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Only spending 24 hours in Paris is a little like only dunking your big toe into a shimmering mediterranean sea and then never swimming in it. BUT, I understand that sometimes time is not on your side, and 24 hours is better than nothing, right?
So, here are my top tips for seeing some of Paris in 24 hours, from midday to midday…
12 Midday – Start at Le Jardin du Luxembourg for a picnic – grab yourself a baguette and some salami (and maybe a cheeky bottle of wine) from one of the many boulangerie and mini-markets on the Boulevard Saint-Michel, and enjoy sitting out in these wonderful gardens. The chairs are provided – so no need to bring your own. Oh, and remember to not to sit on the grass – that’s prohibited!
1pm – Head to the Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris (Our Lady of Paris). You can climb up the towers for a small fee (I recommend avoiding this if you are scared of heights or tiny staircases). But even just a jaunt around the inside to see the stained glass and alters, and the outside to see the flying buttresses (the clever cantilevers that help hold the building up), is a wonderful thing.
2pm – Head East down the Left Bank of the Seine, along Quai de la Tournelle, and enjoy the bouquinistes (booksellers). Continue down to the Institut du Monde Arabe (Arab Institute) to check out their latest exhibition, or at least to see the utterly stunning building that houses it, designed by Jean Nouvel. The outside walls have hundreds of geometric shaped photo-sensitive apertures that open and shut to allow the light and heat in as needed.
3pm – Carry on further down the Seine, and take a wander south-west through the Jardin des Plantes. You could even stop to see the animals at the Ménagerie, le zoo du Jardin des Plantes (especially if you are travelling with children) – they also have wonderful hippo statues that the kids can have their photo taken with!
5pm – Keep heading south-west to Square Saint-Médard (only about 2km total from Arab Institute to the square). And now it is time to walk up what is reputed to be one of the oldest streets in Paris – Rue Mouffetard. Dating back to neolithic times, it became a Roman Road, and then managed to survive the Haussmann redevelopments during the reign of Napoleon III. It is now a vibrant street with a permanent market at the bottom, wonderful cheese, wine and gift shops, and great restaurants and bars along it. At the top you’ll find Place de la Contrescarpe… just in time for Apero Time!
6pm – Aperitifs at Place de la Contrescarpe – pick one of the many cafés that line this square and watch the world go by during the traditional Apero time – this also coincides with cocktail happy hour in many places!
7:30pm – Wander north-west past the Pantheon, over the Boulevard Saint-Michel, to rue Monsieur le Prince – to the restaurant Polidor. With authentic trestle tables, red chequered tablecloths and belle époque decor, this restaurant will blow you away with fantastic steak (as standard), and beautiful wines! It gets hugely busy though – so don’t be surprised if you have to wait for a table (or go early). Beware the traditional hole in the floor squat toilet though!
9:30pm – After dinner, head north to Saint-Germain, to the Tennessee Jazz Bar. Enjoy this lively area with some live music, cocktails, and bars galore.
11pm – If you’re hungry on the way back to the hotel (not that you are likely to be), or if you just fancy a stroll on the way home, wander round the little streets on the Left Bank – full of restaurants from every origin, including generous kebabs, and wonderful asian sweets. If you still have any energy left in you, you can hit Le Caveau de la Huchette (the famous underground jazz bar) – although you’ll be stung on door entry, so come bearing €€€!
(I’ve assumed you’re staying in the 5th or 6th Arrondissement – so if you’re not, I suggest you remedy that!)
*** Fall into bed at an undisclosed hour ***
9am – Grab yourself a croissant and coffee at any one of the thousands of cafés in Paris, and get yourself ready for your morning!
10am – Hop on the metro up to Pigalle in Montmartre (the 18th Arrondissement) and head up the hill to Sacre Coeur church – you can walk up the gardens or take the funicular. If you walk, beware of the ‘string men’ who loiter at the foot of the hill and try to put string bracelets on your wrists (who then want money from you, and who then look into your wallet while you’re haphazardly paying them for the bracelet you didn’t want, in order to rob you later) – so, be smart!
11am – Take in the view from Sacre Coeur – you can see right across Paris. Wander around Place du Tertre, a square full of artists painting out in the square and offering their paintings for sale. Pick yourself up a print or painting to remind yourself of your fleeting visit to this magical city.
12 Midday – Hop a metro back to Square Saint-Médard (metro stop: Censier-Daubenton or Place Monge) and take in lunch at my favourite bistro in the world – Cave la Bourgogne. Have the Salade complète, for an epic salad experience that is off the scale, and enjoy a pastis or grande biere either out on the terrace or inside in the convivial Cave la Bourgogne atmosphere. It’s the only way to end a 24 hour challenge!
All photos © Hannah Henderson and may not be used without permission (sharing this blog post is fine, though!)