Paris is a truly beautiful city that oozes charm. When people think of Paris, the first things that usually spring to mind at the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe and Champs-Élysées, walks along the River Seine… and of course delicious croissants and French bistro cuisine!
None of these things are to be sniffed at – they should be an integral part of your trip, but Paris has so much more about it. Check out the below guide for some unmissable activities in Paris, areas worth visiting, when to go, and tips on getting around.
Getting around Paris
If you’re new to Paris, know that the Metro system could be a little confusing. It’s probably the quickest way to get around, but you may make a few mistakes that cost you time. If you can afford it, take an Uber where possible (which is cheaper than Parisian taxis), or bite the bullet and hire a shuttle driver. If you have the time and energy, it’s also great to walk or cycle around the city, as there is so much to see at a more leisurely pace.
Things to do in Paris
Visit some museums
Paris has an abundance of great museums, such as The Centre Pompidou, which is a real sight to behold. It is a brightly coloured building with exposed pipes and air ducts; it’s one of the most famous sights in Paris for its appearance alone, but the design was done with practicality in mind. By putting all of the fittings on the outside, they made a wealth of space on the inside for their fabulous modern art exhibition (which happens to be the largest and most revered in Europe), as well as their many performances, a cinema and a library.
You could also check out the The Louvre, one of the world’s most famous museums; it’s actually the largest and the one with the most visitors. More than 8 million people visited the Louvre last year. Inside it is like a vast maze, with galleries across many levels. The Louvre is home to the Mona Lisa, so it’s worth visiting for that reason alone. There are also around 35,000 more pieces of art, sculptures and artifacts that are worth your time.
It is sensible to buy the Paris Museum Pass, which will save you both time and a bit of cash. It means you won’t have to wait in line at the most popular museums.
Grab some souvenirs from the Port St Ouen flea market
Port St Ouen, on the outskirts of the city, happens to have the largest flea market in the world. Head over there on a weekend if you want to browse through a diverse array of wares and antiques.
You can also get your hands on some marvelously eccentric vintage clothing if you like to stand out from the crowd. You can also find typical souvenirs like postcards for around 1 euro a piece.
Climb the Eiffel Tower
It would be plain rude not to visit the Eiffel Tower when in Paris! This wrought iron lattice tower stands tall and proud on the Champ de Mars, on the southern bank of the Seine River. Named after Gustave Eiffel, the engineer who designed and built it, it is a sight in itself… but as you might imagine, at 300 metres high, the views it offers over the city are unbelievable.
It is smart to make advanced reservations for visiting the Eiffel Tower. This will help you to avoid hours waiting hours in line, saving you precious time on the rest of your agenda. If you know your dates, book tickets online immediately as they can sell out fast. Tickets are also released periodically so if it’s sold out on your dates, check again ahead of your trip – there could be more available later.
Go on a guided walk
Guidebooks can make for an unoriginal and limited trip, but there are some with a difference. For instance, Rick Steves guided walks and audio tours. These are full of great ideas for your agenda, and you’ll see so much more of the city doing it this way.
You simply need to download the app and MP3s, and Rick becomes your oracle for various walks, including the Historic Paris Walk, The Louvre, The Orsay, Versailles Palace, Père Lachaise Cemetery, and Rue Cler Walk.
Take a Hot Air Balloon Ride
Another wonderful way to see this city in a different light is to take a hot air balloon ride in Parc André-Citroen. You’ll get a unique bird’s eye view of Paris on board the world’s largest air-balloon, at an altitude of 150 metres.
Further reading: Paris 3 Day Itinerary
Where to stay (and eat) in Paris
Some of the best areas to stay and dine out in Paris are
- Saint-Germain-des-Prés for a five-star Parisian experience with existentialism, jazz and a real dose of original Parisian culture. Got cash? Book in at the La Villa Saint Germain des Pres. Budgeting? Hôtel Rachel will have you covered.
- Montmartre for an abundance of retro cafés (like Marlette or Café Lomi), grand apartment buildings dripping with ivy, and the stunning white domes of the Sacré-Cœur.
- The Marais, for well-maintained squares, green leafy parks and fountains, traditional French bistros and alluring boutiques. This place is for the romantics!
- Champs-Elysées if you want to experience the Arc de Triomphe and excellent shopping options. It is a great starting point to explore from, whether on foot or by bicycle. Splash out at the Hôtel Marignan Champs-Élysées or if you’re on a budget, try the BVJ Champs-Elysées Monceau hostel.
Best time to go to Paris
Like most places in Europe, it depends on the experience you want to have. Paris is much like the United Kingdom in that the weather can be beautiful and sunny in the spring and summer; if that appeals, visit between April and September.
For slightly cooler temperatures, go in October or November. If you like the novelty of wrapping up warm, or the Christmassy vibes, head over in December. Paris really lights up at Christmas and you’ll experience lots of festivities this way.
Unless you’re planning to stay for a couple of weeks, there won’t be time to see and do everything that appeals in this fabulous city. It makes sense to plan ahead, but if you can keep a couple of free days in your agenda, you are likely to experience some spontaneous delights too. One thing is almost certain: if you let it, Paris will blow you away.