Whether it’s your first trip to Paris or you’re a real Paris connoisseur, I’m sure there are a couple of surprises in this guide on the best things to do in Paris.
Paris is one of my absolute favourite cities in Europe, and after four visits to the city, I have looked forward to writing this guide, where I will go into depth with which sights in Paris you must see on your trip to the French capital.
In this extensive guide, I’ll guide you to the city’s best attractions & in cases where an attraction/experience costs something; I’ll provide links to online booking and skip-the-line tickets.
Let’s get started: what are the best things to do in Paris?
You’re never going to guess the first one on my list.
- 1. The Eiffel Tower
- 2. The Louvre & Mona Lisa
- 3. The Tuileries Gardens
- 4. Disneyland Paris
- 5. Moulin Rouge
- 6. Catacombs of Paris
- 7. Hop On Hop Off (bus tour)
- 8. Sacré Coeur & Montmartre
- 9. River cruise on the Seine
- 10. Notré-Dame Cathedral
- 11. Arc de Triomphe
- 12. Champs Élysées
- 13. The Trocadéro Gardens
- 14. Musée d’Orsay
- 15. Versailles Palace and Gardens
- 16. Centre Pompidou
- 17. The Place de la Concorde
- 18. The Luxembourg Garden
- 19. Panthéon
- 20. Père Lachaise Cemetery
- 21. The Palais Garnier
- 22. Hôtel des Invalides – Army Museum and Tomb of Napoleon
- 23. Saint-Chapelle Cathedral
- 24. Chill out at Canal Saint Martin
- What not to miss in Paris?
- How many days do you need in Paris?
1. The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower has to be on the ‘must-see’ list if you are in Paris for the first time and have not yet seen the fantastic tower.
Like the TV tower in Berlin, the Eiffel Tower can be seen from all over Paris and might be one of the most famous attractions in the World.
I was honestly overwhelmed when I looked up for the first time as an adult and saw the majestic tower on the horizon. The experience was not made worse by getting very close to the Eiffel Tower; here, you see how fantastic this building is.
A trip up the Eiffel Tower is an experience of a lifetime and something I recommend to everyone visiting Paris.
Skip-the-line tickets are a must!
One of the only things that could deter tourists from visiting the Eiffel Tower is the long queue that is always there.
However, your travel blogger here naturally has a solution; you book your ticket from home and skip the queue.
This ticket must be booked from home!
You book access to the Eiffel Tower at a specific time, where you can then skip the queue and go directly into (and up) the tower.
Have you booked your hotel yet? I highly recommend you read the guide on where to stay in Paris.
2. The Louvre & Mona Lisa
The Louvre is another one of the most visited sights in Paris. The Louvre is a vast museum located centrally in Paris, just north of the Seine.
Louvre is known all over the world and is one of the most visited museums in Europa.
Of course, there are many good reasons for this, of which Mona Lisa and Venus from Milo probably top the list. However, the Louvre is much more than just paintings. The Louvre opened its doors in 1793 and has since been one of the world’s most visited museums.
The Louvre is divided into eight different departments: Egyptian antiquities, Near Eastern antiquities, Greek, Etruscan and Roman antiquities, Islamic art, sculptures, handicrafts, paintings, as well as prints and drawings.
As one of the top things to do in Paris, the queues to The Louvre are enormous. However, you can purchase skip-the-line tickets online and get in without spending hours of your holiday in line.
3. The Tuileries Gardens
Just across the entrance to the Louvre, we find the Tuileries Gardens, a public urban park in the heart of Paris.
The gardens have functioned as a breathing space for Parisians for many years, and it is an excellent place to go with a to-go coffee and a baguette if you want to enjoy a quick lunch in peace.
You can wander around the beautiful gardens or make your way past the small funfair called the Fête des Tuileries, which is only staged during the summer months (from June 25 to August 28).
There is a Ferris wheel from which you can get a pretty cool view of central Paris.
4. Disneyland Paris
If you are travelling to Paris with children, you should probably be careful when mentioning the word “Disneyland” – at least if you are not planning to go to the huge Disney amusement park 😀
Your children will mention Disneyland at least once or twice during your trip to Paris if it has entered their minds.
Disneyland Paris is a fantastic experience for children and it is not difficult to get there by train from central Paris.
However, you should expect to spend the whole day in Disneyland, as it is a large area with many other tourists, so you must expect to queue and share the experience with others.
There are quite a few different ticket options and you can eve pre-order a transfer from your hotel to Disneyland.
5. Moulin Rouge
Since 1889, there have been scantily clad cabaret shows at the Moulin Rouge, which have also been portrayed in several feature films.
Therefore, it is recommended to pass by and see the iconic theatre from the outside, but if you are a fan of the film from 2001 with Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, then you almost owe it to yourself to go inside and see a show at the Moulin Rouge.
Admittedly, it is not a cheap experience, but on the other hand, it is something that scores excellent reviews from previous guests, so it seems to be worth the money.
Remember to buy tickets online in advance – it’s one of the most popular experiences in Paris, so it’s almost always sold out on the day.
6. Catacombs of Paris
When I first heard about the catacombs in Paris as a child, I was equally fascinated and downright scared.
The idea that under one of Europe’s largest cities, 300 kilometres of underground passageways are decorated with skeletons and skulls sounded like something from a Hollywood movie.
But it’s not (just) a Hollywood movie set – you can get down and walk in the catacombs of Paris.
The history of the catacombs is macabre: back in the 18th century, there was no longer room for the dead in the Cemetery of the Innocents, which is why the underground passages were now put to use…
The catacombs in Paris are one of the more exciting experiences and perhaps something that is not suitable for young children…
7. Hop On Hop Off (bus tour)
A Hop On Hop Off sightseeing bus tour is always an easy way to see a lot of essential sights when you arrive in a new big city.
Paris is indeed a big city, which means that it is difficult (read: impossible) to get around and see the best-known sights on foot.
If you want to sit back and enjoy the city, you can take a Hop On Hop Off bus tour in Paris.
You buy a ticket that is valid for a whole day (or more) and you can hop on and off the buses as much as you want.
8. Sacré Coeur & Montmartre
Sacré Coeur is probably my favourite place in all of Paris! This is where you can get one of the city’s best views.
Sacré Coeur is a church located on a high hill (in Montmartre) in the north of Paris.
Of course, it costs money to enter the church itself, but the view is free and a must for anyone visiting Paris.
You can see more practical information here.
After visiting the place for the first time back in 2015, I was sold, so when I was in Paris a couple of months later (yeah, I fell so much in love with Paris I needed to go back soon!), we stayed close to the Sacré Coeur and spent several evenings chilling in the grass in front of the church, enjoying a glass of wine and the epic view.
There is also an Irish pub at the top (on the right when you look out over Paris), where you can have a cold pint and a game of pool if you’re into that sort of thing 🍺
Consider going on a guided Walking Tour of Montmartre when you’re in the area. Montmartre truly is one of the most magical areas of Paris, with romantic cobbled streets and cosy restaurants everywhere.
9. River cruise on the Seine
Another classic experience on a city break: a boat trip on the city’s river. Many large European cities have a river running through them (good examples are London, Prague & Berlin) – this must be exploited.
On my first trip to Paris, the boat trip on the Seine in Paris was excellent, and it is something I can recommend to anyone who wants to take a step back (and away from the traffic) and enjoy the beautiful buildings of Paris.
We went on a classic river cruise on the Seine, passing by famous sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame Cathedral.
10. Notré-Dame Cathedral
NOTE: Notre-Dame is currently closed due to the fire in 2019, but can still be enjoyed from the outside.
Notre-Dame is centrally located in Paris on a small island out in the Seine. Close by is also the well-known ‘Love Bridge’, where couples have set up padlocks to symbolise their love for many years.
However, the municipality continuously removes the padlocks, as the bridge simply cannot withstand the extra weight from the many padlocks.
However, still a nice sight and a nice view over the Seine.
As mentioned earlier, you cannot visit the cathedral from the inside, but you should pass by Notre Dame on your trip to Paris anyway. It is one of the must-see things, and the cathedral is close to many other exciting experiences.
11. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe, which reigns at the end of the Champs Élysées, is (after the Eiffel Tower) one of the most famous things to see in Paris, so it would be a shame not to make your way past the iconic building.
However, most people are content to enjoy the view from the outside, which is a bit silly.
For around 13 euros, you can access the Arc de Triomphe itself and go up to the roof, where you get an outstanding view of central Paris.
The ticket is one of the well-known skip-the-queue tickets, so all you have to do is go through a security check, which everyone who wants to visit the Arc de Triomphe has to go through. For everyone’s safety, of course.
12. Champs Élysées
In continuation of the Arc de Triomphe, I have to mention the legendary Champs-Élysées, particularly well-known among Tour de France fans for being where the Tour ends every year with an exciting sprint stage.
On the other 364 days of the year, however, the Champs-Élysées is “just” one of the world’s most beautiful streets, and on either side of the avenue, you will find fantastic shopping opportunities.
I also mention the Champs-Élysées in my guide to the best places to stay in Paris and name the area as the best shopping area in Paris.
In other words, it might be a perfect place for a couple where the husband is a cycling fan, and the wife wants to go into the trendy clothing stores 😀
Or vice versa 😉
13. The Trocadéro Gardens
When you search for pictures of Paris sights or the Eiffel Tower, you often see photos of the Eiffel Tower from a distance, from the opposite side of the banks of the Seine.
These were taken in the beautiful Trocadéro gardens, which in itself is worth a visit, and it is also one of the few free things to do in Paris, so it is, to that extent, worth stopping by.
Grab a cup of coffee, find a quiet bench and enjoy the view of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.
14. Musée d’Orsay
So there ARE other museums in Paris than the Louvre, although it naturally gets most of the attention.
One of the best museums in Paris is undoubtedly the Musée d’Orsay, which was built to be a railway station but ended up having platforms too short for modern trains.
Therefore, the building first ended up as a hotel, and since 1977 it has been a museum, where there is primarily French art from 1848 to 1914.
In other words, if you are interested in art, you must visit the Musée d’Orsay when you travel to Paris.
15. Versailles Palace and Gardens
Admittedly, Versailles is located approximately 25 kilometres west of Paris itself. Still, the city has gradually merged with the French capital, and the Palace of Versailles also deserves a place in a guide on the best things to do in Paris.
The enormous palace and gardens are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and the list of historical events at Versailles is too long for me to begin here.
You can take the C train from Saint-Michel Notre-Dame to Versailles in just 36 minutes, so getting from Paris to the Palace of Versailles is relatively easy.
16. Centre Pompidou
Paris has countless fascinating museums, so choosing which ones to visit can be challenging on your trip to the French capital.
One of the museums that is most often referred to as a must-do is the Centre Pompidou.
This is a definite centre (as the name suggests) for art and culture, which was completed in 1977 and has since functioned as a cultural centre in the heart of Paris.
The Centre Pompidou is located close to the Marais area. Within walking distance of several metro stations, so most people will always be nearby at one point or another during a trip to Paris.
If you are interested in modern art and travel to Paris, you must pass the Centre Pompidou.
17. The Place de la Concorde
Before my first trip to Paris, I knew the square best from the Tour de France.
If you also watch the Tour de France, it is the square with the Egyptian column. The riders always pass just before entering the Champs Élysées, and you get some beautiful pictures of the square.
The Place de la Concorde is Paris’ largest square and borders both the Champs Élysées and the Tuileries Gardens, as I have previously mentioned in this guide to sights in Paris.
The square has enormous significance for Paris and the whole of France: it was here during the French Revolution that Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette (and many more) were executed.
In 1831, the famous obelisk was given as a gift from Egypt and the over 3,300 (!) year old obelisk now adorns the square with its beautiful hieroglyphs.
18. The Luxembourg Garden
The Jardin du Luxembourg was initially laid out as a palace garden for the Palais du Luxembourg but is now a public city park and a definite respite in a central part of Paris near the Latin Quarter.
A good place to slip into when you experience the bustling Latin Quarter.
It is perhaps one of Paris’ most beautiful parks, so take a walk here and enjoy the scenery.
When we are around the Latin Quarter, we naturally cannot ignore the Panthéon, one of the city’s best-known museums, which also houses the mortal remains of several great French personalities – e.g. Voltaire and Rousseau.
Visit the museum of the men and women who shaped the history of France since the French Revolution in the former church built in the 18th century.
You can get very cheap skip-the-line tickets at GetYourGuide.
20. Père Lachaise Cemetery
If you are a fan of The Doors and Jim Morrisson, then you know that the legendary rock star ended his days far too soon in Paris.
That’s why you can visit Jim Morrisson’s grave in the Pére-Lachaise cemetery, which I did on my first trip to Paris many years ago.
I hadn’t done my research well, so I was blown away by the cemetery, which is extremely beautiful and perhaps one of the best things to do in Paris.
Google Maps has mapped many celebrity graves, so finding your way around is easy. Still, I think the whole cemetery is gorgeous, so enjoy the entire experience.
And remember that it is a cemetery and not just an ordinary attraction, so have respect for the mourners and locals.
If you want to know all of the cemetery’s secrets, consider joining this guided tour that gets excellent reviews.
21. The Palais Garnier
The Paris Opera House is considered by many to be the world’s most beautiful opera house, and the good news is that you can enter to see it without having to see an opera performance.
Not because you wouldn’t want to see opera in the world’s most beautiful opera house, but more because tickets are hard to come by and quite expensive.
The opera house is an example of architectural splendour both outside and inside. Since the 19th century, the place has formed the setting for many performances for the Parisian upper class.
Just think about how many important people have sat on the rows of chairs.
22. Hôtel des Invalides – Army Museum and Tomb of Napoleon
Hôtel des Invalides, also called Les Invalides, is a larger area that, among other things, consists of a vast military museum that tells the story of France with collections of military history and art.
As you know, France has an extremely rich history, and we all know the stories about Napoleon, who must be said to be one of Europe’s greatest warlords.
At the Army Museum, you can learn everything there is to know about France’s military history right up to the present day – and visit Napoleon’s tomb.
23. Saint-Chapelle Cathedral
On the island of Île de la Cité, where Notre Dame is also located, we find Saint-Chapelle, which is another masterpiece from the Gothic period.
The cathedral is world famous for its spectacular stained glass windows depicting scenes from the New and Old Testaments.
Worth a visit if you like the drama that comes with cathedrals built in the Gothic style.
24. Chill out at Canal Saint Martin
It may well be the Seine in Paris that grabs most of the headlines, but there are several waterways in the French capital.
Canal Saint Martin was ordered by Napoleon back in 1802 when the people of Paris needed a source of clean water.
Nowadays, Canal Saint Martin is one of the hippest places to hang out on a spring day in Paris.
If possible, start from the Passerelle des Douanes and take a stroll along the canal – there are plenty of trendy cafes, restaurants and bars, so even if the weather doesn’t cooperate, plenty of fun awaits here.
I hope you can use this guide to the best sights and things to do in Paris. If you have any questions, feel free to write a comment below – and you are also very welcome to share if you have any good tips for unknown and alternative experiences in Paris.
What not to miss in Paris?
The most famous sights in Paris and some of the things not to be missed are the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe, the Sacré Coeur, Notre-Dame and the Palace of Versailles. In this guide, however, I also talk about other things to do and a few lesser-known experiences in Paris.
How many days do you need in Paris?
If you are travelling to Paris for the first time, I recommend a minimum of 3 full days. You can easily spend longer in the French capital – there are enough experiences for several weeks.