Paris is a lot of thing, Capital of Art, Fashion, Gastronomie, Culture, … . And one of the most romantic destinations in Europe! It is hard to discover everything in such a limited time. With so much to see and to do in Paris, it’s hard to narrow it down to the essentials while still having an experience that’s a good balance of everything the city has to offer. From the classic landmarks to the lesser-known gems, we’ve chosen some of the most entertaining, most exquisite Parisian attractions and activities the city has to offer.
Let’s have a look at the best things to do in Paris:
Housed under the soaring roof of one of Paris’s grand old Beaux-Arts railway stations, the recently renovated galleries of the Musée d’Orsay contain the world’s largest collection of Impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Renoir (Bal du Moulin de la Galette), Cézanne (The Card Players and Apples and Oranges), van Gogh (Starry Night Over the Rhône) and Manet (Le Déjeuner sur l’Herbe), and many others. With two excellent cafés and a magnificent restaurant original to the train station, dining is a breeze.
Once the great sculptor’s studio, this stately 18th-century mansion is one of Paris’s most beautiful museums and contains more than 6,000 of Rodin’s sculptures, including his great masterpieces The Thinker, The Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, and The Gates of Hell, along with 8,000 drawings and gouaches. The lovely grounds of the Musée Rodin, complete with a fountain, rose gardens, and a pleasant outdoor café make for a delightful afternoon outdoors. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and a cycle of exhibits on contemporary works. Following three years of renovations, the museum fully re-opened in November 2015.
Looming above Place du Parvis on the Ile de la Cité, the Cathédrale de Notre-Dame is the symobolic heart of Paris and, for many, of France itself. Napoléon was crowned here, and kings and queens exchanged marriage vows before is altar. There are a few things worth seeing inside the Gothic cathedral, but the real highlights are the exterior architectural details. The south tower also offers an unforgettable view of Paris, framed by stone gargoyles. Long history in short: construction begun in 1163, completed in 1345, badly damaged during the Revolution, and restored by architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in the 19th century. Notre-Dame may not be France’s oldest or largest cathedral, but in beauty and architectural harmony it has few peers.
The Eiffel Tower is to Paris what the Statue of Liberty is to New York and what Big Ben is to London. French engineer Gustave Eiffel spent two years working to raise this iconic monument for the World Exhibition of 1889. Today it is most breathtaking at night, when highlighted in a sparkling display originally conceived to celebrate the millennium. The glittering light show was so popular that the 20,000 lights were reinstalled for permanent use in 2003. The tower does its electric dance for five minutes every hour on the hour until 1am.
The most recognized symbol of Paris is the Tour Eiffel, but the ultimate traveler’s prize is the Louvre. This is the world’s greatest art museum—and the largest, with 675,000 square feet of works from almost every civilization. The three most popular pieces here are, of course, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. Beyond these must-sees, your best bet is to focus on whatever interests you the most. You can also get lost but don’t worry, you’ll definitely encounter with a chef-d’oeuvre.
Make no mistake: the Champs-Élysées, while ceding some of its elegance in recent times, remains the most famous avenue in Paris—and, perhaps, the world. Like New York’s Times Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus, it is a mecca for travelers and locals alike. Some Parisians complain chain stores have cheapened the Avenue, but others are more philosophical, noting that there is something here for everyone. Anchoring the Champs is the Arc de Triomphe, Napoléon’s monument to himself. At the other end, the exquisitely restored Grand Palais plays host to some of the city’s grandest art exhibitions.
While there is much more to do in Paris, we believe these are the landmarks that should be covered during a long weekend.
BONUS – Sacre-Coeur / Monmartre / Moulin Rouge
It’s hard to not feel as though when you’re climbing up to heaven while visiting Sacred Heart Basilica, the white castle in the sky. French government commissioned it in 1873 to symbolize the return of self-confidence after the years of Commune and Franco-Prussian War. Architect Paul Abadie used elements from both Romanesque and Byzantine styles when designing it—a mix critisized as gaudy. Construction lasted until World War I, and the church was finally consecrated in 1919.
A byword for Belle Époque bohemianism, Montmartre is a more intimate Paris away from the grand boulevards and towering apartment blocks. These cobblestone streets on the stiff slope of the Butte Montmartre are flanked by cute, low houses and invite you to explore to your heart’s content. Montmartre was really put on the map in the last decades of the 19th century when Monet, Toulouse-Lautrec, Renoir, Pissarro, van Gogh and Modigliani lived and worked in the neighborhood.
There’s nightlife as well, when you just go down the hill to the Pigalle quarter, home of the Moulin Rouge. Look for the Moulin de la Galette, a 17th-century windmill immortalised by Renoir, van Gogh and Pissarro.