Free Things To Do in Paris
- #1View all Photos#1 in Paris0.3 miles to city center0.3 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
Note that the cathedral sustained significant damage as a result of a fire on April 15, 2019. Its wooden roof and spire collapsed during the fire. It remains closed until further notice.
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.
- #4View all Photos#4 in Paris1.3 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.3 miles to city centerFree, Parks and GardensTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Centrally located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileries is a free public garden that spans approximately 55 acres. Though it was initially designed solely for the use of the royal family and court, the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 (as part of the Banks of the Seine) and has been open to the public since the 17th century. The green space holds an important role in France's history. For example, foreign dignitaries once gathered for meetings in the Jardin des Tuileries, and Napoleon and Marie-Louise's wedding procession marched through the gardens on the way to the couple's marriage banquet in the now-defunct Palais des Tuileries.
In the present day, Parisians and tourists alike love wandering along the park’s tree-lined paths, having picnics on the lawn or simply sitting on a bench and people-watching. Recent visitors noted that the park is a great place to relax on the way to or from the Louvre. The Musée de l’Orangerie is nearby as well, at the southwest end of the gardens. The gardens also contain three restaurants, a bookstore, a carousel and more.
- #5View all Photos
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.
Despite the Old-World French atmosphere, the neighborhood has played host to multiple cultures throughout its lifetime. Since the 13th century, Le Marais has been the city's Jewish quarter. The quarter's history can be most felt along rue des Rosiers, which feature some old-school delis and bakeries. Today, Le Marais is the epicenter of the city's gay community, with chic boutiques and vibrant nightlife options outnumbering traditional Jewish establishments. Le Marais is also known for its delectable falafel (especially at L’As du Fallafel), shopping and numerous art galleries and museums. Here you can find the Centre Pompidou, the National Archives of France, the Musée Picasso and Musée des Arts et Métiers, the oldest science museum in Europe. In addition to the neighborhood's collection of boutiques, Le Marais is known for its numerous vintage shops and specialty stores, including papeteries. Antique hunters will get a load of good finds at the Village Saint-Paul while foodies will delight in a visit to the Marché des Enfants Rouges, Paris' oldest market.
- #6View all Photos#6 in Paris2.2 miles to city center2.2 miles to city centerFree, Churches/Religious Sites, SightseeingTYPE2 hours to Half DayTIME TO SPEND
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.
You'll also likely be left in awe with the panoramic views found from atop the Sacré-Coeur's outdoor staircase. But for an even better photo op, climb all 300 steps to the top of the dome. The dome is accessible to visitors every day from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. from May to September, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. from October to April. Mass is held multiple times a day every day.
- #9View all Photos#9 in Paris1.9 miles to city center1.9 miles to city centerFree, Monuments and Memorials, SightseeingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
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.
Travelers admitted the main reason they made the trek to Père-Lachaise was to visit the famous faces buried here, though after discovering the enchanting grounds, they were happy to stay and wander. Visitors found the architecture of the individual tombstones and burial chambers to be stunning, especially with the many dramatic statues included with the plots. Others particularly appreciate the overall peaceful atmosphere of Père-Lachaise. Because the cemetery is so big, visitors say it's unlikely you'll be sharing lots of space with fellow visitors or tourists at any given time.
- #11View all Photos
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.
The Gardens also have sports courts, including basketball and baseball, but travelers say the best way to unwind here is to just kick back and admire the surrounding scenery. You'll find Luxembourg Gardens in the 6th arrondissement (neighborhood), just a short walk from both the Odéon (line 4 and 10) and Notre-Dame des Champs (line 12) metro stops. You can tour the garden for free but there is a fee to enter the Musee du Luxembourg. For more information, visit the Paris Visitors Bureau website.
- #17View all Photos
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.
While the Champs-Élysées is no doubt a shopping paradise, recent travelers noticed the price tags at most stores are can be pretty high. And the more affordable options are constantly swamped with people. The Champs-Élysées itself is no different. Because this is such a famous street in Paris, expect there to be crowds galore, both during the day and the nighttime. Still, many travelers enjoyed taking in the Champs-Élysées' bustling atmosphere and observing both locals and tourists come and go. Some recent visitors said a trip to the Champs-Élysées is not complete without a stop at Laduree, the city's famous macaron shop.
- #19View all PhotosfreeSeine River#19 in Paris0.1 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND0.1 miles to city centerNatural Wonders, Free, SightseeingTYPELess than 1 hourTIME TO SPEND
You won’t have much trouble finding the Seine, as it flows directly through the heart of Paris. The river is perhaps one of the most famous waterways in the world and an attraction in itself. It's also useful for more practical reasons: It flows from east to west, dividing the city into the Left Bank and the Right Bank. Knowing where you are in relation to the Seine can help you find your way around during your trip.
For tourists, the waterway mostly serves as a photo backdrop, but it is a lifeline for locals. It's a reliable water supply, a major transportation route and vital for many kinds of commerce. It has also served as a source of sustenance for many fishermen dating back to the 3rd century. In 1991, the Seine River was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its cultural significance in both the past and the present.
- #20View all Photos#20 in Paris1.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND1.6 miles to city centerFree, ShoppingTYPE1 to 2 hoursTIME TO SPEND
Whether or not you plan to shop, the Galeries Lafayette Paris Haussmann department store is a sight to be seen. What started as a small novelty shop in 1893 has since grown into an approximately 750,000-square-foot megastore containing hundreds of brands, from budget-friendly options like Levi’s and Nike to high-end labels like Prada and Cartier. And while you might be dazzled by the unending collection of fashionable goods, don’t forget to look up. The pièce de résistance of the luxury bazaar is the stunning neo-Byzantine glass dome 141 feet above the ground. There's also a glass walkway on the top floor of the building that allows the bravest of visitors to stand above all the action below.
Several recent visitors called Galeries Lafayette the most beautiful shopping center in the world, pointing out that even if you aren’t there to buy luxury products, the stunning building is a destination in itself. They also recommend going up to the roof of the complex, which is open to visitors free of charge, to take in breathtaking views of the city below.
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