Discover the 21 must-visit places in Paris

Discover the top 21 must-visit places in Paris. Experience the magic of Galeries Lafayette, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre-Dame Cathedral...

Paris: Embark on a journey to discover the 21 must-visit places in the city of light

Welcome to the enchanting city of Paris, where history, culture, and romance intertwine to create a truly unforgettable experience. Whether you’re on a quick stopover on your travels through Europe or a longer vacation, Paris will mesmerize you. 

This article will take you on a journey through the 21 must-visit places in Paris, ranging from main attractions to the lesser-known locations that offer a unique perspective of the city. 

What are the main tourist attractions in Paris?

Renowned as the epitome of romance and sophistication, France’s capital is full of timeless treasures and cultural charm. Marvel at the Eiffel Tower’s majestic silhouette, immerse yourself in the art of the Louvre Museum and stand in awe before the Gothic grandeur of Notre Dame Cathedral. 

Stroll along the historic Champs-Élysées, where the Arc de Triomphe stands as a testament to victory. From the artistic haven of Montmartre to serene River Seine cruises, or a show at the Moulin Rouge, each attraction should be on your bucket list of places to visit in Paris.

The Eiffel Tower – Paris’ top attraction

An obvious choice, but no trip to Paris is complete without seeing this symbolic landmark. The Eiffel Tower is an architectural masterpiece that can be seen for miles. As you approach, the iron lattice creation stands tall before you, a symbol of France’s rich history and artistic prowess.

Locally known as ‘La Dame de Fer’ (the Iron Lady), this imposing structure was built by Gustave Eiffel in 1889. Designed to demonstrate the mastery of French architecture, it was then the tallest building in the world. 

If you have a head for heights you can venture to its summit, and see Paris unfold beneath you. The mix of rooftops, landmarks, and the meandering Seine River offers a spectacular view of the city. You can also see the Eiffel Tower from the Galeries Lafayette roof terrace – the perfect way to see the city’s most famous attraction from another angle.

Ascending the Eiffel Tower at sunset, you’ll be rewarded with a panoramic vision of Paris. The enchantment of the sparkling city lights creates an unforgettable setting.

Whether you’re a history enthusiast or a culture lover, the Eiffel Tower is an invitation to witness Paris in all its splendor. The top of the Eiffel Tower is also a popular location for marriage proposals – a romantic way to pop the question against the Parisian skyline.

Opera Garnier – a rich cultural experience

Opera Garnier confirms Paris’s commitment to preserving its cultural heritage.

Also known as Palais Garnier, it attracts lovers of the arts, architecture, and history. This impressive building, adorned with intricate details, presents the architecture of the 19th century. 

If you appreciate classical music and ballet, Opera Garnier promises an enriching experience. The performances, in conjunction with the majesty of the building, will take you to the elegance of a bygone era.

This landmark also tells the story of some of Paris’s history. The grand staircase, adorned with ornate chandeliers and sculptures, immerses visitors in the splendor of the past. You can almost feel you’re part of the social and artistic life of Paris during the 19th century.

Why not stop for a glass of champagne or early dinner in one of the Galeries Lafayette restaurants? Situated only a few minutes away, this makes the perfect start to your night at the opera.

Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann – retail therapy combined with culture

One of the best places to visit in Paris if you love to shop is Galeries Lafayette. A symbol of Parisian elegance, the store boasts luxury brands and designer boutiques, attracting fashion lovers from all over the world. 

The architectural masterpiece, with its iconic Haussman-designed domed ceiling and Art Nouveau design, offers a unique shopping experience. The dome is one of the most popular architectural features of Paris and makes a perfect souvenir photo of your trip to Paris. 

Stand beneath the dome and look up to see the light flooding through the stained-glass flower. Removed during World War II for safety reasons, the dome has been reconstructed in all its former glory. Find out more about the history of Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann on a guided heritage tour.   

Beyond retail therapy, Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann offers a variety of international cuisine at its diverse array at Le Gourmet. Indulge in traditional French cooking, Asian food, or typical Mediterranean dishes, and spoil yourself.  For panoramic views of Paris, head for the rooftop terrace, where you’ll find an outdoor café at the warmer times of the year.

Visiting Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann is not just a shopping excursion; it’s a chance to experience the Parisian lifestyle. Shop and dress like the French and indulge in a wellness treatment to invigorate you. From beauty treatments to personal shopping advice on which skincare products and cosmetics suit you, this is a chance to treat yourself. 

You’ll also find a range of experiences on offer at Galeries Lafayette, from art exhibitions to fashion shows, and guided heritage tours. If you’re spending a few days in Paris why not take a course on baking macaroons or French pastries and learn how to cook like a French chef?

Good to know  📝

Make the most of your time at Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann and plan your visit carefully. You’ll find current opening times, maps and all the information you need for your trip to the most famous shopping mall in Paris here

The Louvre Museum – see some of the most famous art in the world

Paysage Louvre Paris

Home to thousands of works of art, the Louvre Museum is a trip through time and artistic evolution. From the enigmatic smile of Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa to the majestic Winged Victory of Samothrace, each masterpiece tells a story. 

The Louvre boasts a rich history dating back to its origin as a medieval fortress in the 12th century. Transformed into a royal palace in the 16th century, it eventually evolved into the world-renowned museum it is today. 

Housing an extraordinary collection that spans ancient civilizations to the Renaissance and beyond, the Louvre is a place to ponder over days gone by. The estate also offers a chance to wander around the magnificent Tuileries Garden – a haven of peace in the city center.

You can´t miss the Louvre as you’ll be greeted by the striking glass pyramids constructed in the courtyard. This mix of contemporary design against the historical background of the museum is a perfect photo opportunity.

Good to know  📝

Book your tickets in advance

If you book your tickets to the main attractions in advance you won´t be disappointed. There are plenty of ticket agencies offering ‘skip-the-line’ and some even offer discounts if you book online. 

Notre Dame Cathedral – a testament to French Gothic architecture

Notre Dame Cathedral has long been a beacon on the Île de la Cité in Paris. Constructed between 1163 and 1245, this impressive Gothic cathedral is one of the oldest in the world.

Notre Dame has played host to many historical events, including Joan of Arc’s beatification and Napolean Bonaparte’s coronation. It’s also been featured in various novels and films featuring the mythical Hunchback of Notre Dame who lived in the bell tower.

Tragically, in April 2019, a devastating fire engulfed the cathedral, causing significant damage to its roof and spire. 

Skilled artisans and architects are today working on the task of restoring Notre Dame to its former glory. At the time of writing visitors are unable to enter the cathedral, and work is expected to be completed in 2024. 

However, visitors to Notre Dame can still witness the ongoing restoration work, a symbol of resilience and dedication to preserving cultural heritage. The sight of craftsmen diligently at work demonstrates the enduring spirit of Notre Dame and its imminent return to its former glory. You can also view this amazing building from the Galeries Lafayette terrace, along with the other main Parisian landmarks.

Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur – the bohemian neighborhood

A visit to Montmartre and Sacré-Coeur is a journey through both artistic and spiritual history. 

Montmartre, historically a haven for artists such as Picasso and Van Gogh, portrays a unique charm. With its narrow streets and hippie atmosphere, this is where the likes of Toulouse-Lautrec found inspiration. Explore Place du Tertre, a lively square filled with artists showcasing their work, and take the time to sit at a typical Parisian café and people-watch.

Perched high above Montmartre, the Sacré-Coeur Basilica is a spiritual and architectural place. Sacré-Coeur, consecrated in 1919, boasts Romano-Byzantine architecture. You’ll be impressed by the opulence of this religious building that’s decorated with intricate mosaics and supports a stunning dome, which can be seen from the Galeries Lafayette roof terrace

If you’re active you can walk up the 197 flights of stairs which lead to the Sacré-Coeur, or you can take the cable car. Its elevated position offers panoramic views of Paris, captivating visitors with its sense of serenity. 

The breathtaking view is worth the visit, where you’ll see Paris spread beneath you and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.

Musée d’Orsay – an exploration of artistic evolution

Set on the banks of the River Seine, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris is a cultural delight housed in a former railway station. This Beaux-Arts architectural building displays an extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works. 

If you’re an art lover you could spend a whole day wandering the galleries. Displaying masterpieces by Monet, Van Gogh, and Degas, this is the place to view famous collections. The vibrant colors of the Impressionist and contemporary artists combine with the more subtle collections, delivering different styles.  

To fully appreciate the history and stories of the paintings and sculptures an audio tour gives you the opportunity to learn about the works of art. 

The pièce de resistance of the Musée d’Orsay is the giant clock that graces the museum’s facade—a visual spectacle that transports visitors to an era when the building served as a train station. For a unique experience, you can dine at the Café Campana restaurant, located directly behind the clock face.

Good to know  📝

The benefits of guided tours

A guided tour ensures you make the most of your trip to Paris. Local experts will share their knowledge with you, saving you the trouble of searching through a guidebook. This will also avoid you having to spend valuable time researching – making your visit to Paris informative and unforgettable. 

Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe – a journey through time and elegance

As you stroll along the Champs-Élysées, from the Place de la Concorde towards the Arc de Triomphe you’ll experience history and modernity converging. 

Originally designed in the 17th century as an extension of the Tuileries Garden, the Champs-Élysées has evolved into a symbol of Parisian luxury and glamour. Lined with theaters, cafés, and boutiques, the Champs-Élysées echoes the city’s sophisticated spirit.

The finale awaits you at the Arc de Triomphe, ordered by Napoleon following his Austerlitz triumph. This colossal monument, standing at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, honors those who fought and died for France. Climb to its summit for a breathtaking view, capturing the heart of Paris in all its splendor. 

Good to know  📝

Champs-Élysées sunset

For a souvenir photo visit the Champs-Élysées at sunset. At certain times of the year, the sunset can be perfectly viewed through the Arc de Triomphe. 
This is also the perfect opportunity to stop off at Galeries Lafayette on the Champs Elysées for an incredible shopping experience. 

The Seine River -take a romantic boat trip 

A cruise along the River Seine is one of the best ways to experience the timeless beauty of Paris. Whether with your partner, friends or family, the meandering journey takes you past the city’s landmarks. 

As the boat glides under historic bridges, past Notre Dame Cathedral, and alongside charming quays, the city’s rich history comes alive. For a truly romantic experience take an evening cruise and watch the play of lights on the water. 

A Seine River cruise not only provides a leisurely escape from the busy city but also an educational one. Knowledgeable guides narrate the stories behind each monument, offering a deeper understanding of Parisian history. 

Whether you’re passing the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, or the famous silhouette of Montmartre, a Seine River cruise creates an experience to be cherished. Once you’ve seen Paris from the water you can head for Galeries Lafayette Beaugrenelle, which is only moments away from the Seine. 

Saint-Germain-des-Prés – a historic and chic neighborhood 

A visit to Saint-Germain-des-Prés in Paris is a journey into the heart of intellectual and artistic legacy. Renowned as a hangout for intellectuals, writers, and artists since the 20th century, Saint-Germain-des-Prés embodies a sophisticated atmosphere.

The cobblestone streets are lined with cafés, bookshops, and art galleries. Stroll through the historic district and discover the legendary jazz clubs, preserving the spirit of the artistic bohemia that defines Saint-Germain-des-Prés.

Art lovers can explore the vibrant galleries, with their combination of traditional and contemporary art. The Église Saint-Germain-des-Prés, one of the oldest churches in Paris, is a symbol of the area’s rich history, its Romanesque architecture providing a serene escape.

The Moulin Rouge – the spirit of Parisian nightlife

Moulin Rouge sur le Glasswalk

A visit to the Moulin Rouge promises an extravagant evening of cabaret, can-can, and entertainment. Established in 1889, this venue is renowned for its vivid red windmill and flamboyant atmosphere. 

The heart of the Moulin Rouge experience lies in its world-famous cabaret show. The revue, aptly named “Féerie,” unfolds as a  combination of music, dance, and lavish costumes. With a cast of talented dancers, acrobats, and singers, “Féerie” transports audiences to a bygone era of glamour and allure. 

The show seamlessly blends various acts, including the famous can-can dance, into a narrative that celebrates the vivaciousness of Parisian nightlife. From sumptuous costumes to jaw-dropping aerial feats, the Moulin Rouge’s “Féerie” is an extravaganza that captivates and mesmerizes. For an unforgettable evening steeped in the rich cultural history of Paris, the Moulin Rouge is an essential experience.

Unusual places to visit in Paris

If you want to escape the tourist trail and visit some unique locations in Paris here are some ideas. All are easy to travel to yet offer a distinctive insight into the Parisian way of life and its extraordinary attractions.

Le Musée des Arts Forains – a world of carnival and fairground arts

Tucked away in the Bercy neighborhood, this private museum is enchanting. Le Musée des Arts Forains showcases a unique collection of vintage carousels, amusement rides, and games. 

Not just for children, adults will enjoy the trip back in time, to when life progressed at a much slower pace. 

The museum provides some fun time out from traditional sightseeing. The interactive exhibits and the opportunity to experience these antique amusements make it a delightful and offbeat addition to your Parisian itinerary.

Catacombs of Paris – a spooky journey beneath the city

Under the busy streets of Paris lies a subterranean world unlike any other—the Catacombs of Paris. This ossuary holds the skeletal remains of millions of people. These were relocated from crowded cemeteries in the late 18th century to avoid the spread of disease. 

While unconventional, this site provides a unique historical perspective and a sobering reminder of the city’s complex past. Tourists can explore the eerie tunnels, piled high with carefully arranged bones. In the past the bones were only laid out in rows, today they often form elaborate pillars, lending them a strangely artistic feel. The Catacombs of Paris are certainly a thought-provoking and strange attraction. 

Aside from the macabre, the Catacombs offer another side of French culture, into a dark world of Parisian heritage. 

Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature – an intriguing blend of art and natural history

Nestled in the Marais district, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature presents an eclectic collection of hunting-related artifacts, taxidermy, and contemporary art. 

The thematic galleries, embellished with whimsical and thought-provoking exhibits, make this an intellectual and visually stimulating detour from conventional tourist spots. Bird feathers line the walls, stuffed animals look life-like, and sculptures and tapestries respresent the animal kingdom.

If you’re seeking an alternative cultural experience, this museum provides an unconventional lens through which to explore humanity’s complex relationship with the natural world. 

Père-Lachaise Cemetery – a blend of history, art, and reflection

While cemeteries might not be traditional tourist destinations, Père-Lachaise Cemetery is a captivating exception. As the final resting place for figures such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Edith Piaf, it offers a serene yet poignant journey through history. 

Exploring the cobblestone paths and elaborate tombstones is a contemplative experience, providing an understanding of the lives of those who shaped art, literature, and music. 

For something a little different on your trip to Paris, Père-Lachaise Cemetery offers a hauntingly beautiful destination.

La Pagode – a hint of Japan in the midst of Paris

La Pagode is an unexpected architectural building that transports visitors to the exotic Far East. Originally a private residence with a Japanese-inspired tea garden, it was transformed into a cinema in the early 20th century. 

As a tourist, visiting La Pagode provides a retreat from the city to appreciate the simplicity of Japanese aesthetics and cinema. The historic pagoda-style architecture, serene garden, and the opportunity to watch independent films make it an unconventional and culturally rich destination and a unique Parisian experience.

Venture beyond the city of Paris

For a break from the vibrant energy of the city, why not take a visit outside of Paris? 

From royal palaces to picturesque villages, the outskirts offer a captivating extension of the cultural richness found within the city. A short train ride from one of the main Paris railway stations will take you to a selection of tranquil escapes.

Visit Versailles to witness the opulence of its Palace, stroll through Giverny’s vibrant gardens that inspired Monet, or explore Fontainebleau’s regal chateau that’s steeped in history. 

Vaux-le-Vicomte allows you to witness the grandeur that predates Versailles, while Auvers-sur-Oise beckons with the artistic legacy of Van Gogh. 

We’ve included these attractions on our list of things to do in Paris as they’re unmissable if you want to experience another side of France’s capital city.

Versailles Palace – a taste of opulence

A day trip from Paris to the Palace of Versailles is a journey into the heart of French history. This UNESCO World Heritage site, once the seat of absolute monarchy, is a testament to the grandness and architectural splendor of its era. 

Visitors can witness the extravagance of the Royal Court, including the famous Hall of Mirrors where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, marking the end of World War I. The Trianon Palaces offer a glimpse into royal life while wandering through the King’s and Queen’s State Apartments, exhibiting lavish decor and priceless art that will amaze you.

The affluence extends outdoors to the vast gardens, adorned with fountains, sculptures, and the Petit Trianon. Visit during the summer and you’ll be treated to a musical fountains show, adding a sensory dimension to your experience.

A trip to the Palace of Versailles is a voyage back in time into the history of the French monarchy and artistic achievement. This is an essential excursion if you want a  deeper understanding of France’s cultural heritage.

Giverny – a picturesque village

Home to Claude Monet, Giverny is a serene retreat and a look into the artistic environment that inspired this famous Impressionist painter.

At the heart of Giverny lies Monet’s house and gardens, a sanctuary of creativity where the artist lived for over four decades. Visitors can wander through the striking flower gardens and view the symbolic Japanese Bridge and the famous Water Lily Pond—scenes immortalized in Monet’s works.

Monet’s House, decorated with his personal collection of Japanese prints, reflects his eclectic taste. The vividly colored rooms provide an insight into the artist’s daily life.

Giverny is also home to the Musée des Impressionnismes. The museum exhibits works by Monet and his contemporaries, offering a broader understanding of the artistic innovation that flourished in this pretty village.

A visit to Giverny is a journey into the essence of Monet’s artistic inspiration and the beauty that fueled the Impressionist movement. From the enchanting gardens to the view into Monet’s life, Giverny is a destination that captivates art enthusiasts and nature lovers alike.

Chateau Fontainebleau – a former royal residence 

No visit to Paris, France is complete without a visit to a traditional French chateau. If you’re visiting Paris take the time to see Chateau Fontainebleau for a journey into French history and culture.

A day excursion from Paris to Fontainebleau promises an enriching escape. Chateau Fontainebleau, a former royal residence, is an enduring reflection of centuries of regal life. Explore the lavishly decorated State Apartments, where monarchs from Louis VII to Napoleon left their mark. The Renaissance and classical influences on the architecture and interior design create a fascinating journey through time.

Discover the many different buildings including the Cour Ovale, the main courtyard, the imposing Baptistry Gate, and the Henry IV Quarter – the king’s attempt to build a new entrance to the chateau.

The chateau is surrounded by 130 hectares of gardens that offer a tranquil retreat for visitors. Fontainebleau’s grounds also include the Petit Parc and Grand Parc, where lovers of the outdoors can enjoy the meticulously landscaped beauty. You’ll also see the carp pond, which has contained carp since the era of Henry IV.

The two main gardens, the Diana Garden and the English Garden are both modeled on traditional English gardens. The Diana Garden is named after the huntress Diana, who stands atop a magnificent fountain. The English Garden encompasses hidden paths, shady trees and the ‘Belle-Eau’ spring the chateau takes its name from. 

Vaux-le-Vicomte – a look at France’s aristocratic past

This 17th-century chateau, a precursor to the grandeur of Versailles, reflects classic French elegance. Adorned with a blend of gardens, sculptures, and water features, Vaux-le-Vicomte highlights the collective brilliance of architect Louis Le Vau the renowned architect, painter and decorator Charles Le Brun, and landscape design expert André Le Nôtre.

The chateau’s interior reveals carefully preserved rooms that invite visitors to traverse the State Apartments and witness the exquisite artistry that defined the period. The Grand Salon displays sumptuous tapestries and gilded details and pays homage to Nicolas Fouquet, the visionary behind Vaux-le-Vicomte.

The expansive French formal gardens have been created in a symmetrical and detailed design. Visitors can wander through the landscaped grounds, graced with ornate fountains, statues, and terraces, that offer a relaxing experience.

Auvers-sur-Oise – a tribute to Van Gogh

Painted by Vincent van Gogh in some of his final works, this village exudes artistic charm. Located on the picturesque Oise River, Auvers-sur-Oise served as the final residence for the Dutch painter during the last months of his life. 

Visitors can explore the Auberge Ravoux, where Van Gogh lived and worked, offering an appreciation of this artist’s creative process.

Explore the landscapes that inspired Van Gogh’s final masterpieces as you walk around the village. From the charming church depicted in “Church at Auvers” to the serene fields and cottages. Van Gogh House, a museum dedicated to his time in Auvers-sur-Oise, displays artifacts and artworks that reflect the profound impact of the surroundings on his painting.

Conclusion

From the Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame Cathedral and the more unusual attractions such as the Catacombs, Paris has a wealth of places to visit. There’s also the luxury shopping at Haussmann Galeries Lafayette and spending time at the Wellness Galerie to keep you busy.

Venturing beyond the city center, destinations like Versailles, Giverny, and Fontainebleau allow an escape from city life for a day.

Each attraction has its own unique charm, and each season offers a different vision of this extraordinary city. Visit Paris in spring and see the flowers bloom in the parks, in summer for open-air living, in autumn for fewer tourists, and in winter for the Christmas markets.
Whether you choose to explore alone using our ideas or book a tour package, Paris promises an experience you’ll never forget.

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