Ahh, Paris – it needs no introduction. Time and time again, this patisserie-filled city pulls in travellers looking to get a taste of its timeless style, charming café culture and je ne sais quoi.
From the Eiffel Tower’s iron elegance to the Beaux-Arts grandeur of the Musée d’Orsay, the tourist attractions of Paris are so incredibly iconic, they feel familiar even if you haven’t seen them for yourself. But of course, you should see them for yourself. Every last one.
The list of landmarks is long, so we’ve picked out just a few of the can’t-miss things to do in Paris:
Art fans, you’re in for a treat. Not only is this first-class museum home to two of the world’s most famous pieces of art – bonjour, Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo – but the place itself is an absolute masterpiece.
Built in the 12th century as a castle for King Phillip II, this pretty-as-they-come palace is where around 35,000 pieces of art call home.
The Louvre is huge and almost always bustling, so if you want to make the most of its spoils, go to a quieter, late-night opening on a Wednesday or Friday. It’s free every first Saturday of the month too.
2. Eiffel Tower
It doesn’t get much more Paris than this sky-high stunner, that’s for sure. But don’t line up with loads of tourists! Swerve the queues with a fast-track ticket to the tower’s soaring second level.
At 116 metres above ground, the views from this part of the Eiffel Tower are pretty epic. And from here, you can peer over rooftops galore and gaze at the gilded dome of Les Invalides.
But if you’d prefer to keep your feet firmly on the ground, enjoy things from a different angle as you sprawl out on the lawns of the Champs de Mars below, baguette and vin in hand.
3. Arc de Triomphe
Below the arc, a flame is lit daily on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, while on top of the arc, there’s a panoramic viewing deck if you fancy walking up the 234 steps. If you’re facing the Champs-Élysées, look left to see the Sacré-Cœur sitting in the distance or right to admire the Eiffel Tower in all its glory.
4. Musée d’Orsay
You can’t miss this must-see museum thanks to its 19th-century Beaux-Arts façade overlooking the Left Bank of the Seine. Once a working railway station, this popular Parisian gallery now shows off the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works in the world.
The focus is mainly local names and highlights include The Little Dancer by French supremo Degas, Manet’s Luncheon on the Grass and Renoir’s Bal du Moulin de la Galette. You’ll also get a glimpse of works by Klimt, Munch and Van Gogh. No wonder it’s one of the top Paris attractions.
If you like the weird and the wonderful when it comes to sightseeing, then this underground tomb is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Paris.
It’s hard to believe but millions of people are buried beneath the city’s streets. Apparently, the cemeteries became so full by the 18th century that the only space left to bury bodies was in this 200-mile labyrinth of old mines (though only a 1.5km circuit can be explored today).
As you climb down into the caves and clock the walls made of skulls and bones (yes, really), you’ll soon realise what an eerily unique experience this is. But be warned: this place isn’t for the faint-hearted!
6. Jardin du Luxembourg
Wondering what to do in Paris when it’s oh-so sunny and you don’t want to be inside museums all day? Then say oui to the lovely Jardin du Luxembourg and spend a leisurely afternoon feeling all French as you picnic in its grounds.
It’s everything you’d expect of a stately home’s gardens. We’re talking manicured lawns, flourishing flower beds, elaborate fountains, tree-lined walkways – the works. There are plenty of spots for a romantic stroll and even some garden games to play. You can also pop into Luxembourg Palace for a peep around its Renaissance interior while you’re there too.
Sitting pretty on top of the highest hill in Paris, this bright white “sacred heart” basilica is a showstopper alright. The church’s Roman-Byzantine interior is simply stunning, but the views from up here are something else – and even better at night as the Eiffel Tower twinkles on the skyline.
There are often street entertainers around the steps, so it’s a nice place to just sit for a while, especially if you walked up the 300 plus steps to get here. Nip behind the church to discover the olde worlde cobbles of Montmartre too.
Housed inside the Palais de la Cité – where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned in the 1700s – this royal chapel is just around the corner from Notre-Dame on the Île de la Cité.
It’s not enough to admire its extraordinary exterior – you simply have to go inside to see the kaleidoscopic beauty of its interior, where more than 1,000 stained glass panes decorate the windows.
Created by King Louis IX to store his holy relics, it’s one of Paris’ most-loved landmarks and a place to catch an enchanting classical concert.
9.Pont Alexandre III
As far as bridges go, this one’s as pretty as it gets. Taking centre stage on the city’s grandest boulevard of all – the Seine – the bridge was built back in 1900 for the World Exhibition as Paris’ show-off piece. And show off it does.
Walk along this elaborate crossing and there’s opulence everywhere you look, from the towering candelabras and bronze horses to the cheeky cherubs and nymphs. One side leads to the gilded dome of Napoleon’s resting place, Les Invalides, while the other takes you to the gorgeous glass-roofed Grand Palais. Our top tip? Go at night to appreciate lantern-lit splendour of it all.
Picture yourself in Paris experiencing all this for yourself? Check out our hassle-free city breaks to the City of Love.
Posted: 29th Dec 2018. Updated: 11th Oct 2023.