We were in Paris for a week and wanted to see as much of the city as possible. On our first night in the beautiful city we sat in a cafe with our map of Paris trying to figure out where to go and what to see for the week. The french owner of the cafe came over to us and saw that we were obviously not ‘from around there’ and asked if we needed help finding something. We asked him what we should do and see for our one week in Paris. His eyes opened up just a little bit and we could see that he was starting to get excited. Apparently he loved Paris and we were about to get the low down on an amazing place. He sat down at the table and began scribbling away on our map explaining all the sites and fun things to do in the city.
Here are our top ten locations and some of our favorites, but there is so much more to see. He kept saying “and if you have time….”, but unfortunately we did not have enough time. We have made it our mission to return to the wonderful city of Paris one day!
1. Eiffel Tower
This is a no brainer and definitely a must for anyone traveling to Paris. The monument is truly an amazing structure to see in person, especially at night all lit up. The Eiffel Tower sits at the end of a large park where you’ll find people playing sports and families walking their children. The walk through the park with the tower in the background is one of the magical experiences of a trip to Paris. Don’t forget to go across the street to take in the monument from the top of some steps to get a clear view (and with a fountain as a bonus!)
2. Sacre-Coeur Basilica
We were told of this place from a the local Parisian restaurant owner named Sebastian (the excited one from the beginning). He said that there was a beautiful Basilica with amazing views of Paris from the top of the hill. We promptly pulled out the tourist map provided by our hotel and he circled our next destination. In order to get to the Basilica we needed to climb up a bunch of stairs and then some more stairs and even more stairs! As we climbed we would see more and more of the beautiful structure tempting us from the top of the hill.
Once at the top we realized our new friend was not wrong and the prize was worth the work. The views we saw were breathtaking and the cathedral itself was an amazing place to visit. Although there are a lot of people crawling around the area the place seems to be roomy and relaxed. Getting in and walking through the church is a breeze and you won’t be disappointed when you come out the other side.
No trip to Paris is complete without a look at the world famous Notre-Dame. The cathedral is located in the fourth district of the city on a small island in the river. There’s a convenient metro stop named Cite that gets off right in the center of the island. Entering the cathedral is free, but climbing the stairs to the top of the tower will cost €8.50.
The Notre-Dame isn’t one of the most famous structures in the world for no reason. The building sets an imposing back drop to the square below and even in the chilly New Year’s air expect to see people hustling around eager to take a picture. Because of its popularity the line to get in and walk around can stretch across the square, but don’t let that stop you! Get at the back of the line (it was at the street when we went) and get excited as you creep closer to the entrance. The line moves quickly and we were inside in about ten minutes. You can spend as long as you’d like wandering around the columns and taking in the frescos of a place that has been standing for over 700 years.
4. The Louvre
The Louvre is an amazing museum to see and by far one of my favorites. The iconic glass pyramid is also the starting point to your journey into the museum. Be sure to arrive about thirty minutes to an hour before opening because a line will start to form. And believe me, you don’t want to be standing anywhere except for the front of this line. This is the line to end all lines. If you get there right when they open or later, you will easily be standing for a few hours to get into the museum. We were told that the lines get a little less intense after the holidays, but even still you’ll want to maximize your time inside.
Once inside grab a map and get your tickets. The admission is good for the entire day and for all of the wings of the museum. I suggest you head strait for the one or two things that you just can’t miss. My personal favorite is ‘The Winged Victory of Samonthrace’. The marble statue is in honor to the Greek goddess Nike and it’s on the way to everyone’s must see, ‘The Mona Lisa’. Again, if you’re early, the DaVinci masterpiece is good to see as soon as you start your tour because the room that holds the painting will start to get crowded.
After you’ve seen your bucket list items there’s nothing better to do in any museum than get lost. Start wandering and taking in the wonderful displays in all of the areas of the museum.
5. Eat A Macaroon
Head to the nearest bakery or pastry shop in Paris and buy yourself a macaroon. They are delicious and nothing beats eating one in Paris. I bought my pistachio macaroon at a cafe that we ate at in The Louvre. In fact, it’s hard to go wrong with any cafe or bakery in the city. Most of them are quaint little shops that serve robust dark espressos and wonderful sweets like macaroons and crepes. Remember, you’re in Europe so if you want “Coffee” you’ll need to order a “Cafe”. In Paris Coffee=Espresso!
6. Bar La Vue
We were told to visit the bar at the top of the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Paris from a local Parisian. He said the views of the Eiffel Tower from your seat are amazing. He was not wrong. We sat sipping our French wine admiring the beautiful views of the Eiffel Tower all lit up at night.
In addition to the view outside the bar has a fun modern decor. The picture above is one of the many phases of a dazzling light show that adorns the ceiling as you relax on the top of the highest building around. This is a great experience and you’ll pay a little more for your glass of wine, but you can get no better views of the city of lights.
7. Moulin Rouge
Wether you go to watch a show or just snap a picture of the place this is definitely worth seeing in person. Being a fan of the movie of the same name I just had to see the iconic building for myself. A word of caution, the establishment sits smack in the middle of the Red Light district of Paris. Everything is perfectly safe and well lit, but maybe leave the kids behind for this one.
8. Get Lost
We got lost in the Art district and loved every minute of it. You may find yourself in an enchanting garden at the National Archives just as we did. I can’t express enough how nice it feels to give up a day to “nothing”. Sometimes the planning and structure to maximize the sights on a trip can be tiring. Make sure you spend a day in Paris doing whatever your heart tells you and going wherever your legs take you. The city is broken up into twenty different districts and they each have their own character and charm. Pick one and get swept up in the local energy. Enough said.
9. Arc De Triomphe
This attraction is a must see, but gets very crowded. Unless you plan to go up to the top of the Arc for some great photos of the city, take your picture in front and be on your way to see more of Paris. Also, if you are in Paris around New Years time, the Arc is the place to be to see fireworks and a wonderful display of the year projected across the top. Many people go to the Eiffel Tower, but fireworks are no longer allowed around the tower. The tower does light up and sparkle, but the real show is at the Arc De Triomphe.
From the Arc I suggest a stroll down one of the streets that converge at the traffic circle around the monument. One of the most famous is the Avenue des Champs-Elysées. The street is flanked by trees and wide sidewalks which makes for a nice walk for shopping and sightseeing in one of the most wonderful cities on the continent.
10. Ferry Down The Seine
By JeanSebastienMouche (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons
After an amazing trip to an amazing city a relaxing boat ride can be just what the body needs. Fortunately, Paris is a great city for a scenic boat tour. Take a ferry ride down the Seine and see the Eiffel Tower and beautiful architecture of Paris from the water. There really is so much to take in of the city and so little time. There are many old buildings and wonderful pieces of art and architecture on display in every day life around the city. Relax on a boat ride, get some French wine, and take in the fact that you’re in Paris!