12 min read
16 THINGS TO DO IN PARIS
Paris is one of the cities with more history, beauty and art in the world. It has witnessed wars, revolutions, great artistic movements, has seen been born and has hosted great painters, poets, writers, and musicians.
Usually, when we arrive in Paris we don’t have so many days to cover centuries of history, so we have to pick our battles. Here is a list that can be useful for fun and cultural activities you can do on your next trip to Paris.
1. Go to the Palace of Versailles
It was the principal royal residence of France from 1682 until the French revolution in 1789.
To get there you’ll have to take a train, it’s just 30 minutes away from Paris. Once you are there my recommendation is either to take a guided tour or buy the ticket with the audio guide if you really want to take advantage of your visit. It’s a place full of interesting history and astonishing luxuries, you won’t want to miss the details in there!
The five highlights you don’t want to miss out in the palace:
- Hall of Mirrors
- The Grand Apartments
- The Royal Chapel
- The Clock Room
- The Gardens
Here’s a link to skip the line and get a 10% off in your visit to the Palace of Versailles with Audioguide.
Gardens of Versailles
2. Watch the sunset at the top of the Eiffel Tower
This is a MUST in Paris.
In order to climb the Tower at the right hour to watch the sunset you have two options: you can either go early to do the line so you can climb via elevator, or you can go not too early and climb your way up the two first floors via stairs, there are more than 600 steps to the second floor, so take a deep breath before you do it, but I can say first handed that it’s possible! And the view you’ll get of Paris from the top of the tower will worth the pain!
Paris at night
3. Drink beer in front of the Eiffel Tower
Parisians use to make picnics at night in Champs de Mars, right in front of the Eiffel Tower. I strongly recommend joining the tradition (of course warm weather might help a little), you can just lie there, drink beer and watch the Eiffel Tower blinking lights. Every night, every hour on the hour, the tower is covered in golden lights and sparkles for five whole minutes. It’s an amazing show to watch!
Champs de Mars
4. Visit Les Invalides
This 17th-century hospital stands as an example of Baroque architecture and is home to the richly decorated tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte.
While the tomb of Napoleon is the first thing you should visit, you can also visit the Invalides church, decorated with flags taken from the enemy throughout French history. Other places to visit are the collection of the army museum, the Charles de Gaulle Historial and the courtyard with the artillery collection.
Photo credit: kirkandmimi
5. Visit the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées.
The Arc de Triomphe stands at the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle. It’s located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. The triumphal arch is in honor of those who fought for France, in particular, those who fought during the Napoleonic Wars.
You can go there, watch it, and take a picture with it, or you can also climb at the top and have a panoramic view of Paris. And then you can take a good walk on the famous Avenue Champs Élysees where you can see good places to shop and prestigious monuments and museums.
The Arc of Triomphe
6. Visit the Opera House
The truth is I didn’t get into the Opera house, it was being remodeled by the time I got to Paris. That was a downer since I’ve been obsessed with this building since I read Gaston Leroux’s book “The Phantom of the Opera”, but at least I got to see it from outside. I think now is open to the public again, so don’t miss out on the chance to take a good look inside this amazing architecture’s masterpiece!
Photo credit: AronHerne
7. Walk through the Luxembourg Gardens
In the early days when Ernest Hemingway was very poor, he used to go to write there, not because he was looking for inspiration but to avoid seeing and smelling food he couldn’t afford, so if you are hungry and don’t have the money you’ll know where to go, lol.
Kidding aside Luxembourg Gardens is one of the loveliest places to visit in Paris, my recommendation for you would be to wander the gardens.
The lushly landscaped gardens balance a formal French-style garden on one side, full of geometric beauty, with a somewhat wild-looking English-style garden on the other. The enormous central terrace and pond are bordered by flowers, shrubbery, and statuary.
Palace at Luxembourg Gardens
8. Go To Notre Dame
I wrote this post before the fire, so the original title of this point was “Go Inside Notre Dame,” sadly, this won’t be possible at least for the next five years, nevertheless, I still think it’s worth it even see it from the outside.
Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral, located on the Île de la Cité. It is considered one of the finest examples of the French Gothic Architecture that was immortalized in Victor Hugo’s classic novel “The Hunchback of Notre Dame.” In my opinion, the inside of the church is (or was) breathtaking. I’ve attached some extra photos, so at least you can take a peek of how the inside was before the fire.
Stained glass window inside Notre Dame
Inside Notre Dame
Stained glass window of Notre Dame
High Altar of Notre Dame
9. Eat Crepes while walking in the city
You can choose from sweet and savory crepes. I love sweet stuff so my choice was a sweet one. I wanted a specific crepe with Nutella and bananas and apparently there wasn’t that common so I started to walk and finally found a crepe store with the one I wanted, so I walked in and they kicked me out because it turned out they were filming a movie in the place and I was interrupting, ops!
The good news is that after a little more walk I found it and started to walk in the streets of Paris while I ate it. I have eaten crepes in other places but I swear, they are tastier when you can them next to the Seine!
10. Walk along the Pedestrianized Banks of the Seine
I love to walk! So my choice was to walk along the River for quite a good time, it was so relaxing, I just put some music on and allowed myself to lose in that beautiful scene! I don’t think a visit to Paris would be complete without this walk. But if you don’t like to walk you also have the option to take a cruise to navigate the River Seine! I bet the views from there are amazing!
If you decide to take the cruise here you can grab some discounts
Taking a walk along the River Seine
11. Visit d’Orsay Museum
This museum is located on the left bank of the Seine. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, including painters like Van Gogh, Monet, Manet, Renoir, etc. So if you are like me and love the artwork of these geniuses I would definitely recommend this museum.
Grab a skip the line ticket here.
Photo credit: pixabay
12. Climb to the Sacré-Coeur Dome
The Sacré-Coeur Basilica is a roman catholic church located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city!
The admission is free and to climb to the top is 300 steps, but the lookout you’ll get from there will make worth the hike!
Watch out when you reaching to the top, the steps start to get very narrow as you climb up!
13. Go watch a show at the Moulin Rouge
This place was the birthplace of modern can-can dance and the place that the great artist Toulouse Lautrec captured very well in his paintings. To be honest, I didn’t watch a show at the Moulin Rouge, it was my intention but there were all booked by the time I tried to get a ticket, so my advice is if you’d like to watch a show, book the ticket in advance. Maybe you think I can not recommend this if I didn’t go but I really want to come back to Paris and watch one because I imagine it’d be amazing!
Don’t make the mistake I did and book a ticket in advance to visit this wonderful and festive place.
The Moulin Rouge
14. Get your portrait drawn in Place du Tertre
A different way to immortalize your time in Paris is getting your portrait drawn in Place du Tertre in Montmartre. This place witnessed painters, songwriters and poets from the 18th century to World War One. Place du Tertre artists remind us of the time when Montmartre was setting the trend of modern art. Famous artists like Renoir, Monet, Van Gogh, and Picasso, lived in Montmartre.
So if you want your portrait drawn there I would recommend to watch the artists for a little while and choose one that catches your attention.
Once you’re sitting still while the artist is painting your portrait you probably become part of the tourist attraction and people will start taking pictures of you, and that’s the reason I look a bit scared in the picture!
Getting my portrait drawn
15. Take a walk around Montmartre
Try to lose yourself in the steep and cobbled streets of one of the most historic and interesting neighborhoods in Paris.
I’ve already mentioned some of the great attractions of this place like the Sacré-Coeur, The Moulin Rouge and Place du Tertre, but there’s so much more to see. From museums to beautiful coffee houses, to delicious bakeries, the whole neighborhood is a masterpiece in itself! So open up your map app and start walking!
Or if you don’t feel to wander around, you can also take a guided tour around Montmartre.
The streets of Montmartre
16. Visit the Louvre Museum
I left this for the last place because I feel like I need a separate section for this museum.
This must be the largest museum I’ve ever been to. It is said that it would take 6 days to actually appreciate all the artwork in there, but it’s most likely you don’t have six days to visit it, so my advice to you is to do a little research before you go there and go straight to the things you want to see.
The must-see, in my opinion: Leonardo Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, Paolo Veronese’s The Wedding Feast at Cana, Michelangelo’s Dying Slave, Venus del Milo, Eugène Delacroix’s Liberty Leading the People, The Egyptian Antiquities sections and The Decorative Arts Department.
And of course, we can’t forget to visit the Louvre Pyramid just outside the museum and take a walk in the beautiful Tuileries Gardens. So… maybe you’ll need a day or at least half a day to do all that…
If you are already feeling overwhelmed with the information, maybe this list would help a little to know your way inside the museum.
The artworks of the Louvre Museum are grouped into eight themes:
- Near Eastern Antiquities: covers a geographical area from North Africa to the Indus River over a period of 6 millennia.
- The Egyptian Antiquities: it gives an insight into the lives of the Ancient Egyptians.
- Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities: a collection of ancient works from the Neolithic to the 16th
- Islamic Arts: a collection of Islamic art objects.
- Sculptures: Medieval, Renaissance, and contemporary from different countries.
- Decorative Arts: covering the whole spectrum, from tapestry to goldsmithery, from stained glass to ceramics.
- Paintings: from every place and schools.
- Graphic Arts: the leading collection of drawings in the world.
If you still feel lost on how to make your way in the Louvre Museum, here you can grab a discount to a Guided Tour.
Outside the Louvre Museum
I hope these tips can be useful for your next trip to Paris!
As always, all opinions are my own.
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