MusÉe D’orsay 12.30pm
I head for the glorious River Seine before following its snaking path west. Soon I reach the unmistakeable Musée d’Orsay – the art museum housed in a splendid turn-of-the-century former train station. Inside (entry is €8) is a wonderful collection of impressionist, post-impressionist and art nouveau masterpieces. 

Champs élysÉes-Batobus 1.45pm
Crossing the Seine, I stroll along the legendary Champs Élysées before heading to the river to board one of Paris’ excellent “montez et descendez librement” (hop-on, hop-off) river boats called the Batobus. I pay my €12 fare and settle into the glass-topped cruiser, one of about a dozen completing the eight-stop river circuit at any one time.

Eiffel Tower 2pm
First stop on the Batobus is the Eiffel Tower. It’s my first time seeing La Tour from the river and I’m so enchanted by the view I spend 10 minutes on deck snapping photos. At this point the Batobus heads back east along the Seine. It takes just under an hour and a half to complete the full circuit, although I’m not going quite that far.

Notre Dame cathedral 2.40pm
I’m on the Batobus’ deck again when we get to Île de la Cité (an island in the middle of the Seine) and Pont Neuf – Paris’ oldest and prettiest bridge. Just minutes later we’re chugging along next to the gothic wonder of the Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris. It’s insanely popular with tourists so I won’t be going inside today, but I do get a good view of its flying buttresses from the river.

Hotel de Ville 3pm
I disembark from the boat on the right bank of the Seine in search of sustenance. From the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) it’s a short stroll to Le Marais – a lively district rammed with cool boutiques, funky bars and restaurants, and the centre of the city’s Jewish and gay communities. I sit down to a lunch of steak, chips and red wine at bistro Le Coude Fou on rue du Bourg-Tibourg and afterwards take a stroll past the modernist Centre Pompidou – a museum and library like no other.

Boulevard Haussmann 5pm
I hop on the Metro and emerge at the centre of Paris’ consumer heart – Boulevard Haussmann. Here I find famous French department stores Printemps and Galeries Lafayette. 

Le Marais 5.30pm
Time for a drink and I decide to retrace my steps slightly, heading back to Le Marais for a taste of Paris’ hip bar culture. L’Absinthe Café on rue Turbigo gets my custom and in return I get a Kir royale. But time is ticking so I drink up and then dash to a nearby supermarket for a baguette, Brie and a bottle of vin rouge to keep me company on the way home.

Paris Gare du Nord 8.15pm
I wave au revoir to my day in Paris thinking about all I’ve managed to see and do in such a short time. I may have only just scratched the surface, but this taste of the City of Light will certainly keep me satisfied until next time.

» Samantha Baden travelled with Eurostar (08705 186 186).