How to visit Paris in 12 hours?
January 1, 1970
by Nguyen Giang
In June 2015 I made a little Europe tour visiting Brussels, Paris and Murcia. Since my goal was to reach Murcia and stayed there for a few days, I could just only pass by the other two cities. Luckily I still managed to stay in Paris for a day, more exactly 12 hours. I arrived there at night, so I spent a night in a hostel and the next day I woke up at 6am and I went sightseeing until 6pm. Although Paris is quite big, but I was succeed in seeing most of the famous attractions. Few tips you should pay attention to and maybe plan it beforehand to save time:
Make a plan
I knew I didn’t have a lot of time here, so I made a plan beforehand what I wanted to see. I made a priority about what I definitely wanted to see, but not which way to get there. I searched for the public transport, how to get from point A to point B, but it was kind of useless, since when you get to the place you will find out that the real world is different than the Internet. Sometimes I just looked at the timetable of the bus, get on it and go spontaneously. If you look at the map I draw the line of my route, you will see that I didn’t have any structures in visiting the attractions. That’s why when you plan your route you should search for the tourist map on the Internet or buy a tourist guide book and draw the way you want to go, what you want to visit.
You will need a tourist map
I didn’t print out a map, instead I took many photos about the road, how to get from one place to the other. I watched the map for a longtime, nearly memorized all of the road of Paris (just kidding). But the moment I got there, I really wished I had a real map at least a tourist map. From Google Maps, I couldn’t really find my way, so there was time I was totally lost. Having a map about the metro or bus line is also useful. If not then make sure you have mobile net, that you can use on your way.
Buy a one-day pass
Paris is pretty big. If we just think about Champs-Élysées, it is really hard walking along it from la Concorde to l’Arc de Triomphe. It also consumes a lot of time just walking around, so you would want to use a public transport, especially the metro, since traffic jam is common is Paris. Since all of the tourist attraction’s names are also the station’s name, it will be easier to find your way.
One thing about the ticket machines in Paris. You can find them in the subway, before entering the metro. But most of the machines only accept bank card or coins, not a bank note. So if you buy a ticket or a daily pass from the machine, make sure you have at least sum of 20 euro in coins, if not you will suffer going to change your bank note. Or you can just simply use your bank card.
Ask the local
If you can’t find your way, or the entry of the subway you want to take, ask the local. If you speak French, this is also a good chance to practice your language. But if you only speak English, people will also answer you kindly, so do not hesitate asking local people. They won’t look down on you.
Choose your accomodation wisely
When you choose your accomodation, do not just go for a cheap one, but also for a convenient one. If you book your accomodation far from the centre it will also consume your time with travelling. So if you know you won’t stay for a long time in Paris, book a hotel near to the tourist attractions, so you will have more time to enjoy Paris.
Listen to your instinct
Sometimes you might get lost and don’t know how to get from one point to another, but don’t get scared. In stressful situation your intuition will guide you if not to the right place, then to the place that will calm you down, satisfy you and it is going to suprise you a lot.
Places I visited in order+a few general information about it
Situated in the Turkish quarter, was near to my accomodation so it was the first place I visit. It was at 6am when I left the hostel. Since it was early morning, when I got there people were cleaning the square in front of the basilica. Inside there were also people who went there to pray. From here you can see a beautiful panoramic views of the capital, from 130 metres above ground. It is in a Roman-Byzantine style and is recognized by its white colour. Though I didn’t go inside, but there is a chance to visit the crypt. And to go even higher up, you can access the dome where the 360° view of Paris is magnificent.
Here I had to buy a one day-pass from the machine, and since I didn’t have coins, I had to go change it. It was early morning, so there wasn’t a lot of shop that could give me changes, so I went to the restaurant to have breakfast and of course to get coins.
About the square, it was created in 1803. There is a high statue in the middle of the square, the Colonne de Juillet, a column commemorating another revolution in 1830. The 52 meter high column honors the 504 victims during the three days of the revolution. Another 196 victims of another revolution were added to the crypt in 1848. The column is topped by the ‘Spirit of Liberty’ statue.
After eating I took metro to go to the Louvre. The station’s name was Louvre, so I just got off there, but I couldn’t find the pyramid, only the Palace.
About the Louvre, its collections lets visitors discover Western art from the Middle Ages to 1848, as well as a large number of ancient civilizations. The grand palace that houses the museum dates back to the late 12. century, and is a true lesson in architecture.
Since I couldn’t find the Pyramid at the Louvre, I kept going and actually got lost between the buildings, then I found a bus that went to Eiffel Tower. Reaching the tower, which was on the riverside of the Seine, I also got to see the Love Lock Bridge near it, and Musée d’Orsay.
About the tower it was built by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World Fair, held to commemorate the centennial of the Revolution. Today, the highlight of a visit is the supreme view over Paris from the tower.
Arc de Triomphe
After Eiffel Tower I got on the bus till middle of Champs-Élysées from where I walked to l’Arc de Triomphe. It was a really tough part of walking, since it was sunny, hot and due to the traffic jam, I couldn’t breath. But hard work pays off, because the moment I saw l’Arc de Triomphe, it became one of my favourite tourist attraction.
About the triumphal arch, it was built in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars. Engraved on the inside and at the top of the arch are all of the names of the generals and wars fought. There are inscriptions in the ground underneath the vault of the arch which include the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I where the Memorial Flame burns and have made the Arc de Triomphe Paris a revered patriotic site.
After reaching Arc de Triomphe, I went back to Place de la Concorde, the other end of Champs-Élysées by bus. It is famous for the Luxor Obelisk, a 3,300 year-old Egyptian obelisk, the surrounding prestigious hotels, and the two monumental fountains (Fontaine des Mers and Fontaine des Fleuves). Created in 1772, Place de la Concorde was originally known for having been an execution site during the French Revolution. Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette were also guillotined here. Between 1836 and 1846 the architect Jacques-Ignace Hittorf redesigned the square to become what it is today.
The Notre Dame de Paris (meaning ‘Our Lady of Paris’ in French) is a Gothic cathedral. It was one of the very first Gothic cathedrals, and its construction took place throughout the Gothic period. Building work began in the 12th century. Now it is one of the most prominent cathedrals in France and one of the oldest ones too. The famous cathedral is also an active Catholic church, a place of pilgrimage for Catholicism in France. Religious events of national significance still take place here. When I got here by public transport, I was amazed by its architecture.
From Notre Dame I got on the cyclo. There is a lot of cyclo in Paris, and they charge around 15 euro per road. By cyclo I went to the Luxembourg Garden, where I had a bit of rest, since I was running all day. It’s definitely a great place in a busy city to chill out.
About the Luxembourg Gardens, it was inspired by the Boboli Gardens in Florence and were created upon the initiative of Queen Marie de Medici in 1612. The gardens, which cover 25 hectares of land, are split into French gardens and English gardens. Between the two, lies a geometric forest and a large pond. The garden has 106 statues spread throughout the park, the monumental Medici fountain, the Orangerie and the Pavillon Davioud.
I also got to see it outside the Luxembourg Garden, but didn’t go near it. Here I was a bit lost and didn’t know how to get to the Louvre, since I couldn’t find it in the morning. By this time it was around 3pm.
About the Panthéon is an early example of Neoclassicism, with a Greek-cross plan and a massive portico of Corinthian columns. The Panthéon’s façade is modeled of the Pantheon in Rome, surmounted by a small dome that resembles to St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. Located in the 5th arrondissement on the top of Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Panthéon looks out over all of Paris.
From Luxembourg Gardens I caught a bus that went back to la Concorde and from there I took metro to the Louvre. This time I succeed in finding the Pyramid, which looked absolutely fascinating. I also realized a small Arch, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which looks similar to Arc de Triomphe, and from the gate of that small Arch you can see l’Arc de Triomphe in a straight line.
About the Louvre Pyramid, it is an addition to the Louvre, which functions as the museum’s main entrance. The pyramid was built in 1989 by the renowned American architect I.M. Pei. The glass pyramid allows the sunlight to enter the underground floor.
This is my last place. It’s a modern quarter of Paris. Here you can also find the Grande Arche, which is similar to l’Arc de Triomphe, but it is larger and covered with glass. The most interesting thing is that from here you can also see the Arc de Triomphe at Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel at Louvre in a straight line.
I also went to the shopping centre here at La Défense to go to toilet, and buy something to eat. After that I went back to Porte Maillot to caught a shuttle bus to the airport.
When I finished seeing everything, I still had nearly 1 hour untill I had to catch the shuttle bus. So it is possible to see Paris’ main tourist attraction in a short time and if you make a good plan (not like mine) you will also be able to enjoy what is inside the buildings, like Louvre, Notre Dame. Most of the tourist attractions are free if you have European citizenship and under 26, so if you have time, you should go inside and take a thorough look in it. You can also use Hop-on-Hop-off bus, in order to watch everything. In my case I don’t like sitting on bus, and I want to explore places by myself, that’s why I choose wandering around. This way I can also get the feeling of Paris, which impressed me a lot and I hope next time I will have more time to explore it more profoundly.