Here are my 15 best things to do in Paris for first time visitors 😉
When thinking about places to visit in Europe, Paris is always one of the first to come to mind. And why wouldn’t it be?
Considered to be one of the most beautiful cities in the world, France’s capital has all the ingredients that make it an unbeatable destination: stunning architecture, outstanding museums, beautiful parks and gardens, and, of course, world-renowned cuisine.
It’s not by accident that Paris has been one the most visited cities in the world for years and received over 18 million international visitors in 2016.
At the end of May 2018, I took my sister and niece for their first visit to Paris. Our four-day itinerary was filled with famous tourist attractions and things every first timer traveler should do. I also included some of the most Instagrammable places in Paris (they’re addicted to Instagram) and points of interest that I’ve never been to before.
15 Things to Do in Paris for First Time Visitors
Planning a trip to Paris for the first time can be overwhelming. Where to go, what to do and see, top attractions that can’t be missed, which are the best places to visit, where to stay… I know, it’s a lot of things to put together.
But no worries, if you are visiting the City of Lights for the first time, here are 15 awesome things to do in Paris that you shouldn’t miss.
1. Have a picnic at the Eiffel Tower
Of course seeing the Eiffel Tower, the most visited paid monument in the world, is one of the top things to do in Paris for first time visitors.
But if you want to do something different and have an unforgettable time during your first visit to Paris, you should do a picnic.
You can get a rug and go to the local boulangerie and supermarket to buy food, French beverages and flowers. Yes, having an epic picnic beneath this most iconic symbol of Paris is easier and cheaper than you might think.
We arrived at Parc du Champs-de-Mars early in the morning to beat the crowds and set up our picnic with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
It was such a beautiful sunny day and we took so many pictures that the chocolate melted… but even that turned out to be perfect with the strawberries in the end.
We had so much fun and will treasure this moment forever.
You should definitely do a picnic under one of the most important Paris attractions.
2. See the Eiffel Tower from different angles
It may sound clichéd, but a trip to Paris cannot be completed without seeing that global icon of France, the Eiffel tower.
Constructed from 1887-89, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable structures in the world and, at 324m (1,063 ft) tall, the tallest structure in Paris, which can be seen from different parts of the city.
The best place to view the Eiffel Tower, whether during the day or night, is Trocadéro,
In fact, the Trocadéro is also one of the most Instagrammable places in Paris and also the Rue de l’Université. So don’t forget to put a visit to those two places in your list of “things to do in Paris”.
Quick Tip: If you want to take good pictures in those two places get there early in the morning because they are constantly crowded.
3. Marvel at the stunning architecture present on every corner of the city
One of the best things about Paris is its incredibly beautiful architecture.
You can find structures from every period, from the Middle Ages to the 21st century, everywhere.
But among all the Gothic, French Renaissance, Belle Époque, Romanesque, Egyptian, Rustic, Modernist, Neo-Byzantine and Contemporary styles, what really stands out for me is the Classical and the Art Deco architecture.
Even if you aren’t an architecture lover or expert, it’s impossible not to be impressed with the beauty of Paris’s buildings.
There are many monuments, fountains, squares and landmark buildings in Paris to admire, such as: Les Invalidés, Palais du Luxembourg, Pantheón, Arc de Triomphe, Petit Palais and Grand Palais, etc.
- You can check here The 8 Most Impressive Architectural Spots in Paris
Furthermore, Paris streets are full of surprises and just when you don’t expect it, you will bump into a majestic piece of art standing in front of you.
I will never forget the day I got off the subway station and faced a gigantic column in the middle of the street and when I saw Place de la Concorde for the first time.
I love being surprised and discovering new places when I’m visiting the City of Lights and for me this is one of the best things to do in Paris.
4. Visit the Louvre: the best museum in the world
There are many world-class museums in Paris but for me, the Louvre is unbeatable. Not just because of its collection but particularly because of its striking and imposing building.
Some people say that the Louvre is constantly overcrowded or that the d’Orsay Museum is better, but you can’t miss the Louvre Museum when you visit Paris for the first time.
Visiting the Louvre, world’s largest museum, is undoubtedly one of the best things to in Paris.
5. See avant-garde temporary exhibitions
It’s not surprising that in a big and important city such as Paris, there will be dozens of things to do and see at any given time, including temporary exhibitions, concerts and plays.
When I saw a video on Facebook about the immersive Gustav Klimt exhibition at the Atelier des Lumières, I had no doubt that I had to see it.
The work of this Austrian painter was brought to life and projected on immense surfaces with sound and music that created a unique experience for the visitor.
Walls and floor were covered with colors from Gustav Klimt’s paintings, the projections were changing constantly and sometimes it seemed as if the whole floor was moving… It was thrilling and I loved it!
6. Be in awe of the Opéra Garnier
Considered an architectural masterpiece and the most famous Opera House in the world, Palais Garnier, also referred as Opéra Garnier or just Opéra, was constructed between 1861 – 75 and includes elements from the Baroque, Classicism of Palladio and Renaissance architectures.
You could pay a quick visit to the Opéra Garnier to admire its façade and majestic blend of styles but I really recommend taking the guided tour because you can visit the interior of the building and learn and learn about its history, see the magnificent Grand Staircase, the auditorium etc.
You will be in awe from the moment you enter the Grand Foyer to the moment you leave!
A visit to the Opéra Garnier must definitely be on your “things to do in Paris” list.
7. Go shopping at Galeries Lafayete
If you want to go shopping during your trip to Paris, you can’t miss Galeries Lafayete, an up-market French department store chain.
There are many different stores, offering a wide range of brands to suit all budgets and tastes. You can find the latest trends in men’s and women’s design collections, accessories, jewelry, home furnishing, cosmetics, etc.
If you’re visiting the Opéra Garnier, you can’t miss the flagship store located nearby on Boulevard Haussmann.
This art nouveau building has an impressive dome and offers a great panoramic view of Paris from its rooftop.
8. Visit the Notre-Dame, the queen of cathedrals
Like Palais de Garnier, the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral is another world famous symbol of Paris and one of its most important attractions.
Completed in 1345, the cathedral is considered to be the finest example of French Gothic architecture in the world.
The cathedral is also known for its gargoyles, chimera statues, intricate façade, rose window and one of the best views of Paris.
Quick Tip: Visiting the Notre-Dame is one of the best things to do in Paris but unfortunately it hasn’t opened yet after the fire.
9. Wander around charming Parisians neighborhoods
The best way to explore Paris is on foot so be prepared to walk a lot during your first time in the city.
There are neighborhoods to stroll around in for each kind of traveler: the movie fanatic, the romantic, the shopper, the bookworm, etc.
One of my favorites is Les Marais, where the narrow streets and architectural styles of Medieval and Renaissance-era of Paris has been preserved and which has many art galleries and boutiques full of stylish people.
Another neighborhood to explore full of authentic Parisian charm is Montmartre.
Located on a large hill, Montmartre is known for the famous Sacra-Coeur Basilica, cabarets, watercolors, portrait sketchers and caricaturists and superb views of Paris. Not to mentions that it was also the residence of Picasso, Van Gogh, Matisse, Edgar Degas, Salvador Dali, Amedeo Modigliani and Dalida among others.
Quick Tips: you can watch a cabaret show at Moulin Rouge, as it’s one of the top things to do in Paris, but it’s quite expensive.
Montmartre is also a good place to stay if you’re on a budget. It has one of the best hostels in Paris.
10. Eat all the irresistible French pastries
You might be familiar with French cuisine and if you like it, I’m pleased to inform you that it tastes even better in France.
Because I have such a sweet tooth, every time I’m in Paris I eat some of my favorite pastries every day.
Pain au chocolate, croissants, macarons, madeleine, pain aux raisins… hmmmm
Make sure to eat plenty of French food during your trip to Paris, especially those pastries.
11. Walk along the Seine Riverbank
Paris has scenic walks along the River Seine and some of the most beautiful landmarks buildings in the city are located near the Seine.
Because some of the roads that run besides the river were pedestrianized you can stroll on parts of the riverbanks that are dotted with cafes and bars with outdoor tables, games facilities, sports areas, floating gardens, seating areas and art works.
The most famous walkway is probably by the western tip of Saint-Louis Island but my favorite one is around the picturesque Ilê de la Cité.
If you travel to Paris during the summer, don’t miss the Paris Plages, two parts of the riverbanks that are transformed in a seaside resort with palm trees, parasols, deck chairs and sand.
I love walking on the Seine Riverbank and for me it’s one of the best things to do in Paris.
12. Be amazed by the impressive stained glasses of Sainte-Chapelle
Among the royal heritage buildings remaining in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle, a chapel commissioned by the King Louis IX of France to house his collection of Passion relics, is considered one of the world’s greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture.
Constructed between 1242 – 48, Sainte-Chapelle de Paris is famous for having the most extensive collection of 13th century stained glass windows in the world.
Fifteen huge, gorgeous windows displaying the New and Old Testaments fill the nave and apse and leave visitors completely speechless.
Quick Tip: Because Sainte-Chapelle is such a small chapel, a visit can be over very quickly and feel disappointing. So I recommend taking an audio guide to learn more about its history and be patient with the huge lines to get in.
13. Take a Seine River cruise
Sailing along the River Seine and seeing the City of Lights from another perspective is on the must to-do list of many people who are taking a trip to Paris.
You will have the opportunity to pass under magnificent bridges, spotting legendary Paris landmarks and even dine on board a bateaux mouche.
There are several companies offering Seine River cruise experiences and prices start as low as 13.5 euros per adult.
14. Celebrate special moments
Paris is a city that naturally exudes romance. So, it’s common to see couples doing wedding photo shoots, renewing vows and celebrating their love with the City of Lights’ most famous landmarks as a background.
But even if you’re a solo traveler or are in Paris with friends and relatives, you should take a moment to commemorate this special occasion.
On my last visit I reunited with friends who live in Paris to have drinks just as the Eiffel Tower lit up to celebrate my niece and sister’s first time in Paris.
Quick Tip: One of the best things to do in Paris at night is to see the Eiffel Tower Light Show. It happens daily from sunset to 1:00 AM (2:AM in the summer) and the tower twinkles for 5min every hour.
15. Take tons of pictures
A trip to Paris is a guarantee of taking great pictures to share with your followers on social media.
After all, how many cities in the world are as beautiful and picturesque as the City of Lights?
There are many Instagrammable places in Paris to boost your Instagram account such as: the Musée d’Orsay and the giant clock inside, Rue Crémieux (famously colorful houses on this street), Canal de Saint Martin, Jardin du Louxembourg, Pont Alexandre III, Moulin Rouge, L’Arc de Triomphe, Ladurée Paris (on the Champs Elysées), Champs-Élysées Avenue, Carousel of the Eiffel Tower, Hôtel de Ville (Paris’s City Hall), Shakespeare’s Bookshop, etc,
These are just 15 awesome things to do in Paris during your first visit and I believe in three days you will be able to see it all.
If you’re spending more time in the city you can also visit Les Catacombes, Les Invalidés, D’Orsay Museum, Centre Georges Pompidou, Musée de l’Orangerie, Dineysland Paris, etc.
Safe travels and enjoy Paris.
I always recommend to buy a travel insurance, which can literally be your lifeline if something happens to you and if your luggage is lost or stolen. I always use World Nomads Travel insurance for independent travelers. It’s easy to buy, extend & claim online, even after you’ve left home. Get yours here.
Planning your First Trip to Paris
Where is Paris?
Paris, city and capital of France, is situated in the north-central part of the country (check map here).
How to get there?
Paris is one of the hubs in Europe and you can get there by bus, flight or train. I took a National Express bus from London.
You can book your flights with Skyscanner, that is the websites that I use and trust.
Of course, France doesn’t end with Paris. If you’re planning to travel throughout the country, you’ll find this guide for getting around France quite helpful.
Best time to Visit Paris?
The best time to visit Paris is from April to June and October to early November when the weather is mild and enjoyable and the tourist crowds are smaller than summer. The cheapest time to visit Paris is early December, January, and February but be prepare for the severe winter.
I’ve been to Paris in December, January, August and end of May and I do think that June and October are the best months.
Where did I stay?
I stayed at Ibis Paris Grands Boulevards Opera 9e and really liked it. The location was perfect, just few minutes walk to the Opera Garnier and Montmartre and very easy to get to most of Paris attractions. Book your room here.
Have you ever been to Paris? What did you think of my list of 15 Awesome Things to Do in Paris? Let me know in the comments below 😉
- Book Your Flight Find deals on airlines on my favorite search engine: Skyscanner. Be sure to read my How to find cheap flights article.
- Rent A CarRental Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find the best deal.
- Book AccommodationBooking.com is my favorite hotel search engine. But Hotels.com and Hilton Hotels have very interesting reward programs. If you prefer to rent locals’ apartment, the best option is undoubtedly Airbnb. Here is US$ 30 credit towards your fist booking.
- Protect Your Trip Don’t forget travel insurance! I always use World Nomads for short-term trips and SafetyWing for long-term ones. Find out why Travel Insurance: Much More Than a Precaution, a Necessity.
- Book Tours in Advance Book unforgettable experiences and skip-the-line tickets with GetYourGuide or Viator .
- Book Ground TransportationBookaWay offers a stress-free experience with secure payments and no hidden fees. You pay online and receive your itinerary by email.
- Luggage Solutions Rent your luggage with Cargo or if you need to drop off your own luggage and enjoy your time without dragging it all over a city, find a LuggageHero shop here.
- Get a Travel CardRevolut Card is a pre-paid debit card that enables cash machine withdrawals in 120 countries. I’ve been using my Revolut Card for over a year and never paid foreign-transaction fees again. Get your Revolut Card with free shipping here.
- Packing Guide Check out my How to Pack a Carry-on Luggage For a Five-month Trip to help you start packing for your trip. Don’t forget your camera, chargers and other useful travel accessories.