Discover the 50 best attractions in Paris
The most famous edifice in the world, the Eiffel Tower, was originally erected as a temporary exhibit for a World Fair. It provides heart-stopping views over Paris and is visible from most vantage points across the city. Apart from the new glass floor installed in 2014, which truly messes with your perception if you're brave enough to walk over it, there’s also a panoramic champagne bar on the third floor, a brasserie, and a Michelin-starred restaurant. At night, the Eiffel’s girders sparkle like fairy lights on a Christmas tree (every hour, on the hour).
Don't miss: Booking in for a meal at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Jules Verne eatery.
This incredibly well manicured length of verdant beauty is a lovely place to stop and take in the city’s prettiest sides. It comprises a row of lawns interrupted by water features, floral displays and a network of graveled walkways. Art enthusiasts will enjoy the handful of modern sculptures, including bronzes by Laurens, Moore, Ernst and Giacometti. And with a location slap bang between place de la Concorde and the Louvre, Jardin des Tuileries is easy to get to.
Don't miss: Each summer, a funfair sets up along the rue de Rivoli side of the gardens.
Give your legs a workout and climb the 284 steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. The views sweep in geometric splendour between the arc of La Defense and the Louvre. It’s also a plum spot for observing Parisian driving techniques: the unmarked traffic island creates speedy anarchy – in fact, have an accident here and it’s automatically 50/50 on the insurance claim, no matter whose fault it is. Back on solid ground, spare a thought for the Unknown Soldier whose grave sits solemnly in the centre of the arch.
Don't miss: The bronze plaque on the ground, that features a transcript of Charles de Gaulle’s famous 1940 radio broadcast from London: a rally cry often seen as the beginning of the French Resistance to Nazi occupation.
Centuries of makeovers have made Versailles the most sumptuously clad château in the world – a brilliant, unmissable cocktail of extravagance. Okay, so you’ll have to catch a train to the outskirts of Paris, but boy is it worth it. Commissioned in 1678 by Louis XIV, the palace houses an incredible Hall of Mirrors, expansive grounds boasting terraces, parterres, lush groves and a spectacular series of fountains, and it’s the site where the famous Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919.
Don't miss: The gardens are a real sight for eyes – and if you’re visiting during the summertime, there are the magnificent night musical fountain shows.
The Palaise Garner is a 2,000-seat auditorium, and the very model of opulence – from the classical sculptures across the exterior to the mirrors, marble and parquet flooring of the Grand Foyer. There’s also the Grand Escalier, all red satin and velvet boxes, plus the library, museums and emperor’s private salons. (As you might expect, he didn’t fancy taking the front entrance with the rest of the hoi polloi, preferring instead an exclusive entrance at the rear of the building that his carriage could rock up to.)
Don't miss: the actual programme of shows and events themselves, not least from the National Ballet de Paris.
Let’s face it – you’re not going to be visiting Debenham’s just to see the ceiling, are you? But at the Galeries Lafayette, the kaleidoscopic glass roof is simply jaw-droppig – especially at Christmas time, when there’s an enormous tree in the centre. This department store has been going through a large-scale programme of renovation recently; Espace Luxe has opened on the first floor, which features high-end prêt-à-porter and accessories and nine avant-garde designers.
Don't miss: the sort-of secret rooftop, which boasts one of the most splendid views of Paris you can imagine, looking out onto the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower.
Having been commissioned after the nation's defeat by Prussia in 1870 and paid for from the public’s pocket, work on this enormous mock Romano-Byzantine edifice began in 1877. Finally completed almost half a century later, in 1914, it was consecrated in 1919, by which time a jumble of architects had succeeded Paul Abadie, winner of the original competition. The results are impressive, especially given its prominent position atop the hill of Montmartre, and the interior is covered in lavish mosaics.
Don't miss: The sweeping views of the city from the lawns outside. Just stay conscious of all the hawkers trying to sell you bracelets. Keep them off your wrist – because once it’s there, you’re paying for it!
For the last two decades the Marais (sandwiched between St-Paul and République) has been one of the hippest parts of the city. Packed with modish hotels, vintage boutiques, restaurants and bars – in no small part due to its popularity with the gay crowd (this is the only part of Paris where the blokes get winked at more than the ladies). But it's also prime territory for art lovers, with a vast concentration of galleries (both small and important) and museums, more often than not set in aristocratic 18th-century mansions.
Don't miss: The legendary falafal outlet L’As du Fallafel, if you want to put a pitta something in your stomach.
Jackets at the ready, there’s a chill running through the Catacombes. This 3,000km (1,864-mile) network of tunnels runs under much of the city, containing the bones of six million people who perished in the era of the Revolutionary Terror. These include the bones of Marat, Robespierre and their cronies packed in with wall upon wall of fellow citizens. The damp, cramped mines take you through a series of galleries before you reach the ossuary, the entrance to which is announced by a sign engraved in the stone: 'Stop! This is the empire of death.'
Don't miss: The entrance to the ossuary, where there’s a sign which says: ‘Stop! This is the empire of death.’ Eek!
The Tour Montparnasse was built in 1974 on the site of the Metro station of the same name. At 209 metres, this steel-and-glass colossus isn’t quite the height of the Eiffel Tower – but it boasts far better views, since they actually include the Eiffel Tower! A super-fast lift sends you soaring skyward to the 56th floor, where there’s a display filled with aerial pics of Paris, plus a café and souvenir shop. On a clear day, you can see up to 25 miles away, while a second lift will take up to the building’s roof.
Don't miss: the ice rink that’s installed there in winter months. Skating around here is terrific fun.
Constructed between 1163 and 1334, Notre-Dame remains a high point of Gothic architecture. Two foreboding towers loom over its great stone buttresses and dark, rising spire. Inside, take a moment to admire the long nave with its solid foliate capitals and high altar with a marble Pietà by Coustou. Then, after a detour to see the Bourdon (the massive bell Quasimodo rang in Victor Hugo's novel), take a staircase leading to the top of the south tower where the views are utterly breathtaking.
Don't miss: The busy programme of regular classic concerts. The acoustics in the nave here have to be heard to be believed.
One of the more risqué contenders on the Parisian cabaret scene, the art du nu of Le Crazy Horse was invented in 1951 by Alain Bernadin, and still pulls in punters aplenty. It remains dedicated to all things sexy and feminine: lookalike dancers with curious stage names like Enny Gmatic and Hippy Bang Bang all bear the same body dimensions. (When stood, the girls’ nipples and hips are all the same height.) Expect lots of rainbow-coloured light and artfully located strips of black tape. Old-school, self-respecting cabaret.
Don't miss: ‘Striptease Moi’, a sensual gender-bending set with a daft ending.
This historical market was named after the orphanage that occupied the site in the 1500s. The ‘rouge’ was the colour of the children’s clothes: it marked that they had been donated by Christian charities. The orphanage was dissolved before the time of the revolution – flashforward a couple of hundred years, and in 2000 a chi-chi food market was opened here. It’s eminently popular with tourists, and we defy anybody who arrives here with any empty stomach to not spend all their loose change on the Italian, Lebanese, African, Japanese produce and all sorts of other wares.
Don't miss: the giant tagines at Le Traiteur Marocain. Simply superb.
Over its 120-year existence, the Moulin Rouge has seen showbiz stars, musicians, actors and stately names pass through its doors. And, tourists aside, this cabaret venue is also iconic for Parisians, who go more for the club scene at The Machine and rooftop Bar à Bulles that lie within. On stage, 60 Cancan dancers cavort with faultless synchronisation for two hours in the Féerie show. Costumes are flamboyant, legs kick higher than you’d think possible and the 'halftime' acts are funny. It's the ultimate French night out. Just add champagne.
Don't miss: A trip to the tapas bar Le Bar à Bulles, which you’d be forgiven for missing since it’s on the rooftop.
The old Belle Époque Orsay train station was converted into the Musée D’Orsay in 1986 to house one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist and Post-impressionist art. Aside from works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh and Toulouse-Lautrec, you'll find a dapper collection of decorative arts from the Art Nouveau era and a wide range of 19th-century sculpture. Digest it over coffee in the café behind the museum’s giant transparent clock.
Don't miss: The superb coffee shop/café tucked behind the clock (designed by the Campana brothers). It's submarine-themed, in homage to Jules Verne's Nautilus, and has recently been treated to an invigorating lick of paint.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is a great beauty of Bellville. Perhaps a little less formal than the other green spaces in Paris, but completely worth the uphill stroll. It's often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, but this 19th arrondissement gem is one of the city's most magical spots. The park, with its meandering paths, waterfalls, temples and vertical cliffs, was designed by Adolphe Alphand for Haussmann, and was opened as part of the celebrations for the Universal Exhibition in 1867.
Don't miss: Getting a drink at one of the hugely hip hangouts, the wonderfully jolly Rosa Bonheur or Pavillon Puebla.
The Rodin Museum is based at the hôtel particulier where the famous sculptor spent his final years, up until his death in 1917. You’ll find many of his great works here, including ‘The Kiss’, ‘The Cathedral’, ‘The Walking Man’ and many other busts and terracottas. You’ll also find work on display by Camille Claudel, Rodin’s pupil and mistress (hey, it was all a bit more nebulous in those days). There’s additional works by Van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Carrière too.
Don't miss: The gardens: a gallery space in themselves. Look out for ‘Burghers of Calais’, ‘The Gates of Hell’, and ‘The Thinker’.
Fondation Louis Vuitton’s ultra-sleek, ultra-slick modern art gallery opened in the Bois de Boulogne in 2014. Since then, Frank Gehry’s astonishing building has played host to a rotating programme of exhibitions by high-profile modern and contemporary artists across its 11 galleries.
Don't miss: The events that run alongside the exhibitions – there are frequent appearances by big-name artists and curators.
This being principally about Monet, expect lots of tourists, and long queues. But don’t let that put you off visiting – across its stripped-back, fuss-free exhibition spaces, some truly stunning works by the impressionist master are on display. His eight gargantuan ‘Water Lilies’ occupy two oval-shaped rooms; painted in the gardens at his home in Giverny, they’re dreamish, gorgeous and borderline trippy.
Don't miss: The other stars hanging on the walls here, including fellow French masters like Cézanne, Renoir, Rousseau, Derain, as well as Picasso and Modigliani.
The nineteenth-century Canal de l’Ourcq ends its journey – after a 100km journey from the river Ourcq in Picardie, that is – in front of the arty MK2 cinemas at Stalingrad’s Bassin de la Villette. Like the Canal-St-Martin, further downstream, the Canal del’Ourcq draws a trendy crowd, from students to thirtysomethings with young families, who come to play boules on the sandy stretches, picnic on the water’s edge, and even play ping-pong in the playground areas.
Don't miss: The various peniches lining the waters, where you’ll find a bar, bookshop, and fresh food market.
When Dutch artist Ary Scheffer built this small villa in 1830, the area teemed with composers, writers and artists. Novelist George Sand was a guest at Scheffer's soirées, along with great names such as Chopin and Liszt. The museum is devoted to Sand, plus Scheffer’s paintings and other mementoes of the Romantic era. Newly renovated in 2013, the museum’s tree-lined courtyard café and greenhouse are the perfect summer secret garden.
One of the real veteran markets of Paris, Marché d’Aligre has survived revolutions, riots and waves of gentrification. But whatever the trials or tribulations, the vendors continue to flog their second-hand garments, bric-a-brac and cheap food without batting an eyelid. Your experience of this bustling market will hinge on where you head to; the top of the street is a good spot for seasonal produce (fruit and veg are (€1 to €3 a kilo), and if you make for the covered Beauveau market you’ll find the dearer fishmongers and butchers.
Don’t miss: The artisinal stalls in the main yard as little treasure troves of books, African masks and other trinkets.
One of the city’s illest-kept secrets, La Petite Ceinture is a sort of pedestrian equivalent to the boulevard périphérique. What is it? Basically, an out-of-use railway that girdles Paris like, well, a little belt – hence the name. The track has been in disrepair since the last train made its swansong route in the previous decade. At the moment, the city council is unsure what to do with La Petite Ceinture – for now, it remains an, ahem, unauthorised way of navigating Paris.
Don't miss: The belt’s access points, which aren’t particularly policed. Travel and city blogs will offer advice on where to find them.
In eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Paris, the areas around the Grands Boulevards of today built lots of glass-roofed shopping galleries. These covered passages – essential precursors to the modern-day shopping centres – allowed you to take shortcuts, escape the elements or (ooh la la!) steal a forbidden kiss with your lover in relative privacy. Somewhat less romantically, most passages were also given a salon de décrottage: a room where the poop you’d trotten through was scraped off your shoes. These days, the passages couverts are perfect little hideaways for hours of retail therapy.
Don't miss: Galerie Vivienne is particularly love, with its ochre-coloured decor and mythology-themed mosaics. We love the tearoom there too!
When the Palais de Tokyo opened in 2002, many thought its no-frills aesthetic was something of a deliberate statement. Actually, it was for budgetary reasons. This 1937 building has now truly flourished as an institution, hosting accalimed exhibitions and performances in its open-plan space. Extended hours and a cool café bring in younger audiences, and the roll-call of artists is impressive (Pierre Joseph, Wang Du and others). The name dates to the 1937 Exposition Internationale, but is also a reminder of links with a new generation of artists from the Far East.
Don't miss: The other opportunities for fun. There's Le Yoyo club, a great fashion and design bookshop, and two new restaurants. Oh, and during the summer head out to the terrace. Its view of the Eiffel Tower can’t be beaten.
The world's largest museum is also its most visited, with an incredible 8.1 million visitors in 2017. It is a city within the city, a vast, multi-level maze of galleries, passageways, staircases and escalators. It's famous for the artistic glories it contains within (like the Mona Lisa), but the museum is a masterpiece in itself - or rather, a collection of masterpieces modified and added to from one century to another. Some 35,000 works of art and artefacts are on show, split into eight departments and housed in three wings; the main draw, though, is the painting and sculpture. Be sure to check the website or lists in the Carrousel du Louvre to see which galleries are closed on certain days to avoid missing out on what you want to see.
Don't miss: If the crowds sound like too much to bear, head to the Louvre’s extended-hour evenings on Wednesdays and Fridays – open until 9.45pm, it’s significantly quieter.
After much building work and restoration, the Musée Picasso reopened in October 2014, and once again Parisians can enjoy some of the Spanish maestro’s finest artworks, such as ‘La Celestina’, ‘The Supplicant’ and ‘Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter’. Set in the great seventeenth-century Hôtel Salé in the heart of the historic Marais area, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. First opened 29 years ago, the Musée Picasso is one of the city’s most precious and prestigious institutions.
Don't miss: Head to the top of the museum and you’ll find Ol’ Pablo’s very own art collection, which includes some gorgeous works by Cézanne, Renoir, Miro and frenemy Matisse.
Paris’s street art scene first came into existence in the 1960s, and has been growing ever since. The city’s suburbs, outer arrondissements and centre provide plenty of wall space for local and international artists to get creative with their spray-cans and transform areas into sights of incredible art. By its nature, it tends to move, vanish and change a lot – so take a look at dedicated blogs for up-to-date info.
Don't miss: Canal Saint Martin is always a good space to head to get a cross-section of fantastic street art.
Located in the north-east of Paris by Porte de Pantin, this grandiose new venue aims to make classical music accessible and non-elitiest, drawing in novices well as seasoned concertgoers. This all hinges on the tickets staying eminently affordable – sly undercutting rival venues in the process. At a time when cultural activities are getting increasingly costly, the Philharmonie hopes to counter the trend much as the Opéra Bastille did for opera. Aesthetically impressive and large, this 2,400-seat concert hall frequently dazzles with season after season of eclectic concerts and events.
Don't miss: In summer 2017, the Philharmonie opened up a rooftop with spectacular views over Paris. We’re really hoping it makes a return!
The primary colours, exposed pipes and air ducts make the Centre Pompidou one of the best-known sights in Paris. Pompidou (or 'Beaubourg') holds the largest collection of modern art in Europe, rivalled only in its breadth and quality by MoMA in New York. The multi-disciplinary concept of the modern art museum (the most important in Europe), library, exhibition and performance spaces, and repertory cinema was also revolutionary. Entrance to the forum is free (as is the library, which has a separate entrance), but you now have to pay to go up the escalators.
Don't miss: The evening concerts (usually a Thursday) ranging from music to performance art. Check in advance to see what's on.
In the Musée Carnavalet, a staggering 140 rooms tell the chronological history of Paris – from the days of pre-Roman Gaul right up to the twentieth century. The building itself was constructed in 1548, transformed by Mansart in 1660 and turned into a museum in 1866, when the great city planner Haussmann persuaded the authorities to preserve its gorgeous interiors. Original sixteenth-century rooms contain Renaissance art collections of portraits, furniture and other artefacts.
Don't miss: Items belonging to Napoleon himself, a cradle given to Paris by his nephew Napoleon III, and a replica of author Marcel Proust’s cork-lined bedroom.
The old train tracks connecting Bastille and Vincennes were turned into La Coulée Verte: a five-kilometre trail of elevated gardens, the Jardin de Reuilly and tree-lined cyclepaths. All very green; all very pretty. If you kick off at the Bastille end, you can climb up one of the staircases on avenue Daumesnil to get sweeping views of the city. This can easily take up a whole day – if you want it to, then pack a picnic and stop in the Jardin de Reuilly, where there’s (no joke) Paris’s first fizzy water fountain. Then you can carry on to the glorious Bois de Vincennes, which has lakes and leafy, shaded parkland.
Don't miss: The police station, which is decorated in humungous 1930s-style muses.
Built under Napoleon between 1805 and 1825, it brought drinking water and merchandise to the Imperial capital; then from the late 19th-century onwards it housed factories and industrial warehouses. Nowadays, many of the factories have become lofts for Paris’s ever-growing Bobo (Bohemian-Bourgeois) population, and dozens of bars, restaurants and shops line its quaysides, making its iron footbridges and locks coveted spots for weekend strolls and picnics – especially on Sundays and public holidays when the roads are reserved for walkers and cyclists.
Heads rolled during the Terror, leaving many an aristocratic collection of exotic animals without a home. This ménagerie became the solution in 1794. Nowadays, its inhabitants include vultures, monkeys, orang-utans, ostriches, flamingos, a century-old turtle, plus another one rescued from the sewers, a lovely red panda and lots of satisfyingly scary spiders and snakes. There's a petting zoo with farm animals for small kids, and older ones can zoom in on microscopic species in the Microzoo.
The Marché is generally viewed as the biggest flea market on the planet – and at seven hectares in size, and with 3,000 traders and nearly 180,000 visitors each weekend, we ain’t arguing. It started life as a humble rag-and-bone setup outside the city’s edges – but has, perhaps inevitably, turned into a more upscale affair, with lots of boutiques and antique stalls. It feels just as much a museum as a market, and an increasing number of eateries are supplanting the struggling traders. But whatever sanitisation is sanding the edges of the Puces, it still makes for an exhilerating experience.
Don't miss: Don’t expect any card machines: you’ll be disappointed. And there’s only one ATM – so make sure you come with a bulging wallet (with pickpockets in mind).
It remains the shopping destination in Paris: a world-famous boulevard of consumer chic. This is no drab high street – the brands are high-end and the stores are filled with art installations, DJs and other things keeping the whole retail therapy thing as fresh and fun as possible. And the avenue itself is a wonder: deafening, overwhelming, but inimitably Parisian.
Don't miss: At Christmas time, the market and fairground at the foot of the Champs gives it a magical festive feel.
This fantastic attraction combines an aquarium and two-screen cinema, and has done much to help jolt the once rather drab Trocadéro back to life. Kids will go berserk for the shark tunnel and the petting pool, where you can stroke the friendly sturgeon who stick the long snouts above the water’s surface. There’s also a section which shows the species of fish that live in the Seine despite the pollution. Lots of visitors might find the admission fee trop cher – but it’s a brilliant way to spend a long afternoon, especially families.
Don't miss: Special kids’ shows take places on Wednesdays and weekends.
Paris’s foremost modern art collection is housed in a grand old 1930s building. Inside, you’ll find key works from the cubists and fauves, and artists like Robert and Sonia Delauney, Georges Rouault, Chaim Soutine and Kees van Dongen. The museum made international headlines in May 2010 when five paintings, including a Picasso, were stolen.
Don't miss: Visiting even if you’re skint – this is one of the scant number of museums in Paris with no admission charge.
One of the true jewels of Paris, Shakespeare & Company is a Left Bank bookshop, and so much more besides. For over 60 years, it’s been an intellectual gathering place, a cultural hub – and a place to kip for the numerous writers, bohemians, travellers and bookworms who have volunteered here in exchange for their services. There’s a sizeable used and antiquarian section, while the main store is a sprawling network of grotto-like spaces. Shakespeare & Son has appeared in countless numbers of films, books and memoirs – and when you get lost among its volume-lined corridors, you really come to understand its magic.
Don't miss: The regular events they put on here, which including readings from high-profile authors. There’s also a biennial literary festival to look out for.
Twice a week, the Marché Bastille runs along the Boulevard Richard Lenoir. It’s one of the capital’s biggest markets: a hive of food vendors selling local cheese, free-range chicken, fish, fruit, veg, sausages and all those quintessentially French things. Amongst the mounds of produce are other stalls selling cheap clothes and accessories. Making your way through this vibrant market is a truly atmospheric experience.
Don't miss: Saturdays, when the food sellors are replaced by arts and crafts merchants. It’s great opportunity to pick up affordable paintings and other handmade goodies.
Père-Lachaise is the celebrity cemetery – it has almost anyone French, talented and dead that you care to mention. Not even French, for that matter. Creed and nationality have never prevented entry: you just had to have lived or died in Paris or have an allotted space in a family tomb. From Balzac to Chopin to Oscar Wilde (the tomb worn away by the kisses of visiting admirers), the talent-spotting is endless. There are several tours to take you around this famous but calm Paris attraction.
Don't miss: Oscar Wilde’s tomb: much like the man himself, it’s ostentatious and flamboyant.
A bit like Madame Tussauds, but more kitsch, the Musée Grévin is a guaranteed winner with kids. Here they can have their photos taken alongside waxworks of showbiz stars and personalities like football star Zinédine Zidane, Brad Pitt, George Clooney, the Queen and Barack Obama. Great historical moments, such as Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, are re-created in the 'snapshots of the 20th-century' area. A small gallery at the top of a spiral staircase near the end shows how waxworks are made.
Don't miss: The impressive hall of mirrors (designed by France's fetish illusionist Arturo Brachetti and with music by Manu Katche) plunges you into scenes such as an Aztec temple.
As city rivers go, the Seine is among the prettiest. Punctuated by landmarks, spanned by historical bridges and dotted with tree-lined quays, there’s many a picture-postcard moment to be enjoyed here. And one of the best ways to absorb it all is from the deck of one of Paris’s iconic Baeaux-Mouches boats. Okay, they tend to be heaving with sightseers (which is why Parisians tend to avoid them like the plaguey), but if you don’t all the touristy ambience, you’ll be in for a right treat.
Tucked away at the back of Sacré-Coeur, beside Montmartre’s vineyard, sits the garden. It’s part of a very old stretch of fallow land that was left for nature to do its thing. All the trees, plants and flowers here are self-sown – in fact, the garden was ordained an official biodiversity enclave in 1987. You’ll find hundreds of different types of flora and fauna here – from the pond-dwelling toad to the horse chesnut trees..
Don’t miss: There are regular guided tours of the gardens, and better still, they’re free.
King Louis IX – who went on to become St Louis – was a fervently religious king. In the 1240s, he acquired what he’d been led to believe was Christ’s Crown of Thornes, and wanted a shrine to house it. The result was one heck of a shrine: the glittering marvel that is Sainte-Chapelle. Its 15-metre windows are truly jaw-dropping, depicted hundreds of scenes from the Bible, and culminating in the Apocalypse in the rose window. Fire and brimstone stuff!
Don't miss: the occasional music and gospel concerts that take place here. It makes for an eerily moving venue.
You can't go wrong with a Natural History Museum. The world over these are often the most fascinating and family-friendly places in any city, and Paris is no exception. At the Muséum National d'Histoire Naturelle's Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, stuffed creatures parade majestically through their various habitats. Animals of all kinds teach children about the diversity of nature and, in the endangered and vanished section (where a dodo takes pride of place), about the importance of protecting them. The museum holds bony remains of fish, birds, monkeys, dinosaurs and humans. You won't know where to look first.
Don't miss: Venturing out into the Jardin des Plantes complex to find the small Ménagerie zoo, separate pavilions containing hunks of meteorites and crystals in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie.
This ultra-modern science museum pulls in five million visitors a year. Explora, the permanent show, occupies the upper two floors, whisking visitors through 30,000sq m (320,000sq ft) of space, life, matter and communication: scale models of satellites including the Ariane space shuttle, planes and robots, plus the chance to experience weightlessness, make for an exciting journey. The hothouse garden investigates developments in agriculture and bio-technology.
Don't miss: The Espace Images, try the delayed camera and other optical illusions, draw 3D images on a computer or lend your voice to the Mona Lisa.
Based among the greenery of the 19th arrondissement, the Parc de la Villette is a hub of outdoor fun. The folies themselves serve as glorious giant climbing frames, as well as a first-aid post, burger bar and children's art centre. Kids shoot down a Chinese dragon slide, and an undulating suspended path follows the Canal de l'Ourcq. There are ten themed gardens bearing evocative names such as the Garden of Mirrors, of Mists, of Acrobatics and of Childhood Frights. South of the canal is Le Zénith, and the Grande Halle de la Villette – now used for trade fairs, exhibitions and September's jazz festival.
Don't miss: The open-air film festival on the lawns, every summer.
In Elancourt – five minutes on the train from Versailles – is a five-hectare, scaled-down version of... France itself! It’s complete with 116 hyper-realistic models at 1:30-scale. You can make your way through a route that takes in the ramparts of Carcassonne, a little Savoyard village, the Chambord castle – all the way to the port of Saint-Tropez. You can even check out the TGV crossing the Pont du Gard, plus Mont-Saint-Michel bathing in the centre of the artifical lake. Not one single French region goes unrepresented – and that includes the Mediterranean island of Corsica.
Don't miss: There are fun additional activities to get up to here – like exploring a replica of a Lascaux cave (where some of the oldest examples of art known to man can be found).
There are actually two parks to explore here: one is Parc Disneyland; the other is the SFX-oriented Parc Walt Disney Studios. Plus, Disney Entertainment Village is filled with places to eat, drink and party. It can all seem a bit vast and intimidating (well, as intimidating as anything inspired by a cartoon mouse can be). There are numerous different zones – Fantasyland, Discoveryland, Small World, Pirates of the Caribbean – and trust us, you won’t run out of stuff to keep you and the nippers occupied.
Don't miss: The Fastpass ticket option. Sure, you’re paying more – but it gets you right past the queues outside the most sought-after attractions.