If you’ve only got one short day in Paris, or if you just want make sure you see ALL the very best things to do in Paris on your first day, here is an easy-to-follow self-guided walking tour of Paris that will take you to all the most popular places you must see in Paris.
With this free map of Paris you’ll see Notre Dame, the Louvre, Champs Elysées, Arc de Triomphe, Eiffel Tower and more! Keep reading for the full one-day itinerary in Paris.
Start your day at the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral gets very busy and crowded as the day goes on, so it’s best to start here early.
The cathedral is free to enter. There is usually a line to go inside. The line is shorter in the morning. It usually gets longer later in the day. But don’t be discouraged if you see a long line — the line usually moves very quickly.
Notre Dame Fun Fact!
Did you know The Hunchback of Notre-Dame was written by Victor Hugo in 1831 as an attempt to preserve Gothic architecture around Paris? Prior to the novel, the cathedral was run-down and at risk of demolition. As a result of the new interest and tourism generated from the book, Paris started restoration work on the cathedral instead.
Be sure to walk around and see the cathedral from all sides! The back view of Notre Dame is one of my favorites. There’s a park with many benches and even playground equipment. It’s the perfect spot to sit and relax.
Are the Notre Dame Towers Worth Climbing?
Climbing the towers of Notre Dame is one of the most popular things to do in Paris. The entrance is on the north side of the cathedral. The last time I went to the top (in 2014) we only had about 5 minutes at the top. It was just a narrow, single-file path around the tower, and there was a fence/gate around the windows that you had to stick your camera through if you wanted to take pictures from the top. If that has changed, let me know in the comments!
We also waited in line about 1 hour just to start the climb, even though we got there 30 minutes before the tower even opened. But now it looks like you can book a time to visit the towers so you don’t have to wait in line! Visit the official Notre Dame site for more information.
The views from the top are very nice. If you’re interested, you can see more pictures from the top of the Notre Dame Towers here.
Pont Des Arts
After visiting the Notre Dame cathedral, continue the tour by walking to the Pont des Arts. Here you can cross the River Seine on this pedestrian bridge. On the south side of the river (pictured above) is the Institut de France, a beautiful building with a grand baroque cupola. You’ll cross the bridge and arrive right in front of the Louvre Museum.
The Pont des Arts is famous for the being the “Love Lock” bridge in Paris. Putting a lock on this bridge use to be one of the most trendy things to do in Paris! But unfortunately there were just too many locks and they all had to be removed because the weight was causing the bridge to collapse!
Pont Neuf Fun Fact!
From the middle of the bridge, if you look across the river to the east, you will see Pont Neuf. Even though Pont Neuf means “New Bridge” in French, it’s actually the oldest bridge across the river Seine in Paris (built around the year 1600). Pont Neuf quickly became the most exciting location in Paris because of the sidewalks and balconies overlooking the river. Vendors set up shop along the bridge and entertainers would play instruments and sing.
Everyone wanted to hang out on the bridge, even the aristocracy, who for the first time in history decided to step down from their carriages and walk across the bridge. This had never happened before in France. It was the most revolutionary bridge in Europe, and became a model for cites worldwide.
After crossing the Pont des Arts, you will arrive directly in front of the Louvre Museum. You can walk around the massive, 15-acre complex and see the famous glass pyramids and fountains. Visiting the Louvre (and seeing the Mona Lisa) is one of the most well-known things to do in Paris. If you want to go inside the museum, plan to make a day of it, or at least devote a few hours. A tour guide once told us that if you were to spend 1 second in front of every piece of art in the museum it would take 30 days straight to see everything in the Louvre!
From the Louvre, take a relaxing stroll through the Tuileries Garden as you make your way to the Champs Elysées. But before leaving the Louvre, you may want to pop over to Place Colette to see this fun Paris metro entrance! The Tuileries Garden is also a great place to stop and have a quick bite for lunch. There are many benches to sit for a picnic and people watch. You can grab a sandwich to go from one of the boulangeries nearby.
Place de la Concorde
After walking through the Tuileries Garden, you’ll arrive at Place de la Concorde, the largest square in Paris. The square is famous for its tall 3,300 year old Egyptian obelisk which once stood at the entrance to the Luxor Temple in Egypt. The Place de la Concorde was also the site of many public beheadings during the French Revolution.
Now it’s time to stroll along the famous Champs Elysées! The Champs Elysées is a high-end shopping street in Paris. My favorite place to shop on the Champs Elysées is Laduree, one of the most famous macaron producers in the world. Please excuse the state of my macarons here — I carried them around all day before taking this picture and they got a bit crunched!
If the line is not too long, definitely pop in Laduree for a macaron or pastry! You deserve it after all this walking!
Arc de Triomphe
At the end of the Champs Elysées, you’ll arrive at the Arc de Triomphe. On the north side of the street (opposite side of Laduree) there is an underground tunnel so you can get to the Arc de Triomphe without having to cross 8 lanes of traffic!
Arc de Triomphe Fun Fact!
Around the Arc de Triomphe is an 8 lane roundabout. There are no lines marking the lanes, and your car insurance won’t cover any accidents that happen in this roundabout! One of my favorite things to do in Paris is watch all the cars go in and out of the roundabout from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.
Can you go to the top of Arc de Triomphe?
Yes! The top of the Arc de Triomphe is one of my favorite views in Paris! You can buy tickets in the tunnel I mentioned earlier. I’ve been several times and the line is never usually long. But if you show up and there is a long line, you can buy tickets online from your phone, skip the line (go up the stairs) and just show you tickets on your phone to get in.
What’s one of the best things to do in Paris? Visit the Eiffel Tower!! No trip to Paris would be complete without seeing this iconic landmark. It’s the final stop on our walking tour of Paris.
After a big day of walking from Notre Dame to the Arc de Triomphe (about 4 miles) you might not feel like walking the additional mile (1 mile / 30 minutes) to the Eiffel Tower. You can totally skip the last leg of this walking tour and take the metro or call an Uber if you want!
If you want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, book your tickets in advance for an afternoon timeslot. Plan to spend 1.5 to 2.5 hours at the top.
Is it better to go up the Eiffel Tower at night or during the day?
I prefer to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in the late afternoon, in order to be back down in time for sunset. The view of the Eiffel Tower from the Champs de Mars with the sunset in the background is breathtaking.
The Champs de Mars is a big park in front of the Eiffel Tower that’s the perfect spot for sitting and watching the sunset. One of my favorite things to do in Paris is visit a local grocery and have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower at sunset.
Also be sure to walk around to the other side and check out the view of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadéro Gardens. I think this is my favorite spot for taking sunset pictures in Paris.
There’s a beautiful old carousel in front of the Trocadéro Gardens with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Where To Stay In Paris
If you’re looking for the best place to stay in Paris, I highly recommend Paris Perfect Apartment Rentals
We’ve stayed in a Paris Perfect Apartment twice and have had an excellent experience both times. The apartments are always beautifully decorated, spacious, very comfortable, well-equipped, and in a great location.
This time we stayed in the Muscat apartment located at 25 Place Dauphine.
Place Dauphine is on the Île de la Cité, a small island in the River Siene. Notre Dame is at one end of the island, and Place Dauphine and Pont Neuf is at the other.
Île de la Cité is the historic center of Paris where the medieval city was founded. Place Dauphine itself has great historical significance in Paris because it was the first real estate development in history built specifically for the middle class. This was the first time the average citizen was allow to own their own property. Place Dauphine created a new economic class in Paris.
If you have the chance to visit Place Dauphine and Pont Neuf, I highly recommend it! It was such an incredible experience to stay in one of these historic homes.
Visit Paris Perfect Apartment Rentals to book one of the apartments at 25 Place Dauphine!
The Ultimate “One Day in Paris” Walking Tour
From Notre Dame to Arc de Triomphe: 4 miles
From Arc de Triomphe to Eiffel Tower: 1 mile