Paris in 24 Hours or Less (for the First-Timer!)

Not too long ago, I was asked for advice about what to see in Paris for a brief, 24-hour layover. It's always tough to please everyone, but I knew enough about the traveler's preferences to feel good about the following recommendations. 

Quite honestly, when you only have a small window of opportunity to see a place for the first time, your basic framework plan is typically built around the popular sites. 

Narrowing your focus and approaching it in a strategic way is key to feeling happy and satisfied at the end of your visit. That's where this post comes in; it's a helpful way to focus on a few places, and staying organized while you are there.

Of course, you can add to or delete any of my suggestions. Paris has a plethora of places to experience, but I have narrowed it down to a few 'Must-Sees', which can be completed within one full day in the City of Lights.

First, a few notes. 

Keep these thoughts in mind if your decisions become difficult:

  • Ask yourself what you would regret not seeing.

  • With a 24-ish hour layover, time is everything.

The following old adage really applies in this situation: 

“Your options are: good, fast, and cheap, but you can only have 2 out of those 3.”    

   Meaning:  Good & Fastnot cheap.

                                Good & Cheap, not fast.

                                Fast & Cheap, not good.

Keep these in mind, because you may need to apply these concepts before and during a trip.

1. Use a Hop-on, Hop-off Bus (#1 = 'Big Bus Tours').  It’s pricey, but remember, you will be able to see so much and most companies have commentary. There is simply no other way to get a good overview of the city and get you to the top sites.  This will provide you with transportation, too.  Check to see what time the buses completely end for the day, or upgrade to a night bus pass (not really necessary, but you may be able to combine it with a boat tour on the Seine—time willing). 

 Get better views & transport to the important sites on a Hop On/Hop Off (Ho/Ho) Bus.

Get better views & transport to the important sites on a Hop On/Hop Off (Ho/Ho) Bus.

Eiffel Tower views(2).JPG

Eiffel Tower

'Skip the Line Passes' are really important for saving time.

2. Eiffel Tower.  I highly recommend spending more and getting a Fast-track Ticket.  Why? 

You could potentially spend 40-120 minutes waiting in line to go up. You don’t have time for that. You should book as early as possible for these, as tour operators will typically sell out for your selected date/time, especially in high season.      

** Eiffel Tower is typically open until midnight in high-season, with some exceptions. Check times for the month & day you are visiting.**

            How to Fast-track?  There are 2 options:

                       a). Web search for Skip-the-line Eiffel Tower tickets.  Take your time on the various websites and triple-check your date/time selection before you pay. There are shady sites out there, so it is worth the time to cross-check their reliability on TripAdvisor.  

**Search to find the right price and description for you—and make your decision.  Find a tour whose duration is not too long—you have other places to visit.  

 A 'Skip the Line' Pass for the Eiffel Tower with a Behind-the-Scenes tour option.

A 'Skip the Line' Pass for the Eiffel Tower with a Behind-the-Scenes tour option.



    OR

           b). Book a reservation at 58 Tour Eiffel Restaurant—this fast-tracks you up and past the extremely long line. But, the lunch price starts at approximately 50-85 dollars.  Consider if you want to spend those 90 mins eating versus moving around the Tower freely. There is a concession stand on the 2nd floor, if you would rather have a quick bite to eat.

Website: https://www.restaurants-toureiffel.com/en/58-tour-eiffel-restaurant.html

>>Common Sense Traveler Tip:  Don’t bother visiting the 3rd floor/Summit—the city is too small to see from that point of view—stick with the 2nd floor as the highest level.

 The views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower's 2nd Floor ~~don't waste your time going to the 3rd Floor.

The views of Paris from the Eiffel Tower's 2nd Floor ~~don't waste your time going to the 3rd Floor.

             3. The Louvre Museum  

(No worries ---these tickets will not sell out.)

-Again, you need a Fast Track in--Lines are terribly long.   
Search the web for Fast Track Tickets to the Louvre Museum, and remember to double-check the vendor's reliability on TripAdvisor. 

 The Louvre offers some extended-hour evenings. They are open until approximately 9:30 pm on designated days---Be sure to check dates/times for your visit.

Art in the Louvre (2).JPG

    The Louvre

The Louvre offers some extended-hour evenings. They are open until approximately 9:30 pm on designated days---Be sure to check dates/times for your visit.


>>Common Sense Traveler's Tips for the Louvre:

    --Schedule how much total time you want to spend in the Louvre--it's immense, and easy to lose track of time.
   --Fast walk to the Mona Lisa first! Map this out beforehand. After that, you should have already pre-planned the galleries you want to see the most. 

   -- Use the timer on your mobile phone to give yourself a 30 minute warning as to when to start exiting. Again, if you don’t, you’ll lose valuable time.  

   -- Do NOT exit with big crowds on the lower floor—this leads to an underground mall and it’s extremely difficult to get back to where you need to be.  Exit the way you came in—at the Glass Pyramid, or near to it onto street level.-->this will help you to board your Hop On/Hop Off Bus.

4.  Notre Dame Cathedral

FREE:  Notre Dame is open a little later in high-season (always check days/times for your season) – There is a charge for the bell tower climb.
NotreDameCathedral (2).JPG

    >> Common Sense Traveler's Tips for Notre Dame Cathedral:        

--There is more to see here than you think.  Be sure to walk around the entire cathedral- including the rear section.

 The splendors of Notre Dame Cathedral

The splendors of Notre Dame Cathedral

 A choral group from California serenaded visitors during our visit.

A choral group from California serenaded visitors during our visit.

 Always remember to look up when inside cathedrals. Stained glass was used for lighting purposes, but also to tell stories from the Bible, through pictures, for those who could not read. 

Always remember to look up when inside cathedrals. Stained glass was used for lighting purposes, but also to tell stories from the Bible, through pictures, for those who could not read. 

--When finished touring inside, walk to your left when you exit the cathedral & you will see a statue of Charlemagne:

 Charlemagne's statue near the entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral. Street artists sell their creations a few yards away.

Charlemagne's statue near the entrance to Notre Dame Cathedral. Street artists sell their creations a few yards away.

----Turn around and take 5-10 minutes to admire the flying buttresses and architecture on the exteriors. (If you walk towards the back of the cathedral, you will see a relaxing area with park benches under trees (Read about this here under 'Stories'--this is where we met Jacques).

Notre Dame exteriors (2).JPG

 

Now, go back towards the rear of Charlemagne’s statue, with Notre Dame to your right, and turn left to walk over the small bridge (it is paved & looks just like the street) towards the main boulevard with traffic. Along the sidewalk, you will see the classic Paris artists’ stands along the street on your right. This a fun place to get a selfie or group photo.

Look around this area for a place to eat.

 The quintessential Paris street artists' display near Notre Dame.

The quintessential Paris street artists' display near Notre Dame.

~~~That’s it!  These are the top 3 (+ the Hop on/Hop off Buses). 

Additional ideas along the Ho/Ho Bus path (Classic Route):

 Arc de Triomphe (admission to go to the top)

 Champs Elysees (free and always ‘open’) –the HoHo bus should stop here at the top corner nearest the Arc de  Triomphe.               

Suggestions to Organize By Time:

Notre Dame closes first & is fastest to get through. (6:30 closure)

The Louvre closes late only on certain days--please check availability on website & note holiday closures.

Arc de Triomphe closes at 11pm. (Always check day/times).

Eiffel Tower closes late---plan everything else around your Fast Track ticket time.

Remember you will need transport to/from your accommodations. If it’s really late, just pay an Uber or a taxi—it’s worth the money to get anywhere quickly after a long day like this. 

Take time to enjoy the moments--you're in Paris!

Click here for more helpful tips for city sightseeing and to discover more of France.

Bon Voyage mes amies!

 Views from the 2nd Level of the Eiffel Tower.  Our visit was highlighted by an oncoming storm, which we could see approaching from miles away. It was a unique experience.

Views from the 2nd Level of the Eiffel Tower.  Our visit was highlighted by an oncoming storm, which we could see approaching from miles away. It was a unique experience.