If you have limited time in Paris and want to sample the best the city has to offer, then this is the itinerary for you, taking you on a whistle-stop tour past 17 of the city's main attractions. If you don't linger too long in any one place, you could just about get through them all in a day -- although why not take your time and spread things over 2 (or even 3) days?
Start: Métro to Cité on the Ile de la Cité. Exit the station, turn right and cross Place Louis Lépine. You'll come to Boulevard du Palais, where you'll see Sainte-Chapelle.
This sublime Gothic chapel built in 1242 is renowned for its breathtaking stained-glass windows. There are often long lines so it's good to get here as early as you can.
Turn right as you exit Sainte-Chapelle. When you reach Pont St-Michel, turn left along Quai du Marché Neuf. Continue until you reach:
One of the supreme masterpieces of Gothic art, the majestic Notre-Dame, built between 1163 and 1250, is the main reason to visit the Ile de la Cité.
Walk away from the cathedral on Rue du Cloître Notre Dame, which runs along the left-hand side of Notre-Dame. Cross the Pont St-Louis to:
3. Ile St-Louis
Full of 17th-century aristocratic town houses, this small island is one of the calmest and most picturesque places in Paris. Stroll along Rue Saint Louis en l'Ile, making sure to stop in at Maison Berthillon (nos. 29-31), Paris's most famous sorbet and ice-cream parlor.
Cross onto the Right Bank via either Pont Marie or Pont Louis-Philippe. Turn right and walk along the quays.
4. The Quays of the Seine
Walking along the quays, you'll encounter the most splendid panoramic views that Paris has to offer. The city has 37 bridges, many of them landmarks in their own right. Admire the Pont Neuf, the oldest and most evocative of Paris's fourteen bridges.
At the Pont des Arts, turn right into the Cour Carrée, where you'll see the:
"I never knew what a palace was until I had a glimpse of the Louvre," wrote Nathaniel Hawthorne. The world's greatest art museum -- and a former royal residence -- the Louvre is the 1st arrondissement's main attraction. The museum's most famous works are the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory.
Walk through the Cour Carrée and across the Cour Napoleon, admiring I. M. Pei's glass pyramid. Cross the Place du Carrousel to the:
Leave the gardens through one of the exits on the right, which will bring you to Rue de Rivoli. Take Rue de Castiglione north to:
7. Place Vendôme
Home of the Ritz hotel and top-of-the-range jewelers, including Cartier and Bvlgari, this square is the embodiment of Parisian luxury. At the center is a column celebrating Napoleon's Battle of Austerlitz in 1806.
Cross the square and walk north on Rue de la Paix, until you reach:
Be dazzled by the grand and ornate facade of the Opéra Garnier, a testament to the excesses of the Second Empire.
9. Café de la Paix
On the left of the Opéra Garnier you'll see the glitzy Café de la Paix (corner of Place de l'Opéra and Boulevard des Capucines; tel. 01-40-07-36-36; www.cafedelapaix.fr), also designed by Charles Garnier in the 19th century. Why not stop for lunch or a luxurious coffee in this beautiful Paris institution? The menu is different (and cheaper) if you sit on either the indoor or outdoor terrace rather than inside the restaurant.
Take Métro line 8 to Concorde, to:
Walk northwest on the Champs-Élysées on the left-hand side, admiring the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais. At Place Clemenceau take Métro line 1 to Charles de Gaulle-Étoile. Exit to see the:
11. Arc de Triomphe
Begun by Napoleon in 1806, this triumphal arch is modeled on ancient Roman arches, and is dedicated to the French army. Beneath it is the tomb of the unknown soldier.
From Charles de Gaulle-Étoile take Métro line 6 to Bir-Hakeim. Exit to see the:
12. Eiffel Tower
Towering above Paris's skyline, Gustave Eiffel's cast-iron tower built for the 1889 Great Exhibition is one of the city's greatest symbols.
Take the yellow RER C line from Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel to Musée D'Orsay. All lines of RER C will stop there but make sure your train is going in the right direction.
13. Musée d'Orsay
A former railway station, the Musée d'Orsay houses an internationally renowned collection of 19th-century art, including key works by the masters of French Impressionism.
Leaving the museum, turn left down Rue de Bellechasse and then right onto Boulevard Saint-Germain. Stroll along this elegant boulevard until you reach:
This church is all that remains of the former Abbey of St-Germain. The clock tower dates from 1000 A.D., making it the oldest church in Paris.
15. The Golden Triangle
Stop for an aperitif or a bite to eat at one of three elegant cafes known as The Golden Triangle: Brasserie Lipp, Les Deux Magots, and Café de Flore (all of which are located on the Boulevard St-Germain, just a stone's throw away from the church). Admire the beautiful Art Deco interiors and if you're lucky enough to get a table on the terrace, indulge in a bit of people-watching.
From St-Germain-des-Prés take Métro line 4 to Les Halles. Take the Rue Rambuteau exit and turn left as you come out of the station. Walk along Rue Rambuteau, crossing Boulevard de Sebastopol, and on your right you'll see:
16. Centre Pompidou
Described by some early critics as a "wart" on the face of Paris, the Centre Pompidou (built in 1977) still arouses mixed reactions. Architecture aside, it contains the impressive Musée National d'Art Moderne and often puts on prestigious temporary exhibitions.
Walk back to Métro Les Halles and take line 4 to Barbès Rochechouart. Change onto line 2 for one stop, getting off at Anvers. Turn right up Rue de Steinkerque and you'll find yourself at the foot of Sacré-Coeur. If you're feeling strong, brave the steps; if not you can use a Métro ticket to take the Funiculaire to:
Standing in front of this kitsch 19th-century basilica gives you a magnificent view over Paris, day or night. After visiting Sacré-Coeur, explore the winding, narrow streets of Montmartre. As you head back down the hill, finish your tour with a drink in one of the bars along Rue des Abbesses.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.