Thomas Jefferson once said, “A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and the point of life.” Well, the bustling capital of France can certainly offer that, and more. With a population of over 2 million people, and hailed as one of the most romantic cities in the world, this makes Paris one of the most sought after destinations in Europe to visit. Naturally there are hundreds of things to do in Paris, mainstream and off the beaten track, so best to have a lose plan to get acquainted with this amazing city.
With over 7 million visitors a year, France’s most famous icon, The Eifel Tower, opened in 1889 in celebration of the 100 year anniversary of the French Revolution. Since then it has acted as a radio and television tower, not to mention the backdrop of practically every Paris photograph or postcard, and more recently hosts amazing light shows when the country celebrates milestones and events.
Tours run every day from 9.30am till late and you can either walk up, or take the lift!
Originally built as a railway station in 1898, this museum now holds exquisite French art from 1848 – 1915.
Located on the bank of the river Seine, this building is something all French historical architect lovers should see. In fact, everyone will be blown away by the beauty size, and construction of the building, not to mention the art that is housed inside. It is one of the best things to do in Paris.
Closed Monday but open late Thursdays, tickets can be bought on line or at the door.
Musee de Louvre
Located in the Louvre Palace is the Louvre Museum, one of the world’s largest museums and a sight to behold when in Paris. Instantly recognisable by the glass windowed pyramid in the forecourt, this museum is steeped in history.
It is open everyday except Tuesdays, and has changing exhibitions as well as permanent displays of over 35,000 works of art from pre history up to the 21st century.
Our Lady of Paris, Notre Dame, is not only famous for the well loved ‘Hunchback Of Notre Dame’ novel by Victor Hugo, but as one of the most well known churches in the world. This historic Catholic Cathedral has the most incredible French Gothic architecture and even houses a fragment of the true cross, and one of the holy nails.
The Cathedral is open everyday of the year from 8am-6.45pm and is free of charge in these hours. You may sit in on mass services or listen to choir concerts in the stunning main alter and cathedral chapter.
The Luxembourg Gardens sit cradling the Luxembourg Palace, two amazing sights and both built at the start of 1612, by Marie de’Medici.
The palace grounds are a famous spot to visit in Paris, and the French and English gardens it contains cover over 24 hectares.
There are many highlights here: an apple orchard, apiary, greenhouse, orangery, pavilion, gazebo, the circular basin where you can sail model sailboats, a nearby café, 106 statues, many monuments and the massive Medici fountain from 1630.
If you are visiting at the right time you may even catch and event on for the cultural program, which is great fun for locals and visitors to enjoy. The gardens are free to the public and open at 7.30am every morning.
Opera National de Paris
The main opera company of France is the Paris Opera. Founded in 1847, these two theatres, the 2700 seat Opera Bastille, and the 1970 seat Palais Garnier, are two of the most beautiful buildings one can visit. There is also a 500 seat Amphitheatre located under the Opera Bastille.
If you are lucky enough to see a show in any of these theatres whilst you are in Paris, you will come away in awe at both the building and the performance. The impressive and varied program changes often, and tickets differ in price, best to book plenty of time beforehand for the best seat.
Sainte – Chapelle
The Sainte-Chapelle, the Holy Chapel, contains one of the most extensive, and the most beautiful 13th century stained glass window collection in the world. The colours here will absolutely blow you away, and also the fact you are standing in a building first built in the 12th century.
This royal medieval gothic chapel sits in the heart of Paris and was named a nation historic monument in 1862. Open everyday from 9.30am, an adult ticket will cost €8.50. You can also buy tickets to sumptuous classical music concerts held in the Holy Chapel.
Pont Alexandre 111
One of the most popular bridges in France in the Pont Alexandre 111. Views from here take the cake when you are looking for the best sights in town.
This historic monument connects the left bank to the right of the Seine, and is classed as the most extravagant bridge in the city. No wonder, as the four pylons surrounding it are 17 metres high, and are adorned with gilt bronzed winged horse sculptures. Lets not forget about the cherubs, nymphs and exquisite Art Nouveau lamps as well. The design is meant to reflect that of the Grand Palais on the right bank, as it almost leading to its door.
Arc de Triomphe
Located right in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, is one of France’s most famous monuments, the Arc de Triomphe. This Triumph Arch is a war memorial for all those people who fought and died in the Napoleonic Wars and the French Revolution. It has an eternal flame that is lit at 6.30pm every evening and a Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, which you can also visit.
Built over 30 years in the 1800’s, it stands 50 metres high you can admire from below, or climb to the top. Entry will cost adults €8 and is a wonderful alternative to climbing the Eifel Tower, if you had to choose that is!
Musee de l’Orangerie
If you are a lover of impressionist and post-impressionist works of art, the Musee de l’Orangerie is the place to go in Paris. This gallery houses many works of art by famous painters, but the one its most known for is Claude Monet’s eight murals titled the Water Lilies. Displayed in two oval rooms, it is an impressive set of works from the 1920’s.
Full price for a general ticket is €9 but they have many combination tickets to take advantage of to get the most out of your visit.
The Basilica de Sacre-Coeur is still as white as it was when it was first built in the late 1800’s. This is because of the particular travetine stone use in the construction is one that contains calcite which keeps the whiteness, even over so many years of weathering.
Containing a meditation garden, a fountain, a crypt, an impressive organ, and video and audio guides for i-phone users. You may take a guided visit and also see climb to the dome. From here you can get a spectacular panoramic view of the city. The basilica is free to enter and is open everyday from 6am- 10.30pm
The historic district in Paris known as ‘The Marsh’, spreads across the 3rd and 4th quarters of Paris on the right bank of the river Seine. Known for its magnificent and grand buildings and architecture, it had humble beginnings as an area for the working class of Paris, until recent years when it has grown into a popular place for tourist and cool locals to hang out.
Le Maris has a big Chinese community which arrived after World War 1 and today the windy cobblestones lanes are full of trendy restaurants and cafes, hip galleries and top fashion stores.
Not usually on a typical ‘must see in Paris’ list, are the Paris passageways. These old fashioned covered shopping malls were popular in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, and thankfully they are still standing today. They are all different sizes and lengths and hold many beauties in the Paris fashion scene. Architecture lovers will also be satisfied on a visit to one or more of these gorgeous Parisian secrets, as their beauty is second to none.
There are nearly 30 passages in total including Passage Colbert, Panorama, Choiseul, Jouffroy, Brady, Verdeau and the most famous, the exquisite Vivienne.
Tour the Empire of Death Paris Catacombs
Treat yourself to a very special experience in Paris’s underground. Deep under the city are the ancient catacombs, full of tunnels and caves where more than 6 million citizens of the French Capital were buried in the 1700’s.
A 2 hour tour with a private guide for a group of 4 will cost around €50 per person. Not exactly cheep but its got a bunch of perks like skipping the usual queues to get straight to the city’s skeletal remains with your own private guide.
This is an experience not on every tourist’s radar if they are concentrating on the most famous sights and tours of above ground Paris. It also caters for larger groups, its best to book online, and then you are guaranteed a spot. A creepy things to do on Paris is coming soon!
Cemetery of Dogs and other domestic animals
In the North West of Paris is a cemetery like none you have ever seen before, the Le Cimetière des Chiens et Autres Animaux Domestiques, is the ’Cemetery of Dogs and other domestic animals’. Opened in 1899 it is filled with the most ornate and impressive gravestones and sculptures, all lain for the pets that have been buried there. A lot of the animals here have a documented history, such as the pet lion of a famous actress, a war hero dog and even the Hollywood K9 star Rin-Tin-Tin, who was actually a French born and bred dog before a soldier took him back to America with him.
Named an historical monument in 1987 the cemetery is open to visitors on most days and free to enter.
Museum of Carnival Arts
Located in a grand ancient wine warehouse is the Musee des Arts Forains, a magical place that sits somewhere between a cultural heritage experience and the most remarkable entertainment.
This exceptional private museum houses the largest collection of fairground art objects and entertainment in the world! Here you can see a 100 year old carousels, a magic fountain, and hot air balloon, mannequins and costumes, magic mirror house, animal statues, the list goes on.
Admission is by appointment only and for €16 you’ll receive a 1.5-hour guided tour in French, although there are handouts in English available. You’ll be able to ride a luxurious vintage carousel or watch an automated, magical, carnival mannequin show.
Un Regard Moderne – Bookshop
This cosy bookshop in rue Git-le-Coeur is a tiny two-room dwelling that will hold up to about 5 people at a time, standing. Not only is it so tiny, but its so unbelievable full! Stacked to the ceiling with haphazardly piled books and magazines.
You can find anything here, no matter what your theme or taste, or budget. It may be a challenge to find anything on your own though but that it why the shop owner, Jacques Noel, is there to help you, He will know where everything is and much like the Wizard of Oz, produce exactly what you were needing, from seemingly out of nowhere. His organised chaos is one of the things that make this store so famous amongst those interested in all things literature and printed matter.
I love you: The wall
A beautiful spot to stop off Paris’s main tourist attractions has to be that of the I Love You Wall. Covering 613 enamelled tiles, spanning 40 square metres, are the words ‘I love you’, written in over 300 languages. One of the great free things to do in Paris!
Frederic Baron collected the phrases, and artists Claire Kito and Daniel Boulonge completed the mural.
Hailed as a ‘space where love comes together in every language’, you can find the I love you wall on the Butte, Montmartre, Place des Abbesses in the Jehan Rictus Square.
The Petite Ceinture railway
If you feel you’d like to avoid some crowds and are not up for walking along the Seine River in Paris, why not take a stroll along an abandoned stretch of the Paris metro. The Petite Ceinture railway line has been unused since 1934; these tracks are now an overgrown oasis for those looking to explore a different side of the city.
There are a few separate sections to walk, varying in lengths, all open to the public. You can find these entrances at points like 21 Rue Rottembourg, Place Balard, and 60 Rue Damesme.
French Submarine Argonaut
In 1958 this submarine was the flagship in the Toulon Submarine Squadron. Back then she was hailed as one of the most modern submarines in the world and gave years of good service to the French Navy.
Decommissioned in 1982, this beast has spent over 32,000 hours under water and has made up to 10 trips around the world! Now preserved as a museum ship since 1991, it’s a great place to visit if you are looking for a non traditional museum to visit, that wont take all day. You can take a stroll inside for a small admission fee, every day except Mondays.