Whether sunshine is sparkling on the café terraces of Boulevard Saint-Germain, or melancholy mists of the Seine River are shrouding Notre-Dame Cathedral, Paris has a way of romancing visitors. The love affair may begin with a first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, then continue with strolls along the wide tree-lined avenues and in lavish formal gardens.
Visitors are seduced by the city's beauty. Each neighborhood (quartier) reveals its own distinctive appeal. The Latin Quarter is a captivating labyrinth of medieval pedestrian streets and narrow alleyways. The fashionable Champs-Élysées buzzes with energy and panache. Outside the center of Paris, Montmartre brims with old-world village charm and flaunts its Bohemian past.
After seeing the museums and monuments, tourists should seek out the small surprises, like family-run bistros with handwritten menus; cobblestone lanes full of quaint boutiques; secluded squares adorned with flowing fountains; and elegant tea salons, where dainty jewel-like desserts beckon from glass-covered pastry cases.
In every hidden corner and at all the famous sites, Paris casts a spell of enchantment. One visit may inspire a lifelong passion.
Discover what makes the City of Light so alluring and learn about the fascinating places to explore with our list of the top tourist attractions in Paris.
See also: Where to Stay in Paris
Note: Some businesses may be temporarily closed due to recent global health and safety issues.
1. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel) ranks high on the list of places to visit in France and is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world. It's hard to believe that the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity when it was first unveiled. The iconic tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, which marked the centenary of the French Revolution.
The tower consists of 18,000 sturdy iron sections (weighing over 10,000 tons) held together by 2.5 million rivets. This innovative structure is now considered a masterful architectural feat and is the most emblematic sight in Paris. Reaching 324 meters in height, the tower was the world's tallest building until the Empire State Building was erected in New York City.
For first-time visitors, seeing the Eiffel Tower is an unforgettable experience. Upon arrival at the esplanade (where the Information Desk is located), the sight of the four massive pillars that support this 10,100-ton monument leaves many awestruck.
The recently renovated Eiffel Tower Gardens surrounding the esplanade feature romantic landscaping in the Belle Epoque style. Leafy trees shade pedestrian pathways, which wind through the gardens and lead to ponds, a grotto, and belvederes with viewpoints of the Iron Lady.
To arrive at the Eiffel Tower's first level (at 57 meters) requires an elevator ride or a walk up the 360 steps. This level has public restrooms, a gift shop, cafeteria, brasserie restaurant (currently undergoing renovations and scheduled to reopen in 2022), and outdoor terrace space for admiring the views.
The second level (at 125 meters) of the Eiffel Tower is reached from the first level by a staircase of 344 more steps or an elevator ride. This level has similar amenities as the first level, except the viewing platforms offer a perspective onto more of the Paris monuments (such as Notre-Dame, the Louvre, and the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur), and this level has a fine-dining restaurant.
The Michelin-starred restaurant on the second level, Le Jules Verne, delivers exceptional gastronomic meals of refined contemporary French cuisine in a spectacular setting. The restaurant's dining rooms feature expansive windows, which provide a peak of the Eiffel Tower's structural beams and look out onto the cityscapes of Paris.
To reach the top level, at the dizzying elevation of 276 meters, requires an exhilarating elevator ride from the second level. Visiting the top level is one of the most thrilling things to do in Paris, but it's not for the faint of heart.
Tourists will want to spend some time taking photos. From either the Jardins du Trocadéro (a short walk across the Seine River) or the Parc du Champ de Mars (the lawns in front of the tower), there is just the right distance for picture-perfect photo-ops.
Address: Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris (Métro: Bir-Hakeim, Trocadéro, Iéna, or Passy station)
Official site: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en
2. Musée du Louvre
A sumptuous palace that was once the home of France's kings, the Louvre is the most important of Paris' top museums. Visitors enter the museum in the courtyard of the palace at the Pyramid du Louvre, the glass pyramid designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1917. The Musée du Louvre displays thousands of artworks, many of which are considered masterpieces, from antiquities to European paintings of the 15th to 19th centuries.
It is impossible to see it all in one visit, but tourists can focus on a particular gallery, such as classical sculpture, Italian Renaissance art, or 17th-century French paintings, or take a self-guided tour to cover the Louvre Museum's highlights.
The most famous piece is the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (or La Joconde in French) painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503-1505. Many tourists breeze through the museum just to glance at this one piece, but there are many other must-see works of art to admire even if time is limited.
Among the most amazing masterpieces of the Louvre are the ancient Venus de Milo sculpture; the monumental Victoire de Samothrace of the Hellenistic period; the immense Wedding Feast at Cana painting by Veronese (1563); Botticelli's Young Lady with Venus and the Graces fresco; and Liberty Leading the People (1831) by Eugène Delacroix, depicting the Parisian uprising of July 1830.
To get the most out of a visit to the Louvre, tourists should join a guided tour. The Louvre Museum Skip the Line Tour takes participants straight to the museum's most famous artworks, including the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa. On this three-hour tour, a guide (who is an art historian) provides in-depth commentary about the masterpieces.
The Louvre is surrounded on one side by the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the loveliest parks in Paris. The celebrated landscape architect André Le Nôtre created the Tuileries Gardens in the formal French style of the 17th century, with perfectly manicured trees, statues, and pathways. Park benches and café-restaurants with outdoor seating allow visitors to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Address: Musée du Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre or Pyramides station)
Official site: https://www.louvre.fr/en
3. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame stands in the heart of Paris on the Île-de-la-Cité next to the Latin Quarter. An island in the Seine River, the Île-de-la-Cité is the historical and geographical center of Paris. On this small plot of land, the Romans built the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia, and from the 6th century to the 14th century, the Kings of France resided here.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris was founded in 1163 by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) and Bishop Maurice de Sully, and the construction took more than 150 years. The cathedral was first created in Early Gothic style, while later additions (the west front and the nave) show the transition to High Gothic style.
This impressive medieval monument is a triumph of Gothic architecture. The ornately decorated facade creates a breathtaking impression with its profusion of sculptures and gargoyles, while elaborate flying buttresses provide structural integrity for the enormous building.
Visitors should take a close look at the Gallery of Kings above the doorway on the elaborately detailed west facade. Rows of 28 intricately carved figures reveal representations of the French kings, from Childebert I (511-588) to Philippe Auguste. These figures lost their heads during the Revolution. (The heads are now on display in the Musée de Cluny.)
After admiring the decorative doorway, enter the sanctuary to take in the grandeur of this immense vaulted space. The sanctuary seems almost endless and beckons visitors with the light of flickering candles.
The interior is illuminated by magnificent stained-glass windows. The most noteworthy window is the rose window in the north transept. This stunning work of art features 80 Old Testament scenes centered around the Virgin.
Note: A large fire in April of 2019 caused considerable damage to the cathedral: The medieval roof and the 19th-century spire collapsed. The extent of the damage is still being assessed. At this time, the interior is closed to the public.
A project to stabilize and repair the structure is underway. The city plans to rebuild the cathedral and restore it to its previous state. Restoration work is ongoing.
Until the reopening, the Notre-Dame de Paris congregation will celebrate Mass at the Eglise Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois (2 Place du Louvre) in the 1st arrondissement.
Address: Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris, 6 Parvis Notre-Dame - Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris (Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station)
4. Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The most monumental boulevard in Paris used to be a desolate field of marshland until the 17th century, when it was landscaped by André Le Nôtre. A century later, the Parisian city planner Baron Haussmann designed the boulevard's elegant buildings.
The Champs-Élysées is divided into two parts with the Rond-Point des Champs-Élysées as its intersection.
The lower part of the Champs-Élysées, bordering the Place de la Concorde, includes a spacious park, the Jardins des Champs-Élysées, and the Petit Palais fine arts museum. The upper part, extending to the Arc de Triomphe, is lined by luxury shops, hotels, restaurants, cafés, cinemas, and theaters. This bustling area draws many tourists and is a gathering place for Parisians.
The Champs-Élysées is famous for its prestigious establishments, such as Maison Ladurée (75 Avenue des Champs-Élysées), a pâtisserie shop renowned for its 18th-century tea salon and delicious pastries (the house specialty is "macarons"), and upscale designer boutiques like Tiffany & Co. (62 Avenue des Champs-Élysées), Louis-Vuitton (101 Avenue des Champs-Élysées), and Cartier (154 Avenue des Champs-Élysées).
For fine dining, the top choices are the legendary "brasserie du luxe" restaurant and hotel Le Fouquet's (99 Avenue des Champs-Élysées) and the swanky gastronomic restaurant L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon Étoile (30 Rue Vernet, a small side street behind the Avenue des Champs-Élysées), which has one Michelin star.
Although the Champs-Élysées has an image of refinement, there are many affordable places that cater to tourists and students on a budget, such as the Disney toy store, Starbucks, Quick, Burger King, and McDonald's.
Address: Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Métro: Champs-Élysées Clemenceau station to visit the Jardin des Champs-Élysées and Petit Palais, Franklin d. Roosevelt station for Ladurée, George V station for the main shopping area).
5. Musée d'Orsay
The Musée d'Orsay displays a splendid collection of 19th- and 20th-century art (created from 1848 to 1914) in the converted Gare d'Orsay. This Belle Epoque railway station was built for the Universal Exhibition of 1900.
Some of the world's most cherished paintings are on display in the museum's spacious galleries. The Orsay Museum is among the best places to visit in Paris to get an overview of Impressionist art history. Visitors are delighted by the broad assortment of paintings, from canvases that reveal the gentle pastel-hued brush strokes of Monet to the wild, colorful scenes of Gauguin.
The collection represents the work of all the masters of Impressionism. Featured artists range from Impressionist masters Edgar Degas, Edouard Manet, Claude Monet, and Auguste Renoir to Post-Impressionist artists such as Pierre Bonnard, Paul Cézanne, and Vincent van Gogh; the Pointillists (Georges Seurat, Paul Signac); and Bohemian artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec.
Some of the museum's most famous pieces include Claude Monet's The Magpie, Gare Saint-Lazare, Poppy Field, and Luncheon on the Grass; Vincent van Gogh's self-portrait and Starry Night; and Renoir's Dance at Moulin de la Galette, which depicts a festive party scene in Montmartre.
The museum also has a bookstore and gift shop, a casual café, and a fine-dining restaurant, which is worth the splurge. Formerly the Hôtel d'Orsay (a luxury hotel within the original Gare d'Orsay) and listed as a Historic Monument, the museum's restaurant features gilded ceilings and sparkling chandeliers.
Address: Musée d'Orsay, 1 Rue de la Légion d'Honneur, 75007 Paris (Métro: Musée d'Orsay, Assemblée Nationale, or Solférino station)
Official site: https://www.musee-orsay.fr/en/
6. Palais Garnier, Opéra National de Paris
Commissioned by Napoleon III in 1860, the Palais Garnier Opera House was designed by Charles Garnier in an exuberant Baroque style. Garnier worked tirelessly on the project for over a decade, from 1862 to 1875. Today, this show-stopping landmark is a symbol of Napoleon's Imperial regime.
The facade features classical columns and eight sculptures representing allegorical figures: Poetry, Music, Idyll, Recitation, Song, Drama, and Dance. The loggia depicts busts of composers, including Rossini, Beethoven, and Mozart, while the cupola is topped with a statue of Apollo with allegorical figures of Poetry and Music.
Upon entering the building, visitors are dazzled by the lavish 11,000-square-meter interior. Most of the building's space is dedicated to the main foyer with its fabulous Grand Escalier, marble entrance staircase, adorned by ornate gilded lamps.
The horseshoe-shaped auditorium has an intimate feel, although it can accommodate 2,105 people in its plush red-velvet seats. Gilded balconies, an enormous crystal chandelier, and a Chagall ceiling painting add to the theater's marvelousness, creating the perfect dramatic backdrop for cultural performances.
The Opéra Garnier hosts a prestigious calendar of events. Besides opera, there are ballet performances, classical music concerts, and gala events. Attending a performance is one of the most exciting things to do in Paris at night. It's also a wonderful way to see the building's interior while enjoying a glamorous evening. Another option is to visit (entry ticket required) or take a guided tour during the daytime.
The Bibliothèque-Musée de l'Opéra (Library-Museum of the Opera) located inside the building contains three centuries of archives, as well as exhibits dedicated to the art of opera. The museum's permanent collection features drawings of costumes and scenery, scale models, and paintings of the building.
The Opera House also has a boutique that sells opera-related books and souvenirs.
Connoisseurs of fine dining will be delighted to discover CoCo, a chic restaurant within the Opera House (entrance is at 1 Place Jacques Rouché) that serves refined contemporary cuisine prepared from seasonal ingredients. CoCo offers lunch and dinner daily, as well as weekend brunch (every Saturday and Sunday) featuring musical entertainment. Reservations are recommended.
Address: Palais Garnier, Place de l'Opéra, 8 Rue Scribe (at Auber) 75009 Paris (Métro: Opéra, Chaussée d'Antin-La Fayette or Havre-Caumartin station)
Official site: https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/
7. Place de la Concorde
Created in 1772 by the architect of King Louis XV, this impressive octagonal square was the heart of 18th-century Paris. The Place de la Concorde was the scene of several key historical events, including the executions of Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, among other victims of the guillotine. The square was also part of Napoleon's triumphal route.
With its majestic dimensions, the Place de la Concorde is one of the most attractive squares in the city and offers a sensational perspective of the city's landmarks. In one direction, you can admire the Arc de Triomphe and in the other, the Louvre, while the Eiffel Tower can been seen in the distance. At the center is an Egyptian obelisk, which was presented to Charles X by the Viceroy of Egypt. During summer, there is a Ferris wheel here.
Tip for Tourists: The Place de la Concorde is a busy intersection with heavy traffic, circulating at high speeds. French drivers don't always pay attention to pedestrians, so tourists should make sure to get out of the way!
To arrive at the Place de la Concorde, walk from the Louvre through the Jardin des Tuileries or the Rue de Rivoli, or follow the Quai along the Seine River. Alternatively take the Métro to Concorde station.
8. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is dedicated to the soldiers who fought in the French armies of the Revolution and the First Empire (Napoleonic Wars). Napoleon commissioned the building of this mighty structure in 1806 but did not live to see its completion in 1836.
Designed by architect Jean-François Chalgrin, who modeled the monument after the Arch of Titus in Rome, the massive 50-meter-high arch features bas-reliefs with larger-than-life-size figures, which depict the departure, victories, and glorious return of the French armies.
Particularly noteworthy is the bas-relief by François Rude on the Champs-Elysées-facing side: Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, also known as La Marseillaise, illustrating the troops led by the winged spirit of Liberty. On the inner surface of the arch are the names of more than 660 generals and more than a hundred battles.
From the top of the monument, a viewing platform affords panoramic views of the 12 avenues that radiate from the Place de l'Étoile, including the route from the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. It's possible to see all the way to La Défense, the hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre, and the Eiffel Tower.
At the foot of the Arc de Triomphe is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, dedicated in 1921 as a memorial to an anonymous soldier (symbol of the many other unknown soldiers who valiantly died for their country during World War One without ever receiving recognition).
The Flame of Remembrance was ignited at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on November 11th, 1923 and since that date has not ever been extinguished. Every evening at 6:30pm, a ritual takes place to rekindle the memorial flame at the tomb.
Throughout the year, events to honor national holidays are held at the Arc de Triomphe, including the November 11th (anniversary of the Armistice of 1918) ceremony commemorating those who perished in the war; the May 8th Fête de la Victoire (Victory Day) celebrating the end of WWII, and the liberation from Nazi occupation; as well as festivities for July 14th (Bastille Day).
The monument staff provides guided tours in French every day at 10:30am; these tours are included in the price of the admission ticket. The site also has documentation and multi-media presentations in multiple languages.
Tourists will appreciate the gift shop and bookstore at the Arc de Triomphe. For visitors with reduced mobility and young children, there is an elevator to reach the viewing platform. Otherwise, visitors must take the stairs.
Address: Arc de Triomphe, Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris (Métro: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, Kléber or Argentine station)
9. Seine River Cruises
A boat cruise along the Seine River is one of the best ways to soak up the alluring scenery of Paris. Seine River Cruises allow tourists to see the sights from a different perspective. The Seine River bridges, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and the Louvre Museum look stunning from the viewpoint of a riverboat.
While a daytime cruise allows tourists to appreciate the glory of the monuments brightened by sunshine, the most romantic experience is an evening cruise. After sunset, the city's landmarks are illuminated, which creates a special effect, and somehow the city seems more magical.
For a cruise that includes dinner, try the Bateaux Parisiens Seine River Gourmet Dinner & Sightseeing Cruise. This luxurious riverboat cruise departs at the Port de la Bourdonnais (near the Eiffel Tower), and guests are treated to a gourmet three-course meal.
Gourmands will be tempted to take a gourmet cruise on the Ducasse sur Seine restaurant boat, which departs from Port Debilly. This unique restaurant offers the chance to sample the finest haute cuisine in Paris while gliding down the Seine River past some of the city's most majestic monuments. Guests may choose from lunch and dinner cruises, with various menu options available. Menus focus on contemporary-style French dishes prepared from seasonal ingredients.
10. Musical Concerts at Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is considered a rare jewel among medieval houses of worship and is certainly one of the most exquisite churches in Paris. The ravishing 13th-century chapel is tucked away on the Île-de-la-Cité, just a few blocks away (about a 10-minute walk) from the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
This masterpiece of Rayonnant Gothic architecture was built from 1242 to 1248 for King Louis IX (Saint Louis) to house the precious relics he had acquired from the Byzantine Emperor. The altar displays a relic of the Crown of Thorns.
The chapel is renowned for its breathtaking stained-glass windows, which give the sanctuary a serene aura. (Visit in the morning and especially on sunny days to appreciate the windows at their most brilliant.) The chapel has 15 stained-glass windows (covering 600 square meters) depicting over 1,000 scenes from the bible, both Old Testament and New Testament stories. The colors and light symbolize divinity and the Heavenly Jerusalem.
Only used for church services on rare occasions, Sainte-Chapelle is open to the public as a museum (entrance tickets are required). For an additional fee, audioguides (available in French, English, German, Italian, Spanish, and Japanese) provide one hour of commentary to help visitors appreciate the art, architecture, and history of Sainte-Chapelle.
This awe-inspiring monument is also a magical venue for classical music concerts. In the iridescent glow of Sainte-Chapelle's glorious sanctuary, the performances of Baroque chamber music, sacred music, or Vivaldi string quartets have a sublime quality. A regular program of concerts is held at Sainte-Chapelle year-round, with events scheduled several times a week.
Sainte-Chapelle is located in the Palais de la Cité. To find the chapel, enter the iron gate of the Palais de Justice and walk through the inner courtyard.
Another attraction nearby is La Conciergerie (tourists may purchase combined entry tickets), the prison where Marie-Antoinette was detained during the French Revolution.
Address: Sainte-Chapelle, 8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris (Métro: Cité, Saint-Michel Notre-Dame or Châtelet station)
11. Bustling Boulevards and Legendary Cafés
A visit to the City of Light is not complete without spending time on the sidewalk terrace or bustling interior of a famous café. It's the ultimate Parisian people-watching scene and a chance to imagine the historic rendezvous that occurred here.
To discover the legendary Paris cafés, the best place to start is the Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th arrondissement. This broad tree-lined boulevard is lined with designer fashion boutiques, prestigious cafés, and old-fashioned brasseries.
The most celebrated cafés are the Café de Flore (172 Boulevard Saint-Germain-des-Prés), which was the meeting place of Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, and Les Deux Magots café (6 Place Saint-Germain-des-Prés), once the haunt of poets, authors, and artists, including Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine, James Joyce, Pablo Picasso, and Ernest Hemingway.
At both Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots, tourists are treated to a classic Parisian café experience, complete with waiters wearing bow ties. Although the waiters have a reputation for their brusque service, their formality adds to the authentic ambience.
The brasseries of Boulevard du Montparnasse were also frequented by famous artists and writers. Le Dôme in Montparnasse is a Paris institution (108 Boulevard du Montparnasse) that has attracted luminaries including Sartre, Simone de Beauvoir, and Picasso. In its glittering Art Deco dining room, the restaurant serves gourmet cuisine and is especially renowned for its seafood dishes.
Another atmospheric French brasserie with a mythical past, La Coupole (102 Boulevard du Montparnasse) has, since the 1920s, been visited by famous artists such as André Derain, Fernand Léger, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, and Marc Chagall. La Coupole also boasts having served Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre.
La Rotonde Montparnasse (105 Boulevard du Montparnasse) has been a gathering place for painters and writers since 1911 and still attracts cinematographers and artists today.
12. Jardin du Luxembourg
A must-see destination in the 6th arrondissement, the Jardin du Luxembourg is the best known park in Paris after the Tuileries. The Luxembourg Gardens were created in the 17th century, when the Palais du Luxembourg was built for Queen Marie de Médicis by King Henri IV, and they were designed in the style of the Boboli Gardens in Florence. In the 19th century, the architect Jean-François Chalgrin updated the layout of the Jardin du Luxembourg.
The central feature of the 25-hectare park is the large octagonal fountain-adorned pool, which is flanked by two terraces lined with statues, tidy flower beds, and perfectly manicured shrubbery. This part of the park is typical of formal French gardens. Facing the fountain are many chairs spread about for visitors to use.
There is also an English-style garden, a rose garden, apiary, Orangerie (orangery), and greenhouses filled with exotic orchids, as well as an orchard where heirloom varieties of apples flourish.
Artistic treasures are found throughout the gardens, such as the picturesque 17th-century Fontaine de Médicis, a fountain basin nestled under trees opposite the east front of the Palais du Luxembourg, which today is used by the French state as the seat of Senate.
Steps away from the Fontaine de Médicis is La Terrasse de Madame, a little café-restaurant in a charming setting. Guests may dine at outdoor tables beneath the leafy chestnut trees. The menu includes coffee and croissants for breakfast and bistro meals for lunch, such as steak, Croque Monsieur (sandwiches), quiche, grilled fish, charcuterie, and salads. Also on the menu are traditional French desserts like profiteroles and crème brûlée.
The park is a locals' favorite spot for relaxing and picnicking. Students of the Latin Quarter can be seen here enjoying baguette sandwiches for lunch or just lounging on a sunny day. Recreational opportunities include basketball, tennis, and chess.
Children love the playground, which features swings, slides, a sandpit, games area, and pony rides. The most popular activity for the youngest visitors at the Jardin du Luxembourg is steering miniature sailboats around in the octagonal pool (the boats can be hired at a kiosk by the pond).
For French-speaking kids, watching a puppet show at the Théâtre des Marionnettes is not to be missed. The Théâtre des Marionnettes is a modern venue, in the southwest area of the park near the tennis courts, that accommodates an audience of up to 275 children and adults (which makes it the largest puppet theater in France).
Address: Jardin du Luxembourg, Rue de Vaugirard and Rue de Médicis, 75006 Paris (Métro: Luxembourg or Odéon station)
13. Sacré-Coeur and Quartier Montmartre
Sitting at the highest point in Paris like an ornamental decoration, the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur has a special aura. Its alabaster facade blends Romanesque and Byzantine styles, and from far away, it looks like a wedding cake (which is its nickname).
Inside the Basilica, the striking mosaic of Christ with a flaming heart gives the sanctuary an emotional and spiritual intensity, fitting for a church that was created as a symbol of hope after the Franco-Prussian War. The sanctuary is illuminated with many candles, which provide a contrast to the dark, somber space.
Visitors can spend time on the terrace admiring the views of Paris or climb the tower for an even higher perspective. The Esplanade that leads up (by a staircase of over 200 steps) to the Sacré-Coeur church is a popular area for people to hang out and is often animated by street musicians.
While visiting the Sacré-Coeur, be sure to explore the enchanting neighborhood of Montmartre. This medieval country village (once considered outside of the city) has become annexed as the 18th arrondissement of Paris.
Montmartre exudes old-fashioned charm along with an avant-garde edge. Winding cobblestone streets and pedestrian staircases lead to small locally owned boutiques and restaurants, art galleries that evoke the quarter's bohemian past, and quiet squares filled with outdoor cafés.
During the Belle Epoque, the village of Montmartre began to attract artists such as Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and Edgar Degas. The Bohemian creative spirit of Montmartre is still found here, especially around the Place du Tertre and the Carré Roland Dorgelès.
The neighborhood has several excellent art museums, where visitors can admire the creations of bohemian artists who resided in Montmartre during the late 19th and early 20th century. During this era, Montmartre was famous for its cabarets and artists' studios.
The Musée de Montmartre (12 Rue Cortot) occupies a historic house where Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy, Suzanne Valadon, and other artists once lived and worked. Within the museum's delightful gardens, visitors can enjoy refreshments at the Café Renoir, which features outdoor seating in the lovely space where Renoir painted several masterpieces.
Those who appreciate surrealistic art will be enthralled by the Dalí Paris museum (11 Rue Poulbot). This innovative museum displays more than 300 works created by Salvador Dalí. The exhibits are presented in a way that reveals the symbols and motifs used in his artworks.
Address: Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, 35 Rue du Chevalier-de-la-Barre, 75018 Paris (Métro: Abbesses)
Built as a church to rival Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome and Saint Paul's Cathedral in London, the Panthéon is the national mausoleum of France's greatest citizens. In 1756, King Louis XV commissioned the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot (1713-80) to build a new church on the site of the ruined abbey of Sainte-Geneviève, and the church was completed in 1790.
The architecture of the Panthéon marks a clear break from the playful Rococo of the Louis XV style and instead presents a simpler and more somber Neoclassical style. The inscription on the Panthéon's facade reads "Aux Grands Hommes La Patrie Reconnaissante" ("To the Great Men Recognized by Their Country").
Many famous men (75 in total) are buried here, including philosophers Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, and René Descartes; and the writers Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, Émile Zola, and André Malraux. Although the monument was originally dedicated exclusively to France's male citizens, this has changed recently.
Since 1995, several of France's most esteemed female citizens have been buried in the Panthéon including the physicist Marie Curie, a two-time winner of the Nobel Prize. Five other women are buried at the Panthéon. In November 2021, Josephine Baker (the famous Black American-expatriate dancer and singer) became the sixth woman to receive the honor of being inducted into the Panthéon.
Entrance to the Panthéon requires an admission fee, except for free admission on the first Sunday of every month from November through March. Guided group tours are available year-round.
From April through October (for an additional entrance fee), visitors may ascend to the Panthéon's dome, where a colonnaded balcony provides a sensational viewpoint of the city's landmarks. Panoramas extend from the Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Louvre in the foreground to the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
Address: Panthéon, Place du Panthéon, 75005 Paris (Métro: Luxembourg station)
15. Place des Vosges
In the charming Marais district, the Place des Vosges is Paris' oldest public square, spaciously laid out in harmoniously uniform style. This elegant square provided a model for other squares such as Place Vendôme and Place de la Concorde.
The Place des Vosges was constructed between 1605 and 1612 and was originally called Place Royale because it was created by King Henri IV. The buildings originally housed aristocratic residences. Typical of Renaissance architecture, the square has a pleasing symmetrical form with uniform red-brick houses that feature stone quoins and pitched slate roofs.
The Place Royale offered a splendid setting for festive occasions in the 17th century, such as tournaments, state receptions, and court weddings. It was also a favorite spot for duels, in spite of Cardinal Richelieu's ban on dueling. The celebrated courtesan of Louis XIII's reign lived at number 11, and the future Madame de Sévigné was born in 1626 at number 1 on the square.
Victor Hugo rented an apartment at number 6 on the Place Royale between 1832 and 1848. Today this apartment is a museum, the Maison de Victor Hugo (6 Place des Vosges) which is devoted to educating visitors about the life and work of Victor Hugo.
The Place des Vosges is at the heart of Le Marais, a medieval quarter with narrow cobblestone streets, grand Renaissance palaces, and beautiful hôtels particuliers (mansions) of the 16th and 17th centuries. Several of these stately old buildings have been converted into museums.
The most important museum of the quarter is the Musée Carnavalet - Histoire de Paris. This recently renovated museum illustrates the history of Paris from antiquity through the French Revolution and the Belle Epoque until the present day.
In the Hôtel Salé (a 17th-century aristocratic mansion), the Musée National Picasso-Paris (5 Rue de Thorigny) wows modern art lovers with its incredibly extensive collection (over 5,000 pieces) of Picasso's artwork, including some of his most iconic masterpieces.
More than just an open-air museum filled with historic monuments, Le Marais has become a trendy quarter full of fashion boutiques, cute cafés, and unique shops. The area brims with youthful energy and is a fun place to visit for a stroll or stop for a coffee break.
Another interesting fact about Le Marais is that it has a significant Jewish community. To learn more about Jewish culture in Europe, tourists can visit the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme (71 Rue du Temple), which presents the 2,000-year history of France's Jewish communities, along with educational programs about Jewish culture and exhibitions of artwork by Jewish artists such as Chagall and Modigliani.
Nearby, the Jardin Anne Frank offers the tranquility of a secluded garden. This quiet, leafy green space features benches, shady trees, and an orchard. One of the chestnut trees in the garden was grafted from a tree that Anne Frank could see from the window of the annex where she lived in Amsterdam.
For those in search of a refined Parisian experience, the Mariage Frères (30 Rue du Bourg-Tibourg) is the place to go. This tea salon serves its aromatic tea with savory and sweet delicacies in a French colonial-style dining room; its adjoining shop sells a wide selection of scented teas in distinctive tins.
Many tourists wait in line to try the authentic falafel at L'As du Fallafel (34 Rue des Rosiers), considered one of the best Middle Eastern restaurants in Paris. Located in the heart of Paris' Jewish quarter, L'As du Fallafel is closed on Shabbat (Friday evening and Saturday during the daytime).
Also worth noting: The area of the Marais around the Rue des Rosiers is home to a Jewish community and is known as the "Pletzl" (a Yiddish word that means "Small Square"). This area has several kosher restaurants and kosher bakeries. Jewish residents of the Marais celebrate the Sabbath on Saturday rather than Sunday, which means that many shops owners keep their boutiques open on Sundays.
Address: Place des Vosges, 75004 Paris (Métro: Saint-Paul or Bastille station)
16. Musée Rodin
A hidden gem in the posh 7th arrondissement, the Musée Rodin invites visitors to step into a peaceful haven of refinement, where France's renowned sculptor lived and worked for many years. The property includes the 18th-century Rococo mansion, the Hôtel Biron, and a seven-acre Sculpture Garden that blooms with flowers throughout the year.
In 1908, Auguste Rodin began to rent several rooms on the ground floor of the Hôtel Biron to use as an atelier. Other artists, including Jean Cocteau, Henri Matisse, and Isadora Duncan, also rented rooms within the building. Rodin later took over the entire Hôtel Biron, which became his place of residence for the rest of his life. In 1916, Rodin donated his artworks and collection of antiquities to the French state, and the museum was established soon thereafter.
The Musée Rodin displays a remarkable assortment of Rodin's sculptures, as well as the works of Camille Claudel. Visitors can admire Rodin masterpieces presented in the Hôtel Biron, such as Danaïd, an expressive marble sculpture depicting a mythological character (created in 1890); The Age of Bronze (created in 1877); The Cathedral, a stone sculpture of two intertwined hands (created in 1908); and The Kiss, one of Rodin's most sensual works (created around 1882).
Several monumental Rodin sculptures preside over various corners of the Sculpture Garden. The Thinker, Rodin's most iconic work of art, sits on a pedestal overlooking the perfectly manicured formal garden. The expressive Monument to Balzac stands in a shady spot beneath leafy trees, while a bronze statue of Adam is sheltered behind dense shrubbery.
Visitors will enjoy wandering the garden to appreciate both the sculptures and the landscaping. The tranquil setting makes the Musée Rodin unique in Paris.
Adding to the romance of the place are the park benches placed throughout the garden and the café-restaurant, L'Augustine, where guests may relax on an outdoor terrace. The café-restaurant also has a cozy indoor space. The menu features classic French meal options, as well as desserts supplied by the Maison Lenôtre, a pillar of Parisian gastronomy renowned for its modern artisanal pâtisserie.
Official site: https://www.musee-rodin.fr/en
17. Place Vendôme
This graceful 17th-century square was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, one of the leading architects of the Grand Siècle (during the reign of Louis XIV). Originally, the square was called Place Louis le Grand and was intended to house royal establishments. However, financial difficulties forced the king to sell the buildings to nobles and wealthy citizens. The new owners built gorgeous mansions with courtyards and gardens.
The charm of the Place Vendôme is that it has retained the consistency of the overall design, which combines regal ostentation with civic simplicity. Following careful restoration in the early '90s, it has been restored in all its splendor.
The square is known for its upscale jewelry boutiques including Boucheron, Chaumet, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Cartier. Another luxury establishment here is the Ritz Hotel, which was frequented by Ernest Hemingway, Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein.
Coco Chanel made the Ritz Paris her home for 34 years; she decorated her suite in her signature style with velvet-upholstered sofas, lacquered furniture, and gilded mirrors. The Ritz Paris still has a suite named after Coco Chanel that exemplifies her vision of Parisian chic.
At the center of the Place Vendôme stands a landmark of historic importance, the Colonne de la Grande Armée (replacing a statue of Louis XIV that was removed in 1792). Built between 1806 and 1810, the 42-meter-high column is dedicated to Napoleon and his Grande Armée (army) who fought heroically and victoriously in the Battle of Austerlitz (in December 1805).
The column's facade is crafted from bronze plaques embossed with 108 spiraling bas-relief friezes (similar to the Trajan's Column in Rome), which tell the story of the glorious events that took place during Napoleon's campaign of 1805.
Address: Place Vendôme, 75001 Paris (Métro: Tuileries or Opéra station)
18. Centre Pompidou
Between Les Halles and Le Marais is the Centre Pompidou, a cultural center devoted to modern art. In contrast to the historic buildings of the quarter, the Centre Pompidou features shocking modern architecture, sometimes described as an "inside out" design because the architectural details of staircases and elevators appear on the exterior.
The main attraction of the Centre Pompidou is the Musée National d'Art Moderne (National Museum of Modern Art), which displays iconic works of art chosen from an extensive collection of over 100,000 pieces. The collection focuses on contemporary art created from 1905 to the present.
The collection covers all the movements of modern art, beginning with the Post-Impressionist "Fauves" and "Les Nabis" movements (André Derain, Raoul Dufy, Henri Matisse, Pierre Bonnard, and Marc Chagall) and continuing with the famous movement of Cubism (Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Fernand Léger, and Robert Delaunay).
Each room highlights a specific time period, artistic influence, or artistic movement such as Expressionism, Constructivism (Paul Klee and Piet Mondrian), Surrealism (Salvador Dalí, Max Ernst, René Magritte, and André Masson), Abstract Expressionism (Mark Rothko, Nicolas de Staël, Hans Hartung, and Serge Poliakoff), Informal Art (Jean Dubuffet), New Realism, and Pop Art (Andy Warhol, Claes Oldenburg).
Several masterpieces of the collection are not to be missed: Avec l'Arc Noir by Wassily Kandinsky, Manège de Cochons by Robert Delaunay, Portrait de la Journaliste Sylvia von Harden by Otto Dix, The Frame by Frida Kahlo, Les Mariés de la Tour Eiffel by Marc Chagall, La Blouse Roumaine by Henri Matisse, New York City by Piet Mondrian, and Les Loisirs-Hommage à Louis David by Fernand Léger.
The center has three bookstores, a casual café, and a boutique that sells gift items inspired by contemporary art.
Those in the know dine at the Centre Pompidou's sleek contemporary-style restaurant on the museum's top floor. Restaurant Georges features floor-to-ceiling windows with spectacular panoramic views of the Paris cityscape. Tables on the terrace look out directly onto the Notre-Dame Cathedral, the Eiffel Tower, and Montmartre.
Address: Centre Pompidou, Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris (Métro: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, Châtelet or Rambuteau station)
Official site: https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en
19. Hôtel National des Invalides
Louis XIV founded the Hôtel Royal des Invalides in the late 17th century as a home for disabled soldiers. Before the time of Louis XIV, disabled soldiers received medical care, if at all, in hospitals or monasteries, but were usually reduced to begging. With the Hôtel des Invalides, Louis XIV created the first home for disabled veterans.
The building was constructed between 1671 and 1676 under the direction of the architect Libéral Bruant and centered on the Eglise Saint-Louis-des-Invalides, which was later redesigned by the architect Jules Hardouin-Mansart in 1706. The church became known as the Eglise du Dôme des Invalides and is an outstanding example of French classical-style ecclesiastical architecture.
Today, the Hôtel National des Invalides still has a hospital (Institution Nationale des Invalides) that provides medical care for disabled veterans. The building also contains three museums and two churches.
Founded in 1794, the Musée de l'Armée (Army Museum) presents a large collection of military equipment and uniforms, weapons, prints, and curiosities from many countries. The museum covers the military history of France from the 13th century (the Crusades) to the 17th century. There are also mementos and relics of Napoleon and well-known generals, as well as plans of the French campaigns.
The Musée de l'Ordre de la Libération honors the soldiers who fought for the liberation of France during the Second World War, from 1940 to 1945. This museum also educates visitors about the deportation of Jews from France, the Resistance, and life in France during the war.
Military strategy of the 17th century comes to life at the Musée des Plans-Reliefs (Museum of Relief Maps). The museum displays 28 detailed relief maps of France's fortified towns (citadels) that date from 1668 to 1875. Louis XIV's Minister of War (and later ministers) used the maps for military planning purposes.
A gold-domed Neoclassical church, the Eglise du Dôme des Invalides was built in 1677 as a royal chapel for Louis XIV but is most famous for being the site of Napoleon's Tomb, installed here in 1861 by the orders of King Louis-Philippe. The imperial tomb stands beneath a magnificent cupola, which was painted by Charles de la Fosse.
Designed as a place for veterans to worship, the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides (constructed around 1676) is a chapel within the Eglise du Dôme des Invalides. This chapel was built in keeping with etiquette of the 17th century and has a separate entrance from Eglise du Dôme. The Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides is still used as a church for veterans of the French army.
Address: Hôtel National des Invalides, Esplanade des Invalides, 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris
Official site: http://www.musee-armee.fr/en/english-version.html
20. Domaine National du Palais-Royal
Opposite the Louvre Museum is a welcome retreat for tourists amid the bustle of Paris' 1st arrondissement. Visiting this secluded spot feels like a secret getaway, even though it's right in the center of the city.
The Palais-Royal was created as a residence for Cardinal Richelieu in 1633, during the reign of Louis XIII. Richelieu later bequeathed the palace to the royal family, and it became the childhood home of Louis XIV.
Exemplifying classical French architecture, the Domaine National du Palais-Royal is made up of 60 pavilions surrounding a courtyard and a lovely garden, the Jardin du Palais-Royal. Visitors are surprised by the contemporary sculpture installation in the courtyard and delighted by the lush tree-shaded grounds. This peaceful enclosed space has the feeling of being its own little village within the city.
The buildings are connected by a colonnaded pathway and arcaded galleries (verandas) filled with high-end boutiques. There are also a couple of fancy cafés (with pleasant outdoor terraces) and two fine-dining restaurants: the haute-cuisine Palais Royal Restaurant (one Michelin star); and Le Grand Véfour, which has a sumptuous dining room (dating to 1784) that features delicate "art décoratif" design motifs.
The Palais-Royal area has two theaters: the Théâtre du Palais-Royal (38 Rue de Montpensier), which dates back to 1783 and continues to present theater performances in French; and La Comédie-Française (1 Place Colette), a theater known as the "La Maison de Molière" because it has staged so many of the famous playwright's works. The Comédie-Française was inaugurated in 1790 and is still in use during its theater season.
A favorite place for locals to take a leisurely stroll, the Domaine National du Palais-Royal is open to the public every day, free of charge. The Centre des Monuments Nationaux offers guided group tours.
Address: Domaine National du Palais-Royal, 8 Rue Montpensier, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre or Pyramides station)
21. Place de la Bastille
Now, only the name of this square is a reminder that the notorious state prison known as the Bastille, the much-hated symbol of absolutist power, once stood here. After the storming of the Bastille on July 14, 1789, the prison was completely demolished.
In the center of Place de la Bastille is the 51-meter-high Colonne de Juillet, topped by a graceful gilded figure of Liberty ("Génie de la Liberté"). The monument commemorates the July Revolution of 1830, which overthrew King Charles X and brought Louis-Philippe d'Orléans to power.
Four Gallic cocks and a lion relief on the base of the column symbolize the free people of France. A spiral staircase of 283 steps inside the column leads to a viewing platform.
On the site of the Bastille prison is the new Opera House, the Opéra Bastille, that was inaugurated by President Mitterrand on July 13, 1989. This immense modern theater has seating for 2,745 people. Both the view of the stage from the auditorium and the acoustics are superb.
The Opéra Bastille presents a calendar of events (from January through July) that includes opera and ballet performances by the Opéra National de Paris and the Corps de Ballet de l'Opéra de Paris.
Tourists may enjoy attending one of the performances and then exploring the Bastille area. This trendy neighborhood is brimming with quirky boutiques, hip clothing shops, stylish restaurants, and happening cafés.
Address: Place de la Bastille, 75012 Paris (Métro: Bastille)
Official site: https://www.operadeparis.fr/en/visits/opera-bastille
22. Place du Châtelet and Tour Saint-Jacques
The Place du Châtelet stands at the very center of Paris in the 1st arrondissement, overlooking the Seine River. The Pont au Change (bridge) provides access from the Île de la Cité to the Place du Châtelet. It's just a short walk from Sainte-Chapelle and La Conciergerie on the Île-de-la-Cité to the Place du Châtelet, so it would make sense to visit these tourist attractions at the same time.
Gracing this expansive square are two celebrated Parisian theaters. Designed in opulent Napoléon III style, the 19th-century Théâtre du Châtelet (2 Rue Edouard Colonne) presents a wide variety of music concerts, as well as dance and theater performances. A listed Historical Monument where Sarah Bernhardt once directed shows, the Théâtre de la Ville (2 Place du Châtelet) stages a diverse program of dance, music, and theater performances.
The area around Place du Châtelet is also worth exploring. Continue towards the Rue de Rivoli, past the Boulevard de Sébastopol, and wander through the small park to find the Tour Saint-Jacques. Built in the early 16th century, the Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of the Eglise Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie (the patron saint of butchers), the town's old parish church.
The Saint-Jacques Tower is also famous as the place where Blaise Pascal conducted one of his barometric experiments, which showed the effect of altitude on the height of a column of mercury.
23. La Conciergerie
Never mind the inviting name, this imposing medieval fortress was an infamous place of detention and a courthouse (from 1793 to 1795) during the French Revolution. Here, prisoners including Marie-Antoinette and Robespierre were kept in dank cells while awaiting their fate.
The Conciergerie is a remnant of the Palais de la Cité, the royal residence of France's kings in the 13th and 14th centuries, until the residence moved to the Louvre. During the Restoration (return of the Bourbon monarchs to the throne), the Conciergerie was no longer used as a prison and Marie-Antoinette's cell was converted into a commemorative chapel.
The Salle des Gardes displays relics of the bloody Reign of Terror, including a guillotine blade, prison regulations, and a copy of Marie-Antoinette's last letter.
The Salle des Gens d'Armes is a vaulted Gothic hall of awesome proportions. In this forbidding room, the condemned prisoners were handed over to the executioner.
For an exceptional view of the building's Neo-Gothic facade, stand on the opposite side of the Seine River on the Quai de la Mégisserie. From this distance, with its three round towers and the Tour de l'Horloge (Clock Tower), the fortress resembles a fairy-tale castle rather than a penitentiary.
The Conciergerie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is open to the public as a museum. It's possible to purchase a combined entry ticket for the Conciergerie and Sainte-Chapelle.
Address: 2 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris (Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel Notre-Dame station)
24. Fondation Louis Vuitton
The former hunting grounds of France's kings, the Bois de Boulogne park is now home to a surprising new landmark. Opened in 2014, the Fondation Louis Vuitton was commissioned by Bernard Arnault, chairman of the Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy corporation. The private museum will eventually become the property of the French state.
Designed by Frank Gehry, an acclaimed American architect based in Los Angeles, the striking building is a masterpiece of ultra-modern architecture. The sleek exterior resembles an iceberg or an enormous ship with flowing sails made out of glass (3,600 glass panels in total create the dramatic effect). The structure contains more steel than the amount in the Eiffel Tower.
Within the museum's 3,500 square meters of exhibition space are 11 different galleries. Illuminated by natural light, the exhibition space is airy and bright, ideal for showing off the contemporary art collections.
In keeping with the museum's modern theme, the permanent collection focuses entirely on 20th-century and 21st-century art organized in four different categories: Expressionism, Contemplative Art, Pop Art, and Music & Sound.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton offers a year-round calendar of events and temporary exhibits. Cultural events and music performances are presented in a 1,000-seat auditorium. Tourists may also enjoy a snack or meal at the museum's restaurant, Le Frank, which serves a menu created by a Michelin-starred chef.
Not to be missed are the three outdoor terraces on the roof, which afford sweeping views of the Bois de Boulogne, La Défense district, and the Eiffel Tower in the distance.
After admiring the scenery, tourists can explore the walking paths and gardens of the Bois de Boulogne. This 850-hectare park has cycling and horseback riding trails, picnic areas, a lake for boating, racecourses, restaurants, and an outdoor theater.
The Bois de Boulogne conceals another attraction: the Parc de Bagatelle. This gorgeous park features a luxuriant rose garden planted with thousands of rose bushes; a 19th-century Orangery, which hosts the Chopin Festival every year in June; and sprawling bucolic grounds that are landscaped in romantic English style.
A highlight of the Parc de Bagatelle is the Neoclassical Château de Bagatelle, created in 1775 for the Comte d'Artois. The château is open to the public during temporary exhibitions, and on Sundays and public holidays for guided tours at 3pm. The château has a gift shop, bookstore and restaurant.
Address: 8 Avenue du Mahatma Gandhi, Bois de Boulogne, 75116 Paris (Métro: Pont de Neuilly or Avenue Foch)
Official site: https://www.fondationlouisvuitton.fr/en.html
25. Parc de La Villette
Covering 55 hectares, the Parc de La Villette is the largest landscaped green space in Paris. The park is brimming with attractions, including children's playgrounds and the Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie (Museum of Science and Technology).
The park is also home to 400-seat La Géode IMAX theater; the Zénith Paris - La Villette concert hall; the Philharmonie de Paris performance venue; and Le Trabendo, which stages rock, rap, and hip hop music concerts.
During summertime, Parisians (and a few tourists) enjoy attending cultural events at the Parc de La Villette. For several days at the end of May, the Villette Sonique festival draws huge crowds to outdoor music concerts. Other festivals include Jazz à La Villette in September and an outdoor film festival (Cinéma en Plein Air), which takes place in the park from mid-July to mid-August.
The park features a variety of themed gardens with walking paths, footbridges, and bright red architectural "follies" designed by Bernard Tschumi. The area around the Canal de l'Ourcq is embellished with ponds and fountains.
Address: 211 Avenue Jean Jaurès, 75019 Paris (Métro: Porte de la Villette)
26. Paris Plages
On warm, sunny days during the summer months (early July through mid-August), tourists and locals flock to the banks along the Seine River for a mini holiday experience. The city of Paris brings public amenities to several areas, which are designed especially for relaxation and recreation.
Within the Parc Rives de Seine, the "vacation spots" are found from the Pont Alexandre III to the Pont de Solferino on the Left Bank and from the Pont Neuf to the Pont de Sully on the Right Bank. Within these areas, the lawns of the quays are transformed into little resorts, complete with lounge chairs, sun umbrellas, and palm trees.
Beach towels and children's toys are also available. Recreational opportunities include table football and mini golf games for kids. There is also a selection of books that visitors may borrow.
Another "beach resort" along the Seine is the Bassin de La Villette (located at the Quai de la Loire and the Quai de la Seine). This well-developed canal area features quayside toilets, changing rooms, showers, snack bars, and ice-cream stands.
The Bassin de La Villette canal has three swimming pools with lifeguards at the Quai de la Seine (open from mid-July through August). Sports activities at the canal include canoeing, pétanque, and ziplining.
27. Cimetière du Père Lachaise
Away from the more touristy areas of central Paris, the Père Lachaise Cemetery in the 20th arrondissement is the city's most famous and most visited cemetery. This 44-hectare space is the final resting place of many famous men and women, including Honoré de Balzac, Frédéric Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison.
Some of the tombs and graves of the most admired personalities attract a cult following, with flowers and tributes left by visitors on a daily basis.
Address: Cimetière du Père Lachaise, 21 Boulevard de Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris (Métro: Père Lachaise or Philippe Auguste station)
28. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
A peaceful little oasis of nature that is treasured by locals, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is completely unlike other gardens of Paris. The 25-hectare hilltop park has the feeling of an untamed pastoral landscape, in contrast to Paris' formal French gardens, with their orderly rows of flowerbeds and pollarded trees.
Caves, waterfalls, and an artificial lake add to the Romantic aesthetic. Large shady trees and spacious grassy areas invite visitors to pull out a blanket and relax. Some areas of the park offer panoramic city views.
Among Parisians, this park is a favorite place to go for picnics and basking in the sunshine on warm days.
The convivial Rosa Bonheur café serves Mediterranean cuisine on an outdoor terrace. Rosa Bonheur is also known for its musical entertainment and evening dances.
For those seeking a gourmet lunch or brunch, Le Pavillon du Lac delights guests with its idyllic setting. This traditional French restaurant occupies a 19th-century pavilion with large windows and a garden patio overlooking the lake. Le Pavillon du Lac is open for lunch Wednesday through Friday and for brunch on the weekends.
Address: Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, 1 Rue Botzaris, 75019 Paris
29. Grande Arche de la Défense
In the west of Paris at the end of Avenue Charles-de-Gaulle is a complex of high-rise buildings developed since the mid 1960s. This business district just outside the city limits of Paris is named La Défense, which recalls the bitter resistance by French forces in this area during the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871.
Designed by Johan Otto von Spreckelsen, the Grande Arche makes a striking impression. This huge 110-meter-high rectangular triumphal arch is faced with glass and granite.
The monument was inaugurated in 1989 on the bicentenary of the French Revolution, and the contemporary structure symbolizes France's national value of fraternity. The arch was originally called "La Grande Arche de la Fraternité".
Address: La Grande Arche, 1 Parvis de la Défense, 92040 Paris (Métro: La Défense)
Where to Stay in Paris for Sightseeing
Deciding where to stay in Paris depends on your taste in hotels and travel preferences.
An abundance of quaint small hotels are scattered throughout the 5th, 6th, and 7th arrondissements, which is also known as the Rive Gauche (Left Bank). Tourists appreciate this area for its central location, excellent restaurants, and lively sidewalk cafés.
The Marais quarter (4th arrondissement) on the Right Bank rivals the Left Bank for old-world charm and trendy ambience. This neighborhood is filled with magnificent historic palaces and mansions, while enticing boutiques, cozy restaurants, cafés, and tea salons line the quarter's cobblestone streets.
Many luxury hotels are found on the boulevards near the Louvre and the Champs-Élysées, in an area of the 8th arrondissement known as the "Triangle d'Or" (Golden Triangle) because of its designer fashion boutiques and upscale gourmet restaurants.
Montmartre is farther from most tourist attractions but has a special atmosphere thanks to its Bohemian heritage, excellent art museums, and atmospheric pedestrian alleyways. Some of the hotels in this hilltop neighborhood offer sweeping city views.
Here are some highly rated hotels in these areas of Paris:
- In the fashionable 8th arrondissement near the Jardins des Champs-Élysées is the five-star Le Bristol Paris. This legendary hotel epitomizes Parisian elegance with sumptuous guest rooms featuring Louis XV or Louis XVI furnishings and tailor-made bed linens. Guests enjoy the courtyard garden, spa, rooftop swimming pool, tea time at Café Antonia, and fine dining at the hotel's Michelin three-starred gastronomic restaurant or Michelin-starred brasserie.
- La Réserve Paris - Hotel and Spa is another ultra-luxurious accommodation in the 8th arrondissement near the Champs-Élysées. The five-star hotel occupies a palatial 19th-century mansion decorated in a classical style, yet has the intimate ambience of a private home. Guests appreciate the top-notch amenities: spa, fitness center, indoor swimming pool, and two gourmet restaurants including a dining room with two Michelin stars.
- Exquisite Art Deco interiors create an inviting feel at the Four Seasons Hotel George V in the 8th arrondissement. This opulent five-star hotel occupies a landmark building that dates to 1928 and has been beautifully maintained. Guests are pampered by the hotel's amenities: an upscale spa, swimming pool, and three fine-dining options including a vegetarian restaurant. The hotel's gastronomic restaurant, Le Cinq, boasts three Michelin stars.
- The Hôtel Plaza Athénée graces the tree-lined Avenue Montaigne, a prestigious boulevard lined with haute couture boutiques. Housed in a stately Haussmann-style building near the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, this five-star hotel features plush guest rooms with Art Deco furnishings. Amenities include a spa run by the Dior Institut, and three dining options, including a garden courtyard restaurant and a salon that serves afternoon tea.
- In the Latin Quarter steps away from the Panthéon, the impeccably maintained Hôtel Résidence Henri IV exudes old-fashioned Parisian charm with its traditional interior decor and balconies overlooking the street. The spacious guest rooms have flat-screen televisions and updated bathrooms; apartments have kitchenettes. This three-star hotel has a hammam and offers spa treatments. The breakfast (available for an additional charge) includes artisanal and organic products.
- The Relais Christine delights guests with its quiet setting and cozy ambience, which makes it feel like a family home. This five-star hotel in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés neighborhood is surrounded by cafés, bistros, and restaurants and is within easy walking distance of the Notre-Dame, the Louvre, and the Musée d'Orsay. The exquisitely adorned guest rooms feature garden, courtyard, or street views and Nespresso coffee machines. Amenities include an upscale spa, fitness center, breakfast for an additional charge, and room service.
- Ideally situated near the legendary Boulevard Saint-Germain cafés and a short walk to the Jardin du Luxembourg, the boutique three-star Hôtel Left Bank Saint Germain des Prés occupies an 18th-century building on an ancient street where Molière had a residence. The hotel's suite has a living room with windows that look out onto Notre-Dame Cathedral. A continental breakfast with croissants, café au lait, and fresh-squeezed orange juice is available.
- The charming Relais Médicis is tucked away on a quiet street near the Luxembourg Gardens. This four-star hotel is a welcome retreat from the busy streets of the Saint-Germain neighborhood. Guest rooms are decorated in traditional French country style and have been updated with modern amenities. Breakfast (available for an additional charge) is served in a lovely salon or in your room, and features yogurt, cheese, fresh-squeezed fruit juice, coffee, tea, and croissants from a neighborhood bakery.
- The Legend Hotel by Elegancia is conveniently located in the Montparnasse district of the 6th arrondissement (Rive Gauche) and about a 10-minute walk to the Luxembourg Gardens. This cozy three-star boutique hotel has chic contemporary-style rooms. The hotel offers a 24-hour front desk, buffet or continental breakfast (for an additional charge), and concierge services.
- In the Latin Quarter (Rive Gauche) near the Panthéon, the family-run Hôtel Diana has stylish modern rooms with renovated bathrooms and courtyard or city views. Considering the central location and 24-hour front reception desk, this hotel provides a great value for the price. A continental-style breakfast buffet is available for a small charge.
- Montmartre is considered Paris' most enchanting neighborhood, although it is a Métro ride to the main tourist attractions. A few steps away from the Métro station in the heart of the quarter's narrow, winding streets is Hôtel Le Relais Montmartre. This affordable four-star hotel has quaint guest rooms with vintage-inspired decor. The hotel has a generous breakfast buffet (available at a reasonable price) that includes croissants, yogurt, charcuterie, cheese, and fruit.
Tips and Tours: How to Make the Most of Your Visit to Paris
- A great way to see many of Paris' attractions in just one day, the Paris Sightseeing Tour covers the city's highlights by cruising down the Seine River. The full-day hop-on hop-off boat tour includes a stop at the Eiffel Tower, lunch on the terrace of a yacht, and a guided tour of the Louvre Museum.
- For those who prefer to explore at their own pace, the Hop-on Hop-off Paris Bus Tour is a good choice. The customizable sightseeing itinerary features onboard commentary about the landmarks and allow tourists to hop off at various attractions, such as the Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, the Champs-Élysées, and Place Vendôme. A "skip-the-line" admission ticket to the Louvre Museum is included.
Visit the Normandy Battlefields:
- History buffs will want to see the famous World War II battlefields, about a three-hour drive from Paris. An excellent day trip is the Normandy D-Day Beaches Tour. Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, tourists will see the Omaha and Juno Beaches, and the American Cemetery. The tour includes a visit to the Mémorial de Caen (museum) with an option for a three-course lunch.
Must-See Sights Outside of Paris:
- Another popular outing from Paris is the Versailles and Giverny Day Trip. This full-day excursion explores the vibrant gardens of Giverny, which Monet depicted in many paintings, and the Château de Versailles, Louis XIV's extravagant palace. The tour includes a three-course lunch at the Moulin de Fourges riverside restaurant, which is housed in an 18th-century mill inspired by Marie-Antoinette's hamlet at Versailles.
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Easy Paris Day Trips: There are many wonderful places to visit within easy reach from Paris. Just outside the Paris metropolitan area is a tranquil rural landscape that is rich in cultural treasures: lovely little villages, historic castles, splendid churches, and interesting medieval towns. A must-see destination is the Château de Versailles, the 17th-century palace of Louis XIV (the "Sun King").
For those who prefer cities to countryside, several worthwhile destinations are just a one- to two-hour train ride away: the elegant and cultured city of Lille (one hour by TGV train) with its distinct Flemish character, the delightful town of Amiens (about one hour and 30 minutes by train), and Lyon (two hours by TGV train) known as the gastronomic heart of France.
Adored by tourists for its perfectly preserved medieval ambience, picturesque canals, and enticing chocolate shops, atmospheric Bruges (two hours 30 minutes by train) is simple to visit even though the train crosses the border into Belgium.
Historic Sites in Normandy: The scenic Normandy region wows visitors with its natural beauty and fascinating history. Along its dramatic coastline are the Landing Beaches of World War Two, and nearby are military cemeteries and memorial museums. One of the top attractions of France and Normandy's most visited site is Mont Saint-Michel, a UNESCO-listed medieval pilgrimage site with a sublime 12th-century abbey church. Tourists will also enjoy discovering the historic town of Rouen, with its marvelous cathedral, handsome half-timbered houses, and abundance of Gothic churches.
Gorgeous Castles and Pastoral Landscapes: The fairy-tale Loire Valley landscape is home to the most magnificent Renaissance châteaux in France. With a lush natural environment of woodlands and rivers, this enchanting region is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The naturally beautiful region of Brittany boasts a wild, rugged coastline, with many idyllic fishing villages and an unspoiled countryside with medieval castles. The Burgundy region is dotted with historic towns such as Dijon, quaint villages, ancient abbeys, and Romanesque churches.