In tandem with my recent trip back to London, my friend and I also decided that we were going to spend a day in Paris, too. London to Paris is only two hours by high-speed train, so it was an easy decision! Of course, I was informed by my British friends that only going to Paris for a day while you’re staying in London is “very American.” But can you blame us?! When you’re a short little train ride over from Paris at Christmastime… who could say no?

We had a 7a train to Paris, which put us in the city by 9a; our return trip departed at 9p – resulting in twelve hours to take the city! I had been to Paris for a few days prior, but my best friend hadn’t. We had to hit the Eiffel Tower and the major icons of Paris down the Seine, but my favorite area of the city is Montmartre. It’s entirely possible to do all of the highlights in the city in one day – here’s the itinerary for how to do it!

9a – Arrive at Paris Gare du Nord 

Once you get to Paris, you arrive at the train station Gare du Nord. In order to maximize the amount of time that we had, we took a taxi straight to the Eiffel Tower. It was only about a 20 minute taxi ride, but this is entirely dependent on traffic! We definitely had an issue or two with traffic, but that’s no different than any metropolitan city.

10a – Eiffel Tower and the Seine 

Once you are at the Eiffel Tower, you can take a 90-minute walk down the Seine that deposits you at the Louvre. It’s only a short walk from Notre Dame from the Louvre, too. You can see all of the major tourist destinations on this morning walk down the river – plus, it’s gorgeous. A walk down the Seine is never a bad idea.

11a – Must. Eat. Crêpes. 

We stopped at a cafe called La Frégate, right on the street. I’d highly recommend. Cafes aren’t exactly rare in Paris – but the wait staff was very accommodating and graciously let me stumble through broken French. They even brought us chocolate crêpes, even though they weren’t on the lunch menu. Coffee, yes. Chocolate crêpes, yes. Excellent service? Mais, oui.

12p – The Louvre 

We crossed the river from La Frégate and ended up in the gardens of the Louvre. I personally don’t think that it’s worth going in… it’s often crowded and I’m lucky enough to have a lot of museum collections at my fingertips in Chicago. However, it’s definitely worth seeing the surrounding gardens and the infamous pyramid.

1p – The Sacre Cœur 

Sacre Cœur is one of my favorite places in the world. It is easily my favorite place in Paris. This cathedral has been around for centuries. There has been someone praying for peace in the world 24/7 since its inception. Let that sink in. Since the cathedral was built, they have had someone on rotation praying for the state of the world.

Whether you’re religious or not, it’s worth a stop for the architecture and the stunning view of all Paris. My friend and I did take the opportunity to buy a rosary as a memento, light a candle, and say a prayer.

3p – Late Lunch at La Bohème du Tertre

I visited this restaurant in Montmatre the last time I was there (3 years ago!) and went again when we visited. It’s still delicious! The carbonara will change your life and make you a better person.

I did realize that my French is still pretty solid at lunch though, because I got into an argument with the waitress regarding how Diet Coke and Coca-Cola are not the same.

4p – Thrift, shop, find more crêpes. 

You don’t need a perfect guide list to make your way through this area of Paris. Get a little lost! Montmatre is known as the artist’s village of Paris (the Moulin Rouge is nearby!) and there are shops everywhere.

My friend and I took the opportunity to vintage shop (because Paris, duh) and score some fur coats and accessories that were incredibly discounted due to the resale market in Paris. We popped in and out of art galleries, found more tiny little places to grab crêpes and coffee, and found more places to spend money.

7p – Taxi back to Gare du Nord 

The trip from London to Paris is international, so it’s recommended you’re at the train station an hour before your train. We taxied from the Montmartre area back to Gare du Nord, and then found a bistro across the street to eat and sip until the time had come for us to check in.

So there you have it! Paris in 12-hours. It’s entirely possible. Walk from the Eiffel Tower down the Seine to the Louvre in the morning for the main attractions – and spend your afternoon lounging about Montmartre.

C’est magnifique.