The 20 best things to do in Paris: from hidden gems to tourist attractions

There are endless things to do in Paris, whether you’re on a romantic weekend, a business trip, or your annual family vacation.

A visit to Paris offers an unforgettable experience, from a walk along the historic Champs-Élysées to exploring the eerie Paris Catacombs or just people-watching at a pavement café. Each Parisian neighborhood has its own unique atmosphere, from the trendy Marais district, home to Le Centre Pompidou and pretty, narrow streets to the Latin Quarter, where there are plenty of students and the Sorbonne University. How can you fit it all in and ensure you cover all the best things to do in Paris when visiting this magical city? We’ve put together some of the highlights of Paris you can’t miss.

1. The Eiffel Tower – a timeless icon

The Eiffel Tour Paris

A visit to Paris is incomplete without a trip to the Eiffel Tower. To make the most of your time, take a guided tour to learn about this famous Paris monument. Why not visit at dusk when the tower is illuminated in golden lighting that switches on and off every 5 minutes throughout the evening? 

For a  360°view of the city take one of the lifts to the top of the Eiffel Tower, where you’ll get a breathtaking vista of Paris. As the highest observation deck in Europe, you’ll find yourself nearly 1,000 feet above the ground. On the way back down, you can dine on the second floor at one of the restaurants or grab a bite at the buffet. If you’re brave enough, stop off on the first floor to walk over the glass floor and feel like you’re walking on air.

You’ll also get a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower from the Galaries Lafayette terrace – perfect spot for photos to remember your visit to the City of Light.

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As the most famous sight in Paris booking an advance ticket ensures you make the most of your time at the Eiffel Tower.

2. The Louvre Museum – a work of art

The Louvre is a treasure trove for art lovers. Displaying some of the world’s most famous artworks, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo, a visit to the Louvre is a stroll through the corridors of history.

The grandeur of the Louvre Museum offers a regal touch to your visit to Paris. As you stroll through the galleries you’ll encounter the evolution of human creativity from ancient civilizations to the Renaissance. The artistic displays bring the past to life, making it a must-visit for art enthusiasts and anyone who wants to learn about French history.

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To avoid the crowds, plan your visit early in the morning or during the less busy week days and book a ticket online. You should also allow yourself plenty of time to appreciate the masterpieces, as the Louvre is the largest art museum in the world.

3. A Seine River cruise – the romance of Paris by day or night

batobus

A Seine River cruise will take you on an enchanting voyage through the heart of Paris. Drifting along the iconic Seine River, you’ll be treated to the captivating charm of the Parisian landmarks. A Seine River cruise offers a unique perspective you can only see from the water. The gentle lull of the boat, the historical commentary, and the magical ambiance make this a quintessential Parisian experience.

Why not surprise your partner and book a dinner cruise on the Seine River? As the sun sets, embark on a Seine River cruise for a romantic view of the city. This is an enchanting time to see the landmarks of Paris illuminated against the night sky, including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral. 

Or you can take a daytime cruise and hop on and off the river bus to see the sights, stop for lunch, or just relax and enjoy a trip on the Seine River. There are also plenty of river cruises that are combined with a visit to the sights, such as the Arc de Triomphe and the Louvre.

4. Notre Dame Cathedral – a journey through history

Notre Dame is a living testament to French craftsmanship and resilience. The grand facade, adorned with gargoyles and statues, invites you into a world where every stone has a story. 

For a scenic view of Paris, climb the spiral staircase to the top of Notre Dame and make the most of the photo opportunities. Beyond its architectural beauty, Notre Dame holds a sacred place in French history, surviving revolutions and wars. 

Notre Dame Cathedral stands on the Île de la Cité and tells tales of centuries past through its Gothic grandeur and intricate details. The cathedral’s recent restoration after the devastating fire in 2019 symbolizes not just the reconstruction of a building but the spirit of the city.

5. Montmartre – a bohemian retreat

Paris : view on Sacré Coeur basilica and Montmartre hill

Escape the bustling city center and immerse yourself in the artistic charm of Montmartre. Wander through its narrow cobblestone streets, explore the Place du Tertre where artists showcase their work, and climb up the Basilique du Sacré-Cœur for another amazing view of Paris. This picturesque neighborhood, which can be seen from the Galeries Lafayette terrace, captures the essence of a bygone era, making it a perfect spot for a leisurely day away from the crowds. When you’re in Montmartre don’t forget to visit the famous sinking house – is it an optical illusion or is it real? Located next to the Sacré Coeur – this makes a great photo opportunity.

6. The Catacombs –  macabre and fascinating 

Embark on a spooky journey beneath the streets of Paris with a visit to the Catacombs. When you descend into the subterranean world beneath the City of Light, you’ll find yourself surrounded by the millions of carefully arranged human bones. This labyrinth of tunnels, originally stone quarries, provides a haunting glimpse into Parisian history. Walking through the dimly lit corridors of the Catacombs, you’ll encounter intricate arrangements of skulls and bones, forming walls that tell a silent story. This chilling spectacle is not for the faint-hearted!

7. The Arc de Triomphe – a commanding presence

Standing proudly at the top of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe has rich historical significance. Commissioned by Napoleon after his victory at Austerlitz, the arch symbolizes military strength and the honoring of fallen soldiers.

The Arc de Triomphe is a witness to pivotal moments in French history, including the triumphant return of Napoleon’s ashes and the Victory Parade after World War II. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier beneath the famous arch pays homage to those who sacrificed their lives for the nation, adding a solemn and reflective dimension to the visit. When you climb the spiral staircase to the top, the city unfolds beneath you, with the Eiffel Tower standing tall in the distance. Visiting the Arc de Triomphe is not just a visual spectacle; it’s a chance to stand at the crossroads of French history, appreciate architectural brilliance, and be moved by the stories etched into its stone walls.

8. Musée d’Orsay: Where Art Meets History

Musée D'Orsay Paris

Located in a former railway station, the Musée d’Orsay is a fusion of art and history. This is an essential visit for admirers of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork. The vast art collection, including works by Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas, unfolds like a visual symphony as you wander through the museum.

The grandeur of the building enhances the experience, with its ornate architecture and the giant original station clock.  As you navigate the halls, you’ll come across a stunning collection of Impressionist art. From Monet’s Water Lilies to Van Gogh’s The Starry Night viewing these artistic treasures is a unique experience.

9. Palais Garnier – a theatrical extravaganza

Dive into the world of French opera at the Palais Garnier. This architectural masterpiece is not only a treat for opera aficionados but also for anyone who appreciates stunning design. This architectural masterpiece, adorned with marble, gilt, and chandeliers, invites visitors into a world of grandeur and theatrical magic.

A guided tour unravels the secrets of this historic opera house, from the grand staircase to the plush auditorium. The Phantom of the Opera’s spirit may linger in literary tales, but the real enchantment lies in the rich acoustics and the captivating tales performed on the Palais Garnier stage.

As the curtains rise, echoes of past performances fuse with the present, creating an immersive journey through the world of ballet, opera, and timeless stories.

10. The Moulin Rouge – the allure of cabaret

If you love musical theatre attending a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge must be on your Paris to-do list. The elaborate costumes, talented dancers, and flamboyance of the whole evening promise a musical extravaganza to mesmerize you. The rich tapestry of the performances, coupled with the intimate ambiance of the venue, transports the audience to the Belle Époque, an era of artistic liberation and social dynamism. Established in 1889, the Moulin Rouge isn’t just a cabaret show; it’s an iconic institution synonymous with the bohemian spirit of the Montmartre district. It’s hosted legendary performers and witnessed the evolution of entertainment over the decades. Adorned with the iconic red windmill, setting the stage for an evening of sophistication and decadence, the venue itself is a visual delight.

11. Versailles – an opulent day trip

You can´t miss taking a day trip to Versailles if you have a few spare days in Paris. The Palace of Versailles is an example of supreme opulence, with its gilded halls and the famous Hall of Mirrors, where treaties were signed, and lavish celebrations held in the past.

A stroll through the meticulously manicured gardens, adorned with fountains and statues, transports you to a time when Versailles was at the center of European grandeur. It’s like stepping into the pages of French history. The royal apartments provide an insight into the lives of Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette and showcase the extravagance they experienced during their reigns. The Trianon Palaces and the Queen’s Hamlet add to the experience and the sheer scale of Versailles is awe-inspiring.

12. Sainte-Chapelle – a stained-glass wonder

A visit to Sainte-Chapelle in Paris will transport you into the beauty of Gothic architecture and stained-glass artistry. Nestled on the Île de la Cité, this beautiful building was commissioned by King Louis IX in the 13th century to store precious relics, including Christ’s Crown of Thorns. 

Upon entering the Sainte-Chapelle you’re wrapped in a celestial glow as sunlight filters through the intricate stained-glass windows, depicting biblical stories in vibrant hues. The Upper Chapel, a soaring masterpiece of delicate stonework, is adorned with detailed craftsmanship that makes it a magnificent architectural feature.

13. The Tuileries Garden – serenity in the midst of the city

A visit to the Tuileries Garden in Paris is a chance to relax amidst sculpted greenery. Nestled between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde, this historic garden, designed by André Le Nôtre in the 17th century, offers a respite from the rush of the city. 

You can stroll along paths bordered by symmetrical lawns and flowerbeds and take time out from sightseeing and shopping. Wander around the classical French gardens and view the Grand Bassin Rond (Central Pond) and statues that pay homage to classical mythology. As you amble towards the western end, the view extends to the Arc de Triomphe, creating a seamless fusion of nature and architectural splendor.

Visiting the Tuileries is delightful at any time of year. The gardens offer a different ambiance through the seasons, from the vibrant blooms of spring and summer to the golden hues of autumn, and the striking reds and silvers of winter.

14. The Luxembourg Gardens – a sanctuary of tranquility

Commissioned by Marie de’ Medici in the early 17th century, this verdant oasis, nestled between the Latin Quarter and Saint-Germain-des-Prés, is a combination of French and English garden design. As you enter through the ornate gates, the grandeur of the Luxembourg Palace will take your breath away. The symmetrical layout, punctuated by statues and sculptures, creates a harmonious blend of formality and natural grace.

The Medici Fountain, nestled amidst lush greenery, invites moments of contemplation, while activities for children include a puppet theatre, pony rides, and sailing boats. Whether basking in the sun on a deckchair, exploring the orchards, or admiring the beehives, a visit to the Luxembourg Gardens is an escape into Parisian nature. 

The Luxembourg Gardens change with the seasons. Cherry blossoms blanket the pathways in spring, while autumn paints the leaves in hues of gold. The rhythmic sound of water features and the floral fragrances create an enchanting ambiance.

15. The Père Lachaise Cemetery – a reflection of peace

Visiting the Père Lachaise Cemetery in Paris is a captivating journey through time, art, and the resting place of some of the most illustrious figures in history. Established in 1804, this necropolis is a sprawling tapestry of ornate tombs, winding paths, and ancient trees, located in the 20th arrondissement.

The Père Lachaise Cemetery is a pilgrimage site for admirers of literature, music, and art. This is the final resting place for celebrities such as Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Marcel Proust. The cemetery is also home to the tomb of Abelard and Heloise, a medieval tale of tragic love.

The maple, oak, and chestnut trees give Père Lachaise a calming atmosphere where you can reflect on tales of heroism, tragedy, and the ordinary lives of people who have shaped Paris. It’s also a captivating adventure for history enthusiasts who can discover the graves of lesser-known figures.

16. Embark on a food tour

Head on a culinary adventure that reveals the city’s gastronomic treasures while weaving through its charming streets. Led by knowledgeable guides, these tours are not just about sampling exquisite dishes but immersing in the rich tapestry of French cuisine and culture.

From boulangeries wafting the aroma of freshly baked baguettes to fromageries displaying an array of artisanal cheeses, a guided tour captures the essence of French cuisine. Stop at open-air markets and sample vibrant produce and seasonal delights, while practicing your French. The diverse array of tastings mirrors the multicultural influences that shape Parisian cuisine. From delicate pastries in a patisserie to savory charcuterie in a traditional bistro, each bite is a symphony of flavors reflecting the city’s culinary delights.

For quality cuisine a visit to the restaurants of Galeries Layfayette is a must. Here you can savour a variety of flavors, from traditional French cooking to Asian or Mediterranean dishes. Whether you want to stop for a gourmet lunch or a relaxing coffee and French pastry, there’s something to suit every palate. 

Galeries Lafayette also offers a range of food experiences. If you’ve always wanted to learn how to cook French food why not take a cooking class with chefs from the prestigious Ferrandi cooking school?  Or let the Ferrandi experts teach you how to make traditional pastries and desserts. Do you love the melt-in-the-mouth taste of French macaroons? You can also learn how to create these delicious French masterpieces, either as a family or with friends. 

A guided food tour around Paris isn’t just a tasting extravaganza; it’s an education in the intricacies of French culinary etiquette. Learn the art of pairing wine with cheese, discover the nuances of macarons, and delve into the rituals of enjoying an authentic Parisian café au lait.

The tour may finish in a quaint fromagerie, where the owner unveils the art of crafting the perfect cheeseboard, or in a bustling market square where you enjoy a leisurely picnic with new friends. If you love food take a sensory journey through the Paris flavors which will leave a lasting imprint on your palate and memory. You’ll need the walk to burn off the calories!

17. The Pompidou Center – where art and architecture combine

Visiting the Pompidou Center in Paris is a plunge into the avant-garde in a vibrant celebration of creativity. Designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, the Pompidou Center, also known as the Centre Georges Pompidou, stands as a bold statement of modernism, with its external skeleton of colorful pipes and exposed structures.

The museum’s interior hosts an unparalleled collection of contemporary and modern art. As you ascend the escalators on the exterior of the building, Paris unfolds panoramically, providing a unique vantage point of the city. Inside, the galleries showcase works by iconic artists like Picasso, Kandinsky, and Duchamp, as well as rotating exhibitions that invite artistic expression..

The Pompidou Center’s commitment to education is evident through its diverse programs, workshops, and interactive displays that cater to all ages. The Stravinsky Fountain nearby adds a whimsical touch, featuring playful sculptures and water features. Located In the heart of Marais, the Pompidou Center is a must-visit if you’re fascinated by contemporary creativity.

18. Explore the arrondissements

Exploring the arrondissements (districts) of Paris is like reading the chapters of a richly woven novel, with each district narrating a unique tale of history, culture, and character. 

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Paris is divided into 20 arrondissements, each with its own unique charm. From the artistic atmosphere of Montmartre in the 18th to the historic heart of Île de la Cité in the 4th, exploring the different neighborhoods  unveils the many diverse facets of Parisian life.

Begin in the 1st arrondissement, in the center, where history unfolds amid the grandeur of the iconic Paris landmarks. The next arrondissement of note is the 4th, where the Île de la Cité is home to Notre-Dame Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece that stands as the heart of medieval Paris. For avant-garde art and chic boutiques, venture into the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, Marais, a trendy district that seamlessly merges the old and the new.

Head further outwards and you’ll find the bohemian streets of Montmartre in the 18th arrondissement, dominated by the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, and a neighborhood that echoes the artistic spirit of Picasso and Van Gogh.

From the chic 8th arrondissement to the village-like atmosphere of the 20th, each paints a distinct portrait. Visiting these neighborhoods will unveil hidden gems, culinary delights, and a vibrant tapestry that encapsulates the essence of Parisian life. The arrondissements aren’t just geographical divisions; they’re special places that present the vast differences of life in Paris.

19. Journey through the architecture of Paris

A tour through Paris reveals the city’s rich past. Art and history lovers can explore the elaborate French architecture, with its intricate designs and historical significance. From famous landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower and the Palace of Versailles on the outskirts to the contemporary design of the Georges Pompidou Centre, the architecture spans a variety of designs.The iconic Galeries Lafayette, a symbol of the Haussmann architectural style, is also a statement of French luxury. Established in the early 19th century, this department store boasts a stunning Art Nouveau dome that graces the city’s skyline.

Discover the story of Galeries Lafayette on a guided heritage tour. Its history reflects the Parisian way of life over the years, taking you on a journey through the evolution of French elegance.

20. Go shopping for luxury brands 

As the fashion capital of the world, Paris is the place to shop. The Champs-Élysées, lined with flagship stores, invites a leisurely stroll amid a blend of luxury boutiques and international brands for men, women and children. Le Marais, with its narrow streets and chic boutiques, captures the essence of trendy Parisian fashion.

At the heart of this fashion odyssey lies the famous Galeries Lafayette department store, a historic arcade of luxury and elegance. The grandeur of its architecture, adorned with a magnificent dome, sets the stage for a unique shopping experience. Galeries Lafayette, founded in 1893, boasts a curated selection of the world’s most coveted brands, from Chanel to Louis Vuitton. 

French health and beauty products have an excellent reputation for quality. Visit the Galeries Lafayette Wellness Galerie and treat yourself to a skincare treatment and analysis with tailored beauty product recommendations followed by a healthy lunch at DS Café. 

Whether you’re shopping for the latest trends or classic style, Galeries Lafayette promises an unparalleled retail experience.

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You can find Galeries Layfayette in the Paris Haussmann 9th arrondissement of Paris (known as the Opéra district). The store offers restaurants, a wellness gallery, art and culture, and lifestyle experiences as well as luxury shopping.

Parisian shopping extends beyond clothing – it’s an indulgence that includes delectable delights. Explore the food markets of Rue Mouffetard or Rue Montorgueil, where artisanal cheeses, pastries, and wines await the discerning palate.

To sum up…

Paris – a gastronomic paradise

No visit to Paris is complete without indulging in the city’s culinary delights. From Michelin-starred restaurants to cozy bistros, Paris offers a wide range of gastronomic experiences to suit every budget. 

The aroma of freshly baked croissants from a corner patisserie, the velvety texture of a meticulously crafted coq au vin, or the delicate flavors of escargots in garlic — the Parisian culinary encounters are vast and varied. 

Discover the wide selection of restaurants at Galeries Lafayette that offer a welcome break from a luxury shopping trip. Experience traditional French cuisine, Mediterranean cooking or try out the Asian dishes at some of the best restaurants in Paris. Whether you’re wandering through the vibrant stalls of a local market or relishing a gourmet experience at a haute cuisine restaurant, Parisian cuisine is a celebration of diversity and innovation. And of course, you should accompany your meal with a glass of fine French wine or follow it with a cup of rich, aromatic coffee.

When is the best time to visit Paris?

Paris is enchanting throughout the year, but certain times offer unique experiences. Spring (April to June) and fall (September to November) are ideal for mild weather and fewer crowds. During these seasons, you can stroll along the Seine, visit the gardens in full bloom, and enjoy outdoor cafes without the summer tourist rush. 

Winter (December to February) brings a magical atmosphere to the city, with festive lights and Christmas markets. Summer (July to August) is the peak tourist season, with longer days and a lively atmosphere, but be prepared for larger crowds.

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Understanding Paris’s cultural seasons enhances your experience. Summer brings outdoor festivals and vibrant street life, while fall’s mild weather complements museum explorations. Winter illuminates the city with festive lights and Christmas markets, and spring heralds blossoming gardens and pleasant strolls along the Seine.

How to make the most of visiting the best sights in Paris 

To make the most of your time in Paris it’s essential to plan where you’d like to visit.  Start your journey with a well-researched itinerary that prioritizes iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Invest in skip-the-line tickets to maximize your time without the hassle of queues.

Choose guided tours to learn about the cultural and historical significance of each place you visit. Knowledgeable guides can unlock hidden stories and provide a richer experience of the best sights in Paris. Consider timing your visits to avoid the crowd by visiting popular attractions during off-peak hours 

When in Paris use the public transport system, such as the Paris Metro, to navigate the city easily. Venture beyond the city center to experience authentic Parisian life, exploring markets, parks, and lesser-known museums.Capture the magic of the City of Light by dedicating time to leisurely activities like a Seine River cruise or picnicking in the Luxembourg Gardens. Allow time for spontaneity, letting the allure of Paris guide you.

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