Best Things To Do in Paris
If it’s your first time to Paris, you’ll probably want to spend some time at the world-renowned Eiffel Tower, the Louvre and Notre-Dame, but don’t miss out on other notable city jewels such as the Musée d’Orsay, the Luxembourg Gardens or Le Marais. There’s no way you’ll get to do it all – museum-touring, shopping, cemetery-perusing, district-exploring, opera-attending – so plan your own itinerary, group sightseeing nearby attractions together and see Paris on your own terms. Or, book a guided tour to explore pockets of the city with the help of a local.
1. Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale de Notre Dame de Paris)
Its wooden roof and spire collapsed during the fire. It remains closed until further notice.Like the Eiffel Tower, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is seen as a Parisian icon. Located right along the picturesque River Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is considered a Gothic masterpiece and is often regarded as one of the best Gothic cathedrals of its kind in the world. Construction of the famous cathedral started in the late 10th century and final touches weren’t made until nearly 200 years later. And once you get an eyeful of the cathedral yourself, you’ll start to understand why it took so long.The architectural details of the Notre-Dame are intricate and become more abundant the closer you get. The front entrance boasts carefully carved statues that integrate seamlessly into its stone facade. The portal of judgment entrance, in particular, is just one example of this awe-inspiring architectural style. The back end of the cathedral is just as spectacularly detailed, featuring an ornate flying buttress just begging to be photographed. Inside, travelers will find sky-high gilded ceilings and stained-glass windows throughout. If you want to do more than just meander around, visitors have the option of climbing the cathedral’s 387 steps for top-notch views of the city. Or you can venture below to the crypt to view ancient remains.Travelers found the architecture of the Notre-Dame to be amazing both inside and out. Those who ventured to the top of the cathedral thoroughly enjoyed the views, but were annoyed at how little time they were afforded by cathedral officials. Because going to the top of the Notre-Dame is such a popular activity, and there’s so little space at the top, the cathedral restricts the number of people at the top as well as how long they can be there. Also, be prepared to wait. The attraction sees upward of 13 million visitors per year, so unless you come really early in the morning or late at night, there will likely be throngs of people at the front plaza and long lines to the top of the cathedral.
2. Musée du Louvre
If you only had time to visit one museum in Paris, it should undoubtedly be the Musée du Louvre. That’s because the Louvre is not only widely considered to be one of the best art museums in Europe, but one of the best in the world as well. The museum first opened its doors in 1793 and features a grand total of 35,000 works of art. Here you can get up close to a variety of art from different time periods and cultures. The Louvre features everything from Egyptian mummy tombs to ancient Grecian sculptures (including the renowned Winged Victory of Smothrace and curvaceous Venus de Milo). There are also thousands of paintings to peruse as well. Masterpieces such as “Liberty of Leading the People” by Eugene Delacroix, “The Raft of Medusa” by Théodore Géricault and Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa,” the museum’s biggest star, can be found here. You can even get a glimpse of Napolean the Third’s old apartment digs. Though you don’t necessarily have to visit the apartments to get a taste of what it was like to be a royal. Before it was a museum, the Louvre served as a royal residence for a number of French powers, including Louis XIV. It was only sometime after Louis XIV left the Louvre in favor of Versailles that the Louvre began to transform into a museum.
3. Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Designed and constructed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle (the World’s Fair), the Eiffel Tower was always meant to be a temporary structure, but it skirted demolition talks twice. The first time, at the beginning of the 1900s, the tower was kept around because of its transmission talents. Gustav Eiffel, chief architect of the Eiffel Tower, had a variety of scientific experiments tested on the tower with the hope that any discoveries would help prolong its lifespan. One of these included a wireless transmissions test, which the tower passed with flying colors. During World War I, the Eiffel Tower’s transmission capabilities enabled it to intercept communications from enemies as well as relay intel to troops on the ground. The second time the Eiffel Tower was almost destroyed was during the German occupation of France during World War II. Hitler planned to get rid of the tower, but never ended up going through with his plan.Today, the Eiffel Tower is still used for communication transmissions but is chiefly regarded for its grandeur. If you can believe it, many Parisians initially found this architectural marvel to be nothing more than an eyesore. Regardless, the Eiffel Tower today stands as one of the most visited tourist attractions in the world. Visitors can walk up to the first floor of the Eiffel Tower or take the elevator all the way up to the top, where they’ll be treated with vast panoramic views of the city. While some recent visitors complain of long lines – especially during the summer – you can bypass the wait by booking your tickets online at the Eiffel Tower’s website. And though some travelers aren’t crazy about the price to get to the top, many agree that the views are worth it. Visitors also strongly recommend making an additional trek at night. That’s because every hour on the hour, thousands of flickering light bulbs make the Eiffel Tower sparkle, leaving tourists in complete awe.
4. Jardin des Tuileries
Centrally located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, the Jardin des Tuileries is a free public garden that spans approximately 55 acres. Though it was initially designed solely for the use of the royal family and court, the park was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1991 (as part of the Banks of the Seine) and has been open to the public since the 17th century. The green space holds an important role in France’s history. For example, foreign dignitaries once gathered for meetings in the Jardin des Tuileries, and Napoleon and Marie-Louise’s wedding procession marched through the gardens on the way to the couple’s marriage banquet in the now-defunct Palais des Tuileries.In the present day, Parisians and tourists alike love wandering along the park’s tree-lined paths, having picnics on the lawn or simply sitting on a bench and people-watching. Recent visitors noted that the park is a great place to relax on the way to or from the Louvre. The Musée de l’Orangerie is nearby as well, at the southwest end of the gardens. The gardens also contain three restaurants, a bookstore, a carousel and more.
5. Le Marais
Straddling the 3ème and 4ème arrondissements (districts), Le Marais is one of Paris’ oldest and coolest districts – so cool, in fact, that French writer Victor Hugo (author of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Les Misérables”) called it home. With all of its cobblestone streets, stately stone architecture and tucked away courtyards, it’s easy to feel as if you’re strolling through medieval Paris. Back in the day, Le Marais housed some notable French royalty. King Henry IV was the one responsible for the construction of the Place des Vosges, Paris’ oldest square. And Louis XIV called this neighborhood home for a while until he decided to move his family and court to Versailles. Much of Le Marais also survived the destruction made during the French Revolution.