Paris. Poets, artists, playwrights, writers, journalists, and more have all written about their love of this city…and it’s hard not to fall in love with Paris. It’s a place that exudes culture, sophistication, class, and style. And, like the millions before me, I fell in love with this city the first time I visited. As Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.” Paris is gigantic, with thousands of years of history. It takes a lifetime to see, and all the places listed in this guide are just a fraction of what the city has to offer. It can be overwhelming. But there’s so much history in this city, so much beauty, so much love that you once look past the cliches, you find Paris is one of the few cities in the world that truly lives up to its hype.
Top 5 Things to See and Do in Paris
1. Scale the Eiffel Tower
2. The Palace of Versailles
3. Explore the Louvre
4. Take in the Latin Quarter
5. Visit Sainte-Chapelle
Other Things to See and Do
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1. Go museum hopping
The Louvre might get most of the attention, but there are plenty of other great museums in the city. Make sure you especially check out the Musee D’Orsay for great impressionist work, the amazing Rodin museum, Holocaust museum (one of the best in the world), Musee D’Orangerie (more impressionist work), and the interesting sewer museum to start. There are so many museums in the city that you won’t run out of something to see!
2. Walk the Champs Elysees
This is a very prestigious avenue in Paris with cinemas, cafes, luxury specialty shops. It’s also one of the most famous streets in the world, running down from the Arc de Triomphe to the Louvre. It is always busy and always expensive, but it’s a great place to club hop at night or snap photos during the day. Come in the very early morning to see the place utterly deserted. It makes for great photos.
3. Visit the Panthéon
Located in the Latin Quarter, this neoclassical building was originally built as a church but was turned into a state burial site for France’s heroes, like Marie Curie, Victor Hugo, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille and Voltaire. The height and scale of this building’s fantastic. See burial sites of French heroes. Admission is 7.50 EUR.
4. Relax in Jardin Du Luxembourg
The Jardin du Luxembourg is the largest public park in Paris. The garden contains just over a hundred statues, monuments, and fountains, all scattered throughout the grounds. In the morning, you’ll see lots of runners. At lunch on a nice day, a park full of people having a picnic (which is something I highly recommend you do!).
5. View the city from Montemartre
The home to starving artists for decades, this area gives you a stunning view of Paris. It’s home to the only winery within the city limits and is great for those wanting to visit the hangout spots of folks like Hemingway and Gertrude Stein.
6. Notre Dame
Paris’s Gothic masterpiece was constructed between 1163-1334. Climb from the north tower to the south to appreciate the masonry, and get a close-up view of the Gallery of Chimeras, the fantastic birds and beasts gazing over the balustrade. The outside facade has been cleaned up in recent years but the inside has a bit of that old Gothic grimy charm. To climb the tower, it costs 10 EUR. It’s open 10am-5:30pm every day with the exception of some holidays. It’s open an hour later during the summer.
7. Stand under the Arc De Triomphe
This monument stands in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle and is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Visitors can climb 284 steps to reach the top of the Arc where they will get information about the city’s history, as well as some panoramic views (8 EUR). It’s one of my favorite spots to see the city.
8. Celebrate Bastille Day
Every July 14th, a group of spectacular events in Paris celebrates the infamous storming of the Bastille during the French Revolution. There’s a huge, televised parade and an amazing, renowned fireworks display. This is French independence day and one of liveliest days in the country.
9. Experience the Cinema en Plein Air
Every July and August, Paris rolls out the inflatable screen in the Parc de la Villete for this major outdoor cinema event in the 9th arrondissement. It’s hugely popular with locals who tend to bring food and wine!
10. Visit Maison du Victor Hugo
This beautiful apartment dates to 1605. Its most famous resident was the writer Victor Hugo, who moved here when he was 30. His old apartment is now a museum dedicated to his life and writing. The museum is quite small, but Hugo (like me) lovers will find it very interesting. Open daily except Mondays from 10am-6pm.
11. Climb through the Paris Catacombs
Underneath the city of Paris, you’ll find a honeycomb of tunnels. The French resistance used these tunnels during World War II, and rave parties flourished there during the 90s. Within this maze of tunnels, lie the famous Catacombs of Paris. Here you can visit the tunnels and see the old burial sites of the city. It’s one of the freakiest and coolest sites in Paris, often times missed by tourists. They’re open daily 10am-8:30pm except for Mondays. It costs 27 EUR.
12. Dance the night away
Whether it’s modern clubs you like or classic jazz joints, you shouldn’t leave Paris without tasting the music that attracted some of the best musicians and artists to the city. There is an especially abundant amount of good jazz clubs in the city.
13. Walk amongst the tombstones
The Pere-Lachaise Graveyard is Paris’ most famous cemetery. It’s a peaceful and hauntingly-beautiful area worth exploring. If you look closely you’ll be able to spot the graves of a handful of famous people (Jim Morrison, Chopin, and Oscar Wilde are all buried here.)
14. Mémorial de la Shoah
The Mémorial de la Shoah (the Holocaust Museum) is one of the most detailed Holocaust museums I’ve seen. It’s a sobering place to spend time and a stark reminder of the horrors of our recent past.