Paris: The Key Sights in 24 Hours (and 33,000 Steps)

24 hours in Paris - Arc de Triomphe

It feels like a lifetime ago now, but just a couple of months ago we returned from an epic European adventure in which we crammed three major cities (in three different countries) into the space of one short week.  

Starting in Paris, we spent 2.5 days in the city before hopping on a train to Brussels for 2 days, then another to Amsterdam for just over 24 hours. It was kind of ridiculous, but a pretty incredible trip. 

Seeing as our time in each city was so limited, we tried to jam as much as we possibly could into every day, walking an average of 25,000 steps per day as we tried to take in all that there was to see. 

We were also conscious of our budget - being, as we were, in three fairly expensive capital cities - and tried our best to keep down costs, without cutting out quality experiences from our trip. 

With that in mind, here's what one 24 hour period looked like in Paris as we tried to tick off the key tourist attractions of the city. 

24 hours in Paris - view from Printemps Haussman

The Views

It's 7pm on Monday. We arrived in Paris this afternoon and spent a bit of time in Montmarte, not far from where we're staying, but now we've ventured a little further south in search of a birds' eye view of the city. 

The Eiffel Tower might seem the most obvious place to start, but I want the tower in my picture ..and, honestly, don't really want to pay €25 or do battle with all those queues. So it is that we head to the slightly-less-obvious Printemps Haussmann instead. A sprawling department store spread over 3 buildings and 10 floors, the crowning glory of Printemps is the Perruche restaurant on a rooftop terrace with 360 degree views. We took the lift to the men's department on the 9th floor, before making our way upstairs to the terrace, where restaurant goers and staff seem completely accepting of non-paying customers like ourselves milling around for the views. 

And what views they were! Even on a grey, rain-threatening day, we could see the Eiffel Tower (and well beyond) in one direction and, opposite that, all the way over to the Sacre-Coeur on Montmarte hill. It made for a damn good first impression of the city and a pretty stunning view. 

24 hours in Paris - Views from Printemps Haussman

The Food

Staying in the 9th Arrondissement, we head back in the direction of both our accommodation and, coincidentally, Hank Burger - recommended by my brother and his family as a good spot for vegan food. 

An entirely vegan burger restaurant, Hank offers five different choices of burger (each with its own illustrated character, adorably) and is pretty reasonably priced by Paris standards, at €13 for a burger, side and soft drink. 

I opt for the "Allume" burger with BBQ sauce and peppers, while Jonathan chooses the "Catcheuse" with mustard and alfalfa, with which we share fries, coleslaw and a selection of dips. Every mouthful is delicious - with my burger being particularly good - and the venue is adorable, with retro seats and benches, cartoon paintings on the wall, and a live-action Facebook 'like' counter that keeps us a little too amused.   

24 hours in Paris - vegan - Hank burger

This was the only meal we ate out in Paris, using local supermarkets to stock up on the rest of our food. We stayed in an Air B'n'B with kitchen facilities, which allowed us to eat cheap breakfasts, prepare packed lunches and return in the evening to cook a hot meal before heading back out (or falling asleep!). We lived our best French lives with lots of nice bread, cheese and desserts, as well as (slightly-less-French) veggies, pasta, cereal and cheap Sangria and beer.   

Not only did this help to keep costs down, but it also gave me an excuse to browse French supermarkets - genuinely one of my favourite things to do, because I'm fascinated by what's seen as a "staple" and readily-available in other countries. 

24 hours in Paris - Champs Elysees

The Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe

Refreshed from a good night's sleep in our cosy Air B'n'b, Tuesday sees us set out on a pretty mammoth walking tour, seeking out as many key sights as possible in one day.

Full of beans on the first full day of our trip, we start with a solid 3km walk down towards the Champs-Elysees, though we could easily have hopped on a Metro from the nearby Gare du Nord for around €1.90.

Arriving on Paris' most famous shopping street, we just so happen to stumble across the Disney Store at opening time. This might be common knowledge to everyone else, but I had no idea that there was a daily store opening ceremony, with a child unlocking the door and "turning on the magic" with a special key. It is adorable and the fact it's so unexpected only makes it better to see.

24 hours in Paris - Arc de Triomphe

24 hours in Paris

After a compulsory mooch around the Disney Store, we head to the far end of the Champs-Elysees, where the Arc de Triomphe sits proudly in the centre of the busiest roundabout I've ever seen! After a little bit of confusion, we eventually find our way to the underground tunnel which leads you up into this central space, where the Arc de Triomphe towers overhead. I am genuinely taken aback by how enormous it is!

24 hours in Paris - Arc de Triomphe

24 hours in Paris - Arc de Triomphe

You can climb up inside the monument and walk along the top of the arch for 12, if you please, but we opt not to and spend a bit of time just admiring the incredible engravings and sculptures instead. 

24 hours in Paris - Statue of Liberty

Geocaching and the Statue of Liberty 

I've written before about my love of Geocaching, but one of the reasons I'm so fond of it is that it's a great activity to do on a budget, anywhere in the world. It'll keep you occupied without spending a single penny, but it'll also introduce you to bits of a city you might not otherwise find. In Amsterdam, for example, it took us down a little side street - an off-shoot from a busy canal - where we found an adorable little book-swapping cabinet. It also saves a "souvenir" on the app, marking each country in which you've successfully found a 'Cache, which I think is a cool little reminder to look back on.

24 hours in Paris - Geocaching on the Seine

We keep our eyes peeled for Geocaches as we walk from the Arc de Triomphe, along the banks of the Seine. One unsuccessful search (a stranger from a nearby apartment comes and tells us it's there, but no luck) and a momentary distraction (in the form of crepes at a local market) later and we finally find one hanging around on the edge of a bridge, conveniently close to our next attraction: the Statue of Liberty.

Ok, Lady Liberty may well be better associated with New York City, but since she was gifted to the United States by France and designed by the same sculptor as the Eiffel Tower, it kind of makes sense that there would be one in Paris too. The Parisian version may only come in at a quarter of the height of its Big Apple counterpart, but it's still pretty cool to see her stood there on her own man-made island, and the walk along the river to get there is lovely.  

24 hours in Paris - The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower 

A walk back along the opposite riverbank leads us to our next stop of the day and perhaps Paris' most famous landmark. At 324 metres of wrought-iron height, the Eiffel Tower is the tallest building in all of Paris as well as one of the most visited, seeing around 6.9 million people ascend it every year.

We were not among those people, but we do appreciate the views of this impressive structure all across the city and enjoy a nice picnic at its feet, though much of the park is closed off to preserve a huge piece of art entitled 'Beyond Walls', recently painted on the Champ de Mars.

24 hours in Paris - The Eiffel Tower

Truth be told, we don't hang around the Eiffel Tower for too long. As much as I appreciate it as the ultimate romanticised image of Paris, I personally think there are far more attractive sights to enjoy throughout the city and the sheer busy-ness and abundance of street hawkers can quickly get on a person's nerves.

24 hours in Paris - The Louvre

Concorde and the Louvre 

Not loitering too long, we head back over the bridge to the opposite side of the Seine and take a walk towards the Place de la Concorde, where we get caught in the rain admiring the Egyptian obelisk and water fountains. We take shelter in the toilets and shop at the Musee de l'Orangerie for just long enough that it dries up and we're able to enjoy a walk through the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries to the Carrousel Arc de Triomphe.

24 hours in Paris - The Louvre

From there we find ourselves just metres away from the infamous inverted pyramid of the Louvre.

The largest art gallery in the world, the Louvre is almost as well-known for this triangular monument as it is as the home of da Vinci's Mona Lisa. Opened more than 200 years ago, it is now thought to be the most visited museum in the world, seeing around 10 million visitors every year.

A visit to the museum could easily take up an entire day in itself, with hundreds of thousands of artifacts and some 35,000 works of art to be admired, and for this reason we opt not to visit today, but I'm glad I was able to see the exterior of this landmark so visually familiar to me.

As the heavens open, we instead seek refuge in a nearby cafe (a poor life choice in terms of prices charged in such prime tourist territory) and refuel with a coffee until the worst of the rain has passed.

24 hours in Paris - Notre Dame

Notre Dame and the Pantheon 

From there we head along the Seine towards the island that houses the Notre Dame. The magnificent cathedral setting of Victor Hugo's well known novel has recently suffered a devastating fire and so is closed to visitors during our trip, but it still draws a crowd and makes for a beautiful and imposing presence as we walk along the river, admiring the art work for sale on its banks. 

24 hours in Paris - The Pantheon

From there we cross over into the Latin Quarter and wander around the outside of the Pantheon building. Designed by architect Soufflon to rival the likes of St Peter's in Rome, it is a beautiful and ornate building, with a crypt providing the resting place for many famous French figures, all of which can be visited for a 9 entry fee.

Feeling pretty tired after a long day, we decide instead to head into the buzz of the Latin Quarter, to explore its many shops, bars and eateries, before beginning the long walk back to our Air B'n'B.
Again, we could easily have hopped on the metro, but I'm glad we choose to walk as we happen upon some live music and activities celebrating the FIFA Women's World Cup - little delights that we might never otherwise have seen.

Arriving back at the apartment, it's time to chill out before dinner, feeling more than satisfied that we've ticked off some of the best sights that Paris has to offer in just a single day!


Have you been to Paris? If so, what was your favourite sight in this beautiful city?


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