Wondering what to do in Paris? I’ve got you covered! Having just spent six months in this magically busy and diverse city, I’ve tested out all the major sights and rounded up my favourites for you in a bumper list of things to do, see, eat and drink in Paris.
Note that on the first Sunday of every month, a huge range of museums are completely free for absolutely everyone – so if you’re worried about prices, be sure to check if this applies to your chosen museums!
CULTURE / ART
1. Musée de l’Orangerie
Housing eight of Monet’s stunning waterlilies paintings in its specially-designed, airy galleries, the Muséé de l’Orangerie is one of the best places to go if you’re in need of a little calm. Wander slowly beside the swirls of colour, seeing something new every time, and then head down to the lower floor, where a permanent impressionist exhibition is joined by fascinating temporary exhibitions.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Price: free for <25s in the EU (just take your ID straight to the entrance) / €6.50 / €9
2. Musée d’Orsay
Note to self: don’t go to this museum on an empty stomach. It’s huge and you will need to be well-fuelled to see a bit of everything this museum of impressionist art has to offer. One thing I learnt during my time in Paris is that I really love Monet (and this from someone who really didn’t have a clue about art a few months ago and still doesn’t claim to know anything) – so the huge gallery dedicated to Monet and his contemporaries, accompanied by accessible introductions and biographies, was a treat.
Time needed: 2-3 hours to see the main sections; longer to see absolutely everything.
Price: free for <25s from the EU, €11, €14.
Metro: Musée d’Orsay / Solferino
3. Musée de l’Armée
Another one you’ll need to leave a fair amount of time if you want to see everything! The Musée d’Armée includes several smaller museums: from Napoleon’s (enormous) tomb to an exhibition on France’s role in the world wars, an exhibition on the order of the liberation, to a gallery of artillery and an exhibition on Louis XIV.
Something to interest everyone, even if it’s just a recap of those dusty GCSE history lessons!
Time needed: 2-4 hours
Price: free for <25s from the EU, €10, €12
Metro: Invalides / La Tour-Maubourg / Varenne
4. Picasso Museum
Prepare to be blown away by a huge collection of super interesting works by Picasso which really capture his progression (from a huge, realistic painting he completed before he was even 18, to his more well-known cubist works) and introduce you to this famous artist. The museum is the perfect size and even has a little café in the roof for a coffee break when you’re done.
Time needed: 1-2 hours
Price: free for <25s from the EU, €14 / €11
Metro: Saint-Paul, Chemin Vert, Saint-Sébastien-Froissart
5. Musée du Quai Branly
The Musée du Quai Branly is good for those who aren’t all that into paintings and art museums and serves as an interesting insight into the world beyond Paris, originally intended to show Paris’ openness to the non-Western world. While some of its objects are under dispute and many have been returned to their rightful place of origin, the museum provides a fascinating insight into cultures and their art forms from all around the world.
Time needed: 2 hours
Price: free for <25s / €10 / €7
Metro: Pont de l’Alma / Alma-Marceau
FLANERIE / WALKING
Parisian poets and authors have known for centuries that Paris is the place to go for a wander or “flâner” (a useful French verb meaning to walk without real destination), and so should you! The best way to get to know a city is to get lost in it, choose a nice part of the city and let the streets carry you somewhere new.
Walk up to the Sacré Coeur then take a left towards Place du Tertre. From there… who knows? Let yourself be taken along by the crowd, take twists and turns quickly and slowly, walk down the hill and up again, wander through the village and let the skyscrapers fall away behind you… See if you can find Vincent Van Gogh’s old house!
7.The Latin Quarter – Saint Sulpice, Shakespeare & Co
Start at Shakespeare & Co: a must-see for any booklover. While it can often be overcrowded, if you’re lucky enough to catch it at a quieter time you will fall in love with its towering shelves stuffed full with books of every kind, its feminist corner, its tiny library, even its sofas where you can spread out and read for a moment…
Next, wander away from the river, through bustling streets of cafés, libraries and restaurants, and head west towards Saint Sulpice, where you will find streets lined with tiny art galleries and squares perfect for people watching.
8. Coulée verte
Accessible from Bastille metro, the Couléé verte is the perfect escape from the chaos of the city: a tiny green oasis in the midst of the concrete jungle. Stretching for kilometres atop an old railway line, with views across the nearby rooftops, this is a walk you don’t want to miss.
9. Bois de Vincennes
Zoom out on Google maps, and you’ll see why I’m recommending taking a walk in the Bois de Vincennes: it’s huge. You have two options: take the line 1 to Château de Vincennes and wander through the Botanical Garden of Paris, or take Line 8 to the Palais de la Porte Dorée and wander around the impressive lake in this part of the woods. Or, you know, take a picnic and do both parts of the wood. It’s worth it.
10. Jardin des Tuileries
One of the most iconic places in Paris due to the fact you can stand in the gardens and see both the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre at the same time. Draw up one of the green chairs situated around the gardens and sit beside the fountain, or people-watch as families, joggers, and professionals alike stroll through this green haven.
Also within walking distance of the Latin Quarter, Notre Dame, Musée de l’Orangerie (which is at the bottom of the Jardin des Tuileries), Musée d’Orsay, and many other gems of central Paris.
11. Château de Versailles
One of the most well-known day trips from Paris, Versailles is an estate which dates back to the 17th century. First a hunting lodge and then the home of Louis XIV, the palace now looks out over an impressive 800 hectares of gardens and is furnished with exquisite furnishings and hundreds of historic paintings.
How to get there: Take the RER C to Versailles Rive Gauche. It takes around 45 minutes from Les Invalides.
Entry: Free for <26s in the EU, or €20 for access to the whole estate. I recommend buying tickets online in advance.
See website for more information.
If there’s anything French towns aren’t lacking in any way, it’s gorgeous castles – and Chantilly is no exception. A domain has existed on this site since the Middle Ages, but the castle as it stands today dates back to the late 1800s, when the Duke of Aumale decided to rebuild the castle to house his collection and then left the entire estate to the French Institute. You can walk around the beautiful castle, stroll the grounds, and then pop into the stables with the same ticket.
How to get there: Take a TER train from Paris Nord and get off at “Chantilly Gouvieux”. Tickets can be bought online and collected at the station.
Entry: €17 for adults, €13.50 for students and other discounted groups, under 7s go free.
See website for more information.
13. Château de Vincennes
The Chateau de Vincennes was first established as a hunting lodge, like many French castles and palaces, in the 12th century, and has since been inhabited by Charles V and Louis XIV, been transformed into a military stronghold, and then hosted historical services of the French Armed Forces. Nowadays, the castle and cathedral are open to the public, with interesting rotating exhibitions and good level of information for all.
See my full guide here.
How to get there: Take the metro Line 1 to Chateau de Vincennes.
Entry: €9 / €7 discount / free for under 26s from the EU
See website for more information.
Surprise surprise, it’s yet another stunning castle just outside of the capital city. Fontainebleau is apparently the only imperial and royal castle to have been continuously inhabited for more than seven centuries, and as well as providing an excellent place for a summer’s stroll in its 130 acres of gardens, the rooms inside are beautiful, too.
How to get there: Take a main line train from Gare du Lyon towards Montargis Sens, Montereau or Laroche-Migennes. Get off at Fontainebleau-Avon and then take the bus into the city centre (it will be obvious which bus to get; the stop is right outside the train station).
Entry: €12 / €10 / free for under 26s from the EU
See website for more information.
If you like a bit of history and a lot of instagrammable medieval buildings, you’ll adore Rouen. A small and charming city in the north of France, it is the capital of the Normandy region and has a wealth of culture and history to soak in, including strong ties to Joan of Arc as this is where she died. I particularly recommend seeing the gorgeous Gothic cathedral, the famous Gros Horloge, the Historial Jeanne d’Arc, and the Musée des Beaux Arts. What’s more, the city is accessible from Paris in only an hour and a half and you can easily walk between all the major sites once you arrive.
How to get there: Take a mainline train from Saint Lazare train station and get off in Rouen. Book your tickets online from the SNCF website.
See the city’s tourism website for more information.
EATING AND DRINKING
16. Creperie Gigi
My recommendation can’t be higher: this is the best creperie I’ve ever been to. It’s one of the more expensive places to get your fill of crepes (think around €12 for a savoury crepe, and €5-9 for a dessert), but they were so delicious (and the creperie has such a cosy warm atmosphere) that I went there three times. Decent options for vegetarians, and a delicious range of both savoury galettes and sweet crepes, both of which can be adjusted to your tastes.
Find Crêperie Gigi on Google maps.
17. Pink Mamma
There’s a queue out of the door before Pink Mamma even opens for the evening, and it’s not without good reason: this restaurant is incredible. Beautiful inside and out, this is the place to be if you want a splash of luxury and romance without having to pay extra. Very decent prices for absolutely mouth-watering pizzas and pastas. I’ll be back!
Pro tip: turn up 30 mins before opening to be sure to get in for the first sitting. Don’t be deterred by the long queue: there are four floors of seating.
Find Pink Mamma on Google maps.
18. Abbatoir Végétale
Another place with beautiful décor, this restaurant serves vegan food only and is adorned with twinkling lights and plants hanging from the ceiling. It’s a little on the pricey side for vegan food (around €15 for the burger) but it’s great for a fancy birthday celebration or similar, and the food is incredible.
Find the restaurant on Google maps.
19. La Belette qui tête
If you’re not a fan of wine but still want a true French drinking experience, this is the place to go. I discovered this barthrough a fellow intern, who had raved about how good it was for weeks before we went together. The bar’s speciality is the eponymous Belette, a beer mixed with one of more than twenty different wild and wonderful syrups. I tried a belette with blueberry (delicious, just he right amount of sweetness) and one with salted caramel (which just makes every food or drink better, it seems).
What’s more, they do an incredible cheese and bread platter with local cheese and fresh bread – so you can pace yourself with style while you try as many different syrups as you can.
Find the bar onGoogle maps
20. Le dernier bar avant la fin du monde
A must-see for anyone who has ever remotely related to the word “geek” or who simply enjoys incredible cocktails. The bar is themed around popular culture, and inside you’ll see Hogwarts house banners, board games, and a list of cocktails with names inspired by all your favourite films and TV series. Take a group of friends and prepare for an evening of fangirling!
Find this bar on Google maps
Of course, Paris is so huge and has so much to offer any traveller that it’s hard to do it all in a few days – or even to narrow it down to only the best parts. Which is why if you find any other “must-see” spots, I’d love for you to leave them in a comment down below!
If you have any questions or requests for future Paris travel guides, leave them in the comments too, and I’ll do my best to reply asap!
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