24 Hours in Paris: The Ultimate One Day Paris Itinerary
Are you debating how to spend just 24 hours in Paris? This guide will tell you everything you need to know to have the perfect day in the "City of Lights."
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One of my favorite things to do before a big trip is to curate a list of songs about either the country or city that I’ll be visiting.
Over the years, I’ve noticed that some cities are less popular when it comes to inspiring music.
One city that has provided tons of inspiration to lyricists and artists over the years is Paris.
Below, I’ve given you all the essential songs about Paris that you’ll need to make the perfect travel playlist. I’ve even divided them into ones that are in French and ones that are performed in English.
I’m sure you’ve heard Edith Piaf’s signature song, “La Vie en Rose” at some point in your life.
Trust me, the second you listen to this 1940s hit, you’ll get a familiar feeling.
The song talks about how falling in love leaves you looking at the world through rose-colored glasses.
When you’re in love, the sun shines brighter and the world is suddenly much more magnificent and meaningful now that you’ve found someone to share it with.
The lyrics to me translate into living with an attitude of positivity, trying to see beauty in the world even on the darkest of days—just like you’d see it when you’re first in love.
Translated to English, the title of this Serge Gainsbourg classic is “The Ticket Puncher at Lilas”.
Lilas is a station just outside of Paris proper.
The song is written from the depressed ticket puncher’s perspective. He mentions more than once that there is no sunshine in the station and that all he does all day is make “little holes” in the metro cards.
He goes on and says he dreams of a better life, near the water and how he wants to “break this cage and fly, just leave this monkey suit behind.”
The song then gets darker and the holes he’s been talking about change from being on the tickets to in the ground, meaning death.
This song is super catchy, though once you know what the lyrics mean in English, it takes a darker turn.
This upbeat song by Carla Bruni will uplift any mood.
My favorite lyrics, that really sum up the complete song, are the first ones sung:
“When everything is bad, when everything is wrong, try for a little French song”
I think it means no matter what happens, wherever you are in the world, sing a little song (in this case a French one) and it will uplift your mood.
Fun Fact: On top of being a famous French singer, Carla Bruni is a former First Lady of France. She also played the art guide at the Rodin Museum in the film, Midnight in Paris.
Okay, so the title of this 1950s hit translates into “I Have Two Loves.”
How absolutely French does that sound?
I absolutely thought the song was going to be about how she was in love with two people, but it turns out she’s singing about her love for her country and her love for Paris.
It’s not quite the romantic love triangle I was expecting, but it’s still beautiful.
I really adore that as she gets into it, her “country” is really Manhattan. I totally relate her to feelings of belonging in both places.
When it’s Paris vs New York, it’s a tough call! In the end, she settles on one place, saying that Paris puts a spell on her in a way that Manhattan hasn’t—though she’ll still always love them both.
Why is that when we think of the good old days, we romanticize even the darkest moments of that time?
In the 1950s hit “La Bohème” Aznavour sings about a painter recalling his youth during the last days of bohemian Montmartre.
It’s romantic, looking over all the actual world struggles like hunger and cold, as things that didn’t matter because he and his model/girlfriend were happy back then creating art together.
This is another Edith Piaf classic, this time about being “Under the Paris Sky”.
She sings about the streets and monuments of the city, paying homage to the beauty and romance that lies just around every corner in her hometown.
With lyrics like, “Beneath the Parisian sky, lovers walk about, their happiness built, upon a tune made just for them” this song will have you dreaming of visiting Paris one day with the love of your life.
Fun Fact: This song was originally written and performed as a song for a 1950s film by the same name.
You may not recognize this tune by title and artist, but listen to a few seconds and I guarantee the chorus will sound familiar.
Joe Dassin sings about taking a stroll down the Champs-Elysée and meeting a stranger. They spend time together enjoying the city, and the next day walk the avenue as lovers.
This is a catchy tune that speaks to all the romance and possibilities around every corner in Paris. You’ll want this one on your playlist!
Okay, if you haven’t seen the 1957 classic Audrey Hepburn movie, Funny Face, you need to download it ASAP.
It’s about a bookworm turned model (Hepburn) who travels along with a magazine editor who was basically the first Miranda Priestly (Kay Thompson), and a famous photographer (Astaire) to Paris.
When they arrive, they’re all totally jetlagged from their long-haul flight, then the magic of the city takes over.
They explore all over town, saying “Bonjour, Paris!” and dancing all over the city. It’s very theatrical!
It’s a catchy tune that I absolutely have at the top of my playlist every time I arrive in the city.
This song gives me major theatrical vibes, especially at the beginning.
From the title, you can obviously gather the song is about tangoing the night away in Paris with someone you love.
Just give it a listen and see if it suits your vibe.
As you may have guessed, this classic duet is all about how wonderful April in Paris is.
As someone who’s visited Paris in the springtime, I have to agree with Ella and Louis. It’s one of the most charming and romantic times in the city.
Though I’d recommend visiting closer to the end of spring, like May for the best weather. April actually is fairly rainy and cold.
The lyrics paint a picture of cherry blossoms in bloom. The city is coming alive after a long cold winter, and there’s a special excitement and romance in the air.
The kicker is that the singer has never been in love. They lament they wish that had been so, that they’d have something more romantic to remember as the city is blossoming.
The song is a total classic that legends like Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, and Frank Sinatra have sung.
Fun Fact: Vernon Duke originally wrote the song to be performed in the 1932 Broadway musical Walk a Little Faster.
With lyrics like “Take me to Paris. Let’s go there and never look back.” this song will have you dreaming of running away to the “City of Lights” with your love.
The crazy thing is that they did not officially release this song!
Someone leaked this unreleased Lana del Rey song back in 2012. I think all her fans wonder how it didn’t end up on an album.
Give it a listen, who knows, maybe it’ll have you booking a spontaneous trip to Paris.
Frank Sinatra is another person who famously sang about the seasons in Paris.
The line “I love Paris in the summer when it sizzles.” is especially famous.
Even though that’s the line that really stuck with people, he actually sings about how because the woman he loves lives in Paris, he loves the city at all times of year.
It’s a super short song, and pretty straightforward. This Sinatra hit should absolutely make it on everyone’s playlist!
I hadn’t heard of Little Dragon until I began researching for this list. Now they’re one of my new favorite bands on my download list.
If you don’t know who they are yet, here’s the deal.
They’re a Swedish electronic music band with deep lyrics and a catchy upbeat vibe.
Little Dragon’s song “Paris” needs to be on your travel playlist, even though the lyrics are actually pretty sad.
Depending on how the lyrics hit you, the interruption can change a bit, it’s a song about losing someone you love—either to death or from a breakup.
The song talks about having to move away from the sorrow in order to carry on living. In the song’s case, in order to get away from “the big mess”, they change their next flight to Paris.
Honestly, running away to Paris to start over again sounds like a dream. I may take their advice one day soon. After all, Audrey Hepburn said it best, “Paris is always a good idea.”
Okay, so technically this is an overture, meaning it has no lyrics. Since Gershwin was an American, I figured this song belonged in the “English” section.
Overtures play before a musical begins in order to transport the audience and give them a feeling of anticipation and a bit of familiarity with the world that they are about to enter.
George Gershwin wrote this prelude for the musical An American in Paris. If you haven’t guessed by the title, the show is about an American who is living in the city just after World War II. He falls in love with a beautiful French girl, and the story unfolds from there.
As the city comes back to life after the Nazi occupation lifts, there are feelings of hope, happiness, and love in the world again.
If you ever have time to catch the show, I highly recommend it. Just listening to this dreamy piece of music will transport you to Paris!
Fun Fact: Despite only living between 1898 and 1937 Gershwin wrote 500 songs, including his most well-known “Rhapsody In Blue.”
From the very first few seconds of this song, you get major French vibes.
Dean sings about wanting to walk along the Seine and under the bridges of Paris with the woman he loves. Then he sings about wanting to make her dreams come true as he holds her tight.
The melody is super romantic and will have you daydreaming of strolling along the Seine with the love of your life holding your hand.
Paris is easily one of the most romantic cities in the world, and that’s exactly what Fred Astaire sings about in “Paris Loves Lovers.”
This song from the musical Silk Stockings is super straightforward, so there’s not a ton to say about the meaning of the lyrics.
Just listen to these charming Cole Porter lyrics and you’ll get it!
This Baroque pop song tackles the Dada/Surrealism of the world of Paris and Europe as a whole in 1919 after World War I has ended.
In case you need a refresher, Dada and Surrealism were two movements that were developed as people reacted to the confusion in the world after World War I ended.
Dada was mostly made up of artists who had an anti-atheist, anti-idealistic, anti-rational, anti-authoritarian way of looking at existence. It’s thought to have dissolved after a few years because of their lack of leadership.
Surrealism was another cultural movement that took place after the war. It was more focused on creating art and literature that bypass social conventions and explore the subconscious. They wanted to revolutionize the human experience and make it more organic.
Now that we got that lesson out of the way, let’s get back to the song.
The beats are upbeat and the lyrics are less than straightforward thanks to the Dada/Surrealism influence.
They speak of things like a woman appearing as a ghost “from the clock across the hall.”
On the surface, it could be about a failed wedding that took place after WWI.
Some people translate the lyrics into his re-imaging of the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 that led to The Treaty of Versailles.
Listen to the song and see what you think he’s singing about?
Fun Fact: John Cale was famously part of the band Velvet Underground for a short period of time. Supposedly he quit because he didn’t share Lou Reed’s ambitions for fame at any price.
This is another song whose lyrics have people divided on the true meaning.
Some people think they refer to when Paris was literally burning during WWII. Or even further back to the French Revolution, when the city was falling apart.
Thanks to the line “While I slip poison in your ear” others think it references Shakespeare’s play Macbeth (Act I, scene 5).
Either way, this song is catchy, with a bit of non-traditional cabaret vibe to it.
Take a listen and see which interpretation you side with?
David Geffen, who most of us know as a music mogul, is the subject of this Joni Mitchell hit.
He’s never mentioned specifically by name, but they’re friends that came up in the music industry together.
Supposedly one night when they were confiding in each other, Geffen told her about all the extraordinary pressures he was facing, and how Paris felt like the only place he could be free from others asking him for favors.
With that comment, he inspired her to write “Free Man in Paris.”
I have to admit, I’ve been listening to this song on repeat, singing and dancing around for about ten minutes instead of writing this.
With its sexy rock-and-roll vibes, it’s so fun to dance to.
Plus that bridge is catchy and a blast to sing!
The lyrics really don’t tell much of a story. Basically, it’s about a woman waiting for a date to make a move on her.
In “Place Pigalle”, Elliot Smith sings about falling in love while staying in Pigalle, a section of Paris, on a holiday.
Because it’s just a holiday for him, it’s bittersweet because they both know the romance won’t last. They can’t fully give their hearts to each other knowing that one day soon it will all end.
As romantic as it is to believe in, long-distance relationships on separate continents are virtually impossible to make work.
The lyrics are fairly straight-forward on this masterpiece.
This sound sounds like something that belongs in a Woody Allen film.
In fact, I’m kind of shocked that it’s not in Midnight in Paris.
It’s got major French vibes despite having no lyrics. Since it doesn’t require any translation, I figured it should be on this list.
Just hit play to feel like you’ve been transported to a cafe in Paris!
It seems like both Sammy Davis, Jr. and Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong (who sang about “Paris in April”), can agree that the city is best in the springtime—they just can’t agree on the ideal month.
Personally, I side with Sammy Davis Jr. on this one. Paris is absolutely at its “best in May”, especially compared to rainy April.
Either way, visiting Paris in the spring is ideal. It’s your choice on which month you want to check out.
This snappy tune is so much fun to listen to, you’ll absolutely want it on your Paris playlist.
Basically, Richman is preaching about how wonderful the city is even though some people visit and don’t fall in love with it.
With lyrics like this, Richman will have you ready to “Give Paris One More Chance” or at the very least singing about it with how catchy the song is.
This 1980s song is about a man who falls in love with a Moulin Rouge dancer.
It’s got a bit of a chill reggae vibe to it.
It’s a fun song to listen to while walking around Paris. Give it a listen!
In this tune Dean Martin sings about two young lovers who met and broke up by the Seine in Paris.
He continues by saying that they knew they “loved in vain” because she wasn’t local to Paris. They knew whatever romance they had wouldn’t stay once they were in different cities.
The last line gives some hope, as he talks about how one day she’ll be back and they’ll find each other again by the Seine.
I like to think that Dean sings this song and his other hit “Under the Bridges of Paris” about the same woman.
I had so much putting this list together and I hope that you have just as much listening to these songs about Paris.
Let me know in the comments what your favorite tune on the list is and if I’ve missed any of your favorite songs about Paris!
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