I’m not sure which is more frustrating – just one day in Paris – or two days. First thing you’ll want to do is make sure those two days don’t happen to be a Monday and Tuesday. Half of Paris’s museums are closed on Monday and the other half are closed on Tuesdays which means you could waste a lot of time bouncing back and forth between closed museums (but you won’t get caught because you will have already looked at Parislogue’s Museum info post.
If you’ve already read my One Day in Paris post, you’ll know that (unlike some other well-known guidebooks), I don’t consider the Champs Elysees or the Louvre to be the heart and soul of Paris. The ‘Champs’ has really lived too long on its past notoriety (and now must do something spectacular to get back its groove).
The Louvre is positively awesome. If you delve into this on Day One, chances are you’ll be too exhausted to do much else . . . if you’re a bonafide art lover, you will make this sacrifice at the temple of the masters . . . and you will never regret it. For the rest of us, less zealous, I would suggest saving The Louvre (or Musee d’Orsay for your second day in Paris).
So, just to recap: Day One
Start at the heart of the matter: Ile de la Cite. Notre Dame Cathedral springs up alongside the very essence of Paris – The Seine River. Water – the reason for Paris’s existence. Water, navigation, commerce aboard the Seine River. Take your first day to become intimately acquainted with this watery throroughfare – either by walking along its quays – or hanging out at Paris Plage.
Explore the Latin Quarter and the Left Bank or lose yourself in the alleys of Ile St Louis. You can picnic at the Luxembourg Gardens, the Place Dauphine on Ile de la Cite or in the Roman Lutece Arena.
Finish the day with a boatride with Vedettes de Pont Neuf which will take you right past the Eiffel Tower for great photos.
Now is the time to choose your museum. GEO Magazine recently issued a listing of Paris’s 50 Most Beautiful Museums. No surprise that the Louvre was at the top of that list. When you visit the Louvre, you’re also visiting a royal palace. Get there early (9 am opening hour) and buy your Museum Pass or Louvre ticket online to save time) and wear comfortable walking shoes.
If classical art isn’t your thing, don’t feel that you ‘should’ see the Louvre just because it’s world famous. First pick an artist or a time period that you really admire – if it’s the impressionists – you have several options: The Musee d’Orsay, The Orangerie, or the Musee Marmottan ( Claude Monet). If you have a favorite artist i.e Dali or Magritte for example, don’t hesitate to e-mail Parislogue -and hopefully, I can point you in the right direction.
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Devote your morning to one museum. If it’s the Louvre, cross the street to Palais Royal Garden, and settle into one of the cafes tucked in the shade under the arcades i.e La Muscade (where you can have a traditional ‘blanquette de veau’ when the weather turns chilly). Otherwise head toward the Tuileries Gardens and lunch in one of the turn-of-the-century cafes shaded by the leafy trees.
If it’s summertime, take a ride on the ferris wheel at the Tuileries Gardens – even if you aren’t a kid.
From the Louvre, you have several options, you can walk toward Place de la Concorde and the Champs Elysees. Feeling ambitious? Walk the entire Champs to the Arc de Triomphe. The Arc de Triomphe has recently been renovated so it’s better than ever. Walk up to the top of the Arc for a great view of the Paris skyline (and the ‘spine of Paris from the Grande Arche to Bastille). The lines are sure to be shorter than you can expect at the Eiffel Tower).
If you’re not a ‘Champs’ fan like me, head toward the Opera House for a glimpse of the famed staircase that the Phantom of the Opera descended in all his horrific glory for the masked ball (that’s the 1920s Lon Chaney Sr. silent film version, of course). Stop for a drink at Harry’s Bar on Rue Daunau.
Or, cross over from the Louvre to Rue du Rivoli and Rue St. Honore (which runs parallel to Rue du Rivoli for some serious window shopping).
In the evening, you have two options for great nighttime excursions. Head up to Montmartre (by bus – the #95 line which you can catch across from the Louvre Museum (right between the IM Pei Pyramide and the Carrousel du Louvre). (From Place du Clichy, catch the Montmartobus for your transfer all the way up to Place du Tertre).
Or view Paris lights from the top of the Eiffel Tower. The Eiffel Tower is open until 11 pm (and even later during summer months). The tour buses are less likely to show up as the evening progresses, so you should have a shorter wait to reach the top level.
Finish off your evening with a cafe or kir at one of the cafes circling Place Trocadero, directly across from the Palais du Chaillot. From the esplanade of the Palais du Chaillot, take one last look at the Eiffel Tower before you say ‘goodbye’ to Paris.