Paris is a dream. Or maybe it just feels like a dream. Either way, visiting Paris for me was like being part of a magical fairyland. Before our first visit in 2009, I'd dreamed of visiting Paris my entire life (thanks, Madeline). When it became clear that my dream would become a reality, I set out to make a list of the best things to do in Paris for first-timers. Now my planning is paying off for you! Use this list of Paris attractions not to be missed and you'll be sure to have an unbelievable Parisian adventure.
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The 14 Best Things to Do in Paris
I know what you're thinking. Sure, there's more than just 14 things to do in Paris. But will you have enough time to see all the Paris attractions on your list? If you're like me and have limited time off work, then probably not. That's why it's important to narrow down to the "must-see" Paris attractions. You'll want to save plenty of time for simply wandering the streets, lingering in cafes, and meandering in the many shops and boutiques.
This list of things to see in Paris is intended to help you maximize your time in the City of Lights. After all, you've probably been dreaming about this trip for years, so why not make it as stress-free as possible. Use this Paris travel guide to map out the top things to do in Paris with ease! Each destination listed includes the bus or Metro stop needed to find your way around Paris.
When considering things to do in Paris on your first visit, it's essential that you at least see the Eiffel Tower. Notice, I said "see" and not "go to the top of" the Eiffel Tower. Climbing the tower isn't essential, but the killer views are likely worth it. Be aware that advanced reservations are necessary if you want to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower without spending the entire day in line. Be sure to go back in the evening to see the Tower lit in all the magnificent glory, something I highly recommend. Plan a picnic on the Champ de Mars, the lawn in front of the Tower. It's the perfect place to watch the sunset and wait for the epic light show.
Getting There: Bir-Hakeim Metro Station, École Militaire Transit Station (RER & Metro Station)
|Skip-the-line ticket for Eiffel Tower with summit entrance - $82.39|
Avoid any hassle and get inside the Eiffel Tower without waiting. On the second floor change elevators and, after a short elevator ride, get to the stunning view of the top floor.
Musée du Louvre
The Louvre is another one of the many things to do in Paris on your first visit, but be prepared. This large museum is packed full of incredible artifacts and one-of-a-kind artworks. To properly experience the museum, dedicate an entire day to explore, linger, and admire the unbelievable collection of art and artifacts. Luckily, you can exit and re-enter the museum on the same pass, meaning you can go out for a break to find lunch before returning to queue up to see the Mona Lisa.
Getting There: Louvre – Rivoli Metro Station, Palais Royal - Musée du Louvre Transit Station (RER & Metro Station)
Try a Skip the Line with Audio Tour of the Louvre!
La Grande Epicerie de Paris
A foodie's paradise, La Grande Epicerie de Paris is another unforgettable Paris experience. Consider it a supermarket on steroids. You'll find freshly prepared foods, as well as Parisian specialty foods and gifts. It's a great place to shop for a picnic at one of the nearby gardens, including the Luxembourg Gardens. With rows and rows of fresh fruits, veggies, meats, and cheeses, La Grande Epicerie de Paris is a must-see for any food lover. So, if food is your thing, be sure to prioritize this spot on your list of the best things to do in Paris during your first visit!
Getting There: Sèvres - Babylone Metro Station
The Orsay, as it's affectionately known, is THE world's best impressionist art museum. Housed in a former rail station, works of some of the most popular Impressionist painters including Monet, Manet, and Renoir line the walls. How cool is that? It's ideal for art lovers and Instagrammers alike!
Getting There: Solférino Metro Station
Cemeteries may not be high on your list of things to do in other cities, but if you're a bookworm or a classic rock junky, then don't miss the cemeteries in Paris. Dead Parisians, artists, and writers are only part of the attraction here. Many of the headstones and grave markers are beautiful works of art. Top Parisian cemeteries include Père Lachaise (final resting place of Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin, and Édith Piaf), Montmartre (final resting place of François Truffaut and Alexandre Dumas) and Montparnasse (final resting place of Samuel Beckett, Serge Gainsbourg, and Jean-Paul Sartre).
Getting There: Montmartre Cemetery via La Fourche Metro Station, Père Lachaise via Philippe Auguste Metro Station, Montparnasse via Raspail Metro Station or Edgar Quinet Metro Station
Musée de l'Orangerie
Experiencing the Orangerie should be a priority for anyone who truly loves Impressionist art. While technically a museum, the Orangerie is more like a shrine to Monet and his famous waterlilies. Designed by Monet to house his colossal canvases, the oval-shaped gallery holds nothing but larger-than-life versions of Monet's masterpiece. In fact, the floor-to-ceiling paintings line the entire interior of the space, immersing the viewer in a pool of pastel.
Getting There: Concorde Metro Station
Want a 2-hour Guided Tour of the Orangerie?
Notre-Dame de Paris
While you may be able to find a cathedral dedicated to Notre-Dame in just about every major French city, there's none quite as stunning as the Cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris on the Isle de la Cité. Famous for the gargoyles, flying buttresses, and Hunchbacks, Notre-Dame de Paris is high on the list of the best things to do in Paris. But don't let the long queue bother you; standing in line gives you time to marvel at the incredible carvings on the exterior of the 13th-century Gothic cathedral. Once inside, the magnitude of the space highlights the gothic arches and the giant Rose window.
Getting There: Cité Metro Station
Montmartre/Rue des Abbesses
While Montmartre isn't technically an attraction, the neighborhood has been attracting visitors for decades. Difficult to say what it is, but there's just something different about this artistic corner of Paris. Music and laughter fill the air as you stroll through the romantic, lamp-lit streets. Cafes, bars, and shops attract tourists, but the atmosphere in Montmartre intoxicates them, keeping them coming back for more. Start with Rue des Abbesses and wander from there.
Getting There: Abbesses Metro Station, Pigalle Metro Station
Last, but certainly not least, Sacré-Cœur calls to you from atop a hill in Montmartre. The beautiful domed cathedral offers unparalleled views of Paris. Visit in the evening to photograph the pristine marble exterior against the Paris sunset or early morning for a spectacular sunrise over the city.
Getting There: Abbesses Metro Station
Check out this Sacré-Cœur & Montmartre Walking Tour!
Jardin du Luxembourg
The Luxemburg Gardens are a favorite spot for lovers walks and leisurely picnics. Vast gardens, sculptures, playgrounds, and water features make the park a dreamy escape from the hustle and bustle of Paris. Plus, the city's oldest museum is inside the garden, making it a great place to spend an afternoon.
Getting There: Luxembourg RER station, Notre-Dame des Champs Metro Station, Saint-Sulpice Metro Station, Mabillon Metro Station, Luxembourg Bus Station
The undisputed hidden gem of Paris, Sainte-Chapelle is a chapel unlike any you've seen before. Tucked away on the Ile de la Cité, the small but mighty chapel is a must-see for any visitor. Standing in front of the oversized stained-glass windows (particularly bathed in afternoon light) is close to spiritual ecstasy. Religious or not, seeing the 1,113 stained glass windows of Sainte-Chapelle should be high on your list of the best things to do in Paris.
Getting There: Cité Metro Station
Arc de Triomphe
Anyone who appreciates ancient architecture and culture knows arches are cool. And the Arc de Triomphe is no different. Located on the end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc offers tourists spectacular views of the famous boulevard and the surrounding Place Charles de Gaulle. Commissioned by Napoleon, the Arc is symbolic of fallen French soldiers. Although you don't have to climb to the top to witness the splendor and might of the Arc, the view might be worth the 12 euro price tag!
Getting There: Charles de Gaulle – Étoile Transit Station (Metro & RER)
Get Ready to Skip the Line at the Arc de Triomphe!
Jardin des Tuileries
Don't miss this 17th-Century marvel neighboring the Louvre and Place de la Concorde (home of the Egyptian obelisk). The gardens are the perfect place for a lovers stroll, carousel ride, or Ferris Wheel snapshots. Visiting the Tuileries are high on the list of the best things to do in Paris on your first visit for the photographic opportunities and romantic charm.
Getting There: Tuileries Metro Station, Concorde Metro Station
Sculpture lovers rejoice! Paris is home to the mother of sculpture museums. The Musée Rodin was by far one of the best things to do in Paris, yet few other bloggers talk about it. The museum opened in 1919 in the former L'Hôtel Biron where Auguste Rodin lived the last years of his life. At the time of his death, Rodin was France's most widely celebrated sculptor. Upon his death, Rodin donated his entire body of work to the state of France to protect L'Hôtel Biron from demolition. His famous works adorn the halls of the magnificent mansion, which is itself is a sight to behold. Be sure to take time to explore the grounds to see his most famous works, such as the Burgers of Calais, The Thinker, and Dante's Gate.
Getting There: Varenne Metro Station
Don't Miss the Thinker!
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