Paris is one of those places that is amazing no matter how many times you visit; it's so charming and romantic! We have visited in both the Autumn and Spring, each with its own beauty to enjoy all that the city has to offer. We love walking along the Seine and the many parks, zipping around on a Vespa, eating fresh crepes, croissants, and classic “parisian” baguettes (ham and cheese with one key ingredient: butter), and drinking plenty of amazing wine. From London, it is a quick 2-2.5 hour journey on the high speed Eurostar train (check out our review of the Eurostar), and you just can’t beat the convenience in that! We always return home with traditional Parisian accordion music dancing in our heads for days later...
Top Things to Do in Paris
La Tour Eiffel
The global icon of Paris, the Eiffel Tower is a must see on any trip to Paris. You can take the time to visit inside and head to the top, or at the very least, visit and take pictures from the Champ de Mars. In the evening, you need to experience the twinkling lights that make the tower “sparkle” every hour, on the hour, for 5 minutes. If you take the time to ascend to the top, the views are nothing short of amazing. There is something very special and romantic about the Eiffel Tower that needs to be experienced in person!
Tips: If you plan to go inside, skip the line and get summit access by booking with Fat Tire Tours. The tour guide helps maneuver a small group through the lines/ security and takes you to the second tier (just before the final lift to the summit). We had an awesome tour guide to keep us entertained with interesting history and facts, and skipping the line was ideal! If you just plan to take pictures from below, visit early before the crowds, and also at night to experience the tower all lit up.
Champs d'Elysées & Arc de Triomphe
A visit to Paris is incomplete without a visit down the Champs d’Elysees, even if just to walk along the street and window shop. Located at the end of the Champs d’Elysees at the Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe is at the center of twelve diverging streets. It honors the French soldiers who gave their lives for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, and is also the site of the tomb of the unknown soldier.
Jardin de Tuileries
Locates adjacent to the Seine between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum, these gardens are one of our favorites in the city. They boast amazing foliage in the Fall, and flowers and fresh buds in the Spring. It is the perfect spot to bring a coffee and croissant and sit in one of the green public chairs around one of the fountains.
Tips: Walk to nearby Jardin du Palais Royal for another nice park at the Palais-Royal.
Montmartre & Sacre Coeur
Offering amazing views of the city, Montmartre is a large hill on the Right Bank and is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic and spend an afternoon. The Sacre Coeur is also called The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris and is a Roman Catholic basilica that has a very ornate and beautiful interior worth seeing.
Tips: The area can get busy on nice days, so plan ahead and perhaps even arrive earlier in the day. You can get picnic food beforehand, or grab some sandwiches and light fare along Rue du Mont Cenis or Rue du Chevalier de la Barre (also many cafes and shops on these streets). As with most cathedrals and churches, make sure to dress appropriately the day you plan to visit (no sleeveless shirts or very short shorts/skirts). Entry into the basilica is free but for €6 you can climb up 300 stairs to the panoramic viewpoint. Très bon!
Chateau de Versailles
Versailles is a royal chateau located in the city of Versailles, home to the throne of political power in France from 1682 when King Louis XIV decided to move the royal court here from Paris. In 1789, three months after the French Revolution, the royal family was forced to return to the capital. The palace has a very lavish interior and is magnificently decorated -- just be prepared for a lot of other visitors as you walk through. When you visit, allocate at least a half day, and be sure to visit the large gardens. The Passport ticket gets you into the whole estate, including the palace, gardens, temporary exhibits and Marie Antoinette’s personal estate (The Petit Trianon). In the spring, you can picnic in the gardens and also rent a row boat in the Grand Canal.
To get to Versailles from Paris, take the RER C train, then walk about 10 minutes from Gare de Versailles Chantiers station.
Tips: If you are only in Paris for a couple days, you may want to maximize your time in the city and save Versailles for next time. It is about a half day trip at a minimum, depending on when you arrive and how long the line is to visit the interior of the palace. Make sure to arrive as early as you possibly can to avoid the hours (yes, hours!) long wait in line outside. We recommend arriving before 10am, 9.30am would be your best bet (bring water and snacks if you cannot arrive early). One option is to set up a guided tour, which has a separate entrance from the main visitors entrance (there wasn’t really a line there). Final tip: buy a round-trip train ticket, or get your return train ticket when you arrive to avoid the massive lines that queue later in the day.
Le Jardin du Luxembourg
One of our favorite gardens in Paris, located in the 6th arrondissement near the Saint Germain neighborhood, the Luxembourg Gardens is a lovely place for a stroll or place to sit and read. The gardens were created with Luxembourg Palace, constructed for the widow of King Henry IV in 1612. The park contains a fountain right beind the palace, where you can watch children play with the mini sailboats; very picturesque!
A classic stop on any trip to Paris, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is located on the Ile de la Cite. This medieval Catholic cathedral is known to be one of the best examples of French Gothic architecture, and is famous worldwide. The cathedral is quite massive and you need to walk around inside and outside to experience it.
Tips: Visit earlier in the day for shorter lines (though the lines move fairly quickly). Walk along Pont Saint-Louis & Pont de l’Archeveche (great views of the side and back of the cathedral). Nearby the Notre-Dame is the daily flower and bird market, Marche aux Fleurs & Oiseaux. Check out the local street artists that sit around this area -- some of their paintings and watercolors are really impressive and make for a nice souvenir.
Known to provide some of the best views of the Eiffel Tower, the Jardins du Trocadero is located adjacent to the Palais de Chaillot and the Seine. It is a nice area to walk around and see the Fountain of Warsaw, a long fountain made up of varying water column heights.
Walk along the Seine
One of our favorite things to do in Paris is spend time walking along the Seine, taking in the beautiful Parisian architecture and charm. Visit the street markets and artists, and do not miss Les Bouquinistes (booksellers who sell used and antiquated books as well as souvenirs). The Seine is dubbed “the only river in the world that runs between two bookshelves” because of them. Also, if you time it right, you can catch the sunset from one of the bridges.
The Louvre museum is another historic and iconic attraction in Paris, housing famous works of art like Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, and sculptures by Michelangelo. The Louvre is the largest museum in the world and, as you can imagine, it takes hours, if not most of the day, to get through most of the museum. Don’t fret; there are about 15 cafes in the museum to take a break!
Musée d'Orsay is located in a converted railway station along the River Seine and houses several 19th-and 20th-century European art collections. If you love Impressionism, Musée D’Orsay is a must do in Paris — it contains numerous pieces by artists such as Monet, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, etc. and some Van Gogh pieces.
Tips: Tickets ~14 euros; combo ticket for d’Orsay and L’Orangerie (can buy combo ticket at FNAC).
Rue Cler Marche
Known as one of the best market streets in Paris, Rue Cler is located in the 7th arrondissement and has a long pedestrian only stretch. It is lined with cafes, pastry shops, flower shops, specialty food shops (butchers, cheese, delicatessen), and chocolate shops. The perfect place to hang out with locals, pick up some fresh cut flowers and enjoy a glass of rosé.
Offering some amazing views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower, the Montparnasse Tower is a nice place to grab a drink and enjoy the panoramic terrace. It is cool to see how the city is laid out from above, and watch how the Seine carves its way through the city.
Located in Paris’s Latin Quarter, the Pantheon is a mausoleum that was originally erected as a church, and houses the remains of notable French citizens, including Voltaire, Rousseau, and Marie Curie. The facade design is based on the Pantheon in Rome and is a great example of neoclassical architecture.
Baking Class @ La Cuisine Paris
La Cuisine Paris is a cooking school located in the heart of Paris and offers several classes per week in English. We attended Le Croissant & Breakfast Pastries class, where we made two traditional croissants, pain au chocolat, pain aux raisins, and jam-filled croustades. This class was fun, interactive, and informative! They also offer several other classes such as bread making and patisserie, and also have a market day class where you visit a local market, buy fresh ingredients, then learn to cook a Parisian meal. Visit the La Cuisine Paris for the full class schedule and pricing.
Tips: Book in advance as the classes fill up very quickly!
Saint-Germain is one of our favorite neighborhoods to find cute wine bars and shops. The quarter is also home to various famous cafes and a large number of bookshops and is known to be a classic Parisian neighborhood.
Rent a Vespa
One daring way to experience the city is to rent a Vespa and cruise around the city. We have rented one from Left Bank Scooters twice and have so much fun doing so. They can drop off and pick up right to your hotel, and provide helments, GPS, and other essentials. It is also a great way to visit areas that are a bit far from the city center, such as Sacre Coeur.
The perfect surprise for your significant other or kids! Paris Picnic will set you up with everything you need for a perfect picnic (food, drinks, cutlery, blankets, etc!). They arrange the picnic for you and coordinate a location, and fly a red balloon to help you find it. It's the perfect way to have lunch one afternooon!
Food and Drink Recommendations
Drinks at George’s (top of Le Centre Pompidou)
Located on the roof of the Le Centre Pompidou, George’s is a fun spot to grab some pre-dinner drinks and experience great views of the city, maybe even a nice sunset, when the weather is nice.
Chez Nous: A nice wine bar full of locals, located near the Ile de la Cite and Saint Germain. Amazing selection of wine and small plates with a good vibe and friendly service.
Bar Etna: Another super cute and cosy wine bar in Saint Germain with a nice selection of wine and small plates. The bartender can specially select a glass of wine based on what you are in the mood to drink. Order the burrata and charcuterie plate to accompany your glass(es) of wine!
Le Porte Pot: Le Porte Pot in the 5th arrondissement is a cute wine bar off the main drag of Saint-Germain. Go for the variety of wines by the glass, the baked camambert, and charcuterie.
Other food recommendations
Crêpes: L’éclair on Rue Cler & La Crêperie du Clown in Saint-Germain
Steak frites: Bistrot Chez France in 7th arrondissement
Croissants and pastries: Les Gourmandises d’Eiffel in the 7th arrondissement
Picnic food (baguettes) on Sundays: Eric Kayser in the 1st arrondissement near the Jardin du Tuileries (various locations in the city)
Contemporary French food, small plates & wine: Frenchie in the 2nd arrondissement
French classics: Le Coupe Chou in the 5th arrondissement
Patisserie: Aux Merveilleux de Fred in various locations throughout Paris
Brunch: Trieze Bakery Paris near Luxembourg Gardens
Macarons: LADUREE in various locations throughout Paris
Where to Stay in Paris
Hotel Verneuil: Hotel Verneuil in the 6th arrondissement/ Saint-Germain area
The Westin Paris - Vendôme: The Westin Paris - Vendôme in the 1st arrondissement/ Le Louvre and Jardin de Tuileries area
Hôtel La Comtesse Tour Eiffel: Hôtel La Comtesse Tour Eiffel in the 7th arrondissement/ La Tour Eiffel