Get us in your inbox

Search
Louvre tours: Skip the Line Louvre Museum Walking Tour

Your essential guide to sightseeing in Paris

Sightseeing in Paris? From the Louvre and Eiffel Tower to the lesser-known Buttes-Chaumont, here’s our ultimate city guide

Written by
Huw Oliver
&
Rhys Thomas
Contributor
Alex Floyd-Douglass
Advertising

Eiffel Tower – tick. Louvre – tick. Notre Dame – tick. We’re sure you’ve got the most famous of Paris sights and attractions right at the top of your holiday hit list. But what else should you try to squeeze into your packed Parisian itinerary? There’s almost too much to see and do in the French capital, let’s be honest, so we’re here to give you some guidance. From a charming mecca for bibliophiles to a stunning off-the-beaten-track park near Belleville, trust us: you’ll never get bored in the City of Light. This is our ultimate guide to sightseeing in Paris. So here we go, strap in, and get ready to say bonjour to these incredible sights. 

This article includes affiliate links. These links have no influence on our editorial content. For more information, click here

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best things to do in Paris

Sightseeing in Paris

Eiffel Tower
  • Attractions
  • Towers and viewpoints

Imagine the gaping hole in the Parisian skyline (and our hearts) if all 18,000 metal parts of Gustave Eiffel’s jaw-dropping monument had been taken down at the end of the 1889 World Fair as originally planned. Thankfully, this elegant Parisian icon is still standing and poised for selfie opportunities galore. You can ascend to different levels of the 300-metre structure – though bear in mind the very utmost part is closed at certain times of the year. When it's open though, there's a cosy salon up there to gaze at the whole of Paris from. Be sure to check the tower from afar in the evening too, when for ten minutes on-the-hour 20,000 flashbulbs light the tower. Come on, we know it looks a bit like a pylon, but you can't really do Paris without it. You just can't.

  • Attractions
  • Ternes

Sure, it's older and shorter than the Eiffel, but what's wrong with old and short things? Number two on your must-see-in-Paris list has to be the Arc de Triomphe. It’s a regal reminder of a time when Napoleon Bonaparte ruled the roost, proudly standing its ground as the roar of traffic whirs around its stone buttresses. In the Arc’s museum, you can learn about its 200-year-old history through interactive screens before jetting up to the roof, where gorgeous views of the city await. You're pretty close to some good shopping streets when done, too. Again, it's the Arc de Triomphe people. That's as Paris as Paris gets, save the Eiffel, of course. 

Advertising
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • Paris et sa banlieue

Despite its location on the fringes of Paris, it would be sacrilege to overlook Versailles, one of the most lavish buildings on the face of the earth. Making a full day of it is essential – wander through the ornate state apartments, marvel at the pink marble palaces tucked away from the pomp of the court, and check out Marie-Antoinette’s digs: a deliciously twee and saccharine chocolate box of a house located on a fairy-tale farm. Outside the château gates the Académie du Spectacle Equestre run elaborate shows of tightly choreographed theatrics on horseback which is well worth your time too. I mean, this place. Look at the size of it, the width. Such a gaff. The garden too. It's quite the way to spend a day in the capital.

  • Shopping
  • Department stores
  • Chaussée-d'Antin

Few cities are as synonymous with style, flair and fashion as Paris. And if you are in Paris to pick up designer duds, make a beeline for the Galeries Lafayette, a sprawling shopping mecca where you can lose hours to retail therapy. Come for Dior and fine wine, and stay for the drop-dead gorgeous domed roof, which looks particularly exquisite at Christmas when there’s a tree laden with fairy lights underneath it. Xmas shopping is never chicer than it is here. When you've filled your bags, fill your stomach too, there are great food options. Just as you'd expect in prime France. Like Petrossain Caviar, and La Cave at Lafayette Gourmet (wine galore). 

Advertising
Sacré-Coeur
  • Attractions
  • Montmartre
  • price 1 of 4

While the mosaics inside the beautiful 19th-century (1877 if you want the pub quiz knowledge) basilica are très jolies, the real reason you’ve scaled the hill (or taken the funicular – if you’re over 80 or feeling lazy) is to take in the sweeping vistas of the city. Go in while you're there though, obviously. Also, when done gazing at the view – the cobbled, bistro-lined streets behind Sacré-Coeur are well worth exploring. Just try to sideline the keyring-shaking touts. The entire area is oozing history, so why not walk around the area? Actually, a fact for you, it was once considered among the most rebellious neighbourhoods.

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Denfert-Rochereau
  • price 2 of 4

Deep beneath the Parisian streets lie the neatly stacked bones of around six million people. It took them a whole 12 years to move all their bones. Quite the shift. As the sign outside reads (in French) ‘Here lies the Empire of Death.’ Which, you know, could be considered dramatique. But yes, it makes for a pretty unnerving experience, walking through this corridor of stacked skulls. You can tour a section of the 3,000km (1,864-mile) tunnel network – just make sure you wrap up warm, the temperature in the tunnels is a cool 14°C. You'll be chilled to the bone otherwise. 

Advertising
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • Louvre
  • price 3 of 4

Yes, it’s the home of the Mona Lisa (you might have to wait until the crowds disperse to get an eyeful of Leonardo’s gal and that enigmatic smile), and it's way smaller than you'd think, so you're likely to get a selfie of a selfie with the painting. No bother though, there are some 35,000 works of art and artefacts to explore at the Louvre, so get your walking shoes on and start exploring. Whatever you do, don’t try to do it all – that would take days on end. Pick a few rooms you like the sound of, and spend time properly savouring the treasures inside. Aimlessly wandering the corridors will leave you too tired for anything. Choose the bits that sound good, and you'll absolutely louvre it!

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • Buttes-Chaumont

If you’re looking for somewhere a little wilder and more free-form than the neatly-trimmed bushes and gravelly paths of most Parisian parks, head to the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. Winding walkways, serene temples and roaring waterfalls make this a paradise for the curious explorer. As the city’s fifth-biggest park, there’s no shortage of stuff to see and do – and while you’re here, you’d be silly not to indulge in the park’s fabulous on-site food and drinks.

Advertising
Moulin Rouge
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Abbesses

If it’s glitz and glam you’re after, dig out your sparkliest glad rags and sashay over to the world-famous Moulin Rouge. Drinks will be flowing freely, the costumes flamboyant and – naturellement – there’ll be more high kicks than you can shake a feather boa at. But don’t think you can just rock up and catch one of the Moulin’s spectacularly successful shows – book ahead (like, months ahead) to avoid disappointment. Go full Francais with a glass of champagne, you deserve it. Even if it's just for getting a spot at the show. If you want to be a real Moulin Rouge head, do the can-can there, it's where the modern can-can comes from. It was originally a seductive dance though, so watch who you do it to!

  • Attractions
  • Ile de la Cité

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? Visiting it now is also a sad but unique experience. "I saw it when it was being rebuilt" you'll say to the grandkids one day. For the pub quizzers among you, Notre-Dame de Paris means 'Our Lady of Paris'. Nice right?  

Advertising
  • Attractions
  • Necker
  • price 2 of 4

The Eiffel Tower is such an essential part of the Parisian skyline – would you really want a panorama of the city without it? Well, that’s where Tour Montparnasse comes in handy. The Montparnasse is 209-metre block of glass and steel with, crucially, a fabulous viewing platform at the top. Within seconds of stepping into the lift you’ll be lapping up those city views – with the Eiffel Tower certainly included.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens
  • 1er arrondissement

A gentle stroll through the vast gravelled paths in these gardens beside the Louvre makes for the perfect antidote to a day of tourist jostling – whether on a chilly winter’s day with a coffee or in the blazing summer sunshine when you can grab an ice cream and admire the perfectly coiffed hedges. If you want more art, somehow, there's a handful of modern sculptures, including bronzes by Laurens, Moore, Ernst, Giacometti, and Dubuffet's Le Bel Costumé.

Advertising
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • 1er arrondissement
  • price 2 of 4

What with the crowds, the queues and the painfully slow map navigation, sightseeing in Paris can be stress-inducing stuff – but at least you can find some respite among the mellow hues of Monet’s ‘Nymphéas’ (water lilies) paintings, which wrap around two white oval-shaped rooms of the Orangerie. It's worth it, you know it is. When else are you going to go there? There's also Modigliani, Rousseau, Matisse, Picasso and Derain around the place, so you know, yeah, you basically need to go don't you? 

  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
  • Canal Saint-Martin

While you might not necessarily know it, you may well have already seen or heard about the Canal Saint-Martin. Loads of Amélie was filmed here. Édith Piaf sang about it a lot. Sisley’s got his famous ‘View of the Canal Saint-Martin’ in the Orsay. And it’s easy to see why the canal is such a muse: the place is teeming with quirky establishments and peculiar personalities. It’s perfect for a chilled late-afternoon stroll – not least because there are fewer better Paris experiences than grabbing a bière or bite to eat and sitting down at the water’s edge. Très heureux, indeed.

Advertising
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • 7e arrondissement
  • price 2 of 4

Here you’ll find Delacroix, Corot, Manet, Renoir, Pissarro, Gauguin, Monet, Cézanne and van Gogh – and that’s to name just a few of the huge names within the Musée d’Orsay. The third most esteemed gallery (after the Louvre and Pompidou) in an art-mad city, before the Orsay opened in 1986 as a collection specialising in art produced between 1848 and 1914 it was actually a train station. These days, it’s also perfectly placed for a romantique post-exhibition stroll down the Seine.

  • Music
  • Music venues
  • Chaussée-d'Antin
  • price 3 of 4

Opera fans are in safe hands in the lavish surroundings of this 2,000-strong auditorium. Arrive early to marvel at the false ceiling painted by Marc Chagall in 1964 and saunter down that grand staircase like you’re royalty. Opulent and grandiose, this place will transport you back to the days of 19th-century Haute société – and that’s all before you even sit down to enjoy its stellar programme of opera, ballet and theatre. Don't like opera? Who cares, you're in Paris. Dust off the suit and pretend! 

Advertising
  • Museums
  • Art and design
  • 4e arrondissement
  • price 3 of 4

Its playful nursery school colours, exposed pipes and exterior escalators make the Centre Pompidou – designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers – one of the best-known sights in Paris. If modern art’s your bag, you’re in for a treat, because this place holds more of it than anywhere else in Europe. Name the artist and there's something here, you know, assuming they're good and modern. Certain parts are free entry. 

  • Attractions
  • Cemeteries
  • Père-Lachaise

Like much Parisian architecture, Père-Lachaise cemetery is incredibly photogenic. Winding cobbled pathways lead you between leafy trees and ornate headstones. It's dead nice. Tourists flock here because of the famous names buried here – Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Proust, Balzac – but it’s a pretty place to wander in its own right. In fact, we've made a handy guide to help plot your route through the cemetery. It's a strangely fun time, cruising among the dead.

Advertising
  • Shopping
  • Boutiques

In 1969, hoary French crooner Joe Dassin released ‘Les Champs-Elysées’, a perfect slice of cheesy French chanson whose lyrics go, ‘in the sunshine, in the rain, in the dark or in the day, all you need’s on the Champs-Elysées’. The song captured the avenue’s status at the time as one of the most fashionable streets in Paris. Today it remains as such, with big-name brands like Levi’s, Hugo Boss and, er, Marks & Spencer all headquartered here. Come armed with cash and plenty of it. Of course, you can pop over to that triumphant arc at the top. Hell of a roundabout, that. 

  • Shopping
  • Bookshops
  • Quartier latin

While the original Shakespeare & Co was once frequented by Ernest Hemingway and other famed 1930s bohemians, the new shop (which opened in 1951 on the Left Bank) has a cherished reputation of its own. Here you’ll find tome-lined passageways and irresistibly enchanting alcoves – this is a place that has inspired writers, readers and bibliophiles for decades. Our advice? Bring a spare suitcase. You’ll almost certainly find yourself hauling home half a bibliothèque’s worth of literary goodies.

Looking for somewhere amazing to stay?

  • Hotels

Paris is a beautiful city steeped in history and glamour, but boy is it pricey. Looking to do this city on the cheap? Renting a perfectly located, très chic Airbnb is one way to enjoy the French capital without breaking the bank.

GYG Paris Activities Widget

Recommended
    You may also like
    You may also like
    Advertising

    The best things in life are free.

    Get our free newsletter – it’s great.

    Loading animation
    Déjà vu! We already have this email. Try another?

    🙌 Awesome, you're subscribed!

    Thanks for subscribing! Look out for your first newsletter in your inbox soon!