Don't Leave Paris without Seeing these Famous Sights & Places!
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.
Don't feel you need to visit all of them in one visit, especially you are here for just a few days. Several, 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.
But do 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 even a few moments inside Notre Dame (entrance is free) and admire the stunning stained glass - the South and North Rose Windows date back to the 13th century.
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
1. Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)
Soaring high above the Paris landscape, theEiffel Tower symbolizes Paris - and gives you spectacular city views from three levels.
Although you can see the famous landmark from many points in the city, nothing beats the thrill of going up to the observation platforms and watching the Paris landscape get smaller and smaller below you.
More to Enjoy: Restaurants and a champagne bar, a seasonal ice skating rink, great 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 - but if you plan in advance, you can breeze right in.
More Ways to See the Eiffel Tower
2. Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre)
The enormous Louvre Museum receives over 10 million visitors a year, making it the world's most visited museum and a top Paris attraction.
This is partly due to the Louvre's two uber-famous masterworks, Leonardo di Vinci's Mona Lisa and the ancient Greek statue, Venus de Milo.
But there's so much more here to see, including a magnificent Egyptian collection complete with mummies, and gallery after gallery of European paintings from the Middle Ages to the mid-19th century.
Outside, glass pyramids and a reflecting pool contrast with the ornate Renaissance architecture of the former palace.
More to Enjoy: At basement level, you can view excavations of the original 12th century fortress that occupied the Louvre's Paris location.
Paris Discovery Tip: Due to massive crowds of visitors, you'll need a strategy to get the most out of your visit to this museum, but don't worry - you have excellent options ranging from book-ahead priority tickets to guided tours.
With more than 700 rooms, Versailles is one of the largest palaces 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, and slow security check lines before you enter mean a 2-4 hour wait in line during most months of the year. Skip the line tickets and attractions passes won't save you: you still have to go through security. So here's our "insiders'" tip and strong recommendation: choose a guided tour if you want to save time. 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 line:
Ultimate Versailles: Skip the Line Guided Tour - For this 90 minute tour, your guide whisks you through the priority access security line and shows you all of the palace's most important rooms and sights. After the tour, explore as long as you want on your own.
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 entrance so you don't have to wait in the long lines. You can choose either a guided 75 minute tour, or an audioguide. Spend as much time after the tour as you like in Versailles and the garden, and return to Paris on your own. (There's also a similar guided tour in the afternoon with air-conditioned round-trip coach transportation.)
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.
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.
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.
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 Parisii first settled about 2,300 years ago.
You can enjoy the Seine in many different ways. Walk along the banks and admire the beautiful bridges. Check out les bouquinistes, the riverside 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.
Built during the Middle Ages at the historic heart of Paris, Notre Dame Cathedral embodies the splendors of Gothic architecture.
Although the devastating fire last April makes 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 while repairs and restoration take place, you can admire the high towers, flying buttresses, and other features from a safe distance. Best viewing location: Left Bank of the Seine River.
6. Montmartre and Sacré Coeur
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
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 grand avenues, including the western end of Champs Élysées, converge. From a distance, the circling traffic somewhat diminishes its grandeur, but it is worth a close-up look.
More to Enjoy: 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.
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. The Arc is also near the starting point for the Paris Marathon in April, and the finish of the Tour de France in July.
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, 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.
Towering chestnut trees, an expansive pool where children (and teens and adults) float toy sailboats, and many benches for sitting among lush flowers and beautiful statues make Luxembourg Garden the city's most popular park.
And with 448 other Paris parks and 2 forests to choose from, that's quite a distinction!
Despite the number of visitors, Luxembourg Garden seldom seems crowded because its 60 acres are divided into many distinctive areas.
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.
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