24 Hours in Paris France: One Day Itinerary
Have 24 hours to burn in Paris, France? While most travelers would like a little more time in Paris, sometimes a full day is all you get! If you aren't sure what to do, there are many different places to experience. In this article, travel enthusiast Emma Braby helps you plan the perfect day in Paris France.
Last updated: February 10, 2024
10 min read
If you’ve only got 24 hours in Paris, you need to get as much out of your trip as possible. Ideally, it would be best if you had several days to enjoy all the best attractions in Paris. But for many travelers, this isn’t always an option.
So, whether you’re passing through Paris on a tight schedule. Or, if you’re visiting Paris on a day trip from somewhere else, like Reims in the Champagne region or the Loire Valley, you need to plan an itinerary.
I have visited Paris several times, and it’s one of my favorite cities in the world. Each visit has been memorable, but like anywhere, there are a few must-see attractions and special neighborhoods to visit. And so, I have put together a 24-hour Paris itinerary for anyone visiting this incredible city with limited time.
I’ve broken down your 24 hours in Paris into sections, each with a detailed review of how to get there, what to do, and where to go for your next destination. Nothing is worse than being in a city for a short period, getting lost, and missing attractions you’ve dreamed about seeing. It’s going to be tight, and you need comfy shoes, but this is the best way to spend 24 hours in Paris, France. Let’s get started!
Breakfast in Le Marais District
Fashionistas, Art Lovers, Food Enthusiasts, History Buffs, Photography Aficionados
You need to get fueled up for your day ahead in this wonderfully romantic city. And as they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. One of the best neighborhoods for food is Le Marais, and it happens to be right next to the first attraction on this list, so it’s the perfect breakfast spot.
Le Marais is a pretty neighborhood graced with a blend of old-world medieval charm and impressive Renaissance architecture. Take a stroll through the narrow streets lined with typically French blue and white signage and intricate street lamps. It’s the perfect place for some snaps of a romantic Parisian area, and if you arrive there early enough, there won’t be many people around.
In Le Marais, you are spoilt for cuisine choice. Whether it’s a typical French breakfast you’re after, like croissants, tartines, brioche, and coffee. Or a hearty American breakfast with fluffy pancakes and bacon. There is something for everyone. There’s also a popular food market called “Marche des Enfants Rouges” if you fancy grazing through the stalls. Why not select a handful of goods and make your own pack up?
I have had breakfast in “Carette”. I stumbled across it during my morning walk around Place des Vosges, the oldest planned square in Paris. Admittedly, the main reason I chose it was because it was the first cafe to open at 7:30 a.m. But I’m so glad I did because they offer croissants with the creamiest of butter, strong coffee, divine chocolate, and some of the best eggs I’ve ever had. Grab a table outside under the arches and watch over the square as Paris comes alive.
You can walk or take the metro depending on where you are in Le Marais. I walked from Carette to Notre Dame, and it took me just over 20 minutes. If you have breakfast at Carette, the nearest metro station is Saint-Paul, and take three stops to Hotel de Ville. You can be at Notre Dame in less than a 10-minute walk from there.
Start at Ile de la Cite
You’ve had breakfast and woken yourself up with a swift stroll. Here is what I recommend for the first part of your day up until lunchtime.
Notre Dame Cathedral
Late Spring to Early Fall (May to September), Weekends and Holidays, Cultural and Religious Events
History Buffs, Architecture Enthusiasts, Religious Pilgrims, Cultural Explorers, Art Lovers
You’ve arrived at the metro station and are ready to head to Notre Dame. Before you do this, you have a choice of three bridges to walk across. Pont d’Arcole is the closest to the cathedral. Pont Notre Dame is an arched bridge adorned with carvings. It is the furthest away, but it is an iconic Parisian bridge that features in the Les Miserables novel.
Notre Dame sits on an island in the middle of the River Seine called Ile de la Cite. Head toward Notre Dame, following the signs and the tourists; you can’t miss it. It is one of the main attractions in the city, let alone the island, and one of the most stunning Gothic-style cathedrals in the world.
An early morning visit to the cathedral means avoiding the long queues that start building from 9:00 a.m. onwards. Make your way through the building and take its splendor in. You can also climb the towers to enjoy the famous gargoyle’s panoramic views over the city, which I highly recommend.
If you visit in the springtime, head towards the rear gardens, where you can view the cathedral and its elaborate flying buttresses sitting behind gorgeous pink cherry blossom trees. My favorite photo of these trees and Notre Dame was from the Pont de l’Archeveche, the bridge directly behind the cathedral.
Notre Dame is currently closed to the public after the devastating fire in 2019, and it is on track to open to the public in 2024. Please bear this in mind if you are visiting, and check the Notre Dame website for definitive opening information.
Spring and Summer (April to September), Major Holidays, School Breaks
Art and Architecture Enthusiasts, History Buffs, Religious Pilgrims, Cultural Explorers
How long you spend at the cathedral depends on whether you can fit this attraction in. I have visited Sainte Chapelle on every trip because each time, the colors take my breath away. If you can squeeze this attraction in, I more than highly recommend it.
Sainte Chapelle is on the Ile de la Cite and is just a five-minute walk from Notre Dame. This building doesn’t look like much from the outside, but this place is one of my favorite places in Paris, only behind the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame.
I’ll never forget walking into the chapel for the first time. The sun glimmered through the incredibly tall stained glass windows, creating a bluey-purple haze in the building. Every aspect of the building is adorned with shimmering gold. It is, without a doubt, one of the most stunning buildings I’ve ever visited!
Lunchtime Cruise on the River Seine
Summer Months (June to August)
Romantic Couples, Sightseeing Enthusiasts, River Cruise Aficionados, Photography Lovers
Midday has arrived, and it’s time to move on to the next part of your day. What better way to view the entire city than on the River Seine? There are a few operators, but I can highly recommend Bateaux Parisiens. One of their two boarding locations is on the other side of the river, near Pont au Double and opposite Notre Dame.
I opted for the standard one-hour tour, which takes you under 25 bridges, past 14 monuments, and four of the city’s largest museums. The tour is available in 13 languages, and the crew are very friendly and knowledgeable. You can enjoy the cruise from inside under cover or on the fresh upper deck.
You can opt for lunchtime cruises, dinner tours, and other trips with theatrical performances. But these take longer than one hour and must be pre-booked in advance. If you stick to the one-hour sightseeing tour like me, you can find lunch before or after at a corner bistro like the locals do.
Just before my cruise, I hopped into a bistro called “Café Panis,” which was typically French-looking, opposite the boarding location. They offer a vast menu listing quick bites to eat, main dishes, sweet snacks, crepes, desserts, a wide range of drinks, and much more. But there are so many to choose from, so take your pick.
For the next leg of your itinerary, head to Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station, which is a four-minute walk west of the boarding location at Quai de Montebello. Take the RER C yellow train line to the Musee d’Orsay station, which is approximately a three-minute non-stop route. Follow the signs to Musee d’Orsay.
Afternoon in Palais Bourbon District
Although the Louvre is the most famous art museum and one of the top attractions in Paris, even with a pre-booked ticket, the queues are very long. So I wouldn’t advise the Louvre for travelers with only 24 hours. Instead, head to the 7th arrondissement, known as Palais Bourbon. This bourgeois district is home to an equally impressive art museum, Musee d’Orsay, and Paris’s most iconic landmark, which I recommend in the evening.
Art Lovers, History Enthusiasts, Cultural Explorers, Museum-Goers, Photography Aficionados
The Musee d’Orsay is famous for two things. First, the impressive collection of artwork it displays. Including pieces by Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Cezanne. And second, the building itself, which is a former railway station. The roof is made of glass, and the entire museum is gilded with gold.
Once you’ve perused the artwork, head to the café on the fifth floor for a quick refreshment. Sit back, relax, and sit behind the famous clock window. Their coffee and cake selection is dreamy.
Jardin des Tuileries
Summer (July to August)
Garden Enthusiasts, Outdoor Leisure Seekers, Art Lovers, Cultural Explorers
If you are an art enthusiast and spent more than a few hours at Musee d’Orsay, you might not have time for this part. But if you browse the artwork quickly, you might have time to visit Jardin des Tuileries. If so, from the museum, head back over the river and out of the Palais Bourbon district and across the Pont Royal or Passerelle Leopold-Sedar-Senghor bridges. The latter is covered in love locks if you want to add to the collection.
Jardin des Tuileries was created for the royal family but has been open to the public since the 17th century. This garden also hosted the wedding procession of Napolean and other historically significant events. During the summer, you can find ice cream stalls and enjoy open-air performances, making it a lovely spot if the weather is good.
If you want to catch a glimpse of the famous Pyramide du Louvre, head towards the east end of the gardens and past the Place du Carrousel. Within just a few minutes, you’ll see the iconic glass pyramid encased by the museum’s grand facades. Once you’ve seen just how big the Louvre museum is and the queues to get in, you’ll understand why I have excluded this from your 24-hour Parisian itinerary.
Evening at the Eiffel Tower
Late Spring to Early Fall (May to September), School Holidays
Romantic Couples, Photography Aficionados, Architectural Enthusiasts, Cityscape Admirers
Next up is the star of the Parisian show, the Eiffel Tower. If you’re at the Jardin des Tuileries, head back south across the river to the Musee d’Orsay, as you need to catch the RER C train line to this attraction. It’s much easier to get there from the south side of the River Seine. There are three stops from the Musee d’Orsay station until you reach the Champ de Mars Eiffel Tower. Leave the station and follow the signs to the Eiffel Tower, which only takes around five minutes.
The Eiffel Tower has three levels, and the first and second are accessible by both elevator and stairs. However, the top floor is only accessible by elevator. Most visitors choose the elevator, so as you can imagine, the queue for the elevator is usually much longer than the stairs. If you can manage the stairs, I recommend them to save time for your short trip. Plus, it allows you to appreciate how impressively imposing the structure is.
The queue for this attraction can be mega, and even with prebooked tickets, it might eat into some of your short stay in Paris. But it’s a must if you’ve never been to the city before. Paris is known as the “City of Lights,” and visiting the Eifel Tower in the evening into the night will show you why. As dusk approaches, the golden lights and beacon begin to sparkle and beam thanks to the automatic sensors. They light up for five minutes on the hour up until 11 p.m.
If you fancy splurging out on a dinner you’ll never forget, there are two restaurants on the tower itself. You’ll find “Madame Brasserie” on the first floor and “The Jules Verne” on the second floor. Both offer exceptional gourmet cuisine by world-renowned chefs. There is also a macaron bar on the second floor and a champagne bar at the top. There are several snack and drink bars on the esplanade, first, and second floors for eats on the go.
Dinner With a View
Gourmet Food Enthusiasts, Romantic Couples, Cityscape Admirers, Culinary Explorers
If you want to dine somewhere else, I recommend heading slightly away from the Eiffel Tower itself and finding a restaurant overlooking the tower. That way, you can enjoy the sparkling tower from afar. There are many restaurants, all within varying budgets and offering different cuisines, with tower views including:
- Bonnie (4th arrondissement)
- Le Bistro Parisien (7th arrondissement)
- Les Ombres (7th arrondissement)
- Chez Francis (8th arrondissement)
- Maison Blanche (8th arrondissement)
- Perruche (8th arrondissement)
- Le Ciel de Paris (15th arrondissement)
- Girafe Restaurant (16th arrondissement)
- Antoine Seafood Restaurant (16th arrondissement)
- Monsieur Bleu (16th arrondissement)
- Café de l’Homme (16th arrondissement)
- 6 New York (16th arrondissement)
- Café du Trocadero (16th arrondissement)
- L’Oiseau Blanc (16th arrondissement)
- Victoria 1836 (16th arrondissement)
Finish up in the Latin Quarter
Literary Enthusiasts, History Buffs, Cafe-Goers, Students and Scholars, Cultural Explorers
Now that you’ve completed most of your Parisian tour, head to the Latin Quarter, where medieval meets modern. Depending on where you dined to watch the tower, you need to head to one of several stations in the district, such as Odeon, Maubert – Mutualite, or Saint-Germain – Cardinal Lemoine.
This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city and is packed with romantic charm. Despite being one of the oldest, it is one of the most vibrant, with a vast array of restaurants, bars, and cabarets.
Wander through the romantic streets and find a bar to sit back and relax in. If you still have some energy and are eager to see one last thing, I recommend the Paradis Latin. It is the oldest cabaret in Paris, and some believe it is the oldest in Europe. It offers a sensual, innovative, and fun traditional performance at a slightly more affordable price than the famous Moulin Rouge.
The Latin Quarter is also home to some of the most popular and affordable boutique hotels where you can finally rest after a busy and tiring day on your feet. Hotel de L’Esperance, Hotel Apolonia Paris Mouffetard, and Hotel Pierre Nicole are some of the most budget-friendly and highly-rated options.
Tips For a Tight Schedule in Paris
To get the best out of your short stay in Paris, you need to plan ahead and familiarize yourself with your itinerary. You also need to do and avoid several things while you are there. Here are my top tips for 24 hours in Paris.
Pack a City Map of Paris
This is important because although everything can be found online on a device, technology and wifi isn’t always reliable. So, you need a good ol’ paper map, just in case. You can download them online and print them out before you get there. Alternatively, you can pick up free city maps at most transport hubs, and most hotels have them for you to take.
Download a Good Paris Travel App For Your Device
I know I said that technology isn’t always reliable, but it’s handy to have an app on your cell, too. I personally have Rome2Rio, Here WeGo, Citymapper, and Google Maps downloaded wherever I go.
Purchase a Paris Visite Pass
This pass gives you unlimited travel in selected zones by metro, RER, tramway, and bus for one day. It’s simple to order it online, pick a day, and collect your ticket at several collection points throughout the city.
All of the attractions in this guide are within zones one to three, so it’s ideal. Plus, it saves you money compared to buying individual tickets and lots of precious time queuing up. At the time of writing, an adult pass costs just under 15 Euros.
No matter what attractions you choose to visit, pre-book everything wherever you can. Some of these attractions are free, such as the Notre Dame, and so this cannot be booked ahead.
But the trip up the towers is payable, and you can book these tickets. Some of these attractions, like the Eifel Tower, book up months ahead, so you need to pick a date well in advance.
Get Up Early & Stay Up Late
Getting up early is the key to getting the most out of your trip. On weekdays, the metro and RER operate from 5:30 a.m. until approximately 1:15 a.m., with longer weekend hours. At night, the Noctilien night bus network comes alive and transports you when the metro is closed.
Stick to Your Planned Schedule
Sticking to an itinerary might seem like a chore, but trust me, it means you get to see everything you want. It’s easy to get distracted or tempted to pop into somewhere else quickly, but with only 24 hours, it all adds up, and every minute is precious. Familiarize yourself with your plan, route, and timings, and you won’t be disappointed.
So there you have it, a 24-hour itinerary in Paris. After several much-loved trips to Paris, I have combined my favorite attractions into one jam-packed day. Some attractions, like the Louvre, cannot be seen with just a short stay unless that’s all you want to visit. But you can have a fantastic time in Paris and visit many must-see attractions in 24 hours. Be sure to stick to my tips, and you’ll have an amazing and memorable time.