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Best things to do in Paris

best things to do in Paris France

There are many great things to do when you are traveling to Paris. The best things to do in Paris really depend on your personal preference as you could spend the entire time aimlessly wandering around Paris and people watching from cafes. Not planning anything in Paris and exploring the neighborhoods as you feel like it can be a great trip. However, there are so many things to do in Paris, and if it’s your first trip to Paris there are so many ways to fill your trip it’s impossible to get through everything. You could spend the entire time visiting museums, eating the incredible food or doing day trips. The Eiffel Tower is iconic and offers incredible views. The Louvre houses art masterpieces like the Mona Lisa. You can stroll along the Seine or take a boat down the Seine River. And, just outside the city, you can visit the Palace of Versailles. No matter what things to do in Paris you decide on, your trip to Paris promises to be an incredible trip.

Paris Quick Links

  • Paris Travel Guide
  • Best Restaurants in Paris (coming soon)
  • Day Trip to Versailles (coming soon)

Things to do in Paris: Tips and Advice

  • One or two days: Go up the Eiffel Tower, visit the Louvre Museum and stroll along the Seine River and visit Notre-Dame Cathedral. Spend some time shopping on the Champs-Élysées.
  • Three days: In addition to the above, spend time strolling around neighborhoods like Montmartre and Marais district where you can find places like the Place des Vosges visit additional museums like the La Galerie Dior or Musée d’Orsay. Enjoy a picnic in one of the many parks Jardin des Tuileries or Luxembourg Gardens. If the weather is nice, you can also take a boat ride down the Siene.
  • Four or more days: Add in a day trip to see the Palace of Versailles.
  • The best tour/ excursions: Versailles Food and Palace Bike Tour. You’ll be able to skip the long lines and gain insights into the history and architecture of the magnificent palace.
  • Best day trip: Versailles Food and Palace Bike Tour which was a full day trip to Versailles
  • Most important tip: Plan ahead, especially if you are going during the busy months of July and August. Attractions book up very early, so you will need to purchase tickets at least a week in advance, and some up to a month in advance so you get your desired date and time. The best times for the Louvre start booking up a month in advance.

Eiffel Tower

best things to do in Paris Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is the most iconic thing to do while in Paris. It was designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair. Visitors are able to walk, or take an elevator up to the second floor or to the summit depending on which ticket you bought. It is highly recommended to buy your tickets online in advance as wait times to buy tickets on-site can reach up to 3 hours during peak times. We recommend taking the elevator up to the second floor, and found that going only to the second floor still offered incredible views of Paris’s skyline and the Seine River. On your way down, you can walk down the stairs to the first floor to see the observation from that level too.

The Eiffel Tower light show takes place every hour for a full 5 minutes starting at sundown until 1AM. It includes over 20,000 light bulbs that sparkle in a synchronized manner. In early June, the first light show was at 11PM. The best light show is the final light show at 1AM. The Eiffel Tower is also a great place to enjoy a picnic in the park surrounding the Eiffel Tower.

Day Trip to Versailles

day trip to Versailles from Paris, best things to do in Paris

The day trip to Versailles was my absolute favorite excursion in Paris. We did a bike tour, which allowed us to see the full grounds of the Palace of Versailles in addition to the Palace itself. We saw the famous Hall of Mirrors, the apartments of Louis XIV and learned all about the history of Marie Antoinette. We got to explore the vast gardens and saw the fountains and statues. For lunch, we were able to stop at the market and enjoy a picnic in one of the gardens which was stunning.

Arc de Triomphe

best things to do in Paris Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is one of Paris’s most iconic landmarks. It is the perfect landmark to visit as you stop or end your shopping on Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 to honor the victories of the French Army. It is incredibly intricate and details scenes of triumph and heroism. Not only can you visit the Arc de Triomphe, you can actually go to the top of the Arc and see the panoramic views of Paris.

Notre-Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral construction Paris

Visiting Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the best things do to in Paris, even if it’s only admiring it from the outside. Though it was tragically damaged by fire in 2019, the ongoing restoration efforts over the past several years should have Notre-Dame Cathedral open again to the pubic sometime soon. Notre-Dame Cathedral dates back to the 12th century, and has intricate sculptures, stunning stained glass windows, and ornate chapels. It has witnessed centuries of history during this time.

People Watch at a Street Cafe

People watch at a street cafe in Paris

One of the best things to do in Paris is to relax at a café, have a hot chocolate and croissant and people watch. No matter which café you pick, there are plenty of cafes that have great outdoor terraces with all chairs pointed to the street so you can take it all in. One thing to be aware of while relaxing at a Paris street café is that there are a decent amount of smokers, and smoking at a café sitting outside is allowed.

Picnic in the Park

picnic in the park Versailles

There are many great parks in Paris where you can enjoy a picnic. It is very easy to pick up a baguette, some cheese and wine at a nearby market or grocery store and head to a park to enjoy. Some popular parks to enjoy a picnic in the park in Paris include Champ de Mars at the foot of the Eiffel Tower, Palais Royal, and Tuileries Gardens in front of the Louvre. We enjoyed a picnic in the park during our day trip to Versailles, where we picked up food at the nearby market during the tour.

La Galerie Dior / Dior Museum

La Galerie Dior / Dior Museum

La Galerie Dior,  was one of my favorite museums to explore in Paris, especially after watching The New Look on Apple TV. The museum offers a journey of Christian Dior’s life, as well as a journey of timeless pieces created by Christian Dior. The museum changes out the collection of dresses featured, and they do close down the museum for a few weeks when changing out the collections. If this is a must thing to do while you’re in Paris, make sure the museum will be open during the days of your trip as in addition to shutting down when changing collections they also close one day a week. While you can buy tickets on site, lines can be long so it’s best to buy tickets ahead of time for La Galerie Dior even if you’re traveling in a shoulder season.

Photo Shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower

best things to do in Paris photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower

Paris is a stunning city to take professional photos in, and there are plenty of photographers you can hire for even an hour to take professional pictures of you or you and your family. A popular place  to get professional photos taken is in front of the Eiffel Tower. There are many locations that can capture the Eiffel Tower in the background including from the Champ de Mars gardens, the seine River banks, or the Bir Hakeim bridge. We used the Paris Photographer for our photographs, recommended by a coworker, and we had an excellent experience. They send the photos 48 hours later for review, and in the basic package you get to pick your top 20 photos to be edited. Once you send your final 20 photos to be edited, they give you the edited photos 2 weeks later though we received our edited photos back within a week.

Moulin Rouge

best things to do in Paris Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge is a legendary cabaret venue. It was established in 1889 and is a symbol of Parisian nightlife and entertainment. It’s easy to spot from the street as it has an iconic red windmill atop of the venue. Here, you’ll find spectacular shows featuring talented dancers, singers and acrobats. Though we haven’t had a chance to see a show at the Moulin Rouge yet, it is on our list for future visits!

Seine River Boat Tour

Seine River Boat Tour

A great way to see Paris is to do a Seine River boat tour. While you can take both a private boat, or a large tour, the large tours are much more affordable and also have a tour guide that shares all of the key facts as you cruise down the river. Many of the large tours are also only an hour or two, making it an easy tour to squeeze into a busy schedule. On the Seine River Boat Tour you’ll see sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, Louvre Museum and most expensive residences in the city. We did the 1 hour Seine River Boat Tour through GetYourGuide that had commentary in both English and French and it was the perfect balance of being able to listen when you wanted to but also just take in the scenery as we wanted. We elected to just do the tour, but they do offer tickets that include food. If you only buy the tour tickets, you’re always able to purchase food and beverage a la carte.

Shopping along the Champs-Élysées

Shopping along Champs Elysees in Paris

Paris is one of the top shopping destinations in Europe, and one of the best places for shopping within Paris is to shop along the Champs-Élysées. Here you can find a blend a luxury boutiques, high-end fashion houses and iconic flagship stores like Louis Vuitton. In some of these stores, you do need to schedule appointments ahead of time like Hermes and Chanel. You can wait in line at Louis Vuitton but it is quicker if you make an appointment ahead of time. Many of the Paris luxury brands have better pricing in Paris than they do in the United States, plus you get your VAT tax reimbursement at the airport making it the perfect destination to buy that designer purse you’ve had your eye on. Additionally, there are lots of other brands have most of their only stores in France, like Sezane. Champs-Élysées also has some great places to stop for a mid-day treat like Pierre Herme for macarons and pastries.

Galeries Lafayette Paris

Galeries Lafayette Glass walk

Galeries Lafayette is a department store in Paris that has a few locations including Haussmann and Champs-Élysées, and is a great place to shop when you’re in Paris. There is a great selection of designer brands and also more local French and European brands too. These two locations also have separate buildings nearby that are the Galeries Lafayette food halls. While the Champs-Élysées location is often the most easily accessible if you’re already shopping along Champs-Élysées, it is the Galeries Lafayette located on Haussmann that has the Glasswalk. This is a free thing to do in Paris, but you do have to sign up on the website. The wait time to sign up isn’t too long, and you can usually get in within 20 minutes.

Musée D’Orsy

Musee d'Orsay Paris

The Musée d’Orsay is one of the top museums in Paris. Several friends have said that they preferred the Musée d’Orsay to the Louvre, and this would be their top recommendation if friends only had time for one museum. Here, you’ll find one of the world’s most extensive collections of 19th and early 20th-century art. The Musée d’Orsay houses renowned pieces like  “Starry Night Over the Rhône” and “Luncheon on the Grass.” It’s also centrally located, so it’s a great attraction to combine with going to the Louvre and seeing the Notre-Dame Cathedral.

Seeing the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum

Mona Lisa crowds at Louvre Paris

The Louvre Museum is the most famous museum in Paris, and also the world’s largest art museum. It is housed within a former royal palace and the most famous exhibit is the Mona Lisa. In the picture above, you can see exactly how crowded it is to get a picture of the Mona Lisa. There are crowds of people gathered around it, and the section in front is roped off and guarded by security. In addition to the Mona Lisa, visitors can also see the Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Lines can be incredibly long, so it is best to book your tickets ahead of time online.

YSL Museum / Musee Yves Saint Laurent

One of the beautiful things about Paris is that there are so many things to do, you always have an excuse for another trip and the YSL Museum is one of those excuses for us. While we haven’t had a chance to go to the Musee Yves Saint Laurent Paris yet, it is on our list for a future visit. The Musee Yves Saint Laurent is located in the historic former haute couture house of Yves Saint Laurent. Here, visitors can see exhibits showcasing the designer’s legendary creations including the elegant evening gowns as well as ready-to-wear collections. The exhibitions do rotate, so you can go on different trips and see different collections. When planning your visit, confirm the YSL Museum will be open the day you want to visit as it does close one day a week.

Other Day Trips from Paris

If you’ll be in Paris for a week or more, Paris serves as an excellent base for taking day trips. If you love Disney, Disneyland Paris is an incredible trip. The village of Giverny inspired impressionist painter Claude Monet and you can see the Claude Monet Foundation which is Monet’s former residence. The charming town of Fountainbleau is another potential day trip, and is renowned for its chateau, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The historic city of Reims has a Gothic cathedral and Champagne houses. There are many day trips you can take from Paris, but if your time in Paris is short, these may have to wait for another trip.

Best things to do in Paris Conclusion

In conclusion, the best things to do in Paris include visiting the Eiffel Tower, doing a day trip to Palace of Versailles, visiting a few museums, enjoying a picnic and exploring the neighborhoods of Paris. The Eiffel Tower and Notre-Dame Cathedral are two of the most iconic landmarks in Paris. The Louvre and Musee d’Orsay are two of the most iconic museums. Paris is known for it’s fashion, and you can enjoy the history of fashion at museums like the Dior Museum or strolling along the Champs-Élysées to buy some fashion to bring home. The best things to do in Paris will ultimately depend on your personal preferences, and there is no shortage of great things to do in Paris.

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