Things to Do in Paris
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Begin your tour of Paris with a stroll along the Seine River. Explore Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, 2 small islands linked to the banks of the Seine by a series of bridges. Head to Île de la Cité to see the Notre Dame Cathedral or head east to visit the charming hotels, cozy restaurants and small shops.
Be one of 8 million people who flock to the Louvre each year. This grand art museum houses 35,000 masterpieces, including the great Venus de Milo, Leonardo da Vinci’s "Mona Lisa," Eugene Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People” and, in the Egyptian wing, “The Seated Scribe.” If it’s your first visit, we recommend taking the introductory guided tour for an overview of the museum’s most famous works.
Eat dinner and see a show at the Moulin Rouge -- the birthplace of can-can in its modern form. Located in Paris’ Pigalle district, this tourist attraction was co-founded in 1889 by businessmen Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller. Artists of all stripes soon flocked to the cabaret, including French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and, in the decades to come, singer Edith Piaf.
Palace of Versailles
Take a day trip outside of Paris and explore the Palace of Versailles. This enormous castle and gardens was once home to 3 generations of French kings and queens, including Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the last reigning king and queen of France. See the Hall of Mirrors, the Chapelle Royale, the Grand Trianon, estate of Marie-Antoinette and beautiful gardens. Between April and October, the Musical Fountains Show is worth seeing.
Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur Basilica
Walk the cobblestone streets of Montmartre and make the steep climb to visit the Sacre Coeur Basilica, also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris. The basilica is located at the highest point in the city, making it the perfect place for panoramic views of Paris.
French engineer Gustave Eiffel spent 2 years trying to erect the Eiffel Tower for the World’s Fair in 1889. And once he did, Parisians were not immediate fans of the metal monument. Today, of course, it has become part of the city’s familiar landscape. We recommend making a stop at the tower at night to see the amazing light show that usually ends at 1 a.m.
For tourists looking for some amusement park fun, we recommend visiting Disneyland Paris. Although the park has been molded to appeal to European tastes (it has plenty of patio seats for outdoor eating), it is still styled similar to the original theme park, with a Main Street U.S.A., Frontierland, Adventureland, Fantasyland and Discoveryland.
Pont Alexandre III and Grand Palais
Cross over the River Seine, by walking along the ornate Pont Alexandre III bridge, to see Grand Palais. The main exhibition space hosts large-scale shows. Previous must-see art shows included an Edward Hopper retrospective, “Marie Antoinette,” and “Picasso and the Masters.” We suggest you book tickets online before you go.
For art lovers, we suggest a visit to the Musée d'Orsay. Once a railway station, this museum now holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world. Monet, Degas, Renoir and van Gogh are just a few painters whose works are on display at the museum.
Arc de Triomphe
One of the most famous monuments in Paris, the Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France in the French Revolutionary and the Napoleonic Wars. Located in the center of the Place Charles de Gaulle -- at the west end of the Champs-Elysees -- the monument has the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its surface. There is a vault beneath the arc that holds the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
Champs-Elysees is to Paris what Times Square is to New York City. This famous avenue is a popular destination for shoppers with deep pockets, but shopping isn’t the only reason why people flock to this area. Stop by the statue-lined plaza-terrace at the Place du Trocadero for the city’s best view of the Eiffel Tower. Check out a world-class collection of art from all over Asia at the Musee Guimet. Choose from more than 2 dozen flavors of macaroons at Laduree.
Notre Dame Cathedral
The bishop of Paris from 1160 to 1196, Maurice de Sully spearheaded the movement to rebuild a cathedral dedicated to the Virgin Mary. Located on the Île de la Cité, Notre Dame Cathedral offers guided tours, but the 360-degree views of the city are what’s really amazing and not to be missed.
Palais Garnier Opera House of Paris
Built between 1861 and 1875, the Palais Garnier is known for its opulence and architecture, and, most notably, for being the setting for Gaston Leroux’s 1910 novel, The Phantom of the Opera. Palais Garnier does provide unaccompanied tours, which also include a walk through the Paris Opera Library-Museum. Designed by Charles Garnier, this palatial, nearly 2,000-seat opera house is now primarily used for ballet performances.
Les Marais is the cool neighborhood in Paris, with hip boutiques, art galleries, designer hotels and fashion houses. Although Les Marais is the hub of the city’s gay community, there are numerous must-see attractions here, including Place des Vosges, the oldest square in Paris, Musee Carnavalet, a museum that shows how Paris has evolved, Musee des Arts et Metiers, Europe’s oldest science museum, and Centre Pompidou, which houses a large public reading library and the National Museum of Modern Art.