I am pleased to introduce Marco Santos from Travel-Boo who has chosen to tell us about the 15 Top Things to See and Do in Paris. I hope this article will give you some great ideas for discovering Paris, especially if you are coming to the City of Light for the first time!
15 Top Things to See and Do in Paris
Paris is a city filled with so many charms, character, and pure elegance that a lifetime won’t suffice to barely scratch the surface of this magical city. Just when you think you have seen it all, another different and exciting layer unfolds.
It’s no wonder then that so many who visit fall in love with Paris, a city now personified by love and romance. It’s captured many a heart and inspired writers, travellers, and many famous personalities to coin intriguing quotes about Paris, such as when the famous French playwright and novelist Honoré de Balzac exclaimed: “Whoever does not visit Paris regularly will never really be elegant.“
Understandably, planning a visit to such a popular destination may seem overwhelming given the range of incredible sights to explore and things to do in Paris.
Thankfully in this guide, we will share with you 15 top experiences and things to do whilst visiting Paris to hopefully inspire and provide you with a good balance of everything the City of Lights has to offer.
Where to stay in Paris
Paris is split into several different and unique neighbourhoods, known as arrondissements. There are 20 in total start with the 1st and 2nd arrondissement being at the heart of the city and then moving outward from there to the outskirts of the city.
Each arrondissement has its own personality and charm, and uniquely different from each other. If you’re yet to decide on where to stay on your trip to Paris, you may consider the popular neighbourhoods of Le Marais (set in the 3rd and 4th arrondissement), Ile Saint-Louis, Montmartre, or St-Germain-des-Prés to name but a few.
Be sure to read French Moments’ comprehensive guide on the best neighbourhoods and hotels to stay at in Paris, to help you narrow down your search for your trip.
Top Sights to Explore in Paris
Paris probably has the largest concentration of tourist attractions in France and is known for its incredible selection of French landmarks and sights to explore. Here is a selection of the best sights in Paris to visit.
Visit the Eiffel Tower
Dominating the Parisien skyline since its opening in 1889, the Eiffel Tower which was initially detested by many Parisians is today perhaps the most iconic of all attractions in Paris.
This wrought-iron tower that’s been nicknamed as ‘La dame de fer‘ (translated as the ‘Iron Lady’) also happens to be the most visited (paid) attraction in the world, with close to 7 million visitors scaling the tower annually to get a glimpse of the incredible views of Paris from above.
The Eiffel Tower is also exceptionally beautiful at night when the light show, installed in 1985 by Pierre Bideau, illuminates the tower and providing onlookers with an impressive light display.
Head across to the Place du Trocadero viewing platform for the best views of the Eiffel Tower both during the day and at night.
If you want to head up, then make sure to book your tickets ahead of time for the Eiffel Tower as this is an extremely popular Paris attraction.
Admire the Louvre Museum
Home to thousands of masterpieces, around 38,000 to be exact, from the Mona Lisa to Venus de Milo, the Louvre Museum is without a doubt one of the finest art galleries in the world.
This institution, which fronts on to the gorgeous Tuileries Gardens, understandably enjoys the highest footfall and can become extremely crowded on most days of the week.
Apart from the classic paintings, the Egyptian Antiquities section is a must-visit for its huge collection of artefacts, from ancient Egypt to the Byzantine era which includes mummies, scrolls and jewels among others. You can’t miss the iconic glass pyramid-shaped structure in the courtyard in the front that has become a favourite Instagram-worthy photo-op spot.
Save time and book your fast track entry tickets to the Louvre before your visit!
Cathedral of Notre Dame
The wealth of the history and culture of Paris can be found in the many museums and monuments scattered throughout the city. And, Notre Dame is yet another example of this.
Visitors can admire the imposing architecture complete with intriguing gargoyles and beautiful stained glass windows at this 13th century Gothic French Cathedral. Now considered to be one of the most recognised of all churches across the globe, Notre Dame enjoys an impressive location on IIe de la Cité.
Thanks to Victor Hugo, author of the iconic Hunchback of Notre Dame, the building is a favourite for both adults and children alike. The two towers on either side offer breathtaking views of central Paris and the river Seine.
Note: On the 15th of April 2019 the world looked on in shock as the Notre Dame lit ablaze. The fire sadly caused large scale destruction but thankfully the restoration project kicked off in 2021 with the goal of completing it in time for the Paris Olympics in 2024.
If you are an admirer of historic architecture and have a penchant for the lavish and the opulent, then you simply have to take a tour of the extravagant Opera Garnier, one of the most famous Opera Houses in the world.
This will give you an opportunity to go behind the scenes at the Opera House, the most stunning Beaux-Arts building in Paris by far. Admire the grandeur of the architecture and intricate decor which dates back to the 19th century and see the stage that inspired the book and theatre production, Phantom of the Opera.
Book your tickets to enter the Opera Garnier for a chance to admire the grandiose marble staircase (named the Grand Escalier), the 1979-seater Auditorium, as well as the ornate and gold gilded Salon du Glacier Foyer with its imposing chandeliers. You’ll no doubt be bowled over the incredible craftsmanship that has gone into creating such a masterpiece.
Visit the Montmartre and the Sacré Cœur
Bohemian Montmartre with its charming cobbled streets, squares and boutique shops has long since attracted artists and visitors. A neighbourhood of Paris packed with personality, you simply cannot miss out on wandering through the quaint streets of Montmartre.
Visit the Place du Tertre square and let one of the local artists paint your portrait for you. Whilst there, you’ll definitely want to pop into one of the pâtisseries on the square and get your hands a delectable Parisian crêpe!
From Place du Tertre it’s a short 200-metre walk around the corner to the grand Sacré Cœur Basilica, towering out over the city. This gorgeous Romanesque-Byzantine style basilica is equally as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. Whilst you can enter the basilica free of charge, access to climbing to the top of the dome does come at a cost.
Do note that to get to the top of the dome will require you to go up roughly 300 steps with no access to an elevator at all.
After you’ve admired the basilica inside and out, grab a seat on the steps down below and enjoy the sweeping views out over Paris!
Stroll Along The Champs-Élysées
Another iconic area of Paris worth visiting is the beautiful tree-lined Champs-Elysées avenue of Paris that stretches along for 1.9 kilometres, connecting Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles-de-Gaulle.
Originally built under the orders of King Louis XIV, the avenue has become synonymous with high-end shopping, thanks to various fashion brands hosting their flagship stores here, including the likes Cartier, Zara, Louis Vuitton and many more. The Champs-Elysées also features on the final stretch of the Tour de France cycling race, as well as playing host to events and festivities such as the Bastille Day celebrations.
Today you can browse through the various shopping outlets, dine at the restaurants that line this strip or even attend a theatre show.
The Arc de Triomphe
Heading upward and away from the Place de la Concorde towards the western end of the Champs-Elysées, you’ll arrive at the grand and imposing Arc de Triomphe monument.
This impressive monument, another famous attraction in Paris, was completed in 1836 under the order of Napoleon and sits smack bang in the centre of a busy 12 lane roundabout. Thankfully, visitors can access the arch through an underground tunnel that exits out at the base of the monument.
Here, at the grave of the “Unknown Soldier,” you can pay your respects to all the fallen soldiers who died to defend France in the Napoleonic and Revolutionary wars.
You can also opt to scale the 30-metre high monument to the top, to admire spectacular views out over the city.
Make sure to pre-book your skip-the-line entrance tickets with rooftop access for the Arc de Triomphe ahead of time.
Romantic Things to See and Do in Paris
Experience a Romantic Parisian Evening
Seeing Paris by night is just as magical, if not more, than by day! There are scores of operators offering guided tours of the city by night, but the best way to take in the sights and sounds of Paris is on foot.
Just amble across Champs-Elysées or along the banks of the Seine to admire the illuminated French landmarks in the distance. Pop into one of the numerous sidewalk cafes to sit and enjoy a meal or sip some excellent local wine as you watch the world go by.
For a completely unique experience, you may want to head to the ‘red-light district’ of Paris, Quartier Pigalle. This is where you’ll be able to enjoy the now world-famous Moulin Rouge cabaret show.
Dating back to 1889 when the Moulin Rouge was first founded, this decadent show features over 80 artists and over a thousand costumes, and will no doubt dazzle and delight viewers and is a must-see when visiting Paris!
Bateaux Parisiens River Cruise
What better way to explore Paris and its remarkable sights than by river cruise down the Seine. Glide along the Seine and admire the various Parisian attractions for a completely different perspective.
One of the most popular options is to book a one hour Bateaux Parisiens cruise where you’ll get to pass along notable sights including the Eiffel Tower, The Notre-Dame cathedral, the Louvre, as well as passing under the famous Pont-Neuf and other bridges.
Picnic in the Tuileries Gardens
If you are looking for a breath of fresh air in the heart of Paris, the play areas and activities at the picturesque Tuileries Gardens are perfect for couples, families and children.
This beautiful setting with its formal French-style gardens that separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde offers visitors a wide range of activities and facilities to enjoy.
The gardens are punctuated by several sculptures and ponds and play host to the annual Paris Fashion Week as well as the funfair named “Fête des Tuileries” which runs between the months of June to August.
Art enthusiasts should make sure to head over to the southwest corner o the Tuileries to visit the Musée de l’Orangerie that features works by Monet, including his work titled the Nymphéas, a stunning set of 8 large water-lily paintings.
Create Your Own Perfume Workshop
French perfumes are revered the world over, especially known for their high quality and excellent crafting and are known as a cultural symbol of France.
If you want to know about the history and tradition which goes into making these awesome fragrances then consider booking a workshop to learn about the history of French perfumes.
Head over to the Candora Boutique in the centre of Paris, located nearby Notre-Dame, and learn how to identify the different notes, as well as how to mix and make your own classic perfume to take home with you. A perfect romantic keepsake to remind you of your visit to Paris.
Other Top Things to See and Do in Paris
Visit the Catacombs of Paris
For a somewhat eerie yet fascinating experience, consider visiting the Catacombs of Paris.
Set roughly 20 metres underground, the catacombs were originally used to help the city cope with the overflow from the city’s cemeteries. Today, it houses the remains of over 6 million deceased and has become a popular tourist attraction for those brave enough to venture beneath the streets of Paris and explore this fascinating maze and galleries.
If this sounds like your cup of tea, then consider booking a guided tour of these fascinating catacombs of Paris.
Enjoy a Whirlwind Tour of Paris
There is a wide range of tours which highlight the best of Paris for you and your family to enjoy from walking tours of Paris, sightseeing tours, as well as various other experiences you can book to make your trip that much more memorable.
One of the most popular is the open-top Hop on Hop off bus tour which covers the most iconic landmarks like Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, Musée d’Orsay, the stunning Opera Garnier and much more.
These tours are especially great for travellers who may have limited time in the city. You’ll be able to pass along all the major sites across the city, stopping off at the ones you’d like to spend more time at.
Day Trips from Paris
Marvel at the opulence of the Palace of Versailles
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the largest and most opulent palaces in the world, as well as one of the most visited in all of France.
The sprawling Palace of Versailles is located roughly 18 miles / 29 kilometres southwest of Paris with millions make the trip each year to admire the grandeur of the Chateau in person.
This extravagant former residence of King Louis XIV (nicknamed the Sun King) is adorned with gold figurines, dramatic frescoes, and beautifully manicured gardens. Particularly impressive is the Hall of Mirrors (the Galerie des Glaces), a 75-metre long ballroom that features over 357 mirrors in total, large imposing crystal chandeliers, beautiful ceiling frescoes and intricate gold gilding and decorations.
Be sure to book your tickets for Versailles in advance as this is an extremely popular sight to visit. Try to avoid weekends which is the most popular time of the week and sees the most visitors. Also, try to get to the palace as early as possible, just before opening time, to beat the crowds.
Go on a Wine Tasting trip
What better way to end your trip to Paris off on a high note than by embarking on a day trip to France’s famed Champagne country, to sample some of the best ‘bubbly’ produced in France.
The region of Reims is situated 46-minutes by train from Paris’ Gare de l’Est train station and is where you’ll find some of the best wine estates to visit.
One such winery is the world-renowned Veuve Clicquot which is located roughly 3 kilometres from the Reims train station. Visitors can learn all about the estates Champagne production as well as sample the famous Yellow Label when booking a guided tour of the cellars.
Cellar tours are set for €30 per adult in groups of 6 people and only available between Tuesdays to Saturdays. You must book in advance as walk-ins are not accepted.
For an especially romantic outing, you can also opt to book an idyllic gourmet picnic lunch in the beautiful Parc du Manoir de Verzy manor grounds (weather permitting), currently costing €65 per adult.
Do note that the Parc du Manoir de Verzy is a further 20 – 25 minutes drive by car. Do include this in when considering the picnic option.
About the author!
Born and raised in South Africa, Marco Santos from Travel-Boo, currently resides in sunny Lisbon, Portugal.
With an absolute love for Europe, he is on a mission to rediscover his own Portuguese & European heritage along the way.
Marco has set out to blog and share his passion for travelling through and exploring Spain, Portugal and other parts of Europe, sharing what he’s learned through his travel blog Travel-Boo.
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