Things to do in and near Paris
One of the most visited, most famous and most blogged-about cities on the planet, Paris is incredible. But despite its almost-unparalleled popularity, we’re throwing our hat into the ring and joining the clamor, adding one more Paris blog post to a long list of Paris blog posts.
But the difference is—this one’s good. We’ve covered both popular and lesser-known attractions, and we’ve included lots of helpful top tips. Some of our team live in the city, and lots of us know the place very well. So, in short, if anyone can tell you the best things to do in Paris, it’s us.
Even better, we’ve separated our list into two sections: stuff for short-term tourists to do, and more unusual options for those staying a little longer than your average traveler. That said, there’s little reason you can’t explore both lists, because it’s your life and Paris is amazing and you don’t need to impress us.
Anyway, enough of all the introductory stuff—here are the 25 best things to do in Paris:
1. Enjoy the Eiffel Tower
I couldn’t start this list any other way.
If you’ve heard of Paris, you’ve heard of the Eiffel Tower. And if you’ve heard of the Eiffel Tower, you don’t need me to tell you to visit. But just make sure you do. It’s huge, it’s worth the hype, and it’s insanely impressive.
The loftiest structure in Paris, it measures in at over 1000 feet, dominating the city’s skyline. In person, it looks much bigger than you’d expect from photos—and the views from its top are incredible.
- Useful tip: As you’ve probably guessed, the Eiffel Tower is often mega busy. You can (and should!) avoid the often-huge lines by booking an e-ticket in advance here. No actual ‘skip-the-line’ tickets exist.
- Useful tip 2: If you want the best views of the Eiffel Tower, head to the Arc de Triomphe, which is plonked right in the middle of a roundabout. If you can dodge the traffic to get there, climb to the top of the Arc for the city’s most impressive view of the tower
2. Love the Louvre
Again, you’ve all heard of the Louvre. But again, it’s absolutely one of the best places to visit in Paris.
One of the most impressive art galleries in the world, the place is home to over 35,000 pieces of art and almost 400,000 objects. Some of its most prized assets include the Mona Lisa (of course!), Michaelangelo’s David, The Venus de Milo and stuff from Caravaggio, Raphael, and plenty more from Da Vinci.
- Useful tip: The Louvre is absolutely massive. So on a visit, you always feel like you’re looking for something rather than looking at something. To get the best out of the gallery and its exhibits, visit the Louvre with a guide.
- Useful tip 2: Just like with the Eiffel Tower, it’s a good idea to get a line pass. Consider the Paris Pass, or book an e-ticket with a time slot. To avoid long lines without buying a pass, visit on early weekday mornings or late weekday afternoons.
3. Visit Other Art Galleries and Museums
If you like art galleries and museums, you’ll find loads of places to visit in Paris.
Some of our favorites include Musée D’Orsay (a massive art museum), Musée Rodin, Centre Pompidou, Atelier des Lumières (which offers immersive and unique attractions), Quai Branly (with lots of ethnographic and indigenous attractions), Palais de Tokyo (excellent modern art), Musée de Cluny (a museum of the middle ages) and the Grand Palais.
Be selective and choose wisely instead of trying to briefly visit them all on a mindless speed tour.
4. Crawl Around The Catacombs
Absolutely the spookiest attraction in Paris, the catacombs are simultaneously alluring and unnerving.
A labyrinthine burial ground featuring more than 6 million skeletal remains, the sprawling catacombs are made up of skull-packed, bone-lined walls. It’s like walking around a serial killer’s house, with hundreds of miles of creepy corridors.
- Useful tip: Don’t be tempted to wander around the catacombs on your own. People still try this, and people still get lost and disappear forever. So don’t risk it.
- Useful tip 2: Again, to get the most out of your visit to the catacombs, book a tour. And make sure it comes with a guaranteed time slot, so you don’t need to wait around.
5. Gawp at Notre Dame Cathedral
One of the most iconic religious buildings on the planet, Notre Dame Cathedral (as you probably know) was ravaged by a fire in April 2019. So it no longer looks like it once did, but it’s still one of the best things to see in Paris.
Some think it might take up to 20 years to replace and restore all of the cathedral in its entirety, so don’t wait until it’s back to its best. Visit now instead.
With gothic facades, huge towers and impressive architecture, there’s still plenty to see.
6. See Sainte Chapelle
Right beside Notre Dame Cathedral is Sainte Chapelle (no relation to Dave Chapelle), a chapel with one of the world’s best collections of stained glass windows.
On a sunny day, the views inside are absolutely incredible. With more than a thousand windows, each one telling a story of its own, there’s plenty to gape and gawp at.
The place was allegedly built to house the Crown of Thorns (if you believe in all that stuff). If you like religious buildings, this’ll be one of your favorite tourist attractions in Paris.
7. Maraud Around Montmartre
One of the most famous areas in Paris, Montmartre is ridiculously beautiful. It was once an independent village of its own, and although it’s now part of Paris, it still feels somewhat separate. Wandering around the place makes you feel like you’re strolling through the scenes of a Disney movie.
Full of cobbled lanes, on-street artists, maze-like alleyways, vine-covered homes and winding staircases, this is one of the best places to visit in Paris. You’ll immediately fall for its charm.
While you’re in Montmartre, go to the Moulin Rouge, which (as you probably already know!) hosts unique, excellent, world-famous cabaret shows. And make sure you visit the Sacré-Cœur, a storied basilica which looms over Montmartre, and offers incredible views of Paris.
8. Explore Père Lachaise
Yeah, we know. You didn’t go on vacation to visit a cemetery. But make an exception for Père Lachaise.
Genuinely one of the best Paris tourist attractions, the place is weirdly alluring, and it’s one of the best cemeteries in the world (bet you never thought you’d read that sentence).
A huge number of famous people are buried here, including Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Frédéric Chopin and plenty more.
There are loads of wacky, unique and unusual graves, crypts and monuments here. It’s hard to describe how great this place is, so just go. With over a million burials so far, and still counting, this place is a great reflection of the past, present and future of the city. It’s sincerely one of the best things to see in Paris.
Useful tip: Consider a guided tour in Père Lachaise. They’re an excellent, unique and unusual way to learn about the history and heritage of Paris and its people.
9. Visit Versailles
Probably the most famous Paris day trip, the Palace of Versailles is staggeringly impressive.
Packed with beautiful gardens, sprawling interiors, and excellent sculptures and fountains, this place is famous for once being both the royal residence and the center of parliament.
Around 20km outside the center of Paris, the palace is (unsurprisingly) in the city of Versailles. But it’s absolutely worth the trip. It’s one of the most grand buildings you’ll ever see, and it’s a must-visit on the Paris sightseeing trail.
Useful tip: Pre-book a timed-slot ticket in advance. The Palace of Versailles might not be in the heart of Paris, but the lines are still outrageously lengthy.
10. Introduce Yourself to Walt Disney
Because Disneyland has an unfair reputation for being the annoying European cousin of DisneyWorld Orlando, people vastly underestimate the place. But if you’re traveling with kids, or if you are a big kid, Disneyland is so, so good.
The rides are brilliant, and the attractions are amazing. But the real draw is how imaginative and immersive it all is, and the excellent attention to detail. Nothing goes untouched, not one part is ordinary, and it’s one of the most well-themed attractions on the planet. It’s like stepping into a whole different world (or, more appropriately, land).
If you’re traveling with kids, Disneyland is absolutely one of the best places to visit in Paris.
For those with kids, also consider the zoo. It’s fun, it’s packed with over 180 different species, and compared to most zoos, the animals are very well cared-for.
Useful tip: If you want to avoid massive Disneyland crowds, try to visit during quiet periods. The best choices are January, March and September. And, again, make sure you book tickets in advance.
10. Gobble and Gulp
For food, Paris is (yeah, I know you’ve heard this before) one of the best cities on the planet. You get boulangerie-baked bread, endless cheese, world-class wine, original fries, chocolat chaud, oysters, coq au vin, onion soup, croque monsieur, frog’s legs and an endless number of other fabulous French dishes. Even standard sandwiches are amazing.
One of the best Paris attractions is all the stuff you can cram in your mouth, so make sure you eat and drink everything you can.
Useful tip: Eat at bistros where the locals eat, where you need to request some form of English translation rather than receiving an English menu as standard. And if a restaurant is within 3 or 4 blocks of a major tourist attraction, don’t eat there.
11. Eat Sweet
Yeah, we know, we know, another entry about food. But this time, it’s dessert, baby.
We’ve all heard of croissants and pain au chocolat, but Parisian sweet treats are way more than just that. Try chocolate mousse, tarte tatin, macarons, éclairs, profiteroles, crêpes, tarte au citron, ice cream, caramels, and even normal old chocolate.
Visit as many patisseries as you can, and eat whatever looks good, no matter what it’s called. Just don’t blame us if you get sick.
12. Immerse Yourself in Cafe Culture
Paris’ cafes are amazing.
Trendy, hip and endlessly cool, they spill onto the pavements they make their home, where locals loll around chatting, eating, drinking, and wasting time in the most appealing possible ways.
Yeah, there’s a lot to do in Paris, but make sure you also spend lots of time doing very little.
Useful tip: Lots of blogs will tell you to visit certain cafes in certain parts of Paris. And we sort of get why they do that. But if you seek out certain cafes, you’ll wind up in tourist traps, and you’ll spend more time looking for cafes than enjoying cafes. So instead, we recommend visiting any that look good. If it looks charming, if it’s busy, and if it’s full of locals, spend your time and money there.
13. Walk Through a Monet Painting
A (slightly) lesser-known and lesser-explored day trip from Paris is to Monet’s Gardens, which are situated in the charming and diminutive village of Giverny. The gardens are split into two halves: a color-packed flower garden, and a Japanese-inspired water garden.
Monet painted and lived here for more than 40 years. And when you visit, that’s easy to see: the whole time, you feel like you’re walking through one of his paintings. The gardens are stuffed with tulips, willows, lily pads and more. If you’re even remotely visited in Monet, this is an incredible place to visit—if you like art, it’ll be one of your favorite Paris attractions.
Useful tip: Again, book a timed e-ticket in advance. Yes, this place is way less popular than the biggest Paris tourist attractions, but it’s often still busy. Monet is pretty famous.
14. Hit Some Cycle Lanes
Paris is great for cycling, and it’s slowly becoming much more bike-friendly (as is the entirety of France). There are allegedly around 700km of cycle routes and cycle paths in the city.
Some of the best stretches are along the serene and sprawling Seine, lots of which are entirely traffic-free.
Cycling is the most rewarding way to see a big city, especially if that city’s built for cycling . It’s not as slow as walking, but it’s not as speedy as public transport, making it a handy way to enjoy some Paris sightseeing while you make your way around.
If you don’t have your own bike, Paris has lots of incredible and affordable public bikes, with around 15,000 of them dotted throughout the city.
15. Explore Some Parks
Some of the best are Luxembourg Gardens (which has a vast, beautiful palace), Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, Jardin des Plantes (with its botanical gardens), Parc Monceau, Parc Floral de Paris (which is more like an art gallery than a park), and loads more.
Compared to many other big, populated cities, Paris has a huge number of green spaces, and they all have lots of peaceful pockets for escaping the busy bustle of Paris. If you’re in Paris long-term with a partner or kids, this is one of the best things to do in Paris.
16. Unwind In a Winery
Paris has lots of wine. And lots of wine means lots of wineries
There are countless brilliant options both near the city and on the outskirts, and they’re all a great way to learn about history and heritage (and, obviously, to drink some good wine).
If you’d rather just drink wine instead of learning about it, there are plenty of wine tours throughout the city. Some of the best are massively popular Paris tourist attractions.
Whichever you go for, make sure you book a tour or visit with good reviews.
17. Picnic Along The Seine
Another popular hangout spot, The Seine is one of Europe’s most attractive big-city rivers.
And there are lots of great picnic spots along its banks and bridges. Three of the best include:
- Île de la Cité, the enchanting island that houses both Notre Dame Cathedral and Saint Chapelle. Anywhere on the banks of the island makes for a good spot.
- Berges de Seine, a public park and promenade which is completely pedestrianized. There are loads of great attractions for kids here, perfect if you’re traveling with family.
- Quai Saint-Bernard, another promenade. Sandwiched between the Seine and the Jardin des Plantes, the place often attracts spontaneous late-evening dance classes.
Because of its great food, France’s capital is one of the world’s best cities for a picnic, Seine or no Seine. No matter where you do it, a little al fresco adventure is one of the best things to do in Paris.
18. Experience Bastille Day
If there’s one day of the year to spend in Paris, it’s Bastille Day, the national day of France. Every July 14th, the city is overtaken by parades, dances, fireworks, music, concerts, food, drink, and much more. It’s one of the best things to see in Paris.
You haven’t really done Paris sightseeing until you’ve been in the city for Bastille Day. An occasion that marks the real beginning of the French revolution, it’s celebrated throughout the nation, but Paris is the best place to experience it.
19. Take a Secret Food Tour
Like with any tourist-heavy city, it can be hard to find genuinely good food in Paris. But on an organized food tour, you can find some of the best joints.
Shop around online to find a good tour, and make sure it has lots of good reviews. If you like good food, this is absolutely one of the best things to do in Paris.
20. Shop Properly
Nowadays, in most nations, we buy all of our food from the same store. But in Paris, there’s still a traditional habit of buying things where they should be bought.
Many locals still buy specific things from specific stores. The city has over 250 cheese shops (or fromageries), more than 30,000 boulangeries (bakeries), and lots of old-school grocery stores, butcher shops and delicatessens. If you like food, you’ll probably enjoy these places more than most of the actual Paris tourist attractions.
Make sure you also shop from as many Parisian markets as you can. Not only is the food great, but (like anywhere), visiting a market is a great way to see real local life in action. And if one’s happening while you’re around, check out one of the city’s many excellent food festivals.
21. Join the Hipster Hordes of Canal St. Martin
In lots of ways, Canal St. Martin still retains some of its tradition—here, you find ancient fishermen, rickety barges and waterways once used for trade.
But now, the area is mainly known as home to the city’s biggest bohemians. One of the biggest hipster hangouts in Paris, it’s famous for ethnic restaurants, cheap rents, weird bars, happening cafes and plenty more. It’s in the northeastern part of the city’s central zone.
It’s hardly a Paris sightseeing spot, but it’s a great place to hang out if you like exploring kooky, creative hangouts.
Just don’t blame us if all your friends have dreadlocks and play the bongos.
22. Diversify Your Districts.
And while we’re talking about various districts, explore as many of them as you can. There are loads of interesting areas in Paris that most tourists don’t have time to explore. Some of the best lesser-known districts in Paris include…
- Little Sri Lanka (or La Chapelle): a northern area with a huge Sri Lankan community, it’s like leaving Paris behind for Asia. Sip some chai and gobble some samosas.
- Le Marais: alright, you’ve probably all heard of this one, but it’s still amazing. Once an aristocratic district, then a Jewish quarter, this central zone is storied and diverse.
- Belleville: a massive mixture of endless different stuff, northeastern Belleville offers no-frills Chinese food, art studios, hipster hangouts and some of the city’s best street art.
You should also try walking along the rails of La Petite Ceinture, an abandoned circular railway line that once measured in at 32km. You can’t walk the whole thing in its entirety, since some of it’s now forever lost, but you can follow large parts of it. Because it runs around the perimeter of the city, it enters lots of the outskirts. If you like seeing and exploring urban areas and residential districts, it’ll be one of your favorite Paris attractions.
23. Explore Towns and Villages
If you want to go further afield, excellent nearby towns and villages include…
- Provins: an incredible medieval town, this is one of the most historic places in France. It’s ridiculously charming, and visiting is like taking a wander through the middle ages.
- Fontainebleau: the town itself is relatively pretty, but the real draws here are all the outdoor adventures. Loads of people come here to hike, cycle, mountain bike and climb.
- Auvers-Sur-Oise: rustic and rural, this quaint little village is a great way to get a slice of retro French life, and it’s only around 30km from Paris.
24. See Other Cities
Alright, we’re now going even further afield.
We’ve discussed districts, towns and villages—but now let’s explore some other nearby cities. Close (and relatively close) to Paris, you have excellent cities such as:
- Lille: a Flemish-style city right on the border of Belgium, Lille is massively underrated. It offers non-stop nightlife, a beautiful old town and excellent architecture.
- Le Havre: a famous port city, the entirety of Le Havre is an officially-designated world heritage site. The entire city was completely rebuilt after being bombed in WW2.
- Strasbourg: right on the German border, Strasbourg looks more like a German city than a French one. Somehow both medieval and modern, Strasbourg is ridiculously charming.
If you want to go even further, and travel onwards from France, Paris is also pretty well located for visiting Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg, England and many other countries. So when you’re done in Paris, you can make your way onwards for much more adventure and excitement.
Thanks for reading our guide to the 25 best things to do in Paris!
One of the most multi-faceted cities on the planet, Paris is brimming with experiences for first-timers, ten-timers and long-term tourists. There are countless things to see in Paris, and even residents could probably explore the city forever without getting bored.
If you’re planning on visiting Paris, you absolutely should. And if you’re considering a relocation, it’s one of the world’s best cities to do it.
If you’re staying in the city for a while and you’re looking for a flat in Paris or a serviced apartment in Paris, we offer an incredible selection of places. They’re all comfortable and luxurious, and they’re all well-located for enjoying the best Paris attractions, no matter how long you’re staying.