>  Destinations   >  France   >  Take Walks Paris in a Day tour review

When you’re in ‘the city of light’ for a good time, not a long time, a Paris tour is the best way to make the most of your visit. I only had one day in Paris before joining a bus tour of France and was having trouble deciding what to do. I couldn’t choose between visiting the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Sacré Coeur Basilica, Notre Dame, taking a Seine river cruise, exploring Montmartre, or simply strolling around the city. Doing a “Paris in a Day” tour with Take Walks was the answer to my prayers as I got to do all of these things in – you guessed it – one day! This tour meant I would be able to visit pretty much every major sight in Paris instead of having to pick just one or two places to see on my own.

While visiting all of these things in just nine hours might sound impossible it was actually pretty easy, not to mention a lot of fun. However, I doubt you would be able to manage it without a local who knows the shortcuts. The tour I did with Take Walks arranges the sights in a convenient order and includes metro transport, Skip the Line Access and an expert Parisian guide who shares interesting facts and stories along the way. Perhaps the most important thing is our guide Carolina also stopped us (ahem, that should probably read ‘me’ – I’ve got the worst sense of direction) from getting lost along the way.

view from Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower

Whenever  head out sightseeing I usually spend more time peering at my map and going the wrong way than I do enjoying the things I’ve come to see. Not getting lost while I was out and about meant that I could maximise my one day in Paris without wasting time. We met our Take Walks coordinator at the Anvers metro stop where she ticked off our names and handed out earpieces so we could hear what our guide would be saying with ease. She also introduced us to Carolina when she arrived. One thing that is very important to remember: you need to be on time for the tour as per your Take Walks meeting place instructions. These are easy to follow – even for someone like me who gets lost easily – but a couple of people still arrived 15 minutes after the tour was due to start. If you’re doing any kind of tour, it’s really important to be on time or early.

Paris metro
We met at the ticket booth you can see behind the Anvers metro stop

The Take Walks coordinator with the headsets had already left but luckily Carolina was able to call her to come back. The latecomers were very lucky as we were just about to leave and they nearly missed us all together. Our tour began with a walk to the base of Montmartre hill for a funicular ride to the beautiful Sacré Coeur Basilica. Carolina had us laughing while she ensured we crossed the road safely. “You’ve got to be careful when you’re crossing the road in Paris as the drivers only know two speeds: go and kill! Make sure you look the right way and then look again before you step out.”

It was a quick walk from the metro to Sacre Coeur

We were lucky with the weather on the day I did my tour, with blue skies and stunning views. Getting to Sacré Coeur just after 9am also meant there were no crowds which was another bonus. The tour had just started but I was already glad that I had signed up. I had been to Sacré Coeur before but thought you had to pay to go inside as I mistook the security bag screening point for a ticket booth. I never would have seen inside the stunning basilica if it wasn’t for Carolina explaining there was no charge.

Sacre Coure
Not busy at all, hooray!

After spending time inside the basilica Carolina took us on a tour of Montmartre. Once again, this was a place I had visited before but Carolina made me see it in a whole new light. For example, I had always thought the outdoor artist studios in one of suburb’s best known squares were ‘touristy’ but it turned out famous artists had been selling their works here for hundreds of years.

Check out the outdoor artist studios at Montmarte

These days there is a ten year wait list for one of these outdoor studio spots but they remain as affordable as they were back in the old days, albeit with a nod to inflation. It now costs just €300 or so to rent one of these prime spots for an entire year. Rather than being lured by a tourist trap, you’ll be following a tradition that dates back to the era of Picasso and Toulouse-Lautrec if you buy something from one of these Montmartre artists. We also saw a historic vineyard in the heart of Montmartre, one of Paris’ original bistros, sculptures with a story to tell and a whole lot more.

Paris vineyard
Montmartre vineyard

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Paris cafe
One of the city’s oldest bistros
Paris windmill
Windmill in Montmartre

My favourite story during this part of the tour was about how a pet donkey who lived in Montmartre was used to trick the art critics at the prestigious Salon des Indépendants in the early 1900s. Many creative types, including author Roland Dorgelès, thought the critics were pretentious and knew nothing about art so he decided to prove it. He tied a paintbrush to Lolo the donkey’s tail and got it to ‘paint’ a picture called ‘Sunset Over the Adriatic’ which was attributed to a fictitious Genoese painter Joachim Raphaël Boronali. Imagine the embarrassment when the work earned such high praise from critics that it sold for 400 francs, a huge sum of money at the time.

Paris tour
Here is Lolo the donkey’s painting ‘Sunset over the Adriatic’

Afterwards we stopped for coffee then caught the metro to Ile de la Cité to visit Notre Dame. As we were walking through the metro station Carolina explained something that I’d been wondering for years. “Why are the buskers at metro stations always so good?” She said these coveted busking spots are only available to authorised performers who have gone through a tough audition process. Only a small selection of buskers make it through which is why they’re always so great to listen to.

Notre Dame
Waiting to enter Notre Dame (it didn’t take long)
Notre Dame
Inside Notre Dame

From Notre Dame it was a quick walk along the Seine to the Louvre Museum and the choice of a nearby restaurant, boulangerie, snack bar or even – shudder – McDonald’s for lunch. Lunch isn’t included in the tour but Carolina gave us excellent recommendations to suit every taste and budget. I was pleasantly surprised how good (and affordable) our lunch was at the bistro she recommended, especially given we were in a very touristy part of Paris.

And, unlike other tours I have been on, there was no kickback or freebie meals for the guide in exchange for sending people to certain restaurants. Carolina just recommended places that she personally liked then left us to make our own choice. After a Croque monsieur (which is the French version of a ham and cheese toastie), a glass of wine and some laughs with newfound friends from the tour we met Carolina and the rest of the group back at the Louvre for Skip the Line entry to the museum and tour of some of the most famous works.

I hadn’t been to the Louvre since 1988 so I was in for a surprise straight away. When excavations were being done for the glass pyramid (which wasn’t there when I visited) the foundations of an original 12th century fortress were incorporated into the new design. I really enjoyed strolling through this section of the museum, especially as I didn’t know the foundations were even there. I could have done with more time at the Louvre, but that’s only because I love art.

However, we did see plenty of highlights in the next hour or so such as paintings by French Romantics, sculptures by Michelangelo and Anthony Canova, and famous statues like the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. This was one of my favourite artworks during my previous visit. I still loved it just as much 30 years later. Seeing the Mona Lisa again was great but also a bit of a shock.

The Louvre
Fortress foundations underneath the Louvre
Statues at The Louvre
Navigating the Louvre was easy with Carolina
The Louvre sculpture
Admiring the beautiful Winged Victory of Samothrace statue

While it has always been a must-see and the area in front of the iconic painting was busy even back in 1988, these days it is absolutely insane. I wasn’t brave enough to get any closer than what you can see in the photo below as I feared for my life. Some tourists were so desperate to get that all important selfie with the famous painting that it was downright scary. If nothing else, you’ve got to admire their determination.

Mona Lisa
Mona Lisa madhouse
The Louvre
On the way out Carolina showed us magnificent, less crowded paintings

After our visit to the Louvre we took the metro to Trocadero Plaza where we got some great photos of the Eiffel Tower. This is where we said goodbye to Carolina but not before she gave us our Skip The Line tickets to the Eiffel Tower and also tickets for a Seine River cruise. The good thing with the river cruise ticket is it is valid for several months so you don’t have to use it that afternoon if you’re feeling tired or the weather isn’t good.

Eiffel Tower
Great weather, we were so lucky!
View from Eiffel Tower
View from the Eiffel Tower

There were several solo travellers on my Take Walks tour so we went up the Eiffel Tower together then headed to the river cruise dock to enjoy our sunset cruise. During the next hour we enjoyed stunning views of the Musée d’Orsay, Notre Dame and some of the city’s most beautiful bridges. This was the perfect end to the tour but there was more fun to come.

Paris river cruise
A different view of Notre Dame
Paris bridge
Sailing under one of the city’s famous bridges
Paris river cruise
Sunset views of Paris

After the cruise we decided to finish our ‘big day out’ in Paris with dinner at a traditional bistro with champagne, snails and a rather cute French waiter. My single day – and night – in Paris with Take Walks was ‘Magnifique!’ from start to finish. When you’re on a tour, you never know what wonderful experiences might happen along the way, even if they’re not advertised in the tour brochure.

Paris waiter
Dinner with new friends. Here’s cheers to a perfect day!

Disclosure: The writer explored Paris as a guest of Take Walks and could not believe how much she managed to see in just one day. This post contains affiliate links which earn enough commission for a sip of Ruinart if you decide to book a tour after reading this post.

Are you visiting Paris during June, July or August? If so, you should read our tips for visiting Europe in peak season.

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Dr Tiana Templeman is an award-winning food and travel journalist, travel author and media industry academic. She is the creator of The Travel Temple, writes for Australian and international media outlets and appears on radio talking about where to go, what to see and travel industry trends.