Only 24 hours in Paris
The longer your trip to Paris, the better. But if you have just 24 hours to spare, leave the busiest landmarks for now. Visiting key sights like the Musée d'Orsay and Luxembourg Gardens will satisfy your inner explorer until next time.
Marvel at the masterpieces in the Musée d’Orsay
First thing in the morning, make a beeline for the Musée d’Orsay (grabbing a croissant and coffee from nearby Café de l'Ours for breakfast). This museum is dedicated to Impressionism and Post-Impressionism, with more than 900 paintings from these movements on show.
Study Degas' soft brushwork in his Dinner at the Ball or expand your knowledge of Impressionism by visiting Monet's La Gare Saint-Lazare – often credited as the first painting of the movement. Pieces by artistic heavyweights like Cézanne, Van Gogh and Gauguin are also on display in this absorbing and influential collection.
Loop around the lush lawns of Luxembourg Gardens
After admiring the art, take a 25-minute stroll from the museum to Luxembourg Gardens, a 23-hectare space surrounding the French Parliament’s Upper House. Often referred to as 'the lungs of Paris', this leafy park is gloriously green. The gardens were designed in the 1620s for Henry IV’s consort, Marie de Médici, because she missed her childhood home at Florence’s Pitti Palace. Strolling past the Italian-style fountains, pristine terraces and neat lawns will certainly have you feeling like a royal.
Families might like to head towards the colourful retro carousel and charming puppet performances at the Théâtre du Luxembourg, while couples can bag one of the green metal chairs for a picnic of goodies picked up from a nearby boulangerie.
Sail on the Seine during an immersive boat tour
Lunch over, it's time to swing by Notre-Dame to see the city’s most iconic cathedral. Afterwards, walk for 10 minutes – to the Vedettes du Pont Neuf cruise launch point. En route, don't forget to take a quick look around the Sainte-Chapelle church. The 15 stained-glass windows here depict no fewer than 1,113 scenes from the Bible. You might not have time to look at them all, but be sure to step back and appreciate the multicoloured light streaming in through the windows – the effect is heavenly.
From the launch point, take the hour-long boat trip, which glides by 35 of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. Keep an eye out for the regal façade of the Louvre, the shimmering glass roof of the Grand Palais and the Art Nouveau lamps of Alexander III Bridge.
The cruise sets off from the multi-arched Pont Neuf – keep an eye out for the 381 grotesque figures of barbers, dentists and pickpockets positioned above its arches. Tours are guided in French and English, while the cruise company’s free mobile app translates the information into multiple languages in real-time, so it's easy to stay up to speed on the sights.
Gasp at the views from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica
Back on dry land at Pont Neuf, hop on the metro to Montmartre, an area that celebrates the arts. Creative types have congregated here since the height of the Belle Époque movement in the mid-19th century. Little art galleries are still dotted along its maze-like alleyways.
Leave the metro at Porte Dauphine station then walk up to the Sacré-Cœur. This opulent domed basilica dominates the city’s tallest hillside. Entry is free, so head inside to scope out the striking 480-metre-square mosaic-covered floor. If you'd like to see the city from an even higher vantage point, there’s a charge to access the church's towers.
Take in the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower
Since you can expect to queue – and will want to spend some time at the top, too – a visit to Paris' most famous landmark would probably end up taking over a day-long trip to the city. But you can still see the Iron Lady's vast metal structure in all its glory. Wander along the Seine’s Right Bank from Pont Neuf to Alexander III Bridge for the most mesmerising views. After dark, the tower glows a golden colour – and you'll want to make sure you're looking on every hour, on the hour, when it flashes and sparkles for five minutes.
With this guide on hand, speeding around the city in search of the top sights will feel more than manageable. Bookmark it to navigate your way around with the confidence of a Parisian.