La Ville Lumière. The City of Light. The City of Love.
Many associate Paris with romanticism. The connection is certainly apt – with charming cafes, stunning views, regal architecture, and a tangible energy beyond verbal explanation.
If you’re fortunate to travel to this city – even if only for 24 hours – there’s plenty to soak in and experience. This piece will attempt to provide you with a guide for one of those truncated layover trips.
As is the case with any entity on Earth, there are many stereotypes associated with Paris. Many believe French people to be pretentious, American-hating snobs with a penchant for smelly cheese and escargot.
These are gross exaggerations. I found French people to be incredibly friendly and helpful. If you’re respectful, they’ll return the favor. It would be helpful to know a few French phrases. If you attempt to speak some conversational French – and not assume everyone speaks English – it will go a long way. While many Parisians do speak passable English, it isn’t something that will be volunteered right off the bat.
Upon first arriving in Paris, it would behoove you to head to a bakery. It’s rather simple: Grab a freshly baked baguette, a coffee, and go explore. You will be more than satisfied.
The metro is exceptionally straightforward to use in Paris. It will take you to virtually any of the 20 arrondissements (districts) within the city limits. Each district has its own distinct flavor – which includes tourist attractions, immigrant communities, impressive architecture, and residential areas.
People will tell you to go to the Louvre. This gigantic museum is home to the Mona Lisa, among other incredibly famous works of art. With only one day to explore the city, it may make sense to skip this attraction. The facility is massive – and can literally take days to fully digest.
A better option would be the Musee D’Orsay. One needs no more than two hours to experience the museum. It includes works from the likes of Van Gogh, Monet, Degas, and Manet. It’s also conveniently located on the Seine River – which allows for a lovely stroll down the iconic body of water.
From there, one must check out Notre Dame. Not only is this cathedral the perfect example of French gothic architecture, but it’s also one of the most impressive structures in all of Europe. Walking inside for a mere ten minutes will leave you stupefied at its grandiose beauty.
A stone’s throw away from the church is a small bookstore called Shakespeare & Company. Opened in 1919, writers such as Gertrude Stein, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce came to work at this location. For any lover of literature, this is a must-see.
If you have a sweet tooth, make the trek to Angelina in the first arrondissement. Present since 1903, this tea house is famous for its pastries and a hot chocolate drink called Chocolat L’African. The recipe stretches over 100 years. Simply put, this silky concoction is divine.
One can opt to walk down the famed Avenue des Champs-Élysées. It features numerous stores and restaurants. However, this is a quintessential tourist area. Prices across the board are inflated much more than they need to be.
A better option would be the beautiful Montmartre neighborhood. This gem sits on a large hill in the 18th arrondissement. It features the Sacre-Coeur Basilica – an absolutely gorgeous church. Looking out, one can see an entire view of the city.
Behind the basilica exists a vast network of winding boulevards – featuring street artists, cozy restaurants, and striking scenery. Cobblestones dot the narrow walkways. Purchase a slice of Quiche Lorraine, find a place to sit, and people watch. Rue Foyatier is an excellent spot for such an activity.
Lastly, a trip to Paris isn’t complete without seeing La Tour Eiffel (more commonly known as the Eiffel Tower).
I’d skip out on going up in the tower. It’s expensive, and the views aren’t all that great.
Instead, head to the tower once the sun goes down. Picture yourself as an insect flying in the darkness. All of a sudden, there’s this alluring brightness that’s impossible to deviate from. This is how I view the Eiffel Tower during the nighttime.
The tower is dressed extensively with lights. The glow radiating off of the tower can be seen from miles away. Every hour, the lights flicker with reckless abandon for five minutes. If anything, this moment is worth traveling to Paris for.
Paris is a truly dynamic metropolis. One could spend a month here and still not fully grasp all that it has to offer.
If you do only have 24 hours to spend in Paris, hopefully this snapshot will provide you with a glimpse into the utter majesty of this city.
Image Source: newsday