101 things to do in Paris: attractions
Discover the best of Paris with our ultimate list of things to do in the city
Looking for attractions in Paris? Scroll through the list below for the very best diversions the capital has to offer. Think we've missed any great attractions in Paris? Let us know and leave a comment in the box below.
The best attractions in Paris
Spend a day in Boulogne
Paris’ suburbs often play second fiddle to the city’s intra-muros attractions, but you’d be wrong to ignore Boulogne-Bilancourt. There’s the Bois de Boulogne for a start – Paris’s western lung, filled with lakes and parkland. Then there are its excellent museums, three of which are well worth an afternoon of your time: Head to the Musée Belmondo if you’re into sculpture, the Musée des Années 30 for everything Art Déco and the Musée Albert Kahn for wonderful sculpted gardens and collections of 19th-century photography.
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Explore the Marais’ nooks and crannies
Loose yourself in the Marais’ narrow, cobbled streets: this quartier is all about intimate museums, elegant mansions and (along rue des Rosiers) Jewish restaurants that sell the best falafels in the city. Start at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (Jewish art and history museum) or the Musée Carnavalet, which covers the history of Paris, then nip down rue des Archives to the Marais’s quirky hunting museum, the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature. Top off your day in Places des Vosges, where writer Victor Hugo’s former apartment (la Maison de Victor Hugo) is bedecked with fabulously garish decor and rafts of fascinating memorabilia.
Read more about Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, Musée Carnavalet, Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Place des Vosges and Maison de Victor Hugo.
Off the beaten tourist track, the hauntingly beautiful Château de Vincennes feels like a forgotten treasure. Built in the 14th-century by Charles V, it’s one of Europe’s best-preserved fortresses with a dungeon that once imprisoned the Marquis de Sade. Grab an audio guide, then work your way through Charles V’s sparse but interesting former living quarters, before entering the chapel, a masterpiece of flamboyant Gothic style, modelled on Paris’ Sainte-Chapelle. To make a day of it, pack a picnic and find a shaded spot in the Bois de Vincennes just over the road.
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- Avenue de Paris, Vincennes, France, 94300
Slow the pace with a leisurely cruise along Paris’ Canal St-Martin. Canauxrama’s canal trips start at the Port de l’Arsenal at Bastille, then float gently northwards for two and a half hours towards Bassin de la Villette at Stalingrad, past Paris’s revamped industrial quarters, old locks and elegant footbridges. When you get to Bassin de la Villette (where Canal St-Martin becomes Canal de l’Ourcq), two MK2 cinemas, linked together by a tiny boat, show both blockbuster and art-house films; or carry on along the canal edge (on foot) to sample Parc de la Villette’s science and music museums.
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- 10e/11e, Paris
You’ll come across plenty of cool sights and sounds as you stroll around central Paris. But getting an insider’s feel is a little trickier – unless you sign up for an afternoon with Parisien d’un jour. Led around by passionate volunteers, you’ll see some of Paris’s most interesting districts, hear anecdotes, go where the locals go and generally mix with people so in love with their city, that you’ll get stars in your eyes too. Parisien d’un jour runs two-three hour visits in English and French.
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- Paris, France
Bask in the delights of Monet at Musée Marmottan Monet. This former hunting pavilion on Paris’ western edge is home to a vast collection of Monet paintings and provides a rare chance for you to follow the evolution of the artist’s technique, from caricatures in his early career to the world-famous lily canvasses painted at Giverny. Monet’s Impressionist friends (Pissaro, Sisley, Renoir and Daumier) are also well represented, as are art and furniture from the First Empire – an eclectic mix that makes this one of Paris’ most enchanting museums.
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- 2 rue Louis Boilly, 16e, Paris, France
Tour the temples of modern and contemporary art
Paris may look old and stately on the outside, but on the inside it’s a different story: kick-ass modern and contemporary art joints pepper the capital, from the Musée d’Art Moderne, famed for its fauvists and cubists, to the experimental Palais de Tokyo next door. Cross the river to Fondation Cartier to see highlights of Paris’s art scene over the last twenty years, or peruse cutting-edge photography at the Jeu de Paume. If you’re looking for art so contemporary you can watch it being made, try 104, where resident artists frequently open their workshops to the public.
Read more about Musée d’Art Moderne, Palais de Tokyo, Fondation Cartier, Jeu de Paume and 104
Bateaux Mouches and Bateaux Parisiens
Yes, you’ll get some cheesy commentary, but seeing Paris in one majestic sweep on a bateau mouche (riverboat) is something everyone should do at least once. Many of the city’s most gorgeous monuments cling to the banks of the Seine and the river’s bridges are truly beautiful, providing Kodak moments galore. Riverboat companies Bateaux Parisiens and Bateaux Mouches both offer hour-long tours and restaurant cruises.
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There’s nothing like stuffed animals and dinosaur bones to keep kids entertained, and the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle (Natural History Museum) has plenty of both, including a plump little dodo and gigantic whale bones. When the little ones have had enough of skeletons, cross the Jardin des Plantes to the Musée d’Histoire Naturelle’s menagerie – the world’s oldest zoo - where century-old giant tortoises and red pandas rub shoulders with owls, ponies, creepy crawlies, wild cats, giant sloths and even toothsome crocodiles.
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- 36 rue Geoffroy-Saint-Hilaire, 2 rue Buffon et 57 rue Cuvier, 5e, Paris, France
Spend a day at Le Bourget
At Le Bourget’s Musée de l’Air et l’Espace (Air and Space museum) you'll find over 350 flying machines, including Concorde and a Boeing 747. Fasten your seatbelt for the flight simulators, where you can test your take-off and landing skills, or climb inside the cockpit of a Douglas DC-3. Most exciting of all, however, is Le Bourget’s space section, where you can see a Soviet moon buggy, space suits and a scale model of Ariane’s rocket launchers.
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The fairytale begins on line A of the RER, which transports you straight from central Paris to the land of Mickey and chums in around 40 minutes. Yes, Disneyland Resort ® Paris is expensive; yes you can queue for hours; and yes, when it rains, it’s not just the fun that’s dampened. But something keeps the kids keen, making it an unmissable stop on the family circuit. Disneyland’s hottest family rides to check out include Buzz Light Year’s Laser Blast®, Pirates of the Caribbean, and if you’re travelling with young children, It’s a Small World.
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- Marne-la-Vallée, France, 77700
We challenge you to find a more gorgeous cinema than the 19th-century Japanese style Pagode on rue de Babylone. What started out as an eccentric present for the wife of Bon Marché department store founder François-Emile Morin (in 1896), is now a romantic cinema for arthouse movie-lovers with period touches that include silky woven fabric on the walls, golden lights and dragon carvings over the grandiose doorways. On a warm day, have a cup of tea in the Pagode’s bamboo-speckled Japanese garden.
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- 57 bis rue de Babylone, 7e, Paris, France
Devote a day to Saint-Germain des Près
Start the day in the Musée Delacroix, the artist’s former apartment and workshop on rue Furstenberg. From here it’s a short stroll to Eglise St-Germain, Paris’s oldest church and nearby literary cafés, the world famous Café de Flore and Café des Deux Magots. After a restorative drink, indulge in a hand-made chocolate at Christian Constant or opt for punitions (punishment) at Poilane bakery: these oddly named biscuits dunk exceptionally well in coffee and punish only your waistline.
Read more about Musée Delacroix, Eglise St-Germain, Café de Flore, Christian Constant and Poliane
Thick-thighed athletes with odd shaped balls aren’t the only folk who get to run around the Stade de France these days. When Rugby and football matches aren’t on, you can buy a ticket to tour the stadium and see what it’s like back-stage. Learn how the 80,000-seater was built, tread the edges of the pitch, enter the VIP stand, and check out the changing rooms where the world’s biggest sportsmen have stood in their birthday suits. The Stade de France also holds concerts by international superstars, so check out what’s on before your trip.
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- Visite guidée depuis l'entrée Porte H, Stade de France, Saint-Denis, France, 93200
Most museums have a café, but few are as charming as the one at Musée Jacquemart André set in the dining room of a sumptuous 18th-century mansion near the Champs Elsyées. Get sticky with the cake trolley before you visit the museum proper; the pistachio slice filled with raspberries and vanilla cream is heavenly. After your snack, head to the Grand Salons with their18th-century treasures signed Boucher, Chardin and Caneletto. Don't miss Jacquemart André’s winter garden too, which wows with a monumental iron, marble and bronze staircase whose delicate curves and pillars wouldn’t look amiss in a Perrault fairy-story.
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- 158 boulevard Haussmann, 8e, Paris, France
Paris is pretty damn' gorgeous on ground level, but seen from an IXAIR chopper it’s even lovelier. You’re won’t fly over the centre, but setting off from IXAIR’s Héliport de Paris, you still get a breathtaking sweep over the city’s western extremities, including the Eiffel Tower. From here it’s on to the Château de Versailles, the Chevreuse Valley (itself dotted with castles) and the stunning Abbaye de Chaalis.
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- 4 avenue de la Porte de Sèvres, 15e, Paris
The Institut du Monde Arabe and the Mosquée de Paris
Start a Middle Eastern-flavoured day with a visit to the Institut du Monde Arabe. Not only is the museum an architectural gem, with external camera apertures that contract and expand with the sunlight to regulate the light inside, it's also home to one of Europe’s most comprehensive collections dedicated to the history and culture of Arab countries. Stick with the theme for lunch, and walk to the nearby Mosquée de Paris (Paris Mosque), where you can tuck into spice-infused couscous and oriental pastries in romantic Moorish surroundings.
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Follow your nose to the pongiest museum in Paris, the Musée des Egouts (sewer museum), which, true to its name, takes you deep into Paris’s sewer system. As you travel through its tunnels, past sluices and street signs indicating which avenues you’re walking under, you'll pick up fascinating titbits about the city’s entrails from Antiquity to the 19th-century when engineer Belgrand built the system still used today. It also opens your eyes to the invaluable work today’s sewermen do to keep the city and its water clean. It sometimes gets whiffy and after heavy rainfall it might be closed for flooding (check beforehand), but the Musée des Egouts makes for a truly offbeat visit.
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- Entrée face au 93 quai d'Orsay, Pont de l'Alma, 7e, Paris, France
Château de Versailles
No, you have not died and gone to gold-leaf heaven: this is Château de Versailles, the palace where Sun King Louis XIV lived a sumptuous, clockwork existence before the eyes of hundreds of courtiers. Every room is draped in gold, every nook is sculpted and every cranny conceals a treasure. When you’ve had enough of the superlative interior design, loose yourself in Le Nôtre’s landscaped gardens, where fountains, alleys and waterways provide ample diversions. Roughly twice a week, Château de Versailles’ Opéra Royal holds wonderful ballet and classical music performances: make sure to check the dates before your visit.
With the Gaïté Lyrique, Paris has tuned in to the hitherto-unexplored realms of digital art. You'll enjoy a stream of progressive expos given over to today’s best digital artists before checking out the workshop on the first floor, where you can watch a resident artist create in real time. If you’re into video games, the Jeux Vidéo section regularly showcases experimental games for you to test. Then hang about after hours (preferably in the Gaïté Lyrique’s next-door bar) for the electronic music concerts, which frequently combine the best of cutting-edge film, art and digital sound.
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- 3 bis rue Papin, 3e, Paris
Longchamp is a race track in the Bois de Boulogne where the famous Arc de Triomphe race (France’s answer to Ascot) takes place, but there’s plenty of action all year round, including the Dimanches au Galop family events between April and October. Picnic on the lawns, watch your blankets tremble as the horses whoosh by and let your kids pretend they’re racing on the pony rides. Come to Longchamp at the right time and you can also watch the jockeys being weighed in and see the thoroughbreds strut around the paddocks before the race.
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- Route des Tribunes, 16e, Paris, France
Spend a day in Bercy
In the 19th-century, Bercy was the world’s largest wine market. So much liquor was consumed there that the term fièvre de Bercy (Bercy fever) became slang for getting blind drunk. Nowadays the only drinking you and your buddies will be doing is in the bars that line Bercy Village, where former cellars contain eateries, pubs and shops. But there’s plenty of non-alcoholic entertainment too. For films, check out the Cinémathèque, which retraces the history of cinema, or watch Hollywood blockbusters at UGC. Just beyond the modern Parc de Bercy, the Palais des Omnisports has an ice-rink and a concert stadium regularly frequented by international stars.
Read more about Cinémathèque, UGC, Parc de Bercy and Palais des Omnisports
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