The first time I visited Paris was in 2009 and it was only for 2 days, I tried to squeeze as much as possible out of my time in the city but it was still impossible. I traveled a few more times but never as a travel blogger until my last visit when I decided to stay more days to document and take pictures, but still, even though I left out many things I had already visited and visited others, I lacked a lot of things to do in Paris.
The list below are some of my favorites, including the “Must-see places in Paris”, and I hope it will help you to plan your trip.
What to do in Paris
Take a tour
It may seem strange that the first advice I give you is to take a tour of the city but there is a reason why. If this is your first time in the city this is the best way to locate and learn a little bit of its history before going into each place.
My recommendation, so that you don’t take too much time off your trip, is to take one of the bus tours, which are included with your Paris Pass card.
Another good option that I frequently use are the free walking tours. These tours are not entirely free but they work on a tipping basis, at the end of the tour the guide will ask you for the tip you feel is appropriate. Consider that these guides work entirely on tips and they have to give a part of these tips to the company, so it’s good that you want to save money but you also have to know how to value the work of others.
The company that I continually use before exploring others is Sandemans New Tours, you can find all the information about their tours and meeting points on their website. You will also find the schedules of their free tours in Spanish around Paris. The tours are on foot and sometimes last up to 4 hours, so you can appreciate this too.
Visit the Louvre
One of the must-see places in Paris would undoubtedly be the Louvre Museum. A museum of impressive size where you will find thousands of works of art, you will be here a minimum of 6 hours considering that you will see only the masterpieces and very quickly.
If your desire is to see the Mona Lisa my suggestion is that you go very early in the morning or on a Wednesday and Friday after 6P.M., these days the museum closes until 9:45 P.M. and the crowds will have already left.
The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays. If you want to know updated information of schedules and prices you can check the museum’s page.
The Louvre Museum covers the old masters of art, once you’ve been through the history of art then I suggest you take a tour of the Musée d’Orsay.
Personally I like this museum best as I have a preference for Impressionist art (it is the museum with the largest collection of Impressionist paintings in the world) and Realism, which is not covered in such detail at the Louvre.
Unlike the Louvre, this museum is not so crowded and if you have your Paris Pass you can get in through the quick access, which makes the visit more relaxed and enjoyable.
Finally, if you haven’t tired of seeing works of art, you should pay a visit to the Centre Pompidou. This museum covers precisely the period of art that the two previous museums (Louvre and Orsay) did not cover, modern and contemporary art.
Its exhibition is so extensive and complete that it is on the same level as the MoMA in New York and the Tate in London. Here you will find works by Picasso, Miró, Matisse, Francis Bacon, etc.
Boat tour on the Seine River
Walking along the banks of the Seine River is something you should do when you are in Paris, but if you have the opportunity I recommend you take the tour by boat, it does not last long (1 hour) and you will be able to appreciate other views of Paris. It is also the ideal time to rest a bit sitting down if you have been walking all day. (Activity also included with your Paris Pass)
Tour at the Opera Garnier
Continuing with historical buildings in Paris and their relationship with novels and other adaptations, the Paris Opera (Opéra Garnier) is the place where the events of the famous Phantom of the Opera story take place.
The best thing is that you can visit it in a guided tour, I only recommend you to check the timetables and the days because sometimes when there are performances they do not allow the entrance.
Inside the Opera you will see the impressive decoration of the place and above all the lifestyle that the high class of Paris had in ancient times. It is really impressive.
Passages and Galleries
If you decide to walk and get lost in the streets of Paris you will most likely eventually turn around somewhere and end up inside one of the many passages and galleries in the city.
Most of these places are roofed and house shops, restaurants and even theaters. They are quite distinctive and have a unique charm.
The most famous and oldest of these passages is the Passage des Panoramas which was declared a historical monument in 1974.
Climbing the Arc de Triomphe
Many people start their Paris itinerary with one of the city’s most iconic monuments, which Napoleon ordered to be built, the Arc de Triomphe. From there they continue to walk along the Champs-Elysées or the Eiffel Tower. My suggestion is that you leave the Arc de Triomphe for the evening and go up to its terrace.
You will have to climb several stairs but the end is quite rewarding as you will be able to take some amazing pictures of the city, you will have a 360 degree view of Paris at your disposal to practice your photography skills.
In the heart of the Latin Quarter is a building with an austere exterior but its interior is anything but. It was initially thought of as a church that eventually decided to make it the home of the last resting place of great figures in French history.
Even today, it is the place where renowned Frenchmen are buried, as the inscription once read:
“Aux grands hommes la patrie reconnaissante” (“To great men, the grateful homeland”).
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
At the highest point of the city, visible from almost anywhere in Paris especially at night because of its illumination, is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the top of the hill of Montmartre.
The basilica has a rather controversial history as it was built to “atone for the crimes of the commune” and was constantly referred to during its construction as a provocation of civil war as Montmartre was the place where the first socialist and revolutionary movements in France were initiated. Being here I suggest you attend one of the tours of the neighborhood, since Montmartre is undoubtedly one of the most emblematic and full of history neighborhoods in all of France.
Palace of Versailles
On the outskirts of Paris is one of the most renowned palaces, not only in France, but in the whole world, The Palace of Versailles.
Getting to this area requires a full day of sightseeing on your Paris itinerary but I assure you it is well worth it.
If you want to include the Palace of Versailles in your itinerary my advice is to get there as early as possible, this will help you get through the security line quickly.
The gardens have a cost depending on the season you go, to ensure that your entrance will be free then go on weekdays except Mondays when it is closed. Do not go on Mondays.
If you can’t get there early as I suggested then consider that most people visit the Palace first, then the gardens and finally Marie Antoinette’s domains, try to go in the opposite order so it will help you avoid the crowds a bit.
The Paris Pass includes the palace in the cost but not the transport, but it is quite easy to get there by train (RER C) to Versailles Rive Gauche station.
If you like to take pictures from the heights or see the cities from a high point then you have to go to the 56th floor of the Montparnasse Tower.
This tower is the second highest building in France and its panoramic views make it another ideal place to watch the sunset.
Sightseeing in Paris
The main tourist attraction on any Paris itinerary is the Eiffel Tower, however here is where we may have different opinions.
Even though you can climb the Eiffel Tower and have very good views of the city I personally find it unnecessary. Part of the attraction of seeing the city of Paris in the heights is to be able to see the Eiffel Tower in the horizon, the city is recognized by this emblematic symbol and once you are up you will be able to appreciate the whole city but the tower will not be in the panorama nor in any of your photos.
So, if it has really been your dream to climb the Eiffel Tower, do it. Otherwise you can observe its amazing construction and architecture from below, you don’t need to be next to one of the tower’s nuts and bolts to see and be amazed by the extraordinary engineering work.
But well, in case you want to climb the tower then my suggestion is that you buy the tickets online, this will allow you to choose a day and time to climb, you will avoid the endless lines a little bit.
Not to be missed in Paris
Gardens of Luxembourg are the ideal tourist place to sit down and rest after a day of exploring the city. The gardens are very well cared for and have a very friendly atmosphere.
There is no doubt that these gardens in the middle of the city are a reflection of Parisian life so take one of the chairs available, place it wherever you like, sit down and enjoy the moment.
As I mentioned previously in the section of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Montmatre neighborhood is one of the most emblematic of Paris and perhaps of France. It is a tourist place that you must visit.
It has been the home of hundreds of recognized artists (Picasso and Van Gogh would be perhaps the most representative), here have been developed social and cultural movements and has even been the place where they have initiated armed movements (commune of Paris)
To this day the neighborhood retains its bohemian atmosphere and walking through its streets is a totally unique experience to that of any other neighborhood in Paris.
Curiously, today there is a very divided opinion about this neighborhood, since they say it has lost its bohemian touch because thanks to the large number of tourists who visit it, it has become a very expensive place to live for an artist.
My suggestion is that you spend a whole afternoon walking around here, you can visit the famous Place Du Tertre where you’ll see hundreds of artists showing their paintings, finish your afternoon with a visit to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and then have dinner at one of the restaurants you’ll find nearby.
Paris by night
If you think the city is beautiful then wait till you see it at night. You will have to do once again the tour you did during the day to see the main tourist places in Paris with lighting.
In case you are very tired or you don’t remember well the tour you did then these are the points that I recommend you to see at night.
During the night you will see very few people and it will allow you to take some incredible pictures with the lighting of the pyramid and the Louvre’s museum. You will fall in love with this place once again as you can see it empty and with the violin in the background of one of the musicians who will be playing here.
Eiffel Tower at night
To finish your night tour you must go to Trocadero where you will have one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower at night. I suggest you relax and contemplate as long as necessary, especially if you missed the light show which is repeated several times during the night.
If you visited or plan to visit the Pantheon then you will have to come and see this neighborhood. It is an extremely picturesque place and because it is full of educational facilities, including the University of Paris (La Sorbonne), you will find a student atmosphere, many cafes and bistros where you can sit and have a coffee or a bite to eat.
A traditional visit to the tourist sites of Paris would not be complete without walking down the famous Rue des Champs-Elysées. It is a street where you will find all the luxury shops gathered in one spot so maybe what you see is not within your reach but as they say in some places, to see is not to be charged.