Paris is one of the world’s major hubs of commerce, culture, fashion, and gastronomy. It has been drawing people into its allure and beauty for hundreds of years. There is so much to do in Paris. It can be overwhelming to choose what to include on your itinerary!

From museums and gardens to shopping and cafes, here’s a list of the top things to do in Paris to help plan your next Paris vacation.

1. The Eiffel Tower

Number one on this list is the Eiffel Tower. It was completed in 1889 for the World’s Fair in Paris to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. It is now a symbolic icon of the City of Lights and twinkles beautifully at night.

You can walk around the base of the Eiffel Tower without a ticket. Or, pay to climb the stairs or ride an elevator up to the observation deck. Guided tours provide more history about the Iron Lady.

The Trocadéro is located across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. This is an excellent place to picnic and take pictures of the monument. There are also restaurants nearby where you can reserve a table in the street to enjoy a romantic dinner with a beautiful view of the tower.

Purchase your tickets here.

2. Louvre Museum

One of the must-do things on your list should be the Louvre! The Louvre is an art museum which initially began as a fortress during the French medieval era. Then, for a time, it housed the French royalty before they moved out to Versailles. Now, it houses some of the world’s most valuable art treasures, including the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace.

The Louvre truly is magnificent to behold. I cried tears of joy walking through those arches as the expansive palace and pyramid fell into my view. It was surreal to be experiencing such grandeur in real life when I had seen it pictured in photos and on television for so long.

You should reserve at least half a day for it. My husband and I are not ones for art, so we personally chose to quickly walk throughout the museum in a matter of a few of hours without spending too much time in one area. If you like to take your time and want to take it all in, I would plan to spend a whole day here. Even then, you will not be able to see everything in one visit. It is so big and there is so much to see!

Before you go, make sure to reserve your spot and purchase a timed-entry ticket ahead of time. Guided tours are also available in many different languages. There is an app available to help you navigate the exhibits.

You can purchase ticket reservations here.

3. Musée D’Orsay

Brown and Grey Building With People Inside

The Musée D’Orsay is a beautiful museum housing the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world. It is located in a former railway station on the bank of the Seine, the Gare d’Orsay.

Here you will be able to find works of art from notable French artists including Monet, Degas, Renoir, Gauguin, and van Gogh. The interior of the museum is also magnificent and features a grand clock. Reportedly, this clock inspired the clock in the train station in the movie Hugo.

Purchase tickets for the Musée D’Orsay here.

4. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

What would a trip to Paris be without visiting Notre Dame?

This magnificent Catholic cathedral dates back to medieval France and was completed in 1345 to honor the Virgin Mary. It was built in the French Gothic style of architecture and stands with grandeur on the Île de la Cité. Its exterior is ornate with bell towers, stained glass windows, grand statues, and gargoyles.

Notre Dame is still closed to undergo renovation after its roof caught fire in 2019. However, it is still worth seeing even now. Visitors are able to admire the beauty of its exterior facade and read about its renovation. When we visited Paris, we saw Notre Dame in the cold and rain, and I think it made the gothic architecture even more splendid to behold.

5. Jardin de Luxembourg

The Luxembourg Gardens is an oasis of greenery in the center of Paris.

It’s the perfect escape from sightseeing on a beautiful summer day. Enjoy a picnic, lay in the sun, play lawn bowling (pétanque), admire the flowerbeds and promenades, and watch model sailboats float by on the pond.

6. Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées is a grand avenue in Paris. Lined with luxury shops and stylish restaurants and cafés, it is perhaps the most famous avenue in the world and is iconic for its shopping scene.

Walk the Champs-Élysées and bask in the beauty of the avenue, which draws a straight line from the Louvre to the Arc de Triomphe.

7. Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe Monument

The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is a famous French monument honoring French soldiers in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. It stands at the end of the Champs-Élysées.

Many stand in the center of the street to take a picture of the arch. There is also a path to take underground to go up and walk around the base of the monument. You can pay a small fee to climb to the top and get a unique view of the city. From the top, you can really admire the star-like pattern of the roads breaking off from the place where the Arc de Triomphe stands.

If you’re lucky, catch a sunset coming through the famed arch.

8. Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier, or Opéra Garnier, is an opera house that was built in the mid 1800s. The Paris Opera Ballet now performs here. The building sits on the Place de l’Opéra and is a sight to behold in itself with its grandiose design. The story of the Phantom at the Opera is based here.

There are many shops and restaurants in this area, so it is worth seeing even from the outside while sipping coffee on a terrace at a nearby café!

9. Versailles

We can’t talk about opulence without talking about Versailles. While Versailles is not technically within the city of Paris, it is only 12 miles outside the city limits. It is a short train ride to visit and makes for a great day trip.

The Palace of Versailles is the former residence of French royalty before the French Revolution. The grounds include the Palace, the Grand Trianon, and the Petit Trianon (the estate of Marie-Antoinette). Note that it can get really crowded with visitors. You are able to walk through the palace with a guided tour, but there were so many people that we weren’t able to stop to admire the opulence of the interior of the palace.

However, not many people took the ride out to Marie-Antoinette’s estate (the Petit Trianon). I love French history, so being able to stand in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom and admire her dining china was incredible. It was also peaceful and lovely to be able to walk around the garden there. Definitely a must see thing to do if you’re a French history buff like me!

There is an app available to guide you through the palace! Don’t forget to reserve your tickets ahead of time here.

10. Saint Germain des Pres

Saint Germain des Pres is an upscale neighborhood in the 6th arrondissement. It is a vibrant area known for its great shopping and restaurants, and is definitely worth exploring on foot!

If you’re wanting a good café au lait or French drinking chocolate with a croissant, then this is the place to go! There are many historic cafés in the area, such as Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots. Notable artists used to frequent these cafés, including Simone de Beauvoir, Jean Paul Sartre, Ernest Hemingway, Albert Camus, Pablo Picasso, James Joyce, amongst many others.

11. Montmartre

Montmartre is a neighborhood on the top of a hill in Paris overlooking the city. It is known for being a place where artists gather, and is very quaint and charming with its boutiques, bistros, and cobblestone streets. You can spend a wonderful afternoon here browsing the shops, sipping on wine, and purchasing artwork.

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is also located in Montmartre. This is a Catholic church built in the 19th century. Standing in front of the basilica provides a glorious view of the city. If you are so inclined, the interior of the basilica is worth seeing as well.

12. Moulin Rouge

Montmartre is also known for its night scene. The historic cabaret shows at the Moulin Rouge date back to 1889 and have been going strong ever since!

Tickets are available to buy for an amazing dinner show of dancers adorned with feathers and rhinestones doing the can-can!

Purchase your tickets here.

13. Picnic Along the Seine

A list of the top things to do in Paris wouldn’t be complete without mentioning taking a picnic along the Seine. This is a great thing to do especially if you are there in the summer with nice weather.

Some popular places to picnic are on the Île de the Cité, the Quai Bernard, the Trocadero near the Eiffel Tower, the Canal Saint Martin, and the Berges de Seine. In the summer, “Paris Plages” are also installed along the Seine (literally “Paris beaches”) with sand and lounging chairs so that you can truly soak up the sun.

I would recommend picking up ice cream, sandwiches, or wine and finding a lovely spot along the Seine to sit and watch the world go by. You will likely be accompanied by many others doing the same, including locals strumming guitars and fishing in the river.

14. Seine River Cruise

A great way to see many of these beautiful sights all at once is by going on a river cruise along the Seine. You will float by notable landmarks along the Seine including the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame. Audio commentary about their history is also provided.

A river cruise can also be romantic and a more relaxing experience than traveling on foot!

15. Paris Bus Tour

This is another great thing to do if you are in Paris for a short time but want to quickly experience the sights.

By going on a bus tour, you can hop on and off any time during operating hours to see the Eiffel Tower, Champ de Mars, Palais Garnier, pyramid at the Louvre, Pont des Arts bridge near the Louvre (used to be the lock bridge), Notre Dame, Musée d’Orsay, Champs-Elysées, Grand Palais, and the Trocadéro.

Tickets for the Paris bus tours can be purchased here.

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