30 Best Things to Do in Paris, France
Paris is the Meryl Streep of all the cities in the world as it needs no introduction and whenever you hear any criticism of it, shockwaves travel through your veins. Paris is known for its groundbreaking fashion, delicious macarons and majestic architecture seen all throughout the city. A city featured in many movies such as Midnight in Paris, Before Sunset and Amelie.
Here are 30 best things to do while you’re in Paris:
Live Your Dreams at the Eiffel Tower
A trip to Paris is incomplete without visiting the world famous, Eiffel tower which was inaugurated in the year 1889 during the World exhibition as homage to the French revolution. The wrought iron tower is visited by more than 7 million people each year making it one of the most visited tourist sites of the world. An elevator takes you right at the top or you can choose to climb the stairs and if you plan to do the latter, wear a comfortable pair of sneakers.
Stroll Around the Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg palace is the home of the senate but the vast gardens that surround it are open to the public. The best way to enjoy the gardens is to simply stroll around and gaze at more than 100 statutes, many fountains such as the Medicis fountain and the marvelous Davioud pavilion, among a few others. With trees providing plentiful shade, the garden is a perfect place to have a Parisian picnic with a bottle of wine, some cheese and a game of chess.
The Ile Saint-Louis
The Ile Saint-Louis is the main island of Paris and is a charming French area which hasn’t changed much since the 17th century. The island is home to many lovely bakeries, cafés and restaurants as well as gorgeous bridges on the banks of the River Seine. The Berthillon ice cream parlor serves the most refreshing sorbets with intense flavors such as their dark chocolate and mango ice creams. The L’ile Aux image is the best place to survey some fascinating vintage photographs and lithographs of Paris.
Visit the Musee D’orsay
The Musee d’orsay is the most impressive museum of Paris owing to its noteworthy permanent art collection from the early modern and impressionist periods. Some of the artists housed here include Rodin, Matisse, Van Gogh, Monet and Degas. It’s recommended you take a guided tour around the museum in order to understand the various art pieces and the meaning behind them. There are numerous temporary exhibitions which take place throughout the year and the museum is least crowded on weekdays.
Take in the Fresh Air at the Palais-Royal Gardens
The regal building of the Palais Royal has a large Garden and innumerous trees in front of it which is one of the most loved tourist spots of the city. The Palais Royal Gardens was created in 1633 and it houses double rows of lime trees and red horse chestnuts which in total amount to 500. There are a total of two large and lush green gardens lined with roses and a central basin sits at the center. Four arcaded galleries border the Garden including the Montpensier, Valois and Orleans.
Become Creative at the Musee Picasso
As the name suggests, Musee Picasso houses the world’s largest collection of the acclaimed Spanish artist’s work including 200 paintings, 150 sculptures, numerous engravings, ceramics, drawings and manuscripts. The museum is situated inside the stunning Hotel Sale which was built in the 17th century. Pablo Picasso was not only a painter but also a collector of works such as from Matisse, Miro, Derain, Degas and Cezanne which are displayed in the museum.
You’ll Love the Louvre
The futuristic pyramid building of the Louvre is the world’s largest art museum in the world. The Louvre palace was built during the 1190’s and has gone through numerous reconstructions over the years. The museum is divided into eight parts such as art of Islam, Egyptian antiquities, sculptures and archeological finds. Some of the most visited paintings include Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, St. John the Baptist, the coronation of Napoleon and Bathsheba at her bath.
Admire the Marche Aux Puces De Saint-Ouen
Narrow alleyways lined with rustic stalls and cozy eateries form the Marche aux puces de Saint-Ouen which is a flea Market in the city. The Marche Vernaison has over 300 stalls under its name and sells quirky and unusual toys, glassware’s and other objects. The Marche Dauphine is where you will find furniture, antiques, vintage records and clothing. If you want to buy stand-out pieces for your home, visit Marche Paul Bert Serpette.
Get a Sandwich at Le Marais
Le Marais is one of the most popular streets of Paris as well as a hub for the LGBTQ community of this city. Le Marais contains Rue Des Rosiers where you can munch on a sumptuous Pastrami sandwich from one of the many Jewish restaurants and shop at vintage clothing stores. The oldest planned square of Paris is called the Place des Vosges and contains the old home of author Victor Hugo as well as many restaurants and galleries lined with trees and a bronze statue of Louis XIII.
Empty Your Pockets at Champs-Elysees
Champs-Elysees is a tourist trap but one which cannot be missed. Here, you can visit Le Lido which is a cabaret theatre and Celine Dion has previously performed here. Next, you can visit one of the oldest perfume houses of Paris known as Maison Guerlain which was founded in 1828. The Grand Palais and the Petit Palais host grand exhibitions of classical art and you can end the day by eating at the Michelin star restaurant, Fouquet which is known for its elegant yet delicious French cuisine.
Eat Some French Candy at Rue Des Martyrs
The Rue Des Martyrs has been described as the ‘perfect street’ by the blog, Paris Perfect and it’s not difficult to see why. The historic street connects Notre Dame with Sacre-Coeur, two of the most famous religious sites of the city. The street is lined with 200 shops and restaurants among which is the Maison Bremond that is a premium grocery story famous for serving a traditional almond candy known as calissons. A gourmet patisserie named Sebastien Gaudard is going to satiate your sweet tooth with their variety of luxury chocolates. You can buy plants and flowers at Place Lino Ventura, these are only a few shops among hundreds of others.
Travel Back in Time at St. Germain Des Pres
The St. Germain-Des-Pres is a beautiful and historic neighborhood of Paris which is lined with numerous galleries, shops and restaurants as well as the Institute of France which has a breathtaking façade dating back to the 17th century and the national school of fine arts that hosts temporary exhibitions. You can stroll around the quiet and romantic street of Rue De Furstemberg and visit the St. Germain-des-pres Church that dates back to the 6th century. Here, you will already be high in spirits so, you might as well be high on sugar too by visiting Debauve and Gallais, a chocolate shop.
Visit a Cemetry at Pere Lachaise
Pere Lachaise is Paris’s largest Park and cemetery as well as the most beautiful one. The resting place for almost 300,000 to 1,000,000 individuals, the neoclassical architecture and trees give this cemetery a rustic and nostalgic feel. Some of the most famous graves that you can visit here include the author Oscar Wilde whose grave is covered in lipstick marks, flowers and books as well as Jim Morrison who died of a drug overdose at Paris. Polish composer Chopin and singer Edith Piaf are also buried here along with Marcel Proust.
Feel the Peace at Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles was commissioned by King Louis XIV in the 17th century and is the landmark for the signing of the treaty of Versailles in 1919, ending the First World War. The Palace of Versailles houses the Hall of mirrors which was the King’s ballroom and is covered in arcaded mirrors, vaulted ceilings, glided statues and paintings. This hall is among 2,300 rooms which also include Marie-Antoinette’s bedroom, the battles gallery, the royal opera house and the King’s apartments. You can also stroll through the stunning Gardens that contain splendid sculptures and fountains.
Educate Yourself at Centre Georges Pompidou
The quirky and unusual building of the Centre Georges Pompidou resembles a modern take on the industrial factory and was opened in the year 1977. Instead of having an air of elitism, this multi-leveled building is accessible and open to the general public. The public reference library has an enormous collection of books and manuscripts especially useful for students. There are museums and temporary exhibits that house modern and contemporary art as well as a performance center for local singers and live performers.
Admire Unicorns at Musee De Cluny
The Musee De Cluny is housed in a former townhouse built in the 14th century and was built over a Roman thermal bath. The museum contains many sculptures, manuscripts and stained glass pieces depicting medieval life. The most fascinating aspect of the Musee De Cluny is the tapestries from the Middle Ages known as ‘the lady and the unicorn’ which shows the five senses with the help of a woman and her mystical creature.
Get Serenaded at Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier is also known as the Paris Opera or sometimes referred to as the ‘phantom of the opera’ and was designed in the year 1860 by architect Charles Garnier. Here, you can either take a tour of the regal building or be an audience member of the classical performances. The building’s architectural highlights include the gilded auditorium and the grand staircase as well as the massive chandelier and the striking ceiling murals. There is also a museum which houses posters, costumes and memorabilia.
Scary Has a Location at Catacombs
The French know how to honor the living and the dead as evidenced by its 2 kilometer stretch of underground alley which houses the bones of six million people who were transferred from cemeteries for being unhygienic and overcrowding the space. These catacombs were built in the 18th century and were carved from limestone quarries, deep in the underground. A recommendation would be to not take children with you and look out for any philosophical poems about the circle of life and death.
Breathe in Green at Jardin Des Plantes
In the year 1635, the Jardin Des Plantes was created as a royal medicinal Garden and in the 18th century, it was transformed into a botanical garden, the natural history museum and a zoo. The Gardens are divided into 11 thematic zones including the Alpine Garden, the grand hothouses, the ecological garden and the bees and birds Garden. The natural history museum has a massive ‘evolution’ gallery which houses the bones of dinosaurs, mammoths, elephants and giraffes. Finally, the Zoo contains 1,200 animals such as monkeys, kangaroos and leopards.
Too Much to See at the Latin Quarter
A ‘Latin’ quarter in Paris, sounds absurd right? In fact, this quarter is considered to be well-known for its merits of learning and artistic fervor. You can begin your exploration from the Old Sorbonne University which was opened in the 13th century and then, tour the neoclassical building of the Pantheon which pays tribute to French legends like Victor Hugo and Marie Curie. You can eat at the iconic café called the Le Closerie Des Lilas whose patrons included Hemingway and Fitzgerald. In the evening, you can watch a French film at an arthouse cinema hall such as The Champo.
Feel Fancy at Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Fondation Louis Vuitton was opened in the year 2014 and the building which resembles a gigantic sailboat was designed by architect, Frank Gehry. Even though, this art museum is a new addition to the overcrowded art space of Paris it has cemented its place as an upscale art gallery for 20th and 21st contemporary art. The Fondation Louis Vuitton has an impressive permanent collection but it also has temporary exhibitions and installations by artists such as Ellsworth Kelly. Lastly, you can eat at the Le Frank restaurant which serves Mediterranean cuisine.
Check out Rue Cremieux
The Rue Cremieux is arguably the most unique, beautiful and colorful street of Paris and is a treat for the eyes but the only problem is that this is a residential neighborhood. The narrow cobbled pathway is lined on both sides by small vibrant houses with shuttered windows and facades as well as occasional sightings of L’oeil paintings. The residents have often complained of the constant noise from the tourists as well as camera flashes in front of their homes so, when you visit remember to be considerate and quietly take in the beauty of the rainbow these houses form.
Have a Picnic at Parc Des Buttes Chaumont
The beauty of Paris is felt when you stop to marvel at the innate splendor that stands suspended in the air. One such place where you can breathe in Paris is the 25 acre lush green Garden known as the Parc Des Buttes Chaumont. This Park has an artificial lake which attracts multiple varieties of birds and a suspension bridge that is 200 feet long and was built by Gustave Eiffel. The most splendid area of the Park is the temple de la Sibylle which stands tall on a 50 meter high hill and provides captivating views of the entire Garden. This place is perfect to stroll around, get some exercise or enjoy a lovely picnic with your loved ones.
Become a Goth at Sainte Chapelle
The Sainte Chapelle is a sight to behold and anyone who ever visits it never forgets its luminous beauty. The Chapelle was built in the 13th century under the orders of King Louis IX and is home to the Holy relics of the passion of the Christ that includes a fragment of the Holy Cross and the crown of thorns. Even if you’re not a Christian you must visit the place for its outstanding high Gothic architecture which has vibrant glass stained windows depicting 1,113 Biblical scenes. The sheer magnitude and multiplicity of colors will take your breath away and remember to shamelessly carry your camera with you.
Admire a Monet Masterpiece at Musee De l’Orangerie
A short walk from the Louvre, the Musee De l’Orangerie is housed in the former Orangery of the Tuileries Gardens built in the year 1852. The most important work this museum contains in Claude Monet’s Les Nympheas which was painted over the course of the First World War and is known for its depiction of peace in ethereal and subtle ways through eight murals. The museum also includes work by artists such as Jean Walter, Cezanne, Matisse and Pablo Picasso.
Support Literary Art at Shakespeare and Company
The Shakespeare and Company is a bookstore in Paris but such a flat description undermines the uniqueness of its past. George Whitman who opened the store in 1951 allowed writers to stay in the bookstore as long as they helped out during the day and the bookshelves doubled as hidden beds. Today, this tradition continues but the store also holds writer’s meetings, poetry readings and Sunday tea. There is a café in the store that serves literature themed food items. Many famous writers have visited this place such as Allen Ginsberg and William S. Burroughs.
Visit a Basilica at Sacre-Coeur
The Sacre Coeur is situated on the Montmartre or the ‘Mount Martyr’ which dates back to the 9th century. In order to get to the Basilica you would need to climb 270 stairs that provide you with splendid views of the surrounding area. The façade of Sacre Coeur feature two equestrian statues and inside the building, you will find stained glass windows and heavy usage of gold leafs that is often looked down upon by ‘chic’ Parisians. You can also go up to the terrace and take in splendid panoramic views of the city which cannot be seen from anywhere else except the Eiffel tower.
Go Underground at the WWII Bunker
The banal and unassuming railway terminal of the Gare de L’est has an underground bunker from the Second World War housed beneath it and it was used by the Germans during the Paris Occupation. Stepping inside the narrow alleyways of the Bunker feels as though you’re travelling back to the chaos and sadness of a war, long gone by. The Bunker still contains metal chairs, tables, oxygen cylinders, wires, pipes, gadgets and measuring devices as well as inscriptions on the walls by German soldiers. The dimly lit area is memorable and distinguishable from all the other places on the list.
Visit the Pavillon Des Canaux
The Pavillon Des Canaux is an eco-friendly restaurant and recreational space that is located in a disused and abandoned railway station. The restaurant believes in preserving the environment and encourages the sanctum practice of recycling and reuse. The food served here is locally produced and a stack of books are available to the visitors. The place also hosts DIY workshops in theatre, cooking and gardening as well as community initiatives of readings and live performances. Unlike the elitist and bourgeois bistros seen around Paris, this one offers a light hearted and wholesome experience.
Forget Calories at the Laduree
The Laduree is a luxury patisserie located in the expensive and fancy streets of Champs Elysees. It was opened in the year 1862 by Baker extraordinaire Louis Ernest Laduree and instantly became a crowd favorite. If you travel all the way to Paris, you must be generous to your sweet addiction and buy a box of pastel colored macarons that are hard on the outside and gooey on the inside. You can sit in their tearoom that has a high ceiling painted with Cherubs and munch on a decadent chocolate pastry while sipping a hot cup of tea.
After visiting the magical and romantic city of Paris, you will be covered in chic clothes, taking time out in the day for a book and feeling guilty about your new found love for pastries. The birthplace of artists Paul Gauguin, actress Marion Cotillard, writer Simone De Beauvoir, Serge Gainsbourg and many other artistic gems.