31 Can’t Miss Things to Do in Paris

There’s so much to see and do in Paris, the choices can be almost overwhelming. You can’t leave without visiting the Eiffel Tour, Arc de Triomphe, and the Louvre (just to name a few), but make sure to save time to relax and watch quotidian life unfold in the City of Light.

Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
This former royal palace is one of the largest museums in the world, and its art collection is considered one of the most comprehensive. It contains around 400,000 works, although—mercifully, perhaps—not all are on display at any one time. There are some pieces that never get taken off the walls. The Mona Lisa and her smile attract millions of visitors each year. Other must-see masterpieces include the sculptures Winged Victory of Samothrace and Michelangelo’s Rebellious Slave, and the Eugène Delacroix painting The Death of Sardanapalus. There’s no real trick to avoiding crowds at the always-packed museum. The best you can do is try to go in the off-season, early or late in the day, and on a weekday. Your chances of being alone with the Mona Lisa will still be slim to none, but you might be able to actually see that enigmatic smile behind the Plexiglas.
84 Rue Claude Monet
It’s a quick train ride from Paris to Vernon and the 19th-century home of impressionist artist Claude Monet. From the station, most visitors hop on the bus waiting to take them to Giverny, but right across the street, a bike rental shop can easily turn the visit into a romantic day in the country. On Wednesdays and Saturdays, pick up supplies for a picnic at the farmers’ market in the quaint Norman town. Your bucolic ride along the Seine follows a protected bike path all the way to the pastel-tinted home and gardens that inspired many of Monet’s masterpieces.
5 Rue de Palestine, 75019 Paris, France
More rough-and-tumble and far less touristy than the Tuileries and Luxembourg gardens, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a green space that’s worth a visit—especially given the recent resurgence of its surrounding district, the formerly working-class neighborhood of Belleville. You’ll find a nice mix of mostly Parisians walking, eating, canoodling, and sipping cocktails at the park’s not-too-overpriced Rosa Bonheur bar. In short, there’s plenty to keep you entertained if you just want to sit back and people-watch. From the elevation of this former quarry (much of the stone used to build Paris was extracted here), you can get a nice view of the city, especially if you make the trek to the Victorian-era folly that sits at the park’s highest point.
75006 Paris, France
On sunny days, Parisians head for the Luxembourg Garden, built by Marie de’ Medici in 1611 and modeled after the Boboli Gardens in her native Florence. In addition to the magnificent Medici Fountain, there are more than 100 statues arranged around the garden’s 20 hectares (50 acres), which encompass both formal French and English gardens. Here you’ll find chess players, puppeteers, children sailing tiny boats on the octagonal pool and sometimes a free concert in the gazebo.
Père-Lachaise, 75020 Paris, France
This beautiful Parisian cemetery is on the Boulevard de Menilmontant and next to the Metro station Philippe August, in the 20th arrondissement. Upon entrance to the main gate, grab a map so not to get too lost. The art work on the memorials and the stories behind the names on the headstones inspire a mood of great tragedy and romance. The locals call it the la cite des morts (the city of the dead). The cemetery makes the ideal place to explore if you’ve seen a lot of Paris before and want to dig a bit deeper. Seek out the tombs of 1) Oscar Wilde (for all of those declarations and kisses left behind); 2) Georges Rodenbach, a Belgian writer and poet of the 19th century with a breathtaking tomb; 3) Victor Noir, who became more famous in death (by duel) than life. Seek the answer to the riddle of why his tomb is seen as good luck for fertility You’ll also see the gravesite of Gertrude Stein and Alice Toklas, buried side by side in a testament to their love. The list of the celebrity dead goes on and includes Gericault, Piaf, Chopin, Heloise and Abelard. Even Jim Morrison. An afternoon here is guaranteed to leave you grateful for the treasures you found but weren’t expecting.
1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
Small enough to get around without being overwhelmed, the Musée d’Orsay is a favorite stop in Paris not just for its size but for its collection of Impressionist, Postimpressionist, and art nouveau art. Perfectly set in the center of the city, on the banks of the Seine, and opposite the Tuileries Gardens, the museum is housed in the former Gare d’Orsay, a railway station that was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900—so the building itself could be seen as a work of art. The extraordinary collection spans art created in the period between 1848 and 1914.
Avenue Franklin Delano Roosevelt, 75008 Paris, France
A kid can spend only so much time in “Isn’t that pretty, don’t touch, be quiet” museums. Parisian families looking for rainy-day activities where kids can be themselves head to the Discovery Palace. Located in the western wing of the Grand Palais, this hands-on science museum has exhibits and experiments on everything from chemistry to life sciences to the stars. Watch as real scientists test their theories, play fun math games, and challenge your memory. It’s fascinating to explore the subjects that your little scientists are most drawn to, or to uncover the ones that make them want to run and hide.
Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France
Nothing is a more powerful symbol of the City of Light than the Eiffel Tower. Designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 Paris Exposition, it’s one of the world’s most-visited monuments, with nearly 7 million people ascending the 1,062-foot wrought-iron structure each year. Glass elevators spirit you to the top—hardy souls can take the stairs part of way—where in addition to unparalleled panoramic views of Paris, you can toast your arrival with a glass of bubbly at the Champagne bar. Evenings there’s a grand light show: every hour on the hour, the tower sparkles for five minutes with 20,000 bulbs.
Place de la Concorde, 75001 Paris, France
Before the French Revolution, this park used to be the site of the Royal Palace. Today, the garden, which separates the Louvre from Place de la Concorde, is a place where Parisians and tourists stroll amid Rodin and Maillol statues or relax alongside the many fountains after a long afternoon spent at the city’s museums. Done in a formal French style, the garden features manicured rows of trees and grassy areas punctuated by gravel walkways. There are benches throughout but the green metal chairs are the most popular choice of seating; pull one around the ponds as the Parisians do and enjoy your book or a snack while taking in the view. On warm days, people gather at shady cafés around the park; during chilly months, vendors sell mulled wine. Whenever you come, though, we recommend you don’t wear your finest shoes, as the gravel paths will get your kicks quite dusty.
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
Located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe was inspired by Rome‘s Arch of Titus and commissioned by Napoleon in 1806. It was inaugurated in 1836 by King Louis-Philippe, who dedicated it to the armies of the revolution and the empire. The Unknown Soldier was buried at its base in 1921, and the flame of remembrance is still rekindled each day at 6:30 p.m. Take the stairs or the elevator to the top for a panoramic view.
Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
The Centre Pompidou, France‘s national museum of modern art, led the way for steel-and-glass buildings in the 1970s. Now the museum leads the way in modern art with its extraordinary collection, currently the world’s second largest. Masterpieces include Pablo Picasso’s Parade and—one of my favorites—Tamara de Lempicka’s Young Girl in Green. Go for the museum, but check out the public library and the view of Paris that becomes more and more impressive as the museum’s escalators rise from floor to floor. Spot the Eiffel Tower and Sacré-Coeur (and perhaps a street entertainer or two with a gawking audience of kids) from the sprawling roof terrace.
75001 Paris, France
Stand on the the quais beneath the Pont Neuf bridge—the city’s oldest crossing of the Seine—and look up. Staring down at you are mascarons, stone faces that resemble gargoyles, but without bodies. No two of these grotesque visages are the same. Enjoy their individuality as you ponder the decades it took to build this stone structure: begun in 1578 by Henri III and inaugurated by Henri IV in 1607. From 1588 to 1599, construction was interrupted by the French Wars of Religion, which lasted 36 years. Then head up the stairs to walk across its two spans, which connect the Ile de la Cité to the Right and Left banks. Great views of the Louvre can be had from the longer, seven-arch span that stretches to the Right Bank.
6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
A devastating fire on April 15, 2019, has closed the interior of the cathedral to visitors. Plans to rebuild and reopen the structure are being made, but at present, visitors are not allowed near the site.
For a first-time visitor to Notre Dame, investing in the audio guide is essential to understand this overwhelmingly significant Paris icon. There’s a lot to see and absorb—history, architecture, artifacts, theology—and the audio guide gives a much-needed sense of direction and context. Even without spiritual ties, the awe-inspiring grandeur of the cathedral is not to be missed from every angle—tour the naves, stroll around the entirety of the exterior, take in the city from the top of the towers, walk along Quai de Montebello to view it from across the water, or admire it from a river cruise down the Seine. The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris is everything everyone says it is and more.
1 Avenue du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France
In the 14th district of Paris are the Catacombs, also known as the underground ossuary (or l’Ossuaire Municipal) where 6 million skeletons are stacked in an orderly fashion and date back several centuries ago. This was done because Paris cemeteries were running out of space while the city itself was expanding, thus it was agreed to move each cemetery’s collection of skeletons underground.

It is an eerie place to visit and I wouldn’t recommend it is for the faint of heart. Still, not a sight to miss. People like Charles 10, François the 1st (Emperor of Austria), Napoleon III and his son all took a stroll through the long and ominous halls of the Catacombs to pay a visit. It really is a sight like no other, and is great to visit if you’ve already seen all the main tourist sites, or even a rainy afternoon to escape dreary weather.

It was interesting to discover the cause of death by looking at some of these skulls. In this particular picture I captured a skull which did not die of a natural cause. It had a perfect circle in the left cheek, indicating a gunshot wound. It was a scary discovery, but I felt compelled to photograph it.

Tickets are either 8 Euros full price, 4 Euros for youth tickets (age 14-26), and free 13 and under.

Learn more about the history of the Paris Catacombs in this article.
13 Avenue du Président Wilson, 75116 Paris, France
The largest contemporary art space in Europe is also the coolest place to be for kids of every age. Teens come in flocks, lining up for the vintage Fotomaton, exploring the experiential art exhibitions, and waiting for the opening of the YoYo nightclub. Families with young kids also enjoy the art, as well as the kiddy art classes and the fantastic brunches at Tokyo Eats.
8 Place de la Concorde, 75005 Paris, France
Paris is a wonderful city to explore on one’s own, but sometimes it can be nice to have a guide to bring the city and its history to life in a special way. Group tours aren’t for everyone, though—get the personal touch with Paris by Tuktuk. It offers themed private tours throughout the city, day or night, by electric tuk-tuk. Melting Pot tours take visitors along graffiti-adorned streets and are fun for families, the Romantic Stroll tour is the perfect excuse for a surprise proposal, and the Wine-Tasting tour works well for foodies, couples, and hen parties.
Place des Vosges, Paris, France
This beautiful square is one the city’s oldest; set in Le Marais, it’s surrounded by grand houses and an arched walkway lined with galleries and quaint cafés. At Number 6, you’ll find the former home of Victor Hugo, author of “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” The park at its center is a popular place to gather al fresco in the warm weather.
120-122 Rue des Rosiers
Tempted by trendier bistros in the area, tourists rarely stop by this nondescript café on the corner of the Rue des Rosiers at the St.-Ouen flea market unless they are gypsy jazz fans. Aficionados from across the globe know that La Chope is the place to hear the best of gypsy jazz in Paris and where the spirit of Django Reinhardt lingers. Businessman (and jazz guitarist) Marcel Campion saved the historic spot from destruction, opening a jazz school upstairs, sponsoring master classes, and providing accommodations for wandering talent. Concerts are held every Saturday and Sunday from 12:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. Reservations not required.
18 Rue Antoine Bourdelle, 75015 Paris, France
The tiny Bourdelle Museum was once the atelier and home of sculptor Antoine Bourdelle, whose monumental art deco masterpieces are a highlight of the Champs-Élysées Theater. The museum displays works the artist purchased for his own inspiration, as well as his own largest pieces in an airy, light-flooded hall, an open-air gallery, and a sculpture garden. In a workshop area, the process of casting bronze sculptures is demonstrated. A tiny rose garden with lounge chairs provides a welcoming oasis to neighbors and visitors. This is the ideal museum for giving young children a first taste of fine art and for those who like art in small doses.
62 Rue des Archives, 75003 Paris, France
Lions and tigers and bears…oh my, this museum has everything for the aspiring naturalist. Examining the relationship of human and animal throughout history, original displays of classic and contemporary art mingle with taxidermic animals, rifle collections, and archives in a 17th-century mansion. Visitors, especially kids, will love opening the wooden drawers to find contents like scat and paw-print samples, or hunting down a trompe l’oeil mousehole. Founded by the François Sommer Foundation, the museum is committed to promoting the global discussion about our environment. The result is a compelling selection of temporary exhibitions, conferences, and events that change with the seasons.
Port de la Rapée, 75012 Paris, France
Board an elegant 1930s Venetian taxi boat for the most romantic Seine River tour on the waters of Paris. Champagne is chilling in the ice bucket and a few snacks are served as well, but the real show is life on the river, up-close and more personal than you could ever get on the larger boat tours. Wave to picnickers on the berges, spy on lovers canoodling under the bridges, and peek into barge homes from your 30-foot wood and chrome beauty. Take the evening tour, and you’ll witness the Eiffel Tower sparkling every hour on the hour.
Quai de Valmy
The location for the most charming scenes in the movie Amélie, this once-forgotten neighborhood is now a destination for the young and fun-loving. As soon as the weather turns warm, picnickers line the paths along this 19th-century waterway, watching bridges rise and turn to allow barges to pass. Shopping, food, drink, and diversions also abound here: Artazart (83 Quai de Valmy) is recognized as one of the best design bookstores in Europe, while Le Comptoir Général, just across the bridge, offers live music and cheap drinks. Chez Prune has one of the city’s most popular terraces for enjoying a glass of something refreshing and a chance to watch Paris go by.
10 Place de l'Opéra, 75009 Paris, France
The Palais Garnier, the national opera house of Paris, is a magnificent building dripping in ornate details and glittering with gold. The five-ton chandelier, made famous in The Phantom of the Opera, still takes center stage in the auditorium. It is surrounded by a swirling, colorful ceiling painting by Marc Chagall. The decoration goes beyond the auditorium: The grand foyer rivals the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and the grand staircase is an entryway fit for royalty. You don’t need to buy a ticket to the opera to see the space: Tours are given daily in a variety of languages.
Place d'Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Without a doubt Versailles is the most luxurious palace in Europe, built to astound visitors and impress the king’s subjects into awed submission with crystal chandeliers, gilt, and fine art. This opulent monument is also attractive to those with simpler tastes: Visitors with green thumbs will love the king’s kitchen gardens while others may want to rent bicycles to pedal the lavish grounds, and animal lovers will enjoy the sheep, goats, and chickens receiving the royal treatment at the queen’s quaint hamlet. La Petite Venise, an excellent restaurant on the grounds, offers garden seating on sunny days.
6 Rue Baudelique, 75018 Paris, France
French chef Eric Fraudeau spent 30 years working in three-star kitchens. When he returned to France, he opened a cooking school to share the wealth of French cuisine with visitors from across the globe. He started with market-to-table classes and was soon overrun with requests for his fun, informative, hands-on lessons. There is now an entire team at CWC, all of them professional chefs or sommeliers, offering a range of classes, from “Mother of All Sauces” to cooking with kids, wine pairings, and baking croissants or macarons. You can also opt for a gourmet food tour instead.
6 Rue de la Grange Batelière, 75009 Paris, France
Passages were designed in the 19th century to give Parisians protection from muddy streets and horse-drawn vehicles. Some 20 of these covered walkways remain today, including the Passage Verdeau; they are an excellent way to journey back into Parisian history. Located across from Passage Jouffroy in Les Grands Boulevards area of Paris, Passage Verdeau has shops carrying antique cameras, books and engravings. The passage takes its name from Sir Verdeau, one of the promoters and shareholders of the arcade (and also the inventor of the concept of linen rentals for hotels).
37 Quai de la Seine
The boat basin Bassin de la Villette is berth to Marin d’Eau Douce, a service that rents out easy-to-steer electric boats by the hour. Captaining your own boat is an unforgettable way to see Paris and beyond. Cruise through the industrial countryside, watch graffiti artists working on city-sponsored projects, pass shipping barges, bob alongside the swans, and putter past the city limits on your self-guided visit. The trips are perfect for couples, families with young kids, or small groups of friends. (The youngest sailors will love the mini-boat rides available for 10-minute spins around the basin.)
3 Bd Edgar Quinet, 75014 Paris, France
Step off the beaten path that leads to Jim Morrison’s grave at Père Lachaise and head instead to the lesser-known, yet extraordinary Montparnasse Cemetery. Locals bring metro tickets to leave on Serge Gainsbourg’s grave in honor of his song “Le Poinçonneur des Lilas (The Lilas Ticket Taker).” Nearby rest the poet Baudelaire and eternal lovers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. A married couple by the name of Pigeon share a tomb that is as surprising as their family name. Susan Sontag opted for a minimalist grave, while artist Niki de Saint Phalle chose a rainbow-colored mosaic cat for the grave of her assistant Ricardo. Brancusi’s The Kiss sculpture stands at the head of his grave. Stop at a guardian’s kiosk when you enter the tranquil space and ask for a map of the luminaries who have made this their eternal resting place.
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre
High atop Montmartre is this distinctive white church, Sacré-Cœur, or “sacred heart.” Constructed of travertine stone (the same used in the Arc de Triomphe), the Roman Catholic Church took nearly 40 years to complete and five more years to be consecrated (in 1919). If you choose to approach the church from below, it’s around 100 steps, and if you want to climb up into the dome, it’s another 270. Your reward for all that exercise is a stunning view of Paris unfolding below. Also worth noting: the basilica’s campanile houses La Savoyarde, the largest bell in France, weighing in at 19 tons.
8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, 75116 Paris, France
With its swooping glass panels that resemble a kind of space-age ship’s sails, Frank Gehry’s design for the Louis Vuitton art collection, which opened in fall 2014, is worth the Métro ride to the far-flung 16th arrondissement. The multiple terraces let you peek through and around the panels: One side overlooks the verdant Bois de Boulogne park, while the other offers a view of the Eiffel Tower, looking miniature in the distance. The innovative exhibitions of modern and contemporary art rotate twice yearly. Outside on the ground level is a can’t-miss piece by Olafur Eliasson: a dizzying row of yellow-glass and mirrored columns that are guaranteed to fill your Instagram feed.
14 Rue des Récollets, 75010 Paris, France
This small park in the Canal Saint-Martin area offers a respite from the bustling city. Among the many varieties of trees and flowers, you’ll find a grassy space for sunbathing, a pond for birdwatching and a garden where veggies and flowers are cultivated. The park was the former site of a convent and military hospital; today the only remnant is a stone gateway at the Rue des Récollets entrance.

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