A week in Paris wasn’t enough to do everything we wanted to, so a day is going to be even more of a challenge. Especially if you want to have the perfect day in Paris.
But, god forbid you only have 24 hours to spend in the City of Light, prioritize the following items and you will definitely NOT be sorry.
Breakfast: espresso, fresh-pressed juice, and pain au chocolat at any brasserie or café
Pain au chocolat is basically just a golden, flaky croissant with bits of chocolate in its layers. Please enjoy as many of these as you can abroad, as you’re unlikely to find its equal once you return to the United States. And espresso is the highly-concentrated, extremely pungent, jet-fuel of a drink that will help you see sounds and enjoy your day. We recommend a double with cream if you’re not down for full-on jet-fuel!
The best part is, nearly any brasserie or cafe will do – simply choose one you like the looks of, approach, and sit down at a table. Someone will be out shortly to provide menus and take your order.
Make sure to linger a bit with your breakfast. French meals should never be rushed – and there’s only so fast you can drink an espresso shot, anyway.
Things to do, part 1: get touristy in the morning
- Walk around Île-de-la-Cité and enjoy the ambiance (and, you know, Notre Dame).
- Or, head over to Montmartre for beautiful street scenes and Sacré Coeur.
Lunch: Sit on the banks of the Seine with local baguette and charcuterie/fromage.
It’s very romantic to pick out food from local eateries, but it’s quicker and more affordable to nab some wine, Serrano ham, and brie from a Franprix and a baguette or two from a nearby boulangerie. Bring a few other essentials (flatware, napkins, plastic cups), and you’ve got yourself a very tasty picnic. Linger here even longer than you did at breakfast, because the view is 100% impossible to leave.
If you’re here on a weekend in the spring, you might get to watch some locals drink beer and play pétanque on the courts near the river.
Boyfriend Perspective: Seriously, we could have eaten a baguette, meat, cheese, and wine every meal with complete satisfaction. The multitude of FranPrix and boulangeries make this very easy to do. For gluten free travelers, there were at least a dozen bakeries just for gluten free around the city with high quality goods. Search “gluten free” on Google Maps, and you should be a short metro to enjoying food like everyone else.
Things to do, part 2: Get off the beaten track in the afternoon
- Head up, up, up to the 59th story of Montparnasse Tower to see the city.
- Voyage into the dusty past at La Galcante.
- Indulge in macarons from Pierre Hermé.
Dinner: Les Ombres
Les Ombres only takes reservations a few weeks in advance, so make sure to watch their online scheduling tool and book a table early. Make sure to book a time slot that includes sunset and dusk.
Once you arrive, you can choose to sit in the sun or in the shade – don’t bother picking shade, as the sun will keep moving. Order a glass (or a bottle!) of rosé and enjoy the view. Once you finish your meal, walk out on their rooftop deck and watch the Eiffel Tower light up the night. Then, head out and across the Pont de l’Alma for an even more romantic view of the brilliant tower overlooking the city.
Boyfriend Perspective: There are a few other restaurants with a view of the tower that we weren’t able to try, though the roof top view is only at Les Ombres. Just know that – at least for us – we ended up really paying for the view and experience more than the actual food.
Dessert and drinks: Harry’s New York Bar
If you’re lucky, while walking from the nearest metro stop to Harry’s, you may stumble upon a group of people of all ages dancing the tango on the steps of the opera house. Make sure you stop to drink it in, even though the night is slipping away.
When you enter through the bar’s saloon doors, ask to be seated downstairs. There, you’ll find two seasoned musicians at a piano and drumkit, playing live jazz for the small, intimate room. Order a French 75, a Sidecar, or a Monkey Gland (it’s delicious and not at all what it sounds like!!), and enjoy the red velvet, dark wood, and fantastic ambiance. If you’re lucky, you might hear some riffs on the oh-so-classic notes of Cole Porter. If so, be prepared for your soul to briefly leave your body.
Boyfriend Perspective: The downstairs of Harry’s is legitimate a time machine to the Golden Age. Feel free to dress up a bit to enjoy the classy table-side service of the bartenders and exquisite sounds of 1920s – 60s while you cozy up to your date for the evening.
Also published on Medium.