With so much to see and do in Paris, it’s hard to make a list that goes to basics while having a realistic experience of everything Paname has to offer. By addressing mainly those who do not know Paris, we have selected the cream of the cream of Paris with some known places, others off the beaten track, to help you plan a long weekend or a stay of a few days in the capital.
The list of monuments and activities listed in this article represents the real Paris, and will offer you a memorable and authentic experience. Ready? Let’s go !
1. THE LOUVRE
Photo credit: Flickr – Elwin van Eede
The most recognized symbol of Paris is the Eiffel Tower, but some travelers prefer to visit the Louvre , much more interesting. It is the best art museum in the world but also the most visited and the largest, with 210,000 m² of exhibitions where you can find works from almost every civilization in the world. The three most popular works here are La Jonconde , Venus de Milo , and Victoire de Samothrace . Beyond these must-haves, the best thing to do is to know where you are going, and what you want to see first. But do not be afraid to lose yourself, because you could come across something memorable!
2. NOTRE-DAME CATHEDRAL IN PARIS
Photo credit: Flickr – Tobias
Rising above the Place Jean-Paul-II (forecourt) on the Ile de la Cité, Notre-Dame Cathedral is the symbolic heart of Paris and, for many, that of France. Napoleon was crowned here, and many kings and queens exchanged their wedding vows in front of his altar. The interior of the Gothic cathedral is to see (free tour), but the exterior is also beautiful with beautiful architectural details and the unforgettable view of Paris, between a few gargoyles, from the top of the south tower. Started in 1163, and completed in 1345, severely damaged during the Revolution, and restored by the architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century, Notre-Dame is not the oldest or largest cathedral in France, but in terms of beauty and architectural harmony, few are comparable.
3. THE EIFFEL TOWER
Photo credit: Flickr – Y Nakanishi
The Eiffel Toweris in Paris what the Statue of Liberty is in New York and what Big Ben is in London: the ultimate emblem. The French engineer Gustave Eiffel, already famous for the construction of viaducts and bridges, worked for two years to erect this emblematic monument of the 1889 World Fair. It also salutes the centenary of the French Revolution. Today, it is certainly the night she is the most beautiful, when it is highlighted in a sparkling show. The latter was to be used only for the year 2000, but it was so popular that the 20,000 bulbs were reinstalled for permanent use in 2003. The tower makes its electric dance for five minutes every hour of the fall of at night at one o’clock in the morning. Highly visited, it is possible tovisit the 3 floors of the Eiffel Tower without queuing.
4. THE BASILICA OF THE SACRED HEART
Photo credit: Flickr – Antonio Lavela
It’s hard not to believe that you are going up to heaven when you visit the Basilica of the Sacred Heart , this white castle perched at the top of Montmartre. The French government ordered it in 1873, after the devastating years of the Paris Commune and the Franco-Prussian War. It was the architect Paul Abadie who built the Sacred Heart, using Romanesque and Byzantine elements for his design. A mixture that many critics have called “gaudy”, in reference to the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. The construction lasted until the First World War, and the basilica was finally consecrated in 1919.
5. CLIMB THE ARC DE TRIOMPHE
Photo credit: Flickr – MK Feeney
Stretch your legs and climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe . Up there, you will have a view of the Champs-Elysées, and the arch of La Défense. It is also a privileged place to observe the driving techniques of Parisians: the roundabout of the Place de l’Etoile is at times anarchic. Indeed, when there is an accident here, the fault is automatically shared at 50/50 on the report. Back at the bottom of the arc, have a thought for the unknown soldier whose grave is under the Parisian monument.
6. THE PÈRE-LACHAISE CEMETERY
Photo credit: Flickr – Alexander Kluge
The Père Lachaise is the graveyard of celebrities are buried almost every talented French and deaths that can be cited. And even those not French. Religious belief and nationality never prevented one from being buried there: it was simply necessary that the person had lived or that she died in Paris or have a space allocated in a family grave. From Balzac to Chopin via Oscar Wilde (the tomb worn by the kisses of admirers), the hunt for talent is endless.
7. DIVE INTO THE CATACOMBS OF PARIS
Photo credit: Flickr – Bert Kaufmann
To stay in the glaucous (but fascinating), dare to go down into the bowels of the city. The visit of the Catacombs of Paris is without a doubt the most frightening attraction that Paris has to offer, with kilometers of tunnels lined with femurs and skulls of six million dead Parisians. Built 18 meters underground at the end of the 18th century to prevent diseases from spreading in the cemeteries of the city center, the Catacombs are now the scene of an icy walk.
8. THE MUSÉE D’ORSAY
Photo credit: Flickr – Joe deSousa
Sheltered since 1986 under the roof of one of the most beautiful train stations in Paris, the recently renovated galleries of the Musée d’Orsay contain the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world: Cézanne, Monet, Renoir Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gaugin, and many others are on display here. In addition to the works of the Grand Masters, you will find a collection of decorative art from the Art Nouveau era and a range of 19th century sculptures. Go relax at the cafe behind the museum’s giant transparent clock.
9. THE LUXEMBOURG GARDEN
Photo credit: Flickr – Kris Robinson
This 25-hectare park is an elegant way to escape the bustle of the Left Bank. Bordered by Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, these beautiful gardens are adored by Parisians wishing to bask in a garden chair in the sun or enjoy an impromptu picnic. Children of all ages can enjoy a small sailboat race in the basin behind the Senate, stroll through the children’s play area, watch a puppet show or borrow the oldest riding school in the city. Joggers come running, while others come to walk in the orchard and apiary, where beekeeping is taught and honey is sold in the fall. Do not miss the excellent art exhibitions at the renowned Luxembourg Museum.
10. THE RODIN MUSEUM
Photo credit: Flickr – achbine
Formerly the workshop of the great sculptor, this imposing 18th century residence is one of the most beautiful museums in Paris and contains more than 7000 sculptures by Rodin, including his great masterpieces The Thinker , The Kiss , The Bourgeois Calais and The Gate of Hell , alongside 8000 drawings and gouaches of the artist. The charming Musée Rodin Park, featuring a fountain, rose bushes and a lovely beer garden, makes it an ideal choice for a pleasant afternoon. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and a cycle of exhibitions of contemporary works. After three years of renovations, the museum has completely reopened in November 2015.
11. THE POMPIDOU CENTER
State-of-the-art Center Pompidou , whose museum frame is on the outside of the building, is home to treasures of modern art by (among others) Braque, Dubuffet, Matisse and Ernst, as well as temporary exhibitions. of art in constant mutation, so that two visits of the center are never identical. Arrive early when the queues are still bearable, or arrive at 18h and stay until the closing time at 21h, after which Georges , the trendy bar-restaurant of Pompidou, serves delicious cocktails in a futuristic setting with a panoramic view of the city.
12. PLAY BOULES ALONG THE OURCQ CANAL
Photo credit: Flickr – Cristina Barroca
The Canal de l’Ourcq, dating from the 19th century, was originally created by Napoleon to supply Paris with drinking water, but was widely used for the transport of goods. Today, like the Canal-St-Martin further downstream, the Ourcq Canal attracts a trendy crowd, from students to their thirties to young families who come to play bowling on the canal’s banks, picnic swim by the water and even play ping-pong in the playgrounds.
13. LOUIS VUITTON FOUNDATION
Photo credit: Flickr – Damien
Rising above the Bois de Boulogne like a magnificent ship with wavy crystal veils, the museum of contemporary art and cultural center designed by the architect Frank Gehry, is what is most captivating on the horizon Parisian since the unveiling of the Center Pompidou in 1977. Commissioned by Bernard Arnault (CEO of LVMH), it houses the important private collection of Arnault, including works by Pierre Huyghe, Gerhard Richter, Thomas Schutte, Ellsworth Kelly, Bertrand Lavier, Taryn Simon, Sarah Morris and Christian Boltanski, among others. The Louis Vuitton Foundation also hosts many temporary exhibitions, such as the installations of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
14. BUTTES-CHAUMONT PARK
Photo credit: Flickr – Milo.E
The possibilities of strolling in a park in Paris are numerous, from the Tuileries Garden paths to the Luxembourg Garden ponds. But if you are looking for something a little more unusual and less busy, the park Buttes-Chaumont is definitely worth seeing. Located high up in Belleville and often forgotten by weekend lovers wanting to stay away from the tourist loop, this jewel of the 19th arrondissement is one of the most magical places in the city.
15. DISCOVER THE VINEYARDS OF MONTMARTRE
Photo credit: Flickr – Tom Flemming
After exploring the charming museum of Montmartre , take a break in the gardens of Renoir, a haven of peace overlooking the vineyards of Montmartre and where we find the only cabaret of the late 19th century, Au Lapin Agile. The gardens have inspired many impressionist painters who have lived here, like Valadon, Utrillo and of course, Renoir. If you’re lucky, you’ll even meet Salis, the museum’s friendly cat named after the founder of the cabaret Au Chat Noir.
16. SLIDE ALONG THE SEINE ON A BATEAU-MOUCHE
Photo credit: Flickr – Melissa Delzio
The Seine is for some the most romantic side of Paris, and if you visit Paris in love, a cruise in Bateau-Mouche will be good. Its curves punctuated with bridges are lined with some of the most beautiful monuments in the world, and its quays of greenery offer him all the panoply to be on the postcards. This is by far the best way to see a maximum of monuments in an hour or two, if possible from a terrace of a Bateau-Mouche. Yes, they are tourist (to the point that most Parisians irrevocably hunt), but it is sometimes worthwhile to don his headphones audio and blend in the mass of tourists to enjoy a good time in the heart of Paris.
17. COVERED PASSAGES
Photo credit: Flickr – OTTAVI Alain
More than old shopping malls, The Covered Passages around the Grand Boulevards are galleries with a particular atmosphere dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries. Covered by a charming glass roof, their second-hand bookstores, tea rooms and gift shops make them fun alternatives to Parisian shopping galleries. The Galerie Vivienne and the Jouffroy Passage, which houses the Grévin Museum, are listed.
18. THE PICASSO MUSEUM
Photo credit: Flickr – Tom Graham
This immensely popular museum resurrected in late 2014, when it finally reopened after an ambitious (and controversial) five-year renovation that cost around 52 million euros. Home to the largest public collection in the world of Picasso’s inimitable work, it now covers nearly 5000 m² on two buildings: the 17th century Salé Hotel and a new garden-side structure dedicated to temporary exhibitions. The furniture exclusively designed by Diego Giacometti in Hotel Salé is an added bonus.
19. THE MARSH
Photo Credit: Flickr – Kae Yen Wong
By far the best shopping district in Paris, the Marais is much more than that. Located in the 3rd and 4th arrondissements, the old mansions, the superb museums (the Carnavalet museum, the Cognacq-Jay museum and the Picasso museum), the great restaurants, the cafés, the old Jewish district of Paris, and the beautiful Place Vosges make the district an essential activity to do in Paris. Take a walk through Vieille du Temple and Franc Bourgeois streets, two of the area’s backbone, and discover the charming side streets and hidden pleasures of the neighborhood.
20. THE DEYROLLE HOUSE
Photo credit: Flickr – Douglas LeMoine
Shop, museum and cabinet of curiosities par excellence, the superb taxidermist Deyrolle enchants and cultivates the Parisians since 1831. But to summarize this house to a taxidermist museum would be reductive. It is more of a kind of enchanted forest, with tigers, bears, and a gigantic giraffe basking peacefully in front of boxes full of birds, insects, butterflies, animals, shells, corals and reconstructed skeletons. The drawers contain every insect and butterfly imaginable to create your own box or to examine examples of the many botanical, entomological, and zoological posters that have adorned the walls of French classrooms for 150 years.