Ah, Paris. The city of love. The city of croissants. The city of more museums than you can physically visit in a month. How on earth can you fit all of these adventures into a mere 12 hours? Fear not, dear readers, for I have recently done the impossible – a round-Paris trip between dawn and dusk. And this is how I did it:
A few points before you visit: Planning is everything. Trust me, you could easily spend your 12 hours in Paris at the Louvre – it already takes more than half an hour to see the Mona Lisa anyway – so if you want to go to a museum, as you rightfully should, make sure you give yourself a time constraint.
Getting there: I opted for the Intercités night train which pulled up at Gare d’Austerlitz before 7am. Of course, not everyone has the option to do so, but you should try your best to get to Paris as early as you can because – believe it or not – there is a lot to see. If you arrive at Charles de Gaulle, take the RER B into town. Same applies to the Orly airport. If you, like me, arrive at one of the many train stations Paris has to offer, buy yourself a metro day pass for a little under €10. It’ll be worth it.
9am: Get ready for the most important meal of the day! It doesn’t even have to be at a famous café, any will do. I recommend buying freshly-made croissants, with a café au lait to accompany them. Feeling a little more adventurous? Then go for pain aux amandes, or palmiers or even my all-time favourite chocolatine (the Parisians may call it pain au chocolat, but it’s the same thing really). Spend as long as you’d like having breakfast. It truly is a privilege to enjoy French bread on French soil.
10am: Set off for your allocated museum of the day! I would recommend doing this quite early on so you can finish, have lunch and do some more sightseeing. When I went to Paris this summer, I visited The Catacombes, the official underground ossuary of Paris, also known as the “world’s largest grave”. I can understand how not everyone would be interested in that, so I propose the following museums:
- Musée Rodin
- Musée des Invalides
- Musée d’Orsay
- Musée de l’Orangerie
The choice is up to you. Go to one. Go to all. Disagree with me and go visit the Louvre instead. Just be warned that the queues are always gigantic.
1pm: I’m guessing it would take roughly three hours between your museum visit and lunch, considering queues and the inevitable souvenir-buying. Once again, you don’t need to eat at a specific restaurant in Paris, they’re all pretty damn good! I would recommend going for the “Menu du Jour” so you can try out little delicacies for a reasonable price.
2pm: After your lunch, you might feel a little bloated (that’s a sign that your food was amazing) and want to take a walk. No worries! Take the metro to any garden – although I would recommend either Jardin de Tuileries or Jardin du Luxembourg – and just stroll around. Bonus points if you have a book to read too.
3pm: My ultimate favourite part of the day. Head over to Ile de la Cite for a couple of hours. While there, I would strongly recommend you to visit Sainte-Chapelle, hands down the most beautiful church in Paris. Of course, you’re welcome to line up and visit the Notre Dame too! Or, as I did, just take dozens of pictures in front of it. As I am an English Literature student, I can’t not mention Shakespeare and Company, a little bookstore on the left bank of the river. Visit it.
5pm: As soon as you’re done, head over to Avenue des Champs-Elysees. Walk around some more, maybe even go into a few stores. Go up to the Arc de Triomphe. See the Eiffel Tower in the distance. It really is a wonderful sight.
7pm: How can you go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower up close? That’s a trick question, you can’t do that! Which is why I would say you should take the metro to Trocadero to see the landmark in all its glory. Walk around. Take pictures. Wait for the sunset and see the sparkling lights. No matter how many times I see the Eiffel Tower, I always have a childish grin on my face once I’m there. Maybe even grab a light dinner in form of a €5 panini once you’re there.
9pm: That’s it! Your day in Paris is over. I know you’ve missed some landmarks (and you have to go back to this beautiful city to see more), but your whirlwind of a day is coming to an end. Before you head home, breathe in that Parisian air one last time and make a promise you’ll intend to keep. Promise yourself to be back in Paris soon. It is, after all, the city of love, or as I like to call it, the city I keep falling in love with.