I simply love Paris. Hubby and I have had the privilege of visiting it a few times and with each visit I just feel more at home there. We’ve never stayed in the same area twice, so every time we have found new parts of the city to explore. There is not just one specific thing I love; it is probably a culmination of the beauty of the city, the arts and history, its famous landmarks and of course, the food and wine!
If it is your first time in Paris, there are definitely a few must-see places I would recommend. And if you’ve been to Paris before, you will know there are a few places that will always draw you back in, even if you’ve seen them before!
Here are my Top 10 Things To Do In Paris.
It’s Paris in a snapshot – The Eiffel Tower. It has a magic power that makes you reach for your camera every time you see it. Hubby and I have spent many hours just staring at it – the most memorable being watching the French Open on giant TV screens positioned just in front of it. I suggest that you take the time to go up in the lift to the second floor (or use the stairs if you are full of energy!). From the second floor you can take another lift right to the very top. It offers the most incredible views across the city. And don’t forget that the Eiffel Tower lights up at night. From sunset until about 12:00 am it has a strobe light that swings around the top and 1000’s of little lights flash and sparkle for 10 minutes at the start of each hour.
The Eiffel Tower can get very busy so it is a good idea to buy your tickets online before the time as there are definitely better things to do in Paris than stand in a queue!
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon to pay tribute to the armies of France. It’s intricate sculptures are absolutely beautiful (I love the roses on the inside of the Arch). Below the Arch you will find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I – it is marked by an eternal flame – and serves as a memory of all soldiers who lost their lives and were never identified in both world wars.
I suggest that you go at night – firstly, it looks beautiful lit up, and secondly – you will have stunning views of Paris. What makes the view from here even more special than the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, is that you actually have the Eiffel Tower in your view! (I’ve also seen people run for their life trying to get across the circle going around the Arc de Triomphe! You can access it much safer by making use of the underground passages that runs below the road. There are two entrance points; one on the Champs Elysées and the other on Avenue de la Grande Armée.) You can buy your entrance tickets online.
Paris cafe culture
I love the Paris cafe culture. Sidewalks are lined with cafes; their round little tables and chairs spilling out towards the street. I love being part of that scene; sitting down side by side with hubby, having a café au lait (or a glass of wine, depending the time of day!) and watching Parisian life go by. It’s times like that that I feel properly part of the city. So don’t rush from the one tourist attraction to the other! Take a break. Sit down. Take in everything that surrounds you. You’re in Paris, after all!
With its striking gilded dome, it is impossible not to notice Les Invalides. It is a sprawling complex that houses a number of museums, has two churches and most notably, Napoleon’s. This might be something more for the guys as hubby really enjoyed the Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) but I must say, I also had a great time. Our favourite was a stunning collection of medieval and Renaissance armour. Incredible to see. (There is even armour from the Ottoman, Mongolian, Chinese and Japanese civilisations!)
Of course, Napoleon’s sarcophagus, lying under the Dôme des Invalides is one of the main drawing cards, but don’t forget to visit the Cathedral of Saint-Louis, which is separated from the more lavish Dômes de Invalides by a glass wall. You can go to Les Invalides website to plan your visit. We spent more than half a day here!
Another iconic image of Paris is the Louvre palace with its glass pyramids. Being one of the most famous art galleries in the world, with such a vast collection of paintings, sculptures and other art objects (even jewellery!) you will never be able to see it all in one visit, even if you spend the whole day, so be prepared to come back here one day.
The most famous painting to see would be Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. Some of my other favourite works include the Venus de Milo, the Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s Dying Slave. However, don’t rush to find the famous stuff. Grab a free floorplan when you get there and take your time to stroll through the rooms and revel in the amazing art that surrounds you.
The Louvre can get very busy, so pre-book your tickets. Another little tip is to enter the museum from the Palais Royal/Museé du Louvre metro stop. The lift delivers you right inside the museum!
The Seine River
Romance personified, that’s the Seine River to me. You’ll find people jogging, cycling, strolling or even just sitting on the benches along the leafy banks of the Seine. Dividing Paris into a left and right bank, the Seine flows past many of the greatest monuments in Paris like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Grand and Petit Palace and the Conciergerie to name just a few.
It might be a bit touristy, but you have to take a trip in a batobus (riverbus)! The batobus stops at 9 stations along the way and it is a great way to see Paris from the water, while passing under beautiful bridges! Look out for Pont Neuf, built in 1607, the oldest bridge in Paris as well as Pont Alexander III – the most ornate of all the bridges (you can’t miss the gilded sculptures that decorate it!).
No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to the beautiful Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame. It’s facade is stunning and you can stand looking at all the sculptures (and gargoyles!) for hours! Together with the facade, the flying buttresses that supports outer walls is what gives this church it’s iconic look. (Although the church from the front is absolutely stunning, my favourite view is actually from the back, where you can clearly see the flying buttresses as well as the spire. The best views is from the river, on the batobus!) Once inside, there is a serene feel and people talk in hushed tones. You will be mesmerized by two fantastic rose windows, letting in a soft purplish blue light. Be on the lookout for a statue of Joan of Arc (and take note of the massive chandeliers above you!).
Admittedly, I’ve seen long queues of people waiting to enter. My advice is to get there either earlier in the morning, or alternatively later in the afternoon. Close to midday it is often filled with large tour groups. Admission is free, and note that no large backpacks are permitted inside.
I can’t be a traveler and foodie and not include all the lovely markets in Paris. To get that true local Paris feel you have to find a gorgeous fresh produce market and experience browsing with the locals, picking out some fresh fruit, cheese and bread – to be enjoyed on the banks of the Seine of course. Apart from the amazing markets – look to explore Marché Bastille (one of our favourites – and I’ve written about it here before) – there are also some great foodie streets to explore. Rue Montorgueil is one of these streets where you can find boulangeries, cheese shops, fresh produce stalls, fish shops, flower stands, you name it! And also those cafes where you can take a break from it all!
You have to visit the most famous cobbled, tree lined avenue of Paris. You have the Arc de Triomphe standing right at the top, leading down towards the Louvre and the sidewalks are filled with designer shops and (mostly touristy, overpriced) restaurants. The Champs-Elysées is also the scene for the last stage of the Tour de France. (Yes, hubby and I walked the entire lap down towards the Place de le Concorde and the statue of Joan of Arc.) If you’re into designer shopping, this is the place for you. I enjoy strolling the sidewalks, looking at the shops (I’m not a big shopper at all)! and just being part of life on the high-street! At night, the trees are lit up and it makes for a very romantic stroll right in the heart of Paris.
Perhaps not to everyone’s taste, but on my must see list is a visit to the Catacombs of Paris. Located in tunnels underneath the Montparnasse neighbourhood, the remains of over 6 million Parisians were relocated here from various overcrowded cemeteries in the 1780’s. Although it does sound macabre, the bones and sculls have been stacked and arranged in various geometric patterns and designs so in a way it is almost void of what it really is – human bones! (Not sure if I am helping!) The tunnels are not too claustrophobic (trust me, I don’t like small spaces) but it can get a bit muddy underfoot. It’s not something you will see every day, so go on and experience a bit of spooky Paris!
Tickets can be bought on line but this is one place where you won’t see many people waiting to get in!
Voilà, there you have my Top 10 Things To Do In Paris! I must say, only picking 10 was what I would imagine it would be like to pick your favourite child! So many fabulous things still to add, and so many more that I haven’t even done yet. All the more reason to go back…
I would love to hear what your experiences have been, and what else you would also recommend, so please comment and let me know!