Are you looking to take a vacation to Paris, France?
Wondering what to do in Paris?
This Paris travel guide here is meant to help you plan your vacation every step of the way.
From deciding which Paris attractions you want to see, to money saving tips for finding the right hotel and flight for your budget, it’s all here!
I’m going to start with the fun stuff – Things to see in Paris!
The 31 Very Best Things To Do In Paris
Paris is one of the busiest tourist cities in the world, and naturally has many many fun things to do. In fact, hundreds!
You obviously won’t have time to do everything, and quite frankly, not everything will appeal to you.
I’ve narrowed it down to the top 10 things to do/see in Paris, as well as the top 21 free things to do in Paris.
Top 10 Things To Do In Paris
Here are the most popular places to visit in Paris (in my humble opinion). Many of them are free to look at, but if you want to make your experience more unique, you can pay to see the tourist attraction in more detail.
1. Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
The most popular monument in all of France is easily the best thing to see in Paris. Built by Engineer Gustave Eiffel in 1889, it has 1710 steps and was the tallest building in the world when constructed. Today, it is one of the most recognizable structures in the world. Free to see, but if you want to go up (I recommend going all the way to the top for breathtaking views of Paris), it will cost money. The Eiffel Tower sparkles at night, so make sure to see it in the evening.
2. The Catacombs Of Paris
A place of burial for Parisians during the 1700’s is now one of Paris’s most visited tourist destinations. The catacombs are underground and houses about six million human remains. It’s a bit spooky, but highly educational and interesting. Visiting the catacombs is one of the most unique experiences Paris offers. I highly recommend it.
3. The Louvre Museum (Musee du Louvre)
One of the worlds best museums (possibly the best?), the Louvre is massive (over 60 000 sq. meters) and intricate. You could spend a full day in here strolling through the many hallways. The Louvre features roughly 35 000 pieces of artwork from around the world, and is the home for the most famous painting in the world, the Mona Lisa. The Louvre is a no brainer, even if you aren’t into art or history. Easily a must see attraction.
4. Palace Of Versailles
Perhaps even more impressive than the Louvre museum is the Palace of Versailles. This palace was used as a hunting lodge and residence for the Kings and Queens before it was turned into the magnificent museum and tourist attraction it is today. The Gardens at the Palace of Versailles is (almost) equally stunning, and I recommend you pay to check that out, too. The Palace of Versailles isn’t located in Paris, so you’ll need to make arrangements to get there (about 45 mins outside the city).
5. The Pantheon In Paris
You might know the more famous Pantheon in Rome, but did you know Paris has one too? Built during the 1700’s, it’s old, historic, and very popular site to see. Initially built to be a church, it is now a tourist monument. Many famous French people are buried in the Pantheon’s Crypt, so it’s a “can’t miss” while you’re visiting the Pantheon.
6. The Notre Dame Cathedral
This impressive gothic style church is free to see from the outside. I highly recommend walking around the building to get a 360 degree view. The back is just as stunning as the front. The Notre Dame Cathedral is super old (construction started in 1100’s) and still operates as a live church today. It’s one of the busiest attractions in Paris (as you can tell from the line of people waiting to get in), but it’s worth the wait.
7. Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous monuments in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. You don’t really get a sense of how large the arc is until you’re standing right below it. On that note, I recommend paying to see Paris from the top of the Arc. The Arc is the centre of Paris, and your 360 degree view of Paris is something you’ll probably never forget.
8. Seine River Boats
You can see many of Paris’s most famous monuments and buildings by cruising the river that flows through Paris (Seine river). You will also pass many elegant Parisian bridges during your cruise. Cruising is a relaxed way to take in Paris’s best attractions, and the photo opportunities you’ll get will be amazing.
9. Les Invalides
L’Hotel national des Invalides
If you are a history buff, specifically military history, then Les Invalides is a must see attraction. It’s a collection of museums and monuments which focuses on the military history of France. It is also a burial site for French War veterans, and Napoleon Bonaparte rests here.
10. La Cite des Sciences
Simple put, La Cite des Sciences is the largest science museum in all of Europe. Built in 1986, it’s very modern and fresh. There are many attractions for all ages, and people too. It’s a massive collection of the history of science. Perfect for science geeks and for those who want to learn new things.
The 22 Best Free Things To Do In Paris
1. Avenue Des Champs Elysees
View of the Champs Elysees from the top of the Arc de Triomphe by Josh Hallett
One of the most famous streets in the world, the Avenue des Champs-Elysees features luxury shops, cafes, theatres, and breathtaking shopping options. Per sq. foot, it’s one of the most expensive retail spaces in the world. This picture is taken from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. If you don’t walk down the Champs-Elysées, you’re really missing out on one of the best streets in the world.
2. Pont Neuf
Probably the most famous bridge in Paris, Pont Neuf stands across the Seine river. Free to walk across!
3. Basilique du Sacre-Coeur
Virtually every movie that is featured in Paris has a shot of Sacre-Coeur – and for good reason. It’s just a stunning monument in every way. This church stands tall on top of a hill, and looking towards the city will give you yet another spectacular view of Paris. I highly recommend it. Grab some cheese and cheap champaign (will cost you a few euros) and picnic on the hill.
4. Place de la Concorde
A vey popular public square in the heart of Paris, this is where King Louis XVI was guillotined during the French Revolution. It’s hard to miss this square as you wander around Paris. You can find the exact spot where the King was beheaded, see the many fountains this square has, and people watch (it’s a very busy place).
5. Cimitiere du Montparnasse
This Parisian cemetery is worth a stroll if you have seen most of Paris’s main sights. It’s the burial place for many Parisian intellectuals.
6. Parc Monceau
A very historic french park, you can find status of famous French people like Chopin here. This park is also a great place to take photos and relax.
7. Arenes de Lutece
This is an amphitheatre that remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris. It’s very large (used to seat 15 000 people) and was used for gladiatorial combats.
8. Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen
If you like to shop in a market type setting, then this flea market is a must do while you’re in Paris. You can find used goods, produce, unique items, and souvenirs here.
9. Marche d’Aligre
Various tomatoes at Place d’Aligres. Photo by Popolon.
If you are in Paris and want to prepare your own food, pay a visit to Marche d’Aligre. You can get fruits, vegetables, and other foods. A “French” alternative to a supermarket. It also has a flea market to buy second hand books and other similar items.
10. Musee Carnavalet
This museum is dedicated to the history of Paris. It’s quite impressive, exhibiting 2600 paintings, 2000 sculptures, 800 pieces of furniture, and over 150000 photographs.
11. The Latin Quarter
Is more famous for it’s student life, because the University is there. Many higher education establishments exist here, and it’s a nice stroll around type of area.
12. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
A very green and well maintained park to take the perfect stroll around. The most famous monument here is the Temple Sybille.
Montmartre is the perfect place to wander around the narrow streets and get lost. This area is a hill in the northern part of Paris and the most recognizable monument is easily the Sacre Coeur. You could spend at couple days in just this neighbourhood.
14. Jardin des Plantes
If you like gardens, then you need to visit garden des Plantes. It’s the main botanical gardens of Paris. Established in 1635, it’s old historic.
15. Place des Vosges
Built in the early 1600’s, it is the oldest planned square in Paris. I highly recommend a visit if you have time. The square is very large and the architecture is amazing.
16. La Villette
A modern park, and 3rd largest in Paris, built between 1984-1987. You will find museums, concert halls, theatres, playgrounds for children, and 35 architectural follies here.
17. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville
The museum of modern art is one of Paris’s finest museums, featuring worldwide art from the modern era. Established in 1960, the museums exhibits more than 8000 pieces of artwork.
18. La Madeleine
This church was designed to be a temple to honour the Naploean’s army. You probably won’t spend a lot of time here, other than to revel in the architectural structure.
19. Eglise St-Severin
A Roman Catholic church in the Latin Quarter of Paris, it is one of the oldest churches in the Left Bank and is a place of worship.
20. Jardin du Luxembourg
The Luxembourg Garden was created in the early 1600’s and covers 23 hectares. It’s famously known for its lawns, flowerbeds, model sailboats, trepanned promenades, and the Medici Fountain. You could spend at least a few hours here walking around and taking in the sights.
21. Eglise St-Etienne-du-Mont
Located near the Pantheon, this church contains the shrine of St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. It’s probably not the first church you’ll want to visit in Paris, but if you have time, go for it.
22. Cimetiere Pere Lachaise
The largest cemetery in Paris. It’s the first garden cemetery and well as the first municipal cemetery of paris.
Paris Itinerary Ideas: Planning Your Time In Paris
How do you plan your days to maximize your precious time in the city of Love?
You’ll want to set your day according to how much time you have in Paris. If you’ve got just a day or two, then you probably have enough time to see the main Parisian points of interests.
Along with that, you need to decide what things you want to see the most (and what to leave out). By reading the list of things to do in Paris above, hopefully you’ve gotten a good idea of what you’d like to do.
For first timers in Paris, the Eiffel Tower, Louvre Museum, Champs Elysees, and Arc du Triomphe are must see’s, and can be done in just one day (they are all within walking distance of each other).
If you’ve got a few more days, then your options are WIDE open!
Here are some amazing sample Paris trip planning itineraries from around the internet. Use them to help you plan your trip to Paris.
1-day Paris Itinerary:
visitacity.com has many types of itineraries for your visit to Paris, whether you’re looking to just see the main sites, have an easy going day, or want to spend your time in museums.
There are ALWAYS things going on in Paris outside the hustle and bustle of major tourist attractions. Incorporating them into your Paris vacation can be a lot of fun if the right things are going on during your stay.
Paris is high on night life activities. You will always have something to with your evenings, no matter what your tastes are. Drinks, dancing, lounging, and looking for love after a day of monuments and museums is my kind of way to wind down… or up?
If you are a foodie, then Paris loves you, too! The French really really really know a thing or two about satisfying your appetite.
Some familiar French dishes include escargots, quiche, French onion soup (they just call it “onion soup” in France), Steak frites, crepes, and macarons.
If it’s a sunny day, I highly recommend buying a baguette, cheese, and champaign/wine from a local grocery store. Head out to one of the many gorgeous parks in Paris and picnic under the warm sun. You can get all your picnic items for under 10 euros! It’s a super inexpensive way to enjoy an afternoon lunch while you people watch and practice your french with your friends.
To learn more about French food and get restaurant recommendations, see below:
Disneyland Paris is a complete tourist attraction all by itself. In fact, it is the MOST visited tourist attraction in all of Europe.
It’s massive, and attracts all kinds of people year round from around the globe. You’ll find two theme parks, many report hotels, shopping, dining, entertainment, a golf course, and many recreational facilities over 4 800 acres of space.
If you’re thinking about heading to Disneyland as part of your French experience, you’ll probably want to read some Disneyland Paris travel tips.
As amazing as Paris is, France has even more to offer. Notably, just a 45 minute commute outside of Paris lies the Palace of Versailles – a must-see one of a kind Royalty palace. You will not want to miss it. But beyond that, small chic towns, gardens, castles, and significant structures are all within an hour or two bus/train ride away from the centre of Paris.
To get an idea of what day trips are available from Paris, check out below:
The Paris Weekender pretty much has all the ideas you need for a day trip away from Paris. Here, you’ll get ideas of what’s around Paris, how to get there, and itinerary ideas.
Accommodations In Paris: A Guide To Hotels, Hostels, and Apartments
Paris is a big city with a ton of accommodation options. It’s preferable to stay in an area close to the main attractions or an area where you will be spending the majority of your time.
Otherwise, stay in an area/location that is very close to the metro or any other useful form of transportation. You can sometimes find a great deal on hotels just outside the city, but very close to the train station. It’s a little inconvenient, but not to your wallet!
What you pay for your hotel is obviously important. One of the best places to check hotel prices online is www.booking.com. It’s a price aggregator for hotels (meaning, it searches for hotels across many hotel networks and finds you the best prices). Once you get your hotel prices, visit the hotel’s website directly to check if going direct is cheaper.
For hostels, especially if you are backpacking or on a budget, hostel world is your friend. You will find cheap accommodations from 20 euros to 50 euros a night.
Apartment rentals is a wise choice if you plan to spend at least a few days in Paris and have a larger group of people, like a family! One of the best resources for finding cheap apartments in Paris is Airbnb. They also have an app you can download and search for apartments on the fly.
Whether you choose an apartment, hotel or hostel, you’ll be wise to check Trip Advisor to read real reviews of your accommodation. People who’ve visited there will leave their opinion about it. I always use Trip Advisor and I highly recommend you do too!
Where Is The Best Place To Stay In Paris?
Paris is divided up into 20 Arrondissements (districts). Each district has its own unique flavour and tourist attractions. You will want to choose the district that suits who you are, if it make financial sense.
A map of the arrondissements is below:
Map of Paris, organized by arrondissement. 1 is the very centre of Paris.
Paris starts with Arrondissement 1 (the centre/heart of Paris), and swings out. This doesn’t necessarily mean Arrondissement 20 (the furthest out of the centre) is the worst one.
Again, each district has it’s own flavour and will be better suited for various demographics. For example, arrondissements 5 & 6 (also called the Latin Quarter) is popular among students, because the University resides there. The 6th Arrondissement (St. Germain-des-res) is popular among shoppers, because the most spectacular shops are here.
To get an idea of the flavour of each arrondissement, you definitely want to check out the following resources:
Choosing the best location (arrondissement & distance from transportation/attractions) are probably the two most important things to consider. But, you’ll also want to keep other things in mind when booking your hotel.
As I recommended earlier, check Trip Advisor for positive and negative reviews of your hotel/hostel/bed and breakfast/apartment. If they are mostly positive, then green lights! Paris has so many bedding options, you can just pass on any accommodation you find bad reviews on (with the exception of high season, where you may need to “settle” for a room).
With that said though, here are some good reminders of what to look for when booking a hotel in Paris:
What’s the cheapest way to get to Paris? How about getting around Paris when you’re already there?
These are very important questions you’ll want to handle before your trip to Paris.
Getting To Paris Money Saving Tips
If you are going to Paris from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely be taking an airplane. So you will naturally want to know the cheapest way to fly to Paris.
The key to finding cheap flights to Europe is to start your search early. In my opinion, 6 months is a good time frame. This doesn’t mean you need to book 6 months early (just begin searching).
I wrote an excellent guide for finding cheap flights to Europe here. I highly recommend you read it. You’ll find over a dozen ways to save hundreds of dollars per flight ticket to Paris.
But basically, you want to begin your Paris flight search early, be as flexible as you can on the days you travel to Paris, and keep updated on airline discounts and promotions. Again, read my cheap flights guide to get an in-depth look at how to do these things.
Already in Europe?
If you are already in Europe, you can also opt to fly to Paris. If you are on a budget, check Skyscanner. I find they have the cheapest flights for in-Europe flights.
However, train travel in Europe is the preferred method for most people. It’s simple and more comfortable. And sometimes faster than a plane, too!
You can simply visit a train station and buy a point to point ticket from your location to Paris. As long as they have room for you, you’re golden.
To plan your train trip, or buy a train ticket in advance, you’ll want to check train schedules. www.bahn.com is a German train website and it’s simply hands down the best resource for looking up train schedules in Europe. You can also visit your countries official train website (or the country your currently in) to find train schedules to Paris.
Getting Around Paris
One of the biggest luxuries of being in such a touristy city like Paris is your options of transportation. Yes, you deal with more traffic and people, but there will almost always be a way to get around at any time of day.
Maps of Paris
Map of Paris’s main tourist attractions, sorted by arrondissements
The first thing you must get your hands on are maps of Paris. I don’t know how else you’ll get around without them! I suppose you could practice your French with locals by asking questions, but still, keep a copy of a paris map with you. You’ll need it!
Use this guide to see where major attractions are in Paris (sortable by type of attraction. E.g. shopping, monuments, etc.). While this map isn’t printable, it’s a useful Paris trip planning tool.
Get free printable maps of Paris here. The maps are super cool.
Taking The Metro Around Paris
Map of the Metro Lines in Paris. The Metro is fairly easy to figure out.
The metro will likely be your preferred method of traveling around Paris when you want to cover larger distances. Why? Simply put, it’s fast and saves you time. It’s also fairly priced as well.
If you’re not used to taking the metro, it can be a bit scary. This guide from Paris By Train is probably the most complete guide on how to take the metro in Paris. Maps, ticket types, best practices, route planning, you name it, it’s covered.
Also, download the Paris Metro Map App on your Android or iPhone. You can use it to plan your commute before and during your time in Paris.
Walking Around In Paris
Paris is certainly a “walking city.” Many of the major tourist attractions are within walking distances. You can climb the Eiffel Tower, walk down Champs Elysees, and see the Notre Dame Cathedral, all by mid afternoon.
There are paid walking tours you can take, where a guide will lead you and navigate for you. They will give you history and tell you how lovely Paris is.
Of course, you can always do your own thing. This will require planning, and you likely won’t get as much history compared to someone local narrating it to you.
To get an idea of what kinds of things you can see and do while walking around Paris’s core areas, check out these useful resources:
Free Paris Walking Tours by Discover Walks. These walking tours are “free,” and you can pay your thanks with a tip of any amount.
Basically, you don’t want to take a taxi unless you absolutely have to. They are very expensive and traffic in Paris is very very bad (especially during high season). You can read this taxi guide by Paris Wise to learn best tips and practices of taxing around Paris.
Taking The Bus In Paris
The bus lines in Paris
Along with the Metro, the bus is the other best way to cover larger distances in Paris. The nice thing about busses is that you get to see the city, where as with the Metro, you are underground. In a city like Paris, where you’ll be passing old buildings and major tourist attractions, the bus becomes an even more attractive option.
Of course, the trade off is that busses usually take longer because they can’t go as fast (and have to contend with street traffic). But this isn’t always the case. While Paris’s Metro is excellent, the bus can often times make more sense and save you time (it will depend on where you want to go!)
The bus is a little less intimidating than the Metro. If you’ve taken busses in your hometown city before, you will be able to bus around Paris without a hitch. The only thing you need to learn is a few etiquette rules, and know which bus to take, and you’re good to go.
I’m a big fan of Hop on Hop Off bus tours. I feel it’s an excellent way to see major attractions at your own pace. The idea of getting off whenever you want and staying as long as you want at each location is very flexible.
Usually, you’ll get fairly good history of the city and points of interests with the free audio on the bus. The bus can be a useful way to get to other parts of the city as well, saving you money on extra transportation.
Like seeing Paris on a boat, the hop on hop off busses in Paris will give you an unlimited opportunity to take photos of this gorgeous city. Step off and roam around the little streets and corridors, or wander around the numerous Paris parks. It’s all up to you.
There are a few companies that offer bus tours of Paris. I’ve always used the Red Big Bus Tours in whichever city I’m in.
Paris Travel Tips And Frequently Asked Questions
Besides figuring out what you want to see in Paris, and sorting out accommodations and transportation, you likely have a bunch of other travel concerns on your mind.
Like, what’s the best time to visit Paris? What’s the weather like there? What to pack? Is Paris safe?
These are all great questions and I will help you answer as many of them as I can in this section.
Paris Travel Tips And Best Practices
You will find tips for travelling through Paris all over the web – from locals and tourists. They are always a fun read because it gives you perspective of what to expect while visiting Paris.
Paris is a popular city year round, regardless of season. Paris has the traditional 4 seasons of spring, summer, fall, and winter.
During winter, it can sometimes snow. During spring and fall, the climate is very mild and pleasant. Summertime can be warm to hot. Overall, Paris’s weather isn’t extreme which makes it a very pleasant place to visit year round.
It rains/snows roughly the same amount year round.
Overall, Paris’s weather is very stable year round which makes it (somewhat) easy to pack for.
To check what the weather will be like during your visit to Paris, check out The Weather Network.
What’s The Best Time To Visit Paris?
If you’re looking to avoid crowds, low season is the best time to visit Paris. Low season would be roughly from October to March. You can expect cheaper prices for souvenirs and (some) attractions, and definitely smaller lines – if any lines at all.
In my experience, spring and fall time give you the best of both worlds. Manageable crowds with warm & sunny weather.
During high season, (summer months), traffic is very high (people and vehicles). Prices for virtually everything will be at their highest, including your flights and hotels.
A Few More Useful Paris Travel Resources
Stay safe in Paris! Did you know, gypsies run rampant and try to con your money? Did you know that pick pocketing is a huge problem, especially in the metro? Keep yourself safe and guard you valuables with these excellent safety tips from Virtual Tourist.
How should you dress in Paris?
While Paris is a Fashion hub for the world, Parisians dress quite conservatively. You should too. Don’t wear anything that will draw attention to you. You’re labelling yourself “tourist” and become a target.