Today we’re going to spotlight the City of Light, one of the world’s most popular vacation destinations. Whether you love gastronomy, art, history, shopping, music, sports, or the great outdoors, you’ll find what you’re looking for in Paris. To help you plan your trip, we’ve compiled some suggestions of activities and destinations in Paris that are definitely worth experiencing.
Your inner epicure will hit the jackpot in Paris, a gourmet mecca known for its multitude of Michelin-starred restaurants. It’s not all fine dining, though. Part of the city’s charm is best experienced through its neighborhood cafes, brasseries, bistros and wine bars. A couple of our favorite spots include the historic Café de Flore and the Blé Sucre pastry shop on the Square Trousseau. While in Paris, you can check out artisan cheese shops, spice shops and bakeries. Are you more of a cook? Take a cooking class, market tour, or day trip to Champagne. Paris has many lovely parks, so buy some fresh goodies at a bakery, market or neighborhood charcuterie-traiteur and head out for a picnic.
At over 2,200 years old, the ancient city of Paris is a wonderland for anyone interested in history. The Île de la Cité, often called the historical heart of Paris, is an ideal spot to begin your historical sightseeing. This scenic island in the Seine River is home to many of the city’s best ancient and medieval sights, including the Cathedral of Notre-Dame, the Archaeological Crypt and Roman excavations, and the magnificent 13th-century Sainte-Chapelle. From there, exploring the nearby Latin Quarter is an absolute must for history fans.
Other interesting historical attractions to consider in Paris include the Hôtel des Invalides (the burial place of Napoleon) and the Palace of Versailles. If you’re willing to make day trips outside of Paris, we wholeheartedly recommend the Chartres Cathedral (a World Heritage Site), the spectacular castles of the Loire Valley, and the Palace of Fontainebleau. Many travelers also make day trips west to Normandy to the D-Day landing beaches and memorial sites.
Other architectural masterpieces include the Eiffel Tower, the neo-Byzantine Sacré-Cœur Basilica in Montmartre, the historic Church of St-Germain-des-Prés (6th arrondissment), and the Arc de Triomphe. Fans of modern architecture will be pleased to know that Paris is also the home of several works by Le Corbusier.
For a little romance
If you’re not in hurry, Paris is a wonderful place to explore on foot. For romantic strolls, we’re partial to walks along the banks of the Seine, through the historic Tuileries Garden and up along the charming streets of Montmartre. Relax in the gorgeous Place des Vosges. Dine in a cozy restaurant on the serene Île Saint-Louis, a small island in the Seine. Enjoy an evening river cruise when many of the city’s best sights—including the Eiffel Tower—are illuminated.
While the weather isn’t Paris’s best feature, the city itself is something of a museum. Take the opportunity to walk as much as you can while in Paris to appreciate the charm and character of its diverse neighborhoods. Gardeners traveling to Paris should make the day trip to Claude Monet’s House and Gardens in the Norman village of Giverny.
Paris is home to some truly great local entertainment. Live music—and jazz bars in particular—can be found all across the city. Larger venues like the Palais Omnisports de Bercy host French and international musical acts. In the summer months, the city often puts on free outdoor concerts. Paris is also home to a superb classical music, opera and ballet scene. If you’re looking for a return to the Belle Époque days of Paris’s iconic cabaret dance halls, you can get tickets to a show at the Moulin Rouge or the Paradis Latin.
If you’re a soccer fan, try getting tickets to a Paris Saint-Germain F.C. match. (You can generally buy them online on the team’s website). Otherwise, head to a local bar to watch soccer (football), rugby, and horse racing with the locals! Bars showing horse racing usually display a sign out front that reads “PMU.”
For those of us traveling on a budget
Paris has a great metro system. If you feel comfortable navigating the subway, you’ll definitely save a few euros. At meal times, see if your restaurant offers a “formule.” Ordering from a set menu (versus ordering a la carte) can provide great value. Last but not least, if you’re willing to be flexible and wait in potentially long lines, check out the free days at Paris’s museums. Click here for info.
Despite being a fashion giant, most Parisians cannot afford to wear designer brands all the time. While shopping in Paris, you’ll see plenty of high-end shops (on streets like rue St-Honoré) as well as more reasonably priced stores around the Boulevard Haussmann (including the large department store Galeries Lafayette). For boutiques, book stores, and interesting shops, try neighborhoods like Montmartre or the Marais. If you’re really hoping to score designer duds at good rates, sign up for an outlet tour to La Vallée Village.
Where do we begin? Paris is home to some of the best art museums and galleries in the world. The Musée du Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the more contemporary Palais de Tokyo, the Musée Rodin and many more call this beautiful city home.
For the quirky in all of us
Paris is home to several bizarre tourist attractions. One of the most famous is the bone-filled tunnels of its Municipal Ossuary, commonly called “Les Catacombes.” Another is the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise, a site holding the graves of some of France’s most famous writers and artists. It’s also the final resting place of some influential Americans like Jim Morrison. If you’re interested in the history of the city’s drainage, head to the Paris Sewer Museum (Le Musée des Égouts de Paris). See, there is more to Paris than romance after all!