With only four days in Paris, I tried to cram everything I wanted to see in a short time frame and I surprisingly was able to do it all, though perhaps not as well as I would have liked. Since I had such a difficult time narrowing down a list of things to do in Paris for this blog post, I decided to just give up and include all of my favourite spots and places I went to while in the city. There’s a whole lot to see and do, so whether you’re there for a weekend or an entire week, this list is sure to keep your feet moving throughout the city streets of Paris.
1. The Eiffel Tower
Without a doubt, the Eiffel Tower is Paris’s most well-known attraction. You should see the Tower both during the day and at night, as there is a very different feel in the area depending on what time of day you go. I found the Eiffel Tower to be less than impressive during the day; it was just this big brown metal -dare I say it- eye sore that seemed to be out of place, not to mention the hoards of tourists surrounding the area. However, when we went back at night, with baguette and wine in hand, the tower was all lit up and had its own light show – a treat compared to what it looked like during the day.
A great spot (albeit fairly sketchy – watch your bags and pockets!) to sit on the grass, relax, and admire the basilica. Sacre-Coeur is located at one of the highest points in the city – great for catching some cityscape views of Paris. You can read my full post on Sacre-Coeur here.
3. Coffee and Croissants in Cafes
Obviously a must. You’re in Paris, how can you not go to a cafe and order an espresso (lesson learned: “cafe” in Paris means espresso. Not coffee like I presumed when ordering) and croissant. Although plain butter croissants are absolutely delicious, you have to try a chocolate one, otherwise known as pain au chocolat. There are cafes littered on every street in Paris. The trick is finding ones that offer a deal for customers willing to sit at the bar instead of sitting at a table, which will save you a few euros.
4. Saint-Jacques Tower
This monument, located in the 4th arrondissement, is all that remains of a former church that was demolished in the late 1700s. Though there is nothing too compelling about the monument itself, it is close by to a few other popular spots in the city so it’s worth the few minutes extra to head over here and take a look if you already plan on being in the area.
5. Take a Stroll Along the La Siene River
Walking along and across the bridges that go over the river is a great way to take in some of the city – its architecture and culture – at your own leisurely pace. Paris is home to so many beautiful buildings and unique sights that I’m certain you’ll enjoy when out for a stroll along the La Siene. Also, ample photo-ops!
6. Visit the Bouquinistes of Paris
While you’re walking along the La Siene River, you’ll probably notice many stalls side by side selling various books, artwork, cards, and the like. These are the Bouquinistes of Paris – booksellers of used and antique books, among other print specialties and souvenirs. The tradition of selling books along the river began in the 16th century and is still striving today.
7. Eat Dinner at the Best Restaurant in Paris
I might be a little biased here, but I think I found the best restaurant in Paris – both in terms of value and quality of food. The restaurant is called Le Petit Bleu and serves up deliciously hearty Moroccan dishes. Located a few minutes’ walk from Sacre-Coeur in Montmarte, it might not be the fanciest restaurant, but you really can’t beat the price (dishes start around €10), quantity, and taste of the food here. You can read my full post on Le Petit Bleu here.
8. The Louvre
Enjoying waiting in incredibly long lines just to see the Mona Lisa? Then The Louvre is just the spot for you! In all seriousness, the Louvre is quite the sight to see, however, depending on the time of year you’re in Paris, the queue to enter the museum might look like it’s over one kilometer long. Regardless, it’s still a central landmark in Paris and you should walk around the Louvre even if you do not go inside.
9. Place de la Concorde
After visiting the Louvre, you can walk along to Place de la Concorde; a large public square with noteworthy landmarks surrounding it, such as the Champs-Élysées. Within the square you’ll find a beautiful water fountain and an Egyptian Obelisk. Place de la Concorde is great for a leisurely stroll through if you’re already in the area.
10. Champs-Élysées & the Arc de Triomphe
Another famous sight in Paris is the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triomphe at the end. Champs-Élysées is a boulevard almost 2 km long. The street is well-known for its pricey outdoor cafes and luxury shopping. At the end of the street you’ll find the famous Arc de Triomphe. The monument honors the soldiers who fought for France in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Both of these are a must-see!
11. Picnic Along the River
Regardless of where you’re staying in Paris, it’s likely you’re not too far away from a river. Whether it’s the largest river in Paris, the La Seine, or something smaller and less populated, like the Bassin de la Villette, all you have to do is choose your river and bring along a picnic lunch/dinner to enjoy. Typical picnic baskets will include food items such as a baguette, cheese of all sorts, sandwich meat, and wine (lots of it). Beautiful surroundings and great food – can’t go wrong.
12. Love Locks
As you’re walking around Paris, you’ll probably see locks along many of the bridges railings. You can purchase a lock (depending on the area, there might be someone selling them close by), write your name, the date, and any message you like. Then lock it on the bridge and throw the key into the river. And just like that, your time in Paris is forever sealed.
13. The Old Jewish Quarter – Le Marais
Even though this area in Paris isn’t as well-known to tourists, it should definitely be on your to-see list. Not only does this part of Paris hold strong Jewish traditions, which can be seen in its restaurants and bakeries (delish, by the way), but its buildings and streets are also quite unique in comparison to the rest of Paris. There are more pre-revolutionary buildings here that are charmingly historic and many of the streets and walk paths are still cobble stone.
14. Notre-Dame Cathedral
This cathedral is an example of the historic French Gothic architecture with a beautiful exterior and an equally mesmerizing interior adorned with intricate stained glass windows throughout. You can enter the main floor of the cathedral for free, however, if you would like to climb up to the top, there is an entrance fee. Definitely worth the visit, especially if you grew up watching (and being terrified of) The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. You can read my full post on the Notre-Dame Cathedral here.
15. Place des Vosges
Located in the Marais district, Place des Vosges is one of the oldest planned squares in Paris. Surrounded by beautiful buildings along tiny streets, the square seems like it’s far away from any city. Admire the serene beauty of Place des Vosges while reading a book on the grass or sipping an espresso at one of the cafes.
16. Boat Tour Along the La Siene River
Now that you’ve taken some time to walk along the La Siene River, you might be inclined to take your sightseeing one step further by going on a boat tour. Not only do these boat tours cover many of the famous sights in Paris, but the tour guide offers interesting insight into these well-known places as well as random other facts along the way (like pointing out the smallest flat in Paris). Be prepared to pucker up near the end, as you’ll be heading under the Kissing Bridge. You can read my full post on taking a boat tour along the La Siene here.
17. The Pantheon
Originally meant to be a church, the Pantheon is a mausoleum located in the Latin Quarter. Inside you’ll find various articles from important figures throughout France’s history. Though we did not have a chance to go inside due to time constraints (not to mention we weren’t too inclined to paying yet another entrance fee), pictures we found online look quite impressive.
18. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
This is definitely one of Paris’s best kept secrets – a beautiful park located in the 19th arrondissement that offers its visitors ample greenery, beautiful views of the city from a temple on top of a cliff, and an intriguing cave with a waterfall inside. Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is not your typical Paris park and is a must-see for those looking to find something unique and outdoorsy in the city. You can read my full post on the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont here.
19. Eat Crepes
If you love crepes as much as I do (especially when they’re filled with peanut butter and Nutella!) then you’re in luck, ’cause you can find crepes pretty much everywhere in Paris. You’re best bet is to find a little crepe stall (similar to the one in the picture below) for the cheapest crepes. This stall also had a restaurant attached to it, but if you wanted to sit down and eat they charged you an extra €2.
20. Luxembourg Gardens
If you’re in Paris during the summer, this is a great spot to visit. The spacious park, which also houses the Luxembourg Palace, is located in the 6th arrondissement, with many chairs you can sit on while taking in the scenery. You’ll see a large fountain where you might find some locals sailing their motorized boats, bright flower beds, and rows and rows of massive trees.
Bonus – Using a Public Washroom with Brightly Colored Toilet Paper
Cause why not?!