Paris is one of the most popular cities in the entire world. It's the sort of place people romanticize in their minds and dream of eventually visiting.
And while most people will undoubtedly plan to spend at least a few days exploring Paris, I realize there are other times when you might be tacking Paris onto another trip, or perhaps including it in a whirlwind tour of Europe.
If you find yourself with just a night or two in Paris but still want to see as much as possible, then you need to know that there are options out there to help you experience the best of Paris in just one day!
Can you really see Paris in one day?
I mean, technically no, there's no way to see ALL of Paris in just one day. But it IS possible to see a heck of a lot of Paris' highlights in about 12 hours.
You can do it on your own if you're up for some very careful planning. Or, you can do what I did and book a Paris in a Day tour, and have someone else figure out all the logistics for you!
And just WHO would want to squeeze the best parts of Paris into one day of sightseeing? Perhaps…
- People who only have a layover or 1-2 nights in Paris before traveling elsewhere.
- People who want to get all the major sightseeing out of the way first, and then take the rest of their Paris visit more slowly.
- People who get overwhelmed by the sheer number of museums, landmarks, and activities in Paris and who would love for someone to just cherry pick the best things for them.
- And people like me, who are curious about how much you really can squeeze into one day in Paris!
On my most recent visit to Paris, I decided I wanted to try out one of these “Paris in a Day” tours for myself, to make my own judgment call on whether they're worth it or not.
And the verdict? I think that, in the right circumstances, taking a guided day tour around Paris can be a great idea! Read on to find out why.
Paris in a Day Tour with Walks
The specific Paris in a Day tour I chose to book was this one, with a company called Walks that I've used many times in the past in cities like Rome and Venice and even London. Walks hires local guides who provide you with insider knowledge – and sometimes even special access – that make their tours worth every penny.
The Paris in a Day tour promised to be similarly awesome, covering all the Paris highlights from the streets of artsy Montmartre to the Louvre and Eiffel Tower.
My husband Elliot and I took this tour in mid-May, and even though our day ended up being about 10 hours long, it honestly felt like one of the more relaxed tours I've ever been on!
Here's what to expect…
Paris in a Day tour highlights
1. Morning in Montmartre
Our Paris in a Day tour began just before 9 a.m. in the 18th arrondisement, also known as Montmartre. We met our guide, Violette, and the rest of our small group (group size is capped at 15) outside a Metro stop, and soon began a leisurely walking tour around the artsy neighborhood.
Starting this tour in Montmartre was perfect. It's one of the most popular neighborhoods in Paris, but is usually sleepy and quiet if you visit before 10 a.m. Even though I knew it would be teeming with tourists later in the day, we didn't run into very many other people as we walked around.
We began by taking the funicular up the hill to visit Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and then strolled as Violette told us about all the famous artists who used to call the area home. We also walked through the charming Place du Tertre, where local artists were just starting to set up their booths for the day.
The pace was truly relaxed – we even stopped at a cute little cafe away from the touristy spots for a coffee and pastry. The perfect way to start a morning in Paris.
2. Île de la Cité
From Montmartre, we hopped on the Metro (tickets provided as part of the tour) and headed over to the Île de la Cité, the island in the middle of the Seine where the city of Paris was first founded.
Here, we walked by the famous Notre Dame cathedral (it's still being restored after a 2019 fire, so you can't go inside), and passed by the city's first hospital and former royal palace. Violette shared a ton of history as we walked, eventually leading us back across the river into Paris' Latin Quarter.
3. The Louvre
We had a brief 1-hour break for lunch (just enough time for a grab-and-go from a bakery; if we'd planned ahead, I would have perhaps packed a picnic lunch to enjoy in a nearby park), and then met back at The Louvre.
The Louvre is the most famous and most-visited art museum in the world – and also the largest. It's housed in a former royal palace on the Right Bank of the Seine, and displays 35,000+ pieces of artwork (out of a collection that totals more than 500,000 pieces) in hundreds of rooms.
Even if you had a week, there's no way you could see everything in the Louvre. So it was great, therefore, that we had such an expert guide for the 2 hours we spent inside the museum.
I'll admit that I'm not usually one to spend a lot of time inside art museums, but two hours inside the Louvre absolutely flew by. Violette made sure we saw all the most famous pieces (like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa, of course), but also pointed out a lot of other notable things and some of her personal favorite pieces.
Could we have spent more time here? Definitely. But a 2-hour introduction was great, and plenty of time to tick off a lot of things from our must-see list.
4. Eiffel Tower
From the Louvre, we then made our way to the 7th arrondisement and the Eiffel Tower.
We were going to take a bus, but due to super crowded buses caused by a Metro line closure (line closures and strikes are not uncommon in Paris!), Violette made the decision for us to take the Metro instead. Again, having a local guide who could quickly come up with an alternate plan was invaluable!
Tickets to go up to the second level of the Eiffel Tower are included on this tour, but the guided part of our day ended here. Violette walked us right up to the entrance of the Eiffel Tower, handed over our remaining tickets for the day, and then we said our goodbyes. I couldn't believe it was already after 4 p.m.!
Eiffel Tower ticket timings can vary slightly depending on the day, but ours were for just before 5 p.m., so we got right in line for the elevators to go up to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower.
You can pay extra to upgrade your ticket to go up to the summit of the tower, but I honestly don't think it would be worth it. In fact, I don't know that I'd recommend paying to go up the Eiffel Tower on your own at all!
It's cool and all to say you've done it, but the line for the elevator can be long (thankfully on this tour we didn't have to wait in an additional line to buy tickets!), and I don't actually think the Eiffel Tower offers up the best view in Paris.
Why? Because when you're up the Eiffel Tower, you can't SEE the Eiffel Tower in the skyline! (For the best views, the Arc de Triomphe and Montparnasse Tower offer the best paid views, in my opinion, and the rooftop deck at the Galeries Lafayette shopping mall offers up a decent free view.)
Having this Eiffel Tower ticket included in the tour, though, was a good excuse to check it out, and overall I'm glad I can at least say I've done it now!
5. Seine cruise
The tour didn't end there, either! One more thing is included: a ticket for a one-hour cruise on the Seine River.
You technically don't have to use this ticket on the same day as your tour, but Elliot and I decided to go for it. We ended up getting on a boat at 6:30 p.m., and we enjoyed the cruise more than we expected to.
Touristy river cruises aren't always something I recommend in big cities, but in Paris the Seine is just so beautiful that I DO think one is worth doing here. The cruise we did was not narrated, but there was a really good audio commentary you could listen to for free via a smartphone app.
Our boat was quite full, but there was enough outdoor seating on the top deck for everyone to have a good view.
And, because the cruises begin/end right across the street from the Eiffel Tower, you might even be able to time it right to have a picnic dinner on the Champ de Mars and stick around for the tower to “sparkle” after dark. (Just note that the Eiffel Tower isn't lit up until well after sunset, which can be 10 p.m. during the summer months!)
What a perfect way to end a very full day in Paris!
Book this tour here: Paris in a Day Tour with Walks
Why take a guided day tour of Paris like this?
Do you NEED to take a Paris tour like this? Perhaps not. You could certainly do all of these things separately and on your own. But here are a few reasons you might want to book this tour anyway, even if you're not especially short on time in Paris:
1. Having an excellent guide
In order to even be able to lead tours inside museums and monuments in France, tour guides have to have a university (or master's) degree, go through a 1-year guide training program, and speak multiple languages. So ANY tour guide you have in Paris is going to be professional and know their stuff.
Our guide on this tour, Violette, happened to have a master's degree in art history, which was lucky for us in the Louvre especially!
I've taken many tours with Walks in different European cities, and they always hire super knowledgable and professional guides who know a lot about the city they're guiding in.
2. Ease of getting around
If you noticed, we traveled between several different Paris neighborhoods throughout the course of the day using public transport. But we didn't have to stress about navigating the Metro system or reading bus timetables on our own. Our guide handled all of that, and even had all our transit tickets purchased for us ahead of time.
This is a great way to introduce tourists to Paris' public transport system, and also is just the most environmentally-friendly way for a tour group to get around.
3. Skipping the lines
Going on a tour like this means not having to stand in any ticket lines or entrance lines, which in itself is probably worth the price of the tour! Other than waiting in line for the elevators at the Eiffel Tower, we didn't stand in line for anything all day – talk about maximizing your time!
Is a Paris in a Day tour worth it?
In my opinion? Yes!
Elliot and I weren't pressed for time in Paris (in fact, we had nearly 5 days there), but we both agreed that this tour was a great way to check off some of the major highlights and get an overall feel for the city all at once.
And, like I already said, this tour managed (somehow; I'm still impressed) to not feel too rushed – with maybe the exception of the one hour for lunch.
You can book the same tour we did here: Paris in a Day Tour with Walks
One caveat to all my praise is that this tour does require a LOT of walking. I'm not sure how many miles we walked in total between Montmartre, Île de la Cité, and inside the Louvre, but my feet were definitely hurting by the end of the day! So definitely wear good walking shoes.
Have more time? Check out my 5 days in Paris itinerary, too!
Other Walks tours I've done that you can read about include:
- Here’s How You Can Take a Day Trip to the Amalfi Coast from Rome
- Why You Need to Take a Guided Tour of the Vatican
- Behind the Scenes at the Colosseum
- Venice Survival Guide: Tips to Help You Love Your First Trip to Venice
Would you want to see Paris in a day like this?