After several trips to the French capital, it's not uncommon to feel like you haven't seen all the must-see sights; the good thing about Paris is that the city is always waiting for you. Here are 20 things you 'll always remember about Paris.
1. Visit the Eiffel Tower, the Trocadero and the Champs de Mars
Undoubtedly the emblem of Paris is the tower that many Parisians once rejected as an aesthetic aberration for the city. Today, no one can imagine a first visit to Paris without climbing the Eiffel Tower. If you're lucky, you'll first spot it from the plane, then look for the lights of the Eiffel Tower at night on the skyline as you walk through Paris by night, and finally, you're sure to take the obligatory photo from the Place du Trocadéro.
Getting to the Eiffel Tower is easy, but what do you need to know if you want to go up? Firstly, as with most tourist attractions in Paris, tickets to the Eiffel Tower: it's best to book them in advance to avoid the queue at the ticket office. When buying tickets, the first thing you need to decide is whether you want to go up to the first floor only or to the top and whether you want to go up by lift or stairs. The price of tickets for the Eiffel Tower varies depending on what you decide.
In either case you will have the option of taking a guided tour of the Eiffel Tower or buying a combined ticket with an Eiffel Tower and Seine Cruise package to save money.
You'll love the views from the Eiffel Tower, both by day and with the city lit up (to do it both ways without having to go up twice, the best time to go up is at sunset), but don't forget to visit the surrounding area and even eat at one of the restaurants near the Eiffel Tower after your visit. On one side of the Eiffel Tower you have the Champs de Mars, where you can lie down in summer for a picnic, and on the opposite side, you have the Trocadero Gardens.
Here are some tips on how to make the most of your visit to the Eiffel Tower to make the experience even better.
2. Get cultured at the Louvre Museum and relax in the Tuileries garden
Strolling along the banks of the Seine, arriving at the Tuileries gardens that precede the Louvre Museum, sitting down to read a book in the chairs that surround its enormous fountains... For me, it is one of the best Parisian experiences. By this I mean that, if the Louvre's art collection is one of the most extensive and renowned in the world, the walk to the Louvre and the museum's surroundings, including the glass pyramid through which you enter, are second to none.
Once you've enjoyed the area (and don't forget to see it at night) you can plan your visit to the museum. Among the Louvre's best works are Da Vinci's Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People and the Code of Hammurabi. The time you need to see the Louvre varies depending on what you want to see in depth, but I don't recommend less than three hours.
Select a day and a time slot for your visit (as for the Louvre opening hours, you should know that it is closed on Tuesdays and opens later on Wednesdays and Fridays) and, above all, buy your Louvre tickets in advance because the queue to get to the ticket office can last for hours.
Don't rule out a guided tour of the Louvre to make the most of the collection (if you go to the Louvre with children you'll also find special tours for them) and avoid public holidays when the crowds are even bigger than usual. On these days there may be discounts on Louvre ticket prices, but in my opinion it won't be worth it because the museum will be too crowded to enjoy it in peace and quiet.
Finally, don't forget to visit the Louvre's museum shop, where you can find some great bargains, as well as in the underground shopping centre. Here are some recommendations for places to eat near the Louvre.
3. Stroll around Montmartre and visit the Sacre Coeur
You've probably read stories about bohemian Paris and the painters and artists who flocked to the city at the dawn of the 20th century. All these stories took place in the Montmartre neighbourhood, which today, surprisingly, has not lost that special charm that makes it the most visited neighbourhood in Paris.
You will find this neighbourhood in the north of Paris, far from the centre, but well served by the Paris metro (Blanche, Pigalle or Anvers stops on line 2). The main points of interest are the Sacre Coeur, the Moulin Rouge and the Place des Painters, but the real essence is to wander its streets and cafés and learn about its history. I always recommend a guided tour of the area.
4. See a show at the Moulin Rouge
To get to the Moulin Rouge, you must enter the bohemian quarter of Paris. In lower Montmartre, surrounded by erotic shops and neon lights, you'll find the most famous cabaret in Paris, best known for its Toulouse Lautrec posters and the cancan dance.
Nowadays some people think that the Moulin Rouge is a museum, but it is not: it is still a nightclub where you can buy tickets for the Moulin Rouge. The price of the Moulin Rouge show is not cheap, but the experience is worth it. Whether you attend the dinner or decide to grab a bite to eat near the Moulin Rouge, don't forget to visit at night to see it lit up and get a real feel for the character of the area.
5. Stroll around Notre Dame Cathedral
It's inevitable to refer to one of Paris' most iconic monuments without shuddering a little and mentioning the flames that devoured the structure on 15 April 2019.
Although you won't be able to climb up to see the gargoyles guarding Paris from its towers, Notre Dame Cathedral is under restoration and you can pop over to the Île de la Cité to visit the outside and take a stroll around the surrounding area. If you are a book lover, don't forget to visit the most wonderful bookshop in the world, located a few meters from the cathedral: Shakespeare and Co.
6. Discover the unknown Sainte Chapelle
It has always struck me how the Sainte Chapelle goes so unnoticed by tourists visiting Paris. This church is located just a few metres from Notre Dame and stands out for its impressive stained glass windows. It's worth going inside to see the spectacle of light and glass which, precisely because it is little known, can be enjoyed in more peace and quiet than in more crowded churches such as the Sacre Coeur or Notre Dame.
7. Take a guided tour of the Paris Opera Building
Another iconic building is the Opéra Garnier. The performances held in this magnificent building (you should see it both day and night, illuminated) brought together the elite of French society and politics, and these stories will be told to you when you visit its sumptuous corridors and performance hall. During the day, you can visit the building by buying tickets for a guided tour at the Opéra Garnier: and if you're in Paris at night, be aware that concerts and shows are still being held here.
8. Cross the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées
North of the Seine and in the middle of the Place Charles de Gaulle is Paris' famous Arc de Triomphe, which you can visit from below or climb to see the city from above. If you do the latter, you'll see that the skyscrapers of the Defénse de Paris (the business district), the Arc itself and the Louvre pyramid form a perfect straight line.
You can also take a stroll along the Avenue des Champs Elysées (if you visit Paris at Christmas time, the tree decorations are a marvel) and browse the many shop windows that line both sides of it.
9. Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens
Paris is a city of large green spaces and one of the most well-kept and also one of the most visited is the Luxembourg Gardens, south of the River Seine. Its design, fountains and flowers are worth a visit, but don't just go there to do the tourist check: sit and read, buy an ice cream and watch the daily life of Paris go by in this park. The hustle and bustle of Paris comes to a halt in these impeccable gardens, within which you'll also find the palace that gives them their name.
10. Fall in love with the Musée d'Orsay
After the Louvre, this is the most visited museum in Paris and, for many people, their favourite. The Musée d'Orsay has works by Monet, Rodin, Cézanne and Gauguin in its collection, is spread over several floors and is perfectly laid out for a visit.
In the centre of the Musée d'Orsay is a main gallery with statues and sculptures and bathed in spectacular light; the different rooms are continuously distributed around the sides of the gallery. The smaller crowds compared to the Louvre allow you to enjoy this visit at your leisure (I recommend you set aside a couple of hours). Read more about this and other museums in our guide to the best museums in Paris.
11. Have fun at the Pompidou Museum
In a city as cosmopolitan as Paris, contemporary art has a lot to say and a visit to the George Pompidou Museum is proof of that. At the Pompidou you will see one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Europe with works by Duchamp, Kandinsky, Picasso and Matisse, as well as original works by other artists that will give you a good time during your visit.
The Pompidou is a museum to have a good time, have fun and enjoy art while learning, that's why I always say that the Pompidou is an ideal museum to visit if you are travelling to Paris with children. Read more in this article about the best museums in Paris.
12. Visit Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides
Close to the Champs de Mars is the architectural complex of Les Invalides. It certainly catches the eye with its large golden dome, but what's really inside the building? The answer is a military museum and a church containing the mortal remains of Napoleon. If you're interested in the eras of the French Revolution and the Second World War, you'll find a huge collection of weapons and artefacts related to those periods.
13. Stroll through the Latin Quarter and Pantheon
In neoclassical style and inspired by the Roman Pantheon, it is one of the main buildings in the Latin Quarter. Its underground galleries or its raised vault are the main attractions of the guided tour that you can take inside, but seeing it from the outside and, incidentally, strolling through the streets of this area is well worth it.
14. Go up to the observation deck of the Montparnasse Tower
South of Paris you'll find one of the best viewpoints in Paris for fantastic views of the city. The Montparnasse Tower isn't on this list because it's particularly beautiful, far from it (in fact, it breaks up the Parisian skyline), but the views from there are worth it both for the height (it's not as high as the Eiffel Tower, so you can see the city in more detail) and because you don't see the tower itself.
15. Take a guided tour of Paris
When you have little time in a city or you are just passing through, my recommendations are always twofold: hire an airport transfer to save time on the way to and from the airport and, if you only have one tourist activity to choose from, take a guided walking tour of the city centre. In Paris, due to the size of the city, there is a lot to choose from and the tours are usually organised to cover the best neighbourhoods of Paris.
This article on the different guided tours you can take in Paris summarises the most interesting ones. For example, the night tour of Paris can be a great opportunity to see the city lit up, but don't rule out any area of the city - each neighbourhood has its own charm!
16. Relax on a cruise on the Seine River
Taking a boat trip on the Seine is one of the most popular activities in the French capital. The layout of the city's monuments allows you to see many of them from the river and this type of cruise is a perfect opportunity to do it in an original and relaxed way.
Due to its great demand, there are different options such as a dinner cruise on the Seine or a night cruise on the Seine, suitable for all budgets. We tell you all about them in the practical guide to the best Seine cruises you can take:.
17. Go back to your childhood at Disneyland Paris
It's hard to be objective in this recommendation: we all have a child in us and many of us love amusement parks, especially theme parks and especially Disneyland. Both children and adults have a long list of things to see and do at Disneyland Paris.
If you go with children it is an almost obligatory visit. If you are not going with children, but you are going to spend several days in Paris, I recommend that you take advantage of a getaway. It is easily accessible from the centre of Paris and the experience is well worth it for movie and attraction lovers. If you're thinking of making this visit, I recommend you read the article on how to buy tickets for Disneyland: and check both the Disney park opening hours and how to get to Disneyland from Paris. A good planning is key to save time (you will lose enough time queuing for many of the attractions in Disney parks) and money (keep in mind that eating inside the Disney park is already an extra expense) in this experience.
As for the time, depending on the days you spend in the park, the tips for visiting Disneyland Paris will be different. I leave you with this list which, regardless of the option you choose, will help you:
- What to see and do in Disneyland Paris in one day
- What to see and do in Disneyland Paris in two days
- What to see and do in Disneyland Paris in three days
- What to see and do in Disneyland Paris in four days
Finally, if you want my opinion on what is the best time to visit Disneyland Paris, I have it clear: visiting the Disney park at Christmas or experiencing the magic of Disneyland at Halloween are the best options.
18. Travel back in time from the Palace of Versailles
We all know the history of the rise of absolutism and its fall with the French Revolution, but to visit the Palace and gardens of Versailles is to relive it in each of its rooms. History aside, a visit to Versailles is a must for both the sumptuousness of the palace and its stunning gardens.
When planning your visit, check the opening times of the Palace of Versailles, but be aware that the queues for tickets to the Palace of Versailles are a minimum of two hours; booking your tickets in advance will save you precious time that you can then spend on all there is to see inside the Palace of Versailles.
If you've decided to take what is one of the best tours from Paris, you'll find these tips for visiting Versailles useful (as well as these tips for visiting Versailles with kids) and this post on where to eat in Versailles.
19. Tour Paris by bus
It may come as a surprise to some that one of the items on this list is the recommendation to use a sightseeing bus. There are two reasons and both have to do with the type of city Paris is. Firstly, when the city is as big as it is, it is very difficult to get around on foot, at least in a single day.
Therefore, using the tourist bus is the perfect way to cover a large area of the city in a short amount of time, which I think is ideal for those who are short on time or just want to take a general tour of the city. Also, if you buy the Paris Pass, the sightseeing bus is one of the attractions included.
Secondly, comfort is a factor; Paris is a beautiful city and sometimes you just want to look around without the need for long walks at the end of a tiring day. The scenic conditions of this type of bus are perfect for that. Here is more information about the Paris sightseeing bus.
20. Visit the Paris Catacombs
If you've fallen in love with Paris on the surface, you're missing the finishing touch to your trip: the underground Paris. The Paris Catacombs are a fascinating journey through the city's past and a very interesting visit if you want to find out more about its history. Be sure to wrap up warm because it's quite cold inside due to the humidity.
Tips to make your trip to Paris as spectacular as the city itself
There are many tips I can give you for travelling to Paris, from the best restaurants in the city to places to eat the best crepes in Paris to recommendations for getting around the centre of Paris. However, experience tells me that the first thing you need to consider is when you are going to visit the city and for how many days.
The best things to do in Paris in every season
One of the first questions you will probably ask yourself when planning your trip is when is the best time to visit Paris. As cliché as it may sound, every season of the year (for example) has its good things to offer, which is not uncommon in a city the size of the French capital.
- The best things to do in Paris in summer
- The best things to do in Paris in winter
- Best things to do in Paris in spring
- Best things to do in Paris in autumn
What to do in Paris month by month
There are different colours to suit all tastes. My favourite time to visit the city is Christmas, both for the Christmas markets you can find in Paris and the Christmas lights you'll find both in the centre and in the different neighbourhoods of Paris. However, as with the seasons, every month has its own charm in the city of light:
- What to do in Paris in January
- Things to do in Paris in February
- Things to do in Paris in March
- Things to do in Paris in April
- Things to do in Paris in May
- Things to do in Paris in June
- Things to do in Paris in July
- Things to do in Paris in August
- Things to do in Paris in September
- Things to do in Paris in October
- Things to do in Paris in November
- Things to do in Paris in December
How long will you be in Paris?
I'm not going to kid you: being in Paris for less than four days means there are things you won't see and that's a real shame. Does that mean you can't get a feel for the city in less time? Not at all, you can always come back and if you follow these guides you'll find things to do in Paris from one day to two weeks:
- Itinerary to visit Paris in one day
- Itinerary for visiting Paris in 2 days
- Itinerary for visiting Paris in 3 days
- Itinerary to visit Paris in 4 days
- Itinerary to visit Paris in 5 days
- Itinerary to visit Paris in 7 days
- Itinerary to visit Paris in 15 days
Transfers between Paris and Paris airports
The last point is probably one of the most boring, but also one of the most important. Do you already know which airport to get to? Charles de Gaulle is the closest to the centre and Beauvais is the furthest, but from any of the three you can save time if you book your transfer (either to or from) in advance.