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Things to do in Paris

3.964 contributors
  • Monuments
    344 places
  • Walks
    323 places
  • Museums
    97 places
  • Outdoors
    115 places
  • Entertainment
    28 places
The most popular destinations

The top 1.367 attractions in Paris

Historical Monuments in Paris
Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is a symbol of Paris. It was built during the 1889 Universal Exposition and at 320 meters tall, was the largest structure in the world at the time. Due to its popularity, the Tower was left standing after the Expo and has since become the defining icon of the Paris skyline. The elevators on the north and west legs connect the three viewing platforms. You can visit the second platform by elevator or stairs, but be warned that there are no less than 1665 steps. As an anecdote, it’s a rather common occurrence to see couples proposing on the tower. Also, every night the twin lamps on the Eiffel Tower shine out for 80 kilometers. The queues to go up the tower are much shorter at night, surprising since the view of all the monuments lit up is about as romantic as you can imagine. Also, for the first ten minutes of every hour, the tower is illuminated by 20,000 gold lights, an amazing spectacle to behold from within. I must also say that the wind was strong at night and you should dress appropriately.
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Museums in Paris
Louvre Museum
This museum is a must, plain and simple. You don’t need to be an art expert by any means but you should decide what you want to see because the museum is huge and you could spend days on end there. I recommend starting at the sculpture before moving on to the Egyptian section and finishing with the paintings you wish to see. If you get there early, there shouldn't be any issues with the lines and remember that accredited disabled persons get in free of charge. There is a free wheelchair service at the Louvre and the whole museum is well-prepared. The staff is very nice and while their English isn't perfect, you can usually understand the important points.
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Cathedrals in Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral
What can I say about Notre Dame that dozens of other reviewers haven’t already said? It’s the most famous cathedral in the world and, after having visited, definitely one of the most beautiful. One of the most common things I had heard about Notre Dame were the intolerable crowds, especially during summertime. I went in September and visited the cathedral right at 8:30 in the morning on a Thursday and it was practically empty. If you have the chance to visit in the off-season, do so, and make sure to visit first thing in the morning before all the tour buses get there. The interior of the cathedral is incredibly beautiful, and you’ll need an hour (at least) to really savor all of the little details which set this cathedral apart from so many others: the intricate carvings, the majestically-decorated chapels, the exquisite rose windows, and the countless Gothic arches dramatically lit by candles and chandeliers. If you can enjoy it without crowds and incessant camera flashes, the atmosphere is truly magical. And, if you’re a photographer, it’s one of the best subjects on Earth. It’s a grandiose work of architecture, a deeply spiritual place, and one of the few free attractions left in Paris. What are you waiting for? Go!
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Churches in Paris
Basilica of the Sacré Coeur
This church is located in the artsy Montmartre neighborhood, where any student of "les Beaux Arts" will paint your portrait or caricature in 5 minutes time. Its streets carry the aroma of crêpes and ice cream. You can sit for tea in one of the "famous" cafes, but I recommend the caramel ice cream with salted butter...mmmm...delicious! The Sacre Cœur Basilica,with its gardens and views,is simply stunning. Not only for the eyes, but for the ears: there are all kinds of people and groups playing every instrument imaginable. I recommend visiting the church in mandatory silence then sprawling out on the grass for a while and enjoying the magical atmosphere. When we went, we were lucky to have wonderful weather.
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Historical Monuments in Paris
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is huge. You can reach it from the Champs Élysées at the intersection with the Grand Palais. If you think it's just a short walk, think again. It probably takes a solid hour to get there. The walk up the Champs Élysées is indeed pleasant but I'd recommend doing it first thing in the morning, especially in summer. You access Arc de Triomphe via a tunnel that goes under the road and leaves you in the square. This is the only way in. Admission is €7. For accredited disabled persons, the admission is free. Be sure to keep your eye out for pickpockets as there are many in the area.
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Neighborhoods in Paris
Who wouldn't love to explore the Paris of 50 or 60 years ago, or the Paris of the 19th century inhabited by writers and artists from around the world? Two places where artists like Picasso, Modigliani, Pissarro, Van Gogh, Matisse, Renoir, Degas, and Toulouse-Lautrec chose to live were Montparnasse, on the Rive Gauche, on Montmartre, on the Rive Droit. Set on a high hill crowned by the Sacré Cœur, today's Montmartre is far from being the engine of Parisian art that it was during its glory days of cabarets and theaters. However, it's still an amazing visit. It's impossible to visit the City of Light without exploring the Place du Tertre and checking out its street artists, or stopping by the historic Le Consulat and Moulin de la Galette.
Rivers in Paris
The River Seine
There are so many bridges that cross the Seine, as different from each other as they are beautiful. They make me think about the song “La Seine” by Mathieu Chedid and Vanessa Paradisa, a classic for lovers of French music. We decided to take a boat trip at night before having dinner and I must say that the sight of the Eiffel Tower from the Seine was unforgettable. The only criticism I can make was that it was very cold at the end of October so you need to make sure and dress warmly. A lot of boats (“péniches”) offer dinners or musical shows on the Seine but we only had a drink as many of the dinners seemed a bit overpriced. You can spend hours walking along the Seine, even at night (don’t be afraid, there are always lots of people around), or explore the riverbanks by bike.
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Theaters in Paris
Palais Garnier
The outside of the building is wonderful, but the most impressive part is inside. The grand staircase is impressive, so is the museum library, hallways, the pylon of the witch, the great hall, and the Rotundas of the Sun and Moon. You can access the balcony and have a complete view of the square.
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Museums in Paris
Musée d'Orsay
After my previous visits to Paris, I had always gone home with the pain of having missed the Musee d'Orsay for lack of time. I made do with admiring the beautiful building (designed by Victor Laloux for the Universal Exhibition of 1900) from the outside. During my most recent trip to Paris, I made a resolution to not to leave without visiting the museum. After waiting in a mile-long queue in the rain (it rains constantly in Paris, a secret the French rarely let out), I finally fulfilled my wish. Don't start at the bottom, but rather go straight to the top floor to begin your visit. That way, you won't miss amazing works like the Gates of Hell by Rodin. The truth is that the layout of the museum is a bit confusing, but I imagine that they had to adapt everything to the existing building. It's definitely worth the visit.
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Cabaret in Paris
Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge is a legendary Paris cabaret immortalized in paintings and countless old movies. It was built in 1889 by Josep Oller, who was also the owner of Paris Olympia. The Moulin Rouge is an iconic symbol of Paris' Red Light District and home to the famous dance the Can-Can. Since its founding over a century ago, it has become a destination for tourists looking to attend an evening show. If you're walking around the area, it's worth visiting up close to get some great photos. Today, the Moulin Rouge still holds shows and is a pleasant reminder of the bohemian atmosphere of the Belle Epoque.
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Shopping Malls in Paris
Galeries Lafayette
The Galeries Lafayette are a must for any foreign visitor in Paris, both for its architecture as well as its prestigious shops. Two cousins, Théophile Bader and Alphonse Kahn, built Les Galeries Lafayette in 1893 at the corner of Rue La Fayette and Rue de la Chaussee d' Antin. The construction of the impressive cupola was carried out by Ferdinand Chanut and the structure was completed in 1912. The neo-Byzantine dome, measuring over 33 meters in height, is an amazing work of colored glass held together by a metal skeleton. There is a terrace on the 7th floor which offers some of the best views of Paris; and, best of all, they're free (a rarity in Paris). I recommend visiting at sunset. It's also the only place I've ever seen a queue to enter the Chanel store.
Gardens in Paris
Tuileries Garden
This is the garden of the Louvre and the aristocrats which once inhabited the palace. It was designed by Le Notre, the same architect who designed the famous gardens at Versailles. It’s also the most central garden in Paris, located right next to the Seine in the “Grand Axe,” the triumphal axis that stretches from Place de la Concorde to the Grand Arche de la Défense passing by the Arc d’Triomphe. The garden is rather small and modest in comparison to some other French castle and palace gardens. It starts at the Louvre and stretches to the Place de la Concorde. The entire garden is flat with the exception of some smaller gardens and elevated walkways on the sides and is composed mainly of hedges and trees, but there are some blossoming flowers in spring. There is a circular fountain in the center with a fun statue that keeps the whole place a bit cooler in summertime. You can also rent small boats to float around the pond and chat. There is a rather nice collection of 20th-century statues scattered around the gardens as well. Visits are free although the opening hours are rather short. There is a souvenir shop at the corner with Place de la Concorde. The gardens have their own metro stop so you can’t miss it!
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Gardens in Paris
Luxembourg Garden
This large park is in the 6th arrondissement in the center of Paris, not far from the University of La Sorbonne and the Pantheon. It’s the largest park in the city (Bois de Vincennes and Bois de Boulogne are just beyond the edge of town). The garden is basically square shaped and there are maps at all the entrances. The largest and most visited entrances are at the northeast (coming from La Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter) and the south (next to Crous). This garden is a convenient place for several reasons: there is a playground for children, basketball and badminton courts, and a wooded area popular among athletes and young lovers. Near the north entrance, you ca see an orchestra come out and play on weekends and holidays. The Luxembourg Palace and its large fountain are the main draws of the park. It holds the French Senate, a somewhat odd contrast to the jovial atmosphere of children and fountains found just outside. There are a bunch of chairs around the fountain that are at the disposal of locals and tourists who come to read, rest, and take in the sunshine in summer.
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Historical Monuments in Paris
Les Invalides
Les Invalides is a large 17th-century building located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. It’s very close to the Military Academy at the end of the Champs de Mars and currently houses the popular Military Museum. Originally, the building was designed to house those hurt in war (thus “les invalides”). At the end of the 1800s, there were two museums about artillery and military history, but in 1905 they were combined to become the Musée de l’Armée which we have today. The entire palace complex is enormous and includes various French-style gardens, a war hospital, a large museum, a housing area, a cathedral, and a store with all kinds of items and books about war, Napoleon, and French history. There’s also a cafe, and finally a church whose golden dome is one of the most recognizable points of the city and whose interior houses the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. This last place, along with the museum, is among the most visited places in the city. It’s very interesting and I’d go as far to say emotional to be beside the tomb under that hulking golden dome. The tomb is in a lowered area and embedded in a large block of black marble brought from mines in the Alps. The tomb itself is also worth a look for its craftsmanship and the amazing quality of the materials. A complete visit to the complex requires a couple of days (you can spend an entire visit in the museum alone). The collection is fascinating, though, especially for those who like military history. Remember that entry is free on the first Sunday of every month. During the rest of the week, you can visit the Cour d’Honneur and its large collection of cannons, the cafe, bookstore, and gardens for free. Entry is also free after 4 in the afternoon.
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Museums in Paris
Centre Georges Pompidou
The Georges Pompidou Centre, known locally as the "Beaubourg," is Paris' main modern art museum. The building was designed by the architect Renzo Piano and is internationally famous for its structure of exposed colored tubing. Besides having several spaces offering up art exhibits which are the talk of the Paris art world, it also has an impressive cultural program. The two-floor library and café is a nice place where you can find books, international newspapers, journals, and music. The theaters offers films festivals, documentaries, and short films related to the current exhibits or events in the city. The tickets are usually cheaper than in normal commercial cinemas, but you can still get student, senior citizen, teacher, and unemployment discounts. The basement auditorium also hosts experimental artists and musicians from IRCAM (Institute for Research in Music and Acoustics) with composer Pierre Boulez at the helm. There is also usually an exhibition for children with educational workshops. You can get a membership card for about 30 euros which includes access to all exhibits and movies (as well as a discount in the bookstore) for an entire year.
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Squares in Paris
Place de la Concorde
The Place de la Concorde was designed in 1753 by Jacques Ange Gabriel in honor of King Louis XV. It houses the very guillotine which ended the life of Marie Antoinette. The Luxor Obelisk donated to Louis-Philippe by Muhammad Ali Pasha in 1831 sits at the center of the square. Around the square, there are eight large statues symbolizing France’s most important cities. Here, Marie Antoinette was guillotined on October 13, 1793 at 38 years of age. The obelisk comes from Luxor, one ancient Egypt’s premier cities built in the 13th century BC, and was originally an homage to the Pharaoh Ramses II. At the corner with the Tuileries Gardens you’ll find one of Paris’ few remaining public restrooms. Paris, let me tell you, is not for the small-bladdered. They cost 50 cents and are clean.
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Streets in Paris
My stroll along the Champs-Élysées is one of the best memories I have of my time in the French capital. I remember going quietly, at my own pace, and checking out the stores I wanted to see and stopping now and then for a coffee or a beer. I must honestly say it was one of the most pleasant moments of my life.
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Bridges in Paris
Pont Alexandre III
The Pont Alexandre III is my favorite sight in all of Paris. Apart from its exuberant decoration of cherubs, nymphs, winged horses, and Art Nouveau lamps, it’s also located near the brilliant golden dome and offers exceptional views of the city. As you cross the bridge, take a look over the edge and you’ll see crowds of waving tourists floating down the Seine aboard the Bateaux Mouche.If you raise your gaze, you’ll see Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower in the distance. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll find yourself at the Grand Palais, the Science Museum, and the Petit Palais (which now holds the Museum of Fine Arts) with its gorgeous golden door and the Champs-Élysées in the background. As I said, some of the best views in Paris.
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