It is absolutely no secret that I adore Paris. It’s romantic, historic, beautiful, and has so much to offer. I first visited Paris about 8 years ago when I came over to visit my then boyfriend because he lived just about an hour away. In fact, it’s the same city we lived in again last year!
Since my first visit, I have been back a few times. I often get asked what to see, where to go and what to do. So I thought I would do a mini series with what to see and do when you visit Paris.
Oh gosh, just looking at that picture gets me all gushy inside. Paris will always have such a special place in my heart.
I thought I would start with the top things to see. Now, first let me start by saying this is definitely a personal decision depending on what interests you. For example, if you like history you might lean toward the Conciergerie or Place de Concord (where the beheading took place during the revolution including Marie Antoinette). If you like art you might want to hit up the Louvre or Musée d’Orsay. If you’re a foodie, then this post just isn’t for you. I usually grab a baguette and cheese or stop at the best looking sidewalk cafe in the area. But hopefully these will give you an idea on what there is to see and in future posts how to get there and more info. Now, let’s visit Paris!
Because it embodies Paris. Because it’s such a stylish icon. Because it’s huge and magnificent and lives up to its fame. I don’t think you should go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower. Unless, of course, you’ve already seen it. It’s over 100 years old and absolutely incredible. If this will be your only time visiting, I would suggest paying the fee, waiting in line, and heading up to the top. If you’re ambitious (or cheap) you can pay less and climb the stairs. Worth it!
If you’re an artsy person or a history lover, The Louvre is great. It’s also very fun, in my opinion, to stand where movies were filmed or history actually took place. Part of The Louvre used to be the Tuileries where kings and queens used to live, before Versailles. It houses the Mona Lisa, which isn’t the most spectacular piece of art I’ve ever seen, but I’m glad I can say that I have. It would take you months to visit it all, so I suggest picking a wing or section that’s most interesting to you. Oh, and from the room that houses old royal jewels you can see Notre Dame!
Probably one of the most famous cathedrals in Paris, maybe even in the world for that matter. It is not the most beautiful cathedral I’ve ever seen but because of its location, the architecture, and the fame to go with it, it’s a must-see. My favorite part is that on the inside they have a wooden replica that depicts how Notre Dame was built. It is over 500 years old, so it’s definitely amazing what they accomplished at that time. It’s free to get in and they still hold mass right in the middle of all the tourists!
Of all the times I had been to Paris I had never made it to Sacre Coeur until this last Paris trip in October. I am so glad I made it. The view is worth the trip in and of itself. On a clear day — which we had — you can look out and see all of Paris. We didn’t even make it inside and I still would say this was worth the trip. Side note – if you have purchased a subway ticket for your stay, you can use that ticket to take the trolley up to the top!
Hands down my absolute favorite popular attraction in Paris. And the first time I managed to go was this last October trip. I would highly recommend reading the Phantom of the Opera before visiting. It definitely adds to the allure and mystery. I don’t know whether or not the Phantom was a true story, but if it was he most certainly could have lived in this Opera House. It’s huge with so many levels and staircases and corners to hide. I visited his box as well, totally spooky if you ask me! Note — I probably shouldn’t write this, but there’s not a ton of security. You can definitely snoop around. It’s magnificent.
Phantom aside, the architecture, intricate details, layout, and utter opulence of the Opera Garnier make it a must visit. Not to mention it’s also over 100 years old and plenty big names have walked those halls. Definitely put this up high on your must-see list.
If you want to know where the rich live in Paris, visit the Champs-Élysées. To my knowledge, it’s the wealthiest street in France and if not the wealthiest, it’s up there. It’s home to stores like Louis Vuitton and Cartier. Don’t worry though, there’s something for everyone, including a McDonald’s! Definitely the nicest McDonald’s I’ve ever seen, that’s for sure. It’s really a beautiful tree-lined street, as you can see, with lots of beautiful lights. It’s very upscale but with the touch of culture and history that is France. It’s also so beautiful in the rain.
Arc de Triomphe
Located at one end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc of Triomphe was built for Napoleon in honor of his victories. It’s a beautiful monument and definitely worth a visit. It’s in the middle of what is probably the biggest roundabout in Paris. We drove to Paris last year to meet friends for dinner and came to the roundabout. Our GPS said “enter the roundabout – 8th exit.” Yep, it’s that huge! You can go under the roundabout up to the Arc and actually go up the Arc as well. I’ve never gone up, but I’m sure it’s a great view of the Champs-Élysées.
Shakespeare and Company
I am a sucker for Shakespeare and Company. My mom actually slept here when she was back-packing through Europe when she was just outside of high school. She signed a book and everything and 30 years later was able to go back and read her entry! This store is literally ceiling to floor covered in books. The workers are bilingual, usually British. This is where I get most of the books I read. It’s right across the river from Notre Dame and is definitely worth a visit.
This is a new spot for me! While in Paris last October I met up with a friend who lives there (and could probably do a lot better with this post!). She suggested we meet at Angelina’s. Well, I’m always game for something new and finding a new gem and that’s exactly what this was. It’s basically a salon de thé — tea house — and they are known for their mont blanc (a pastry) and their chocolat chaud (hot chocolate). I had the hot chocolate and let me tell you… chocolate lovers of the world, go to Paris for this reason and this reason alone. It’s basically liquid chocolate with cream. I shared a version here but with some coffee added. mmmmmm…
The only reason this is last on the list is because it’s not actually in Paris. It’s about 20 – 30 minutes outside by train. It’s very easy to get to though. Versailles is most famous for being the home of Marie Antoinette. The tour is incredible. I’m a huge history nerd, so I absolutely love it here. I try to go every time I’m in Paris and I’m never disappointed. The gardens are beautiful, the inside is beyond incredible and it’s really just mind blowing. It also takes you back to the times when it was used. These types of things always amaze me! It’s worth the tour. I haven’t been to Marie Antoinette’s gardens yet, but I plan on doing that next time around.
PHEW!! There you have it! These are the top things I would say to visit in Paris. What do you think? What would you add to the list? I’m sure there’s a few more suggestions out there! Leave it in the comments! And if you know of any friends or family members taking a trip to Paris soon, be sure to share this post with them!!
Next week I’ll be back to share how to get around in Paris. Different options you have, costs, metro stops, etc. Hopefully it will be super helpful and practical information.
Have a great day!
Check out more posts about visiting Paris!
- Part two: Getting Around Paris
- Part three: Let’s take a walk through Paris
- Part Four: Where to stay in Paris