Anyone who has ever been to Paris will tell you the same thing: there is so much to do in Paris you will be overwhelmed.
After thumbing through the visitors guides and map I picked up at the airport I quickly realized just how true this statement is and minorly cursed myself for not mapping out a detailed itinerary before arriving.
However, Paris has a well beaten tourist path that is easy to navigate with little planning, even if you didn’t bring a guidebook like me. Make your first stop one of the city’s many official tourism offices to get a map and advice on what to see and how to get there. You can also purchase the Paris Museum Pass at these centers which more than paid for itself with the amount of museums I visited.
Here is the 24-hour Paris itinerary I created with guidance from the tourist office to see the best of Paris in one day.
24-Hour Paris Itinerary
Begin at the Louvre
Start the morning at the Louvre. With the Paris Museum Pass you will be able to skip the long line for tickets. The largest museum in the world, you could easily spend days here, but to get a small taste plan to spend around two hours here. Note: I spent most of my time here lost, trying to figure out where I was and what to see.
Once inside, spring an extra 5 euros for an audio guide which also provides GPS directions to some of the more famous exhibits. Be sure to see Venus de Milo, the Wedding Feast at Cana, Winged Victory of Samothrace wander through the ancient Egyptian relics and of course, stop at the Mona Lisa.
Visit the Gardens
After leaving the Louvre, take a quick stroll through the Tuileries Garden on the way to the metro. Take the metro to Jardin du Luxembourg, the garden of the French senate and full of beauty.
From here you can walk to the Pantheon, the burial place of many important French citizens including Voltaire, Rousseau and Victor Hugo.
Eat Lunch in the Latin Quarter
The Pantheon is in the Latin Quarter, a vibrant district full of many great shops and eateries. Wander the streets and grab a late lunch.
Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral
Next stroll along the Seine enroute to Notre Dame Cathedral. Keep an eye out for Lover’s Bridge, a bridge filled with locks by couples who hope their love will never end. Also take some time to look at the antique books and goods being sold by the vendors along the Seine.
Just before Sunset is a great time to visit Notre Dam Cathedral. One of the largest church buildings in the world, the chapel is celebrating 850 years. Wander around inside the chapel and then ascend the towers (this is free with the Paris Museum Pass). I timed my visit perfectly and was in the towers as the sunset. This proved to be my greatest view of all in Paris.
End Your Evening at the Arc de Triomphe
After sunset, hop back on the metro and head to the Arc de Triomphe, a monument built by Napoleon and honors soldiers who fought and died for France. The top is open until 10:30 or 11 p.m. depending on the season. This is a great view point for the city and the Eiffel tower at night.
The last stop of the evening is Champs-Elysees, a street with high end luxury stores and cafes. This street dead ends into the Arc du Triomphe, so you can walk it after ascending the monument. By this time of night the shops will be closed, but if you are a budget traveler like myself window shopping is sufficient. The cafes will still be hopping at this hour so there will be plenty of energy. Be extra cautious while walking this street as it is home to pick pocketers and beggers.
And that is the whirlwind itinerary I followed on my first day in Paris. There are so many wonderful things, but you will not be able to see them all. This is the lesson Paris teaches you.