Resist the cliches all you want; your first sight of the Eiffel Tower exploding skywards from the Parisian boulevards below is a special moment.
While the City of Light is home to some of the planet’s most recognizable landmarks, its magic lies in the captivating details. The food is unparalleled, its history is rich, and art has few better stages, but it’s sitting at a streetside cafe, espresso in hand, watching the world turn where most fall in love with Paris.
Whether seduced by the writers who called it home or enchanted by silver-screen portrayals, Paris lives in the hearts of every traveler long before they arrive. And although those versions of the city may be long gone, what’s left is just as much a moveable feast.
It’s always a good idea.
Bienvenue à Paris.
5 things you can’t miss in Paris
Hit the big ticket items
As we just told you, it’s hard to fit everything in on a Paris trip, but checking out some of the most iconic sites in the world is a must for any visitor.
Top of the list is, of course, the Eiffel Tower. The stunning structure dominates Paris’ skyline and is a wonder to behold up close. Grab a picnic basket and spend an afternoon lounging in the gardens underneath. You can also go to the top of the tower to check out the views, but that’ll set you back around 25 euros a ticket.
You’re likely to come across the Arc de Triomphe and the Sacre Coeur in your wanderings, but both are worth a visit in their own right. The Sacre Coeur, in particular, offers some of the most spectacular views of the city.
Notre Dame Cathedral is an astounding place to visit. The scale and detail of the architecture are astonishing, even for those with no interest in history, and it’s made even more impressive by its age — it’s over a thousand years old. Of course, the tragic fire in 2019 means it won’t be open again until 2024 when it’s expected to have something of a makeover. So any visits in the coming year will be from outside.
Paris has been a hub for creatives since the 1600s, developing such a strong reputation for art that even the least interested of us still swarm to its museums. Of course, the Louvre is the crown jewel, where some of the most famous paintings and sculptures of all time are kept.
Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is the most famous resident in the museum and is a divisive figure for tourists who are stunned when they see the painting’s size. It’s not uncommon for hundreds of tourists to swarm around the little portrait, many of whom couldn’t tell you the first thing about it. It’s definitely worth making up your own mind — that’s what art is about.
The Musée d’Orsay is another highlight. In recent years, it’s been named the best museum in the world, and visitors can enjoy works by household names like Monet, Degas, and Renoir.
Do your own exploring
One of the greatest joys of Paris is wandering through its storied streets. Each of its neighborhoods (arrondissements for the cultured among you) is unique in its own way and is home to an array of cafes, theatres, museums, and other gems that don’t appear in any Paris guidebook.
Montmartre is a tourist favorite and feels straight out of a twenties novel. Get out and find your favorite spots, enjoy a bottle of wine on the Seine, or rummage through a few bookshops.
For the braver traveler, a trip under the city to Paris’ catacombs is a memorable experience. Although many adventures brave into the illegal entrances, organized (and legal) tours allow you to experience the darker history lurking below the street.
Catch a show at the Moulin Rouge
Enjoy dinner and a show at the famous Moulin Rouge cabaret.
The feather and rhinestone-filled show has been a staple of the city since 1889. The costumes alone would be enough to impress but the show features four enthralling acts with dancers and artists from all around the world.
Pro tip: be sure to arrive early to enjoy cocktails and tapas on their hidden Toit rooftop terrace.
Watch the sunset from the Montparnasse Tower
A trip to the City of Light would not be complete without a sunset view (and a glass of bubbly, of course).
The observation deck at the Montparnasse Tower is fully encased in glass and gives you the perfect view of both the sunset and the city.
The terrace is the highest rooftop in Paris, but don’t worry, it’s a speedy trip to the top. The Montparnasse building also features Europe’s fastest elevator.
Be sure to get your tickets in advance as they tend to go fast.