Oh Paris! The city of lights and the city of love ! What a beautiful travel destination!
Paris is the number one tourist destination in the world. We all dream of going at some point and we all should! There are so many things to do in Paris!
Although I am not from Paris, as a french person I couldn’t be prouder of it being our capital city. It has so much to offer on every level. Even though I chose to live abroad, I’ve always been proud of my culture. I find the french culture passionating on so many different levels and Paris brings it all together in a beautiful way. Of course, I will always recommend exploring the south of France if you have time, because it’s beautiful. It’s my home and I can’t recommend it enough. But no trip to France would be complete without seeing Paris.
Paris has it all: art, architecture, history, culture, food, entertainment… It’s the full package. I always think of it as a big candy box. There is plenty to pick from and you just can’t get enough of it.
There is always something to discover in Paris which is why I put together this comprehensive list of things to do in Paris. If you’re a first timer in Paris, don’t worry we will talk about the classics. And if you’ve been before, you’ll find some hidden gems too!
If you are also interested in learning more about France and the French culture, I’d recommend to take a look at these books about France. Perfect to get you in the mood before your trip to Paris!
Let’s dive into it! Let’s start with the classics, the ones that might be the clichés of Paris but also the ones you’ve got to visit at least once in your life! Then we will move onto the museums, palaces, operas, parks and many more!
Paris’ most famous attractions: the classics!
Who says Paris, says Eiffel Tower. Paris’ most iconic landmark is a must-do! Created by France’s most famous architect, Gustave Eiffel, the Eiffel Tower has a pretty interesting story. It was originally created for the Exposition Universelle of 1889 and was supposed to be taken down shortly after. Thankfully, this did not go according to plan! Could you imagine Paris without the Eiffel Tower?
I actually love this story because I think it gives a good picture of what the french are like: controversial and passionate.
At the beginning, Parisians hated the tower. They would describe it as a “big heap of steel”. It had no other use than taking space for nothing and wasn’t bringing anything to the table. However, as time went on, they started to become very fond of it. It became a part of them, a part of the Parisian and French identity. And I bet you know what the French do when someone tries to take away a part of their heart? They fight for it. They protest. They go on strike. They stand up for themselves and what they believe in. And that’s exactly what they did! So much so that it was decided the tower would stay!
Following these events, the government tried to make something useful out of it so they stuck the biggest TV antenna in the country right at the top and opened it to the public so people could go up and enjoy the view on the Seine river and Paris.
Quite cool right?
Another couple of interesting fun facts about Gustave Eiffel. He also designed the Pont de Garabit in the South of France and more famously, a very important american landmark! Do you know which one? Yep, the Statue of Liberty!
New York’s most famous landmark is actually french! It was a gift from France to the USA after the declaration of independence. Moreover, the statue was placed in a way that Lady liberty is looking over to Paris. This means that if you were to draw a straight line from her eyes, you would end up right in front of the Eiffel Tower. Obviously I’m not expecting any of you to try it, but it’s pretty cool I think!
In terms of travel tips about the Eiffel Tower here is what you need to know. You can walk to the Eiffel Tower from Bir-Hakeim metro station. Once there you can buy a ticket to go up to the top. You can either climb up the 1710 steps or take the lift. Tickets are available on site and on the official website. You can also opt for a guided tour or a skip the line ticket.
You will only get access to the second floor though as the third one is a fancy restaurant. That said, you can book a table at the restaurant Le Jules Vernes. The starting price in this gastronomic restaurant is no less than 135 euros and tables need to be booked months in advance.
You can also walk along the Champs de Mars and enjoy the tower from the ground. A lot of people go there for a picnic, you can sit on the grass and enjoy your meal looking up at the Eiffel Tower. That said, it can get quite crowded.
If you want to take a nice photo though, the best place to go is just behind the Trocadero metro station. It’s way less crowded and you get a way prettier view with the Trocadero gardens and the Eiffel Tower just behind.
Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame de Paris is the French’ favourite landmark. The cathedral is 800 years old and has been a topic of fascination for many artists and authors. The most famous piece featuring Notre Dame are les Miserables from Victor Hugo. This masterpiece of the french litterature is also London’s longest running musical!
We are also all introduced to Notre Dame during our childhood with the Disney cartoon, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
As you probably know, unfortunately Notre Dame burnt in 2019. This has a big impact for travellers as now you can not visit it inside. The restoration will go on for years so I can’t really tell you when you will get a chance but don’t be disappointed about it. Just see that as a good reason to come back to Paris!
And you can still get to enjoy it from outside or from the river if you choose to go on a cruise on the Seine.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is also an emblematic french landmark. It’s a beautiful representation of France’s history. It was originally wanted by Napoleon and was inaugurated by King Louis Phillipe in 1836.
After WWI, the unknown soldier was buried at the bottom of the arch and the flame of remembrance is lit up every day at 6:30pm.
It’s located at the end of the Champs Elysees on the Place Charles de Gaulle, formerly known as Place de l’etoile.
Fun fact about this roundabout. It’s known to be one of the world’s most difficult places to drive through. As a matter of fact, Parisians say that you only become a real parisian if you can drive around the Etoile roundabout without getting into a car accident.
If you wish you can go up to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The ticket costs 13 euros and can be booked online.
The Champs Elysees need no introduction. It’s one of the most famous commercial streets in the world and the widest avenue in Europe!
It’s particularly known to be the final line of the Tour de France and be home to some of the most famous designer shops in the world.
If you like designer clothes and luxury shops, the Champs Elysees will be your paradise. Dior, Channel, Yves Saint Laurent… they are all there! You will also find some of the best restaurants in the country.
That said, the Champs Elysees are also known to be home to a lot of rip off cafes and restaurants. If you are on a budget or want to experience the real french culture, the Champs Elysees are not the right place for you.
Of course, you have to go and check it out. We all do and we all should. But I wouldn’t recommend eating or drinking there. Everything is extremely expensive and not always good quality. Also, waiters can be quite rude there. “A french person rude, what’s new? “ I hear you say. Well, as a french person I can tell you something. The french aren’t rude. We are just more upfront with what we think. If we are happy we say it, if we are not we say it too. I appreciate this can come across as being rude, but I promise it’s not the intention. Honesty is the intention. Anyway, got sidetracked here, let’s go back to the Champs Elysees.
So yes, if you want to get good food there are better places, I will get back to it further down in the article.
Another fun fact about the Champs Elysees (that will give you an idea of how expensive it is). It’s the most expensive street on the french monopoly. Basically the equivalent of Mayfair in the english version.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a stunning landmark located at the top of Montmartre hill. It sits at a height of 130m which makes it the second highest point in Paris. This means you will get a beautiful view of Paris from there!
To get to the Sacre Coeur, you can take the metro to Pigalle and start going up the hill. The directions are indicated but if ever you have a doubt, follow the souvenir shops, they lead straight to the basilica.
Once you get there you will be able to see the beautiful monument standing in front of you. That’s a very nice place to take photos.
Please be careful once you are there, there are a lot of pickpockets. Nothing you should be particularly scared of but just keep an eye on your purse.
To appreciate the true beauty of the place, you need to go up the stairs. Please note there is also a funicular and a disabled access.
The entrance to the basilica is free! It’s open every day from 9:30am to 5:30pm.
It’s also a great starting point to go on a walking tour in Montmartre, but again I’ll get back to that.
Paris best museums
It would be impossible to talk about things to do in Paris without mentioning Le Louvre. It’s the world’s largest art museum and is an absolute wonder! There is so much to say about Le Louvre.
First of all, it’s important to note that it used to be a royal palace. This will give you an idea of how beautiful it might be inside. It’s home to some of the most famous pieces of art in the world including the Mona Lisa of Leonardo Da Vinci.
I personally think it’s a must do in Paris. However you need to be able to spend enough time there. Even a full day would not be enough to visit the Louvre so I let you imagine how big it is. Ideally a full day would be the best. Half a day could do if you make some choices. But if you don’t have half a day to spend there, it’s pointless even thinking of going. It’s amazing. There are so many things to see, it will be worse to only spend a couple of hours there than not going at all. Unless you choose to go on a guided tour. The museum is so big it would be hard to get to see the best things in a couple of hours, if you have a guide with you it will be way easier. You will get both information and efficiency.
That said, either way you can still go there and look outside and take a photo with the pyramid. That’s free and still worth it.
If you have time to visit it, here are the opening times:
Monday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Wednesday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Thursday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
Friday: 9 a.m.–9:45 p.m.
Saturday & sunday: 9 a.m.–6 p.m.
It can get quite crowded so I would advise you to go either early in the morning, either on late openings. I would recommend booking a ticket with skip the line option. It’s not that expensive and will be very much worth it especially during peak season.
The Musee d’orsay is an art museum housed in the beautiful former Beaux-Arts railway station. It focuses on art pieces from the 19th century. It’s way smaller than the Louvre but yet just as good. It’s a great alternative if you don’t have time to visit the Louvre but still want to get a glimpse of a beautiful french museum and impressionist collection.
As previously mentioned, you wont get to see much in the Louvre in a couple of hours. You will get to see quite a lot in the Musee d’Orsay.
The museum opening times are: Tuesday to Sunday, 9:30am-6pm; Thursday 9.30am-9.45pm
Ideally located right by the Eiffel tower, the Musee du Quai Branly features indigenous art pieces from Africa, Asia, Australia and Americas. The museum has over a million objects!
The Quai Branly was brought to completion by the french president, Jacques Chirac. It was inaugurated in 2006. Even though it’s a very recent museum, it became one of Paris’s main attractions with several millions of visitors per year!
The museum is open every day from 10:30am to 7pm (and 10pm on Thursdays). The entrance costs 12 euros and can be booked in advance here.
If you want to check out a bit of a fun museum in Paris then the Musee Grevin is perfect for you!
This wax museum is the french equivalent to Madame Tussauds in London.
You will find over 450 wax characters including:
- French kings and emperors: Charlemagne, Napoleon…
- International singers, movie stars and artists: Josephine Baker, Michael Jackson, Pablo Picasso…
- French celebrities: Jean Dujardin, Jean Reno, Zinedine Zidane…
- Bollywood actors
And many more!
The musee Grevin is open everyday from 9:30am to 6pm. The entrance ticket costs 24.50 euros and can be booked in advance here.
Paris best bridges
Paris is known to be the city of Love. There are many things to do in Paris for lovers and one of them is to go see the bridges.
The Seine River flows for 13km through Paris. There are 37 bridges in Paris and some of them are particularly famous (for good or bad reasons).
The Seine river banks are an UNESCO world heritage site and here is the list of the most famous bridges in Paris:
- Pont Neuf: The Pont Neuf (Literally “New Bridge”) is ironically the oldest bridge in Paris. It was built in 1578
- Pont Alexandre III: built for the 1900 Universal Exhibition (as you can see Paris built quite a few landmarks for Universal Exhibitions)
- Pont Marie
- Pont de l’Alma: sadly famous for being the place where Princess Diana died in 1997
- Pont des arts: the world’s most romantic bridge. Lovers go to this bridge and leave a padlock to celebrate and show their love. That said, if you try to do so, don’t be surprised if you don’t manage to or if it’s being removed shortly after. There were so many padlocks on this bridge that it created a balance issue and the city of Paris had to remove over 40 tons of steel.
Paris best venues for shows
Paris might not quite be London West End or Broadway in terms of musicals, but sure has its own thing too!
The Moulin Rouge is a true french institution! It’s as Parisian as it can ever get! Nobody should go to Paris without seeing the Moulin Rouge, at least from the outside.
The Moulin Rouge was founded in 1883 and is nowadays the world’s most famous cabaret.
Couple of fun facts about the Moulin Rouge: It’s the birthplace of the french can-can and it employs more than 80 full time performers!
The Moulin Rouge sells out every single show, every day! So if you want to go there, you will need to book in advance! Way in advance!
There are 3 shows per day: 7pm, 9pm and 11pm.
Seeing a performance at the Moulin Rouge is honestly an experience of a lifetime. Everything about it is just perfect. There is sensuality, beauty, hand-made costumes… The Moulin Rouge only tolerates excellence and that’s exactly what you will get!
I appreciate that tickets for the Moulin Rouge are quite expensive and that we can’t all afford to go but if you can! I highly recommend it!
If you can’t, don’t worry, you can still see the Moulin Rouge from the outside. Get out of the metro at Blanche and just walk up to the cabaret. It’s better if you go at night as let’s be honest, a cabaret takes all its beauty at night!
The Opera Garnier, also known as Palais Garnier, was ordered by the emperor Napoleon III. Although it’s not the largest opera house in France, it’s an architectural beauty. This beaux-arts style is very unique and so typically french!
Which is why I’d recommend you to visit the Opera Garnier. Of course, I’m nowhere near saying that you should do that as a priority but if you are spending several days in Paris and have enough time to do something different, you should.
You can visit the palace during the day, it costs 14 euros or go and see a show!
Which one should you do? Well that’s a personal choice. The self guided tour is pretty good but personally I think that a show is better. You won’t get to appreciate the architecture as much but this place was built for people to go see shows and that’s exactly what I like to do.
If you are more into modern theatre then the Opera Bastille is the place for you. Located in the 12th arrondissement, the Opera Bastille is the largest opera house in France. It inaugurated in 1989 as part of president Fancois Mitterand’s grand travaux program.
If you’d like to discover the backstage world of this modern theatre, you can go on a 90mins guided tour. It costs 17 euros and can be booked online.
That said, don’t expect anything like the opera Garnier. The opera Bastille is a great opera house in terms of size and shows but it doesn’t have this typical Beaux Arts charm than you can find everywhere else in Paris. I would recommend this visit for people passionate about theatre but not for everyone.
Other great attractions in Paris
The catacombs of Paris are a very interesting sight to see in the french capitale. During the 18th century, loads of major health issues hit Paris. There were way too many bodies for what the cemeteries could contain. That’s how the idea of creating the catacombs came up.
This massive underground tunnel network contains the remains of over 6 million people.
It’s a very interesting place to visit especially if you want to see something different, unique and quite frankly a bit weird.
If seeing bones or being in an underground labyrinthe makes you uncomfortable, you might want to skip this activity.
The catacombs are open from Tuesday to Sunday from 9:45 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. There is only a limited amount of visits available each day and it can get quite busy. I would recommend booking in advance.
Here are the tickets options for the catacombs:
- Simple entrance for 14 euros
- Skip the line entrance with audio guide at 36 euros
- Skip the line entrance with premium guide tour at 79 euros
Paris best quarters for a stroll or a drink
The Latin Quarter is considered as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the french capitale. It’s a place where thinkers and authors came and left their marks. It’s particularly known for having some of the most amazing bookshops in the world such as the Shakespeare & company Bookshop.
But that’s not all! The Latin Quarter is also home to the Pantheon, where the remains of Voltaire and Marie Curie are, two extremely famous French philosophers and scientists. The Pantheon is opened to the public, you can get tickets for 11.50 euros.
If you keep walking you will end up at The Sorbonne which is one of France’s oldest and most prestigious universities.
Finally, you will find in the Latin Quarter one of the most beautiful gardens in Paris: the luxembourg gardens.
I love the Latin Quarter because I think it’s a great place to grab food or drinks in the evening. There are a lot of good places to eat and drink, at a reasonable price.
Le Marais is particularly famous to be Paris’ trendiest and coolest neighbourhood. Ironically enough, the name in french literally means the Swamp.
Yep! Back in the days, Le Marais was nothing else than a big swampy piece of land way too far from the city. Nobody would have ever thought it would become what it is today.
Thankfully, nowadays we get the good stuff and not the swampy crap.
So why should you be going to Le Marais?
Firstly, it’s a very convivial and charming district. The architecture has nothing to do with the Haussmanian buildings you see everywhere else in Paris. Le Marais was built by the people and not the nobles. And you can see that today, it’s got a unique French Charm that you won’t find anywhere else.
It’s a great place to go on a walking tour or just simply wander around and get lost. Get a coffee or a drink and just watch life and people.
It’s cute and relaxing!
Bastille is my favourite neighbourhood when it comes to happy hour! There are many bars and the atmosphere is always amazing. All bars have small terraces outside, which is always a great place to be in summer.
The reason why I love it so much is that it’s both lively and convivial. Streets are quite narrow and there are small bars everywhere. It’s the perfect place to grab a drink or tapas.
Montmatre is one of my favourite places in Paris. It became quite touristy through the years but I still think there is a unique vibe to it. It’s very charming. You can just walk around and get lost in these little streets.
Even though Montmatre is technically speaking a Parisian district, it has always been kind of a part. Montmatre was a village of artists, rebels, philosophers… It was a place where people could come, be themselves, be safe and speak up for themselves.
This is why so many famous artists lived in Montmartre at some point in their life. It’s the case for Renoir, Picasso, Monet … and many others!
The fact that Montmartre village is located on the top of a hill gives it a lot of charm as well.
I think the best way to experience this place is just to go for a walk and get lost. Walk up and down, have a look at the pretty bistros and cafes everywhere. Stop the terrace of a cafe, eat a patisserie and just feel the vibe!
Best day trips from Paris
The palace of Versailles was built under the orders of King Louis XIV.
Known as the “Sun King,” Louis XIV centralized power in the monarchy. He forced all nobles to move to his palace, Versailles, so they could be under his watch. He was one the longest reigning monarchs in the European history. He lived until he was 77 year old. During the 18th century, this was an incredibly long life. The average life expectancy was about 30 year old. This is why, Louis XiV was convinced he was blessed by God and could do anything he wanted. He reigned over a period of unprecedented prosperity in which France became the dominant power in Europe and a leader in the arts and sciences.
Of his love for luxury and crazy projects, was born the Palace of Versailles as we know it today. He is the one that saw the potential in this building.
After that, it became the official residence of the French kings until Louis XVI and the French Revolution (you know that time where we chopped our king’s and queen’s heads).
The palace of Versailles is an architectural beauty. It’s one of the most beautiful buildings in the entire world and that’s why it’s rated as a UNESCO world heritage site.
It’s so worth a visit! You will need to have pretty much the entire day ahead of you and I appreciate that you might not have this time, but if you do please go! It’s one of the most beautiful things you’ll see in your life!
It’s pretty easy to go to Versailles. You will find a lot of companies offering organised day-tours to Versailles. I personally think you can do it better and cheaper by organising it yourself and just book the relevant ticket for you and your tastes.
Versailles is only 45 mins away from Paris city centre. You can take the RER C and it will bring you straight there!
Once you get there, here are the different ticket options:
- Palace entrance with audio guide: 18 euros
- Palace and gardens entrance with audio guide: 20 euros
- Skip the line ticket (palace and gardens) with guided tour: 40 euros
I’d personally recommend taking the combo palace and gardens or the guided tour. The gardens are beautiful and definitely worth a visit. It’s only 2 euros more so not worth missing out on them. If you are going during peak season, I’d recommend a skip the line ticket or going very early. It gets very busy!
The palace is open every day except Mondays from 9 am to 5:30pm in winter and 6:30pm in summer.
Calling all Disney Fans for this one! Paris is home to Disneyland Paris, the only Disney themed park in Europe!
Located in Marne La Vallee – Chessy, Disneyland is very easily accessible via public transport.
If you are coming straight from the airport, you can jump in the TGV (High Speed Train) and it will bring you straight to Disneyland!
From Paris city centre, head to Gare de Lyon and hop on the RER A to Marne La Vallee – Chessy. You will get there in less than an hour!
Disneyland Paris is nowhere as big as Disney World Orlando so don’t quite expect that. That said, it’s still very good and you will have fun for sure!
There are two parks: Magic Kingdom and Disney Studios.
Magic Kingdom is very similar to the one in Orlando but yet so different. For example, some attractions such as space mountains are completely different. If you are going with kids, it’s obviously the best park but even as an adult you will love it! First of all, we all love castles and disney characters. Secondly, there are some very nice rides.
My favourite rides in Magic Kingdom at Disneyland Paris are: Space Mountain, Indiana Jones and Star Wars.
Lastly, there is a fireworks display every night and it’s beautiful! A must see if you go to Disney!
The second park, Disney Studios, is generally classified as the adult park. To be honest, it’s as much for kids as it is for adults. However, there are better rides and no princess stuff. Which is why adults tend to enjoy it more.
The best rides in Disney Studio parks are the Tower of Terror, Nemo and Ratatouille.
You will also find a lot of avenger related shows there.
In terms of tickets, you have different options. Prices start at 51 euros but depending on how many days you want to go and how flexible you need the tickets to be it will be more expensive.
Ideally (if you have enough time) I recommend going to Disneyland Paris for 2 days. That way you can spend one entire day in each park and get to do everything. Unlike Orlando, it’s possible to do both parks in 1 day as they are within walking distance of each other but it would be rushing it a bit.
There is no need to stay for more than 2 days unless you want to do everything again.
Here are the different tickets available:
- One day / One park starting at 51 euros
- One day / Two parks starting at 87 euros
- Multi day tickets starting at 169 euros
The Parc Asterix is one the french favourite theme parks. This amusement park is based on the comic Books “Asterix”.
Asterix and its best friend Obelix are very famous in France. It’s all about this little gaulish village that resisted the roman occupation! The French love them and that’s why the parc Asterix was created in 1989.
Nowadays, it’s the second biggest theme park in France and it’s very good fun! If you love theme parks, you will want to try this one out!
It’s very different to Disneyland Paris and I wouldn’t be able to tell which one is better. Disney is Disney and quite frankly who can beat that? But Asterix is very unique.
You can go to a Disney park in Orlando, California, Japan… where else will you get to go to an Asterix park?
If you are a thrill-seeker, you will love the parc Asterix. There are way more rides than in Disneyland. It’s also a great place to go in summer as there are a lot of water rides and activities. Of course, as any theme park, you will also get to see plenty of shows.
The park Asterix is open from April to January. The best time to visit it is from May to September, it gets a bit busy but you will be able to enjoy the water attractions more.
There are shuttles going from Paris airports to the park every 30 mins. If you are in Paris city centre, you can either take a RER and then a shuttle or a bus directly from the centre. It will take you about 1 hour 30 minutes to get to the park.
Tickets start at 43 euros and can be booked here.
I hope the article was useful and that you now have a better idea of the best things to do in Paris, France!
How I planned my trips to Paris, France
Travelling to France soon and want to know what services and apps I use when I go to Paris?
Here is the list of my favourite travel apps. I use them all of the time and can’t recommend them enough! They always make travels so much easier!
First of all, I’d recommend to get a travel guide such as Lonely Planet Paris.
I always book my flights through either:
– Skyscanner to find a cheap flight ticket (especially in Europe)
– Momondo to find a cheap long haul flight and inspiration
In terms of accommodation, I use the following:
– Airbnb for shared accommodation
For day tours and entrance tickets I use:
I love taking photos and I use the following photo cameras:
– Nikon Coolpix L830 for wildlife photos (the zoom is great but the camera is a bit annoying to carry around sometimes)
– Nikon 1 J5: this compact camera is perfect in any situation especially city trips
– Samsung S9: most of the time I do use my phone, it’s easier!