Paris is always a good idea! At least that’s what I told myself as I booked last minute flights to Paris last month.
It is one of those cities that pulls you back time and time again and leaves you wanting more. Each time I go, I realise that although I have seen a lot of Paris, there are still tons of things to explore! It really is impossible to see it all when you only have a few days.
Visiting a city for the first time can seem overwhelming when there is so much to see and do, so I have taken on the impossible task of narrowing it down to the top 10 must-see attractions for your first trip to Paris. Read on for my suggestions, in no particular order.
Ok, so maybe I am stating the obvious here, but you really can’t say you have been to Paris unless you have been to the top of the Eiffel Tower! I know it’s a bit cliché, but really, it has to be done! The views from the top are incredible at any time of day but particularly so as dusk, when the City of Lights begins to shine!
Top tip: If you can, try to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower just before dusk so you can see the city both in the daytime and at night! Both views are incredible but totally different. Or if you want to beat the crowds, arrive first thing in the morning before opening time and get to the front of the queue.
Arc de Triomphe
Another view not to be missed is the one from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Situated at the western end of the Champs Elysees, the view stretches the length of this beautiful, world famous avenue. Another bonus is that you get great views of the Eiffel Tower from up here. This stunning monument is open until late into the evening, so make sure you climb it after sunset to see Paris at it’s best.
Musee du Louvre
As one of the world’s largest museums, you really do need at least half a day to explore it. Housing the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art, it really is worth spending a few hours getting lost in the beautiful building that is the Louvre.
Top tip: From October to March, access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors on the first Sunday of each month.
La Basilique du Sacre Coeur de Montmartre
For panoramic views of Paris, make sure you head up to Montmartre and the Dome of Sacre Coeur. Set up on a hillside, Sacre Coeur keeps watch over the city and is a truly beautiful landmark. The church is as beautiful inside as it is out and, with admission being free, is definitely worth a peak. Adult admission to the Dome is charged at 6 euros, which I thought was a steal! It’s worth it for the pictures alone! Be warned though, there are 300 steps to climb to get to the top of the Dome so be ready to get your sweat on.
Montmartre, the Art District
Unfortunately I found Montmartre to be a bit of a tourist trap. However, it is still worth a visit just for the pretty streets, cafes and restaurants alone. Rather than following the typical tourist trail, why not put your map away and just wander. The best way to see Montmartre is to get lost exploring the area, strolling down cobbled streets and pretty lanes.
One word: shopping! I am quite happy to say that Galeries Lafayette is possibly the most beautiful department store you will ever visit. I found it very hard to actually shop because I was distracted by the stunning building the entire time. Even if you don’t intend to shop while in Paris, you absolutely must pay a visit to Galeries Lafayette just to see the ceiling alone!
If you are an art buff or even just a general fan of impressionism, this is the museum for you. Situated in the former Gare d’Orsay, a unique railway station built in the late 1800’s, Musee d’Orsay houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist pieces in the world. As a Monet fan myself, I thoroughly enjoyed strolling around this museum taking it all in.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This world famous cathedral is top of many people’s lists and I can see why. With its stunning gothic architecture, Notre Dame leaves you mesmerised.
The Avenue des Champs-Elysees is a picturesque boulevard famous for its luxury shops and cafes. Many people know this street as the world’s most beautiful avenue and it’s easy to see why. A stroll down the Champs-Elysees is the typical Parisian experience. Don’t forget to stop in at Laduree, for drool worthy macarons (as if you needed to be told!)
Shakespeare & Company Bookshop
As one hell of a book fiend, this was probably one of my favourite parts of my first trip to Paris. It was recommended to me by a friend who obviously knows me very well and is a world renowned book shop. Carve out some time in your busy schedule to cosy up in a corner with one of the rare books not for sale, in the reading library upstairs. If you love books as much as me, you will love this unique little bookshop.
Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures of the bookshop so we’ll have to make do with some more pictures of the Eiffel Tower.
Well, voila! That’s my top 10 recommendations for your first trip to Paris. Like I said, it’s virtually impossible to narrow down such an amazing city to only 10 attractions as there is so much more to see and do. You just have to keep returning time and time again.
So, what are your favourite spots in Paris? I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments below.
All photos by Zara Aitken. Opinions are all my own.