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Ah, the city of lights. Paris is absolutely 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, we at Pilot want to help you plan your perfect visit to the French capital. 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!
Are you looking to cover more than just Paris on your trip? If you're looking for more things to do in cities around Paris, why not check out our list of best things to do in Warsaw or Amsterdam? Find our complete collection of things to do and where to stay here.
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 big, 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:
- Visit the Eiffel Tower: Yes, this is a very touristy thing to do, but it’s arguably the most iconic Parisian landmark! 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 you from having to wait in line.
- Explore the Louvre: 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.
- Arc-de-Triomphe: Located at the end of the Champs - Elysees (which alone warrants a promenade), you can’t miss this imposing structure and the roundabout that surrounds it. 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!
- Notre Dame: 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. Be sure to keep an eye out for gargoyles!
- Spend some time on the Seine: The Seine splits Paris in two, and cannot be missed. Whether you walk along the banks of the Seine or take a boat tour of the city (highly recommended), be sure to give the Seine some time!
- Picnic in a park: You might not expect it, but there is a lot of greenery in Paris. Grab a jambon beurre from the local boulangerie 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.
- Be royalty for a day in Versailles: A short RER trip away, you can visit Louis XIV’s palace and explore the grounds. You’ll see the famous hall of mirrors, Marie Antoinette’s bedchamber, and you can get lost in the expansive gardens.
Top 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!
More 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! Once you’ve checked off the list above, here are some more suggestions for things to do in Paris.
While the Louvre is a 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. The Musée d’Orsay, the Musée de l’Orangerie, and the Centre Pompidou are top contenders. The Atelier des Lumieres also offers an immersive art experience if that’s more your cup of tea.
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)!
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.
For more famous burial plots, head to the Pere Lachaise cemetery. With over 70,000 burial plots, it’s the largest cemetery in Paris. You can find the tombstones of people like Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Jim Morrisson. While you can find maps of specific burial locations, you should spend some time wandering the rows to see who else you might see.
If you’re a book lover, be sure to head into Shakespeare & Co. Located near Notre Dame, this was a favorite of Hemingway and has 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. Online booking is required for tickets. Read more about the catacombs here!
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 entry into 60+ attractions (including the Louvre and Versailles), and the ability to 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, make sure you 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 all of your favorite museums with the unlimited entry that comes with your Paris Pass. The pass comes with the ultimate freedom to exploring Paris on 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 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 to see.
For a fun night out, you can head to the Moulin Rouge for an iconic cabaret evening. Your ticket includes a glass of champagne, and of course, 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 tour at the 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 there you’ll see France in 1/30th scale size replicas. Included in your entry price are extra activities like an archeological dig, or exploring a reconstituted Lascaux cave. 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?
If it’s your first time in Paris, it can be overwhelming to know what you should and shouldn’t do. 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:
- Avoid limiting your shopping to only the Champs Elysees: Yes, some of the nicest and most luxurious brands are there but you can shop almost anywhere in Paris! Save some of your euros for more local, smaller boutiques. Be sure to pop into Galeries Lafayette at least once, though!
- Avoid assuming 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!
- Avoid eating near tourist attractions: There’s a reason those restaurants have expensive 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, but especially if you’re close to a tourist hot spot.
- Avoid getting on the metro/a train without a ticket: RATP and SNCF frequently patrol the metro/trains, and you do not want to get contrôlled without a ticket. You can purchase metro or RER tickets in the station, while you can buy train tickets online in advance.
- Avoid waiting 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.
Let us be your "Pilot" to Paris
Whether you’ve never been to Paris, or know the city like the back of your hand, there are always new things to explore. You simply can’t go wrong spending time in Paris.
Now that you have a list of things to do in Paris, feel free to hop over to Pilot for more planning tips, advice on places to stay, and more. We love travel so much, we've decided to create our own amazing and unique social travel planning app that lets you plan trips with friends and family easily. Check it out and start planning your trips now!
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