What to do for one day in Paris?
February 6, 2005 10:34 AM   Subscribe

FreedomFilter: I have one day and one night to spend in Paris. I am not rich. What should I do and see? Where should I stay?
posted by Polonius to Travel & Transportation around Paris, France (31 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
the Louvre and/or the Musee d'Orsay...Orsay is smallish, but pick and choose parts of the Louvre to see. Then i'd just wander around town the rest of the time...walk by Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, the Left Bank, the Marais....if you have time left, hit the Fondation Cartier--always excellent exhibits there.

I'd stay in the 10th or 11th arrondisements (a little north/east of right downtown, by Place d'Republique-ish)--maybe something from Venere.com?
posted by amberglow at 10:43 AM on February 6, 2005

If you're not into art, skip the Musee d'Orsay and stick to a quick walk around the Louvre - otherwise they will eat the whole day. Notre Dame is a must see in my opinion. Hotel des Invalides if you're into military stuff. Things to just pass by for a quick look include the Arc de Triomphe and the Grand Opera.

A bus tour is always a good way to get a quick look at many things, but watch out - many spend way too much time on useless crap.
posted by Krrrlson at 11:19 AM on February 6, 2005

Climb the steps in Montmartre up to the Sacre Coeur (especially at night if it's not cloudy). You get the most amazing view of Paris, and it's free.
posted by borkingchikapa at 11:23 AM on February 6, 2005

Me, I'd just wander the side streets and let the city determine what I experience. The Louvre will take up your whole day unless you aren't that much into art, in which case why are you going to the Louvre? (Mind you, this is from someone who spent several days in Leningrad -- back when that was its name -- and didn't go to the Hermitage. People are horrified when I tell them that, but I wanted to see the city, not a bunch of paintings.)

And yeah, climbing up to Sacré Coeur is a great idea. Walking along the Seine and seeing Notre Dame as well. But don't get too hung up on what you will and won't see. Paris will knock you out whatever you do, if you're at all susceptible.
posted by languagehat at 11:36 AM on February 6, 2005

Paris is a wonderful city for walking. Make sure you have some Berthillon Ice Cream, available on the Ile de la Cite in the Seine. It's also a great place for walking and shopping.

Walking up to MontMartre will give you great views. Try to see the Eiffel Tower at night. It's lit with strobes for part of every hour (maybe at 10 minutes until the hour until the hour?) and is really snazzy. Sit outside at a cafe and drink some great wine or an aperitif. It's all corny, but for a reason.

If you only have 1 day, try to narrow it down to seeing art, architecture, history, or whatever. There's a lot to see/do and 1 day will only be a brief sample.
posted by theora55 at 12:22 PM on February 6, 2005

I'd just walk around the Latin Quarter. Start at Notre Dame, walk along the Seine until you get to the Eiffel Tower, and then turn around and walk back, veering left a bit, and hit up the shops and the cafes. If you've got some extra time, yeah, Sacre Coeur. Won't cost you nothin', except the Metro trip from Notre Dame to Sacre Coeur and back, and it's a lovely way to spend the day.
posted by waldo at 12:43 PM on February 6, 2005

I have one day and one night to spend in Paris.

Ok, so you've got two options. First, pick an "attraction" and spend a lot of your time and energy enjoying what makes it so attracting. Options are obvious: Louvre, Notre Dame, Musee d'Orsay, Musee de Rodin, Musee de Picasso, Tour Eiffel, etc., etc., etc.

Your second option is to walk around places where there are lots of other people, and try and interact with them. Many Parisians speak English, the ones that don't will just tell you so and you can smile and move on. Unless you speak French, in which case you're all set. Remember, this isn't your home, nobody knows who you are. Talk to everyone and see where it goes.

I am not rich.

That's going to hamper things a bit. But wine is good, cheap and plentiful. If you plan on going someplace with a cover charge (a museum, a nightclub, even a restaurant--so to speak) pick a place where you'll get the most milage from your dollars. This is why cafe's are so popular.

What should I do and see?

What do you want to do or see? Unless you're an art-buff who absolutely has to see the "real thing", I would give museums a miss completely. Most of the good stuff is behind glass and a wall of tourists, and anyway, you can already see it online.

Where should I stay?

There are a bunch of cheap, dank garret-style hotels near the Panteon (IV Arrondissement, near the Sorbonne).

Make sure you have some Berthillon Ice Cream

posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:45 PM on February 6, 2005

I would also suggest walking from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower, especially during the night-ish time. However, it's a pretty dern long walk. Probably a couple hours taking your time. The Seine is beautiful and wonderful to walk along, but it might be better to do it in a sorta zig-zag. Maybe start in the afternoon and...

1. Notre-Dame
(walk a bit around the Latin Quarter)
(make your way back to the Seine)
2. Walk along the Seine
(cross the Seine)
3. Louvre (honestly don't waste too much time, you can spend days and days and not see everything-- you can, however, tackle the whole Greek and Egyptian sections in a day and still catch the major works)
4. Jardin de Tuileries (not terribly exciting unless it's really nice out but a good place to rest)
5. Place de la Concorde (monuments!)
(cross the Seine again)
6. Walk toward the Eiffel Tower along any side streets you can find.

Hopefully the tail end of your trip will be approaching night-time. You can have dinner afterward or during the walk, I can't recommend any great restaurants that aren't too expensive. I feel like you sorta get what you pay for in Paris, unfortunately.
posted by themadjuggler at 1:09 PM on February 6, 2005

I would recommend the Musee d'Orsay to anyone, whether they think they like art or not. It really is a "greatest hits" collection of art that most people should enjoy. Plus the building itself is great and it's not as large and bewildering as the Louvre.

Other than that I would say see the major attractions: Sacre Coeur, Eiffel Tour, Notre Dame etc then try and take a walk around a few of the more exciting areas like Montmartre, Montparnasse, Latin Quarter, Ile De la Cite just to get a feel for the place and see what you come across. Do as much walking as possible but be sure to get around on the metro, it is a great experience in itself. Bus tours and boat rides on the Seine are good ways to get a feel of the place.

It might also worth sampling some of Paris' cafe culture in some of the legendary establishments like the Cafe de Flore, La Rotonde, Le Select, Closerie de Lilas. Great places to relax and take in some atmosphere especially as they are not really spoiled by tourism despite their fame.

Hope you have a great time whatever you decide to do. I'm leaving for a break in Paris (my third time) in two days, so reading this post has got me raring to go.
posted by fire&wings at 1:11 PM on February 6, 2005

and as you're wandering, pick up picnic stuff, and eat in a park and people-watch.
posted by amberglow at 1:12 PM on February 6, 2005

If you have time for only one church, the one to see is Sainte Chapelle, not Notre Dame. The latter has the fame, but as Gothic goes, it's only middle of the road. (Amiens, Chartres, Reims, and St. Denis are much more impressive examples, IMHO.)

But Sainte Chappel is just an amazing place. It may be the acme of Gothic.

MHO, of course.

Amberglow hits a good point. Stroll about, grab some food, enjoy the fact that you're in Paris, and most of MeFi isn't. Neener!
posted by eriko at 1:21 PM on February 6, 2005

The dumb reply is that it doesn't matter. I travelled a lot on business and developed a game that only works in Paris. Work out where you're staying, pick a random metro station about 10 stops away. Go there and walk back. Of course you won't really want to do this, make sure your walk includes the Isle de la Cite and some of the sights, but the fact that you can do this random walk means that you needn't worry. You will not see one hundredth of what's worth seeing in a day but you'll have a great time wherever you go.

As more considered answer, try and include the Marais for food, arts and nightlife, then wander over to the Pompidou centre at Beaubourg (follow the sound of drums). Just north of Beaubourg is a wonderfully seedy Parisian red-light area which is all you need to see (I think it's the Rue Saint Martin). All a short walk from the amazing subway hub at Chatelet.
posted by grahamwell at 1:40 PM on February 6, 2005

When I was in Paris . . . about four years ago (good God, I can't beleive it's been that long. anyway.) we stayed at The Perfect Hotel. It was perfect for us -- cheap, close to the Metro, close to Mont Martre, bakery right up the road to have a chocolate scone, a place called Bojangles where they had jazz and real homestyle American food that tasted like the frikkin manna of the LORD (I'd been in Europe for about five weeks straight, first time abroad, food in Britain had been challenging . . I stole my best friend's gravy at this place. God, so good. Nothing like hunger. ) And, this may be bonus points, it's right across the street from the Woodstock Hostel which Jim Morrison apparently flopped in for a while. It's not five star by far but it's budget, it's clean, they didn't steal from us, and we had a great trip.
posted by Medieval Maven at 1:45 PM on February 6, 2005

Oh, one other point. The Paris Metro is an attraction in it's own right. Give it a go. Try and ride line one through the centre, where every station is a work of art, or visit the amazing RER station below the Arc De Triomphe.
posted by grahamwell at 1:51 PM on February 6, 2005

If you check out the Arc de Triomphe, don't try to cross the traffic circle! There's a tunnel.
posted by mookieproof at 1:56 PM on February 6, 2005

Make sure you have some Berthillon Ice Cream, available on the Ile de la Cite in the Seine.

I don't know about now, but I was in Paris in July and it wasn't open. They had torn the inside apart and were doing something or other - I don't know if they were renovating or closing the place down.

Oh, and the Jardin de Luxembourg is awesome too, but a little out of the way.
posted by borkingchikapa at 2:00 PM on February 6, 2005

There is so much to see in Paris. I recommend the walking bit. Get out and explore. Walk through many different arrondissements. My favorite walks are through the neighborhoods - St. Germain (6ème), the Marais (3ème & 4ème), the Latin Quarter (5ème) and Les Halles (1ère).

If you've read Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" ... and want to take an entertaining guided tour - consider Paris Muse's "Cracking 'The Da Vinci Code' . It's a walking tour through the Louvre. "Once inside the museum, you and your Paris Muse guide—your own private "symbologist"— will use works of art to explore the provocative ideas in Brown's book." Listen to BBC's "The World" (WMA) and NPR's "Art Historian Launches 'Da Vinci Code' Tour" to learn more.

If you are "into art", I highly recommend the Musée National Picasso Paris. It is housed in one of the nicest mansions in the Marais. Devoted solely to the artist, the museum provides a unique opportunity to follow Picasso's development throughout his career, from 1894 to 1972. It is incredible to survey the vast range of a truly creative talent - expressing himself through so many different media.

And - yes ... be sure to drop into a cafe. Consider the famous Cafe de Flore, Les Deux Magots (next to each other - Boulevard St-Germain) or Brasserie Lipp - across the street from the Cafe de Flore and Les Deux Magots.

Some helpful websites: Lonely Planet Paris, MagicParis.com, Time Out Paris.

I recommend getting your hands on a copy of a unique and creative book - Paris Out of Hand. It is a guide to an imaginary Paris, complete with fake hotel listings, off-the-wall travel advice and restaurant recommendations. A fun read while visiting the real Paris.

Some other reading you might find enjoyable before, during or after your visit includes Adam Gopnik's Paris To The Moon, David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day and Stanley Karnow's Paris In The Fifties.
posted by ericb at 2:05 PM on February 6, 2005 [1 favorite]

Mind you, this is from someone who spent several days in Leningrad -- back when that was its name -- and didn't go to the Hermitage

? ???????... ???????!!!
posted by Krrrlson at 2:12 PM on February 6, 2005

Ah, crap. That didn't come out right at all.
posted by Krrrlson at 2:13 PM on February 6, 2005

Since you don't have money, I second amberglow: although the restaurants in Paris are marvelous, it's just as only-in-Paris to buy some cheese at Androuet, get a good piece of bread, find a park to sit in at dusk (Jardin du Luxembourg is an excellent choice) and make that your restaurant.
posted by escabeche at 2:16 PM on February 6, 2005

Visit the Catacombs, stroll around the non-touristy areas (I stayed in the 11th arrondisement, the old Jewish neighborhood, at a hotel that was 24 euros/night (found on hostels.com or something similar)), and have fun without feeling too much like you're missing anything crucial. Paris is an amazing city, yet you're probably culturally familiar with everything there--it's not like going to Mongolia or Vietnam for the first time: you won't be astonished or shocked at anything you see, and if you're not an art-lover, the art in the Louvre won't be that much more amazing than what you've seen at your local art museum.
posted by soviet sleepover at 3:19 PM on February 6, 2005

If you are travelling before May be aware that the Catacombs have closed for renovation until then.
posted by fire&wings at 3:35 PM on February 6, 2005

If you have time for only one church, the one to see is Sainte Chapelle, not Notre Dame.

I strongly second this.

And Krrrlson, whatever you said, I'm sure it's true.
posted by languagehat at 3:51 PM on February 6, 2005

Ah, crap. That didn't come out right at all.

Ha! I had the same damned thing happen to me yesterday before I figured out how to write cyrillic in HTML. It's a major beee-yotch.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 8:13 PM on February 6, 2005

oh, and if books are your thing, visit Shakespeare and co.

They don't have anything to do with the US stores. They're quite wonderful and close to Notre Dame and the Seine (in fact, on the Left Bank, IIRC).
posted by Kattullus at 8:32 PM on February 6, 2005

oh, how could I forget the link to the Shakespeare and co. website. And here's an article about the bookstore.
posted by Kattullus at 8:40 PM on February 6, 2005

I further confirm, Sainte Chapelle, and I'm glad y'all knew the name, as I had forgotten. Its spectacular!

If the weather is clear, I suggest Le Defense. This is a hill across the river at the end of Champs Ellyses (sp?). Go by metro. If you like, go to the top of the building. I didn't, because the weather clouded up.

You might be amused by a trip to Pere Lachaise Cemetary, where Fryderyk Chopin, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde are buried (to name but three).
posted by Goofyy at 9:45 PM on February 6, 2005

If you go to the Orsay, do it backwards ... that is, when you come through the entry, go straight up to the second floor and work your way down. You'll see all their best stuff (Van Gogh, Monet, Manet ...) when your eyes are still fresh. Also second the Picasso, very good museum, and getting there has you walking through the Marais, which is great. Buy a felafel in Rue des Rosiers. Agree that Sainte Chapelle is your best single choice of church, it's really bijou. Place des Vosges (near the Bastille, you could walk there after the Marais) is an absolute architectural gem (you may recognise it from Cocteau's Orphée). Rue Mouffetard (in the 5th) is a pleasant little walk, and a lovely spot for a beer at a café. Continue over the crest of the hill and you pass the Panthéon and are headed for the Museum of the Middle Ages, (Cluny), which is wonderful. Something I used to enjoy a lot was to buy a nice sandwich (practically anywhere) and sit in the Roman Arenas (Les Arènes de Lutèce) and eat it -- and right next door there's a great second-hand jazz CD shop (cheap!) Sacré Coeur is nice at night, particularly the view over town, but don't buy anything in the Place du Tertre right behind it -- it's strictly for tourists. Double price, average quality.
posted by Wolof at 10:05 PM on February 6, 2005

I've been doing a lot of reading on Paris in preparation for a trip there myself in early March. While I haven't yet tested them, Rick Steves from PBS has a couple suggested walking tours that he says can be done in just a couple hours and should give a good overview: "Historic Paris" including the Ile de la Cite, Notre Dame, the Left Bank, and Sainte Chapelle; or The Marais neighborhood, or Rick's favorite market area in Rue Cler. If you get his Paris guidebook he also has detailed tours of the major museums that should get you to all the major works in just 2-3 hours per place.
posted by dnash at 7:49 AM on February 7, 2005

I lived in Paris for a while and I loathed it until I discovered China Town. While this may not be the place to go when one only has a single day in the city, for anyone who is staying a bit longer, it's a nice escape from the tyrrany of European culture.

The Marais is pretty cool though. I spent a lot of time there eating falafel.
posted by TheGoldenOne at 8:39 AM on February 7, 2005

Keep in mind that while the Sainte Chappelle is terrific, it's not free, and Notre Dame is, and is also bigger.

You can have a prix fixe dinner at a bistro for less than 20 euro. That may sound like a lot, but remember that the price on a Parisian menu is exactly what you pay: tax and service are included. The food in Paris is terrific, and it's still terrific in less expensive small restaurants. The Marais has a lot of good bistros, but so do many other neighborhoods, including Montmartre, so if you go to Sacre Coeur for the sunset, which is great, you can then walk partway down the hill for dinner.

If I only had one day, I'd avoid museums entirely. If you don't have a museum pass, you can sometimes wait in line for half an hour just to get in (the longest line we encountered -- and bypassed with our museum pass -- was at the Sainte Chappelle). If you want to see at least one museum, I'd recommend something small like the Rodin museum. It's less crowded, and you can do it in a relatively small amount of time.

If you're coming there by train, stay somewhere near the train station; you can get anywhere on the Metro.
posted by anapestic at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2005

« Older What kind of new phone should I get?   |   Fingernail Biting Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.