Only One Day in Paris? Here’s What to do!

Straight up from under the Eiffel Tower!
Looking straight up from the bottom of the Eiffel Tour.

Paris sits near the top of almost every traveler’s must-see list.

While we had checked that box many years ago, having been in our 20s and crazy enough to drive around the city in a little rented Fiat, most of what we saw was blurry and had a slightly fearful aura attached to it.

By far the bulk of our attention was devoted to avoiding an accident while not getting hopelessly lost. We didn’t really get to check out all of the Things To Do in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris

Now that we are older and wiser — and knowing we’d be jet-lagged — we decided that hitting the highlights with a guide was not a touristy cliché to be frowned upon, but a stress-free way to visit some of Europe’s most famous landmarks. It also struck us as a great way to scout locations for our upcoming week in Paris. A private tour would be ideal, but expensive, so we contacted Viator and booked their Best of Paris Tour.

David aboard the boat of our Seine River dinner cruise in Paris, France -

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France -

Our small band of eight curious travelers from around the world made the outing more interesting and entertaining than a solo excursion, all the while maintaining the individual attention we would have lost in a large group.

Instead of dozens of people in a huge bus, we spent the morning riding throughout the city in a van, sans the anxiety of being behind the wheel.

The Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France -

The initial part of the tour was a whirlwind overview of the history and geography of Paris starting with a cruise along the Champs-Élysées, and a couple of laps around the insanely traffic-filled circle that surrounds the Arc de Triomphe.

Our guide and driver, Sabastian, who was the perfect combination of comical and informative, mused that an accident occurs in the circle every twenty minutes.

However, having impeccable timing, he limited his lapping to fifteen minutes, therefore beating the odds, and allowing us to escape unscathed.

In contrast to the crazy congestion at the Arc, we proceeded to the narrowest street in Paris, Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche or Street of the Fishing Cat, no doubt the only one in the city without a single vehicle on it!

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France -

Periodically the van stopped for a quick look-around, giving us a chance to hop out and snap a few photos.

Our first opportunity came at the square in front of Notre Dame Cathedral, where we had a chance to crane our necks up for an eye-to-eye with the gargoyles peering down at us.

Gargoyles and statues on Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France

Built over the course of nearly two hundred years, beginning in 1163, Notre-Dame de Paris was among the first buildings in the world to incorporate the flying buttress as reinforcements for the walls.

Not part of the original design, as construction progressed the grand scale of the building required additional support, and a buttress or two was the perfect solution.

Check out more about Notre Dame Cathedral

View from a window of the Louvre in Paris, France

Back in the van, we took a spin through the nearby grounds of the Louvre and, while seeing the famous pyramid was cool, it only made us more detemined to go back and explore the great works housed inside.

We passed the Palais Garnier, generally known as the Opéra de Paris, or Paris Opera House.

The Paris Opera House

We knew it as the home to the Phantom of the Opera, but that is only a small part of why this may be the most famous opera house in the world. The amazing architecture could be more responsible for that stature.

The golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides in Paris, France

Our next stop was the golden-domed Hotel National des Invalides, that is said to have been an inspiration for the United States Capitol building.

The complex was initiated by Louis XIV as a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and it still serves that purpose today.

It is also home to several museums and monuments related to the military history of France.

Many of the country’s heroes are laid to rest here, including Napoleon Bonaparte, whose tomb is beneath the dome.

The best view of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens

We set out for what is often considered the best view of the Eiffel Tower in town, looking across the Seine River from the Trocadéro Gardens.

Even shrouded in fog, Tour Eiffel stood out as the most impressive emblem of Paris.

Crossing the river for a closer look, we discovered yet another reason to love this tour, no lines.

Lunch at the Eiffel Tower, le 58 Tour Eiffel in Paris, France

Instead of waiting behind the hundreds of eager tower visitors, we walked right on to the elevator and rode up to the first observation level to take advantage of our lunch reservations.

The restaurant, le 58 Tour Eiffel, provides attentive table service fifty-eight meters high on the most recognizable landmark in Paris, and more memorably, a seriously cool way to hang out high above the city.

See more photos of this seriously cool eatery and our antics at the Eiffel Tower

View of Paris from the Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower in Paris, France -

Gustave Eiffel designed and built his tower in 1889 as an entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair.

Even though it was the tallest man-made structure on earth, at over a thousand feet high, he probably had no idea that it would become the enduring symbol of La Ville-Lumière, the City of Light.

Long lines at the Eiffel Tower - learn how we skipped the lines!
And, again, very grateful we got to skip the lines!

After our meal we hit the stairway and climbed to the second observation level, just over a third of the way up.

From this vantage point the panoramic view of Paris was spectacular, and since the top was hidden in the clouds we didn’t see any reason to go any higher.

See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!

Our Viator guide of Paris, Sabastian

Instead we met back up with Sabastian for an afternoon of opulence at the Palace of Versailles.

After the short drive out of the city, we once again bypassed the waiting crowds and walked right in.

The Palace of Versailles from the gardens near Paris, France -

The Château de Versailles became the royal residence in 1682, when Louis the Fourteenth moved out of the Louvre in favor of the country house and gardens that had served as a hunting lodge since 1624.

Of course, major renovations were in order, one can’t rule properly from a hunting lodge.

The Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France -

It seems that the redecoration was quite a success! No wonder Louis is known for his furnishings.

We were particularly enthralled by the Hall of Mirrors, and the artwork on the ceilings, but every room made it quite obvious that it was good to be king… that is… until there is a revolution.

Inside the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

But the rise of the republic did not vanquish the palace, even though many of the furnishings were hauled off by angry mobs — no cake for them — it has been restored to its previous glory.

Versailles continues to play host to political functions by hosting heads of state in the Hall of Mirrors and housing meetings of the Sénat and the Assemblée whenever revisions or amendments are made to the French Constitution.

The garden at Versailles near Paris, France

Nearly as impressive as the interior, the grounds have to be seen to be believed as well. After all, what is an emperor’s country château without a garden? We wouldn’t have to answer that question, because Versailles has the backyard to end all backyards. Even in late autumn, we were easily engulfed by its lovely, lush repose.

Fountain of horses in the gardens of Versailles near Paris, France -

Almost two thousand acres of trees, flowers, fountains, ponds, statues, and perfectly trimmed hedges forming designs and mazes, all with string quartet music perfectly piped throughout.  No kidding, no matter where we walked it always sounded like they were right behind the next tree.

The gardens of the Palace of Versailles near Paris, France

Over time the gardens fell into a state of overgrowth, but now the Petit Parc – Louis XIV’s pleasure garden – is being restored to the same condition that it was in at the end of his reign in 1715.

See more photos of Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!

The Eiffel Tour in the fog at night in Paris, France

We returned to Paris at the base of the Eiffel Tower to embark on the last leg of the tour, an evening cruise along the Seine just as darkness was engulfing the City of Light.

The backdrop could not have been better for a romantic meal.

If we were looking for a sure-fire way to improve on the ancient adage: “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou” we would have been hard pressed to find a way.

The food on our dinner cruise on the River Seine in Paris, France

The Bibliothque Mazarine at night during a Seine dinner cruise -

Slowly sailing past illuminated landmarks, while enjoying a three-course dinner, was the ultimate end an exquisite day.

Seine River Dinner Cruise in Paris, France

David & Veronica,

See where we stayed in Paris
See our antics at the Eiffel Tower and learn a few things about her that you didn’t know!
Follow us to Versailles – there’s so much more over-the-top royal stuff to share!
Want more Paris? Click here!
Check out all of our adventures in France!

Big thanks to Viator for providing this mind-blowing adventure! As always, all opinions are our own. See how you can take Viator’s Best of Paris Tour yourself!

YOUR TURN: Is Paris at the top of your must-see list? Or have you already checked it off? What would be YOUR first stop in Paris?

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38 thoughts on “Only One Day in Paris? Here’s What to do!”

  1. Loved your whirlwind tour of Paris in a day!

    I can’t believe that you managed to do all of this in a day. Maybe next time you come to Paris you should try eating your way round Paris. I would love to collaborate with you and take you on day tour eating like the French!

  2. Looks very interesting with lots of places to check out! Looking forward to see all the amazing things. stunning your all pictures and great article.

  3. That’s so weird! I had a dream last night that I was going to Paris but only had a day to see it – seriously. I did do a business trip a few years ago and spent a few hours on a bus with my boss who I hated (and was lucky enough to do the dinner cruise) but have wanted to go back again preferably with my husband ! Thank you for this insight, I will definatley be returning soon 🙂

  4. That tour of Paris crammed in a lot in one day! The fact that it included a nice lunch and a great spot and also eliminated time in lines for you, makes it well worth while.

  5. Phew-i’m tired from just reading this post! You certainly covered all the bases. I can’t imagine seeing Paris in one day, but if that’s the choice you have, I’d definitely sign on for the Viator tour. Now to catch my breath….

  6. What a fun Parisian adventure! It looks as though you covered almost everything in one day – wow! Viator covers all the bases. Great pics, too – Looks like you had a blast!

  7. You’re right about Paris sitting at the top of many traveler’s must see lists and I greatly enjoyed my armchair tour as you seem to have covered all the high points! Thanks for the recommendation of Viatar travel – we’ll keep that in mind when we (finally!) visit this amazing city.

  8. Wow, that sounds like a whirlwind of a day and packed. I love tours like this when time is limited and your tour covers every facet quickly.

  9. Wow, gorgeous photos! I agree that a guided tour is the way to go if you’re pressed for time, don’t speak the local language and are new to a city. It’s amazing how much you can learn from a knowledgable guide.

  10. Wow – that tour packed in a lot. It certainly hit many of the highlights. It’s been over 30 years since I was in Paris. Your photos make me think it’s time to go back.

  11. If it’s your first time in Paris, this would have to be the best guide on what to do. Your day was full and very impressive that they managed to fit Versailles in as well. Any visit to Paris for me only means discovering more for the next time.

  12. What fun. No one should have only one day in Paris but I’m a big fan of taking a tour whenever in a new urban environment. It’s a great way to start and plan on a return trip. Great pictures too!

  13. Taking a guided tour is a great way to get an overview of a city (and it looks like you hit the highlights of gay Paris!). We also rented a car when younger to drive through Portugal and some European cities. Now we prefer to travel car-free (too stressful!).

  14. Sounds like you made the most of your day and no matter how long you stay, there is always something new to discover and a reason to return. I’ve been a few times and intend on returning many times again!

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