Best Things to Do in Paris: Tourist Edition
If you know me, you know I can’t stop yapping about my upcoming trip to Paris! Weeee!!!!!! If I could photoshop myself into this picture above, you know I would! Ever since I saw the movie I have been dying to get back to Paris. And I do mean back to Paris, like back to the 20s…in the rain…
Since I’ve been getting ready for my trip to Europe (doing backflips inside), I have been gathering together an itinerary. Since it’s been a while (10 years almost) since I’ve been in Paris, my fab sister Margaux (oui! Who better than someone named Margaux to help you plan a trip to Paris!) gave me a crash course on all the main attractions to see. You know, the postcard stuff. Places that you may not need to spend hours in if you’ve already been before, but places that you have to pop back over to, just for a little.
If you’ve never been before, Paris is an incredibly overwhelming city to visit. Paris, which is thousands of years old, has seen a lot of history and been home to lots of well-known historical and cultural “moments.” When most of us visit, we only have a limited window of time to try to see everything there is to see (I live in New York and find that I’m still discovering new and wonderful places). To help make it a bit more manageable, I’ve compiled a list of the top attractions. I would like to qualify this, however by saying a) these are not necessarily my favorite places and b) they are not in any particular order. But, if you only have a limited amount of time in Paris and you want to hit the popular tourist spots, these are the guys! These are the places that, when you get home, everyone will ask if you went there. And without further ado:
(1) The Louvre: a gigantic art museum home to thousands and thousands of works of art spanning centuries. It’s estimated that in order to merely glimpse every piece of art in the Louvre, it would take you more than nine months. You could obviously spend your entire trip inside this museum, but you have my permission to give yourself a break and only see the famous pieces in an hour or so! Don’t worry, they have signs and maps marking the way to the most famous works of art!
(2) The Eiffel Tower: You can ride an elevator to the top to see the view of the city or just hang out in the park and enjoy the view of the tour. In the evening, the tour lights up every hour on the hour and sparkles for a few minutes. It’s truly magical!
(3) The Musée D’Orsay: A lovely art museum inside a former train station, much smaller/more manageable than the Louvre.
(4) The Notre Dame Cathedral: The inspiration behind the famous book The Hunchback of Notre Dame, it is one of the most iconic cathedrals in the world–be sure to go there during the daytime, because there are no interior lights on at night inside the cathedral!
(5) The Versailles Palace: About an hour train ride outside of the city of Paris, the most iconic room in the Palace is the stunning Hall of Mirrors. But, to me, the best part is walking the sprawling, immaculately manicured gardens.
(6) The Arc De Triomphe and the Champs Élysées: The Champs Elysees is a very busy, well-known tourist thoroughfare. Climb to the top of the Arc–the view is spectacular!
(7) Sacré Coeur and Monmartre: Montmartre has a tradition of being an artist’s village and was once the home of many well-known artists. It is also the home of the famous (once infamous!) Moulin Rouge. The Sacre Coeur is a spectacular church on top of a hill in the village of Monmarte
(8) The Tuilleries Gardens: Lovely public gardens with lots of chairs around the fountains. This is a great place to grab a cup of coffee and a crepe and just sort of chill out and appreciate where you are!
(9) The Paris Opera House: This theatre inspired the Phantom of the Opera main theatre is home to the famous Chagall-painted ceiling and a spectacular chandelier.
(10) The Latin Quarter: Very quirky, diverse neighborhood with lots of cool restaurants and bars–it’s close to the Sorbonne, which is a famous French University, also a very cool place to check out if you have time!
Stay tuned for the Best Things to Do in Paris: Locals Edition, probably to be followed by about 100 other Paris articles.
Thank you for my wonderful sister, Margaux (we call her Moogie or Minkus, feel free to as well!) for all your help! She is off to Italy this week. Perhaps she’ll do another roundup of the best hotspots!
Have any spots in Paris that you think should top our next list of local hotspots? Pleaseeeeeee share with us in the comments!
I roughly agree with your list. But I also don’t believe in following the “must-see” lists for Paris.- February 26, 2013
I’ve been to the Louvre twice, but I find the Orsay so much better. It’s very manageable, and the works of the late 1800s have been so much more interesting to me. And with that being said, if impressionist art interests you a day trip to Monet’s Gardens in Giverny is a can’t-miss experience. I also really enjoyed the Pompidou, the city’s modern art museum.
Versailles is really cool. You can spend as little as a couple hours checking out the palace and the gardens or a half or full day seeing the whole place.
On our most recent trip to Paris, last May, we stayed roughly in the Latin Quarter and really enjoyed just walking around and soaking it in. Of course lots of other visitors do this too, but it’s great. And the Marais is wonderful. My wife enjoyed spending a day there hitting all its great boutiques.
I could go on and on about Paris, as it seems you can. It’s a wonderful city to visit, whether you hit the top can’t-miss spots or just wander around and take it all in.
Hi Lance!- February 26, 2013
Thanks for stopping by! I don’t disagree with you about Orsay! And also L’Orangerie! Giverny unfortunately is closed until April so I’m really missing out! I hear it’s incredible. Those places will definitely be on our next list, which is going to be Paris Must-See lesser-known gems. These are just the “must-see” well-known spots. I love the Marais as well and just getting lost in the city in general! We hope you’ll come back to us again soon!
Unless you actually appreciate art, don’t bother with the Louvre – stroll around outside, see the magnificence, shop the museum stores…. (if you’re me, let your dog take a bath in the fountains on a hot day LOL)- March 5, 2013
If you do appreciate art, you will know what you like. Get the layout plan and find the section that interests you most. That is all you will manage to see on one visit. For me, it was the Dutch masters and I didn’t even try to see anything other than that. Next time.
Even though the Musée d’Orsay is more manageable, again, if you’re not keen on impressionists, don’t bother! If you prefer design and like Art Nouveau, by all means go and see that bit. I loved it.
If the sun shines, take a bateau mouche along the Seine – a nice way of seeing the city. If you hate heights, see the Eiffel tower from the boat, it’s just as impressive.
If you like shopping or just architecture, don’t forget to go inside the Galeries Lafayette and ogle the roof!!
If you hate shopping and tourism, don’t bother going along the Champs Elysées. If you want to spend money on wonderful European food on the Champs Elysées, go to the Renault store (I kid you not!) and leave the overpriced cafés with rude waiters on the side.
If you’re near the Opéra, Fauchon is just as great a specialty food store as Ladurée, which is over-rated, in my opinion.
If the weather is ok, walk. The Métro stinks and doesn’t live up to the pretty Art Nouveau entrances!
That’s all I can think of just now – ENJOY!
Brilliant! Thanks for the all of your fabulous advice. I’m sure our readers appreciate it too! We hope you’ll stop by again! I will be posting my favorite lesser-known spots soon!- March 14, 2013
Never been to the latin quarter. Sounds really cool.- April 9, 2013
it is! definitely a must-see in my opinion!- April 11, 2013
Your list became a tourist guide to me. It was nice experience in paris- May 7, 2018
So happy you found it useful!!- March 19, 2019