Whether you're here for a weekend or a week, choosing how to spend time in Paris can seem overwhelming. But fear not, a browse through our bible of things to do in Paris should fill you with inspiration. From Instagrammable viewpoints to quirky watering holes, by day or by night, from haute couture to fine cuisine, we've condensed the City of Light into 101 things to do.
Classic, cool, romantic (or all three) - Paris has many faces and 101 barely even covers it. If you want to explore the city with a zoom lens, check out Paris by area or get specific with the 50 best Paris attractions. And to really get you in the mood for la vie Parisienne, feast your ears on these musical tributes. Enjoy!
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, there’s also a panoramic champagne bar on the third floor, a brasserie, and the Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant. At night, the Eiffel’s girders sparkle like fairy lights on a Christmas tree (every hour, on the hour).
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.
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.
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.
A behemoth of a museum, the Louvre has galleries and wings so vast you could easily spend a day feasting your eyes on treasures like the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo and Egyptian mummies – not to mention on the building itself, which sports sumptuous architecture erected and remodelled over the centuries by the rulers of France. When cultural overload sets in, take a breather in the Café Mollien at the top of the grand Mollien staircase. This is one Paris attraction you need to do at least once.
Canoodling opportunities abound in the gardens of the Musée Rodin, without doubt one of Paris’ most romantic green bits, strewn with Rodin’s greatest statues, including The Thinker, The Gates of Hell and Balzac. Inside the Hôtel Biron, where Rodin worked until the end of his life, you’ll find oodles of his works, including The Kiss, but also a touching selection by his tortured lover, Camille Claudel. On a sunny day, grab an ice cream in the garden and eat it on your way to the marble gallery, where Rodin’s most fragile, exquisite statues are displayed behind glass.
A change of artistic direction and limelight brought in by Dita Von Teese (who performed here for a while) has breathed welcome new life into the Crazy Horse. Yes, it’s erotic, and yes, you watch pert-breasted girls slink across stage dressed in nothing but light, but there is nothing remotely seedy about the experience. In fact, it’s all rather avant-garde. One note of caution – unlike Paris’s other cabarets, the Crazy Horse doesn’t have a restaurant.
Au Pied de Cochon is a veritable foodie attraction, whose neon lights haven’t been switched off since 1947: it serves every part of the pig you can think of, around the clock. Favourite haunt of hungry late-night drinkers, there's something fortifying in the old-style brasserie décor as well as the hearty dishes. Here, you push a gilt pig’s foot to get to the toilets, and dunk a pink meringue piglet in your coffee – and eat stuffed trotters, head cassoulet, smoked belly, tail, ear and brawn... hardly a light supper, but a genuine thrill for fans of eating 'nose to tail'.
Devout King Louis IX (St Louis, 1226-70) had a hobby of accumulating holy relics. In the 1240s, he bought what was advertised as the Crown of Thorns, and ordered Pierre de Montreuil to design a shrine. The result was Sainte-Chapelle. With 15m (49ft) windows, the upper level appears to consist almost entirely of stained glass. The windows depict hundreds of scenes from the Old and New Testaments, culminating with the Apocalypse in the rose window.
Behind its allure as a fairytale castle, the turreted Conciergerie hides a bloody past: during the Revolution it served as a prison for those condemned to the guillotine, including Queen Marie-Antoinette. Remnants of its revolutionary history are still visible in mock prison cells, but the Conciergerie’s main draw nowadays is its stunning medieval architecture.