Generally when you are looking to visit a place and you ask for recommendations, you hear the same best places from everyone. But for Paris, there is so much to see and do, that when you ask multiple people what you should do in the city of lights, there are endless answers. This list is just a few of my personal favorites that you must go to at least once in your life! (Eek, I keep adding to this list because this is my favorite city in the world!!)
The Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg in French) is a public garden created in 1612 by Marie d’Medici to pair with the Luxembourg Palace. Today, the Palace is home to the French Senate. There are beautiful flowerbeds, perfectly manicured lawns, and hidden paths throughout. You can also play tennis, chess, or rent remote control boats!
On a little island in the Seine, the Notre-Dame Cathedral (Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris in French) stands tall as one of the most famous Catholic churches in the world. Admission to the church is free, but you must purchase tickets if you want to climb to the top and see the gargoyles up close (I would suggest in advance!) Even then, you will always have to wait in a HUGE line, because only a certain number of people are allowed up at a time! To walk to the top, get there about 30-40 minutes before it opens at 10 in the morning. Even though you will be waiting for 30 minutes, it is worth avoiding an hour to two-hour wait.
Just a few steps from the Notre-Dame Cathedral is the Sainte-Chapelle, a gothic royal chapel famous for its 1,113 stained glass windows (it will take your breath away!) Built in only seven years, the Sainte-Chapelle is made up of two different chapels, so make sure you walk up to see the kaleidoscope of windows! While I again strongly suggest you purchase your tickets in advance, you will still have to wait in a very long line. Therefore, arrive early in the day, around 9 in the morning when it opens.
Place des Vosges
Place des Vosges is one of the oldest squares in Paris, filled with little galleries, shops, and cafes that all border a lovely park. Grab a macaron at Carette, stroll under the arches of this perfect square, or sit in the grass and relax!
The Palais Garnier is a Paris opera house, which many know as the backdrop for the book and later turned musical, The Phantom of the Opera. You can see a performance in this historical monument, take a guided tour, or walk around yourself and view the gorgeously ornate ceilings of the grand foyer, the beautifully carved staircases, or stand on the balcony and people watch from above. The Palais Garnier, along with the Notre-Dame Cathedral, are my favorite sights in Paris!
Probably the world’s most famous museum and certainly the world’s largest art museum, the Louvre (Musee du Louvre in French) is a historic landmark in Paris. Not only are there about 35,000 artworks at the museum, but also the structure itself is something to appreciate. The Louvre was once a fortress and then a royal residence. Because the museum welcomes about 15,000 people a day, it is of utmost importance that you purchase your tickets in advance. (Keep in mind; the museum is not open on Tuesdays, and I would avoid the weekend entirely.) Your ticket will say a specific time, and it is important not to be late!
The Louvre as well as the Place de la Concorde act as bookends to the Tuileries Garden (Jardin des Tuileries in French), created by Catherine d’Medici in 1564 for the Tuileries Palace. It was opened to the public in 1667 and then became a public park after the French Revolution. Grab a baguette and sit under the perfectly cut square trees or stroll around to see a number of gorgeous sculptures, including a few of Rodin’s work in bronze. A notable sight within the Tuileries Garden is the Arc de triomphe du Carrousel, crafted to celebrate the victories of Napoleon.
Across from the Tuileries Garden is the Musee d’Orsay, a railway station converted into a museum! While the Louvre houses old works from the Middle Ages to 1848, Musee d’Orsay displays collections of art from 1848 to 1914. Notable artists include Monet, Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, and Van Gogh. Even though this museum is not as crazy crowded as the Louvre, I still would recommend purchasing tickets in advance. (Keep in mind; the museum is not open on Mondays, and I would avoid the weekend entirely.)
I know there are some museum titans in Paris, but this one is my favorite. Musee Rodin has two sites, the Hotel Biron in Paris and the Villa des Brillants at Meudon. The Hotel Biron was the French sculptor Auguste Rodin’s workshop, and he donated his collection of sculptures to the French Senate so that the Hotel would be transformed into a museum dedicated to his art. Gorgeous roses surround the famous sculpture The Thinker, and inside the building itself has notable sculptures like The Kiss and The Gates of Hell. Much like many of the museums in Paris, the building that holds all of this art is also quite a sight to behold.
Pont Alexandre III
The Pont Alexandre III is a bridge that crosses over the Seine, and is known for its gorgeously ornate fixtures. It’s great to cross and visit the Musee Rodin or to cross the other way and see the Champs-Elysses.
Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments of Paris, and walking to the top gives you a great bird’s eye view of the entire city. A circular road surrounds the Arc, and 12 streets shoot off from it, so to access the Arc, you have to walk underground (the signs are very clear!) Purchase your tickets in advance. While your ticket does not specify a time, get there at 10 in the morning when it opens. There is only one way up and it is via a spiral staircase, so you don’t want to be too cramped in there with many people! You also want unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre-Coeur all the way in the distance, so arriving in the morning allows you that freedom.
Every other place on this list is relatively close to each other, but the Sacre-Coeur stands tall in Montmartre, and is the highest place in the city. You can sit on the steps to the entrance of this Roman Catholic Church, go inside, or walk up to the top. While it may seem crowded on the steps and you cannot buy tickets in advance, there are not many who are willing to walk up the very narrow spiral staircase of 300 steps, but the unique and gorgeous views are worth it. I would suggest going later in the day to see a golden sunset.
This list only scratches the surface of what Paris has to offer! Trust me, I tried to keep this post short so as not to bore you with my love of this city, so go out and experience it for yourself!