Looking for the best places to visit in Paris France on your first trip?
Paris has been on both of our bucket lists for a while now, so I’m glad we could experience it together. We explored the city during its off-season because I wanted to see it during Christmas.
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Last Updated: January 12, 2022
With the Go City Pass, we had the opportunity to check out famous museums and attractions, as well as several other points of interest that weren’t originally on our list.
If you’re planning a trip, we’ve put together a list of our favorite things to do in Paris France.
11 Best Places to Visit in Paris France
1. The Eiffel Tower
It sounds cliche, but the Eiffel Tower is a must-see. It’s like a north star, and we were able to get an idea of where we were around town in relation to it. From dusk until 1 AM, the tower sparkles for 5 minutes at the top of each hour in the evening.
Naturally, we wanted to get some shots with the Eiffel. Here are a couple of our favorite photo spots:
- Steps of the Trocadéro – Pl. du Trocadéro et du 11 Novembre, 75016 Paris, France
- Av. de Camoens
With the Go City Pass, you can take a guided climb up the Eiffel Tower as you learn about its history and engineering. You also get a spectacular birds-eye view of the city.
Pro Tip: Check out the Eiffel Tower during sunrise for fewer crowds.
2. Louvre Museum
Even if you decide not to enter the museum, it’s a photo-worthy location. You can’t miss the iconic glass pyramid designed by Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei. If you do plan to go inside, find your way to the Mona Lisa first and then explore the rest of the museum.
Pro Tip: Carrousel du Louvre is an underground shopping mall connected to the Louvre. You can also see the famous skylight, La Pyramide Inversée (Louvre Inverted Pyramid). If you’re a Da Vinci Code fan, you’ll want to see it.
3. Musée d'Orsay
Hands down, this was by far our favorite museum. Musée d’Orsay was a former railway station and contains the most extensive collection of Impressionist and post-Impressionist masterpieces in the world (think Van Gogh, Cezanne, Monet, Renoir, and many more).
Take in the view of the Musée d’Orsay Clock in the Main Hall.
Local Tip: Entry is free on the first Sunday of each month.
4. Seine River Cruise with Bateaux Parisiens
Sightsee and learn about the architecture and history of Paris. We enjoyed the picturesque views as we drifted down the River Seine for an hour. We did a night cruise, which was a little cold, but the views were worth it.
Pro Tip: Bring layers! The best seats are on the deck of the boat, where it can be a bit windy, no matter what season.
5. Arc de Triomphe
“Are we there yet?” I asked Josh as we hiked up the endless spiral stairs of Arc de Triomphe.
Easily one of the most famous monuments in France, Arc de Triomphe is also an attraction you can’t miss. Before you get your shopping on at Champs-Élysées, check out the monument and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI at the base of Arc de Triomphe.
Pro Tip: You will be climbing several spiral stairs (330 of them, to be exact), so wear comfortable shoes.
6. Palace of Versailles
Shiny golden gates, grand hallways lined with chandeliers, and beautiful rooms with enormous fireplaces are just a few things you’ll get to gawk over. Of course, you can’t miss the famous manicured gardens. Versailles is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pro Tip: Get there early to avoid huge crowds. We made reservations to tour the palace at open. Be sure to schedule ample time for travel.
7. Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis
Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis is the final resting place for most French royals. It boasts vast stained-glass windows and beautiful stonework throughout. We dropped in for a self-guided tour and explored the crypts below the cathedral.
8. Place Vendôme
Where all of your shopping dreams come true!
In this square and its surrounding streets, you will find all the luxury shops from Hermès to Chanel. Place Vendôme is also home to the famous Vendôme Column, with a statue of Napoleon resting at the top. We loved seeing all of the Christmas decorations in this area.
9. Tuileries Garden
There is a Christmas market with fun rides and delicious food during the holidays. The Ferris wheel overlooks the garden – we didn’t get a chance to ride, but locals say it offers a fantastic view of the city.
It’s also a popular photo spot, so be sure to plan accordingly and get there early if you want to get some good shots in.
Local Tip: It’s a short 10-minute walk from the Louvre if you want to knock out a couple of places at once.
10. Ave de Champs-Élysées
While visiting the Arc De Triomphe, take some time to walk down Champs-Élysées Avenue and enjoy the tree-lined sidewalks, surrounding cafes, and shops.
Pro Tip: There are several metro stops to get to the avenue. The closest metro stop is Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau. If you’d like to take the train directly to the avenue, this is where to get off.
11. Galeries Lafayette
We wanted to visit Galeries Lafayette, especially during Christmas. Every holiday season, they deck out the window displays and set up an incredible Christmas tree from the top of the glass dome, overlooking the entire mall.
Pro Tip: Go up to the rooftop terrace for a unique view of the city.
More Places to Visit in Paris France
We were in Paris for a week. A week was enough for most of the city, but we could have used 1 or 2 extra days for other museums and smaller attractions. Here are some other spots we would consider for our next visit:
- Rodin Museum
- Disneyland Paris
- French Wine Tasting Experience – Les Caves du Louvre
- Paris Catacombs Tour
- The Pantheon
Places to Eat in Paris France
Here are a few places we tried and loved:
- Le Camélia (💰, Brasserie) – The tuna steak was cooked to perfection and paired perfectly with the sweet potato puree.
- Seulement Sea (💰💰, Seafood) – The muscles were *chef’s kiss*.
- Yuzu (💰💰💰, Japanese) is a small, homey restaurant serving sushi and authentic Japanese dishes.
- Juveniles (💰💰, Wine Bars) – French bistro/bar with an extensive wine selection.
- Café de la Régence (💰💰, Cafe) – French cafe serving all the classics. We recommend the duck confit. Sidebar – check out the impressive Lego displays inside the restaurant.
For more food recommendations, check out Lafourchette or theFork (a Tripadvisor company), which some people call the European equivalent of Yelp. Americans have written some reviews on Yelp, but it’s not as extensive.
Essential Tips for Visiting Paris for the First Time
- Covid Health Pass – Upon arrival, you will need to purchase a Covid health pass at a local pharmacy. We found one in the airport. You will need to show your vaccination card and passport to apply. They will scan this pass at most indoor venues, from museums to restaurants.
- Best Time of Year to Visit – We liked Christmas best because of all the decorations and festivities, but springtime to see the city in full bloom would be our next choice.
- Tipping – Like most countries outside the US, tips aren’t expected, but if you feel so inclined, you can round up to the nearest Euro or tip 5-10% of your bill total.
- Getting Around – Purchase the Viste Paris Travel Pass for the metro system. They have a 1,2,3, or 5-day pass. We got the 5-day, which allows you to travel between Zones 1-5.
- Learn basic French – Although most locals understand English, it goes a long way to learn some basic French phrases. When in doubt, always start with “bonjour.”
- Paris is a city best explored on foot. Ladies, we all want to look cute, but pack sneakers for the old cobblestones and steep steps. Your feet will thank you later.
- Be aware of your belongings. Pickpockets are slick, and although it didn’t happen to us, we have friends who’ve had their belongings stolen.
- Travel Deals – If you want to check out multiple attractions, be sure to get a Go City Pass. The pass gives you access to over 75 attractions, including everything on our list, at a fraction of the cost.
Our Paris Itinerary
Visit a Pharmacy to receive our Health Pass
Go to BigBus Tours office to get our Museum Pass
Eiffel Tower Walk-up Tour
Morning photos outside the L’ouvre
Paris Boat Ride
Palace of Versailles
Visit the Louvre Museum (saw Mona Lisa!)
Climb the Arc de Triomphe
Christmas Market at Tuileries Garden
Night photos outside of The Louvre
Morning shots of Eiffel Tower from The Trocadero and Ave de Camoens
Get our rapid test for return flight to the US
Explored the Jardin du Palais-Royal area
Shopping day at Champs-Élysées and Place Vendome
Explored the Place Vendome area to view Christmas lights
Best Places to Stay in Paris
We enjoyed our stay at Hotel Eiffel Segur. It’s close to 2 convenient metro stations and within walking distance to the Eiffel Tower.
We also liked getting our daily croissant and coffee from a local bakery (Maison Landemaine Cambronne), steps away from our hotel. It’s also within walking distance to great restaurants, including Le Camélia.
Keep in mind that most hotel rooms in Paris will be small. However, Hotel Eiffel Segur had everything we needed. The location is in the 15th arrondissement, a safe neighborhood. For a 3-star hotel, the prices are very fair.
What other things to do in Paris would you recommend?