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Best Things To Do in Paris

If it's your first time to Paris, you'll probably want to spend some time at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, the Musée d'Orsay, and Notre-Dame, but don't miss out on lesser-known jewels like the Musée Rodin, the Musée de l'Orangerie, and the many markets. There's no way you'll get to do it all — museum-touring, shopping, cemetery-perusing, district-exploring, opera-attending — so plan your own itinerary, group sightseeing nearby attractions together and see Paris on your own terms.

How we rank Things to Do

#1 Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)

#1 in Paris

Builders started work on the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1163, finishing nearly 200 years later in 1345. Badly damaged and falling into disrepair after the Revolution, Victor Hugo stirred excitement for the gothic cathedral with his famed novel, "Notre-Dame de Paris." Renovations were made and today Notre Dame exists as one of Paris' top attractions. more
Churches/Religious Sites Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)
Builders started work on the Notre Dame Cathedral in 1163, finishing nearly 200 years later in 1345. Badly damaged and falling into disrepair after the Revolution, Victor Hugo stirred excitement for the gothic cathedral with his famed novel, "Notre-Dame de Paris." Renovations were made and today Notre Dame exists as one of Paris' top attractions. more

#2 Musee du Louvre

#2 in Paris

"To the Louvre!" as they say in "Eurotrip" — this Paris landmark is not to be missed. Once a fort and then a palace, the massive Musée du Louvre is now the world's largest art museum and many also regard it as the best. It's here that you'll find a trio of greats — the enigmatic "Mona Lisa," the curvaceous Venus de Milo and the headless Winged Victory of Samothrace. But you'll also find rooms upon rooms of more art: In fact 35,000 pieces fill the wings of this museum, which opened in 1793. more
Museums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Musee du Louvre
"To the Louvre!" as they say in "Eurotrip" — this Paris landmark is not to be missed. Once a fort and then a palace, the massive Musée du Louvre is now the world's largest art museum and many also regard it as the best. It's here that you'll find a trio of greats — the enigmatic "Mona Lisa," the curvaceous Venus de Milo and the headless Winged Victory of Samothrace. But you'll also find rooms upon rooms of more art: In fact 35,000 pieces fill the wings of this museum, which opened in 1793. more

#3 Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)

#3 in Paris

Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World Fair), the Eiffel Tower was almost universally hated by the French. But it managed to skirt demolition talks and has since become one of Paris' most well-known symbols. Gaze up at La Tour Eiffel during a twilight picnic on the Parc du Champs de Mars, or enjoy a Parisian panorama by walking or taking the elevator up to the top, where detailed maps point to other notable attractions. While some recent visitors complain of long lines — especially during the summer — you can bypass the wait by booking your tickets online at the Eiffel Tower's website. And though you may cringe at the price you'll pay to get to the top, many agree that the views are worth it. more
Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World Fair), the Eiffel Tower was almost universally hated by the French. But it managed to skirt demolition talks and has since become one of Paris' most well-known symbols. Gaze up at La Tour Eiffel during a twilight picnic on the Parc du Champs de Mars, or enjoy a Parisian panorama by walking or taking the elevator up to the top, where detailed maps point to other notable attractions. While some recent visitors complain of long lines — especially during the summer — you can bypass the wait by booking your tickets online at the Eiffel Tower's website. And though you may cringe at the price you'll pay to get to the top, many agree that the views are worth it. more

#4 Le Marais

#4 in Paris

Straddling the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements (districts), Le Marais is one of Paris' oldest and coolest districts — so cool, in fact, that French writer Victor Hugo called it home. Walking this neighborhood's cobbled streets will make you feel as though you're in medieval Paris. Many of the buildings here survived the French Revolution of 1789 and now house tiny art galleries and cafes. more
Neighborhood/Area Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Le Marais
Straddling the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements (districts), Le Marais is one of Paris' oldest and coolest districts — so cool, in fact, that French writer Victor Hugo called it home. Walking this neighborhood's cobbled streets will make you feel as though you're in medieval Paris. Many of the buildings here survived the French Revolution of 1789 and now house tiny art galleries and cafes. more

#5 Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Cœur)

#5 in Paris

Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Cœur (meaning "Sacred Heart") looks more like a white castle than a basilica — but that's what it is. Towering over the eclectic neighborhood of Montmartre (once a hangout for Paris' bohemian crowd), this 19th century masterpiece is easily recognized by its ornate ivory domes. As blanched as it may appear on the outside, the basilica's interior is a sight worth beholding: The ceilings glitter with gold, red and blue mosaic images of Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel. more
Churches/Religious Sites Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Cœur)
Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Cœur (meaning "Sacred Heart") looks more like a white castle than a basilica — but that's what it is. Towering over the eclectic neighborhood of Montmartre (once a hangout for Paris' bohemian crowd), this 19th century masterpiece is easily recognized by its ornate ivory domes. As blanched as it may appear on the outside, the basilica's interior is a sight worth beholding: The ceilings glitter with gold, red and blue mosaic images of Jesus Christ, Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel. more

#6 Musee d'Orsay

#6 in Paris

Housed in a Belle Époque railway station along the Left Bank, the Musée d'Orsay boasts the world's largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works. You'll see paintings by French artists like Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, among many, many others. And if you climb to the museum's top balcony, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. more
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Musee d'Orsay
Housed in a Belle Époque railway station along the Left Bank, the Musée d'Orsay boasts the world's largest collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist works. You'll see paintings by French artists like Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, among many, many others. And if you climb to the museum's top balcony, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica. more

#7 Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise)

#7 in Paris

Not up for spending an hour underground in the Catacombs? Visit the Père-Lachaise Cemetery instead. Covering nearly 120 acres of the 20ème arrondissement (district), the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is one of the world's most famous burial grouds: Everyone from Molière and Jim Morrison to Honoré de Balzac and Gertrude Stein can be found here here. But if you don't feel like paying your respects to anyone in particular, you might enjoy the peaceful walk through the leafy grounds. more
Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise)
Not up for spending an hour underground in the Catacombs? Visit the Père-Lachaise Cemetery instead. Covering nearly 120 acres of the 20ème arrondissement (district), the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is one of the world's most famous burial grouds: Everyone from Molière and Jim Morrison to Honoré de Balzac and Gertrude Stein can be found here here. But if you don't feel like paying your respects to anyone in particular, you might enjoy the peaceful walk through the leafy grounds. more

#8 Palais Garnier - Opera National de Paris

#8 in Paris

A masterpiece of architectural opulence legendary for playing host to the fictional yet ubiquitous Phantom of the Opera, the Opéra Garnier — also known as the Palais Garnier — still exudes the same enigmatic atmosphere it radiated in the late 1800s. The Opéra Garnier stands just north of the Louvre and can be reached from the Opéra (métro lines 3, 7 and 8) and Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette (lines 7 and 9) stations. more
Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Palais Garnier - Opera National de Paris
A masterpiece of architectural opulence legendary for playing host to the fictional yet ubiquitous Phantom of the Opera, the Opéra Garnier — also known as the Palais Garnier — still exudes the same enigmatic atmosphere it radiated in the late 1800s. The Opéra Garnier stands just north of the Louvre and can be reached from the Opéra (métro lines 3, 7 and 8) and Chaussée d'Antin - La Fayette (lines 7 and 9) stations. more

#9 Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)

#9 in Paris

A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of Parisian pleasures, Luxembourg Gardens provides ample space (60 acres) for sunbathing and people-watching, plus there are plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. When the city bustle becomes too overwhelming, meander around the paths and formal gardens, or just relax with a picnic. Kids can float sailboats at the Grand Basin, ride ponies or take a spin on the merry-go-round, or catch a show in the puppet theater. "This garden is like walking in a French movie," said one TripAdvisor user. "The garden sections were gorgeous, the gravel paths meandering and enchanting." more
Parks and Gardens Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)
A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of Parisian pleasures, Luxembourg Gardens provides ample space (60 acres) for sunbathing and people-watching, plus there are plenty of activities to keep kids entertained. When the city bustle becomes too overwhelming, meander around the paths and formal gardens, or just relax with a picnic. Kids can float sailboats at the Grand Basin, ride ponies or take a spin on the merry-go-round, or catch a show in the puppet theater. "This garden is like walking in a French movie," said one TripAdvisor user. "The garden sections were gorgeous, the gravel paths meandering and enchanting." more

#10 Arc de Triomphe

#10 in Paris

Located in the 8ème arrondissement (8th district), the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to laud his own military prowess. Although he desired its completion in time for his 1810 wedding, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe was not finished until 1836. Today, the renowned 164-foot-tall arch stands at the head of the Champs-Élysées, facing off against the glittering gold tip of Place du Concorde's obelisk. more
Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Arc de Triomphe
Located in the 8ème arrondissement (8th district), the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to laud his own military prowess. Although he desired its completion in time for his 1810 wedding, the magnificent Arc de Triomphe was not finished until 1836. Today, the renowned 164-foot-tall arch stands at the head of the Champs-Élysées, facing off against the glittering gold tip of Place du Concorde's obelisk. more

#11 Centre Pompidou

#11 in Paris

The Centre Pompidou is one of the most visited cultural sites in Paris. But keep this in mind — and recent travelers attest to this — if you're not a fan of modern art, you probably won't enjoy this museum. But if you do appreciate art moderne, you'll love the Pompidou. It's all modern and contemporary art — even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside. more
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Centre Pompidou
The Centre Pompidou is one of the most visited cultural sites in Paris. But keep this in mind — and recent travelers attest to this — if you're not a fan of modern art, you probably won't enjoy this museum. But if you do appreciate art moderne, you'll love the Pompidou. It's all modern and contemporary art — even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside. more

#12 Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles)

#12 in Paris

The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is a suburb of Paris located a quick 30- to 40-minute train or bus ride away. Centuries after King Louis XIV resided in the resplendent palace and wandered the immaculate grounds, it became the site of the Treaty of Versailles signing, which ended World War I. more
Castles/Palaces Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Versailles Palace (Chateau de Versailles)
The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is a suburb of Paris located a quick 30- to 40-minute train or bus ride away. Centuries after King Louis XIV resided in the resplendent palace and wandered the immaculate grounds, it became the site of the Treaty of Versailles signing, which ended World War I. more

#13 Musée Rodin

#13 in Paris

A hidden jewel in the city, the Musée Rodin is actually the former residence of famed 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin. But in the place of furniture and kitschy lawn ornaments are Rodin's emotive sculptures, including The Hand of God, The Kiss and The Thinker, among many more. more
Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Musée Rodin
A hidden jewel in the city, the Musée Rodin is actually the former residence of famed 19th century sculptor Auguste Rodin. But in the place of furniture and kitschy lawn ornaments are Rodin's emotive sculptures, including The Hand of God, The Kiss and The Thinker, among many more. more

#14 Paris Catacombs (Les Catacombes de Paris)

#14 in Paris

Not every inch of Paris is as romantic as you think — in fact, the Catacombs are downright chilling. Prior to the creation of the Catacombs in the mid-18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, and tainted groundwater affected nearby residents. The Catacombs provided ample and safe space for deceased loved ones, which Parisians used for nearly 30 years. more
Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Paris Catacombs (Les Catacombes de Paris)
Not every inch of Paris is as romantic as you think — in fact, the Catacombs are downright chilling. Prior to the creation of the Catacombs in the mid-18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, and tainted groundwater affected nearby residents. The Catacombs provided ample and safe space for deceased loved ones, which Parisians used for nearly 30 years. more

#15 Champs-Élysées

#15 in Paris

Musician Joe Dassin once sang "Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées," which translates to "There's everything you could ever want along the Champs-Élysées." And he's right. Paris' most famous boulevard — stretching more than a mile from the glittering obelisk at Place de la Concorde to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe — is a shopper's mecca. Along its wide, tree-lined sidewalks, you'll find such luxury stores as Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss rubbing elbows with less-pricey establishments like Adidas and Gap. more
Shopping Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Champs-Élysées
Musician Joe Dassin once sang "Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées," which translates to "There's everything you could ever want along the Champs-Élysées." And he's right. Paris' most famous boulevard — stretching more than a mile from the glittering obelisk at Place de la Concorde to the foot of the Arc de Triomphe — is a shopper's mecca. Along its wide, tree-lined sidewalks, you'll find such luxury stores as Louis Vuitton and Hugo Boss rubbing elbows with less-pricey establishments like Adidas and Gap. more

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