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Best things to do in Paris

Paris is the city of light, art, love, the Eiffel Tower, crepes and croissants. If you visit it, let yourself go and get lost in its streets, but do not forget the must-sees that the city has reserved for you.

Ana Caballero

Ana Caballero

May 14, 2021 • 11 min read

Best things to do in Paris

Alexandre III Bridge in Paris | ©Leonard Cotte

After several trips to the French capital it is common to have the feeling of not having finished seeing all the must-sees; the good thing about Paris is that the city is always waiting for you. Here are 20 things about Paris that you will always remember.

1. Visit the Eiffel Tower, Trocadero and the Champs de Mars.

View of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero | ©Dimitry Anikin
View of the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero | ©Dimitry Anikin

Undoubtedly, the emblem of Paris is the tower that many Parisians once rejected as an aesthetic aberration for the city. Today no one imagines Paris without the Eiffel Tower and it is impossible not to visit it during your visit to the city. If you're lucky, you'll first spot it from the plane, then you'll look for its lights on the horizon while strolling through Paris at night and, finally, you'll surely go to take your photo from the Trocadero square.

But what do you need to know if you want to climb the Eiffel Tower? First of all, as is the case with most tourist attractions in Paris, the tickets for the Eiffel Tower: it is best to book them in advance to avoid the queue at the ticket office. When buying the tickets the first thing you have to decide is whether you want to go up only to the second floor or to the top and if you want to do it with elevator or with stairs.

In either case you will have the option of taking a guided tour of the tower or buying the ticket with a pack of another activity (such as a cruise on the Seine) to save money.

**You'll love the views, 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. 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.

2. Get cultured at the Louvre Museum and relax in the Tuileries garden.

Louvre Museum | ©Marla Prusik
Louvre Museum | ©Marla Prusik

Taking a stroll 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 surrounding its huge fountains... For me, it is one of the best Parisian experiences. By this I mean that, if the Louvre's art collection is among the most extensive and renowned in the world, the museum's surroundings, including the glass pyramid through which you enter, have nothing to envy.

Once you have enjoyed the area (and don't forget to see it at night) you can plan your visit to the museum which contains works such as Da Vinci's Gioconda, the Venus de Milo, the Victory of Samothrace, Delacroix's Liberty Leading the People, or the Code of Hammurabi.

Book the Louvre tickets in advance and allow yourself about three hours to do so. Select a day and a time slot for your visit (on Tuesdays it is closed and on Wednesdays and Fridays it opens later) and, above all, buy tickets in advance because the queue to access the ticket office can last hours. Do not discard the guided tour to make the most of the collection and avoid holidays when the crowds are even greater than usual.

3. Stroll through Montmartre and visit the Sacre Coeur

Sacre Coeur | ©Mattia Bericchia
Sacre Coeur | ©Mattia Bericchia

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 district, which today, surprisingly, has not lost that special charm that makes it the most visited neighborhood in Paris.

You will find this neighborhood in the north of Paris, far from the center, but well connected by 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 walk its streets and cafes knowing their stories. I always recommend a guided tour of the area.

4. Enjoy a show at the Moulin Rouge

Mouline Rouge | ©Lola Delabays
Mouline Rouge | ©Lola Delabays

In lower Montmartre, surrounded by erotic stores and neons, is the **most famous **cabaret of Paris, known above all for the posters of Toulouse Lautrec or for the cancan dance.

Today some people think that the Moulin Rouge is a museum, but no: it still works as a nightclub that you can attend buying tickets for the Moulin Rouge:. The price is not cheap, but the experience is worth it. Whether you attend the dinner or not, don't forget to visit the Moulin Rouge at night to see it illuminated and feel the true character of the area.

5. Stroll around the Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral | ©Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz
Notre Dame Cathedral | ©Mehmet Turgut Kirkgoz

It's inevitable to refer to one of Paris' most iconic monuments without cringing a little and the flames that took part of the structure on April 15, 2019, coming to mind.

Although you won't be able to go up to see the gargoyles guarding Paris from its towers, the cathedral is under restoration and you can walk over to Ile de la Cité to visit it from the outside and take a stroll around the surrounding area. If you are a book lover, don't forget to visit the most wonderful bookstore in the world located a few meters from the cathedral: Shakespeare and Co.

6. Discover the unknown Sainte Chapelle

Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows ©Ema Suriano
Sainte Chapelle stained glass windows ©Ema Suriano

It has always struck me how the Sainte Chapelle goes so unnoticed among tourists visiting Paris. This church is located a few meters from Notre Dame and stands out for its impressive stained glass windows. It is well worth going inside to see the spectacle of light and crystals that, precisely because it is not well known, can be enjoyed more quietly and calmly than more crowded churches like the Sacre Coeur or Notre Dame.

7. Take a guided tour of the Paris Opera Building

Escalinata Opera Garnier | ©Valerian Guillot
Escalinata Opera Garnier | ©Valerian Guillot

Another emblematic building is the Opera Garnier. The shows held in this magnificent building (you should see it both day and night, illuminated) concentrated the elite of French society and politics and those stories will tell you when you visit its sumptuous corridors and its performance hall. During the day, you can visit the building by buying tickets for a guided tour at the Opéra Garnier: and at night concerts and shows are still held.

8. Cross the Arc de Triomphe and the Champs Elysées.

Arc de Triomphe | ©Misko
Arc de Triomphe | ©Misko

North of the Seine and in the middle of the Charles de Gaulle square you will find the famous Arc de Triomphe in Paris that you can either visit from below or climb to contemplate the city from above. If you do the latter you will see that the skyscrapers of La 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 Elysees (if you visit Paris at Christmas you will see that the decoration of the trees is a marvel) browsing the many shop windows that line both sides of it.

9. Stroll through the Luxembourg Gardens

Luxembourg Gardens | ©Juanedc
Luxembourg Gardens | ©Juanedc

Paris is a city of large green areas and one of the most well-kept and also one of the most visited is the Luxembourg Gardens, south of the Seine River. Its design, fountains and flowers are worth a visit, but do not go just to do the tourist check: sit and read, buy an ice cream and watch how the daily life of Paris moves in this park. The hustle and bustle of Paris stops in these impeccable gardens within which you will also find the palace that gives them their name.

10. Fall in love with the Musée D'Orsay

Museum D'orsay | ©Johan Mouchet
Museum D'orsay | ©Johan Mouchet

After the Louvre, this is the most visited museum in Paris and I particularly like it even more. The Musée d'Orsay has works by Monet, Rodin, Cézanne or Gauguin among its collection, it is distributed on several floors and its layout is perfect for a visit.

In the center of the Musée d'Orsay there is a main gallery with statues and sculptures and bathed by a spectacular light; on the sides of it the different rooms are distributed continuously. The smaller crowds compared to the Louvre allows you to enjoy this visit calmly (I recommend you book a couple of hours). I tell you all about this and other museums in my guide on the best museums in Paris:.

11. Have fun at the Pompidou Museum

Center Pompidou | ©Luis Tamayo
Center Pompidou | ©Luis Tamayo

In a city as cosmopolitan as Paris, contemporary art has a lot to say and a visit to the George Pompidou museum is a good proof of that. In the Pompidou you will see one of the largest collections of contemporary art in Europe with works by Duchamp, Kandinsky, Picasso or Matisse, but also original assemblies of other authors that will make you have a great time during the visit.

The Pompidou is a museum to have a good time, have fun and enjoy art while learning, which is why I always say that the Pompidou is an ideal museum to take children to. Read more in this article about the best museums in Paris:.

12. Visit Napoleon's tomb at Les Invalides

The Invalides | ©Brieuc DANIEL
The Invalides | ©Brieuc DANIEL

Near the Champs de Mars is the architectural complex of Les Invalides. It certainly catches the eye with its large gold dome, but what is actually in that building? The answer is a military museum and a church containing the mortal remains of Napoleon. If you are interested in the eras of the French Revolution and World War II, here you will find a huge collection of weapons and objects related to those periods.

13. Stroll around the Latin Quarter and the Pantheon

The Pantheon
The Pantheon
image|url=https://res.cloudinary.com/hello-tickets/image/upload/v1612269701/post_images/paris-125/ver-hacer-paris/1794652604_ba86e69e6d_o_Cropped.jpg|caption=The Pantheon :::

Neoclassical in style and inspired by the Roman Pantheon, this is one of the main buildings of the Latin Quarter. Its subway galleries or its elevated vault are the main attractions of the guided tour that can be done inside it, but seeing it from the outside and, incidentally, walking the streets of this area is worth it.

14. Climb to the viewpoint of the Montparnasse Tower

Views from the lookout of the Montparnasse Tower | ©Henrique Ferreira
Views from the lookout of the Montparnasse Tower | ©Henrique Ferreira

South of Paris you will find this viewpoint from which you will get fantastic views of Paris. I do not put the Montparnasse tower on this list because it is my favorite aesthetically, far from it (in fact, I think it breaks the Parisian panorama), but I have to admit that the views from there are worth it both because of the height (not as high as the Eiffel Tower, so you can see the city in more detail) and because you do not see the tower itself.

15. Take a guided tour of Paris

Eiffel Tower at night | ©Cameron Barnes
Eiffel Tower at night | ©Cameron Barnes

When I have little time in a city or I'm passing through and I can only select one tourist activity, I definitely opt for guided walking tours of the city center. In Paris, because of the size of the city, there is a lot to choose from and the tours are usually organized by neighborhoods.

In this article about the different guided tours you can do in Paris I summarize the ones that for me, are the most interesting. For example, the night tour of Paris can be a very good opportunity to see the city illuminated, but don't discard any area of the city, each neighborhood has a different charm!

16. Relax during a cruise on the Seine River

Cruise on the Seine | ©Joe deSousa
Cruise on the Seine | ©Joe deSousa

Taking a boat ride on the Seine is one of the most demanded 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, suitable for all budgets. I tell you all about them in my practical guide on the best cruises you can do on the Seine:.

17. Back to your childhood at Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris | ©Mathis Jrdl
Disneyland Paris | ©Mathis Jrdl

I can hardly be objective in this recommendation: I love amusement parks, especially theme parks and especially Disneyland.

If you go with children it is an almost obligatory visit and if not and you are going to spend several days in Paris, I recommend you to take advantage of one to escape. It is easily accessible from the center of Paris and the experience for movie and attraction lovers is well worth it. If you are thinking of doing this visit, I recommend you to read my article about how to buy tickets for Disneyland:.

18. Travel back in time from the Palace of Versailles

Palais de Versailles | ©Anthony Choren
Palais de Versailles | ©Anthony Choren

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 every room. History aside, a visit to Versailles is a must both for the sumptuousness of its palace and its impressive gardens.

Any excursion to the Palace of Versailles from Paris: will take you almost a full day and you can arrive by train from the center of Paris or hire separate transportation and guided tour. The queues at Versailles are about two hours minimum; booking your tickets in advance will save you precious time.

19. Tour Paris by bus

Visit Paris by sightseeing bus | ©zoetnet
Visit Paris by sightseeing bus | ©zoetnet

It may surprise some that I close this list by recommending the use of a tourist bus. I will give two reasons and both have to do with the type of city Paris is. First, when the city is as large as this one is it becomes very difficult to take it in on foot, at least in a single day.

For me, using the tourist bus is the perfect way to cover in short time a large area of the city, something I see as ideal for those who are short on time or who wish to take a general stroll around the city.

Secondly, comfort is a factor to consider; 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 panoramic conditions of this type of bus are perfect for this. Read more about Paris sightseeing buses:.