Planning your first visit to Paris?   If so, start with these top 10 attractions and legendary sightseeing destinations.  

These are the historical, cultural, and famous places everyone associates with Paris - the top sites to see in Paris for many visitors.

Don't feel you need to see all of them in one visit, especially you are here for just a few days. 

Several of these top Paris attractions, such as the soaring Eiffel Tower, the gorgeous Seine River, the monumental Arc de Triomphe, and even the gleaming white Sacre Coeur set high on a hilltop, are part of the Paris skyline and easy to spot from many places in the city, whether or not you actually visit.

Consider a quick day trip to one of the famous destinations just beyond the city, such as the Palace of Versailles or Disneyland Paris.

But also take time to stroll through an iconic neighborhood such as the Latin Quarter or Montmartre.  Relax in the beautiful Luxembourg Garden.  Take sunset cruise along the Seine.

Spend a few moments admiring Notre Dame Cathedral.   Right now, you can now view only the exterior due to the tragic 2019 fire.  But thanks to the massive restoration underway, part of the magnificent cathedral may be open to the public by 2024. 

And plan a visit to at least one of the most famous Paris museums and experience their masterpieces in person.  See the Mona Lisa and Venus de Milo at the Louvre, Van Gogh's Starry Night at the Orsay, or cutting-edge contemporary art at Pompidou

Finally, save some time to see other less famous and even "hidden" attractions in Paris, even if it means skipping some of the places on this page.  You can always visit on your next trip to Paris, and meanwhile, you'll have a variety of wonderful memories.

Because as Ernest Hemingway famously said, " . . . wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast."

Top photo:  Sacre-Coeur Basilica in Paris's Montmartre neighborhood, (c) Paris Discovery Guide

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1.  Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel) - The Number 1 Attraction in Paris

The Eiffel Tower seen from a Seine River cruise boat
The Eiffel Tower seen from a Seine River cruise boat

Soaring high above the Paris landscape, the Eiffel Tower symbolizes Paris - and gives you spectacular city views from three levels.  For many visitors, going to the highest level of the Eiffel Tower tops their "essential sites to see in Paris, France" list, and for good reason.

Popular Ways to Visit the Eiffel Tower


Although you view see the famous landmark from many points in the city, nothing beats the thrill of going up to the observation platforms and watching Paris landmarks get smaller and smaller below you.

To capture a lifetime memory of your visit, book a professional photoshoot in front of the iconic monument.

Just want to view this famous Paris attraction?  A Seine River cruise or a guided bike tour of the city gives you the perfect way to see it plus lots of other famous monuments and museums located on the riverside.

More to Enjoy:  Restaurants and a champagne bar, a seasonal ice skating rink during some years, fascinating views through the transparent floor on the 1st level.

Paris Discovery Tip:  Crowds at the Eiffel Tower can be massive and waiting in line to get tickets can take up to 4 hours or more during peak months - get a skip-the-line priority entrance ticket:

More Ways to See the Eiffel Tower


2.  Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre) - The Most Visited Museum in the World

Glass pyramid at the Louvre at night
Glass pyramid at the Louvre at night

The enormous Louvre Museum receives over 10 million visitors a year, making it the world's most visited museum and a top attraction in the part of the 1st arrondissement known as "Royal Paris."

Much of this popularity stems from the Louvre's three uber-famous masterworks, Leonardo di Vinci's Mona Lisa and two famous Greek statues, Venus de Milo and the Winged Victory of Samothrace (also known as the Winged Nike - yes, the inspiration for the popular athletic shoe brand!)

But the Louvre offers you so much more to see, including a magnificent Egyptian collection complete with mummies, gallery after gallery of European paintings from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century, and dazzling rooms of exquisite furniture, tapestries, and ornamental objects.

Outside, 20th century glass pyramids by I M Pei and a reflecting pool contrast with the ornate Renaissance architecture of the former royal palace.

More to Enjoy:  At basement level, you can view excavations of the original 12th century fortress that once stood in the Louvre's Paris location.

Book a Louvre Museum guided tour with skip-the-line entrance:



3.  Versailles Palace - The Most Visited Royal Palace in France

Versaille Palace's Hall of Mirrors
Versaille Palace's Hall of Mirrors

With more than 700 rooms, Versailles Palace is one of the largest in the world.  Famous for its royal occupants from King Louis XIV to Marie-Antoinette, the glittering Hall of Mirrors, lavishly decorated rooms, and priceless art, Versailles Palace gives you an unforgettable glimpse of royal life when you visit. 

You can easily spend much or all of a day here.

More to Enjoy:  Magnificent gardens filled with statues, fountains, flowers, tree allées, and walking paths. 

Paris Discovery Tip:  Versailles attracts huge numbers of visitors - in fact, the enormous chateau is the most-visited palace in France and one of the most famous in Europe.

Slow security check lines before you enter mean a 2-4 hour wait in line during most months of the year.  Although skip-the-line tickets won't save you from every delay (you still have to go through security, although those lines ususally move quickly), they can certainly speed up your entry. 

But here's our "insiders" tip and strong recommendation:  Choose a guided tour if you want to save time and if your budget allows it.  Why?  Guided tours get to access a separate, much faster security line.

Choose one of these excellent guided tours and avoid the long wait in lines:

  • Versailles Skip-the-Line Half-Day Tour & Hotel Transfer - Experience the lavish palace and gardens enjoyed by French kings and queens, including Marie Antoinette as an expert guide shows you the famous Hall of Mirrors, State Apartments, King's Bedroom, and more.  Find out more 
  • Versailles by Train Escorted Tour from Paris with Skip the Line Tickets - A guide meets you at a designated spot in Paris, escorts you on the RER train to Versailles, and takes you through the guided tour direct entrance to avoid the lines.   After lunch (on your own, or add on a gourmet 3-course lunch with wine when you book), you'll visit the Petit Trianon, Marie Antoinette's personal domain and her quaint country "village."  After your tour, you'll take the direct train back to Paris. 
  • Full-Day Guided Tour of Versailles with Lunch - You'll travel with a guide in an air-conditioned luxury coach from Paris to Versailles, where you'll quickly pass through the guided tour security.  In addition to giving you a tour of Versailles Palace and its most important rooms, your guide will also take you through the Grand and Petit Trianon, the two smaller castles the French royalty usually prefered to spend their time.  You'll have a wonderful lunch at an onsite restaurant, and will have plenty of time to stroll through the magnificent gardens.

Want to risk Versailles without a skip the line ticket?  For example, if you plan to come after most people have entered - for example, mid-afternoon - lines usually move much faster. 

In that case, you can save money by getting the Versailles Palace & Gardens Full Access Ticket, which comes with an audio guide.  "Full access" means you also get entrance to Marie Antoinette's Petit Trianon palace and her "Hamlet" village, which are worth seeing.  

But if you're really short on time, you can save about 3 dollars with a Palace and Gardens-Only ticket.

Find more spectacular day trips from Paris


4.  Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin)

Quiet street in the Latin Quarter in Paris
Quiet street in Paris's Latin Quarter

To experience an older Paris, spend some time discovering the charms of the Latin Quarter.

First settled by Romans in the 1st century, this famous Left Bank neighborhood has long attracted bohemians, scholars, and political protest.  Look closely, and you'll see traces of medieval Paris in the narrow, winding streets and older buildings.

Have a drink at the brasseries along Boulevard Saint Germain where Hemingway, Sartre, and Camus hung out during the 1920s, visit the tombs of French heroes and intellectuals at the Pantheon, and gaze at the timeless beauty of Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny Museum.

More to Enjoy:  Explore the narrow winding side streets filled with old bookstores, tiny bistros, and quirky boutiques.   Visit the beautiful old churches filled with artistic treasures, including Saint Julien le Pauvre, dating back to the Middle Ages.  Go back even farther in time and visit a 1st century Roman arena, one of the Latin Quarter's "hidden treasures."

Paris Discovery Tip:  Unless you love huge crowds, avoid pedestrian-only Rue de la Huchette.

Find fun ways to explore the Latin Quarter


5.  Seine River - Beaches, Cruises, & More

Seine River and part of the Louvre, Paris
Seine River - on the left is one end of the Louvre; on the right, you can see part of Ile de la Cité

The Seine River flows through central Paris, defining the city's Right Bank to the north and the Left Bank on the south.  Île de la Cité, one of two small islands in the middle, is the historic heart of Paris with world-famous medieval masterpieces, hidden parks, and lovely 17th century enclaves.

You can enjoy the Seine in many different ways.  Walk along the banks and admire the beautiful bridges.  Check out les bouquinistes, the river-side booksellers along both sides of the Seine.  Explore the Parc Rives de Seine, the riverside pedestrian-only promenade from Place de la Bastille to the Eiffel Tower.

Cruise up and down the river on a tour boat to see Paris's most beautiful historic buildings and bridges from a unique perspective.  Dine and dance on a river-side barge.  Cool off in a floating swimming pool.

Visit Les Berges, the recreational area along the river on the Left Bank - it especially comes alive in the summer.

More to Enjoy:  From mid-July to mid-August, Paris Plages transforms the Right Bank plus other parts of the city into a sandy beach.

Paris Discovery Tip:  From the Seine, cruise up through the 15th century Canal Saint-Martin and Canal de l'Ourcq through the newly-trendy northeast part of the city.

Popular Seine River Cruises



Notre Dame (Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris)

Notre Dame Cathedral viewed from the Left Bank of Paris before the fire
Notre Dame Cathedral viewed from the Left Bank of Paris before the fire

Built during the Middle Ages at the historic heart of Parison Île de la Cité, Notre Dame Cathedral embodies the splendors of Gothic architecture from its site overlooking the Seine River.

The devastating 2019 fire means you can no longer go inside to admire the hundreds of statues, sculptures, paintings, spectacular stained glass windows or climb up to the roof for closeup views of gorgoyles and sweeping city views. 

However, the ongoing repairs and restoration work is fascinating to see from the outside, plus you can also admire the high towers, flying buttresses, and other features from a safe distance.  

And there is good news:  The famous cathedral is now expected to partially reopen by December, 2024.

Best viewing location:  Left Bank of the Seine River.



6.  Montmartre and Sacré Coeur

Quiet lane in Montmartre, not far from Sacre Coeur Basilica
Quiet lane in Montmartre, not far from Sacre Coeur Basilica

Once a separate village, Montmartre has been part of Paris since 1860 but its winding lanes, many trees, and picturesque hillsides still make it seem like a place apart.

You can stroll past the neighborhood's many cafes and cabarets, and imagine the artists, musicians, and writers who made it their home 100+ years ago when rents were cheap.

The most famous sight is the gleaming white Basilica of the Sacré Coeur, built in Italian Byzantine style and visible from most points in Paris.

Tourists often pack the areas around Sacré Coeur and the Moulin Rouge theater in Pigalle - but miss the most interesting parts of the neighborhood where you can find small art museums and parks, pedestrian-only lanes, and a couple of old-fashioned windmills.

More to Enjoy:  Go inside Sacré Coeur to see the beautiful mosaics.

Paris Discovery Tip: If you're visiting in October, come to the harvest festival in Montmartre's still-producing vineyard

Discover the hidden gems of Montmartre


7.  Musée d'Orsay

Statues and golden clock at the Orsay Museum
Statues and golden clock at the Orsay Museum

Occupying a former train station, Musée d'Orsay contains a magnificent collection of world-famous Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.  

Crowds pack the galleries holding the best-known masterpieces, especially those by Monet, Renoir, Cézanne, Gauguin, and Van Gogh, whose Starry Night painting attracts the largest crowds of all.

More to Enjoy:  Sweeping views of Paris from the almost-hidden rooftop terrace.

Paris Discovery Tip:  Unless you are visiting during the slow months of the winter, join a guided tour if you want to get a look at the most famous paintings unobstructed by massive crowds.

What to see & do at the Orsay Museum


8.  Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe, Paris
Arc de Triomphe on a sunny summer afternoon

The massive Arc de Triomphe is one of the most recognizable Paris attractions, commissioned in 1806 by Napoleon to honor his army's victories across Europe, although he was exiled and dead by the time of its completion 30 years later.

The Arc de Triomphe is surrounded by a busy traffic rotary where 12 major streets, including the western end of Champs Élysées, converge.  Although you can easily see it at a distance, you'll get the best views and experience when you're close to it.

Best Time to View:  On the first Sunday (a.k.a. "car-free Sundays) of each month when Champs Élysées bans cars and becomes pedestrian-only.

More to Enjoy:  Get a ticket and climb the stairs to the observation deck at the top for 360 degree views of Paris.  At the base of the monument, visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and eternal flame to honor the unidentified French soldiers killed in World Wars I and II.  You can see its daily re-lighting every evening at 6:30pm.  Elaborate statues and bas relief carvings depicting Napoleon's battles cover large portions of the monument.

Get your skip-the-line Arc de Triomphe rooftop tickets now:


Paris Discovery Tip:  If you are in Paris on Armistice Day (November 11), Bastille Day (July 14), or New Year's Eve (December 31), don't miss the parades and celebrations on Champs Élysées that start at the Arc.  The Paris Marathon in April also starts and ends at the Arc, and the Tour de France also ends there in July.

Find out more about visiting the Arc de Triomphe


9.  Pompidou Center (Centre Pompidou)

Exhibit in Pompidou Center, Paris
Art on display at Centre Pompidou

In a city filled with traditional architecture, Pompidou Center's edgy design featuring exterior walls of brightly colored tubes and exposed mechanical systems brought howls of derision when it first opened.  Half a century later, the building's design by architects Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers still stands out in the cityscape.

But inside (get a skip the line ticket before you go to save time), revolving exhibitions of top-notch contemporary paintings, sculptures, and video and sound installations account for the museum's immense popularity.

More to Enjoy:  A wonderful rooftop deck, reflecting pool, and restaurant overlooking the city

Paris Discovery Tip: After your visit, walk around to the back of Centre Pompidou's right side to see Stravinsky Fountain, named after the composer and filled with 16 water-spraying moving sculptures that represent his music.  You can also see it if you look straight down from the rooftop deck.

Some bad news:  Centre Pompidou's structure needs critical major repairs that will require closing to the public, and the work is expected to take about 5 years.  Estimated closure currently is expected during summer or fall of 2025. 

So if you want to visit this unique and wonderful contemporary art museum, go now!!! 

Buy your Pompidou skip the line entrance ticket


10.  Luxembourg Garden (Jardin du Luxembourg)

Statue and spring flowers in Jardin du Luxembourg, Paris
Sculpture and April flowers in Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris

Towering chestnut trees, a tranquil pool where children (and teens and adults) float toy sailboats, and many benches for sitting among lush flowers and beautiful statues make Luxembourg Garden Paris's most popular park. 

And with 448 other city parks and 2 great forests to choose from, that's quite a distinction! 

Despite its number of visitors, Luxembourg Garden seldom seems crowded because its 60 acres are divided into many distinctive areas.  You can even play tennis here.

More to Enjoy:  A drink or lunch at the open-air cafe.

Paris Discovery Tip:  If you are traveling with children, check out the pony rides and puppet theater.  If you're not, snag one of the green metal chairs next to the reflecting pool at the Medici Fountain and enjoy a few tranquil moments of total relaxation.


Where to Stay in Paris near Top Attractions

Wondering which neighborhood to choose as your "home base" for your Paris visit?  See our recommendations based on the attractions you want to visit.



More Top Paris Attractions to See & Explore

Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin)

Rodin's 'The Kiss' in the Musee Rodin - Photo (c) Patrick Tourneboeuf/OPPIC/Tendance Floue
Rodin's 'The Kiss' in the Musee Rodin - Photo (c) Patrick Tourneboeuf/OPPIC/Tendance Floue

Perhaps the most romantic museum in Paris and a top attraction because of its lush sculpture garden, location in a spectacular 18th century rococo mansion, and, of course, the sensual sculpture of two lovers in "The Kiss, the Rodin Museum gives you the opportunity to view the breadth and depth of French sculptor Auguste Rodin's boundary-breaking path from naturalism to modernism.

Plan to spend more time than you might expect in the beautifully designed garden, where where flowers bloom almost year-round, lime trees scent the air with their leaves, and masses of roses burst into a riot of color in May and June, with some continuing to bloom through fall.  

The garden is also where you'll see Rodin's most monumental and evocative creations:  "The Thinker," "Walking Man," "The Gates of Hell," to name only a few. 

More to enjoy:  The onsite cafe/restaurant.

Tickets:  Get your ticket in advance, or use your Paris Museum Pass for admission.

Monet's Garden at Giverny & Other Day Trips from Paris

Monet's house & garden at Giverny
Monet's house & garden at Giverny

In addition to the Palace of Versailles, Monet's famous water lily ponds and garden at Giverny, the medieval abby at Mont Saint-Michel, Disneyland Paris, Normandy D-Day beaches, special Champagne-tasting tours, and gorgeous castles and chateaux are just a few of the other top attractions you can see on day trips from Paris.

You can even leave Paris in the morning and spend the day enjoying famous sights in London, sampling delicious wines and food at a château surrounded by vineyards near the city of Bordeaux, or cruising along the picturesque canals of Bruges, Belgium - and still return to Paris in time for a late dinner.

Find out more about the best day trips from Paris.

Paris Food Tours, Wine Tastings, & More Culinary Adventures

Monet's house & garden at Giverny
Monet's house & garden at Giverny

Want to combine enjoying Paris's food culture - without a doubt, one of the city's most popular attractions - while exploring an iconic neighborhood, cruising down the Seine River, learning how to make macarons, visiting a street market, or sampling wine and cheese? 

We highlight 15 of the best tours, cruises, and classes devoted to food and wine (and even one on Paris's thriving craft breweries).  Check them out!

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris

Whether you're a huge Disney fan yourself or traveling to Paris with kids who are, a visit to Disneyland Paris can be hard to resist, especially since it's only about a 45-minute train ride from the city and super-easy to reach. 

Especially if you have already visited Disneyland in the U.S., you may be wondering: "Is Disneyland Paris worth going to?"

Of course that's an individual decision, especially if you have a long list of things to do and you have only a few days here, but many people have visited Disneyland Paris would tell you, "Yes!"

The Paris parks are lot of fun and even though the amusement park attractions may seem familiar, there's a certain "je ne sais quoi" that's distinctly Parisian.  Plus, the on-site food is much better.  So think of it as a cultural experience - and go! 

Book your Disneyland Paris tickets:


Almost-Hidden Covered Passages

Skyline view of Notre Dame and its flying buttresses, spire, and towers before the 2019 fire
Entrance to Galerie de la Madeleine

With spectacular glass roofs, elaborate Neoclassical, Art Nouveau, and even Art Deco decor, and luxury boutiques and cool cafes, Paris's 21 remaining late-18th and 19th-century covered passages give you a unique place to shop for artisan gifts, enjoy a casual meal, and soak up the historical details.

Each passage has its own personality, attractions, and ambiance - perfect for exploring on a rainy afternoon, or for discovering more about this fascinating layer of Paris urban history.

Find out more about the best covered passages remaining in Paris today

The Paris Skyline

Skyline view of Notre Dame and its flying buttresses, spire, and towers before the 2019 fire
Skyline view of Notre Dame and its flying buttresses, spire, and towers before the 2019 fire

Iconic landmarks such as the Eiffel Tower, Sacre Coeur, and Notre Dame silhouetted against city rooftops and the sky make the Paris skyline one of the city's most memorable attractions.  But what are the best places to see it?

Some, such as the viewing platforms on the Eiffel Tower itself and the rooftop terrace at the Arc de Triomphe, will not surprise you.   But others fall squarely into the "insider secret" category - out-of-the-way places to view the Paris skyline that you may not discover on your own.

Find the best places to view the Paris skyline


Père Lachaise Cemetery

Cobblestone paths
Cobblestone paths at Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Père Lachaise Cemetery (Cimetière du Pere Lachaise) in eastern Paris may not be quite as famous as the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe but its celebrity graves, haunting statues, and photo-worthy cobblestone lanes make it a top Paris attraction.

Part burial ground and part beautifully landscaped garden, this "City of the Dead" is also similar to an open-air museum, with funerary sculptures of every size and shape imaginable:  plump winged cherubs, macabre skulls flanked by what appear to be bat wings, scantily clad women sprawled across tombstones, disembodied heads of famous men.  

But if you're like most first-time visitors here, you may be most fascinated by the graves of famous people buried here. 


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Eiffel Tower viewed from Trocadero
Eiffel Tower viewed from Trocadero
Louvre Pyramid in early evening
Louvre Pyramid in early evening

More Fun Things to Do & See in Paris


Where to Stay near Top Paris Attractions

First, check out our guide to where to stay on your first trip to Paris to find the best neighborhoods and districts based on your interests and what you want to see and do.  We suggest hotels for each area at different price points:  luxury, mid-range, and budget.

To find even more hotels, use this handy  hotel map from Booking.com to find available accommodations near top attractions for your travel dates, see lowest rates, and make your reservations:

Booking.com

Check out the newest Paris hotels



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