(Updated April 2020)
This is the latest issue of the new category on my blog which is designated to transform a stay like a layover into a short extra-vacation.
You might think that 24 hours are far too little to explore the “city of lights”.
Of course, you are right, but this applies to almost every popular stopover destination.
However, if you follow my itineraries, you’ll be surprised how much you get to see and experience of the proverbial savoir vivre.
Paris – With a Capital P
Good for – short term – travellers that France has this system of centrality so that basically all important exhibitions and shows are presented rather in Paris than in any other French city. Here the capital is a capital with a capital…P.
I was keen to find as many sights as possible located in one spot so that you don’t have to travel crisscross town, and the hotel is right next to Gare Montparnasse station where shuttles connect the city with both airports. And since Paris airports are not entertaining at all, you should definitely go downtown if you have a couple of hours.
Euro (EUR) / 1 EUR = 1.09 US$ (April 2020) / current rate
SOS – all services (recommended when calling from a mobile) 112
Tourist Info Online and Onsite
Paris Tourist Office
Réception du Carrousel du Louvre
99 rue de Rivoli
Getting Downtown and Back
There are many different possibilities to get in a fast and cheap way from the airport to the city center.
I spare you the bus since it’s cheap, but not comfortable, and it takes forever.
So let’s begin with the second cheapest way which is the RER, the local train. It costs 10€ one way and takes a little over 30 minutes. If you need to go to Gare Montparnasse, and you do if you follow my itinerary, you have to change at Gare du Nord to the Métro No. 4 towards Porte d’Orléans and get off at Montparnasse Bienvenüe, though.
The best bet for you is “Le Bus Direct” for 17$ (or 30€ round trip) which is – you probably guessed so – direct. It runs from 6 a. m. to 10.30 p. m. from Charles de Gaulle to the city center and from 5.30 a. m. to 10.30 p. m. from Gare Montparnasse every half an hour and takes 60 to 70 minutes depending on the traffic.
If you have a connection to Orly, there is a direct bus from Roissy. By the way, this is the name French people call the airport, so don’t let it confuse you.
No matter which one of the itineraries you follow, you will travel a lot on the Métro.
However, since the Métro is really cheap, I cannot recommend the Paris Pass, especially since you can buy it only for at least two days, and with 135€ it’s far too costy.
One trip by Métro with all connections needed during 90 minutes cost you 1,90€. If you buy a ‘carnet’ which is ten tickets, it only costs you 16€ and will cover the day; I recommend that.
If you have luggage and do not spend the night, you can leave your belongings at the train station Montparnasse (consigne).
For security reasons, it’s one of the very few options in Paris to store your luggage.
Paris is – unless you have to live there – always romantic and nice. Of course it’s more fun to enjoy the city in the sun, so I keep my fingers cross for you and supply you with a helpful itinerary to make the best of your stay.
We’ll start the day at the most cliché French but also the most beautiful little street in Paris, the Rue Mouffetard.
Yes, it’s cheesy, but I guarantee you that you’ll love it; and you’ll get excellent French cheese there, too.
To get there, take the Métro No. 6 (towards Nation) and change to line No. 7 at Place d’Italie (towards La Courneuve 8 Mai 1945) and get off at Censier-Daubenton. Walk down rue Daubenton and turn right into rue Mouffetard and there you are amidst the France you always dreamt of.
One advise if you intend to stock up on cheese and take it with you on a plane: Don’t put soft cheese in your hand luggage, it might be considered “cream” and confiscated! Don’t believe me? Read my earlier post!
Did you stock up on some baguette and cheese and a little wine?
Looking for a place for a light morning picnic? Turn left at Place de la Contrescarpe and stroll down rue de l’Estrapade towards Jardin du Luxembourg where you can either sit on one of the lush, soft meadows or on one of the old, charming chairs around the basin and enjoy some rays of sun.
To me this garden (=Jardin), a former royal estate – and there is still the Palais du Luxembourg, is one of the nicest Parisian parks. Between the manicured classicistic flowerbeds and terraces is lots of space for leisure activities, an old puppet theater, a romantic carousel, and more.
Le Pique Nique
It’s almost lunchtime, so let’s walk down Boulevards Saint-Michel towards river Seine.
Cross the Saint-Michel bridge to walk along Boulevard du Palais. Walk on crossing Pont au Change leaving Paris’ most important island – Île de la cité – behind and catch the Métro No. 1 at Châtelet (towards La Defense) and get off at Franklin D. Roosevelt station: You are in the middle of the famous Champs Elysées!
Lunch – some of the best steamed or gratiné mussels at an unbeatable price – is waiting!
It shouldn’t surprise you that it’s no biggy to spend an inspiring and fun day in Paris although it’s raining. Let’s visit some really cool museums – and I’m not mentioning the Louvre on purpose since you probably don’t need me to send you there. I’ll quote some others that are a tad bit less famous but absolutely worth a visit.
While I don’t recommend the Paris Pass, I highly recommend to get a Museum Pass. It’s for two days, which you might not need. But at a price of 48€ it still will pay if you follow this itinerary. And another advantage is priceless: You don’t have to wait in line (at least not in the regular, long line), but can walk straight in.
The first museum to visit is the Musée d’Orsay on the banks of river Seine. Getting there from Montparnasse-Bienvenüe station is quick and easy, just take Métro No. 12 (towards Front Populaire) and hop off at Solférino.
The Museum is housed in a former train station, the Gare d’Orsay. This station was built for the Paris International Exposition and used till 1939 by the trains going South West.
In 1977 on an initiative by former president Valéry Giscard d’Estaing the station was transformed into a museum, that opened in 1986. Today the Musée d’Orsay houses about 4000 paintings from the era 1848 to 1914 on 16.000 square meters/ more than 172,000 square feet.
62, rue de Lille
Phone: +33 – 1 – 40 49 48 14
I hope you are very much into French impressionism since also this venue houses some of the most important paintings from this art epoch.
But half of the exhibition space is made available for eight huge nymphaea paintings by Claude Monet. They are arranged in two oval halls and make these a “Sistine Chapel of Impressionism” like André Masson called the arrangement.
Musée de l’Orangerie
Jardin des Tuileries
Place de la Concorde
Phone: +33 – 1 – 44 77 80 07
The museum is open from Wednesday to Monday from 9 a. m. to 6 p. m.
To get to the historic ‘Jeu de Paume’ building that used to house all the impressionist treasures before they’ve found a new home at the Musée d’Orsay you only have to cross the gravel way of Jardin des Tuileries. Today there is no permanent collection at the Jeu de Paume, but they are organizing great photo and movie exhibits.
Galerie du Jeu de Paume
1, Place de la Concorde
Phone: + 33 – 1 – 47 03 12 50
The gallery is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11 a. m. to 7 p. m. (Tuesdays to 9 p. m.)
I guess by now you’ll be really hungry. Let’s get a great lunch right on the Champs Elysées. You can either walk there in about 25 minutes; or you take Métro No. 1 (towards La Defense) and get off at Franklin D. Roosevelt station.
This restaurant is popular with locals and tourists alike.
It is a actually a chain serving all sorts of mussels, traditionally with a huge side of fries. Actually, you can order as many fries as you like – à volonté.
Léon de Bruxelles
63 Avenue Des Champs Elysées
Phone: +33 – 1 – 42 25 96 16
The restaurant is open from Sunday to Thursday vom 11.45 a. m. to midnight and Friday and Saturday to 1 a. m.
I assume after lunch, and being on the most Parisian shopping street, you’d like to do some (window-)shopping!?
Doing so, keep walking towards the Arc de Triomphe. Once you get there, you can either climb up the Arc to have a great view on all of Paris – or you are satisfied with just turning around and look back at the never ending traffic stream on the Champs Elysée.
Now, at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, hop on the Métro No. 6 (towards Nation) and get off at Trocadéro.
You can see the Eiffel tower from almost every spot in the city – but the unbeatably best view you’ll have from Palais du Trocadéro, an exhibition venue, built in 1878 for the Paris International Exposition.
Enjoy the manicured garden and then cross the Pont d’Iéna towards the Eiffel tower. Depending on your time management you might want to go up the tower or go on a cruise with “Bateaux Parisien” who have a terrible website so I at least found the sightseeing cruise info in English for you.
Of course you can also just stroll across the Champ de Mars and enjoy your wonderful afternoon in Paris.
To get to the traditional restaurant Bouillon Chartier – this one is not to be missed! – you walk back across the Pont de Iéna to the Métro station with the same name and take Métro No. 9 (towards Mairie de Montreuil) and get off at Grands Boulevards station.
If it’s not raining too hard, you might walk up the Champs Elysées to the Arc de Triomphe and either climb up or take Métro No. 6 at Charles de Gaulle – Étoile (towards Nation) and go to Boissière.
If you want to skip the Arc and go to the next gallery straight from the restaurant, you take Métro No. 9 at Franklin D. Roosevelt station (towards Pont de Sèvres) and get off at Iéna.
Here are two fantastic art venues in one building – I love Paris! The Palais d’Art Moderne houses a nice permanent collection of modernism and adds temporary exhibitions worth seeing.
The Palais de Tokyo has no permanent collection but original and delightful exhibitions of contemporary artists. The Palais de Tokyo is definitely one of my top ten art venues world wide.
If it’s not raining too hard, you can walk a little towards Palais du Trocadéro to have a good view at the Eiffel tower (actually the first picture of this post was taken from there).
To get to the traditional restaurant Bouillon Chartier – this one is not to be missed! – you walk back to Métro station Iéna and go by train No. 9 (towards Mairie de Montreuil) to Grands Boulevards station.
Musée d’Art moderne de la Ville de Paris
11 avenue du Président Wilson
Phone: + 33 – 1 – 53 67 40 00
Palais de Tokyo
13 Avenue du Président Wilson
Chartier has been a Parisian culinary institution for over a hundred years now.
Especially since they combine substantial, traditional French cuisine with witty, fast service in a truly original, communicative, fun setting – and all this at more than reasonable prices. I already made (facebook-) friends for life here!
Good news: They are open every day from 11.30 a. m. to midnight.
Bad news: They are not taking reservations – and very often, the queues are really long.
Why not combining the nightcap with a visit to one of the most important art venues Paris has to offer – why not visit the Centre Pompidou?
If you’re not too tired, coming from Chartier, you can walk down Rue Montmartre, this will take about twenty minutes. Otherwise you can take Métro No. 9 at Grands Boulevards (towards Mairie de Montreuil) and change to No. 4 at Strasbourg-St. Denis (towards Mairie de Montrouge) and get off at Étienne Marcel.
Architects Richard Rogers from Britain and Italian superstar Renzo Piano competed against 681 rivals from 49 countries – and won the bid.
The center opened on January 31, 1977. This building made of 15 000 tons of steel and 11 000 m² glass might be unusual and probably an work of architectural art – I still don’t like it.
But I like a lot what’s in it: Huge galleries housing an extraordinary permanent collection from modernism to contemporary and always a hand full of special exhibits. There is a big book shop and and a cinema and a cool restaurant and bar all the way up overlooking all Paris.
So after you’ve seen the great art, let’s go upstairs for a drink.
The Galleries are open from Wednesday to Monday 11 a. m. to 9 p. m. (Thursday to 11 p. m.)
They are closed on Tuesday and 1st of May – that’s it, otherwise always open.
The restaurant – which also has a spacious terrace – is open from noon to 2 a. m. The Kitchen is open until midnight.
To access Le Georges Restaurant between noon and 8:50 p. m., you should use the elevator on the Centre Pompidou Plaza, on the left from the main entrance. After 8:50 p. m. access is granted at the entrance by the escalator facing 50 rue Rambuteau. (Warning: Their website is very misleading especially regarding the hours; I had to read the French version to get it straight.)
Like the Museum, Le Georges is closed on Tuesdays.
Phone: +33 – 1 – 44 78 47 99
To get back to your hotel, take Métro No. 4 at Châtelet (towards Mairie de Montrouge) that takes you to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe in less than 10 minutes.
Especially if you are on a layover and need to get back to the airport in the early morning, staying close to Gare Montparnasse is highly recommendable.
Since everything, and hotels, too, is quite expensive in Paris, the Hotel Transcontinental* in a very Parisian style is perfectly located and actually quite a good deal.
To get to Gare Montparnasse from here, you can either walk about.
Map – sunny day itinerary
Map – rainy day itinerary
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