If you are planning a trip to Paris, how do you decide what to do? There are the places that people dream about visiting on their first visit to Paris, like the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but there are also neighborhoods to explore and new foods to try. This Paris bucket list contains 45 of the best experiences you can have in Paris. Don’t expect to see them all on your first trip to Paris, we didn’t either. If you are like us, Paris is the type of city that you will want to visit again. We have been to Paris three times and it just keeps getting better.
At the end of this post, read our recommendations of the very best things to do in Paris. If you have limited time in the city, this will help you narrow down this huge list of sights.
Paris Bucket List
Without a doubt, the Eiffel Tower is one of Paris’ most recognizable landmarks. For many people, it’s thrilling the first time you see the Eiffel Tower. And for first-timers, a visit to Paris would not be complete without a trip up the Eiffel Tower.
Eiffel Tower | Best Things to Do in Paris
There are three levels to the Eiffel Tower: the first floor, the second floor, and top floor. Both the first and second floors are accessible by elevator and by taking the stairs. The only way to visit the top of the Eiffel Tower is to take the elevator.
It is cheaper and the lines are shorter to take the stairs, simply because very few people want to do a major stair climb. But it’s also a great way to skip the line or wait in a shorter line at the Eiffel Tower. If you choose to take the stairs, you can also purchase an elevator ticket to reach the top floor.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: The line to visit the Eiffel Tower can be epic (we’re talking a 2 to 3 hour wait). To avoid this nightmare, book your tickets in advance. How far in advance? As soon as you know your dates of travel. I have heard recent reports that tickets can sell out as far as 1 to 2 months in advance. If this is the case, you can also purchase skip-the-line tickets through GetYourGuide.
The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum. This building was once the home to French Kings, including Louis XIV. During the French Revolution in the 18th century, the Louvre was converted to a museum.
The Louvre is massive and you could literally spend days here. However, you can see the highlights (Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and the Winged Victory) in just an hour or two.
The Louvre | Best Things to Do in Paris
How to Skip the Line at the Louvre:
There are several ways to avoid waiting in a long line to get into the Louvre.
- Purchase the Museum Pass. This allows you to skip the ticket line but you may still have to wait in a much shorter security line.
- Book your tickets online in advance. On the official Louvre website, you can purchase your tickets in advance. These cost €17 and the website advertises less than a 30 minute wait if you purchase your tickets in advance.
- Take a Tour. There are numerous skip-the-line tours, such as this 3-hour tour where you visit the highlights in the museum.
- Go first thing in the morning or on Wednesday and Friday evenings when the Louvre is open until 9:45 pm.
Walk Along the Champs-Elysees
Touristy? Yes. But even so, it’s a must do. This is one of the most recognizable streets in the world, running from Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. Along the way, pop into Laduree for macarons, another must do while in Paris.
The Champs-Elysees and the Arc de Triomphe | Best Things to Do in Paris
Arc de Triomphe
Sitting at the top of the Champs-Elysees is the Arc de Triomphe. From the top of the Arc you get one of the best views of Paris. Look down the Champs-Elysees to the Louvre, out to La Defense, and over the rooftops to the Eiffel Tower. At night, you can watch Paris (and the Eiffel Tower) sparkle…quite the sight to see.
One of the best ways to visit the Arc de Triomphe is to book a skip-the-line ticket, which is available through GetYourGuide.
PRO TRAVEL TIP: Download the Arc de Triomphe app before you go. This app gives you interesting facts about the Arc de Triomphe and helps identify buildings you see from the terrace.
View from the Arc de Triomphe | Best Things to Do in Paris
Île de la Cité
Île de la Cité is the small island in the center of Paris that is home to Sainte-Chapelle and Notre Dame. It is the historic heart of Paris.
Notre Dame | Best Things to Do in Paris
In front of Notre Dame is a plaque on the ground marking Point Zero (Point Zero des Routes de France), the historic center of Paris.
Also on Île de la Cité is the Au Vieux Paris, one of the prettiest cafes in Paris.
Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. It connects the Right Bank with Île de la Cité. From this bridge, enjoy the view of the Seine River, Pont des Arts (the next bridge on the river), and the Eiffel Tower off in the distance.
Pont Neuf | Best Things to Do in Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral
IMPORTANT NOTE: On April 15, 2019, Notre Dame suffered a devastating fire. The cathedral and the towers will be closed until further notice.
The Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the oldest and grandest cathedrals in the world. Step inside to see the nave and the stunning stained glass windows, but the highlight of a visit here is the gargoyle’s view over Paris from the top of the cathedral.
View from Notre Dame | Best Things to Do in Paris
Just a short walk from Notre Dame is Sainte Chapelle, another gorgeous cathedral and one of the world’s best displays of stained glass. Lines to get into Sainte Chapelle are usually long, but it’s worth the wait.
Sainte Chapelle | Best Things to Do in Paris
The Conciergerie can be combined with a visit to Sainte Chapelle, since they sit beside one another. This is the place where Marie Antoinette and others were imprisoned before being taken to Place de la Concorde to be executed.
Lines can be long to enter Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciegerie. To save time, you can purchase a skip-the-line ticket in advance.
Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde is a large round-about that is sandwiched between Tuileries Garden and the Champs-Elysees. This famous square is full of French history. This was the spot during the French Revolution where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre were executed by guillotine.
View of Place de la Concorde from the Big Wheel.
The Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde
From mid-November to early May a giant Ferris wheel sits in Place de la Concorde. If the line is short and you want a nice view of Paris, consider taking a ride.
Versailles is a royal chateau located on the outskirts of Paris. In 1682, King Louis XIV moved the Royal Court from the Louvre to the Palace of Versailles. For a little more than 100 years, this was the seat of government for France. That ended in 1789 with the French Revolution. The monarchy moved back to Paris and since then, the city of Paris has remained the seat of government for France. During your visit to Versailles you will tour the palace and stroll through the gardens.
Versailles | Best Things to Do in Paris
Getting here: Take RER C from Paris to Versailles. This journey takes approximately 45 minutes. Since Versailles is outside of the city your travel card (if you have one) will not be valid for this trip. In the metro station you will have to purchase a separate round trip ticket to get to and from Versailles. This detailed post explains how to get from Paris to Versailles.
Hours: The palace is closed Mondays; open at 9 am; The gardens and the park are open every day and are free to visit.
Cost: 19.50€ to tour the palace
Museum Pass: The Museum Pass covers your entry into the palace, the Trianon, and the estate of Marie-Antoinette. It does not cover the musical gardens. You will have to purchase this ticket separately (and you should do so in advance) for 10€.
Tour of Versailles: This highly rated tour of Versailles includes skip-the-line access, a 90-minute tour with an expert guide, and access to the Gardens.
Enjoy the View from a Rooftop Bar
There are a bunch of great restaurants and bars that offer views over the city. Why not watch the sunset and enjoy a fabulous dinner at the same time? Just a few include Terass en Haute, Le Perchoir, and 43 Up on the Roof.
Musee d’Orsay houses the largest collection of Impressionist art in the world. It is here that you can see Monet, Manet, Degas, Cezanne, Renoir, Van Gogh, Gaugin and more. It’s literally a collection of the who’s who in the Impressionist art world.
This museum is more than just Impressionist art. The building is also a work of art. Musee d’Orsay was once Gare d’Orsay, an old train station, which was renovated and became this art museum.
Musee D’Orsay | Best Things to Do in Paris
Musee d’Orsay is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30 am to 6:00 pm, with hours until 9:45 pm on Thursday. The museum is closed on Monday. Tickets cost €16, free with the Museum Pass. You can purchase a combination ticket with Musee de l’Orangerie for €20. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or through GetYourGuide.
Eat Street Food Crêpes
Small stands selling crêpes can be found all over Paris. These make delicious, cheap snacks, perfect to satisfy your sweet tooth and give you a pick-me-up while sightseeing.
Visit Le Marais
Le Marais is one of Paris’ most interesting neighborhoods. Stroll along Rue de Rosiers and if you are looking for a great place to have a budget meal, go to L’As du Falafel, the most famous falafel restaurant in Le Marais.
This is the largest modern art museum in Europe. It has an interesting design, with all of its plumbing and pipes located on the exterior of the museum, color-coded in vibrant colors. It’s definitely a unique sight to see. This is large museum and you could wander here for hours. From the top level of the museum you are treated to another wonderful view of Paris.
Pompidou Centre | Best Things to Do in Paris
Take a Food Tour
One of the best things to do while in Paris is to eat. And a great way to sample some of the best foods in Paris is to take a food tour. Sample French bread, wine, cheese, and more as a local guide takes you to some of the best spots in the city. Secret Food Tours and Paris by Mouth are two of the more popular companies.
Montmartre is one of Paris’ most popular neighborhoods to visit. Wander the maze of hilly streets, have your portrait drawn at Place du Tertre, and have a drink at one of many cafes that spill out onto the streets here.
RELATED: 10 Day London Paris Itinerary
Watch the Sunset from the Steps of the Sacre-Coeur
The Sacre-Coeur Basilica sits atop the highest hill in Paris. Join the crowds on the steps and watch the sunset. You also have the option to climb the 300 steps to the top of the Dome for an even better view.
If you like the idea of taking a guided tour of Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur, this one hour tour gets excellent reviews.
Sacre Coeur | Best Things to Do in Paris
The Wall of Love
The Wall of Love, also called Le Mur des Je T’aime, is a large, blue wall where the words “I Love You” are written in 250 languages. It’s free to visit and worth a quick visit if you are in the area. It sits right next to the Abbesses metro stop.
Wall of Love | Best Things to Do in Paris
If you are looking for something to do in the evening, why not experience the most famous cabaret in the world? Colorful can-can dancers take the stage nightly at the Moulin Rouge. Shows are offered at 7 pm, 9 pm, and 11 pm. Sip on sparkling champagne and watch the show “Feerie” with this ticket to the Moulin Rouge.
Canal Saint-Martin is a small waterway lined with boutique shops and cafes. This area is more popular with locals. So if you’re tired of the tourist crowds, escape here for a quiet afternoon and dinner at one of the cafes.
Indulge at Angelina
Angelina, located on Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, is one of the best spots to visit for decadent hot chocolate and delicious French pastries. Enjoy!
Pont de l’Archeveche
This bridge joins Ile de la Cite with the Left Bank. From here, you get an iconic view of Notre Dame. Walk along the bank of the Seine and enjoy the view of the cathedral and Ile de la Cite.
Go Shopping at the Bouquinistes
Set up along the Seine River are stands selling used books, magazines, and artwork. This tradition of selling used books along the Seine started in the 16th century and this is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
This tranquil spot is popular in the spring and summer, when the weather is nice and the flowers are blooming. This is a great spot to take a break from the hustle and bustle of Paris.
Seine River Cruise
For a relaxing experience, take a cruise on the Seine River and enjoy the view as the landmarks of Paris drift by. Cruises are offered all day, but for the best experience go at twilight so you can watch as Paris lights up around you.
If you are interested in languages, this is a great little museum to visit. With hands on and interactive exhibits, learn all about world languages.
Mundolingua | Best Things to Do in Paris
This is a much different experience than the larger, crowded museums like the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. Mundolingua is a very small museum and during our visit on a very busy Easter weekend, we were the only visitors here. If you are looking for something a little bit different than the typical tourist destinations in Paris, this is one to add to your list.
It’s geared to all ages but I think older kids and young adults benefit from a visit here the most.
Enjoy the View from Montparnasse Tower
From the observation deck of Montparnasse Tower you can get an amazing panoramic view of Paris.
View from Montparnasse Tower | Best Things to Do in Paris
Descend under the streets of Paris and tour the labyrinth of tunnels lined with human bones. In the 18th century, cemeteries around Paris were cleared and the bones were moved to these underground tunnels. Now, this is the final resting place of six million Parisians.
Inside the Catacombs | Best Things to Do in Paris
How to Minimize Time Waiting in Line at the Catacombs:
Waiting times can be as long as 3 hours to get into the Catacombs. Only 200 people are permitted in the Catacombs at one time, so the line moves very slowly. To avoid waiting in a very long line, there are a few things you can do.
- Get Here Very Early. The Catacombs open at 10 am (except Mondays when they are closed). Get here very early…at a minimum, one hour before opening, and even then, you might have to wait in line. We tried this on our last visit and our waiting time was still over one hour long.
- Go Late. The Catacombs are open until 8:30 pm. The least crowded time of day to visit the Catacombs is the last two hours of the day. However, you risk not getting into the Catacombs, if you arrive late and there is still a queue to get in.
- Purchase a Ticket on the Catacombs website. This is your best bet to avoid the lines. You can purchase your ticket online in advance for a specific time slot. You still may have to wait in a short line, but this is one of the best ways to avoid a long wait to get into the Catacombs.
- Join a Tour. If all of the time slots are sold out, consider joining a tour. You may pay small additional fee but for the time savings, it could be worth it.
Verdict: To avoid a long wait, I recommend purchasing a ticket online in advance, joining a skip-the-line tour, or visiting very late in the day (and keep your fingers crossed that there is not a long queue).
Paris Sewer Museum
Here’s another unusual tourist attraction and another chance to descend under the streets of Paris. During this visit, you will learn not only about the sewer system but also about how Paris has grown over the past several centuries. Most visits last about an hour, but if you can’t stand the smell, your visit may be much quicker.
Musee de l’Orangerie
This is a small museum that features Impressionist artwork. The highlights of this museum are the eight Water Lilies murals painted by Claude Monet. You can also see art by Picasso, Sisley, Cezanne, Matisse, and more.
The museum is open from 9 am to 6 pm, Wednesday through Monday; closed on Tuesday. Tickets cost €13, free with the Museum Pass. A combination ticket with Musee d’Orsay costs €20.
Dine at a Street Café
This really should be at the top of your list to things to do in Paris. Throughout the city, cafes spill out onto the city streets. Even when the temperatures are cool, many places run heaters to keep customers warm. Grab a table and have lunch or a glass of wine, the perfect way to take a break from sightseeing.
Walk Across Pont Alexandre III
This is the most extravagant bridge in city. Decorated with nymphs, cherubs, and golden statues, Pont Alexandre III spans the Seine, joining the Grand Palais with Les Invalides. You may recognize this bridge from movies including James Bond: A View to Kill and Midnight in Paris.
Pont Alexander III | Best Things to Do in Paris
La Grand Arche at La Defense
Journey out to La Defense (and leave the crowds behind) for a view from the top of La Grande Arche. This view may not have the same “wow factor” as those from the Arc de Triomphe or Notre Dame Cathedral, but from here you can most of Paris sprawling out in front of you.
View from the Grand Arche | Best Things to Do in Paris
Stroll through Saint-Germain-des-Prés
This is another very popular area to stroll. Filled with small lanes, boutique shops, and a bunch of very famous cafes, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is a fun spot to spend an afternoon.
Shakespeare and Company
Located on Paris’ Left Bank, Shakespeare and Company is a small but very famous bookstore.
Shakespeare and Company was started by American Sylvia Beach in 1919 at a different location. It was this bookstore that was frequently visited by authors like Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, and Ezra Pound. This first shop closed in 1941 during the German occupation of France.
In 1951, George Whitman opened a second bookstore that was also visited by famous writers. In 1964, his bookshop was renamed Shakespeare and Company, and this is the bookstore on the Left Bank that people still visit today.
This small museum features sculptures by Rodin. It’s quick and fun to visit. If you are traveling with kids, this is a museum they may actually like. Just ask them to pose like the statues.
Have Dinner and Drinks at the Buddha Bar
If you are looking for a very cool dinner/drink spot, go to the Buddha Bar. The lower level is a restaurant and along the second level are lounge areas with views over the restaurant. It feels like you have left Paris and entered Asia.
The Buddha Bar | Best Things to Do in Paris
Visit the Pantheon
The dome of the Pantheon is referred to as the “Balcony of Paris” because it offers 360° views of Paris. Look out over the Latin Quarter to Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and Luxembourg Gardens.
View from the Pantheon | photo credit: V_E
Palais Garnier is the world famous opera house in Paris. Operas and ballets are performed here and this opera house is the setting for the book and musical “The Phantom of the Opera.” Inside, the Opera House is opulent, ornate, and stunningly beautiful. During your visit you can tour the opera house or watch a performance.
Palais Garnier | Best Things to Do in Paris
Visit Pere Lachaise
Pere Lachaise Cemetery is one of the best known and most visited cemeteries in the world. A visit here may sound like a macabre way to spend an afternoon, but a stroll among the tombstones and mausoleums can be fascinating.
Pere Lechaise is free to visit but if you want to get more out of the experience, you can take a guided tour. This tour lasts 2 to 3 hours and you can see the final resting places of famous people such as Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Chopin.
On this short shopping street, go shopping in the patisseries (pastry shops), boulangeries (bread shops), fromageries (cheese shops), and shops selling wine, fruit, and chocolate. Once you are finished shopping, find a nice picnic spot on Champs de Mars and enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower.
Visit Galeries Lafayette
The Galeries Lafayette is an upscale French department store. Even if you are not in the mood to go shopping, it still may be worth the quick visit. It is gorgeous inside, with a colorful stained glass ceiling and ornately decorated balconies. You can even learn how to bake macarons from a French pastry chef.
Galeries Lafayette | Best Things to Do in Paris
That’s quite the list, right? Now, if you only have a few days, what are the most important things to see?
Our Top Ten in Paris
Here are our top ten favorite things to do in Paris.
- Eiffel Tower
- Musee d’Orsay
- The Louvre
- The Arc de Triomphe
- Dine at street café
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Le Marais
- Walk along the Seine River
Do you want to learn how to put all of these sites into an epic trip to Paris? We have several detailed Paris itineraries, including how to spend 2 days in Paris and the best way to spend 3 days in Paris.
Best Things to Do in Paris: On a Map
How to Use This Map: Click the icons on the map to get more information about each point of interest. Click the star next to the title of the map to add this map to your Google Maps account. To view it on your phone or computer, open Google Maps, click the menu button, go to “Your Places,” click Maps, and you will see this map on your list.
Have you been to Paris? What are your favorite things to do? Comment below!
More Information about France
PARIS: Plan your time in the city with our 2 Day Paris Itinerary and 3 Day Paris Itinerary. We also have a Paris Hotel Guide, advice on visiting Paris with kids, a Paris Food Guide, and advice for visiting Paris at Easter.
EUROPEAN ITINERARIES WITH PARIS: If you want to visit Paris plus one to two other European cities, you have several great options. A 10 day trip to London and Paris makes a great trip if it is your first visit to Europe (or if you just want to visit two great cities). With 10 days, you can also visit Paris, Brussels, and Amsterdam or London, Amsterdam, and Paris.
Planning a trip to France? Read all of our articles in our France Travel Guide.
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