieval origins.
Notre-Dame is located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, and accessible by the Metro.
Nearest Metro: RER B or RER C and get down at the St Michel-Notre Dame (buy the Paris Pass for unlimited transportation rides)
As you might know, Notre Dame was struck by fire in April 2019, and since then the cathedral is closed. The French are hopeful that it will be completely restored on/before 2024 when Paris is set to host the Olympics. Prior to the fire, there used to be tons of tours offered in the past, but for now, you can only capture this beautiful medieval cathedral from the exteriors.
Take a tour of Sainte Chapelle
As you enjoy the morning breeze by the Seine, make your way to Sainte Chapelle, another place of worship – a royal chapel located on the Île de la Cité.
The interiors of the chapel are super stunning, and you must take time to admire the glass stained windows – it is said to be one of the finest in the world.
The construction of Sainte Chapelle began in the 13th century and was commissioned by King Louis IX of France to house his relics. Sainte Chapelle is not as big as Notre Dame, and you can easily explore the interiors (including go on a guided tour to learn about its history) in 1 to 2 hours. Here are the entry tickets
Hours: Open everyday from 09:00 am.
- Closed from 01:00 am to 2:30 pm. Closing hours from October to March 05:00 pm, and from April to September 07:00 pm.
- Also closed on January 1, May 1 and December 25
Cost: 11.50 euros ($14 USD)
Located within Île de la Cité, and close to Sainte Chapelle is the Conciergerie. The Conciergerie was a prison, and today it is used as a law court.
It is important to note here that Île de la Cité is one of the surviving islands located on the Seine River. Notre Dame Cathedral, Sainte Chapelle, and Conciergerie are within walking distance from each other. The island is connected to the rest of Paris by bridges to both banks of the river. The oldest surviving bridge is the Pont Neuf (‘New Bridge’) on the west end of the island.
Paris bouquinistes and Pont Neuf
To reach Pont Neuf from Sainte Chapelle/Conciergerie, you can stroll along the Seine River, and admire the Paris bouquinistes. Paris bouquinistes are the green bookstalls, located on each side of the Seine River banks. These stalls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site today (1991), and truly speaks volume of Seine as a river that “runs between two bookshelves“.
Explore Latin Quarter (and break for snack/meal)
From the 4th arrondissement, head to the quaint lanes of the Latin Quarter (located on the 5th). Known as the University quarter, it is home to the Sorbonne University and international restaurants and Parisian cafes (super affordable).
The popular Shakespeare & Co bookstore is located here – it will be a 4-minute walk from Sainte Chapelle if you follow directions/route via Boulevard Saint-Michel and Boulevard Saint-Germain.
Other than breaking for food, you can spend a couple of hours here photographing the beautiful cobblestoned lanes, and stopping by the Pantheon building, Jardin des Plantes botanical gardens and the National Museum of Natural History.
Afternoon: Relax at the Luxembourg Gardens
From the heart of Latin Quarter, make way to the Luxembourg Gardens or the Jardin du Luxembourg. It is a 10 minute walk via Rue Saint-Jacques and Rue Soufflot, as you proceed to the 6th arrondissement. Technically, it is situated on the border between Saint-Germain -des-Prés and the Latin Quarter neighbourhoods.
The Jardin du Luxembourg is the stunning royal gardens, located at the Palace of Luxembourg Gardens. The gardens are completely free to explore, and you will be mesmerized by the 106 sculptures staged in the open. If you wish to visit the Musee du Luxembourg, there is an entry fee.
Visit Louvre Museum
For the afternoon, dedicate 2-3 hours at the stunning Louvre Pyramid and the art museum.
Louvre Museum is one of the world’s most visited museums and it houses the painting of the Mona Lisa. In order to explore all of the museum rooms in a couple of hours, we highly recommend getting tickets in advance – skip the line ticket. Alternately, you can also book a comprehensive 3 hour tour of the Louvre
If you are not an art museum fan and want to skip the interiors for your one day in Paris itinerary, we still suggest visiting the Louvre Pyramid complex. This complex is the main courtyard of the museum with one large and three smaller pyramids. You can explore the complex for free.
Note that the Louvre is closed on Mondays.
Hours: Open 10:00 am to 06:00 pm rest of the week. Closed on January 1, May 1, and December 25, and Mondays
Cost: Starts at 17 euros ($ 21) or free with Paris Pass
Métro: Palais-Royal – Musée du Louvre
Late afternoon: Trocadero + Eiffel Tower
Depending on how much time you have left after exploring the Louvre, you can skip Trocadero, and head straight to the Eiffel Tower or visit it after.
Trocadero is open for 24 hours. And in the evening it is a perfect spot to capture the Eiffel Tower Illuminations. You can see the Eiffel Tower covered in sparkling lights, and every evening it shines for 5 minutes every hour on the hour.
Entry to the Trocadero Gardens is completely free, and it is safe to visit at night, just be mindful of pickpockets.
The Eiffel Tower needs no introduction. The stunning Iron Lady was designed by Gustave Eiffel as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair. The tower is best explored in the mornings or after 05:00 pm, as it is not super crowded.
The ground level of the Eiffel Tower (called the Esplanade) is free to explore. Here you will find ticket counters, information centre, souvenir stores and can also peak at the hydraulic lifts.
The Eiffel Tower has three floor levels that are open to visitors.
- The 1st floor of the tower has a transparent glass floor, 57 metres above the ground. This floor is the best to learn about the history of the Eiffel Tower
- The 2nd floor is the most popular one with tourists. From here, you can check out all of the prime attractions in the city of Paris. There is a restaurant on-site with a romantic dining option, which is perfect for the night.
- You can book your tickets online on the second floor
- The third or the summit of the Eiffel tower stands tall at 273 metres high and from here you can see the whole of Paris underneath you. Book your summit tour of the Eiffel Tower.
Eiffel Tower is one of the most iconic symbols of Paris, and no trip to the city is complete without visiting/sighting this historic monument.
Hours: Everyday 09:00 am to 12:45 am
Cost: Starts at 7 euros (8.60 USD)
Métro: Closest one is Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel (RER C)
Evening: Dine in Champs Élysées and then head to the top of Arc de Triomphe
From the Eiffel Tower, visit Champs Elysees. Champs Elysees is one of the world’s stunning shopping/commercial streets. The boulevard was originally built as a leafy avenue leading to the Arc de Triomphe.
There are tons of retail stores, cafes, and restaurants along Champs Elysees, and you can dine here (if not dining at the Eiffel Tower), and also shop for some souvenirs to take back home.
After shopping and dining, finish the night at Arc de Triomphe. The stunning Arc de Triomphe was constructed under Napoleon’s orders, to commemorate the French army’s victories.
The monument is free to explore from the grounds, but its beauty lies in capturing the city of Paris from its viewing platform on the rooftop. You can access the rooftop for 12 euros/$15 USD (closes at 10:00 pm), and photograph the entire avenue from up there. Capturing it at night means you can check out Champs-Elysées decked up in shiny lights, and also view the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre.
Arc de Triomphe stands at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, with Champs-Élysées on one end, and the Place de la Concorde on the other.
- From 1 April to 30 September: every day 10am-11pm.
- From 1 October to 31 March: every day 10am-10.30pm
Cost: Starts at 12 euros (15 USD) for rooftop access.
(Note there is an underground walkway to reach Arc de Triomphe, from Champs Elysees west end. You should not attempt to cross the road at this busy junction)
Alternate Option: See Paris in a day with Eiffel Tower + Montmartre
Here is an alternate option where you can check off the Eiffel Tower in the morning, and then explore the neighbourhood of Montmartre.
Morning: Head to the Trocadero Gardens
Good Morning – you are in Paris!
The first sightseeing spot for this one day in Paris itinerary is the Trocadero Gardens in the morning. Plan to arrive there by 07:30 am, to beat the rush and snap photos of the gardens and the Eiffel Tower.
You get one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower from here, and the tower grounds are only a 5 minute drive away. Take time to walk the gardens, stop for breakfast at one of the cafes located near Trocadero.
Hours: 24 hours
Cost: Gardens are free
Métro: Trocadéro or Passy
Visit Eiffel Tower (second floor or the summit)
From the Gardens, make your way to the stunning Eiffel Tower. As mentioned above, the grounds are free to explore, and we highly recommend taking a stroll there (that’s why starting the day early is always better!)
Ensure you book the skip the line tickets early, and choose either the second floor or the summit to check out city views of Paris along with its iconic attractions like the Notre Dame, Invalides, Louvre, Grand Palais and the Seine river.
- Second Floor Tickets: Book your tickets online to the second floor
- Summit Floor Tickets: Book your summit tour of the Eiffel Tower
Walk Champs Elysées
Up next on the list is the shopping boulevard – Champs Élysées. Champs-Élysées, located on the 8th arrondissement, is a nice way to see all the lovely buildings in the city, maybe stop for a quick bite or shop, as you make your way to the Arc de Triomphe.
Capture the architecture of Arc de Triomphe
At the end of the Champs Elysees avenue, you will arrive at the Arc de Triomphe – victory arch commissioned by Napoleon to celebrate the victories of the French Army. You can explore the architecture of this beautiful monument from a distance or near the grounds, which is completely free.
If interested, you can get to the rooftop (entry fee $15 USD). This view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is different from the one you witnessed at the Eiffel Tower viewing platforms.
Tickets: Rooftop access tickets
Afternoon: Proceed to Montmartre
After checking off some of the prime attractions in Paris, set aside the afternoon to explore the pretty neighbourhood of Montmartre. Montmartre is located in the 18th arrondissement, and it is known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur, cute cafes (like the Le Consulat, La Maison), and history.
How to get to Montmartre from Arc de Triomphe? It takes 20 to 25 minutes to reach Montmartre from Arc de Triomphe. You can take the train/RER at Arc de Triomphe/Place Charles de Gaulle towards Blanche. From here, there is a 12-15 minute walk to the heart of Montmartre. This walk is worth it as you pass through pretty lanes, cafes, and shops. Remember to wear comfortable walking shoes to fully enjoy the neighborhood.
Eat in a traditional Parisian Cafe
You will find a ton of beautiful cafes in the district of Montmartre. Take time to sit down in a cafe and try out – buttered croissant, macarons and coffee!
Try one of these cafes
- La Bonne Franquette
- La Mere Catherine
- Le Consulat Restaurant
- Le Petit Café Montmartre
Many of these cafes are located in and around, or near Place du Tertre, which is an artist square in Montmartre.
Visit Musée de Montmartre
The Musée de Montmartre is a well-known arts museum in the district, and is home to some of the finest works of art by French artists. This is also a nice place to learn about the history of Montmartre, how it was amalgamated to the city of Paris, it’s struggles and more.
Hours: Open everyday 10:00 am to 06:00 pm.Last entry is 05:15 pm
Cost: 7 – 10 euros ($12.26)
Soak in sunset from the Sacre Coeur
Sacre Coeur is the highlight and the iconic landmark of Montmartre. Its location on the summit of the Montmartre hill, makes it easy to soak in mesmerizing views of the city, and the nearby districts.
Sacre Coeur is a Roman Catholic church, and it has a deep history, of both religious and political importance. It is believed that the site has been around since pagan times.
You can visit the basilica for free, and it is open from 06:30 am to 10:30 pm. However, there is an entry fee to get to the top of Sacre Coeur to soak in those sunset views.
Hours: Open everyday 06:30 am to 10:30 pm.
Tickets: 5 euros ($6) to get to the top of the basilica
Evening: Finish the day with a Seine River Cruise
Finish the Paris experience in a day, by taking an evening/night sightseeing cruise. There are many cruise agencies in Paris that conduct cruises, and they are open in the morning too.
We recommend opting for an evening cruise (maybe add dining on abroad too). The tour lasts for one hour, and you get to check out the shiny landmarks in Paris from the comfort of your seat. From Notre Dame Cathedral, to the various historic bridges over the Seine River, and of course the stunning Eiffel Tower beautifully decorated in lights!
We recommend taking a cruise from Bateaux Parisiens, which is located near the Eiffel Tower Grounds. Do bring a scarf or a light cardigan with you, as it gets very chilly in the evening, cruising on the river.
If you prefer to dine on board, consider taking the Seine River dinner cruise 2.5 hours.
Hours: Everyday 10:30 am to 10:30 pm
Cost: Starts at 10 euros ($12 USD) or free with Paris Pass
Métro: Trocadéro or Passy for Bateaux Parisiens
One day in Paris Itinerary Sightseeing Map
Here is a sightseeing map to explore Paris in a day
- Itinerary sample 1 is in pink
- Itinerary sample 2 is in purple
Is one day in Paris enough
Can you really explore Paris in a day, is a common question we get asked on Instagram. Unfortunately exploring all of Paris is nearly impossible in a short visit. But, you can surely check off a few attractions from your Paris bucket list.
We recommend starting with your favorite sites, and using this itinerary as an inspiration to combine a few more places to make the most of your trip. Try to stick to one or two neighbourhoods to make commuting easy for yourself.
Paris on a Layover: One day in Paris itinerary
Now, if you only have a few hours in Paris, then consider creating a short itinerary where you explore one arrondissement or attractions that are close to each other, without having to take the trains multiple times in a day.
On our first trip to Paris, we also used the Hop-on-Hop-off sightseeing tour and took one complete loop of the red route which covered many of the attractions we wanted to cover. You can choose a route that works for you, do one complete loop and then get down at 1-2 sites to explore further. Click here to book your hop-on and hop-off sightseeing bus tour.
- Layover of 6 to 8 hours: Take the Paris hop on and hop off tour to see the highlights of the city, get down at a couple of your favorite sites
- Layover of 5 hours: Visit Trocadero, Eiffel Tower (grounds), Champs Elysees, Arc de Triomphe OR Explore Sainte Chapelle, see the Notre Dame Cathedral from a distance, check out bridges and bookstores by the Seine River, end at the Latin Quarter
It is important to note that traffic in Paris is crazy, especially in the late afternoons and evenings. So if you have a connecting flight or train, be mindful of time and don’t add a ton of activities to your day.
More time in Paris City – More Paris attractions to explore
Opéra Garnier – Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is the grand opera house located in the 9th arrondissement. From a distance, this attraction looks like a royal palace, I mean it displays beautiful baroque revival architecture. You can take a self-guided tour of the 1,979-seat opera house.
The opera house was commissioned by Emperor Napoleon III. You can add this to your one day in Paris itinerary option 1, before you arrive at the Louvre Art Museum. It takes 1-2 hours to complete the tour.
Located between the Louvre Museum and the Place de la Concorde, is the Jardin des Tuileries. This stunning garden is the first public garden in Paris City, and they are not open 24 hours like the Trocadero (they usually close by 06:00-07:00 pm.
The Tuileries Garden can be added to your itinerary after exploring Arc de Triomphe (towards Place de la Concorde), and after the gardens, you can continue to visit the Louvre. Along the way, you can check out Musee de l’Orangerie, Musee d’Orsay, and the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (Louvre).
If you liked the Paris itinerary option 1, you can skip the Luxembourg Gardens for the Tuileries.
How to get to Paris by train from nearby countries?
Thanks to high speed trains in Europe, you can add Paris to your London or Brussels itinerary.
- London: High-speed trains from London to Paris take less than 3 hours. There are day trip services available between these 2 cities
- Brussels: Thalys trains from Brussels to Paris is around 2.50 hours
For high speed trains, we recommend booking tickets ahead of time (preferably online). Trains start as early as 06:30 am. You can also book a London to Paris day tour here
Getting to Paris France: Air travel and airports
To get to Paris France, there are three international airports
- Charles de Gaulle International Airport: Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (also called the Roissy Airport) is located about 23 km (15 miles) northeast of Paris. International flights arrive at the Terminal 2E. CDG to Eiffel Tower by train takes about one hour, one way.
- Orly Airport: Orly airport is located closer to the city, also well connected by public transportation.
- Beauvais-Tille Airport: Beauvais–Tillé Airport is the third international airport in Paris, and it mostly serves charter and low-cost airlines. There are frequent trains every 1-2 hours between Beauvais and Paris Gare du Nord. And it takes about 80 minutes.
If traveling from the USA or Canada, you will arrive at the Charles de Gaulle International Airport. This is one of the busiest airports in Europe, and is located about 45 minutes from the city center in Paris.
In order to reach the centre, you can hop on the RER train which is a safe and efficient way to get around in Paris. RER train ride to the centre is about 10 euros, and you can pay for it at the airport. If you prefer an airport shuttler, you can always book one here
Getting around in Paris
There are quite a few ways to commute within the various districts in Paris. You can take the Paris Metro, bus, bike, and also go by boat.
When you only have a day in Paris, we recommend sticking on one mode of transport – this way it will be cost efficient in terms of daily tickets, and in getting to places.
We used the Metro extensively during our stay. A single metro ticket costs €1.90 and can be used for one journey, including all connections. You can buy them as a single ticket or a booklet of 10 (“carnet”) for €16. You can purchase them at the machines/kiosks in metro stations. If you buy the Paris Pass, public transportation rides are included.
Paris Pass or Paris Museum Pass Or should you buy any pass at all?
We used the Paris Pass during our trip to the city. It is a great value for money as it includes entry to attractions, plus unlimited public transportation rides, hop on and hop off Paris tour, and Seine River Cruise. It starts at €139 for a minimum of 2 days.
The Paris Museum Pass includes passes and tickets to museums and monuments only, there are no transportation rides, bus, or Seine river tour included. They are available for 2, 4 or 6 days.
For exploring Paris in a day you can either use
- the Hop on and Hop off tour, and add Seine river + daily Metro ticket.
- Or opt for a walking tour + daily Metro ticket.
Where to stay in Paris for a day?
For one day in Paris, we recommend staying at the centre or Montmartre (if opting for the second itinerary) listed above, this will cut down travel time, and allow you to enjoy the city.
- Hotel Balzac in the 8th arrondissement – Staying in the centre area is perfect as you can access all the tourist spots within a few minute’s walk. Hotels are luxuriously beautiful. Book this hotel in the 8th arrondissement
- Magnificent view on Eiffel Tower: Beautiful Airbnb located in the 7th arrondissement offers amazing views of the Eiffel Tower, and the pretty Parisian buildings nearby. This apartment has 2 bedrooms, relaxing art deco interiors, and a spacious balcony. The Airbnb is also only a 10-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower and Trocadero. Book this Airbnb
- Hotel Des Arts in Montmartre: Located in the historic Montmartre district, Hotel Des Arts is a nice mid-budget option to stay in Paris. Rooms are nice and clean, and some also offer city views. This hotel is located only 12 minutes away from the Sacre Coeur. Click to view more photos here
- You can browse more hotels in Montmartre here.
- Reserve a Hotel room with Booking.com
- Book an Airbnb stay or experience
Other important Paris Tips
Paris is the capital city of France. France is part of the European Union and the Schengen agreement. If you require a visa to travel to the 28 Schengen countries, then you will need to apply for a Schengen travel visa before arrival. Learn more about the Schengen Visa process.
Citizens of the USA and Canada can travel to France and stay for 90 days without a visa, right now. From 2022 onwards, all visitors to the Schengen countries require visa exempt countries to apply for an ETIAS – European Travel Information and Authorization System.
If this is your first trip to Europe, read our detailed Europe travel planning guide
First Time Europe Traveler: Get travel ready with our FREE 7 day email course
Other helpful Paris Guides
- Paris Day Tours: Guide to the best day tours from Paris
- Private Tours in Paris: Top Private Tours in Paris
- Paris Gifts: Best Paris themed gifts to buy
- Paris Instagram Spots: Best Photo Spots in Paris
- Versailles Guide: How to visit Versailles from Paris on a day trip
- Paris Weekend trips: Top weekend trips from Paris
- South of France: Visit the beautiful places in the south of France