The best things to do in Paris: 25 ideas for an exciting trip
One of the largest tourist centers in the world, a mecca for romantics and creative people - Paris is multifaceted in its diversity. It is a huge city with an equally huge past, where every neighborhood has a story to tell. What to see and do in Paris? Which sights are worth spending time on and which museums to visit? What parts of the city are definitely worth visiting, where to take photos and what other things to do in Paris? The answers to these questions - a lot, and not every traveler is able to cope with it. But don't lose heart - we will help you prepare to conquer this city, no matter how long your trip to the city of lovers will last. Interesting places to visit, the most exciting things to do and the best things to do in Paris are compiled in this guide. Some of them are well-known and obvious, but there are also things to see in Paris that you didn't expect. Plan your itinerary with this guide to make your exploration of the city easy, informative and memorable.
1. Explore the Louvre
The largest and most visited museum in the world will surely be on your list of top things to do in Paris. The Louvre is a huge system of galleries, passages, and staircases that will seem like an incomprehensible labyrinth if you don't prepare for your visit in advance. There is no way to see everything in a day, so make a plan of what you want to visit in this museum in Paris, depending on the available time.
The Louvre collection contains about 300 thousand artifacts and works of art, but only 35 thousand are permanently exhibited. The museum is divided into wings: Denon, Richelieu and Sully. Each has its own entrance, but it is also possible to move from one wing to the other. On the first floor of the Richelieu wing you'll find the European decorative arts departments, including the luxurious apartments of Napoleon III. The Sully and Denon wings have galleries with artifacts from the Egyptians, Etruscans, Romans and Greeks, as well as Middle Eastern and Islamic art. The Grand Gallery and the Hall of Gioconda are on the first floor of the Denon. The sculpture courtyards are located on the first floor of the Richelieu and in the Denon Wing. A great way to prepare for a visit to the Louvre is to explore its website, which has full information about the museum's collection and the must see exhibits in this Paris museum.
2. Shop for souvenirs at Mersi Shopping Center
A unique place for conceptual shopping is located on Rue Beaumarchais in a beautiful light-filled building converted from an old 19th century weaving factory. The three loft-style floors are filled with a variety of items from the collections of famous designers, from Isabel Marant to Stella McCartney. Here you can buy a variety of stationery, furniture, decorative items, home goods, children's clothes, jewelry and accessories, vintage items and even antiques. The shopping center cooperates with famous design studios from all over the world, and with little-known but promising local authors, as well as produces its own collections. Interesting shopping is something everyone must do in Paris, especially when the store donates a decent part of its profits to charity.
The first floor of the shopping center is shared with a book cafe and a flower shop. The Used Book Café is as much a local attraction as the retro red Fiat 500 at the entrance. In this literary cafe, you can sit over a cup of coffee with a delicate cheesecake and read any of the books on the shelf. By the way, there are almost 10 thousand of them.
3. Go to the movies at the Louxor Theater
This Egyptian Art Deco movie theater has gone through several upheavals during its existence. Emerging as a temple of silent cinema in 1921, it survived the harsh times of World War II, but in the 1980s turned into a dysfunctional club and drug den, only to close its doors for 25 years. In 2013 it enjoyed a new revival. A cinema was triumphantly opened here, taking on the mission of a center for the promotion of cultural, educational and artistic projects. The halls of the cinema are worthy of a separate photo walk, and the reconstructed hall dedicated to director Youssef Chahine, in the style of Egyptian eclecticism, is the perfect place to update photos on your social networks.
It's home to many Parisian activities, but it also retains echoes of the place's turbulent past. The upstairs bar is a great place to spend a night with a glass of red wine. You can only get here by showing a movie ticket, and the prices are quite high (a bottle of wine costs an average of 20-50 euros). But the view from the small terrace over the Basilica Sacré-Coeur and the Boulevard Barbès is magnificent.
4. Feel the bobo style in Ground Control
This huge space (4,500 ft² of indoor space and 1,500 of outdoor terraces) has everything you could possibly need. The grocery and shopping center is located in the former SNCF postal sorting room near Gare de Lyon. If you don't know what other stuff to do in Paris, head to Ground Control. There are restaurants, bars, concert venues, markets, street food stands, exhibition galleries, beauty salons, grocery stores, Pilates and yoga workshops, bookstores, souvenir stores and more. It is a meeting place for locals, a social playground and a multicultural space - the perfect combination for people who welcome the lifestyle bobo, a cultural phenomenon described by journalist David Brooks in the 2000s. The special advantage of this shopping center for tourists is that it is open late, including Sundays, open all year round and has free admission.
5. Explore Notre Dame de Paris
The top 10 things to do in Paris definitely includes a visit to Notre Dame de Paris. This most famous cathedral in France has an impressive history and magnificent architecture. Despite a fire in April 2019, it is still as majestic as ever. Notre Dame was erected between 1163 and 1334, representing the culmination of Gothic art. Explore the architecture of the twin towers, socket windows and doorways from the outside with rows of saints and tympans depicting the Last Judgment, the lives of St. Anne and the Virgin Mary. Inside, the main altar, the marble Pieta behind it, created by the sculptor Nicolas Custu between 1712 and 1725, and the rich foliate capitals are worth admiring.
Today, the cathedral is once again undergoing renovation after a fire. In the meantime, explore the route to its towers to appreciate the work of architect Viollet-le-Duc, see the gallery of famous chimeras along the balustrade and the oldest bell in Bourdon (the one rung by the hunchback Quasimodo in Hugo's famous novel), and then appreciate the spectacular panorama from the top of the south tower.
6. Rock out at a concert at La Station
The local nightlife is diverse and unique, and it is one of the cool things to do in Paris. Local clubs are not just dance floors, but also social and cultural spaces. La Station is based on the site of an abandoned coal station and has become Paris' vibrant artistic laboratory. This colossal space of about 400 m² hosts unique parties and concerts from Wednesday to Sunday, featuring mostly underground electro music and garage rock. It is also used for contemporary art exhibitions and has lounge areas and bars. The club has three floors, each with its own atmosphere and entertainment. The first floor is occupied by a dance floor, where a motley crowd dances till morning to hip-hop, pop and electronic music. On the second floor there is a quieter atmosphere, here you can sit in the lounge-zone or drink a cocktail in the bar. The third floor has a VIP-room. Prices at La Station are low and the service is friendly. Explore its lounges, an outdoor and two indoor stages, relax on the outdoor terrace and be inspired by the atmosphere of Parisian nightlife.
7. Explore the cocktail menu at Le Syndicat
Some interesting tourist things to do in Paris, like this trendy bar, hide behind an unassuming, shabby facade covered in old posters. But inside, owners Romain Le Moellic and Sullivan Do have embodied kitsch in all its essence: concrete and plasterboard walls, industrial and a bit rough decor and shiny gold curtains softening the overall impression along with dim lighting. This institution tops many ratings of the best bars in Paris and is famous for preparing all cocktails from 100% French alcohol, successfully using little-known liqueurs in modern interpretation. Here you should try classic and phenomenal author's cocktails (their average price is 10 euros) or taste French cognacs (from 20 euros). The menu periodically includes thematic offers dedicated, for example, to French holidays or local sights. The bar is never empty, you go here for the cool underground atmosphere and exquisite drinks, which can be enjoyed to a hip-hop soundtrack. After the bar, cross the street for the best burgers in town at Paris-New York.
8. Stroll around the Marché des Enfants Rouges market
This historic market is located on the site of an orphanage that was active in the 16th century and got its name from it - the red children's clothes denoted a gift from Christian charities. The large wooden building has survived and in 2000 was turned into a premium food market. It's hard to avoid shopping while browsing the huge assortment of French, Italian, African, Japanese and Lebanese street food stalls. If takeaways aren't to your liking, opt for the best organic and farm-to-table produce and delicacies from around the world at the market. It's not just a place to shop for produce and ingredients for national dishes, but also an interesting location to explore Paris with its atmosphere and unusual stores, such as Les Succulents, a cactus store. It is quite crowded on Saturdays because the market remains one of the popular local things to do in Paris. It is away from the typical tourist routes, so it still retains its original charm.
9. Quench your thirst with mint tea at Grande Mosquee Cafe
This unusual café is one of the best things to see in Paris, not only because of its interesting menu. Grande Mosquee is located near the city's largest mosque, which is the spiritual heart of the French Muslim population. The Spanish-Moorish structure was built between 1922 and 1926, inspired by the Spanish Alhambra architectural and park ensemble and the Bou Inania Madrasa in Fez, Morocco. The mosque is divided into three parts by its structure. The first houses the minaret, the courtyard and the prayer room and is designed for prayers, not for the prying eyes of tourists. The second houses the scientific and educational segments - the library and Islamic school - while across the street is the commercial part, open to all visitors. This is where the café and the hammam under the dome are located.
Open from 9am to midnight, the café serves North African pastries, fruit salads, sorbets and drinks. It is worth relaxing here, sitting in the shade of trees with a cup of aromatic tea in a modest courtyard at blue and white tables with mosaics, enjoying peace and the sweet smell of hookah smoke.
10. Go to the museum at the station
The Musée d'Orsay, the greatest collection of Impressionist art, is housed in the restored premises of the old Victor Laloux train station. In 1973, the building and its giant clock were threatened with demolition. But fortunately for all art lovers, its value (and common sense) prevailed and the project to build a luxury hotel in its place did not take place.
At this old train station, visitors are welcomed with one of the best collections of 19th century masterpieces. On the territory of over 35 thousand m² there are halls dedicated to the works of Van Gogh and Courbet, works by Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne and Gauguin, Matisse and Georges Seurat. This place will be in the top 5 things to do in Paris for fine art fans. And when you want to take a break from exploring the museum displays, check out the stunning café behind the clock. It's decorated in the style of the Nautilus from Jules Verne's novel. Here you can have a snack and a coffee while discussing what you've seen in the museum, enjoy the view from the windows or the outdoor terrace and take spectacular photos against the backdrop of the station clock.
11. Immerse yourself in nature in the middle of the city
The Botanical Garden is the ideal place for peaceful walks and enjoying the natural beauty. Its history dates back to 1626, when Louis XIII's physician founded the royal garden of medicinal plants. In 1640 it was opened to the public, and since then it has been one of the city's favorite places for relaxing, walking and jogging. The garden's collection includes more than 10 thousand plants. There are tropical greenhouses, rich rose gardens, an alpine garden, gardens of irises, peonies and perennials. Find ancient trees here: an acacia planted in 1636 and a cedar growing since 1734, and in season take beautiful photos under the Japanese cherry trees.
The Botanical Gardens have things to see in Paris besides green and flowery areas. There is the oldest zoo in Paris, La Ménagerie, the Natural History Museum, which includes four galleries: paleontology, mineralogy, entomology and the impressive Grand Gallery of Evolution. The botanical garden has food and drink stands during the warmer months. Entrance to the garden is free on weekdays, and €1 on weekends. To the zoo you must buy an entrance ticket for 6-8 euros.
12. Immerse yourself in the royal chic of the Château de Versailles
The grandiose palace and park ensemble, once the main residence of King Louis XIV, is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site filled with priceless works of art. Architect Louis Leveaux transformed the original royal hunting lodge into an exquisite residence with terraces, fountains, parterres and lush greenery. After the architect's death, the work was continued by Jules Ardouin Mansart, adding two pink marble palaces, the Grand and Petit Trianons.
This is one of the best things to do in Paris, so allow a decent amount of time. Be sure to check out the Chapel Royal and Marie Antoinette's boudoir, and appreciate the Hall of Mirrors, a 240-foot-long gallery overlooking the garden, lined with mirrors. There are 357 of them. The Petit Trianon is a striking example of neoclassicism, while the Grand Trianon is notable for the decor preserved after Napoleon and his empress Marie-Louise stayed here. Visitors can book a guided tour for half a day, one day or several days. It is also worth exploring the park around the castle on foot, by sigwei or horse-drawn carriage.
13. Climb to the third floor of the Eiffel Tower
We know you've already put this item on your itinerary. It tops the top things to do in Paris for most tourists. The Eiffel Tower has become an iconic symbol of this city. But we will still remind you what things to do in Paris (things in paris), except for a photo against its background.
The grandiose structure was built according to the project of engineer Gustave Eiffel in two years for the World Exhibition of 1889. Its height of 984 feet allowed the tower to be the tallest structure in the world until the 1930s, when it was displaced from this pedestal by New York's Empire State Building. On the first and second floors of the tower, visit the exhibition area, souvenir shops, cafes and even send a commemorative postcard from the post office. Walk to the second level and take the glass elevator to the third. On the top floor at 905 feet is an observation deck that offers a magnificent 360-degree panorama of the city. Visit Gustave Eiffel's restored office here and have a glass of champagne at the bar. The Eiffel Tower is one of the most visited landmarks in the world, so book your tickets in advance.
14. Learn French Cuisine at Les Arlots
Paris has so many establishments specializing in a wide variety of cuisines from around the world, so if you don't know what to do with dinner in Paris, we suggest you experience authentic French cuisine at the elegant bistro Les Arlots. This old-school style establishment near the Gare du Nord train station offers simple dishes and the atmosphere of a Sunday family lunch. The interior is simple, without frills and fancy decor, the only noticeable decoration is a wall of wine bottles. By the way, the wine list here is really good. Sit down in the spacious bar and start with an excellent 4-meat pâté or a soft-boiled egg with vegetables and dried fish roe. Then move on to modern variations of meat classics and try the mashed potatoes with sausages. Or order the confit beef cheeks or beef tenderloin with roasted potatoes and garlic and red wine sauce. It sounds very simple, but trust me, the flavor will be memorable. This place is good for a family meal, a sit-down with friends with a drink, or a solo dinner.
15. Pay tribute to the dead at the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
This most famous cemetery in the world, which has become a real attraction, is one of the top things to see in Paris. It is located in the middle of the city's trendy neighborhoods: within 10 minutes of any of the entrances you will find cafes, restaurants and stores. The neo-Gothic cemetery is a picturesque place with a maze of winding paths and massive stone staircases. It was established in the early 19th century and was outside the city limits at the time. But it became a popular place for burial only when the Prefect of Paris decided to transfer there the remains of famous personalities. Today, many respected and famous people have found eternal rest here, and many tombs and chapels are examples of funerary sculptures of various styles. The most visited tombs belong to musician Jim Morrison of The Doors, writer Oscar Wilde, film and stage stars Maria Callas, Edith Piaf, Sarah Bernhardt, composers Modigliani, Chopin and hundreds of other notable personalities. You can book a guided tour or use the map of celebrities in Père Lachaise Cemetery and walk around on your own.
16. Visit Roland Garros
This stadium is home to the French Open Tennis Championships, one of the sporting world's premier events and what to see in Paris. It is one of four Grand Slam tournaments that take place in France at the turn of spring and summer. If your trip falls during this period (or you're specifically planning to come to Paris for it), plan your visit in advance to enjoy the event to the fullest.
Start with a pre-game picnic in the Acclimatization Garden. There's plenty things to do for adults and children alike: the park, founded in 1860 in Paris , features a Norman-style farm and animal enclosures, amusement rides and a miniature golf course. The gates to the Roland Garros stadium open around 10am and it's best to arrive on time. Have your documents and ticket ready and don't forget your sunscreen and hat - the tennis courts and fans' stands have no shade, so you'll be spending a few hours in the sun. Check the schedule of games you'd like to attend to see your favorite athletes. RG has even developed a special app for navigating the stadium.
17. Watch classic movies at the Parc de la Villette
If you're looking for things to do in Paris France outdoors, head to the largest local park . It has an area of 35 hectares. It was designed by Swiss architect Bernard Tschumi and is not just a beautiful green space for recreation and play, but also a multi-disciplinary center of art and culture, which is visited by over 10 million people a year. There is a music museum, the famous concert venue Le Zenith and the huge science museum La Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, which includes many interactive locations and exhibitions: greenhouses, planetarium, cinemas, learning areas for children and even a 1950s Argonaute submarine. Here you will find things to do all day in Paris. But one of Parisians' favorite things to do in this park is the open-air film festival. Film screenings start in mid-July and attract about 2,000 people to their sessions on the lawns - can you imagine such a movie hall? Films are chosen each year on a specific theme and are broadcast with original dubbing and French subtitles. And you can continue the evening in the beach nightclub Plage du Glazart on a hot dance floor or with a cocktail on a sun lounger.
18. Visit the caves of the Buttes-Chaumont park
Agreed, caves are not what comes to mind when you think of Paris. There are many beautiful parks here, but if you need to find somewhere informal, divert yourself from the usual tourist routes and you'll find something to do in the Parc du Bout Cheaumont in the 19th arrondissement of Paris.
In 1860, the city expanded its boundaries by absorbing the village of Belleville and its former gypsum and limestone quarry. In its place was laid out a park with beautiful winding paths, vertical cliffs, waterfalls and caves. Today, it is another favorite place for Parisians to stroll and relax. Among the most beautiful places in the park should be highlighted suspension bridge at a height of 8 meters above the lake, designed by Gustave Eiffel, the Temple of Sibylla - a mini-copy of the ancient Roman temple of Vesta in Italy and a huge artificial grotto 14 meters wide and 20 meters high. It is built on the remains of the quarry and decorated with artificial stalactites up to 8 meters long. This landscape masterpiece is decorated with a cascading waterfall from the top of the cave. After your walk, enjoy a view of the park and a cocktail from the terrace of the Puebla Pavilion pub.
19. Tickle your nerves in the catacombs
This mystical place offers one of the best activities in Paris, an atmospheric walk among the tombs 20 meters underground. The Paris catacombs were created between the 17th and 18th centuries. These catacombs are home to millions of ordinary people as well as many illustrious personalities such as Charles Perrault, Racine, Rabelais, Robespierre, Marat and their henchmen. The tunnels have a total length of 3 thousand kilometers and run under most of the city. Then you will reach the sign "Stop! This is the Empire of Death", behind which the crypt opens up. The tour lasts about 45 minutes and takes you through a damp, cramped tunnel through a series of galleries. During this time, you'll walk about 2 kilometers - this is the part you can visit legally. Wear something warm - the temperature in the tunnels reaches only 14°C. This labyrinth of bones has a philosophical character. The plaques and sayings around it make you think about purpose and our place in the world.
20. See the Pantheon
This gigantic Neo-Classicist architectural monument was commissioned by King Louis XV, who wanted to thank St. Genevieve for his recovery from a serious illness. But by the time the project was completed in 1790, much had changed in the world order. During the revolutionary period, Pantin was dubbed the "temple of reason," where the country's most revered citizens found rest. The graves of Voltaire, Hugo, Rousseau, Zola and Jean Moulin are located here. New "residents" in this crypt appear very rarely. For example, in 1995 the remains of Pierre and Marie Curie were moved here, and in 2002 Alexander Dumas was buried.
The Pantheon in Paris should be seen not only for the tombs of famous people of France, but also to admire its interior decoration. There are magnificent Greek columns, 19th-century frescoes created by the artist Puvis de Chavannes and dedicated to the life of Geneviève. By climbing the spiral staircase, you can get a better view of the dome and the temple as a whole and see a replica of Foucault's pendulum.
21. Go on a date at the Hotel Particulier Montmartre
Paris is considered to be the city of lovers not only in France, but all over the world, so any top 10 things to do in Paris must include something romantic. One such place with the right atmosphere is behind the big black gate between Avenue Lepic and Junot. This was once the residence of the Hermes family with a 900 square meter private garden around it. Now a hotel operates here. It has 5 suites, each with its own atmosphere and unique decor. The place exudes elegant luxury and is ideal for privacy and relaxation. Guests can play petanque on one of the city's secret courts and visit the Le Tres Particulier bar downstairs. Here, under a glass roof amid black and white tiles and red velvet armchairs, you can sample original cocktails from a duo of bartenders and explore a menu of succulent tapas. It seems surprising that such a corner of relaxation and tranquility is located in the middle of the chaos of Montmartre, filled with tourists. But this metro is not called one of the city's great secrets for nothing.
22. Party all night at Supersonic
Supersonic is a rock venue in Paris that cannot be overlooked. Located in the center of the Bastille district, the club is an iconic spot for rock fans. Live concerts and parties last until 6am here, so this is if you're looking for activities to do in Paris, it's a great option for a bright night out. The club opened in 2016 and quickly gained popularity thanks to its free concerts. Its program includes a variety of genres, from indie rock, punk and post rock to pop and psychedelic. The 250-seat hall looks like a New York loft. Every weekend there are pop-rock parties, and every two months there is a Sunday Tributes event. There is a Supersonic Records store on the same street in Paris as the club, so there is stuff to do here for every music lover.
23. Explore Monet's gardens
Many iconic sights are not in the city itself, but there are also things to see near Paris. For example, head to Giverny to see Claude Monet's house and the delightful garden around it. Monet lived in this pink house for 40 years, but tourists don't come here for his paintings. In fact, his original works are not here at all. You can see only a collection of a couple hundred prints that the artist collected. Almost 50 of them were made by the 18th century Japanese artist Kitagawa Utamaro. But Claude Monet was also an exceptional gardener, so the gardens at Giverny, with their rose bushes, willows over Japanese bridges and lilies in the ponds, can rival even his paintings. There are a lot of tourists here, so get ready to queue, but it's definitely one of the things you have to do in Paris.
24. Have a drink at Hemingway's favorite bar
Pubs and bars in Paris offer not only great booze, but also cool things to do. This bar was opened in 1944 by bartender Colin Field and named after the famous writer and a well-known regular. Legend has it that after the premises was liberated t the Nazis after WWII, he bought champagne for everyone inside. He lived nearby and wrote his works in this bar. Inside the room is decorated with his photos and some memorabilia. Also, this bar is considered one of the possible places where the Bloody Mary cocktail was created, which is disputed by Harry's Bar in New York.
The cocktail menu contains over 20 cocktails - as old-fashioned as you can get, served in glasses decorated with fruit, flowers and herbs. It's a sophisticated and expensive vacation spot (cocktails are priced around $30), but it's one of the things you can do in Paris to brag later about having a glass of literary history.
25. Climb the Tour Montparnasse
There are many popular activities in Paris with good observation decks. The Tour Montparnasse skyscraper is a huge glass and steel structure that was erected on the site of the old station in 1974. This project during construction received a lot of criticism from the Parisian society for not conforming to the general urban development, but it was finished in time and became even higher than originally planned. Now it houses offices and business centers of famous companies, brand name stores, restaurants and conference halls, as well as the best observation deck in the city. It's actually lower than the Eiffel Tower, at 686 feet tall. But it offers a better view, even more so of the Eiffel Tower itself. In 38 seconds, the elevator takes you to the 56th floor, where you'll find a gift store, a café lounge, and stunning views of the streets and famous things to do in Paris. And if you go even higher up on the roof, you'll find the most magnificent panorama of the city. This terrace also hosts open-air classical music concerts.