Paris of course needs no introduction.
To write a comprehensive guide to the city would take a lifetime and I’m certainly not going to attempt to recommend a how to on a place so vast in things to do, but if it’s your first time there and you want to cover the basics, below is a starting list!
The Sacre Coeur
This beautiful church sits high above the city and is a fantastic place to hang around and people watch – do be careful of pickpockets though, like you should everywhere in Paris.
I also actually prefer this church much more to the overhyped Notre Dame which will have long lines and is less impressive on the interior in my opinion.
For some reason not everyone is aware that literally a minute’s walk from the Sacre Coeur is the cute little artists square of Montmartre.
Here artists live sketch or paint and it’s a seriously great atmosphere!
The Arc de Triomphe
One of the city’s landmark icons, it is a monument to all who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. Underneath it is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
The best part is you can pay to climb to the top and the view from here I think beats the Eiffel Tower’s – after all you don’t see the actual tower when you’re a top it do you!
The view from the Arc
Tip: DO NOT attempt to cross this busy roundabout which surrounds the Arc as some tourists do. There is an underground passageway – just find it on one of the street corners!
The Arc is situated on one end of the Champs-Élysées and it is worth strolling along this busy street, even if it’s only to stare wistfully at the designer brands on display!
Tip: The Printemps Shopping Centre also apparently has a café on their rooftop with great views -I want to check this out next visit!
The Eiffel Tower
I only went to the top on my third visit to Paris and chose to do so at night time.
I personally love seeing it lit up after dark more than I do during the day.
Tip: As I was there at the tail end of summer the lines were busy but not insane and I found that by going at night time about an hour and a half before the tower closed meant my wait time was really short!
Oh and there’s a cute little crepe stand right next to one side of the tower and they are delicious so grab a nutella and banana (the best) one or whichever you choose and stroll along the River Seine enjoying it!
Another way to enjoy Paris from a different perspective is to take a bateau mouche (river boat).
Especially when the weather gets colder these boats are heated and it’s a lovely way to see the city in warmth.
Jardin du Luxembourg
I honestly think this has to be one of the most beautiful places in Paris.
This huge park area is impeccably well kept and the best part is you can pull up a chair and simply sit and enjoy the view. Having a picnic lunch here would also be amazing!
The other place popular for picnics is the Champ de Mars as it’s right next to the Eiffel Tower but the Luxembourg Gardens are a better place I feel!
Culture lovers are of course in heaven here since Paris has NO shortage of fantastic art galleries to museums.
Most well known is obviously the Louvre.
The pyramid entrance to the Louvre
Besides the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo there is PLENTY on offer here, you couldn’t possibly see it all.
I actually really enjoyed the Islamic collection and half the fun is that the museum building itself is just beautiful.
Tip: It is closed on Tuesdays but open late (until 9.45pm) Wednesdays and Fridays. Go later in the afternoon on either of these days and there generally should be far less of a line.
Inside Musée d’Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay is equally as good even though it’s nowhere near the size. It’s set in an old train station which gives it a cool vibe and its focus is largely impressionist with best known works including Monet, Renoir, Manet and Van Gogh.
For those interested in the World Wars like myself, a visit to the Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) is well worth the time as there’s an extensive amount to see here.
The Tomb of Napoleon is housed here too and is unsurprisingly impressive!
Other museums I have yet to get to but have heard good things about include the Carnavalet Museum, Musée Rodin and Musée de l’Orangerie.
Tip: You may want to consider getting a Paris Museum Pass if you plan to visit a few of them while in the city. While entry is unlimited, it doesn’t include all the major ones though so have a look to see if it would be of value to you.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
So I don’t normally make it a point to visit cemeteries when I travel but this one is an exception.
The largest in Paris, despite being a burial site this place is truly beautiful and there are some very impressive plots.
There will be tourists crowded around celebrity graves such as Oscar Wilde or Jim Morrison taking photos which is quite tasteless in a way but there is also some nice memorials of WW1 soldiers and I even saw one for the Jewish mistreated in WW2. Definitely worth a stroll around.
Other things to do food wise in Paris include understandably, trying some escargot (actually not that bad if you get a decent garlic sauce on it) and having lots of patisserie/wine/cheese/bread.
However, don’t leave without trying a croque madame – a toasted ham and cheese sandwich with a fried egg on top – it’s delicious!
Onion soup, a French specialty
Tip: Paul is a chain of cafés you’ll find almost everywhere in the city and has some decent options for lunch if you’re in doubt of where to eat.
Also, the beauty of any city as big as this one is the amount of cultural mix available.
For example, I ate at a delicious Creole restaurant on the street next to my hostel -you certainly don’t need to stick to Parisian style the entire time you’re here!
The best part of Paris is that there is always something new to discover here and you’ll never be bored with things to do.
With a metro entrance never too far away, public transport is fantastic and getting around is super easy which makes wandering around simple if you’re a tourist.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Already for next time I know that I want to visit the Catacombs (closed the day I went!), go inside the Opera House, see more of the Marais and Belleville districts and walk the Promenade Plantée, an old railway turned walkable path covered in plants and greenery now – I can’t wait!