Paris has so many things to do that it makes it hard to choose what to do when you only have a few days to visit the whole city. From a student who has been living in Paris for the past seven months, I can say I have not seen half of the awesome things this city has to offer. There are the most visited monuments, the biggest museums, the smaller museums, the towers, the churches, the natural parks, the beautiful neighbourhoods and many many more. Each location is a unique spot of the city you would go for different reasons, with different people, and on different days/seasons.
When coming to Paris for a weekend (or even a week) you need to choose what sights are your priority, and how long you are willing to stay in line to see them. Today I will tell you a little bit about each location and my experiences with each one of them. I will also add a few spots that are on my Paris bucket list.
I will offer the top 10 tourist spots, but these are ones I think you should see if you don’t have much time in Paris, and not necessarily the most visited.
Top 10 tourist spots:
1- Tour Eiffel:
How to get there: Metro line 9/6 and get off at Trocadeiro or take RER C and get off at Champ de Mars Tour Eiffel or take metro line 6 and get off Bir-Hakeim.
First time: See it at night from trocadeiro metro station. Come back a second time during the day.
To go up: Buy your tickets online. Try to get your tickets for the sunset. (Best of both worlds – you get to see the city during the day and the night, as well as the beautiful sunset.)
If you have a Monday added to your schedule, use this day to go to the Louvre. Arrive before opening so you do not have to stay in line and you get to explore the museum without another million of tourists.
Once you arrive inside, go straight to the Mona Lisa. (Fun fact about the Mona Lisa: the name of this painting is actually “La Jaconde”. Mona Lisa is just a common popular name.) If you go there first, you will get to go closer and maybe snap a selfie with the painting without your fellow tourists. This location is the busiest inside the Louvre and it is what most people want to see once they are inside. If you go on a weekend day, you might have to stay in line for a long time, so arrive early not to waste your day in line.
It is impossible for you to see the whole museum in just one day, or even one week, if you really want to see everything and read all about each painting, sculpture, work of art. So if you can, check what is your favourite type of art and choose wisely. The museum is very big and it can be hard to go from wing to wing.
If you do not have a lot of time in the city, just walking around and through the building arches is amazing in itself. The pyramids outside are beautiful and the building is bigger than you can ever imagine. The building has different architectural styles; gothic, Renaissance, baroque, neo-classicism, neo-baroque, Napoleon III style, and modernism. It was built in the 12th century for Philip II, and has had many additions since then.
Also, don’t forget the Louvre is closed on Tuesday so do not leave it to the last day if Tuesday is your last day.
If you are a baby, child or student (<26), you get in for free!
3- Notre Dame:
How to get there: Take line 1 and get off at Hotel de ville or take RER B/C and get off at St Michel.
Student (<26): Free to go up to the towers
Visiting Notre Dame is amazing. It’s a beautiful cathedral located on an island on the Seine.
I have been there many times and each time is wonderful. There is not much else to say, you have to go and see it yourself! If you are catholic, you need to go to at least one mass there. All the masses I have been to were both in French and Latin, and it’s an amazing experience.
I have not yet gone up the towers yet but I have heard that it is a wonderful experience! I am definitely going, I’m just waiting for my parents to arrive so we can all go together.
4- Arc de triomphe
How to get there: take metro lines 1/2/6 or RER A and get off at Charles De Gaulle – Étoile.
If you are studying anywhere in Europe, bring your student visit or you permanent card and you will go up for free. If not, it’s only €9.50
The arc has a beautiful 360-degree view of the city. The Eiffel Tower is not far from it and you can see it perfectly to your right. You can see the Sacre Coeur a little far in the distance but it is still there, and all the streets that go up to it. It is such an insane intersection and it makes you wonder how well people need to drive.
If you have time I would go twice, once during the day and once at night. The experience is so different and so worth it! Once the Champs Élysées is lit up with all the cars’ lights, it is a memory you will never forget.
To get up you will climb 284 steps, but it is not as hard as you make think. For me going down is worse, but it depends on the person. If you cannot climb these steps (not for the reason that you are lazy) you can take an elevator to the top.
Once up there, read and look at the cool things at the museum. It is very small but cool to see.
5- Champs Élysées
Of course you have to visit this busy street. So many overpriced restaurants, stores and tourists everywhere, but you can’t miss it. I have been so many times I’ve lost count. Just walking along it is wonderful and if you have time, go inside a few stores. They are the original stores on steroids! They are beautifully designed and of course, you are around so many tourists so it’s an experience you will never get anywhere else.
Cross the street a few times so you will get the view of the Arc de triomphe at the end or the Place de la Concorde on the other end.
There is a wonderful macaron place there called Ladurée, and it is a must! A delicious macaron is the ultimate French experience!
6- Tuileries gardens
If you like to walk, a must is the walk from the Louvre to the Arc de triomphe or vice versa. In between the two, you will pass by Place de la Concorde and the beautiful Tuileries gardens.
There are many ponds with little fountains in them and it is nice to walk by nature, while in a big city. If you are tired there are many chairs that you can sit and relax for a bit and a few stops where you can buy water or food.
7- Sacre Coeur
How to get there: take metro line 12 and get off at Abbesses, or Metro 2 and get off at Anvers.
A little far from everything else is Sacre Coeur, in Montmartre. This location is a must, and not only is the basilica beautiful and very different from any other church you have ever seen, the view from up there is one of the best! The basilica is all white on the outside and just simply beautiful on the inside.
It is on a hill, so you will have to climb a bit to get up to the top, but there is a funicular you can take if necessary.
In Montmartre there are also many artists and if you want a beautiful painting of the city you should go there. They paint it for you on the spot, so you might have to wait a bit, but it will be fresh and unique.
The restaurants up there are very over priced, but it’s just like any other tourist spot. It is where people go and they don’t have many competitors. I would advise you to eat before climbing the mountain.
When you arrive (just like in any other part of the city) there will be people trying to sell you stuff, but at Sacre Coeur there are people trying to tie a string to your arm and then ask you for money. They claim these strings to make your wishes come true and that you cannot take it off until it falls off (that is when your wish will come true). So be alert and don’t let them grab your arm. If they ask, just say no, thank you.
8- Musée d’Orsay
How to get there: take RER C and get off at Musée d’Orsay.
This museum is located where an old train station used to be and you will see it still looks like it. Different from the Louvre, where the paintings were antiques until 1848, Musée d’Orsay has paintings and art from 1848-1914, in the style of Impressionism.
The funny thing about this museum is that the major attraction is not a painting, but the beautiful clock on the main room.
Students (under 26) also get in for free.
How to get there: take RER C and get off at Palace of Versailles. You need to buy a special metro ticket.
Versailles is not in the city so you will have to travel a bit to get there. It’s very easy to get there and beautiful once you’ve arrived. Take a day of your trip to go visit, you will not be disappointed.
The castle itself it beautiful but the gardens are twice as beautiful as the castle. The castle is closed on Mondays, but the gardens are still open.
There is a fountain show in the gardens and it is so worth to watch it.
10- Montparnasse tower
How to get there: take metro lines 6/12/4/13 and get off at Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
This tower is one the biggest buildings in Europe. It is just an office building however the top is a tourist stop. You take the elevator to the 56th floor, to this room where you can see the entire city with an interactive maps so you know what you are looking at. There are little games if you want to play. There is a restaurant up at Montparnasse where you have the view of the Eiffel Tower while dining. As well as a bar with finger foods and drinks if you want.
You need to climb the stairs to the top of the tower where you will have a 360 degrees view of the entire city. You can see everything and it is incredible to be able to do that. The view of the Eiffel Tower is the most beautiful I have ever seen and I could not believe how wonderful it was to be up there.
Definitely a place I would pay to go up again. The most amazing views of the city.
If you have more time, this is a short list of things you should visit. It would take too many blog posts to mention all the things to do in Paris!
Other great Parisian spots:
- Île St. Louis and île de la cité
- Bateau mouches
- Place de la Bastille
- Place de la republique
- Rue Rivoli
- Place de la Concorde
- Place de la Madeleine
- Grand palais
- Petit palais
- Pont Alexandre III
- Rue Mouffetard (close to where I live)
- Disneyland Paris
- Musée Rodin
- Palais due Tokyo
- Musée de L’Orangerie
- Hôtel des Invalides (Musée de l’Armée)
- Musée Picasso
- Musée Marmottan-Claude Monet
- Musée du Quai Branly
- Cité de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine
- Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Des Plantes
- Bois de Boulogne
- Jardins du Plais-Royal
Best hot chocolate spots:
- Jaques Genin
- Café de Flore
- Jean-Paul Hévin
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