10 Things You Should See and Do in Paris

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From the classic bucket-list staples like the Louvre to the tranquil gardens of Luxembourg, here are my favourite spots to explore in the city of love and lights.

Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world—and for good reason! The city of the iconic Eiffel Tower is also the fashion capital of the world, and is brimming with history and culture.

This dizzying metropolis offers everything from world-renowned museums and art galleries to delicious food and drinks that will leave you dreaming of the city long after you’ve left. With so much to see and do, it can feel overwhelming planning an itinerary that hits all the best spots.

From the classic bucket-list staples like the Louvre to the tranquil gardens of Luxembourg, here are my favourite spots to explore in the city of love and lights.

1. The Eiffel Tower

If there is one thing that everyone associates with Paris, it’s the Eiffel Tower. Constructed as part of the 1889 World’s Fair, the tower was originally the subject of much criticism from artists and architects who believed the design was “monstrous”. While it was not initially intended to be a permanent structure, its graceful symmetry and delicate appearance soon made the Eiffel Tower a much-loved part of the city’s skyline.

A beautiful and distinctive symbol of the city of Paris.

This iconic landmark is the tallest structure in Paris at 1,063 feet, and features a 200,000-watt lighting system that allows the tower to sparkle and shimmer from dusk until 1:00 a.m. Climb (674 steps) to the top of the tower to see Paris from a completely different perspective, or enjoy the view from below in one of the many nearby parks.

2. The Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées is one of Paris’ most iconic streets. A 1.2-mile-long stretch in the heart of the city, the avenue is home to countless theatres, cafés, and luxury shops. The Champs-Élysées is also used each year on July 14 for the Bastille Day parade and as the last leg of the iconic Tour de France cycling race.

A street described as ‘the world’s most beautiful avenue’.

Along with being one of the most recognizable avenues in the entire world, the Champs-Élysées is also home to a number of luxury brands, including the Louis Vuitton flagship store, described by fashionistas as “a cathedral of luxury”.

This beautiful tree-lined boulevard also features numerous Michelin-starred restaurants, including Le Fouquet’s, a historic, high-end eatery that has hosted the likes of Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Onassis, Marlene Dietrich and Winston Churchill. If you’re not lucky enough to nab a reservation, don’t fret! There are plenty of Parisian cafes on Champs-Élysées to pop into for a more casual dining experience.

TLW tip: If possible, plan to visit on the first Sunday of the month when the Champs-Élysées is closed to cars.

3. Arc de Triomphe

The aforementioned Champs-Élysées leads to one of the city’s top attractions—the Arc de Triomphe. This monument honours the soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. On the inner and outer surfaces of the Arc you’ll find the names of all French victories and generals inscribed. Beneath the Arc is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I, where an eternal flame burns in memory of deceased soldiers.

Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the best spots to watch the sun set in Paris.

Take the elevator (or climb the 284 steps) to the top of the Arc de Triomphe to take in another gorgeous view of Paris.

4. Ladurée

French cuisine is well-known all around the world, and the food alone is worth the journey overseas! There’s obviously no shortage of amazing Michelin-starred restaurants in Paris. However, the city is also renowned for its delicious pastries and sweet treats.

The macaron is thought to have been introduced in France by the Italian chef of queen Catherine de Medici during the Renaissance.

Once you get hungry, head to Ladurée on Rue Royale, a luxury baker known for its double-decker macarons. It’s estimated that they sell over 15,000 of them each day!

5. Cathedral of Notre-Dame

The heart of France, both geographically and spiritually, is the Cathedral of Notre-Dame. The first foundation stone of its construction was laid by Pope Alexander III in 1163, kicking off 170 years of labour by an army of craftsmen who worked to realize Bishop Maurice de Sully’s intricate design. Notre Dame is home to some of the most exquisite French Gothic architecture on Earth, as well as France’s largest organ.

Here you will be able to enjoy a fantastic view over the city and see the famous gargoyles and incredible stained glass windows.

Reconstruction efforts are underway on the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and it is expected to retain its traditional Gothic appearance.

Following the fire on April 15, 2019, the Cathedral remains closed for public visits. Hopefully this will have changed by the time Paris begins welcoming international travelers again. If not, you still can admire its beautiful façade and follow its reconstruction progress (there are information panels with pictures on the exterior of the building).

TLW tip: Before leaving Notre Dame, be sure to find the Paris Point Zero plaque on the ground which indicates France’s km 0 point. All French roads (including French roads overseas) are measured from this point.

 6. The Louvre

One of the world’s most impressive museums, the Louvre contains more than 38,000 priceless objects. Home to arguably the most famous painting in the world—the Mona Lisa—the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world.

TLW tip: Skip the queue and purchase your tickets in advance using the museum’s online system.

Inside the former fortress (and royal palace), you’ll find some of the most iconic pieces of art in history, including the famous Venus de Milo statue and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, a marble statue that is a legacy of the artwork of Ancient Greece.

The Louvre is a massive building, so be sure to plan your visit out before you arrive. Be realistic about what you hope to see during your time at the museum, as it won’t be possible to view the three wings, eight departments and hundreds of exhibits. Make sure to download the museum’s app to help you get around and maximize your time. If you have the opportunity to return the next day, be sure to stay nearby—the Hôtel Regina is a fantastic option.

7. Palace of Versailles

Although technically outside of the city, the Palace of Versailles has long held significance for Paris and France. It was the home to French royalty from 1682 to 1789 and was the center of the French Revolution. Along with the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, the Palace of Versailles rounds out the top three most visited monuments in France.

The famed gardens at the Palace of Versailles.

The Palace of Versailles is an incredible sight to see, with its impressive architecture, over the top décor, and priceless works of art. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and also houses the Hall of Mirrors, a Baroque-style gallery that was the setting for the signing of the Treaty of Versailles, a peace treaty that ended World War I.

A visit to Versailles makes a worthy half day trip from the centre of the city.

8. Luxembourg Gardens

The Luxembourg Gardens were commissioned by Queen Marie de Médicis (the widow of King Henri IV) in 1612. The gardens surround the Luxembourg Palace, and they are a lovely spot to explore, especially on sunny days.

The Palais de Luxembourg is the centrepiece of the gardens.

Sights to see at the Luxembourg Gardens include the Médicis Fountain (considered one of the most romantic places in all of Paris), the Orangerie, the collection of sculptures of French Queens around the pond, a rose garden, and greenhouses filled with orchid collections.

9. Harry’s New York Bar

Paris is an incredible destination for travellers who love history, art and the finer things in life. With so much to see and do, take your time exploring the top sights listed above, but be sure to leave room in your itinerary to discover a few spots that are off the beaten track.

Many people don’t know that the “Bloody Mary” cocktail was actually invented in Paris at a unique spot called Harry’s New York Bar.

Harry’s is where the Bloody Mary was born.

This bar was a favorite hangout of American expat authors like Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald in the 1920s, and has the perfect blend of atmosphere and history to make for a memorable night out on the town.

10. Stroll the City

I would be remiss if I didn’t encourage you to leave plenty of time to simply stroll through the city streets. One of the most pleasant things to do in Paris when the sun shines is meander around Montmartre or down the Parisian canals.

There is nothing better than a stroll through the city on a sunny afternoon.

Grab your walking shoes and heed the wise words of Thomas Jefferson, who once stated that “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life.

Andrew Taylor

For Andrew, travel is so much more than just learning history or taking photos. Rather, the value of travel is witnessing a lifestyle, bonding with locals, and gaining rich cultural experiences. That’s why he founded the Luxury Wanderer; a place to share itineraries, offer advice, swap stories, and foster a like-minded community of curious travellers.

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