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Top 10 Things To Do in Paris

Paris is the world's most visited city year after year. I've had the chance to visit Paris twice, and I've barely scratched the surface of what the city offers.

Everyone's tastes are different; however, I'm confident at least half my picks would make anyone's top 10 list.

Paris Attractions

10. Pere Lachaise Cemetery (Jim Morrison's Grave)

The lead singer for The Doors is buried in Pere Lachaise Cemetery. He's in good company, too, given such luminaries as Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust are also interred there.

My Experience: I tried to visit the cemetery during my second trip to Paris in 2008. However, it was winter, and the cemetery had been closed due to icy conditions.

9. Palace of Versailles

While technically in a suburb of Paris, I include this royal chateau and UNESCO World Heritage Site because it's an easy day trip from the city.

Versailles is a monumental building covering 67,000 square meters and 2,300 rooms.

Its royal opulence is a testament to the old French monarchy. The whole complex is surrounded by expansive gardens too. Versailles tickets can be purchased online in advance for about $19 (19 euros).

My Experience: Versailles is the only other site I've yet to see on this list. I've seen plenty of royal palaces, but their grandeur never ceases to amaze me.

The exterior of the Pompidou Museum
The exoskeleton of the Pompidou Museum

8. Pompidou Centre (Museum)

The Pompidou houses an extensive public library and the city's modern art museum- one of the biggest in Europe!

The architecture of the building alone warrants a visit. As you can see in the photo above, the escalator is featured outside the walls of the Pompidou.

The whole structure feels transparent, a mix of steel and glass that seems to be effortlessly supporting the weight of the building. Nearby, there is also a water fountain filled with playful sculptures.

My Experience: I have fond memories of my first visit to the Pompidou in 1998.

Me and my friends I, tired from searching for hostels with free beds or affordable hotels in Paris (due to the World Cup), stopped by the fountain to take a break.

It wasn't until my return in 2008 that I got to go inside, explore the various galleries, and see the city views from the top floor.

Wine for sale at a Parisian shop
Wine for sale at a Parisian shop

7. Sampling Wine and Cheese

France is world-renowned for its wine, and Paris is the perfect place to sample a glass from Bordeaux or, if you're feeling celebratory, perhaps a bottle of bubbly from Champagne. Pair your selections with a cheese plate, sit back, and enjoy.

My Experience:  I view Paris differently than I did 15 years ago when it was just a jumble of iconic sites that had to be seen.

Now, I see it through the eyes of a foodie. Cafes, pastry shops, and fine dining. Those are the images conjured up when I think about a third visit to the city.

6. Montmartre & Sacre Coeur

Montmartre is a hill upon which sits the Basilica of Sacre Coeur. Because Paris is relatively flat, a walk up Montmartre offers visitors expansive views of the city.

As one of the most visited sites in the city, the grounds are always filled with street performers, and off to the side of the Basilica is a park where artists display their works.

My Experience: Remember that cold and wintry weather that kept me from Jim Morrison's grave? Earlier that day, my Parisian friend Laura had taken me to Montmartre.

The overcast skies, and light sleet, dampened the views, but it was easy to imagine how nice it'd be on a clear day. Plus, it's free!

Visiting Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the best things to do in Paris, France
Notre Dame Cathedral (photo: wlappe)

5. Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame is a Gothic Roman Catholic cathedral situated on the banks of the River Seine. It's one of the first cathedrals to use the flying buttress system to help support the walls.

This external support system would allow future cathedrals to reach higher and higher heights.

My Experience: I'm a cathedral buff, so this one was a must-see during my first visit to Paris, but I didn't spend much time there taking it all in.

The Louvre
The Louvre (photo: wlappe)

4. The Louvre

The Louvre is perhaps the most famous and well-known museum in the world, on account of The Mona Lisa by Leonardo DaVinci. It's also the world's most enormous.

While the Mona Lisa's mysterious smile is enough to draw millions, the museum is gigantic and houses more paintings, sculptures, and pieces of artwork than any person can bear in a single or even multiple visits.

My Experience: I went in the summer, waited in a long line, and was unimpressed with The Mona Lisa. It was swamped with people and is behind a protective plastic or glass barrier, which immediately takes away from the experience.

But it was the frenzy of people that was the real turn-off. I cut my losses and wandered the rest of the museum but soon became overwhelmed.

I recommend people limit their time and, if possible, know the artwork they want to see before they get there.

3. Musee d'Orsay

This Impressionist museum is housed within a former train station and features works from the greats, including Monet, Van Gogh, Manet, and Degas.

Less visited than the Louvre, you'll face smaller crowds and hopefully find the museum much more manageable.

My Experience: Compared to the Louvre, I found the Musee d'Orsay to be an absolute pleasure. I love it when a museum is housed in an attractive building, as it makes the whole experience more unique.

Seeing the Champs Elysees is a top thing to do in Paris
The Champs Elysees in December

2. Champs Elysees & Arc de Triomphe

The Champs Elysees is a wide avenue featuring plenty of Paris hotels and enough shopping to keep any woman happy.

A walk down the Champs Elysees is an experience any time of year, and it's like taking a stroll down New York's Broadway — always interesting and terrific for people-watching.

The Arc de Triomphe is an icon of the city — Napoleon Bonaparte's homage to victory. You can access the Arc via an underground passage, but it's more harrowing to try and cross the street above ground. Good luck!

My Experience: I walked both during the day in summer and at night in winter when the trees lining the streets were decorated with blue Christmas lights.

Related: New Year's Eve at a French House Party

Seeing the Eiffel Tower is one of the most popular things to do in Paris
Eiffel Tower as viewed from the Arc de Triumphe (photo: HarshLight)

1. The Eiffel Tower

The number one spot on my list goes to the top icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower.

Whether you get Eiffel Tower tickets to ride up the elevator or take to the stairs, time your visit for sunset, and you'll be treated to one of the city's most romantic experiences.

Been there, done that? You can't go wrong with a return visit to picnic and camp out in the surrounding park.

My Experience: I visited the Eiffel Tower during each of my trips to Paris. The upper deck was closed the first time, but I caught a gorgeous sunset. And I was content to peer up from the ground on the second visit.

Planning a trip? Go Backpacking recommends:

Milena Yordanova

Friday 22nd of August 2014

Nice list! I would add Montmartre Cemetery. I like it more than Pere Lachaise Cemetery. Also, I would suggest going to Palace of Fontainebleau. The crowds are smaller and the palace itself is even more beautiful than Versailles. :)


Wednesday 12th of September 2012

Wow.. And what's more lucky about this, I found you finally. Just so awesome, got to learn and be inspired more from you. Thank you Dave!

Karola Carr

Wednesday 18th of April 2012

The best time in paris is, when you have Parisian friends who show you a side of Paris that the tourists don't see, the hiden little restaurants, the shops and the nights in neighourhood bars, that is the real Paris and never forget to go to a show at the Moulin Rouge !!!!!!!! that's one thing you will never forget, not to forget to visit the Chanel shop , even if you just buy a bottle of perfume.


Wednesday 18th of April 2012

I agree Karola, I've been to Paris twice, and the second time when I was staying with a Parisian friend was much more fun.


Sunday 15th of April 2012

Versailles was a let down for us when we went to Paris. Too crowded and didn't live up to the hype. One place that I would add is going up Montparnasse tower and see the sunset over paris.

Rahman @ Travel Marketing Blog

Tuesday 27th of March 2012

Louvre by itself is a world in a building that showcases huge amount of valuable and interesting objects that makes a trip to France worthwhile. Thanks for sharing all the other fascinating places.

Rahman Mehraby Travel Marketing Blog

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