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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 world-renowned Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame, but don't miss out on other notable city jewels such as the Musée d'Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens or Le Marais. 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

#1 in Paris

Free
Like the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren't made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you'll start to understand why it took so long.
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)
Like the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren't made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you'll start to understand why it took so long.
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#2

#2 in Paris

If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Musée du Louvre. That's because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world as well. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features a grand total of 35,000 works of art. Here you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Smothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as "Liberty of Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix, "The Raft of Medusa" by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," the museum's biggest star, can be found here. You can even get a glimpse of Napolean the Third's old apartment digs. Though you don't necessarily have to visit the apartments to get a taste of what it was like to be a royal. Before it was a museum, the Louvre served as a royal residence for a number of French powers, including Louis XIV. It was only sometime after Louis XIV left the Louvre in favor of Versailles that the Louvre began to transform into a museum.
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Museums Type
Half Day to Full Day Time to Spend
Musée du Louvre
If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Musée du Louvre. That's because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world as well. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features a grand total of 35,000 works of art. Here you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Smothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as "Liberty of Leading the People" by Eugene Delacroix, "The Raft of Medusa" by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa," the museum's biggest star, can be found here. You can even get a glimpse of Napolean the Third's old apartment digs. Though you don't necessarily have to visit the apartments to get a taste of what it was like to be a royal. Before it was a museum, the Louvre served as a royal residence for a number of French powers, including Louis XIV. It was only sometime after Louis XIV left the Louvre in favor of Versailles that the Louvre began to transform into a museum.
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#3

#3 in Paris

Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World's Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it skirted demolition talks twice. The first time, at the beginning of the 1900s, the tower was kept around because of its transmission talents. Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower's transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World's Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it skirted demolition talks twice. The first time, at the beginning of the 1900s, the tower was kept around because of its transmission talents. Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower's transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan. 
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#4

#4 in Paris

Free
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 (author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Misérables") called it home. With all of its cobblestone streets, stately stone architecture and tucked away courtyards, it's easy to feel as if you're strolling through medieval Paris. Back in the day, Le Marais housed some notable French royalty. King Henry IV was the one responsible for the construction of the Place des Vosges, Paris' oldest square. And Louis XIV called this neighborhood home for a while until he decided to move his family and court to Versailles. Much of Le Marais also survived the destruction made during the French Revolution. 
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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 (author of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" and "Les Misérables") called it home. With all of its cobblestone streets, stately stone architecture and tucked away courtyards, it's easy to feel as if you're strolling through medieval Paris. Back in the day, Le Marais housed some notable French royalty. King Henry IV was the one responsible for the construction of the Place des Vosges, Paris' oldest square. And Louis XIV called this neighborhood home for a while until he decided to move his family and court to Versailles. Much of Le Marais also survived the destruction made during the French Revolution. 
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#5

#5 in Paris

Free
Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Coeur (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 Roman-Byzantine 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 France's largest mosaic, which depicts Jesus rising alongside the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. 
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Churches/Religious Sites Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmartre (Sacre-Coeur)
Rising high above Paris, the Sacré-Coeur (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 Roman-Byzantine 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 France's largest mosaic, which depicts Jesus rising alongside the Virgin Mary and Joan of Arc. 
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#6

#6 in Paris

Housed in a former railway station along the Left Bank, the Musée d'Orsay is regarded for its rich collection of impressionist works. You'll see paintings by French artists like Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, among many, many others. The museum also houses a number of sculptures, as well as photography and even furniture displays. And if you climb to the museum's top balcony, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica through the museum's massive transparent clock.
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Museums Type
2 hours to Half Day Time to Spend
Musée d'Orsay
Housed in a former railway station along the Left Bank, the Musée d'Orsay is regarded for its rich collection of impressionist works. You'll see paintings by French artists like Degas, Monet, Cezanne, and Van Gogh, among many, many others. The museum also houses a number of sculptures, as well as photography and even furniture displays. And if you climb to the museum's top balcony, you can catch a breathtaking view of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica through the museum's massive transparent clock.
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#7

#7 in Paris

Free
A cemetery as a tourist attraction? If any city can pull it of, it's Paris. Covering nearly 110 acres of the 20th arrondissement (district), the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It's also Paris' largest green space. Père-Lachaise is a maze of cobblestone pathways lined with leafy, cascading trees which perfectly shade the striking 19th century burial chambers that permeate the grounds. Aesthetics aside, Père-Lachaise is one of the world's most famous burial grouds: Everyone from Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein can be found here. But make sure to pick up a map before you venture in, there are 70,000 burial plots here. 
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Pere-Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetiere du Pere-Lachaise)
A cemetery as a tourist attraction? If any city can pull it of, it's Paris. Covering nearly 110 acres of the 20th arrondissement (district), the Père-Lachaise Cemetery is considered one of the most beautiful cemeteries in the world. It's also Paris' largest green space. Père-Lachaise is a maze of cobblestone pathways lined with leafy, cascading trees which perfectly shade the striking 19th century burial chambers that permeate the grounds. Aesthetics aside, Père-Lachaise is one of the world's most famous burial grouds: Everyone from Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison to Edith Piaf and Gertrude Stein can be found here. But make sure to pick up a map before you venture in, there are 70,000 burial plots here. 
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#8

#8 in Paris

A masterpiece of architectural opulence, the Opéra Garnier  also known as the Palais Garnier  still exudes the same enigmatic atmosphere it radiated in the late 1800s. This palpable sense of intrigue and mystery that permeates the opera is due in part to its awe-inspiring Old World interiors as well as Gaston Leroux, the author of "Phantom of the Opera," for which the Garnier served as inspiration. Leroux claimed the phantom was indeed real, successfully incorporating real life opera occurrences (such as the chandelier falling and killing a bystander) into his fiction. The Garnier's lack of a robust historical record, as well as Leroux's writing talents, have left many wondering if there really was a dweller that lurked beneath the opera. Staff have claimed otherwise, but say with the opera's very real underground lake, it's easy to see how the story could be so convincing. Without Napoleon III, who was responsible for commissioning the opera, Leroux's tale would have never come to fruition. 
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Sightseeing Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Palais Garnier - Opera National de Paris
A masterpiece of architectural opulence, the Opéra Garnier  also known as the Palais Garnier  still exudes the same enigmatic atmosphere it radiated in the late 1800s. This palpable sense of intrigue and mystery that permeates the opera is due in part to its awe-inspiring Old World interiors as well as Gaston Leroux, the author of "Phantom of the Opera," for which the Garnier served as inspiration. Leroux claimed the phantom was indeed real, successfully incorporating real life opera occurrences (such as the chandelier falling and killing a bystander) into his fiction. The Garnier's lack of a robust historical record, as well as Leroux's writing talents, have left many wondering if there really was a dweller that lurked beneath the opera. Staff have claimed otherwise, but say with the opera's very real underground lake, it's easy to see how the story could be so convincing. Without Napoleon III, who was responsible for commissioning the opera, Leroux's tale would have never come to fruition. 
... more
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#9

#9 in Paris

Free
A warm-weather oasis that offers the simplest of pleasures, the Luxembourg Gardens provide ample green space (61 acres) for sun-soaking 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 puppet show at the on-site Theatre des Marionettes. Adults might delight in the on-site Musee du Luxembourg, the first French museum that was opened to the public. Though with 106 sculptures to its name, including a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Luxembourg Gardens could easily be considered an open-air museum itself.
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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 pleasures, the Luxembourg Gardens provide ample green space (61 acres) for sun-soaking 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 puppet show at the on-site Theatre des Marionettes. Adults might delight in the on-site Musee du Luxembourg, the first French museum that was opened to the public. Though with 106 sculptures to its name, including a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Luxembourg Gardens could easily be considered an open-air museum itself.
... more

#10

#10 in Paris

Situated at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to honor the Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars. The arch, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is adorned with several impressive, intricately carved sculptures. Underneath the Arch travelers will find the names of the battles fought during the first French Republic and Napolean's Empire as well as generals who fought in them. Travelers will also find the famous tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The unknown soldier currently buried there is meant to represent all the unidentified or unaccounted for soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. The flame that was lit when the soldier was laid to rest has not extinguished since it was initially lit in the 1920s, and is rekindled every night at 6:30 p.m. by a member of the armed services. 
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Monuments and Memorials Type
1 to 2 hours Time to Spend
Arc de Triomphe
Situated at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the towering Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoléon to honor the Grande Armee during the Napoleonic Wars. The arch, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is adorned with several impressive, intricately carved sculptures. Underneath the Arch travelers will find the names of the battles fought during the first French Republic and Napolean's Empire as well as generals who fought in them. Travelers will also find the famous tomb of The Unknown Soldier. The unknown soldier currently buried there is meant to represent all the unidentified or unaccounted for soldiers who lost their lives during World War I. The flame that was lit when the soldier was laid to rest has not extinguished since it was initially lit in the 1920s, and is rekindled every night at 6:30 p.m. by a member of the armed services. 
... more

#11

#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. The Pompidou is all modern and contemporary art (think cubist, surrealist and pop art, among others). Even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside.
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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. The Pompidou is all modern and contemporary art (think cubist, surrealist and pop art, among others). Even its exterior is a little "out there," with its insides (piping, plumbing, elevators, escalators, etc.) exposed on the outside.
... more

#12

#12 in Paris

The Château de Versailles, the sprawling palace and former seat of power, is located 14 miles southwest of Paris in Versailles. Every year, millions of travelers make the trek from Paris to bear witness to the chateau's world-famous grandeur in person. But between all of the gold figurines, dramatic frescoes and cascading crystal chandeliers you'll no doubt find in bulk throughout the chateau, you might be surprised to learn that King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence had pretty humble-ish beginnings.
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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 located 14 miles southwest of Paris in Versailles. Every year, millions of travelers make the trek from Paris to bear witness to the chateau's world-famous grandeur in person. But between all of the gold figurines, dramatic frescoes and cascading crystal chandeliers you'll no doubt find in bulk throughout the chateau, you might be surprised to learn that King Louis XIV's extravagant former residence had pretty humble-ish beginnings.
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#13

#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. In addition to the sculptures, there are 7,000 of the artist's drawings on display as well as an area dedicated to the work of his muse and mistress, artist Camile Claudel. Visitors will also get to view pieces from the Rodin's personal art collection, including paintings by Van Gogh.
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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. In addition to the sculptures, there are 7,000 of the artist's drawings on display as well as an area dedicated to the work of his muse and mistress, artist Camile Claudel. Visitors will also get to view pieces from the Rodin's personal art collection, including paintings by Van Gogh.
... more
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#14

#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 late 18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, graves started to become exposed and stunk up surrounding neighborhoods. The limestone quarries located 65 feet beneath Paris eventually became the solution, providing ample and safe space for the city's deceased loved ones. It took 12 years to move 6 million bodies from all the Parisien graves. 
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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 late 18th century, Parisians buried their dead in cemeteries. But as the city continued to grow, burial grounds ran out of space, graves started to become exposed and stunk up surrounding neighborhoods. The limestone quarries located 65 feet beneath Paris eventually became the solution, providing ample and safe space for the city's deceased loved ones. It took 12 years to move 6 million bodies from all the Parisien graves. 
... more

#15

#15 in Paris

Free
Musician Joe Dassin once sang "Il y a tout ce que vous voulez aux Champs-Élysées," which translates to "There's everything you could 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.
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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 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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