Paris has an annual 30 million visitors, which makes it the most visited city in the world. However, first visits to the city of love can be quite overwhelming because it’s difficult to know where to begin and things to do in Paris. I’ve compiled a list to help you navigate your way around the city and tick off the most quintessential Parisian experiences!
1. Climb the Eiffel tower
The Eiffel tower is at the top of everyone’s “things to do in Paris” lists, but for obvious reasons. Time it so that once you get to the top you’ll be able to witness the sunset, dusk and then see the lights turn on. Paris has really spectacular pink sunsets in the Summer. By the time you get down it’ll be night, and you’ll be able to get photos of it all lit up as well. Enjoy a glass of champagne at the top of the tower, lunch at the new 58 Tour Eiffel on the first floor, or an elegant dinner at Le Jules Verne.
2. Explore the Louvre
The Louvre or the Louvre Museum is one of the world’s largest museums and a historic monument in Paris. You could spend days wandering around so be sure to schedule at least half a day. The Mona Lisa is arguably the highlight of the museum, but there are many more impressive works of art to be found.
3. Scale the Arc De Triomphe
If you’re looking for the best views of Paris with the Eiffel tower in sight, head to the The Arc de Triomphe. It’s 9,50 € entry to climb to the top but it’s well worth it. The entrance is underground so be sure to look for the signs.
4. Visit Sacré-Cœur
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris is commonly known as Sacré-Cœur. It’s open every day from 6 am to 10.30 pm, so don’t miss the chance to experience its spiraling steps leading you to the basilica’s dome. If it’s a sunny day, the hillside front park is a lovely place for a picnic.
5. Discover Montmartre
Arguably my favourite neighborhood of Paris is Montmarte, dedicated to arts and local artists. In it’s intricate backstreets and laneways you’ll find more local colour than you would in the centre of Paris. It’s known as the ‘old Paris’ where time seems as though it’s stood still.
6. Visit Notre Dame
Notre Dame Cathedral (full name: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, “Our Lady of Paris”) is a beautiful cathedral on the the Île de la Cité in Paris. Begun in 1163 and mostly completed by 1250, Notre Dame is an important example of French Gothic architecture, sculpture and stained glass. It is the most famous of the Gothic cathedrals of the Middle Ages.
7. Admire impressionist pieces in Musée d’Orsay
Housed under the soaring roof of one of Paris’s grand old Beaux Art railway stations, the recently renovated galleries of the Musée d’Orsay contain the world’s largest collection of Impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Cezanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gaugin, and many others.
8. Take a day trip to Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles, also known as the the Château de Versailles, is technically just out of Paris, but it is somewhere I would urge everyone to visit on their trip. Together with its gardens, the Versailles is one of the most famous monuments of world heritage. You could easily spend a day in Versailles, as well as exploring the city surrounding the palace. Although if you’re short on time, it’s also manageable to only spend half a day.
9. Relax in Jardin du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg, or the Luxembourg Garden, located in the 6th arrondissement, was created in 1612. It is currently the largest public park in Paris. If you’re planning on picnicking, forget bringing a blanket – the elegantly manicured lawns are off limits apart from a small wedge on the southern boundary. Instead, corral one of the iconic 1923-designed sage-green metal chairs and find your own favourite part of the park.
10. Shop on Champs-Élysées
The Avenue des Champs-Élysées is a boulevard in the 8th arrondissement. It is arguably the world’s most famous and beautiful boulevard where you’ll find many flagship stores including Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Sephora.
11. Have afternoon tea at Ladurée
It wouldn’t be right to visit Paris and not visit the Laduree flagship store on Champs-Elysées. Sit yourself down and enjoy some afternoon tea and lots of sweets (the macarons are to die for!)
12. Visit Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle first opened in 1248 and was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics.
13. Climb the staircase at Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. Highlights include the Grand Staircase and horseshoe-shaped, gilded auditorium with red velvet seats, a massive chandelier and Chagall’s gorgeous ceiling mural.
14. Walk across Pont Alexandre III (and take a photo under it!)
The Pont Alexandre III is a deck arch bridge that spans the Seine in Paris. It connects the Champs-Élysées quarter with those of the Invalides and Eiffel Tower. The bridge is widely regarded as the most ornate, extravagant bridge in the city.
15. Explore the Latin Quarter & Sorbonne University
A great area for wandering back streets and cheap eats, but be sure not to miss Sorbonne University – the historic soul of the Latin Quarter, founded in 1257. Enjoy a drink on the café terrace in front of the college before exploring the winding little streets of the Quartier Latin behind it.
16. Ice-skate at Hotel de Ville during Winter
One of the many beautiful buildings in Paris, Hotel de Ville, which is a town hall, transforms into a Winter Wonderland. From December to early March, an ice-skating rink sets up outside this beautiful building, creating a real picture-book experience. It’s fun to both participate and observe – the atmosphere is captivating.
17. Stroll around Saint-Germain-des-Prés
This quartier is named for the oldest church in Paris, St-Germain-des-Prés, and it’s become a prized address for Parisians and expats alike. If you had to choose the most classically Parisian neighborhood, this would be it. St-Germain-des-Prés has it all: genteel blocks lined with upscale art galleries, storied cafés, designer boutiques, atmospheric restaurants, and a fine selection of museums.
18. Descend into the Catacombes
Paris’ most macabre sight is its underground tunnels lined with skulls and bones, which hold the remains of about six million people. In 1785 it was decided to rectify the hygiene problems of Paris’ overflowing cemeteries by exhuming the bones and storing them in disused quarry tunnels and the Catacombes were created in 1810.
19. Picnic at Tuileries Garden
The gardens, which separate the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde, are a cultural walking place for Parisians and tourists where Maillol statues stand alongside those of Rodin or Giacometti.
20. Discover famous tombstones Père Lachaise Cemetery
Paris counts within its walls many of the world’s most poetic cemeteries– but Père-Lachaise outdoes them all. Countless famous figures are buried here: the most popular being Jim Morrison, whose tomb is kept constant vigil by fans. The French playwright Molière, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Richard Wright are a few others.
21. Enjoy an afternoon in Le Marais
Dripping in old world elegance yet thoroughly modern in sensibility, Le Marais is one of Paris’ most intriguing neighbourhoods. It spreads across parts of the 3rd and 4th arrondissements. Cobblestone streets wind through Le Marais’ dizzying network of hidden courtyards, provocative galleries, and ivy-covered boulangeries.
22. Grab a freshly baked baguette
I’m not kidding when I say you haven’t tasted bread until you’ve tasted a baguette in Paris. Le Grenier à Pain currently takes the title of Paris’ best baguettes!
23. Design your own perfume
Number 68 on the Champs-Elysées is the glittering, iconic home of Maison Guerlain. It is the world’s largest fragrance house, and the ultimate in Parisian beauty. Fragrance-junkies can follow their noses up the gilt staircase to perhaps most extraordinary of all: an entire library of scents; as well as its signature perfumes (from Shalimar to latest addition La Petite Robe Noire), they can create one all of their own.
24. Dinner and drinks at Buddha Bar
This restaurant-bar-lounge is located on the ultra-chic Faubourg St Honoré. Sushi isn’t something that’s correlated with Paris but trust me on this one and order the sushi. It’ll be some of the best you’ll ever have. After dinner, head upstairs and indulge in one too many cocktails.
25. Have a street crêpe
Thin, garnished and delicious, Paris has crêpe-making down to a pin. I found the best crêpes to be hidden in lane ways, where they mix their own local chocolate with nutella and strawberries! To. Die. For.
25. Stroll along the Seine River with a Café au Lait
Because there’s no better way to walk along the famous Seine river than with a coffee in hand!
26. Try eating snails
Because when in Paris? In all honesty, if you can close your eyes and get past the fact you’re about to eat a snail, it’s not the worst thing in the world. I’d say it’s worth ticking off this Parisian bucket list experience.
27. Visit the Christmas markets
If you’re lucky enough to witness the magic of Paris during Christmas, you MUST head to the Christmas market on the Trocadero. Stroll along with your mulled wine, gingerbread and multiple pastries.
28. Watch the Moulin Rouge
This has been a hit and miss with a lot of people and despite being quite touristy, I think it’s worth it if you book the dinner and show. Prepare yourself for topless dancers, sparkles and lots of red velvet decor. For a less touristy show, settle into a booth at Le Crazy Horse.
29. Find the best macarons
Don’t think there was a day (or few hours) that passed where I wasn’t downing macarons in Paris. My favourites were from Ladurée, Pierre Hermé and Gateaux Thoumieux, but they’re pretty much all winners.
30. Wait in line for hot chocolate at Angelina
And yes, it’s totally worth the wait.
31. Have Dinner and drinks at Maxim’s
It may be a cliche, but this legandary grandest of grande dames on the Rue Royale still pleases hopeless romantics with its lavish, step‑back‑in‑time art nouveau interior.
32. View Paris from the Montparnasse Tower
Arguably the best view of Paris in my opinion. Get the bird’s eye view of Paris that actually includes the Eiffel Tower. It looks absolutely magical when the city lights up at night.
33. Day trip to Disneyland Paris
Disneyland may not seem all that special to some people, but for us Australians, it’s a far-away childhood dream. I’m not going to say no to the happiest place on earth.
34. Browse Shakespeare and Company bookstore
Perhaps the most famous independent bookstore in the world, Shakespeare and Company can feel like something of a literary utopia. Cozy up and browse the former grounds of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway.
35. Eat a croissant for breakfast
When in Paris, eat like the Parisians eat. Head to Eric Kayser or Gontran Cherrier for the most deliciously light and flakey croissants you’ve ever had!
36. Go to a Jazz club
Jazz is a Paris favourite. Autor de Midi et Minuit in Montmartre does free jam sessions on a Thursday and Blue Note in Montmarte just expects you to buy one drink as an entrance fee. Both are excellent!
37. Wine, Baguette & Cheese in the Park
Paris is home to many spectacular parks so grab yourself a bottle of wine, a fresh baguette from the bakery and lots of cheese from a local grocery store. Find a bench or grass patch and enjoy the finer things in life.
38. Buy (or smell) all the peonies
When it’s peony season you’ll find every florist has a 3-foot pile of peonies sitting on their counter! There’s something special about peonies and Paris.
39. Head to the markets
For the best flea market go to Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen, for food head to Marché Bastille and for art and antiques, find Hôtel Drouot or Brocante des Abbesses.
40. Stroll La Promenade Plantée
Roughly translated as The Green Walkway, La Promenade Plantée is a three mile long elevated green space, built atop an abandoned railway-line. The path is enveloped by trees and shrubs and lovely on a summer’s day. Walk along the Promenade Plantée till you reach Jardin De Reuilly – a ‘hidden’ garden in the middle of Paris.
41. Explore the Belleville neighbourhood
Enter Belleville – Paris’ working-class cosmopolitan neighbourhood. The array of cultures here is dizzying to say the least – chinese supermarkets and african stores hob nob with Tunisian restaurants and French cafés. It’s somewhat of a local secret and you will find few tourists here. Spend an afternoon exploring the quirky Rue Denoyez, a lane crammed with graffiti, street-art, and murals, followed by a drink at the legendary Café Aux Folies (an Edith Piaf favourite).
42. Watch a movie at the open-Air Cinema
The fantastic free open-air cinema festival Cinéma en Plein Air returns to Parc de La Villette every summer. It’s just one of the events that brings the buzz to this increasingly hip corner of northeast Paris.
43. Check out Love Wall
Paris being the city of love, it’s no surprise that this mural that features “I Love You” scrawled in hundreds of different languages, draws countless visitors looking for an opportunity to capture a smoochy holiday snap.
44. Dine at Le Double FondCafé Theater
Enjoy a moment of warm and Parisian authenticity. Located in the heart of the historical Paris, you will spend an unforgettable time in “Le Double Fond” with magicians that perform at your table, quality of service and the unique welcoming experience of this magic place.
45. Dinner & drinks at Jules Verne on the Eiffel Tower
The height of Paris cliches, but one that is truly unforgettable. A little pricey, but to be fair, you are dining on the Eiffel tower itself. Don’t forget to book in advance!
46. Go on a wine tasting tour
Take a day trip to Champagne, go on a Champagne sipping cruise along the seine and drown yourself in baguettes and cheese. Sounds like a perfect day to me! Ô Château are renowned for having the best wine tasting tours in Paris.
47. Have a late night picnic at the Square du Vert-Galant
The cosy park is situated on the western tip of the Île de la Cité. In the summer, the park is dotted with people relaxing on the grass, enjoying the view and watching the boats sail past on either side of the island.
48. Find vintage at Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
A labyrinth of shops are filled with surprises, strangeness and charm. Find all the vintage you never knew you needed.
49. Eat at a secret restaurant
Derrière is a hidden restaurant with an unmarked entrance on Rue des Gravilliers. The entrance opens into a courtyard, and a fabulous apartment. You can eat and drink wherever you like – in the salon, the dining room, the garden, even the bedroom.
50. Go to the Place des Vosges
The Place des Vosges is the oldest and most beautiful square in Paris—and where Victor Hugo lived. Have a drink in one of the cafés on the square and then roam around the Marais for the day, or end on the square. It was built by Henry IV in 1605-1612, over 400 years ago.
I’d love to hear from you! What wouldn’t you miss in Paris?
Don’t forget to sign up to the new SC NEWSLETTER for more on travel and lifestyle delivered straight to your inbox!