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  • Writer's pictureYllara Maia

15 Best Things to Do in Paris (France) - The Ultimate Tourist

Updated: Jul 5, 2023

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When you think of Paris, the first things that come to mind are romance, art, and culture. The city of love is certainly an unforgettable destination for anyone who visits—but where do you start? With so many iconic sites spread across the sprawling city, it can be overwhelming to decide what to see and do.

Before I share with you my top picks for getting the most out of this destination, I want to invite you to approach this city with an open mind. People have a love-hate relationship with Paris because they create unrealistic expectations of it, and then end up disappointed.

If this is your first time visiting the city of lights, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

Here are the most important things to consider before you visit Paris:

  • The locals are not very welcoming to tourists - learn some basic French before you go.

  • Pick-pocketing is a huge thing in Paris - keep your belongings close to you and always be aware of your surroundings.

  • Paris is not the cleanest European city, and you will see a lot of graffiti in some locations.

Just like anywhere else in the world, Paris is not perfect. However, don't let that discourage you from visiting. In my opinion, what the city has to offer far outweighs all of its negative features. If you can also see it like that, you're going to have a great time. To make your trip as memorable as possible - here are our top tips for what to see and do in Paris:


#1 Check out the highlights of the city with a hop-on hop-off bus tour

Exploring Paris with a double-decker bus is a great way to begin your trip! I always recommend that people start exploring a new city this way because it lets you see a lot of what the place has to offer in a short period of time.

With multiple routes to choose from, it's one of the best things to do in Paris. Below is a photo we captured while on a hop-on hop-off bus riding through the Champs Elysees.

Relax as you enjoy the stunning sights like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre Museum from the open-air top terrace or temperature regulated lower patio.

Spending a day on a double-decker bus can show you things to do in Paris that you may not have otherwise known about. Learn about historic secrets or find the best restaurants with these tours; there's almost a thousand things to do in this vibrant city!

#2: See the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum

No trip to the French capital would be complete without a visit to the Louvre Museum. Home to some of the most famous pieces of art in history, from Michelangelo's Dying Slave all the way up through the Venus de Milo, this iconic museum has something for everyone.

Of course, no visit would be complete without seeing Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece—the Mona Lisa. Don't forget to snap a selfie! Even if you're not that into art, the building is incredible and the experience itself is unforgettable.

Entrance is free on the first Saturday of each month from 6 PM to 9:45 PM (in case you're on a budget). If this day and time doesn't align with your plans, it's highly recommended that you book your tickets ahead of time. Check out the current pricing for tickets to the Louvre by clicking the button below.

#3: Take a stroll through Montmartre

If you're looking for the best things to do in Paris, Montmartre is an absolute must-see. This is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Paris and it's known for its cobblestone streets and charming cafes. In my opinion, it's by far the most "french-looking" area in all of Paris.

Home of the iconic windmill that is the Moulin Rouge, this vibrant area should definitely be on your bucket list. If you are planning on visiting the Moulin Rouge, it's highly recommended that you buy a ticket online ahead of time.

This is a very popular location and tickets to watch a cabaret show sells out weeks in advance. They offer a few different show options and you can also choose to have dinner while you watch a famous Moulin Rouge show.

You won't want to miss exploring the narrow alleys filled with charming Parisian boutiques, tasting delicious café au lait while soaking in the atmosphere at Place du Tertre, and touring Sacre Coueur Basilica.

Make sure to get pictures of it all—especially one of you at Moulin Rouge! Whether you're an artist, music lover or history enthusiast, there's something for everyone in Montmartre. So next time you plan a holiday in Paris, make sure to add Montmartre to your itinerary— you won't regret it.

#4: Indulge in French cuisine

No trip to Paris is complete without trying some of France's most iconic dishes. Foodies will be spoiled for choice when it comes to food and drink in Paris, but you do have to know where to go. Many tourist-trap restaurants, located right next to famous landmarks, serve mediocre food that will leave you wishing you had gone to McDonald's instead.

Make sure you do your research online for the best places to eat in Paris, along with what local dishes to try. If you don't want to do the work, you can always take a walking food tour with a local.

Le Marais is one of the best neighborhoods in Paris for food, so take some time to check it out. Also, definitely don't leave the city before trying a croissant—which you can find in many boulangeries (bakeries) dotted around the city! And if you have the time, stop by Angelina on Rue de Rivoli to try their famous hot chocolate.

#5: Go shopping in the Champs Elysées

Exploring the Champs Elysées in Paris is a must! The Champs is a massive avenue that stretches from the Arc de Triomphe all the way to Place de la Concorde, and it's lined with some of the most iconic luxury retailers in the world.

Whether you're a shopaholic or window shopper, this avenue is the ideal place to go for luxury shopping. While you're there, don't forget to stop at the famous Ladurée for its delicious macaroons!

Get your hands on some of the latest fashion trends and perhaps find that one item that will make everything else you wear automatically become fashion-forward, all just steps away from historic architecture and landmarks.

Some high-end brands that you can find along this avenue are Louis Vuitton, Channel, and Dior - amongst many others.

Visitors to this area can also take in a movie at one of the many cinemas, admire the Arc de Triomphe from afar, or enjoy exquisite dining experiences. All this and so much more - the Champs Elysées is an experience that shouldn't be missed when visiting Paris!

#6: Visit the Arc de Triomphe

Visiting the Arc de Triomphe in Paris—one of the most iconic monuments in the world—should be at the top of everyone's bucket list. Reaching it is fairly simple; hop on a train to Charles de Gaulle Etoile station where you'll find an escalator that takes you right up to Place Charles de Gaulle, located directly beneath the arc.

From there, it's just a quick walk up an adorned stairway to your destination! You will need a ticket if you decide to go up the Arc de Triomphe, so book yours ahead of time by clicking on the button below. The top of the arc is one of Paris' many observation decks - it has a great view of the Champs Elysées and its surrounding areas.

Underneath the arc, you'll also find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - which pays tribute to French soldiers who died during World War I. Seeing the Arc de Triomphe really brings home how much history and culture is wrapped up in this incredible city. This landmark is definitely one of those must-see things when you're taking in all that Paris has to offer!

As tempting as it may look to try to cross the rotary—don't! Many tourists aren't aware that the entrance to the monument is through an underground station, and will try to cross the busy rotary surrounding the arc. Please don't attempt it; you'll only put yourself in danger and anger some Parisian drivers.

#7: Go up the Eiffel Tower

The only thing better than seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time is getting to see the view from the top of it. Climb up the Eiffel Tower to experience the things that only exist at the very top!

Just like the Arc de Triomphe, it's recommended that you book tickets for the Eiffel Tower ahead of time to avoid waiting in the very long ticket line. Trust me, I wish I thought to do this before we waited for over an hour just to buy tickets to get in.

Once you happily skip the queue and head up the stairs, you can feel its rustic charm and see the stunning view of Paris from afar as you slowly go up over 300 steps to the first level. Here you'll find several choices for food and drink, along with bathrooms and places to sit after the climb (thankfully).

You'll also have the option to visit the second level and the highest level of the Eiffel Tower—depending on what kind of ticket you purchase. The photo shown above was taken on the second level, while the one below was taken at the first stop, where we decided to stop and get gelato.

Climbing the Eiffel Tower is an amazing experience that you can't simply pass up if you're exploring what the City of Lights has to offer. A visit to the Eiffel Tower is definitely one of the best things to do in Paris, so don’t miss out on it! And don't worry if you don't want to tackle the stairs, there is also an elevator that goes up to all three levels.

#8: Enjoy a picnic on the Seine River Banks

The Seine River banks offer some of the best views of Paris' skyline—and it makes for a romantic picnic spot too! Pack a basket with your favorite sandwich ingredients or pick up something from one of the nearby boulangeries (bakeries) and enjoy lunch with your partner while watching boats float by on their way downstream

Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, hop on a Seine River Boat Cruise and get an exclusive view of Paris’ iconic sights like the Île de la Cité, which houses both Notre Dame and Sainte-Chapelle among its beautiful parklands and gardens.

I recommend doing this at night, since the city is all lit up and the views are beautiful. If you're interested, some cruise companies even offer routes exploring both the Seine River and the Canal Saint Martin.

You also don’t have to worry about getting hungry mid-trip, as there are plenty of restaurants overlooking the seine just waiting to be savored! Several cruise companies also offer dinner along with a boat ride, which can make for a very romantic evening.

#9: Take a day trip to the Palace of Versailles

If you're looking to embark on a day trip full of culture, visiting the palace of Versailles is the perfect choice. You should buy skip the line tickets online and book ahead of time because this place gets packed. The Palace of Versailles is a must-see destination for anyone interested in French history.

It was the royal residence of king Louis XIV and several other French kings from the 17th to the 18th century, and it’s now a main symbol of royalty, hospitality and unrest during the French Revolution. Its world-renowned Hall of Mirrors hosted lavish court receptions during the reign of king Louis XIV, as well as grand ceremonies for Marie Antoinette and many other epochal historical figures.

The palace houses some magnificent gardens—considered by many historians to be among the most beautiful royal gardens ever created—as well as walled parks full of exotic fountains and ponds which even today look much like they did when they were first laid out by king Louis XV in 1748. For any tourist looking to learn more about France's fascinating history and its iconic royals, visiting the Palace of Versailles should not be missed!

Other day trips from Paris to consider: Disneyland Paris & Giverny

  • Disneyland Paris - Disneyland Paris is located only 20 miles from the city center. It's one of the best things to do in Paris with kids.

  • Giverny - Giverny is a village situated in the north of France and famous for being the home of Claude Monet. This day trip is perfect for art lovers who want to see the real-life water lilies that inspired the artist's paintings.

#10: Visit the Notre Dame Cathedral - A UNESCO World Heritage Site

If you're looking for the best things to do in Paris, visiting the Notre Dame Cathedral should be at the top of your list. This iconic architectural marvel sits on Île de la Cité, and is a symbol of French history and culture.

The immense stained glass windows of this UNESCO World Heritage site will leave you in awe, and wandering through the vast Gothic halls will make you feel like you've travelled back in time.

The intricate details of the statues, stained glass windows, gargoyles and carvings will fascinate even the most experienced history buff. Don't miss out on this unique opportunity; make sure to pay a visit to Notre Dame when you're in town!

Often overshadowed by Notre Dame cathedral is Sainte Chapelle. This royal chapel is also located on Île de la Cité in the Seine river. Sainte Chapelle was built in the Gothic style just like Notre Dame, but it can't be easily seen by walking on either sides of the Seine river.

Its beautiful stained glass windows depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. This is a great alternative to those who planned to visit Notre Dame cathedral, but can't because it's under construction after the fire in 2019. Sainte Chapelle's not the most famous cathedral in Paris, but it's definitely worth the visit. Click here to see pricing for tickets to Sainte Chapelle.

#11 Check out Musée d'Orsay for Impressionist art

Art lovers who are looking for things to do in Paris should put the Musée d'Orsay at the top of their list. Located on the left bank, just across the Seine River from Jardin des Tuileries, this former railway station is home to thousands of works from the Impressionist period. This means the perfect opportunity to experience works by the likes of Monet and Van Gogh up close.

The museum has been overhauled to be light-filled and open, with its art collections spread out thoughtfully throughout so you get maximum enjoyment out of each piece. As it stands, the Musee d'Orsay is an absolute must for any art lover visiting Paris - it would be a crime against aesthetic not to visit!

#12: See the Luxor Obelisk at Place de la Concorde

Checking out the amazing Luxor Obelisk at Place de la Concorde is one of the most unique things to do in Paris! Located right next to the Jardin de Tuileries and not far from the river Seine, Place de la Concorde is one of the most significant public squares in France.

The Luxor Obelisk that stands in its center was taken from Egypt by Napoleon’s forces and presented to King Charles X in 1836. Not only does this ancient monument offer visitors an opportunity to connect with French history, it also provides a truly awe-inspiring sight to behold – with its intricate hieroglyphic inscriptions, elegant shapes, and beautiful golden capstone – making it an essential experience for anyone traveling to Paris.

#13 Explore Le Marais

Le Marais is a vibrant and historic neighborhood in the center of Paris. Known for being Pari's old Jewish quarter and home to novelist Victor Hugo, it has become a hotspot for all things delicious and enjoyable. Whether you're looking for the best things to do in Paris during your visit, or just want to explore the area, Le Marais District’s bustling food scene gives tourists an abundance of activities.

From exploring some of the best cafes, bakeries and eateries on offer, to taking part in a food tour, Le Marais provides you with numerous entertaining experiences. Although tricky to access without a car due to narrow winding passages tucked beneath plumb-stone house facades, it's well worth venturing out here for a unique view into Old Paris and a taste of the famed French culture.

Definitely don't miss out on some of the best attractions in Le Marais - like the Musée de Victor Hugo and Place de Vosges. Place de Vosges, shown in the photo above, is one of my favorite sites in all of Paris.

Another site worth visiting around this area is the Centre Pompidou - a Richard Rogers building. Inside this funky structure, you'll find the Musée d'Art Moderne, which houses works of modern and contemporary art. If you enjoy art museums, this one is worth the visit.

#14 Take in the beautiful architecture of Palais Garnier & Grand Palais

Palais Garnier—not to be confused with the Grand Palais—is a must-see when you're in Paris. This stunning opera house is conveniently located just steps away from several train stations and major attractions, making it simple to get there. It is a prime example of extravagance and grandeur that’s rare to find anywhere else in the world.

Plus, it also offers one of the most unique things to do in Paris! From its ornate gold architecture to its grandiose chandeliers, this sight will definitely leave an impression on you. If you want to get tickets to visit inside the Opera Garnier, check out pricing for tickets by clicking the button below. If you're up to it, going to the opera at Palais Garnier (photo below) is also possible.

The Grand Palais is a museum complex and exhibition hall originally built for the World's Fair of 1900. The building has an enormous glass roof and admiring its architecture is one of the most popular things to do in Paris—aside from seeing the Eiffel Tower of course.

Next to the Grand Palais is the infamous Pont Alexandre III, which links the structure to Hotel des Invalides (a complex of French museums and monuments dedicated to French military history) across the Seine river. Although they're both beautiful, I'd skip the Grand Palais if you're short on time.

#15: Experience some of Paris' countless parks and gardens

Visiting Paris wouldn't be complete without strolling around the city’s amazing parks and gardens. One park that you must visit is the Parc de la Villette. This park can easily be reached within 30 minutes from the center of Paris and is not to miss! Here you'll find an array of activities such as jogging, biking, and enjoying cultural activities at Grande Halle’s star-studded performances.

If you don't mind traveling a bit further, also check out Bois de Boulogne. The Bois de Boulogne is the third largest park in Paris, and it's absolutely stunning. For something more central, you should head over to Jardin du Luxembourg or Tuileries Garden to take in their beauty while you explore the streets of Paris.

These gardens are great locations to relax while enjoying a picnic and absorbing the atmosphere, making it a great way to appreciate the garden's unique design against its natural backdrop. Visiting these parks makes it easy to understand why Paris is one of the world’s most beloved cities.

How to get the most out of Paris

As you can see, there's so much more to Paris than just the Eiffel Tower. With so many options to choose from and not enough time to see them all, I always recommend that you choose your top activities and then categorize them into neighborhoods. Let me explain what I mean by this.

Paris is enormous and its major landmarks are pretty spread out. To save on time and cost of transportation, you should group your activities based on their proximity to each other. That way, you won't waste time getting from one end of Paris to the other multiple times a day—giving you the chance to get a lot more done.

It's usually possible to explore one to two neighborhoods per day—depending on your will. I did this last time I was in Paris, and it made my life so much easier. Below is an example of how I planned out my days according to neighborhoods:

Day 1: The 1rst Arrondisement

  • Musée du Louvre (Louvre museum) - Mona Lisa & Venus de Milo

  • Jardin des Tuileries (Tuileries garden) - Accessible through Rue de Rivoli

Day 2: Montmartre

  • Moulin Rouge

  • Sacré Coeur Basilica

  • Place du Tertre

Day 3: The 7th Arrondisement

  • Eiffel Tower

  • Musée d'Orsay

  • Hotel des Invalides

Day 4: Île de la Cité & Le Marais

  • Notre Dame Cathedral

  • Sainte Chapelle

  • Jardin du Luxembourg (Luxembourg gardens)

  • Place des Vosges

  • Maison de Victor Hugo

Day 5: Day Trip (pick one)

With so much beauty packed into such an iconic city, it can be difficult deciding how you want to spend your time in Paris. From visiting famous sites like Notre Dame Cathedral in Ile de la Cite and The Louvre Museum, all the way down to enjoying a romantic picnic along The Seine River banks or exploring Montmartre's winding streets, there is something here for everyone.

We hope this list of the best things things to do in Paris have inspired you venture out and explore everything this amazing city has to offer! Bon voyage!


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