Ah, gay Paree, what are you like? There are so many marvellous sights here… yet we all have so little time to see them. It stinks of unfairness. And whether you’re a first-timer or a Paris regular, the same goes – how do you even go about planning a day out here?
Happily, Paris is so walkable that you can hit many of its headline acts without even setting foot on the metro. (And let’s be honest, being a flâneur for the day is an essential part of the Paris experience anyway.) So whack on those walking shoes and dig into our short guide to the 50 best attractions in Paris. Whether you’re mad about museums, live music or shopping, our ultimate run-down of the city’s most charming spots should have you hooked – and no doubt desperate to return.
RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Paris
Best attractions in Paris
Quite possibly the most famous man-made structure in the world, the Eiffel Tower was originally erected as a temporary exhibit for the Exposition Universelle of 1889. It provides heart-stopping views over Paris and is visible from most vantage points across the city. Aside from the new glass floor installed in 2014, which truly messes with your perception if you’re brave enough to walk across 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: A meal at Alain Ducasse’s Michelin-starred Jules Verne on the second floor.
Thanks to centuries of makeovers, the Château de Versailles can claim the title of most sumptuous pad in Paris. Once a modest hunting lodge, the building has grown with each resident and has 2,300 rooms that have housed various French royalty over the years. The majority of the lavish work was commissioned by Louis XIV in 1678, who is responsible for adding the wondrous Hall of Mirrors, as well as the elegant and expansive grounds. It can get busy at peak times, so book a skip-the-line ticket beforehand and arrive early.
Don’t miss: If you’re visiting during summer, there are magnificent musical fountain shows at night.
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, including many who perished during the Revolutionary Terror. In these damp, cramped corridors, you’ll find the bones of Marat, Robespierre and their cronies packed in with wall upon wall of fellow citizens.
Don’t miss: The entrance to the ossuary, where there’s a sign which says: ‘Stop! This is the empire of death.’ Eek!
In its 120 years of 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 can-can 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 ‘half-time’ acts are funny. It’s the ultimate French night out. Just add champagne.
Don’t miss: A trip to tapas joint Le Bar à Bulles, which you’d be forgiven for missing since it’s on the roof.
The Palais Garner is a 2,000-seat auditorium and the very pinnacle of Parisian opulence – from the classical sculptures on its 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 roll up to.)
Don’t miss: The Paris Opera Ballet’s regular shows.
The Parc des Buttes-Chaumont is the centrepiece of the north-eastern Belleville neighbourhood. It’s perhaps a little less formal than other green spaces in Paris, but so worth the uphill stroll. It’s often missed by weekenders keen not to stray too far from the tourist loop, but this 19th arrondissement beauty is one of the city’s most magical spots. The park, with its meandering paths, waterfalls, temples and cliffs, was designed by Adolphe Alphand for Haussmann, and was opened as part of the celebrations for the Exposition Universelle in 1867.
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 Défense and the Louvre. It’s also a plum spot for observing Parisian driving techniques around the unmarked traffic island below: 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 seen as the beginning of the French Resistance against Nazi occupation.
For the last two decades the Marais (sandwiched between St-Paul and République) has been one of the trendiest parts of the city. It’s 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 this is also prime territory for art lovers, with a vast concentration of galleries (both big and small) and museums, more often than not set in aristocratic 18th-century mansions.
Don’t miss: The legendary falafel outlet L’As du Fallafel, if you want to put a pitta something in your stomach.
Few department stores cause jaws to drop quite like the Galeries Lafayette, but it’s impossible to look up and not feel awestruck. The latticed glass and wrought iron ceiling domes over shoppers, allowing a kaleidoscope of light to filter through. Of course, there’s great shopping to be done and food to be had, but we’d recommend beelining for the roof. If you think it looks great from below, you should see it from above, where you’ll also find fab views of the city and a rooftop café. And the best part? The panoramas are totally free.
Don’t miss: The sort-of secret rooftop, which boasts one of the most splendid views of Paris you can imagine, looking out on to the Grand Palais and the Eiffel Tower.
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 all with a 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 redecorated.
This incredibly well-manicured park is a lovely place to stop and take in the sights from a riverside bench. It comprises a row of lawns interrupted by water features, floral displays and a network of gravelled 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, the Seine and the Louvre, the 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.
Having been commissioned following the 1870 defeat in the Franco-Prussian War and the Paris Commune of 1871, work on this enormous mock Romano-Byzantine edifice began in 1877. Paid for from the public purse and 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 be wary of all the hawkers trying to sell you bracelets. Keep them off your wrist – because once it’s there, you’re paying for it!
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 – because 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 you up to the building’s roof.
Don’t miss: The ice rink that’s installed near the tower in winter.
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 gorgeous and borderline trippy.
Don’t miss: The other stars hanging on the walls here, including fellow French masters Cézanne, Renoir, Rousseau and Derain, as well as Picasso and Modigliani.
This historic market was named after the orphanage that occupied the site in the 1500s. ‘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 – fast-forward 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.
If you know the Hunchback, you know the cathedral. After Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel ‘The Hunchback of Notre-Dame’, Disney’s plucky ’90s movie brought the wonderfully foreboding Gothic architecture of the historic icon (built between 1163 and 1345) to a whole new generation. Even after the inferno that tore through the roof in April 2019, which millions watched unfold on screens worldwide, the Cathédrale Notre-Dame still stands majestic on the Île de la Cité. On your next visit, look up at its timeless façade and imagine its future – just how will they rebuild this sacred beast?
Don’t miss: When one day they do reopen the cathedral to the public, get stuck into their busy programme of regular classical concerts. The acoustics in the nave have to be heard to be believed.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton’s 11 ultra-sleek galleries opened in the Bois de Boulogne in 2014. Since then, Frank Gehry’s astonishing building has played host to a rotating programme of shows by high-profile modern and contemporary artists.
Don’t miss: The events that run alongside the exhibitions – there are frequent appearances by big-name artists and curators.
One of the more risqué contenders on the Parisian cabaret scene, the art du nu of Le Crazy Horse was pioneered by Alain Bernadin in the 1950s, and still pulls in punters aplenty. It remains dedicated to all things feminine and sexy: lookalike dancers with curious stage names like Enny Gmatic and Hippy Bang Bang all bear the same bodily dimensions. (When standing, the girls’ nipples and hips are all the same height – it’s a requirement.) Expect lots of rainbow-hued light and artfully located strips of black tape. Old-school, self-respecting cabaret.
Don’t miss: ‘Striptease Moi’, a sensual gender-bending show with a daft ending.
The 19th-century Canal de l’Ourcq ends its journey – after a 100km journey from the river Ourcq in Picardie – in front of the arty MK2 cinemas at Stalingrad’s Bassin de la Villette. Like the Canal Saint-Martin further south, the Canal de l’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 péniches (canal boats) that double up as a bar, a theatre and a bookshop.
One of the most historic markets in Paris, Marché d’Aligre has survived revolutions, riots and waves of gentrification. But whatever tribulations come their way, the vendors continue to flog their second-hand garments, bric-à-brac and cheap food on this stretch near Bastille. Your experience of this bustling market will hinge on which part you head to; the top of the street is a good spot for cheap-ish seasonal produce, while if you make for the covered Beauvau market you’ll find the dearer fishmongers and butchers.
Don’t miss: The artisanal stalls in the main yard which sell books, African masks and other trinkets.
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 Chopin and Liszt. The museum is mainly dedicated to Sand, but also displays Scheffer’s paintings and other mementoes from the Romantic era. Renovated in 2013, the museum’s tree-lined courtyard café and greenhouse make for a perfect summertime retreat.
Don’t miss: Since you’re in the area, check out the Musée National Gustave Moreau. There’s a surprise waiting for you at the top.
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 1930s. 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 18th and 19th-century Paris, there were lots of glass-roofed shopping galleries in areas around the Grands Boulevards. These covered passages – essential precursors to the modern-day shopping centre – 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 dog excrement you’d trodden through was scraped off your shoes. These days, the passages couverts are perfect little hideaways for an afternoon’s retail therapy.
Don’t miss: Galerie Vivienne is the best known, appreciated above all for its ochre-coloured décor 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. In fact, it was for budgetary reasons. Happily, the venue has truly flourished since, hosting acclaimed 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 (Roberto Braga, Wang Du, Theaster Gates 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: Everything else here. There’s Le Yoyo club, an excellent 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.
You couldn’t come to Paris without making the most of the world’s largest museum. Its maze of corridors, galleries and stairways create a city within a city – especially when you take into account the numbers that visit (a whopping 10.2 million in 2018). Be patient and make your way steadily through the crowds. There are 35,000 works on public display, split across eight departments and three wings, but you’d be best picking the parts you want to see beforehand. If you want a few starter tips, we recommend a trip to the impressive Islamic arts galleries, which opened in 2012. For the Mona Lisa, head to the Salle de la Joconde.
Don’t miss: If the crowds sound like too much to bear, try 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 finally reopened in October 2014, so once again Parisians could enjoy some of the Spanish maestro’s finest artworks including ‘La Celestina’, ‘The Supplicant’ and ‘Portrait of Marie-Thérèse Walter’. Set in 17-century mansion the Hôtel Salé in the heart of the Marais, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. Now in its fourth decade, 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, Mirò and his frenemy Matisse.
Paris’s street art scene first came into being 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 whole areas into outdoor art galleries. By its very nature, this stuff tends to move, vanish and change a lot – so take a look at dedicated blogs for up-to-date info.
Don’t miss: We recommend the Rue Dénoyez in Belleville. Even during the day, there are always a couple of graffeurs at work.
The Rodin Museum is based at the hôtel particulier where the sculptor spent his final years 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. There are works by van Gogh, Monet, Renoir and Carrière here too.
Don’t miss: The gardens, a gallery space in themselves. Look out for the ‘Burghers of Calais’, ‘The Gates of Hell’, and ‘The Thinker’.
In the North-East of Paris by Porte de Pantin Metro station, this grandiose venue aims to make classical music accessible and non-elitist, drawing in novices well as seasoned concert-goers. This all hinges on the tickets staying affordable – slyly undercutting rivals 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: The Philharmonie’s rooftop with spectacular views, open throughout the summer.
When the Pompidou opened in 1977, its success exceeded all expectations. The museum’s ‘inside-out’ appearance – with pipes, air ducts and escalators proudly gracing the exterior – has made it one of the best-known sights in Paris. After a two-year revamp, completed in 2000, the building grew, with a larger museum, renewed performance spaces and vista-rich Georges restaurant added. 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: Obvious, but the slow ascent up the escalators really is worth the fee. Nothing beats the moment you rise above the rooftops.
The old train tracks connecting Bastille and Vincennes are now 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, pack a picnic and stop in the Jardin de Reuilly, where there’s (no joke) Paris’s first sparkling 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 on Rue Rambouillet which is decorated in enormous 1930s-style muses.
In the Musée Carnavalet, currently closed for renovations but due to reopen late 2019, a staggering 140 rooms tell the chronological history of Paris – from the days of pre-Roman Gaul right up to the 20th 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 16th-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.
Built under Napoleon between 1805 and 1825, it brought drinking water and merchandise to the Imperial capital; from the late 19th century 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.
This is thought to be the world’s biggest flea market – 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 set-up on 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 restaurants and takeaways are supplanting the struggling traders. But whatever sanitisation is sanding the edges of the Puces, it still makes for an exhilarating experience.
Don’t miss: There’s only one ATM – so make sure you come with a bulging wallet.
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 gorgeous 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.
Don’t miss: A game of ‘who can spot the oldest tree?’ in the botanical gardens next door. The black acacia planted in 1636 is particularly striking.
The Champs-Élysées 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 give 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 their long snouts above the surface. There’s also a section showing the species of fish that manage to survive in the Seine despite the pollution. Some visitors might find the admission fee trop cher, but it really is a brilliant way to spend a long afternoon.
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 Delaunay, 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.
Shakespeare & Company is a Left Bank bookshop, and so much more besides. For more than 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. There’s a sizeable used and antiquarian section, while the main store is a sprawling network of grotto-like spaces. Shakespeare & Company has appeared in countless films, books and memoirs – and when you get lost among its volume-lined corridors, you really come to see why.
Don’t miss: The regular events they put on here, which including readings from high-profile authors.
Twice a week, the Marché Bastille takes over 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 other quintessentially French things. Making your way through this vibrant market is a truly atmospheric experience.
Don’t miss: Saturdays, when the food sellers are replaced by arts and crafts merchants. It’s a 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 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 kisses from visiting admirers, now with transparent barriers), the talent-spotting is endless.
Don’t miss: Oscar Wilde’s tomb: much like the man himself, it’s ostentatious and flamboyant.
This ultra-modern science museum pulls in five million visitors a year. Explora, the permanent show, occupies the upper two floors, whisking visitors through 30,000-square-metre that looks at space, life, matter and communication in all its complexity: highlights include scale models of satellites including the Ariane space shuttle, planes and robots, plus the chance to experience weightlessness. The hothouse garden investigates developments in agriculture and bio-technology.
Don’t miss: The Espace Images, where you can play around with a delayed camera, draw 3D images on a computer and lend your voice to the Mona Lisa.
A bit like Madame Tussauds, but more kitsch, the Musée Grévin is a guaranteed winner with kids that need entertaining. Here they can have their photos taken alongside waxworks of showbiz stars and personalities like 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 trippy hall of mirrors designed by American artist Krysle Lip.
As city rivers go, the Seine must be 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 Bateaux-Mouches boats. Okay, they tend to be heaving with sightseers (which is why Parisians tend to avoid them like the plague), but if you don’t mind the touristy ambience, you’ll be in for a treat.
Don’t miss: Stop off at the Île Saint-Louis for lunch at an old-time bistro.
Tucked away at the back of Sacré-Coeur, beside Montmartre’s vineyard, sits the Jardin Sauvage Saint-Vincent. It’s part of a very old stretch of fallow land that was abandoned to nature. All the trees, plants and flowers are self-sown – in fact, the garden was ordained as an official biodiversity enclave in 1987. You’ll find hundreds of different types of flora and fauna here, from horse chestnut trees to pond-dwelling toads.
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 Thorns, and wanted a shrine to house it. The result was one heck of a monument: the marvellous, glittering Sainte-Chapelle. Its 15-metre windows are truly jaw-dropping, depicting hundreds of scenes from the Bible and culminating in the Apocalypse in the rose window.
Don’t miss: The occasional classical and gospel concerts that take place here. It makes for an eerily poignant venue.
You can’t go wrong with a Natural History Museum. 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 contains the bony remains of fish, birds, monkeys, dinosaurs and humans. You won’t know where to look first.
Don’t miss: Venturing into the Jardin des Plantes complex to find the small Ménagerie zoo, plus separate pavilions containing hunks of meteorites and crystals in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie.
With its giant climbing frames, burger bar and children’s art centre, the 19th’s Parc de la Villette is a hub of outdoor fun. 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 that takes place on the lawns every summer.
In Élancourt – five minutes by train from Versailles – you’ll find a five-hectare, scaled-down version of... France itself, 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 small 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 other fun things to do here – like exploring a replica of one of the Lascaux caves.
There are actually two parks to explore here: one is Parc Disneyland, the other the SFX-oriented Parc Walt Disney Studios. And then there’s Disney Entertainment Village, which 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 various distinct 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. Sure, you’re paying more, but it gets you right past the queues for the most sought-after attractions.