This is the order of what we saw in our around Paris in 24 hours tour. There are still things on my list that I would really like to see, but covering the basics was most important for us on this trip since my husband had never been. Hopefully we will go back for a little longer of a stay someday to see things like Versailles, The Musee D’orsay, and the inside of The Paris Opera House. But, if we don’t get that chance, we can at least think back fondly to the remarkable landmarks from the City of Lights that we did, in fact, get to see. Most people go their whole lives without getting the opportunity to lay eyes on those places first hand. We were wowed by every sight our eyes beheld. You will be too.
1. Notre Dame.
I decided to go here first, because it was one of the few things open that early. This is one of the most gorgeous places of worship both inside and out that I’ve ever encountered. The detailed carvings on the outside of the structure are like elements of an art museum on display for all the world to see. The mammoth interior makes you feel so small as you gaze into the stunning kaleidoscopes of the stained glass windows. It is free of charge to go inside. Just be sure to be quiet and reverent as you walk around, keeping in mind that it is a house of worship for many. When you walk back outside, be sure to notice the statue of Charlemagne, the Holy Roman Emperor, who spread Christianity through much of Europe and helped revive art and culture amongst much of the continent. Also, be sure to catch the amazing views of The Seine River here. You’ll see it from different angles throughout the city, but this is one of my favorites.
2. Grab Breakfast at a little Café.
We kept seeing signs for The Bastille, but absolutely could not find it, even using a map. We’ll hit that one up next time. But what we did do was stop to get breakfast at a little café. It was one of the most pleasant experiences of the whole trip. We loaded up on quiche, pastries, and croissants. We sat outside at a little table and watched the locals scurry by as they began their day. Here, we decided to also load up on bottled water for the day. Staying hydrated is key when you’re doing so many things back to back. Be sure you are careful to drink plenty of water.
3. Eiffel Tower.
I chose to make this our next stop because I knew we would be ready for lunch afterwards. You’ll see why that’s relevant to this on our next stop. Now, the important thing to remember when you’re looking for the Eiffel Tower is that the signs are going to say, “Eifel Tour.” My English-speaking brain kept thinking, “Oh, that’s just some Eiffel Tower Tour Group.” Duh. “Tour” in French is “Tower” in English. Such.a.blonde.moment. OK, now that we’ve got that cleared up, another good reason to go earlier in the day is to pick up your tickets. You can pre-order them online, but for the sake of not over complicating things with possible delays, foreign currency confusion, and trying to figure out where to pick them up, I decided it would be best to make this main landmark of Paris an early priority in case we needed to even come back later in the day with a timed entry ticket. Fortunately, we got our tickets and were able to go right up. The elevator ride is not for the faint of heart. Those who have a fear of heights need to brace themselves. (Both David and I struggle with that, but we never let it stop us from experiences like this. We just suck it up. You can do it too. Trust me, you don’t want to miss this experience). The views are spectacular. You’ll see fun levels of the Tower itself as you glide up, including an ice skating rink on one of the upper levels, restaurants, and gift shops. But most of all, just soak up the beautiful cityscape. And if you’re with your special someone, give them a good ole French Smooch.
4. Lunch at the Bottom of the Eiffel Tower.
This was one of my favorite memories from the first time I went to Paris with my two college friends on our trek across Europe. I now have doubly blessed memories there because I got to experience it with the love of my life. There’s a little kiosk at the base of the Eiffel Tower close to the Seine River. What I want you to do is this: go there and get a hotdog in a baguette with mustard, then go over close to the river, sit on one of the walls and rotate your view between the gigantic Eiffel Tower behind you and the magnificent Seine River before you. The hot dogs are delicious and reallllllllllly long. You’re going to get some amazingly hilarious pictures at this point too because it’s going to be bigger than your face. Soak it all in.
5. Walk to the Champs Elysees. (Or take a bus or cab).
Alright, full disclosure here. We had to keep stopping to ask people if we were walking in the right direction from The Eiffel Tower to the Champs Elysees because we kept getting so confused by the map. It was probably the jet lag and lack of sleep. (Or…we are just really terrible with directions). Anyway, I think we over complicated it, because we ended up walking 3 miles to get there! But you know what? It was worth it. We got to see really neat angles of the city. The Champs Elysees is a long stretch of tree-lined sidewalks that run next to some of the finest French Shopping in the land. We’re talking Gucci, Prada, Coach, Louis Vuitton…you know…the rich people’s works. We didn’t step foot in any of the shops for fear of being kicked out for the smells we brought on our dirty clothes from our flight from Africa. But, we enjoyed every bit of the success that we felt from finally finding it! Be careful to look both ways when you’re crossing the street. There are some cray-cray drivers there!
6. The Arc de Triomphe.
When you reach the end of the Champs Elysees (or beginning, depending on which angle you’re coming from), this is what you’ll see. And if you walked as far as we did to get here, triumph is precisely the sentiment you’ll be experiencing at this point. We met a guy from Brazil here, who asked if he could take a picture WITH us. That was an odd request, but I suppose he just wanted to show his family and friends some of the people from different cultures he met while travelling. Or, he wanted to pretend that he really did know us. Or, he thought I was the girl from Phantom of The Opera (I used to get that a lot…like every.single.day. in college when it first came out). Anyway, that made for a funny story on our end. That plus the fact that I had sweat through my puffy jacket at this point due to all the walking and tons of layers I had on. We also met some really nice Americans here who took a great picture of us. We then crossed the street because there was some truly amazing break dancing going on. You just never know what you’ll run into. Keep your eyes open and savor the flavor.
7. The Sacré-Cœur.
We took the metro from The Arc de Triomphe area to Montmartre, which is where the Sacré-Cœur is located. Now, I do hope that you’ve listened to me and worn comfortable walking shoes while you are there. Forget cuteness. Go for comfort. You’re going to be doing even more walking than you already were, friend. Oh, but it’s worth it! Montmartre is the artists’ district. If you wander long enough, you’ll find artists on the street in berets with pipes, painting people and the cityscapes, and colorful markets as well. Quintessential Paris. That’s what this area is. Part of the Audrey Hepburn/ Fred Astaire classic movie, “Funny Face,” was even set here. You are going to run into a whole lot of uphill steps just to get up to the white stone church called, “The Sacré-Cœur,” which translates as, “The Sacred Heart.” The view from the front of the steps is quite impressive, but dear one, you’re going to be even more impressed if you purchase a ticket to climb to the top of the dome of the church. It’s a nominal fee, and a workout of a climb, but in the end, you’ll experience the most breath taking view of Paris. The thing about this view is that The Eiffel Tower is included in the panoramic cityscape as well. You also get some close glances at the beautiful gothic architecture of the building you’ve just climbed. You really can’t see the details of the gargoyles as well from below as you can when you’re just looking around the corner at them. When you get up there, catch your breath that has been taken away from both the steps and the view and etch this beautiful scene into your mind’s eye.
8. Ride The Merry-Go-Round in Montmartre.
No matter how young or old you are, this is one of the most magical moments of Paris. Ride upon the meticulously carved wooden horses inside this beautiful teal-topped merry-go-round with gorgeous paintings wrapping round the ride as you enjoy well known tunes and watch Paris go round. I wanted to do this on my last trip, but no one else did. My husband helped make that little dream come true on our trip. It was worth every second (and the couple Euros we paid). I must say that he truly swept me off my feet into a land of whimsy and romance.
9. Eat Dinner in Montmartre at a Sleepy Little Brasserie.
Like I’ve mentioned before, while in Paris, it’s not as important where you eat, as it is what you eat. This is what I suggest for your dinner: a ham & cheese crepe and a cup of French onion soup. Then, for your first dessert (yes first…you’ve got a lot of eating to do in your 24 hours, baby!), devour a Crème Brule. Tres Magnifique!
10. The Louvre.
This is one of the last things on your list because it’s one of the places that’s open the latest. As we were eating dinner, both of us realized how exhausted we were. David kept insisting that he was ok if we did not get to The Louvre this trip. I insisted that it was not ok for him to leave the city of lights without stepping foot in this art museum that many people dream their whole lives of visiting. So, we trudged over to the metro station to catch our ride to this wondrous place. I had teased David the whole trip that his backpack full of camera gear was too bulky. I about keeled over laughing when the security guard inside The Louvre flagged him down and in a thick French accent exclaimed, “Sir!!! Your bag is too bulky!” He checked it, and we wandered footloose and fancy free around magnificent works of art. If you’re pressed for time, here are our top three favorites. The first is an absolute must. You really deserve to be slapped if you go to The Louvre and don’t see The Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. Really. This is one of the most recognizable works of art in the entire world’s history. You can’t neglect seeing the original for yourself. Second, I urge you to see The Winged Victory statue of the Greek goddess, Nike. It’s standing tall at the top of one of the staircases. If you’re an Audrey Hepburn fan, you’ll recognize it from a scene in “Funny Face”, where she practically flies down the staircase in her gorgeous red evening gown and flowing shall, exclaiming to her co-star, Fred Astaire, “Take the picture! Take the picture!” Third, be sure to see the painting “Liberty Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix. Not only is this the cover to a Coldplay album, it’s a piece that has stirred such emotion through the years, that they actually had to take it down at one point because riots and new revolutions were breaking out as a reaction to it. Never underestimate the power of art. Also, keep your ears open. We heard some of the most enchanting street museum in the corridors leading from the outside of The Louvre to the street. To this day, that is the theme music that plays in both of our minds as we recollect our time there.
11. Go for Round Two of Dessert.
More specifically, find a little restaurant or café that is still open and splurge on a nutella filled crepe. If you’re feeling extra exotic, add strawberries. This is one of life’s finest treasures. Merci Beaucoup. Or as my Uncle Grady preferred to say, “Well, Mercy Buckets.”
12. Watch the Lights Twinkle on the Eiffel Tower.
Everyone should experience the romance of seeing the Eiffel Tower lit up by night. Be sure to check the times for when they twinkle. It’s not very frequent. But, the moment the lights start to twinkle is simply magical. We caught part of the show from our mad dash across town on the metro and as we darted off the train car, we made it just in time to stand in awe of the twinkling tower. What a marvelous end to 24 wonderful hours in the city of lights.
What does Paris sound like?