Paris in a day

Okay all you Paris-philes, my wife and I are taking a daytrip from Brussels to Paris in July(a Tuesday) We arrive at Gare du Nord at 8:35am and depart same station at 7:25pm. We are going there knowing we will be back again(but just in case) would love some input on the perfect Paris day. We want to take it as slow as 12 hrs will give us and don't plan on going to the Louvre. Restaurant suggestions most welcome as well. Thank you for any and all assistance on this daunting task:)

Posted by Terry kathryn
Ann Arbor, Mi
3287 posts

For me, the perfect day in Paris is to simply get close to the river and wander aimlessly taking in the ambience of the city, with little or no plan. If you are planning on coming back, then for this trip, I would enjoy the overall beauty of the city and the exteriors of all the amazing buildings, as well as the food. Can't give specific restaurants, but I am sure others will. I would pick up some stuff for a picnic and head to the Luxembourg Gardens. I might possibly visit Notre Dame, but with only one day I would not be inside for any length of time.

Posted by Nancy
Costa Mesa, CA, USA
160 posts

Hello Bill! Well, "perfect" can have lots of definitions, LOL!! What do you and your wife enjoy? Scenery, history, architecture, food, shopping? Could you perhaps expand a bit on what you and your wife enjoy so that we can provide suggestions that are more in line with that? For me a "perfect" day in Paris is to wander one of the daily street markets to collect items for a picnic. Once I'd collected everything, I'd head over to the Jardin des Tuileries to enjoy it with a glass of rose while lazing about in the sunshine and people watching! From there, I would make my way to the Musee de National du Moyen Age to visit with the Lady and the Unicorn. After that, I would wander the streets and find a lovely little cafe for a charcuterie plate and a glass of wine... and simply relish being in Paris! If time allowed, I'd probably do a bit of shopping and then head back to my hotel to freshen up and then on to a lovely dinner!
One site you might enjoy perusing is David LebovitzAlthough his site is mostly about food, he has wonderful restaurant, pastry and chocolate shopping recommendations!

Posted by Beatrix
2163 posts

It does depend a lot on your interests. Even with only one day, the must-see for me would be the Musee d'Orsay. Architecture and my favourite artists in one venue.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3877 posts

My idea of a perfect day in Paris: Walk all around and through Ile St. Louis and Ile de la Cite, visit Notre Dame, walk along the river to Place de la Concorde, cross the bridge and walk back, then through the 5th/6th arrondissment to the Luxembourg Gardens (stop at a bakery along the way and get sandwiches and pastries for lunch in the LG). Spend an hour or more in the LG (I love watching the Parisians play petancque, aka boules, bocce ball, there). I'd spend the rest of the day walking and exploring and end with dinner sitting outside at my favorite cafe on Ile St. Louis, La Flore en l'Ile (at the western end of the island across from the pedestrian bridge). Great food, service and people-watching. The HO/HO bus is also a great idea, we always enjoy doing that. A boat ride on the river is another thing we enjoy, our favorite is Bateaux Parisien which docks next to Notre Dame. Be sure to sit outside, up on top.

Posted by Dina
Fontainebleau, France
893 posts

My #1 recommendation for only one day in Paris is to use one of the HO/HO buses. No need to spend the day underground in the Metro. Anything you actually do has to be tailored to your particular interests, for sure.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Plug 'Paris in 3 days' in the search box. Look for a thread about three years old. Go down to what the super-slick, highly intelligent, butthead wrote about how to do it in a day and a half. Parse it down to suit you.

Posted by Andrea
Sacramento, CA
5779 posts

I agree with Dina. With only one day the hop on/hop off bus will give you an overview. I would do the entire route, then in order of the stops that interest you go back to the things you would like to spend a little more time at. Unless you have a reservation to go up the Eiffel Tower, it's probably not worth spending several hours of your precious little time to stand in lines. As for restaurants, with such a short time there I wouldn't go out of my way to go anywhere in particular. Find something where you are when you get hungry. Keep in mind that a restaurant meal in Paris will not be fast. Unless you really want to partake in a lengthy meal, you might just consider grabbing a street crepe or something and move on to the next thing you want to see.

Posted by Christina
New York, NY, 10025
365 posts

When you arrive, find a bakery and get pastries for breakfast. Also, get a baguette and find some cheese from a market or cheesemonger for lunch, and have a picnic by the Seine, preferably within view of Notre Dame. And if you ever stumble upon one of the Berthillon ice cream shops, stop in there too. I also agree about the crepes. In is was you can have quintessential Paris food experiences without spending a lot of time or money.

Posted by Casey
Ft Worth, Texas, USA
33 posts

Oddly I did this in 2006 July with my wife and two daughters. Fortunately, I had been there for three days in 2001 so we had a head start. I would definitely get to Notre Dame and St Chappell (very close to each other). I would go to the Sacre-Coeur and climb to the roof, breath taking view over the city without the crowds, cost, and time consumed at the tower. After that, Napoleon's tomb, the Arch, or boat ride on the Seine.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3851 posts

Save the museums for another time. If you've only got 1 day then be OUT and about in the city just walking and seeing the sights. Don't waste your time standing in long lines for access to things the Eiffel Tower.

Posted by Darren
Boulder, CO, USA
674 posts

Hi Bill,
I don't know if I would actually spend any time going into anything with a line. Visit the big sites, but check them out from the outside. Certainly the ET from the Champs du Mars, Notre Dame (actually, I'd go in here if the line was short enough, but I'm a dead ringer for cathedrals), Tuilleries Gardens, Luxembourg Gardens. Susan's post above was pretty dead on with only one recommended change. Instead of the bakery for your picnic goods, hit a market. Markets are quintessential Paris, and they make great fun and good memories. While time may be precious on this trip, spend a bit of it at a café, relaxing a people watching. Now, that is Paris!

Posted by Sarah
United States
220 posts

You say 'hit a market'. I'm planning a picnic for (2 preschoolers) at Luxembourg Gardens. Any specific suggestions? Because I'll not be without them, I doubt that I can go to a fine restaurant, so I'd like to picnic on really great food.

Posted by Bill
Broken Arrow, Oklahoma, USA
54 posts

Thank you all for your thoughtful suggestions. The picnic sounds like a wonderful idea as well as the HOHO bus. We don't plan on going to any museums but hope to discover little gems of Paris history along the way. We bought the Paris Walks book(2006 edition) and plan on using that as well. I am always grateful for the varied and informative suggestions I get from this helpline.

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Interesting to look at that old sucker. A lot of it no longer makes sense, probably because it referred to inane comments by HWSNBN when his compendium of work went off to never-never land.

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
3877 posts

Hi Darren, I love markets - so I agree - but since Bill has so little time I thought a bakery would be more efficient time-wise ;) But if you find a market along the way Bill, they're very fun. They're fun even if you don't buy anything. And I love taking photos at markets. Bakeries are still at the top of my list though... so many wonderful pastries... so little time.

Posted by Barbara
Arcadia, CA
59 posts

Speaking of a picnic in the garden- can you drink alcohol in public parks in Paris?

Posted by Ed
9110 posts

Technically illegal in some at some times. Ignored if you aren't being a butthead ans it's not a big holiday.

Posted by VS
Palo Alto, CA, United States
701 posts

I would consider checking out some of the bus routes that Rick recommends. There is one that runs from the Rue Cler area near the Eiffel Tower to the Marais. In July things will be overrun, so you definitely want to avoid spending time in line since your time is so short. Some of the great parks would be fun. You should spend some time around the Eiffel Tower but don't feel as if you have to go up, it will be a mad house (as it was in May 2010 when we were there, even up until closing time). Just to walk in the park around the tower, underneath and up to the Trocadero would be great. If you can figure out a way to slip into Notre Dame or the Musee d'Orsay in a moment when the line doesn't go around the block, then do, but I would not count on it.