Main topics in this article concern travelling, Paris, France, French culture, the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Sacré-Coeur, Montmartre, croissant, food, flight tickets, travel deals, travel packages, cheap flight tickets, overseas adventure travel, travel checklist, TripAdvisor, hotel bookings, cabaret, Moulin Rouge, Louvre, Notre-Dame.
Number one city in the world that has become the embodiment of romantic spirit, love, couples, champagne, wine and coffee, Paris attracts people from everywhere who are so keen to try French culture and join in their joie de vivre. The city is so beautiful and has so much to offer for any taste so once you visit it for the first time, you realise immediately that it is impossible to do everything around the city in one lifetime! What a discovery! So if you are planning to go for a summer getaway to Paris and you are buried under travel guides, you have been to every travel agency in your city and have read all the TripAdvisor reviews as well as travel blogs, we advise you to relax and take one step at a time. You go to Paris not only to do the famous sightseeing but also to get immersed in a different cultural atmosphere, to refresh yourself and enjoy hot summer days on the banks of the river Seine. You can also enjoy all the advantages of learning a foreign language and pick up a few phrases in French. Pourquoi pas? A secret tip is to get a very special city guide — Paris in Stride: An Insider’s Walking Guide — that will help you find off-beat routs and secret treasures. However, you can’t leave Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, right? Still tell yourself that it is not your last time in this divine capital and concentrate on attending the top 10 sights that you must see in Paris! For the rest of the time, you should do the things that cheer you up and which you will not be able to do back at home: best Tripadvisor bars, best Time Out restaurants. Buy a red beret and make lots of photos on lovely Parisian streets!
1. The Eiffel Tower
The all-time symbol of France and its capital, the Eiffel Tower is the number one tourist attraction in the country. Always the headline on the list of the top things to do in Paris and adored by the locals, it was not that much in favour in the past. Constructed by the talented French engineer Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris, this 320 -metre-tall structure was criticised for its design by leading French artists and intellectuals of that time. Dubbed as an ugly and overblown piece of metalwork, it was feared to humiliate and overshadow such eternal monuments as the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Louvre and the Arc de Triomphe. There was even the Committee of Three Hundred organised by some influential members of the establishment who were calling to deconstruct the “metal asparagus” and to save “the untouched beauty of Paris”. We are lucky today that this decision was not made at that time!
The day the tower was open to the public, more than 2 million Parisians visited it. As the local population grew to accept the fact of the existence of the tower, there were still a few people left who were not happy about its appearance. This includes the famous French writer Guy de Maupassant who ate his lunch at the Eiffel Tower ground floor restaurant every day since it was “the only place where he could avoid seeing the offensive thing”.
Today the Eiffel tower grew to be the iconic place of tourist pilgrimage. There are a number of things that you can do around this famous Parisian landmark:
- Climb the stairs to the second floor and enjoy the views of elegant iron structures on the way up
- Take a guided tour to learn the history of the Eiffel tower
- Study the collection of historic photos, drawings and engravings of the Eiffel Tower evolution on its first floor
- Do not miss the panoramic view from the second floor and make sure you take your best travel camera to take awesome photos with Paris at your feet!
- Enjoy the sparkling illuminations of the tower at night
- For a chic holiday, you can get a glass of champagne on the very top of the Eiffel Tower in the bar which is open until 10 pm. You can select between white or rose champagne and it can be served to you as chilled as you like. It will cost you between €12 and €21.
- If you want a gourmet experience, you can get to the first-floor restaurant and order lunch or dinner served high in the sky. The meals start at €39 euros and there is a children’s menu available at 15 euros.
Enjoy the view of the Eiffel tower when having a French picnic with cheese, wine and baguette on the big green lawn next to the tower. Some of the best food shops in Paris are located in the rue Cler next to the Eiffel tower – so you can bring your purchase to the lawns of le Champs de Mars and enjoy the most Parisian evening ever.
2. The Louvre Museum
Louvre is the most famous museum in the world and has the most famous painting of all times – Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. It is a massive complex where you have to pay 17€ for a single entrance ticket if you are over 26 (for students it is free) so we advise to have at least 5 hours to dedicate to wandering around the museum. Getting a catalog of the best Louvre paintings is not a silly idea at all: you will understand what kind of treasures you can find there and prepare your own “tour” around this vast museum. You’ll also get to discover that Louvre is not only about Mona Lisa or Nike of Samothrace, but safeguards many other treasures like medieval art or pieces by Raphael and Carravagio. It is easy to lose a lot of time in the Louvre without getting to see the most famous items so we advise you to do the following:
- Choose the right entrance:
most people who entered Louvre as the last minute travel decision, tend to enter near the glass pyramid entrance. Do not do it! It is great for taking pictures when you are touching with your finger the pinnacle of the glass tower but otherwise it is so crowded and the queues are endless! Instead, aim for the entrance of Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre metro station (line 1). Another option is the entrance at 99 Rivoli Street which is by the Carrousel du Louvre.
- Buy your ticket beforehand:
it is better to purchase the entrance ticket in advance to avoid on average 45-minute standing in the queues inside the lobby. You can get it online for any day you want by just picking the time slot and the date. Students can show their student IDs and can enter for free.
- Check the closing times:
it is important to know until what time and on which day you can stay inside the building. For example, the Louvre Museum is open every day apart from Tuesdays. It opens at 9 am and closes at 6 pm but on Wednesdays and on Fridays you can stay until 9.45 pm. Admission is free for all visitors on the first Saturday of each month from 6 p.m. to 9:45 p.m. and on Bastille Day (14 July).
- Know where your favourite masterpieces are located:
there are so many masterpieces in this museum so it is not realistic to see all of them if you are not planning on spending a whole week inside! We recommend to see at least the most celebrated ones: Mona Lisa, the painting by Delacroix “Liberty Leading the People”, David’s “Coronation of Napoleon” and the famous sculpture “Aphrodite of Milos” (“La Vénus de Milo”).
3. Musée d’Orsay
If you are a loyal art fan, then you should definitely visit this museum. It is located in a very beautiful Beaux-Arts building which used to be the railway station Gare d’Orsay. The concept of the Museum is to bridge the gap between the classic treasures of the Louvre and the contemporary exhibitions held in the Centre George Pompidou. Here you can find one of the biggest collections of Impressionist paintings in the world including the works of Boudin, Cezanne, Degas, Gauguin, van Gogh, Klimt, Manet, Millet, Monet, Renoir and many others. The entrance fee for adults is €19.40 and it gives access to permanent collections as well as temporary exhibitions.
4. Jardin du Luxembourg
Luxembourg Gardens are located next to Saint-Germain-des-Pres and cover unprecedented 25 hectares of land right in the centre of Paris! They were created upon the initiative of the Queen Marie de Medici at the beginning of the 17th century and are split into French and English Gardens. In the centre, there is a geometric forest and a large pond. The gardens have 106 statues spread throughout the park as well as a beautiful collection of orchids and a rose garden. You can only imagine what amazing photos you can take there!
5. Centre Pompidou
The main hub of contemporary art and culture in Paris, the Centre of Georges Pompidou displays its appreciation for modernity even with its outer appearance. Designed in the style of high-tech architecture by such world famous architects as Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, the building houses a vast public library, the largest museum of contemporary art in Europe as well as IRCAM – a centre for music and acoustic research. There is a lot of stuff to do and to see over there! The centre is located in the Beaubourg area of the 4th arrondissement of Paris and is referred to as “Beaubourg” by the locals.
The works of the following artists can be found here: Matisse, Braque, Picasso, Delaunay, Leger, Kandinsky, Giacometti and many others. The entrance cost is €14 and is free for people under 26.
6. Cemetery Père Lachaise
The most famous cemetery in Paris where a lot of celebrities from the past rest in peace: Balzac, Chopin, Guillaume Apollinaire, de La Fontaine, Yves Montand, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, Pissarro, Oscar Wilde are just a few of them. You can take a map at the entrance and navigate yourself to find the famous graves. The most visited necropolis in Paris is located in the 20th arrondissement of Paris and extends 44 hectares.
7. Cruise Tour on the Seine
You cannot imagine being in Paris without taking a Boat Tour along the Seine. It is a very romantic way to observe Paris which lets you see the highlights of the city including Notre-Dame, the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the Musée d’Orsay. There are a few tour providers to select from but most of the cruises last for about an hour. You can choose between the two options: the sightseeing tour or the dining tour. We advise you to purchase your tickets in advance in order to save money: normally the tickets are valid for 3 months giving you the flexibility to choose the time and date for your Seine cruise. The most popular and the oldest cruise providers are the Bateaux Mouches which have become the symbol of Paris right after the WW2.
8. Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Montmartre
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart stands on the highest point of Paris – the hill of Montmartre. It looks as though it was built not long after the Cathedral Notre-Dame but in reality, it is rather a recent building which was completed in 1919. It was designed by the French architect Abadie who never got to see the final version due to the outbreak of the first world war which prolonged the construction period. Sacré-Coeur is above all a religious building with its perpetual adoration of the Holy Eucharist and at the same time a political and cultural monument. It was built to inspire the Parisians after the severe defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War. In the Basilica, there is one of the biggest swinging bells in the world, the Bell Savoyard, weighing19 tons. It is possible to climb to the top of the Basilica and get the second best view over Paris only beaten by the top view from the Eiffel tower.
9. Paris Catacombs
Known as the Catacombs of Paris, this place is a symbol of the darker past of the great city of Paris. It is a cemetery and it is estimated that the bones of roughly 6 million people are stored there. This is exactly the place that will let you come back home with the most unusual travel impressions ever! In fact, the Catacombs are a part of a large underground tunnel network built to unite the ancient stone mines of Paris. Due to the overflowing of the city’s cemeteries, it was decided to use a small part of the underground system as the ossuary to bury the deceased. Beginning from 1786, processions with covered wagons started to transfer the remains from Paris cemeteries to a mine shaft near the Rue de la Tombe Issoire. Today the Catacombs are the main attraction for the urban explorers called the cataphiles and a place of interest for many visitors. The tickets are a bit pricy: €29 with an audio guide for an adult, for children (4-17 years old) the ticket is €5.
10. Cathedral Notre-Dame
It is one of the most celebrated Parisian landmarks which encourages people from all over the world to sort out their travel insurance and passport, manage hotel bookings and prepare all the travel accessories and bags on the way to Paris! The construction of this iconic Cathedral started as early as 1160 under Bishop de Sully and was mostly completed by 1260. Let’s get the numbers right here: it took roughly 100 years to build this church! No wonder that it is considered as the finest example of the French Gothic architecture. Certain innovative principles were implemented during the construction process including the rib vault and flying buttresses as well as the colourful rose windows.
Not long ago the Cathedral was open to everyone for free. The situation changed drastically on 15 April 2019 when a fire broke out beneath the roof of the Notre-Dame Cathedral causing the building’s historical spire to collapse. Luckily for future generations of visitors, the interior of the church was not that severely damaged thanks to the stone vaulted ceiling and to the removal of historic religious relics due to the ongoing renovation works. Therefore, at the moment you can only take pictures with the Cathedral at the background because for the next 5 years it will be closed for major reconstruction.