Paris is always a good idea! At least that’s what I tell myself each time I book flights to the City of Lights.
Paris seems to pull me back time and time again and always leaves me wanting more. Without a shadow of a doubt, Paris is my spirit city and one of my favourite places to travel solo. I know I’ll live there one day!
But, visiting a city like Paris for the first time may seem overwhelming, especially when there is so much to see and do. I’ve been to Paris several times now and there are still large parts of the city I am yet to explore. So, while it is impossible to see everything in one visit (or maybe even four!), I hope this guide to Paris helps you narrow it down!
The Eiffel Tower
Alright, I’m stating the obvious here. But can you really visit Paris without going to the top of the Eiffel Tower? It has to be done, people! The views from the top are incredible any time of day but particularly so as dusk, when the City of Lights begins to shine!
Get to the top of the Eiffel Tower just before dusk and you’ll see the city both during the day and at night! And what’s more, if it’s a clear day you’ll enjoy an amazing sunset over the city!
Or, if you want to beat the crowds, arrive first thing in the morning and get to the front of the queue.
Arc de Triomphe
This monument is absolutely beautiful and definitely worth seeing up close. The view from the top of the Arc de Triomphe is one of my favourites and one that many people miss out on. At the top, your eye will be led down the famous, and often chaotic, Champs Elysees, with seven other avenues fanning out from the iconic landmark.
Not only will you be able to marvel at the Parisian driving techniques on the streets below, but you’ll also have a fantastic view of the beautiful Eiffel Tower. After dark, you’ll see the city in all its glory and experience the magic of the Eiffel Tower sparkling on the hour.
Musee du Louvre
As the world’s largest art gallery, you’ll need at least half a day to explore La Musee du Louvre. Housing the Mona Lisa and other famous works of art, The Louvre is one of the most visited museums in the world. If you’re not an art buff, this historic landmark is still worth a visit even if only to admire the intricate architecture.
Top tip: On the first Sunday of the month, from October to March, access to the permanent collections is free for all visitors.
For panoramic views of Paris, head to Montmartre and the dome of Sacre Coeur. Nestled into the hillside, Sacre Coeur keeps watch over the city and is truly beautiful, both inside and out. Admission to the main basilica is free but there is an admission charge of 6€ to access the dome. It’s definitely worth it for the pictures alone! Be aware, 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. But, I still think it’s worth a visit. Stroll around the pretty streets, have a coffee at one of the over-priced cafes and enjoy a spot of people-watching. Rather than following the typical tourist trail, why not put your map away and just wander. The best way to explore Montmartre is to get lost in the cobbled streets and picturesque lanes.
While I don’t usually spend time shopping when I travel (I can do that at home!), Galerie Lafayette has to be an exception. Even if you don’t intend to spend any money, you absolutely must visit Galeries Lafayette, if only gaze up at the ceiling in wonder! As one of the most beautiful department stores you will ever visit, grab a coffee at one of the balcony cafes and just enjoy the view.
Whether you’re into art, particularly Impressionism, or just love old buildings, Musee d’Orsay is a must do. 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.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This world-famous cathedral is top of many people’s lists and it’s easy to see why. From stunning gothic architecture to an incredible view from its towers, Notre Dame will leave you mesmerised. Entry to the cathedral is free, although you can make a donation if you wish. The queues are often long, but go down quickly. So, don’t be put off by the hundreds of people queuing for entry.
Thanks to the chain stores and cheap fast-food joints (ahem, McDonald’s), the Avenue des Champs-Elysees has lost much of the beauty it was once famous for. While not as beautiful as it once was, a stroll down the iconic Champs-Elysees is still an experience. And don’t forget to stop at Laduree, for some drool-worthy macarons while you’re there.
Shakespeare & Co. Bookshop
As a huge lover of books, I couldn’t avoid this world-renowned bookshop. Featured in various movies and steeped in history, Shakespeare and Co is a great experience for book fiends. Carve out some time in your busy schedule to cosy up in a corner with a novel and just forget about the world outside.
Palace of Versailles
Rich in history and only a short train ride away from central Paris, the royal chateau, the Palace of Versailles sits in all its stately splendour. It took until my fourth visit to Paris to finally make it to the chateau! What was I waiting for?! From the King’s Grand Apartments and the Hall of Mirrors to The Gardens and the Estate of Trianon, the entire place is jaw-droppingly, beautiful. Seriously, I’ve never seen that much decadence in my life!
Top tip: Get to Versailles as early as possible or you will pay for being late with a very long queue! Purchase tickets online, so you don’t have to wait in the extra ‘ticket’ queue. And, if you want to make the most of your trip, purchase the Passport ticket for 20€, which allows you entry to the palace, gardens and the Estate of Trianon.
This 13th-century chapel contains some of the finest, heart-stoppingly beautiful stained glass in the world. 15 windows stand 15 metres high, depicting 1,113 Biblical scenes – it really and truly took my breath away!
Gluten free? Check out my Gluten-Free Guide to Paris for the best cafes, restaurants and eateries to cater for your dietary requirements.
I keep seeing Angelina and their famous hot chocolate pop up all over the internet and on travel blogs far and wide! I just had to try it for myself. And although this was the most expensive hot chocolate and eclair I’ve ever had the audacity to purchase, I’d do it again!
Victor Hugo’s House and Place des Vosges
While I didn’t get to visit Victor Hugo’s house (it was closed – *sad face*), the Place des Vosges, is a pretty little square to sit and enjoy some peace and quiet, away from the hustle and bustle.
Jardin des Tuileries
One of my favourite Parisian pastimes is to grab a box of macarons from Laduree on the Champs Elysees and sit with my book and sweet treats in the Jardin des Tuileries, just winding away the time. I like to think that when I live in Paris, I’ll do this every Sunday afternoon. A girl can dream right!?
Opera de Paris, Palais Garnier
I had no idea you could go inside the Opera House without a show ticket until my friend, Courtney, told me I should check it out. While Versailles was incredible, it was so packed with people that it was hard to really enjoy it. The Palais Garnier was absolutely stunning inside and with a noticeable lack of tourists, you are able to enjoy it at your own pace without a thousand people hurrying you along.
Well, voila! That completes my guide to Paris. Like I said, it’s virtually impossible to narrow down such an amazing city to only a few attractions, so I guess you’ll have to return soon! I’m constantly adding to this post each time I visit Paris, so check back soon for the latest additions!
What are your favourite spots in Paris? Let me know what I should check out next?
All photos by Zara Aitken. Opinions are all my own.