Ah, Paris, the city of lights!
Paris is one of the must-see cities in Europe (although there are many), but it can be overwhelming trying to plan it all out.
With so much to do and see, I want to help you plan the perfect visit to the French capital. What if you're traveling on a budget? What if you're traveling with kids?
Regardless of your situation or how often you've been to Paris, I'll try to cover them all. Read on for all the things you should do while in Paris. Allons-y!
In this blog, we'll cover the itineraries that first-timers should cover in Paris, as well as things to do in Paris at night, Paris with kids, and even things to avoid in Paris!
What should I do on my first trip to Paris?
If you've never been to Paris before, you're in for a treat (and we don't just mean all the lovely baguettes and patisseries you'll be able to eat)!
Paris is enormous, and with so much to see, it can be hard to know what the "must-sees" are.
Here's our list of things you should absolutely do on your first trip to Paris:
1. Visit the Eiffel Tower
Yes, this is one of the most touristy things to do, but if this is your first time in Paris, you must check it out.
Eiffel Tower is arguably the most iconic Parisian landmark, initially built by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris World Fair in 1889. Since then, the 300-meter tower soon became the iconic landmark for the entire country of France.
Climb (or ride the elevator) up to the top for a sweeping view of Paris, and learn about the history of La Tour Eiffel as you go.
Be sure to buy a ticket in advance to save yourself from waiting in line!
2. Explore the Iconic Louvre Museum
Everything on this list is iconic, but the Louvre is the crème de la crème of french icons.
The Louvre is also the world's biggest museum by size, containing upwards of 35,000 artworks, sculptures, and more on display.
There's more to this museum than just the Mona Lisa - so much more that you might need more than one day to see it all. Allow ample time to explore all the rooms, and pre-book your ticket to save time at the entrance.
Tip: If you plan to see the Mona Lisa, time it closer to the museum's closing time so fewer visitors are around.
3. See the Arc de Triomphe
This iconic monument is located at the end of the Champs-Elysees, a renowned avenue that connects the Place de la Concorde to the Arc-de-Triomphe.
You can climb it as well if you're keen on getting your daily steps and a view to rival the one from the Eiffel Tower! The Arc de Triomphe is located on a busy traffic junction. Still, you'll be able to access the landmark through one of the pedestrian underpasses!
If you wish to access the interior of the Arc de Triomphe, remember to purchase a ticket online to skip the line!
4. Explore the Notre Dame
The Notre Dame Cathedral is a medieval cathedral built around the 1300s that is famous for its beautiful French Gothic architecture.
While you can't currently enter the cathedral (due to repairs from the 2019 fire), you can admire the imposing structure of one of France's most well-known churches.
Starting in September 2022, you can enter the Pont au Double footbridge. The Notre Dame is projected to finish redevelopment and reopen in 2024.
5. Spend some time on the Seine
The Seine river splits Paris in two and is an important river linking the sea with a big maritime port.
Whether you walk along the banks of the Seine or take a sightseeing cruise tour of the city, take some time and observe all of the Paris monuments you can see from the banks of the Seine!
6. Picnic in a park or visit a Paris Cafe!
You might not expect it, but Paris has a lot of greenery. Why not enjoy Paris outdoors by visiting some of Paris's amazing cafes?
Grab a jambon beurre and coffee from the local boulangerie or cafe and enjoy some time in one of the famous Parisian parks. The most known are Jardin de Luxembourg, Jardin des Tuileries, and Jardin des Plantes.
If you have kids: The Luxembourg Gardens is also incredibly kid-friendly, with plenty of activities to keep them entertained, like the merry-go-rounds, puppet shoes, or the sailboats! If you have a spare day, why not spend it in the Luxembourg Gardens with the kids?
7. Be royalty for a day in Versailles
You can visit Louis XIV's palace and explore the grounds a short RER trip away. You'll see the famous hall of mirrors, and Marie Antoinette's bed chamber, and you can get lost in the expansive gardens.
Tip: If you're under 26 and an EU citizen (or living in the EU on a visa), you can get into many museums, including the Louvre and Versailles, for free!
Other Incredible Things to do in Paris!
Paris is a city that you can continue to visit and never see all of it. That doesn't mean you can't try, though!
I'd like to call the list above the "Tourists Guide to Exploring Paris", since it's very much geared towards travelers who have never seen Paris.
Once you've checked off the list above, here are some more suggestions for the fantastic things to do in Paris.
8. More than just the Louvre
While the Louvre is a world-class phenomenal museum, it's certainly not the only one in Paris.
Did you know there are over 100 museums in Paris?
You could spend your whole time in Paris just visiting museums. Discover works from Van Gogh and Manet at the Musée d'Orsay, or visit the Musée Picasso for the works highlighting the famous artist Pablo Picasso.
Interested in exploring Claude Monet's impressionistic style art? Visit Musée de l’Orangerie! Prefer modern and contemporary art? Visit the Centre Pompidou Museum instead.
The Atelier des Lumieres also offers an immersive art experience if that's more your cup of tea.
If you love exploring museums, Paris is definitely the place to be!
Museum tip: Museums in France are open six days a week, but they each choose the day they will be closed during the week. Be sure to check before you go that the museum you want to visit is open! Also, check for jour feriés (holidays)!
9. Monuments & Architectures of Paris
In addition to Notre Dame, be sure to also check out Sacre Coeur and Sainte-Chapelle. You'll see beautiful stained glass windows and be able to marvel at the architecture.
You can also visit Basilique Saint-Denis to see the burial place of many French kings and queens.
If you're feeling up for it, why not visit one of the world's most prettiest cemeteries, Père-Lachaise cemetery?
The area features one of Paris's largest green spaces and a maze filled with cobblestone pathways and 19th-century-style burial plots. Moreover, the cemetery is home to world-famous artists, from Oscar Wilde and Chopin to Jim Morrison.
While you can find maps of specific burial locations, why not join a walking tour to learn more about the history and architecture of the tombstones you can see there?
10. Other fun activities!
If you're a book lover, be sure to head into Shakespeare & Co.! The bookstore's located near Notre Dame, a favorite of Hemingway, and had a certain Seine-sational (pardon the pun) vibe that makes it worth the visit.
Another fun Parisian activity? Touring the catacombs. Located underneath Paris, you can visit this tunnel of bones to get an insight into French history.
While the Catacombs stretch over the city of Paris, visitors are only allowed to access a section of the Catacombs through the entrance at the Denfert-Rochereau (lines 4,6 and RER B) metro station.
Explore Paris with the Paris Pass!
If you're keen on visiting a lot of the Parisian tourist attractions, it might benefit you to buy the Paris Pass.
The pass allows you to enter 60+ attractions (including the Louvre and Versailles) and skip the line since you don't have to buy tickets in advance!
You can select the duration of your pass, so prices may vary, but you can save some money, and time, with the Paris Pass.
If you plan on buying the Paris Pass, take full advantage of it!
Explore the best neighborhoods in Paris with the pass, from the iconic Louvre in the first arrondissement to the elegant Montmartre in the eighteenth arrondissement.
Revisit your favorite museums with the unlimited entry that comes with your Paris Pass. The pass comes with the ultimate freedom to explore Paris at your own pace.
Things to do in Paris at night
Known as the city of light, Paris by night is a totally different adventure to Paris by day.
Make sure you budget for at least one night to go watch the Eiffel Tower light up and sparkle at night. You can watch this spectacle for free, and it's truly a beautiful sight.
If you're looking for Paris' nightlife activities, why not stay late and lounge at the Latin Quarter? The Latin Quarter is full of museums, galleries, theaters, and eateries, so why not enjoy a night of dining on the streets of Rue Mouffetard and enjoy Paris at night along the Seine!
You can head to the Moulin Rouge for a fun night out for an iconic cabaret evening. Your ticket includes a glass of champagne and the chance to see the world-renowned can-can dancers. You can even book dinner there to make a perfect soiree.
If you're a musical theatre fan and want to visit the famous Phantom of the Opera box seat, book a night ballet (ticket) at the opera house of Palais Garnier (although be sure to check out the architecture by daylight as well)!
Things to do in Paris with kids
Much of Paris is kid-friendly, but some attractions are almost built with kids in mind.
If your kid is into theme parks, check out the Jardin d'Acclimatation. Complete with obstacle courses, puppet shows, and even a water park, there's so much to keep your kids busy. If you're willing to venture a little further afield, you can also spend the day at Disney Paris.
If you want to shrink down to kid-size, check out France Miniature. It's a five-minute train journey from Versailles, but you'll see France in 1/30th scale size replicas there. Extra activities like an archeological dig or exploring a reconstituted Lascaux cave are included in your entry price. It's a perfect family fun activity!
For aquarium lovers, there's the Aquarium de Paris. Included in the Paris Pass, this aquarium is perfect for kids and adults alike.
There's even a show with pirates for those adventurous enough to watch it!
What should I avoid in Paris?
It can be overwhelming to know what you should and shouldn't do if it's your first time in Paris. While no attractions should be avoided (especially on a first visit), there are some things you should avoid doing to make your trip go more smoothly:
1. Don't just shop at Champs-Elysees!
Don't do all of your shopping at the Champs Elysees. Yes, some of the nicest and most luxurious brands are there, but you can shop almost anywhere in Paris!
For example, spend some time visiting Le Marais, the historic trendy and romantic district of Paris, for many sights, department stores, and boutiques, perfect for buying some Paris souvenirs back home!
Save some of your euros for more local, smaller boutiques and department stores! Be sure to pop into Galeries Lafayette at least once, though!
2. Don't assume everyone speaks English!
While Paris tends to have a high level of English speakers, the French speak French. You don't need to get yourself up to C1 level French to visit, but learn some key phrases before you do. A little effort goes a long way!
3. Avoid eating near tourist attractions!
There's a reason those restaurants have high prices, and it isn't always because the food is that much better than anywhere else! It never hurts to do a quick TripAdvisor search of a place before you commit, especially if you're close to a tourist hot spot.
4. Avoid getting on the metro without a ticket!
RATP and SNCF transport groups frequently patrol the metro/trains, and you do not want to get contrôlled without a ticket. You can purchase metro or RER tickets at the station and train tickets online in advance.
5. Avoid spending time in line for attractions!
Most places you can visit in Paris allow you to book tickets in advance. Save yourself some time, and worry by booking them online before you head out for the day.
Most places we've talked about here have skip-the-line tickets you can book online!
Plan your trip to Paris now!
Whether you've never been to Paris or know the city like the back of your hand, there are always new things to explore.
Excited to plan your trip to Paris? Start planning now so you don't forget all of the amazing things you'll need to do when you're there with Pilot!