I used to live in Paris for a short period when I was doing my internship and it grew to my heart. Although I moved away after completing my job, I kept returning to this charming city.
Here is a list of my favourite touristy things to do in Paris:
- Walk along the banks of the river Seine
Ancient Paris was built on the banks of Seine river. Visit this UNESCO World Heritage site and walk along the scenic route from île de la Cité (the oldest part of the city) to Trocadéro. Witness the most of the iconic Paris’ buildings: medieval Cathedral of Notre Dame, Pont Neuf, the Louvre, Place de la Concorde, the Grand Palais, Pont Alexandre III, Les Invalides, Palais de Chaillot, Eiffel Tower et others. It is a long walk, but it is totally worth it!
Alternative: If you don’t feel like a walking, take a boat on the Seine.
- Have a picnic in the shadow of Eiffel Tower at the Champ de Mars
Champ de Mars is a large public green space extending from the École Militaire to the Eiffel Tower. Originally it served as parade ground for French troops, later for fairs and the world exhibitions, including the 1889 World’s Fair that brought us the Eiffel Tower. Today, Champ de Mars is a spot for walking and relaxing. To me it’s the best place to fully enjoy the view to Eiffel Tower. Go there in the sunny afternoon. Bring a blanket to sit on, wine and some snacks and enjoy the sunset with the view to amazing Eiffel Tower.
Con: As Eiffel Tower is one of the main Paris tourist attractions, Champ de Mars can be extremely busy. Also beware of the tourist scammers and pickpockets!
- See the Paris from the above
There are many viewing points where you can enjoy the panoramic views: Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse Tower, Notre Dame, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Cœur, Georges Pompidou Centre, and some more. They all offer equally lovely views to Paris. Climb up to the one of them and gaze down the Paris’ urban plan, devised by Hausmann, who razed the city’s medieval slums to lay down broad boulevards. Admire the taunt geometry of streets decorated by rows of neatly trimmed trees. It is a lovely experience.
Tip: to avoid long queues at Eiffel Tower, rather chose Montparnasse Tower, Arc de Triomphe or Sacré-Cœur.
- Explore Marie-Antoinette’s estate at the Palace of Versailles
Palace of Versailles is yet another famous Paris’ attractions from the UNESCO World Heritage List. This majestic palace and gardens used to be home of the French kings. To me, the most charming part of the Versailles is Marie-Antoinette’s estate: palace Petit Trianon and the Queen’s Hamlet – a private sanctuary of French Queen who lost her head during the French Revolution. This part of Versailles is much more quiet than the main palace and gardens, but no less interesting.
- Take a walk through Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
Père-Lachaise cemetery was established back in 1804 and is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris. To some people visiting a such place might seem a little morbid, but Père-Lachaise is one of the most interesting places in Paris. It is more like a park or a city full of monuments of different styles and sizes (from simple gothic graves, to burial chambers and large temple-like mausoleums) than a cemetery. Being the final resting-place for many famous people makes it even more interesting. To name just few of them: Honoré de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Jean-François Champollion, Marcel Proust, Eugène Delacroix, Molière, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Camille Pissarro et others. As each of them left its mark to Paris, is a walk around Père-Lachaise like a walk through the history.
- Visit Musée de l’Armée
National Military Museum of France (Musée de l’Armée) is my favourite Parisian museum. Not only because of its exhibitions, which offer a excellent glimpse into the development of warfare from Antiquity to 20th century, but also because of the majestic location. Museum is set at Hôtel National des Invalides a complex of buildings which originally served as a home and hospital for aged and unwell soldiers. If you want to learn more about French military history at the place where the history was made, this is the place to visit!
Pro: Hôtel National des Invalides is also eternal home of Napoléon Bonaparte. His remains lie entombed under the towering golden dome which is open for public.
- Eat macarons at Ladurée
Ladurée is French bakery famous for its macarons – sweet meringue-based confection. Sweet-tooth or not, try it! They are french speciality. Also, they are the best macarons in town.
Con: They are a bit pricey.
- Stroll through Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg
Jardin des Tuileries and Jardin du Luxembourg are gardens which were both created on royal initiative in 17th century. Nowadays they are open for public and are spot for relaxation. Stroll pass the green lawns, statues and fountains, observe children of all ages racing their sailboats in the ponds or just pull up a free chair and sit and relax!
- Visit Arc de Triomphe
Arc the Triomphe stands in the centre of the Place de l’Étoile, the hub between 12 grand avenues, including famous Champs Élysées. The biggest arch in the world was commissioned by Napoleon in1806 to celebrate his victory at Austerlitz.
Climb to the Arc’s viewing terrace and enjoy the panoramic view to Paris. Though being only 50 m heigh, it is the best place to admire the geometry of Paris’ urban plan.
Con: as Arc is one of the most famous Paris’ attractions, it might be crawled with tourists.
- Visit the Sacré-Cœur at the Montmartre
The basilica is located at the top of the highest point in the city, Montmartre hill. The French government commissioned it in 1873 to symbolise the lift of spirits after the devastating years of the Commune and Franco-Prussian War.
Although you need to defend yourself from annoying tourist scammers on a way up to the top, although is usually packed with tourists, Sacré-Cœur basilica and the panoramic view from it are simply too beautiful to miss it.
Tip: The best time to visit Sacré-Coeur is early morning or early evening, and preferably not on a Sunday, when the crowds are thick.
Paris is wonderful and there are much more interesting things to see. Here are some more honourable mentions which did not make the list, but are definitely worth visiting: Notre-Dame de Paris, Musée d’Orsay, La Défense, Hôtel de Ville, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Centre Pompidou, Musée du quai Branly, Louvre, Galeries Lafayette, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Rue Rivoli, Les Halles, Eiffel Tower, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation, Opéra Garnier, Palais de Tokyo, L’église de la Madeleine and some more.