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1 Day in Paris: Guide to Making the Most of Exploring the City of Lights

Did your airline flight get cancelled and now you are stuck in France for an extra day with no plans? Or did you decide to take a short break between travel adventures and want some time to explore the city and rest from the jetlag? One day in Paris is an excellent way to rejuvenate yourself without just hanging out at the airport waiting to catch your next flight.

The best way to experience the city of Paris is to take a hop-on-hop-off bus tour. This way you can take a full lap around the city to see the iconic sites from the comfort of a double-decker bus. After that, you can jump off where you prefer and just wander the streets and go wherever your fancy takes you. Here are some of the stops the bus tour will take you and suggestions on what you can do if you decide to get off at that particular location or if you want to wander the city on your own and see what you can discover.

Walk or Cruise Along the Seine River

Paris Seine River
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

A great way to spend part of your day in Paris is just walking along the Seine River. It goes through the heart of Paris as a major river and some of the popular landmarks are aligned nearby. There are plenty of bridges such as the Pont Alexandre III and Pont Neuf separating the banks so you can cross back and forth at your choosing.

There are riverboat cruises and tours during the day and night where you can enjoy the local scenery while fine dining or simply get a different perspective of the city.

Paris Bookseller Kiosk
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Along your walk, stop at the iconic Parisian newspaper kiosks and booksellers that have been along the Seine River for decades. These old green-colored boxes are a quintessential part of the city landscape. But they are completely over tourists taking pictures and not purchasing anything they have put “no photography” signs on the kiosks. So you have to be either super ninja sneaky or take it from a distance such as across the street.

Arc de Triomphe

Paris Arc de Triomphe
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

An iconic monument located at the end of the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous avenues in the world. You will find it centrally located on Place Charles de Gaulle, the circular road junction where 12 of the city’s avenues meet. This means you will find consistently borne down with vehicle traffic. At the top of the structure, the rooftop terrace will give you amazing panoramic views of the entire city of Paris.

Getting off here will take you to a line of luxury boutique shops, cafes, and shopping centers. You will see people walking up the avenue on the little road between vehicle lanes to get that perfect photograph of the center.

Tip: The bus tour takes you around the entire Arc de Triomphe so this is a perfect time to take a video of the ride for your social media. Just make sure you are sitting on the left side of the bus facing forward to give you the best vantage points.

Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Of course, there is no way you can spend the day in Paris without making a stop at the Eiffel Tower. Just avoid the tourist areas as best as possible and don’t linger here. Everyone knows this massive symbol of France can not be passed up so you will have local solicitors offering to take professional photos or ask to take surveys, and other potential scammers and pickpockets.

You can purchase tickets to go up the second floor for some decent city views but you should buy those in advance. Either way, you will be dealing with long wait times so it can be a bit anti-climatic once you are up there. If your day in Paris was just a spur-of-the-moment decision you can probably just pass on going up the Eiffel Tower. Be sure to decide whether you want to see it during the day or at night when it is lit because they both offer you different experiences.

The Champ de Mars park is the large open greenspace just next to the Eiffel Tower. It’s perfect for picnics or leisurely strolls if you just want to relax and enjoy the Parisian atmosphere. Local events such as live music, sports, and city events happen here on a regular basis, just check the calendar to see what is happening during your stay here.

If you want to get off the bus and explore, make it your first stop and do so early before it gets too crowded. Get there in the morning if possible. By the early afternoon, you will find tons of tour groups and self-guided travelers coming through. Do all your eating and purchases away from the Eiffel Tower as the prices around the area are a little more expensive.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Cathedrale Notre Dame de Paris
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Though still under restoration since 2019 fire with it’s completion set for the end of 2024, this historic cathedral of French gothic architecture can still be viewed from the outside in its impressive display. The grand exterior is what really showcases how old of a city this place really is. Hopefully when it is fully restored you will have the time to take a small inside tour of the cathedral.

Stop off here and walk across the Seine to reach the Latin Quarter of Paris where world-renowned authors like Dali, Joyce, and Hemingway spent their time while living here. Because of this, it has become a cultural hub for book lovers and inspiring writers inside the city and abroad. A separate walking tour will take you through the smaller churches in the neighborhood while also being able to visit the Sorbonne University and Luxembourg Gardens, both places perfect to rest and relax in the vibrant city atmosphere.

Dome des Invalides

Dome des Invalides
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

This historical landmark is just one part of the larger complex known as Les Invalides, containing several museums, a chapel, and government buildings. It has been part of the city landscape since the 17th century. The main courtyard is filled with cannon artillery pieces since this place was originally intended solely for the French military. That is why it contains the Musée de l’Armée, which focuses on military history and it’s collection of medieval armor both domestic and abroad as gifts from foreign nations, weapons, musical instruments, and uniforms from the 13th to 20th century.

Les Invalides Courtyard
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

What will draw your attention is that the Dome contains the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, one of the most controversial figures in world history along with other family members and close confidantes. If you are more of a military history fan, this is the kind of place you will want to spend your time. If not, this is still a great area to see the Baroque architectural significance in the building’s designs and courtyard.

Louvre Museum and Palace

Containing the world’s largest art collection and, if you want to visit this museum you will definitely need to pay extra for a “skip the line” ticket. This place is always packed with crowds of people and long lines that can hours just to gain entry. It’s not possible to see it all in one single day so if you are planning on going inside to focus on the exhibits you are personally interested in. Most go straight for the Mona Lisa and after that explore at your leisure. Hopefully you will have another opportunity to visit Paris again.

Wander the Streets of Paris

Maybe you have already been to Paris before and seen most of the main attractions or simply want a change from the usual. So just go pick a direction and wander through the city. See what you can discover on your own that will make the trip worthwhile. Stop and watch the local street performers or just randomly enter a shop that caught your eye. Choose to go on a shopping spree if you have room in your bags and purchase some trendy French outfits. The best way to explore a city is just diving in with no plans.

Where to eat in Paris

Rue Montorgueil
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

You can find plenty of that classic Parisian cuisine all over the city but some neighborhoods have that little bit extra of the bohemian lifestyle the city is famous for and close enough to the attractions you won’t be wasting your valuable time.

Eating in Rue Montorgueil

One of the best market streets in the center of the city is Rue Montorgueil. It’s lined up on either side with pastry shops, French and international cuisines, butcher shops for choice meats and cheeses, cute little cafes, and fresh produce stores. Learn the history when you have gone to Stohrer, established in 1730 and deemed the oldest patisserie in Paris.

Cafe Petibon
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

If you are pressed for time, take a recommended food tour or choose to go at your own pace. It’s a good idea to get outdoor seating so you can enjoy watching all the passersby on the street. You will feel that Parisian vibe of being in the “real” Paris as it’s just not a tourist attraction with many of the locals frequenting the establishments.

Eating in Rue Sainte-Anne

Rue Sainte-Anne
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

Just a few blocks away is Rue Sainte-Anne, which is considered the Little Tokyo of Paris as it is filled with Asian eateries. You have Japanese, Vietnamese, Korean, and Chinese options up and down the street. Some are fusion restaurants, pairing with French cuisine for tasteful appetizers and entrees.

The locals can’t seem to get enough of it, with lines stretching out the door and around the corner at some places. Add in the tourists looking to eat here, and you are in for a long wait time during the lunch and dinner hours.

Both of these streets are located in the 1st and 2nd arrondissements (administrative division) of Paris.

Eating in Rue Mouffetard

You also have the Rue Mouffetard in the Latin Quarter, one of the oldest market streets in Paris with a diversity of French eateries and an open market with produce stalls and specialty items. Particularly known for its cheese shops and charcuteries, here is where you should pick up a picnic lunch before heading to enjoy the Luxembourg Gardens.

This street is located in the 5th arrondissement.

Where to Stay in Paris

Best Western Paris Roissy
Photo Credit: Nicholas Rosen

If you are not heading right back to the airport at the end of the day and need a place to stay for the night instead, you will have no problem finding accommodations. But it depends on your budget and preferences.

There are of course plenty of luxury hotels such as the Le Meurice and Le Bristol if you really want to just treat yourself with fine wining and dining in top-notch comfort.

For those of us who may want just a cheap place to put our head down for one night, Hotel Marignan and Hotel Excelsior can meet your basic needs while still being in the more lively parts of the city.

You can also choose to book a room by the airport in one of the many affordable hotels in Roissy-en-France and just Uber to and from the city. There is a whole street of them back to back and within walking distance of the quaint town square. In a suburban district, you will find a few shops and restaurants to meet your needs to finish up the night.

Time to Leave Paris

Like me, 24 hours will seem to go by so quickly while you are here before you have to leave again. It’s just enough for you to decompress from all the flying and to stretch your legs before heading to your next destination. It’s also enough time to realize that you have to come back again at some point for another 2-3 days to finish checking off your itinerary. Next time you can think about taking some day trips outside of Paris. It’s always going to be a premiere destination and is just the starting point of discovering the rest of France.

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