Discover the top things to see and do in Paris, France with this list including iconic shopping streets, world-class museums, beautiful gardens, and incredible day trip destinations.
Paris, a city that effortlessly merges historic grandeur with contemporary chic, beckons travelers with its renowned landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum.
Immerse yourself in the enchanting ambiance of sidewalk cafes, stroll along the Seine River, and lose yourself in the charming streets of Montmartre.
Each moment in Paris is an adventure waiting to be discovered.
In a rush?
Top Things to See and Do in Paris
- Eiffel Tower
- Louvre Museum
- Arc de Triomphe
- Avenue des Champs-Elysées
- Walk Along the Seine River
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Sacré-Coeur Basilica
- Jardin des Tuileries
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Saint-Eustache Church
- Avenue Montaigne
- Le Galerie Dior
- The BnF Richelieu
- Cemetery du Pére-Lachaise
- Day Trip Options by Train
- What to Wear in Paris in Summer
- Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
The Eiffel Tower, a symbol of timeless romance and architectural marvel, gracefully pierces the Parisian sky, offering panoramic views of the city’s enchanting beauty from its iconic iron lattice structure.
Many people question whether going to the top of the tower is worth their time – my answer is at least once in your lifetime :). Yes it is quite often very crowded up there but it is the unofficial symbol of Paris and going up at least once should be a priortity.
Buy your timed tickets in advance at the Eiffel Tower website (tickets are available on the grounds however that line alone is not necessary to stand in with a little bit of pre planning on your part!).
Here is a quick list of things we learned on our visit to the tower:
- There is a security check before allowing you onto the grounds of the tower so allow about 20 minutes or more to get through this before your pre purchased ticket time.
- No lockers are on premises so do not bring luggage, large bags, strollers, etc.
- We bought ‘Summit Ticket by Elevator with Glass of Sommer Champagne’ for the last Monday in August at 11am – still peak tourist season – and felt the elevator line at the bottom of the tower was reasonable at about 30 minutes – look for the GREEN flags at the base of the east/west towers for the prepaid elevator line. But, while toasting with champagne at the Eiffel Tower summit is novel – I would NOT recommend this extra add on!! The glasses are stemless plastic and the champagne is just so-so ;0.
- Be prepared however that there are actually TWO elevators to get to the summit. The second elevator is on the 2nd floor and had a long line for our visit. In 2010 we visited on July 4th and the line was equally as long at that time – but with plenty of Americans in line with us – we enjoyed our patriotic song session ;).
- The best view of the full Eiffel Tower on the grounds is actually by the bathrooms behind the tower – see the map above for this location.
However one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower off the tower grounds is on the bridge called Passerelle Debilly.
Many people view the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero across the river. While this is definitely a gorgeous view – it is almost always extremely crowded (unless you wake up at 6am!).
We were there two nights in a row around 11pm and enjoyed the (still crowded) night time views of this magnificent landmark ;).
So unless you make a reservation at one of the Trocadero restaurants (see my full travel guide post here with this information), you are better off walking along the Seine River on the opposite side of the tower and getting some great photos there ;).
Full disclosure – we are not art museum people! If you have read any of my previous travel guides, you know this already.
However, I do appreciate seeing the highlights in a city I am visiting.
Like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre.
Sidenote – this famous painting is a lot smaller than you probably expect and the room it is in is always crowded…
I wasn’t planning on going INSIDE the Louvre when I arrived in Paris and therefore did not prepurchase a timed admission ticket.
But upon arrival into Paris and checking the Louvre website for availability, I found one ticket available at 9am on my first full day in the city (my daughter was coming from London the day after so I had a full day alone to explore Paris by myself).
So I went inside to see the Mona Lisa and appreciate a few more halls of artwork before wandering around Paris to see other sights.
Word of warning however, my ticket was for opening time at 9am – and since we were the first to enter the museum, there was indeed a massive entrance line ;0.
These ‘first in the museum’ lines moved relatively quick once the museum opened – I waited for about 20 minutes before actually getting inside the museum ;).
I don’t know how I could have avoided this situation other than visiting the museum 30 minutes before closing (to literally just see the Mona Lisa with no lines as pictured below).
I am more a fan of architecture than paintings so walking around the museum looking at the views was what appealed to me the most.
If this is your first time in Paris and you aren’t a big art fan like me, I would still highly recommend taking an hour or two to go inside ;).
Be sure to visit the Louvre grounds at sunset – it was truly one of the most beautiful views in Paris during our trip.
The Arc de Triomphe at the top of the Champs-Élysées is a symbol of French national pride, its grandeur echoing through the city as both a historical monument and a breathtaking vantage point.
While I personally have never climbed the 284 steps to the rooftop terrace, I have read it has a fabulous view of the iconic shopping street it is on ;).
Many people line up in the middle median to take a photo with the landmark, something I also have never done – the side angle has been good enough for me ;0.
At Christmas, the trees on Champs Elysees are lit up with red lights and make the scene magical…
And speaking of Avenue des Champs-Elysées:
Paris’s iconic thoroughfare, unfolds like a grand boulevard of dreams, lined with luxury boutiques, charming cafes, and a palpable energy that captures the essence of the City of Lights.
It stretches 1.17 miles (1.88 km) from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde and is divided by the Rond-Point (“roundabout”) des Champs-Élysées.
My daughter and I walked the mile+ during our visit and closer to Place de la Concorde it felt more like a walk through a park than a shopping street.
Be sure to stop by Laduree to get one of their famous macarons along the way.
The notorious green stalls along the Seine River are part of the Bouquinistes of Paris, a 1.83 mile stretch of pavement secondhand booksellers.
They are located between Quai du Louvre and Pont Marie on the Right Bank, and between Quai de la Tournelle and Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank.
You can also do a leisurely stroll on a walkway right by the river and stop to enjoy the views along the way.
This Parisian landmark has been closed since a massive destructive fire burned most of it down on April 15, 2019.
After years of reconstruction, it is scheduled to reopen on December 8, 2024 :).
Montmartre, a bohemian neighborhood perched on the city’s hilltop, enchants with its narrow cobblestone streets, artistic legacy, and the iconic Sacré-Cœur Basilica presiding over a breathtaking panorama of Paris below.
Surprisingly I didn’t visit this neighborhood until my 4th visit to Paris ;0.
But now that I’ve wandered the quaint streets of Montmartre during my last two visits, I know it will be an area of the city I plan to return to visit after visit ;).
On the map above, I have noted the location of the Instafamous Fotobooth.
The line for us was over a 45 minute wait because of people taking an inordinate amount of time during their turns in the booth (we can blame getting the perfect IG photo for that I guess).
But since we weren’t in any hurry to get anywhere, we figured – why not wait?
The photo below is triple the number of people since we got in the line (and I am quite confident we would NOT have waited if the line was this long when we got here…).
Perched atop the artistic Montmartre hill, this basilica captivates with its pristine white façade, stunning mosaics, and a panoramic terrace offering a mesmerizing view of the city’s timeless beauty.
To the right of the ever popular terrace (while facing the front of the church) is the photographer favorite “sinking house”.
The Jardin des Tuileries is a meticulously manicured masterpiece that provides a serene oasis of greenery in the heart of the bustling city.
It is a photographer’s paradise with all the blooming flowers, incredible architecture, and classic green chairs scattered about the Jardin.
Be sure to take a moment or two to relax on one of these chairs and do a little people watching ;).
You will find vibrant flowerbeds, tree-lined promenades, and the serene Medici Fountain in the Jardin du Luxembourg that creates a timeless sanctuary for both locals and wanderers alike.
Craft sailboat rentals are also an option for a leisurely afternoon in the Jardin.
Sainte-Chapelle on the Île de la Cité right down the street from Notre Dame mesmerizes with its stained glass windows that create a kaleidoscopic experience in the small chapel space.
This is a timed entrance visit for a limited number of visitors so as soon as you decide your Paris dates, be sure to buy your tickets online here.
Saint-Eustache Church is a grand masterpiece of Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
With its imposing facade and celestial stained glass, I accidentally stumbled across this magnificent cathedral in the vibrant Les Halles neighborhood while walking back to my hotel, Madame Réve (for more information on where to stay and eat in Paris – read this post).
Avenue Montaigne in Paris epitomizes sophistication, lined with haute couture boutiques and iconic designer labels, offering a luxurious and glamorous shopping experience.
The legacy of the iconic House of Dior comes to life through exquisite exhibitions and a celebration of timeless elegance at Le Galerie Dior.
This is a must stop for anyone with even the tiniest of interest in fashion and the part it plays in history.
But buy your timed ticket on the website here as early in advance as you possibly can!!
Saint-Germain-des-Prés exudes an intellectual and bohemian charm, with its historic cafes, art galleries, and the iconic Saint-Germain Church, creating an enchanting neighborhood that embodies the quintessential Parisian lifestyle.
Indulge in the art of leisure by sipping coffee (or a cocktail!) at an iconic cafe in this charming neighborhood.
The BnF Richelieu is a bibliophile’s haven, where history and literature intertwine amidst opulent reading rooms and treasures housed in a magnificently restored 17th-century mansion.
The garden, the terrace, the Rose Bakery café, the bookshop, and the Salle Ovale all allow free access in an unusual space in the heart of Paris in the Louvre-Opéra district. While the rooms of the museum reveal precious objects in unexpected settings.
Cemetery du Père-Lachaise is a peaceful cemetery that invites contemplation among its cobblestone paths, ornate tombs, and the resting places of notable figures from Oscar Wilde to Edith Piaf.
Entrance to these hallowed grounds is free but remember to be respectful of your surroundings.
Day Trip Options by Train
While there is plenty to do in Paris, you may decide to take a day trip to see other sights in France.
You can read about the perfect day trip to Versailles here and an incredible day in Reims here.
Here is a full list of suggestions for a magical day trip from Paris:
- Palace of Versailles
- Reims Champagne houses
- Giverny, France
- Château de Fontainebleau
- Rouen, France
- Strasbourg, France
- Lyon, France
- Etretat, France
- Lille, France
- Château de Chantilly
- Brussels, Belgium
What to Wear in Paris in Summer
My daughter and I wore dresses with a light sweater for the time we spent in Paris at the end of August and beginning of September.
But the most important item in our suitcases was comfortable shoes!
Our Full Itinerary in a Nutshell
- Day 1 Fly San Diego to Paris via Dallas on British Airways
- Day 2 Arrive Paris
- Day 3 in Paris
- Explore Louvre grounds
- Walk along the Seine River to Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood and Odette Pastry Shop
- Walk to Jardin du Luxembourg
- Tour Sainte-Chapelle
- Day 4 in Paris
- Day trip to Versailles (while my oldest daughter arrived in Paris)
- Dinner at Cafe de l’Homme
- Day 5 in Paris
- Brunch at Monsieur Bleu
- Walk along Seine to get different viewpoints of the Eiffel Tower (best is Passerelle Debilly)
- Dinner at Girafe Cafe
- Day 6 Day trip to Reims to tour Veuve Clicquot champagne house
- Day 7 in Paris
- Eiffel Tower (11am tickets)
- Walk down Avenue George and Avenue Champs-Elysees (see Arc de Triomphe) and Avenue Montaigne
- La Galerie Dior (3:30pm tickets)
- Drinks at Bar 228 in Le Meurice Hotel
- Dinner at Les Deux Magots
- Drinks (again) at Le Rooftop at the Peninsula Hotel
- Day 8 in Paris
- Brunch at Le Consulat
- Walk around Montmartre
- Visit Sacre Coeur and the sinking house and photo booth
- Drinks at Hemingway Bar at the Ritz
- Seine River dinner cruise
- Day 9 – take Eurostar to London
- Visit Leadenhall Market and Sky Garden
- Day 10 in London
- Walk through St James’s Park to Buckingham Palace tour (11am tickets)
- Lunch at Harrods Department Store
- Go to Camden Market
- Day 11 in London
- Brunch at Sketch
- Walk around Covent Garden and Neal’s Yard
- Dinner at Mamma Mia the Experience at the O2
- Day 12 fly home to San Diego nonstop on British Airways
I hope you found this list of top things to do in Paris, France helpful as you prepare for your own Parisian adventures.
May the memories of its iconic landmarks, delectable cuisine, and enchanting ambiance linger in your heart.
Whether you’re savoring a croissant in a charming Montmartre cafe or cruising along the Seine at sunset, each moment in this city of timeless allure is a chapter in a story uniquely yours.
If you are looking for help with where to stay and eat or other details like that – be sure to read my complete travel guide to Paris here.
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