Paris was my beloved aunt’s city. She actually lived in Melun (which is only 1 hour away) for over 30 years so she would get to spend the day in Paris every time she could. Everything I know about this beautiful city, she made me discover it. That is why as part of my grief journey (courtesy of my husband as a birthday present) I decided to return to Paris for the day on the 18th of February 2016, on my own, dedicating all my thoughts to remember her and how much she meant to me whilst wandering around the same streets she would have walked along when she was still alive.
It was an extremely cold day, it started snowing in the morning and the sky was so grey it seemed to feel miserable. I felt really inconsolable at first. And then I passed next to a charming shop and entered it attracted by its windows. I got myself a lovely kitchen towel with a very old style French pub advertisement printed on it. All of the sudden I remembered my aunt would recommend me to be joyful and lively, the mood of the day changed completely by then and I really made the most of it, forgetting all self pity which had tried to get in the way!
It was not the first time I would go to Paris for the day only. If you live in London it is quite easy to get an Eurostar train early in the morning and one to get back late at evening. If you have only 24 hours to spend in Paris for any particular other reason (business trip, interchange for a trip to another destination, a special occasion to celebrate on the day, ecc), I have the perfect itinerary to visit all the most important attractions of this dream city which I know quite well by now. I managed to follow this trail 3 times already with no big issues (but a lot of walking!). You will probably need a good map of Paris to move around if you are not familiar at all.
1. Start with Luxembourg Gardens (Luxembourg metro stop – or Port Royal if you have a bit more time – on the RER line B), a beautiful park with its Palace where the French Senate meets up regularly. Once you wondered around (don’t miss Fontain Medicis , the Palais itself with a beautiful hexagonal central fountain and the tiny Statue of Liberty), you have a couple of options from here.
2. – Proceed north towards Église Saint Sulpice and then Église de Saint Germain des Prés
– Proceed east to see the Pantheon
3. Then walk back (east or north) to wonder around the Latin Quarter, full of university students, bookshops and restaurants of all types of cuisines (streets all around Paroisse de Saint-Séverin).
4. You can now cross onto Ile de la Site using Pont Saint Michel from where you can already see Notre Dame de Paris. Turn right walking towards it and all around it (stop at the back of Notre Dame on Pont Saint Louis for the view on the other Seine island on one side and Tower de Jacques with other monuments on the other side).
5. Other things to see on Ile de la Site are: Marché aux fleures on Place Louis Lepine; Place Dauphine (silent cute square where you can see the back of Palais de Justice) and Square du Vert Galant (little garden at the other end of the island from which you can see Pont des Arts and Le Louvre).
6. Head north and cross back on ‘land’ to walk on the Parvis de l’Hotel de Ville (with an historical beautiful Merry go Round and around Xmas time a lovely massive ice rink in the square) and walk up Rue du Renard to then turn left in Rue du Cloitre Saint-Merri. You will arrive in front of the eccentric Fontaine Stravinsky and next to Centre Pompidou.
7. Head west on Rue Rambuteau which is very alive and full of cafes where you can have lunch (I usually stop at ‘Au pere tranquille’ in the corner) and then walk in Les Halles area, where you have the beautiful Paroisse Saint-Eustache, Nelson Mandela Gardens and the round building in front of it, Paris Bourse (financial market headquarters).
8. Don’t miss Palais Royale with the first inner courtyard containing ‘Les Colonnes de Buren’ and the second part ‘Galerie d’Orlean’ offering a lovely garden to rest for a bit.
9. Cross a few streets on the other side and you can enter through Passage Rechellieu the magnificent courtyard of Le Louvre containing the famous Pyramids as mentioned in ‘The Da Vince Code’ .
10. Head towards the Carrousel and wonder around the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries where you can sit on very comfy metal sun loungers available everywhere in the park but especially around the round fountain at the other end of this park where les Champs Ellyses start.
11. I am not a big fan of Champs Ellyses, I suppose it’s a must in Paris if you like expensive shopping … However I always skip that area and I take the metro from Place de la Concorde to get off at Ecole Militaire to admire the Effeil Tower from the Champs de Mars and I walk my way underneath it up to the Trocadero. If I have enough time left I go on top of it as well, however you have to count waiting time for the queue and the lifts to take you up, though it’s really worth it!
12. At this point, I usually jump back on the tube for my final stop in Anvers, the nearest tube to get the Funiculaire to Sacre Coeur and have a wander in Montmartre. I love the atmosphere on the main stairs underneath Sacre Coeur church, where people usually sit down and sing songs together. This last location makes it quite easy for me to catch my train back to London from Gare du Nord.
I hope you will enjoy this itinerary, it’s a lot to do in one day so use it only if you have no other choice, otherwise I would recommend to slow down and enjoy every neighbourhood and dedicate more time to every attraction. Enjoy your time as French people say ‘Paris serat toujours Paris!’.
PS All pictures in this post were taken by myself in February 2016.