With only one day to spend in Paris, here’s how I made the most of my time.
As a typical college student with limited time and funds, I often find myself embarking on short trips that allow me to travel Europe without detracting from schoolwork or my job. While I usually leave at least two full days to explore a new city, I set a new personal record for a short vacation by spending only one day in Paris.
Prior to the trip, I was worried that I would feel overwhelmed by having such a limited amount of time to experience one of the world’s most famous cities, but I think I made the most of my time in France’s stunning cosmopolitan capital (though I would love to spend more time here one day).
Despite the exhaustion that accompanies overnight bus rides, and the confusion that accompanies deciphering foreign metro stations, Paris welcomed my cousin and me with quiet streets and a subtle sunrise. Arriving at 6:30 AM allowed us to stroll down the wide, spacious boulevards and watch the blue serenity of night disappear as the sun rose.
The lighter it became, the more we were able to admire the modest architecture of the massive buildings that lined the streets. The great open spaces of the boulevards, the beautifully ornamented buildings, and the abundance of shops, cafes, and apartments revealed the potential for busy city life, but the early morning left the city briefly suspended in stillness and peace.
After enjoying the dreamy, surreal atmosphere of Paris in the morning, we checked into our hostel, ate a free breakfast, and set out to see as much of the city as possible. To save money and time, we stashed baguettes and apples from the hostel breakfast in our bags in order to sustain ourselves for the day. Important thing to know as a traveler on a budget: TAKE ADVANTAGE OF FREE FOOD. Rather than continue with a summary of the day, I’ll list the highlights of Paris that we were determined to see before the end of the day.
1. The Louvre
Tempted to go inside the famous and gigantic museum, we didn’t want to sacrifice too much time. But admiring the Louvre Palace from the outside was breathtaking enough. We also had way too much fun taking stereotypical tourist pictures with the Louvre Pyramids.
2. The Love Lock Bridge
Surprisingly I found that the best part of this landmark was not the actual bridge smothered in colorful padlocks, but the beauty of the Seine River that surrounded the spot. The glowing sun sparkling in the water and the majestic buildings lining the river made the sight much more memorable.
3. Notre Dame
Again, the desire to save time dissuaded us from waiting in the absurdly long line to venture inside the famous cathedral, but the exterior of the building was stunning. The booming ring of the cathedral’s many bells also chased away any traces of tiredness that we may have still had, so that’s a plus.
4. Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
The enormous and regal palace combined with the fresh air and soft green grass of the gardens made this stop a stunningly peaceful addition to the sightseeing.
5. Eiffel Tower
As an image that I’ve seen countless times in pictures, this famous structure surpassed all of my expectations. The sheer size of the tower and the detail of the wrought iron bars left me in awe, and its beauty remained consistent from every angle that I viewed it from.
6. Arc De Triomphe
Unlike the Eiffel Tower, this landmark appeared exactly how I had imagined based on pictures I’ve seen. It was undoubtedly beautiful, but did not totally amaze me.
7. Avenue des Champs-Élysées
As a chaotic boulevard crowded with consumerism, the gorgeous lights and chic window displays made this overwhelming street exciting and vibrant. This area definitely helped ‘The City of Lights’ live up to its name.
8. Eiffel Tower Part II
Venturing back to the famous landmark, we were lucky enough to capture the magic of the Eiffel Tower at night. Speaking of ‘The City of Lights’, the golden structure represented the king of all the lights as it towered over the city and cut through the darkness of the night sky.
Though we made it to all these major landmarks, half the joy of visiting Paris came from simply walking the streets on our way to various destinations. The narrow side streets lined with towering apartments and delicate balconies overflowing with fresh flowers created an intimate sense of culture. Whenever we found ourselves crossing a bridge over the Seine River, we’d have to stop and soak in the beauty of our surroundings while the glowing sun warmed our faces.
Though we did not devote much time to eating, we did make it a priority to try croissants and macarons to see if they were better in France than the U.S. (they were). But dedicating the majority of the day to exploring paid off because we got to enjoy the beautiful weather while absorbing as much of Paris as possible. After a single day in the city, I’ve realized that Paris is just as stunning as everyone says and I will definitely need to return one day to further experience this gorgeous, historic, and enticing metropolis.