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What to do in Paris for a day: Top three cultural sights

Whether you’re trying to squeeze a Paris holiday into an already busy 2020 trip to Europe, or just fancy a day trip to from London, you can definitely get your Parisienne fix in less than 24 hours.

day trip to Paris
Orsay Museum photographed by RBNRAW

Here are my top three things to do when taking a day trip to Paris on the Eurostar (yes, a plane is cheaper, but let’s save the planet).

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First things first is the Eiffel Tower, of course, which has a funny history. It was built in 1889 by the same man who designed the Statue of Liberty (which was a gift from France to the USA), but it was hated at first. More than 300 artists signed a petition calling it “useless and monstrous” and one ate at the tower’s restaurant simply because it was the only place from which you couldn’t see the tower!

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24 hours in Paris - things to do

There are three levels allowing you to see more and more of the city step by step (well, floor by floor unless you’re taking the stairs). The glass lift can be difficult for those with vertigo, and the journey from the second to the third floor made me worry we’d burst through the top like something out of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it was totally worth it.

Next on your itinerary should be the Louvre Museum — an incredible building adorned with glass pyramids in the foreground. It is both an Instagrammer hotspot and a place to see some world-famous art, including the Mona Lisa.

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paris city break guide: what to do and things to see

Another funny story, this painting was stolen before the days of alarms and technological security and nobody even noticed for 24 hours. Vincenzo Peruggia hid in a closet until the museum closed then rolled up the painting and walked out. The artist Picasso was questioned by police but eventually Vincenzo tried to sell it, unfortunately (for him) it was to an Italian gallery owner who alerted the police.

Last but not least is one of the largest museums in Europe, the Orsay Museum. It is famed or its art collection, which includes the largest collection of impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world and works by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh.

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day trip to Paris
Photo by Johan Mouchet

However, this isn’t the only appeal. Sitting to the side of the Seine River, the museum is housed in Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built at the end of the 19th century. Today you can still see much of the original architecture, including incredible glass ceilings and a huge clock face.


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