What to Do on Your First Day in Paris

by Traveling Professor on June 28, 2011

Here is an itinerary to get started on the right foot when visiting Paris for the first time.  It helps familiarize you with the city and gets you to see some great sites right away.

Notre Dame, Small Group Tours to Paris

A Vist to the Cathedral of Notre Dame is Perfect for Your First Day in Paris

You will:

•    Use the métro.
•    Get a general idea of the layout of the city.
•    Visit Notre Dame Cathedral.
•    Walk along the Seine to the Tuileries Garden past the Louvre.
•    View the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay.
•    Cross the Seine and walk through St. Germain des-Prés and the Latin Quarter.
•    Have your first Paris café experience.

Most international flights land in the morning at CDG airport.  Try to take care of some business at the terminal.  Withdraw some euros from the ATM if possible.  Pick up a Museum Pass at the orange “Touriste Information” booth at the airport.

Upon touching down in Paris, you may or may not have jet lag.  In any case, adrenaline will sustain the excitement of your first day.  Get over to the hotel, check in and drop your luggage.  Take a nap if possible.  You’ll have at least half a day to get a general familiarization of the layout and transportation system of Paris.

The best place to start your excursion is right smack in the middle of Paris in front of the Notre Dame Cathedral.  It is truly the center of France as indicated by the brass “Paris Point Zero” marker, the point from which all distances in France are measured.

To get to Notre Dame, get on the métro (see the section on “Transportation”) and head towards the Cité métro station.  As you climb out of the underground, you will be a bit disoriented.  However, some short steps one way or another you will recognize the towers of Notre Dame.

Walk in the direction of the towers to the plaza in front of the Cathedral.  It is known as the “Parvis”.  When standing on the Parvis facing away from the cathedral, notice that you are on an island.  On the left across the river is the left bank where the Latin Quarter is.  On the other side is the right bank, of course.

Take a visit inside the cathedral.  There is no admission charge.  When leaving, walk away from Notre Dame and cross the first bridge on the left, Petit Pont.  You are now on the left bank.  Walk along the Seine.  Notice the “bouqinistes” selling their ancient books and magazines from their metal stands.  It’s a great photo op.  Walk down past the Pont Saint-Michel along the Seine.  The next bridge is Pont-Neuf.  Crossing over it, there is a spectacular view of the Eiffel Tower.  By the way, at this point you can walk down the stairs to the point of Île de la Cité and take one of the Bateaux Vedettes du Pont-Neuf which is a boat ride that provides a lovely tour up and down the Seine.  I suggest it to give your legs a rest and relax and enjoy the cruise.

Otherwise, continue walking until you arrive on the right bank.  Make a left and continue walking down the Seine.  The massive Musée de Louvre greets you on the right.  Keep walking past the Pont des Arts, Pont du Carrousel, and Pont Royal.  On the right will be the Tuileries Gardens.

Cross the Seine again at the next footbridge.  Again, get a spectacular look at the Eiffel Tower.  After crossing the Seine make a left.  Pass the Musée d’Orsay and walk back towards Notre Dame.

When you get back to Petit Pont, carefully cross the street and look for the Café Petit Pont.  It’s the perfect spot for a café au lait and a divine view of Notre Dame.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: