The Left Bank of the City of Light is romantic and bustling with Parisian life. It’s brimming with things to do, see, imbibe, and enjoy. But how do you see the highlights all in one day? Here’s a possible agenda from bestselling travel pro PJ Adams for maximizing your one day-into-evening on the Left Bank. (Important Tip: Wear good shoes and rest or take a cab as needed.)
Start at the Eiffel Tower. (Opens at 9 am June-September, 9:30 a.m. the rest of the year).
Visit this Paris icon when it first opens to beat the crowds. Zoom up in the elevator to the top, then stroll down via the stairs as you take photos of beautiful Paris below you. Important tip: you’ll see lots of police around the tower since pickpockets are plentiful. Keep your valuables close to your chest in a cross body bag OR in some kind of case inside your clothing. Also keep your phones and cameras close. But don’t let these cautions dim your enjoyment of the Eiffel—one of the most beautiful sights on the planet.
Walk east from the Eiffel Tower, then walk north up the Avenue de la Bourdonnais and turn east on Rue St. Dominique. Along this street you’ll see half a dozen of the best dining venues in all of Paris along this one boulevard! (I especially enjoy Christian Constant’s two eateries, Les Cocottes and Violon d’Ingres). Go past La Fontaine de Mars (another one of my favorite bistros and where President Obama dined with First Lady Michelle) to Rue Cler. Wander along this famous market street and have a café crème at Café du Marche or buy some goodies to take home.
Wander further past the Hotel Des Invalides, the fascinating army museum where Napoleon is buried, then either stop here OR walk further to the magical Rodin Museum on Rue de Varenne. This garden and sculpture oasis in the middle of Paris is filled with famous statuary like The Thinker set amidst enchanting greenery. Have a sublime visit wandering through the gardens and around the fountain. Then go into the museum where Auguste Rodin and his lover, Camille Claudel, have some of their finest works. Lunch is offered in the café.
Next, head northeast for Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés on foot or via taxi. Then, stroll this delightful avenue where all of Paris passes by. You’ll find some of the most famous literary cafés along the way, Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Creatives of all kinds frequented these places including Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre, Pablo Picasso, and James Joyce. Take a photo or stop for coffee if you need a boost; I wouldn’t recommend the food as its pricey, but the people watching is divine.
Wander (or take a taxi) further east on Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés until you see Boulevard Saint Michel. Head south. Go a few blocks until you see Rue Soufflot and turn east. Here you’ll see the magnificent Pantheon standing before you. Inside this marble domed former church are some of the most exquisite statues in Paris. Down below are the tombs of such legends as Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Madame Curie, and Émile Zola. Be sure to go to the end of the chamber where there is a delightful room with a video detailing the history of the building and its famous residents.
Be sure to have a reservation at Bistro L’Estrapade nearby. (Call first to reserve since seating is limited.) This is one of the finest tiny bistros in Paris. The chef’s menu is always superb and the staff are charming.
After dinner, wander further south into the Latin Quarter to see more of Old Paris. OR you can head north and finish your evening at the Seine River, gazing at Notre Dame. You’ll find many cafés and pubs open for an after-dinner apéritif along the river or in the meandering avenues off the Seine. The lights are dazzling – and the boats drifting up and down the Seine make for magical photography!
Further Note: If you can add an extra day or two for the Left Bank, don’t miss the Musée D’Orsay, Le Bon Marché (the big department store), Raspail Market, Luxembourg Gardens, and legendary St. Sulpice. You’ll find plenty of cafés, restaurants, chocolate shops, and food & wine boutiques along the way.
PJ Adams is the best selling author of several travel books including: Intoxicating Paris: Uncorking the Parisian Within and Intoxicating Southern France: Uncorking the Magic in the French Riviera, Provence, Languedoc, Dordogne, and Bordeaux