Paris – the City of Lights, the Eiffel Tower and Coco Chanel. Where revolution, romance and café philosophers lived together. A cultural paradise and the main set of countless movies and TV series. Not to mention a food mecca for every budget. But Paris is so much more than that.
The French capital is a city made for exploring by foot or bike. With an enviable architecture and world renowned museums, there’s almost an unlimited amount of things to see and do in Paris. Whether you’re a first-time visitors or are thinking of visiting again, we’ve prepared a list of the top places to visit in Paris.
Here are best things to do on a long weekend in Paris.
- Île de la Cité: Sainte Chapelle, Notre Dame and Conciergerie
- Louvre Museum
- Avenue des Champs Elysées
- Arc de Triomphe
- Eiffel Tower
- Montmartre: Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Moulin Rouge, Le Murs de Je t’Aime and more
- Latin Quarter
- Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
- The Seine and Paris’ bridges
- Other things to do in Paris
1. Île de la Cité: Notre-Dame, Sainte Chapelle and Conciergerie
Did you know there’s an island in the heart of Paris? Yes indeed, and Île de la Cité is where you’ll find some of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Here are our favourites:
Notre-Dame de Paris is arguably the most symbolic landmark of the French capital, as well as one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world. Built in the 12th century on the ruins of two previous churches, Notre-Dame has an unmatched architectural significance thanks to its colourful rose windows, a collection fo paintings and sculptures, gargoyles and a total of ten bells.
Some of the cathedral’s main structures, however, were destroyed by the fire of 2019. These include the famous oak spire, vaulted ceiling and the wooden beams roof known as “The Forest”. Because of this, the majority of the cathedral remains closed to the public while the restoration continues.
In the square in front of Notre-Dame, you’ll find the Point Zéro plaque from which all distances from Paris to every part of metropolitan France are measured (Point zéro des routes de France). Underneath is the Archaeological Crypt of Paris (Crypte Archéologique de l’île de la Cité). It contains a collection of ancient and Medieval remains found during the Notre-Dame renovations from 1965 to 1972.
A majestic 13th century Royal Chapel of Rayonnant Gothic architecture. Commissioned by King Louis IX as part of the former Royal Palace (Palais de la Cité), it was intended to house his collection of the Passion of the Christ relics, such as the Crown of Thorns. Sainte Chapel, which is now a national historic monument, is divided in two chapels.
- The Lower Chapel served as Parish Church for the Palace and currently contains artefacts.
- Immediately above it, the Upper Chapel features a one of the most striking and extensive collections of stained glass windows in the world. A total of fifteen 15m high stained glass windows depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments.
Also part of the former Royal Palace, the Conciergerie became a tribunal and prison during the French Revolution. Prisoners were held here before being taken to Place de la Concorde and other locations in Paris to be executed by guillotine (Marie Antoinette was one them!).
Must-see rooms include the Hall of the Guards (Salle des Gardes), the Hall of the Soldiers (Salle des Gens d’Armes) and the kitchens.
2. Louvre Museum
If you’re on a long weekend in Paris, no trip is complete without exploring the Louvre Museum. This is the largest museum of art in the world, welcoming over 9 million visitors every year. The former Royal Palace has an unmatched collection of over 35,000 artefacts and 400 rooms – from prehistorical times and ancient civilisations to the 21st century.
Given its vast art collection and size, you’ll need a few days to see everything inside the Louvre. We recommend spending a day to thoroughly see the Louvre highlights and enjoy some quality time exploring its many rooms. Its highlights include French and Dutch paintings, as well as Egyptian and Greek antiques and Italian sculptures.
Top must-sees in the Louvre
- The Mona Lisa
- The Venus de Milo
- Liberty Leading the People
- The Winged Victory of Samothrace
- The Raft of the Medusa
- The Marly Horses
3. Avenue des Champs Elysées
Walking along the Champs Elysées is a must, whether you’re a fashionista or not. As one of the most famous shopping streets in Paris and the world, there’s no denying the Champs Elysées is among the busiest parts of Paris. Here you’ll be able to find high-end luxury brands such as Dior, Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Valentino.
If you’re in the lookout for a department store, there’s no better place than Galeries Lafayette. The Neo-Byzantine stained glass roof from 1912 is a treasure in itself. We also recommend popping into Ladurée for some of the best Parisian-style artisan macarons! Some of their delicious flavours include salted caramel, blackcurrant violet and raspberry. Find out more about them (and other treats) in our post on the best pastries and desserts in Paris.
4. Arc de Triomphe
Another symbol of Paris, the Arc de Triomphe represents Napoléon Bonaparte and the French Army’s many victories. Although it was commissioned by the Emperor in 1806 after winning the Battle of Austerlitz, its construction didn’t finalise until 1836. At 50m height, the triumphal arch should be on your list not only for its rich history, but also for offering some of the best views of Paris and the dozen avenues at its feet.
Tickets to the panoramic terrace cost 13€ per person and can be bought online here.
5. Eiffel Tower
Is going up the Eiffel Tower on your bucket list? Well, it’s on my travel bucket list! Gustav Eiffel’s “Iron Lady” has become a Parisian icon of love and a well-known landmark of France since it’s completion in 1889. Although it was initially meant as a temporary installation for the Exposition Universelle of the same year, it was never taken down due to the operating antenna at its top.
Measuring 324m tall, the Eiffel Tower has a total of 1,665 steps linking three floors (which you can access either through the stairway or the lifts). Which means that no matter the time of the day, you’re guaranteed to get incredible panoramic views of Paris!
Eiffel Tower Lighting
At sunset, the Eiffel Tower lights up with over 20,000 lights and 336 lamps. And every hour on the hour, from dusk until 1am, the spectacular Eiffel Tower Light Show sparkles for 5 min like a giant Christmas tree.
4. Montmartre: Sacré-Coeur Basilica, Moulin Rouge, Le Murs de Je t’Aime and more
Montmartre is one of the most beautiful parts of Paris, and arguably the best one to explore. This Parisian neighbourhood sits on the highest hill in Paris and was the artist quarter of the city in the 19th and 20th centuries. With charming old Parisian houses, cobbled streets, a stunning white domed Basilica and an infinite amount of little cafés and bistros, it’s certainly a must-see location in Paris.
What to do in Montmartre?
Here are just some of our favourite things to do in Montmartre:
- Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Built as a memorial to the 58,000 French soldiers killed during the Franco-Perussian war. The apse’s mosaic, known as the Christ in Majesty, is one of the largest in the world. It’s free to visit!
- Moulin Rouge. Where you cab watch the best cabaret in the world.
- Le Murs de Je t’Aime. The Wall of Love is a mural dedicated to love made of 612 tiles of enamelled lava covered in the words “I love you”, 311 times in 250 different languages.
- Place du Tertre. Always crowded with artists and their easels.
- Le Clos Montmartre. The oldest vineyard in Paris – which you can explore for free.
5. Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter has been the academic centre of Paris for more than 700 years. Its name dates back to the mid 13th century, when the students and teachers of the Sorbonne University used Latin to communicate with each other.
Now, the Latin Quarter is one of the liveliest neighbourhoods in Paris. Here you can find loads of cute cafés and restaurants, as well as quirky bookshops, cinemas, jazz clubs, theatres, museums and concert halls.
What to do in the Latin Quarter?
- Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche. At 29m long and 1.80m wide, it’s the narrowest street in Paris.
- Shakespeare and Company. Paris’ renowned English language bookshop. Check out the café next door for coffee and cakes.
- Oddette. Where you’ll find the best choux pastries in Paris!
- Église Saint Sulpice. The second largest church in Paris after Notre Dame. It features fine murals by Delacroix, such as the restored Jacob Wrestling with the Angel.
- Panthéon. Where the remains of France’s most distinguished citizens rest. Some of those include Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Rousseau and Marie Curie.
- Musée de Cluny. The National Museum of the Middle Ages, containing a fantastic collection of artefacts and works belonging to this historical period.
- Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe. One of Paris’ six national theatres.
6. Luxembourg Palace and Gardens
Located between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, these beautiful gardens were designed in 1612 by Queen Marie de Medici as part of the Luxembourg Palace (now the French Senate).
Throughout the park, you’ll find French and English style Gardens, as well as important landmarks such as the Pavillon Davioud and the Medici Fountain. There’re also greenhouses for conservation purposes, an orangerie, an orchard and even bee hives! If this wasn’t enough, there’re 106 statues dotted around the gardens, such as those of Chopin, Delacroix and Montesquieu.
You can even stop for a romantic picnic in the Luxembourg Gardens. Check out our Romantic things to do in Paris for more inspiration!
7. The Seine and Paris’ bridges
A getaway to Paris should include a stroll along the river Seine. It runs through the middle of Paris and offers stunning views of a number of riverfront sights, such as the Eiffel Tower, the Liberty Flame and the Louvre. Some of its must-visit bridges include:
- Pont Alexandre III. The most beautiful bridge in Paris, and the most ornate! Built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900, it features Art Nouveau decorations such as lamps, cherubs, wreaths and nymphs. It offers wonderful views all the way to the Champs Elysées and the Hôtel del Invalides.
- Pont Neuf. The “New Bridge” is actually the oldest bridge in Paris! Dating back to 1607, it’s decorated with carved heads of forest and field divinities.
- Ponts des Arts. The most romantic bridge in Paris. Couples from all over the world used to attach love padlocks with their names on here, until the bridge started to collapse due to the overwhelming weight!
8. Other things to do in Paris
- River cruise on the Seine. Drift under some of Paris’ most scenic bridges, and take in the most iconic landmarks of the City of Lights.
- Disneyland Paris. Whether young, or young at heart, you’ll sure fall in love with the many rides!
- Versailles. Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette’s royal residence until the fled during the French Revolution.
- Musée d’Orsay. A former train station turned into a stunning museum.
- Les Catacombes. Underground tunnels filled with the bones of more than six million Parisians. This was the response to Paris’ overflowing cemeteries in the 18th and 19th centuries.
Have you been to Paris before? Are there any other things to do in Paris you’d recommend? As always, if you loved our post, please leave us a comment, pin some photos and show us some love on social media using the buttons below.
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