Best Things to Do in Paris in a Day
Paris might not be the first destination that comes to mind when you think about the best places to travel with kids. It’s expensive, chaotic, and full of nostalgic boutique shops, historic museums, and grandiose architecture – all of which sounds delightful… if you’re an adult. But Paris is much more kid-friendly than many of us realize.
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Tips for a One Day in Paris Itinerary
With a host of playgrounds, parks, museums, and unique attractions such as the Musée de la Magie (the magic museum), and of course, famous landmarks like the Eiffel tower, there are plenty of fun things to do even if all you have is one day in Paris. As they say, Paris is always a good idea.
- Since Paris is a huge city, carefully choose all the activities, attractions, and landmarks you want to visit ahead of time.
- Create a document on your phone with all the names of the places you want to see or send yourself an email with your itinerary.
- Then, save each location on Google Maps and favorite them so you can easily find them when you’re out and about.
- Make sure to eat a hearty breakfast, pack a few water bottles and snacks.
- Since most of these places are located in the heart of Paris, you can walk everywhere. Paris is a very walkable city, so put on your comfiest walking shoes and let’s get started! (And if you would rather have someone else organize your day, consider booking a walking tour with Paris Muse or Context Travel). And if you would rather not walk, consider trying a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus tour.
Use this map to help plan your day.
What Can You Do in Paris in One Day?
1. Kick-Off Your Parisian Adventure by Visiting the Cathedral of Notre Dame
The pointed arches, gargoyles, and ornate rose windows make the Cathedral of Notre Dame one of the most magnificent examples of French Gothic architecture. Notre-Dame Cathedral is the heart and soul of Paris, so of course, this is a favorite for tourists.
But trust me when I say the cathedral gets really crowded. On average, 13 million people visit this medieval masterpiece each year. This breaks down to a whopping 30,000 people per day.
Many travelers choose to stay outside and walk along the sides of the Cathedral, admiring the stunning façade, intricate carvings, medieval gargoyles, and dramatic towers.
Kids will probably recognize the Notre Dame cathedral as the home to the beloved Quasimodo from the Disney movie, “The Hunchback of Notre Dame”. If they haven’t seen the movie by any chance, a movie marathon before your Parisian day trip is in order!
Pro tip: Admission to the cathedral is free, but due to the devastating fire that broke out in 2019, the interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral remains closed until further notice.
If you want to spend some additional time on Ile de la Cité, there’s a playground at the back of the cathedral. The famous ice cream store Berthillon, is a quick 10-minute walk if the kids are wanting a snack.
2. Visit the Iconic Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
4 minute short walk from the Cathedral of Notre-Dame
Located just footsteps away from the Notre Dame Cathedral is an English-language bookstore with a LOT of history. If you love new and antique books, history, and a unique view of Notre Dame, then Shakespeare and Company is a must on your Paris itinerary.
Originally opened in 1919, Shakespeare and Company is arguably one of the most fascinating bookshops in the entire world. George Whitman opened the store we know today in 1951.
Many kindred spirits, writers, and artists called this place their home and some of them even lived there for a while. Shakespeare and Company became a hangout for famous authors like Anaïs Nin, Ray Bradbury, Julio Cortázar, Dave Eggers, among others.
What Can You Expect to See at Shakespeare and Company?
- Head to the second floor, and you’ll find a tiny nook where there’s a window overlooking the Notre Dame Cathedral. It’s a great spot to take a photo.
- You’ll also run into Aggie the cat who’s famous for lounging around in the store.
- If you’re looking for souvenirs, this is a great place to pick up a few books. Some of the store’s favorite suggestions include Pablo Neruda’s Love Poems and James Joyce’s Ulysses. You can also get postcards, bookmarks, mugs, and tote bags at the store.
3. Make a Quick Stop at La Maison d’Isabelle and Try the Best Croissants in France
5-minute walk from Shakespeare and Company
You don’t have to walk very far if you want to try a few Parisian treats. If you’re heading to the Musée de la Magie, make a quick stop at La Maison d’Isabelle. This incredible pastry shop beloved by neighbors and food-tourists alike makes the best croissants in Paris.
Their croissants are beautifully buttery, light, crispy, and engulfed in layers upon layers of heavenly goodness. And while you’re at it, get a few pain au chocolat for the choco lovers in the family too.
4. Step into the Wonderful World of Magic at the Musée de la Magie
15 minutes away from Shakespeare and Company and La Maison d’Isabelle
Once you’re done sampling the best croissants in town, step into the unknown at the Musée de la Magie. Also known as the Musée de la Curiosité et de la Magie and the Académie de la Magie, this private collection of optical illusions, fun house mirrors, automatons, historical objects, and interactive magic displays will be a total slam dunk with the kids.
Admission tickets also grant you access to a magic show where magicians perform a few tricks and offer a brief history lesson about the world of magic. The show is perfect for all ages and lasts about 30 minutes or so.
Pro tip: Avoid the long line by booking your tickets in advance. This way, you can choose a time slot that fits your schedule.
5. See the Popular Attractions and Landmarks by Using Water Transport
13 minutes away from Musée de la Magie
With so many things to do and see in the City of Lights, it can be pretty hard to decide where to go next. Plus, your feet and legs could use a little break after walking around for so many hours.
While the easiest way to move around in a city like Paris is to walk, consider spending a little extra by booking a hop on, hop off water transport service like Batobus, which runs every 20 to 30 minutes. If you choose a 24-hour ticket, you can use it for 24 consecutive hours. It’s the best way to see the city when you don’t have much time.
The Batobus is technically a Seine River cruise that stops at these 9 key attractions. You can hop on and off as many times as you want and what’s nearby:
- Tour Eiffel – Aquarium de Paris, Trocadéro
- Invalides – Musée Rodin, Hôtel National des Invalides
- Musée d’Orsay – left bank attractions, Musée d’Orsay and Musée Maillol
- St Germain des Prés – Latin Quarter, Luxembourg Gardens, Les Deux Magots
- Notre-Dame – Sainte Chapelle, Pont Neuf (the oldest bridge that crosses the River Seine)
- Jardin des plantes – Museum of Natural History, Rue Mouffetard, the Pantheon
- Place de la Concorde – Arc de Triomphe, Champs – Élysées, Grand Palais
- Hôtel de Ville – Centre Pompidou, Place des Vosges, Le Marais
- Louvre – Musée du Louvre, Palais Royal, Tuileries Garden
Boat shuttle services are a good option if you and the kids need to take a break from walking. If you need more time to unwind, consider heading to a nearby park. There are many different playgrounds in Paris that kids are sure to love.
6. Places Where you Can Take a Break from Walking Near Musée de la Magie
- The lovely Place des Vosges is one of the oldest squares in Paris and is only about a 6-minute walk from the Musée de la Magie. There’s a huge garden, beautiful buildings, and 17th-century style architecture, so it’s a fantastic place to relax and have a picnic.
- Too tired for a picnic in the park? Then kick back at a cozy cafe like Le Loir dans La Théière, which was inspired by the story of Alice in Wonderland. They offer homemade fresh dishes, desserts, salads, quiches, and cakes.
- When you’re ready to continue exploring the magical city of Paris, you can hop back on the Batobus at the nearest stop, which is Hôtel de Ville. It’s about a 15-18 minute walk from the Place des Vosges square and the Cathedral of Notre Dame, (where you’ll find another Batobus stop).
7. Finish off by Basking in the Beauty of the Eiffel Tower
There are SO many gorgeous sights everywhere you look in the City of Light. But a trip to Paris isn’t complete without a visit to the marvelous Eiffel Tower. Towering at 324 meters (1,063 ft.) tall, the Eiffel Tower, also known as “the iron lady”, is a true architectural wonder.
The tower was built by Gustave Eiffel’s consulting and construction firm to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. The project went through a bunch of ups and downs. But on March 31, 1889, the marvelous Eiffel Tower was finally open to the public and the rest is history.
If you’re thinking of going to the top of the Eiffel Tower, keep in mind that the average visiting time is about 1 ½ hours. If you don’t want to stand an hour in line and walk for an hour or two, the areas surrounding this popular landmark are the perfect place to take photos of the Eiffel tower.
Head to the Parvis de Trocadéro to sit on the grass and watch the sunset. It’s where all the locals hang out and it’s by far, the best place to take pictures of the Eiffel Tower. You can also head to the top of the Paris Pantheon, which offers marvelous tower views.
Is One Day in Paris enough?
Of course, this is only a sampling of all the best things to see in Paris with kids and it’s obviously a full day. We always prefer to spend several days or more in Paris, but realize that isn’t always possible.
If your kids want to see the Mona Lisa or Venus de Milo, swap out the Musée de la Magie and head to the Louvre Museum. Maybe Impressionist artists like Van Gogh and Monet are more appealing? Head to the Musée d’Orsay which is a good place for a snack and taking in the panoramic views from their clock shaped glass windows.
Unfortunately, we wouldn’t recommend visiting the Palace of Versailles if you only have one whole day to explore Paris. It’s a trip on public transport that requires the majority of a day. This would prevent you from enjoying the rest of this beautiful city. Save it for your next trip because we know your first time in Paris won’t be your last.