50 of the Best Things to Do in Paris
Travelers can be divided over Paris. Either it’s crowded and overrated or they fall in love at first glance. There’s some truth to both, but Paris is a city that always deserves a second or third look so you can enjoy all the tourist hot spots as well as discovering local wonders. Here are 50 things you shouldn’t miss on your next trip to the French capital.
1. Yes, of course you want to go up the Eiffel Tower. Everyone does. Book a timed ticket online in advance to skip the queues and consider going during the evening to experience the light show up close.
2. Another great view of Paris can be found at the top of the Sacré-Coeur in Montmartre. Anyone can enter the basilica, but consider also paying to ascend 300 steps to the dome.
3. Notre-Dame Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in Paris and therefore one of the most stressful. Visitors can enter for free or attend mass, and it’s best to go as early in the day as possible. Is it overrated? Maybe. But who cares?
4. After visiting Notre-Dame, stroll through the narrow streets of the nearby Ile Saint-Louis, which is filled with ice-cream shops during the summer (and sometimes in the winter).
5. Catch a glimpse of all the famous sites from one of the many sightseeing boat tours, like Bateaux Parisiens, which cruise along the Seine daily.
6. When you’re ready to take a quick rest, grab a bench in the Place des Vosges, one of the most scenic squares in town.
7. Or relax in the Luxembourg Gardens, a 17th-century park with ornate vegetation and fountains.
8. Some things are overrated, but the Centre Pompidou, Paris’s modern art museum, is not. Book tickets to the temporary exhibitions far in advance or check out the rotating permanent collection.
9. Skip the crowds at the Louvre and instead head to the nearby Musée de l'Orangerie, which houses two circular rooms filled with Monet’s water lily paintings.
10. For even fewer crowds, stroll through the galleries at the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a fascinating collection of inventions from past and present.
11. The Picasso Museum, which showcases various periods in the famed artists’s life, was recently renovated—although the best bit is the outdoor courtyard, which is the perfect spot for a quiet coffee.
12. There’s always a mind-bending exhibition of contemporary art in the Palais de Tokyo, the sort of place where you can’t be sure whether a fire alarm is art or an emergency.
13. More contemporary art can be found in dozens of galleries around the Marais, which provide maps to help guide visitors to the nearby exhibitions. Start with Galerie Perrotin or Galerie Xippas.
14. It may sound morbid to visit a taxidermy shop filled with bears, tigers and white peacocks, but Deyrolle, established back in 1831, is one of the most compelling spots in Paris (and was memorialized in Midnight in Paris).
15. Parc de la Villette, located in the 19th arrondissement, welcomes visitors year-round to its grassy expanses, as well as to the Philharmonie de Paris and several modern concert halls. Pick any upcoming event and explore a less discovered area of Paris.
16. The streets of Paris are replete with street art, some of it hard to locate without a guide. Join up with Street Art Tour to uncover works around Belleville or Montmartre.
17. The Catacombs of Paris are undeniably one of the most interesting things you’ll ever see. Arrive before they open at 10 a.m. since only a limited number of guests can enter at a time…and be prepared for no bathrooms or coatroom.
18. Make a pilgrimage to Jim Morrison’s tombs at Père Lachaise Cemetery, the oldest in Paris. It’s also home to the graves of Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust.
19. There is an answer to the question “Where’s the best croissant in Paris?” and it’s “Du Pain et des Idées.” The elegant bakery, located near Canal Saint-Martin, serves up buttery, mouthwatering pastries that often sell out by mid-morning.
20. Avocado devotees will find the Holy Grail at Fragments, a perpetually busy coffee shop that has become Instagram famous for its massive slices of piled-high avocado toast.
21. It may seem odd for an adult to seek out a cup of hot chocolate, but Angelina, on Rue de Rivoli near the Louvre, serves up a hot chocolate so decadent and rich that you can eat it with a spoon.
22. If coffee is more your thing, head north to Ten Belles, one of the best places in town to get a perfectly roasted and carefully brewed cup.
23. One of the best experiences you can have in Paris is to sit outside at a café and watch the world go by. Skip one of the famous cafés, which have insane prices, and pick a cute local spot where you can stay as long as you want.
24. You’d need a massive suitcase to accommodate all the wares in La Grande Epicerie de Paris, a fancy grocery store that sells equally fancy products. Skip the mineral waters, which can go for double-digit prices, and visit the prepared foods section for a quick and easy lunch.
25. Do your best not to fill up on crêpes from one of the hundreds of street vendors before you’ve had one at Breizh Café. Here, you’ll find a legit, delicious selection of sweet and savory crêpes.
26. Pay a visit to one of Laurent Dubois’s three locations around town to stock up on delicious French cheese. It’s probably the most serious fromagerie experience in Paris.
27. For lunch head to the Rue des Rosiers, a strip of bustling falafel shops in the Marais. Do not just line up at any of them, though. You want L'As du Fallafel, which is well worth the wait.
28. Another great midday option is Huitrerie Régis, a tiny oyster bar that serves oysters by the dozens and crisp glasses of French wine. Be sure to check the opening hours before you go.
29. While not much of France’s wine is made in Paris, visitors can learn about the historic wine cellars of Bercy, once the world’s largest wine market, with Paris Wine Walks (tasting included).
30. Start your evening at Danico, a posh bar with cleverly named drinks that’s situated in the back of the delicious Italian joint Daroco (where you can indulge in pizza after you’re done imbibing).
31. Search out the intimate cocktail bar Little Red Door, an inventive spot that’s literally hidden behind a small red door in the Marais.
32. Test out cocktails made with only French ingredients at Le Syndicat, a vibe-y bar that creates whimsical drinks (and usually plays deafening hip-hop).
33. Pull up a seat at the Paname Brewing Company, located waterside on the Bassin de la Villette. Enjoy artisanal beers or an offering of street food. Best part: It’s open until 2 a.m.
34. In Paris, dinner is eaten late, usually around 9 p.m. There are thousands of bistros serving traditional French fare, but Café Charlot is one of the best, with a friendly wait staff and a dynamite burger.
35. Would it be preposterous to claim that the best steak in the world can be found in a Paris bistro? It’s true: Book a table at Bistrot Paul Bert and order the steak au poivre, a dish so delicious, you will definitely be licking the plate.
36. It’s nearly impossible to get a reservation at Septime, but try anyway (aim to book for the seven-course dinner tasting menu).
37. Most of Paris’s eateries close by midnight, but never fear: Late night eats can be found in Les Halles. The best is Au Pied de Cochon, a 24/7 classic French bistro with suited waiters and perfect steak tartare.
38. Learn about haute French cuisine with a class at École de Cuisine Alain Ducasse, which offers select classes in English.
39. Film fanatics will likely want to visit the Moulin Rouge, a cabaret in Pigalle steeped in history. It’s possible to attend a show, although booking in advance is very much recommended.
40. Speaking of movies, no trip to Paris is complete without following in the footsteps of Amélie. Fans can sip a coffee or grab a bite at the Café des Deux Moulins, the real-life café that appears in the film.
41. Hop a train to Versailles, located less than hour from central Paris. There you can tour the Palace of Versailles and its gardens or explore the town, which is filled with delicious restaurants and tourist-friendly shops. Yep, you can have your cake and still leave with your head.
42. Hotels in Paris are obscenely expensive, but if you’re ready to splurge, book a room at the extravagant Peninsula Paris.
43. Or consider bedding down at Les Bains, a quirky luxury property that is also home to a restaurant and nightclub.
44. Shop the racks at Merci, a concept department store that sells housewares, clothes, shoes and a variety of other must-have items. Sustenance can be found at the adjacent Used Book Café.
45. Peruse the shelves at English-language bookstore Shakespeare & Co., located on the Left Bank across from Notre-Dame.
46. Founded in 1838, Le Bon Marché is the fanciest department store in Paris, selling designer brands and high-end accessories. Pro tip: There’s an amazing book section on the upper level.
47. It’s likely window-shopping only on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, where the boutiques of Chanel, Lanvin and other top-of-the-line designers can be found. But hey, looking never hurt anyone’s wallet.
48. For less expensive designer duds (that you may actually be able to buy), grab a train to La Vallee Village, a collection of outlet stores to the east of Paris.
50. The most important—and best—thing to do in Paris is simply walk. Follow the river or stroll through one of the many parks and gardens or just wander. It’s easy to do eight miles in a day, and the best way to get an authentic sense of the city (and how else will you find all the ice-cream vendors?).