Even the locals would agree it’s impossible to see every sight, every piece of history, every glorious work of art in the City of Light in just one lifetime. Bof, they might say. Quel dommage. But don’t feel downbeat about it all. Our 101 best things to do in Paris should help you get a sense of this storied yet ever-changing city as it is right now – and have an excellent time while you’re at it.
Sure, you won’t be able to tick off everything in this list in a single visit. Who has that sort of stamina? But whether you simply want to cover the basics – Eiffel Tower, Louvre, Montmartre, they’re all as good as everyone says – or instead discover the throbbing underside of Europe’s historic and cultural epicentre, pick and choose from our run-down of the city’s very best attractions and you’ll be raving about how perfect Paris is for months.
As we all know, this city is synonymous with its food and drink. That’s why, beyond the usual tourist traps and some quirkier propositions, we’ve also included a handful of the best bars and restaurants in Paris so you can fill up between all that sightseeing. We challenge you to name a more formidable foodie city – or classier tipplers’ haven – after sampling some of these. You may never live to see all there is to see in Paris, but on your next trip you’ll certainly be kept busy (and most likely full to bursting).
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Best things to do in Paris
Why go? A bucolic drinking spot at the Buttes-Chaumont’s highest point. Enjoy an apéro beneath the towering trees and make the most of the superb views in the last evening sun. There’s an impressive selection of house wines and tapas.
Don’t miss? Come during the summer when the park stays open all night – you won’t want to leave.
What is it? A recently opened 300-square-metre studio space dedicated to digital art, bang in the middle of the 11th arrondissement.
Why go? A former iron foundry, this building remained empty for nearly two decades until Culturespaces decided to launch the city’s first digital art centre. Its goal? To give the works the attention they deserve by projecting them across the ten-metre-high walls using first-rate equipment including 140 film projectors with BARCO lasers, as well as 50 state-of-the-art Nexo speakers.
Don’t miss? Have a beer at the excellent Enkore next door.
What is it? A gargantuan 10,000-square-metre cultural complex in fast-gentrifying Pantin.
Why go? Following in the thriving footsteps of Ground Control and Grands Voisins, the Cité Fertile is the latest multidisciplinary cultural pop-up to pull in the summer crowds. Opened in a former train depot in August 2018, it’s got a three-year licence from national train firm SNCF and, like its predecessors, has a wide array of food offerings, a rich cultural programme, a huge 800-square-metre urban farming lab, and – perfect for families – a beach where you can play volleyball, pétanque and ping-pong.
Don’t miss? Canal de l’Ourcq institution the Paname Brewing Company brews on site.
What is it? A small food market that feels like – and is? – the real Paris.
Why go? This historic Parisian market takes its name from the Enfants Rouges (Red Children) orphanage which was built in the 16th century and closed down just before the revolution. It’s also one of the Marais’s most iconic buildings. Saturdays are when the market is at its liveliest, but you’ll have a hard time choosing between the different stalls: Moroccan, Italian, Lebanese, or a refined blowout at the Enfants du Marché. Try it all if you can.
Don’t miss? Before you go, take a look around cactus shop Aux Succulents.
What is it? THE place to be during the summer months.
Why go? Spread out over 35 hectares, this is the largest of Paris’s parks, and from mid-July, it hosts the annual open-air cinema festival. There’s always a good vibe, and we’ve even witnessed a crowd of more than 2,000 get up and dance beneath the stars at the end of ‘Grease’.
Don’t miss? Round off the night at beach-style nightclub Plage du Glazart, which is kitted out with sand and deckchairs.
What is it? The only swimming pool in Paris on a barge.
Why go? This floating swimming pool is a true slice of paradise in an unbeatable setting. Flanked by the Seine on either side, facing Bercy and only minutes from the Bibliothèque Nationale de France-François Mitterrand, the Joséphine Baker barge is easily the best of the city’s bathing spots. There’s also a handsome pool complex covered by a majestic steel-and-glass structure by the architect Robert de Busni.
Don’t miss? Follow up your swim with a concert at the nearby Petit Bain.
What is it? The city’s best-loved rooftop drinking den.
Why go? Le Perchoir is always worth the queue – head through the inner courtyard to the elevator and shoot up to the seventh floor. Expect an outdoor bar, comfy sofas, mismatched cushions, big sociable tables, chairs and quiet little corners, perfect for a sunset drink.
Don’t miss? Those spectacular 360-degree views.
What is it? A matchless view that’s worth every dizzying moment of the ascent.
Why go? Is Paris the world’s most beautiful city? You only have to stand on the third floor of the Eiffel Tower – with its 360-degree views and a clear horizon of 65 kilometres in good weather – to find out the answer. Check out Gustave Eiffel’s office and treat yourself to a drink at the champagne bar.
Don’t miss? After getting your head back out of the clouds, head to the Musée du Quai Branly to visit its unbeatable collection of indigenous art.
What is it? An impressionist (and post-impressionist) wonderland in the Jardin des Tuileries.
Why go? To marvel at Monet’s eight, tapestry-sized ‘Nymphéas’ (water lily) paintings housed in two plain oval rooms at the Musée de l’Orangerie. They provide a simple backdrop for the astonishing, ethereal romanticism of the works. Expect to feel deeply calmed, despite the crowds.
Don’t miss? If it’s cold, bring an Angelina hot chocolate to help you brave the queue.
What is it? The city’s best-looking concept store.
Why go? In a light-filled building at the end of a courtyard on the Rue Beaumarchais, Merci unites a collection of major stylists and designers, from Isabel Marant to Stella McCartney. There’s also an array of luxury stationery, homeware and accessories. It’s hard to know where to look.
Don’t miss? Enter via the ‘literary’ cafe for a break, order a fresh OJ and let your eyes wander around the book-lined walls. Why not read one if you have time?
What is it? A classic haunt, with the most Parisian of façades, in hands down the coolest neighbourhood in town.
Why go? With its unkempt art deco interior, rickety wooden tables and chairs, and a massive bar that pumps out €3.40 Météor pints, this quaint spot offers the quintessential Parisian bar experience. It’s always packed inside and the small terrace brims with drinkers night after night, but squeezing in’s all part of the fun.
Don’t miss? If the bar really is too busy, head to (the nearly as good) Sully or Prado down the road.
What is it? A new art space dedicated to the works of Alberto Giacometti.
Why go? The 350-square-metre Fondation Giacometti has several exhibition areas, with the most important being the remodelling of his famous studio. A little busier than Giacometti’s original, this studio brings together 70 of his works, including one of the Busts of Lotar – the artist’s famous terracotta sculptures – which has been put on display for the very first time. Other previously unseen artefacts include the studio’s walls, previously located on the Rue Hippolyte-Maindron.
Don’t miss? If you’re coming all the way out to the 14th arrondissement for Giacometti, you may as well stop by the nearby Fondation Cartier.
What is it? High on the hills of Belleville, this is the most beautiful terrace in Paris.
Why go? Aptly called Moncœur (My Heart), this restaurant prides itself on its authenticity. While the area contains several tourist traps – a huge terrace bordered by cobbled streets, and sweeping city views that could rival any postcard – it’s the intimate, local vibe that keeps us coming back.
Don’t miss? You won’t find a better spot to watch the fireworks on Bastille Day.
What is it? A deli serving the best ham and cheese baguette in the city.
Why go? It may be a tight squeeze inside, but the interiors are charmingly retro, with old-fashioned kitchen scales, vintage enamel advertising signs and yellow tiles on the walls. Take your pick from the mouthwatering menu; think things like a classic Prince de Paris jambon-beurre, smoked chicken baguette and chorizo tortilla.
Don’t miss? The perfect way to eat on the run while rushing to catch a show at the Théâtre de la Bastille.
What is it? A mecca of impressionist art, in a stunning former train station.
Why go? In the old Gare d’Orsay you’ll now find one of the finest collections of 19th-century art. It’s got Realism, Impressionism, Post-Impressionism, Pointillism and all the other great ‘isms’ that appeared between 1848 and the beginning of the 20th century. Its 2011 facelift gave a much-needed boost to the Courbet, Millet, Manet, Degas, Monet, van Gogh and Gauguin collections.
Don’t miss? Savour a coffee in the superb coffee shop nestled behind the clock, designed by the Campana brothers in tribute to Jules Verne’s ‘Nautilus’.
What is it? One of Paris’s oldest cultural activities – browsing second-hand books.
Why go? There are over 200 second-hand booksellers (bouquinistes) lining the banks of the Seine, continuing a tradition that dates back to the 16th century. We think the makeshift green bookshelves chained to the railings should be made a Unesco World Heritage site.
Don’t miss? Pack a picnic to enjoy on the banks of the Île de la Cité.
What is it? A place so wild it could easily be the Gardens of Babylon.
Why go? To escape the cliché of burnt sunbathers piled on top of one another, take refuge in the empty cave of the Buttes-Chaumont. A journey through space and time guaranteed.
Don’t miss? Take a picture at the Pavillon Puebla. Its retro jungle design will look great on Instagram.
What is it? One of Europe’s biggest theme parks.
Why go? Get ready to make some tough decisions: Fantasyland for the kids, or Walt Disney Studios for the parents? Regardless of age, bumping into Mickey or Minnie never fails to put a smile on everyone’s face.
Don’t miss? Experience the full package with a night at Disneyland Hotel, similar to the Disney Hotel in New York.
What is it? A cosy café where you can truly make yourself at home.
Why go? Located in an old two-floor house with views of the Canal de l'Ourcq, the Pavillon really is an oasis of calm. Ring the bell upon entering and a member of staff will personally welcome you into a large sitting room decorated like a doll’s house: think sinking sofas, mismatched furniture, teapots, plants and even a birdcage.
Don’t miss? After a sleepy hour or two at the Pavillon, head to Kiez Kanal for a quick jaunt to Hamburg.
What is it? Do you really need an introduction to the Louvre?
Why go? There’s hours and hours of art to be seen beneath the glass IM Pei pyramid, commissioned by Mitterrand in 1983. With treasures from civilisations ranging from the Egyptians to the Greeks and Romans, as well as the legendary ‘Mona Lisa’, the Louvre contains one of the world’s very best art and artefact collections.
Don’t miss? You’d need several years to see everything displayed in the Louvre, so stick to a plan.
What is it? Undoubtedly the world’s best-known graveyard.
Why go? A favourite among both Parisians and tourists, the Cimetière du Père-Lachaise not only allows bookworms to enjoy an intimate moment with some of their literary heroes and learn about the Paris Commune, but is also beautifully picturesque: a large, shaded labyrinth with snaking hillside paths and pretty stone stairs. Careful not to get lost...
Don’t miss? Treat yourself to a spooky late-night grave walk with the park’s ‘vampire expert’.
What is it? An agricultural haven on the roof of the French Communist Party’s HQ.
Why go? It’s impossible to overlook the beauty of the French Community Party building, designed in 1971 by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, with its domed roof (now peppered with beehives). So, fancy a pot of militant red honey?
Don’t miss? Sweet treats aside, the rest of the building is worth exploring simply for the architecture.
What is it? For the best cocktails in the capital.
Why go? Hidden away at 60 Rue Charlot, with no door sign, Little Red Door certainly doesn’t draw attention to itself. But with its heady atmosphere and quirky interior – oh, and the drinks – we promise you’ll be walking straight into heaven. Go for the Art Deco cocktail: Bulleit Rye whiskey, Merlet Cognac, fermented dates and violet tea, served in an incredible glass shaped like a diamond.
Don’t miss? While you’re there, pop round the corner to Bisou, another fantastic cocktail bar (this time with no menu).
What is it? An atmospheric walk among tombs full of bones.
Why go? The original Paris Catacombes were built between the 17th and 18th century, right at the start of the city’s effort to begin building underground so as to support the construction of monuments, palaces and other religious buildings. These sinister tunnels 20 metres below the ground will never stop fascinating Parisians and tourists alike.
Don’t miss? There are plenty of unofficial walks and sometimes you can even go to secret raves in the tunnels.
What is it? The Jewish quarter’s enlightening museums prove there’s far more to the Marais than chocolate and falafel.
Why go? A nucleus for Jewish culture in Paris, this area boasts two important places dedicated to the religion’s history: Le Mémorial de la Shoah, which commemorates the Jews who were killed during the Second World War, and the Musée d'Art et d'Histoire du Judaïsme, whose collections trace the complex spiritual and cultural heritage of Moses and his people.
Don’t miss? Walk around the area, and you’ll come face to face with the remains of the Philippe Auguste wall, one of Paris’s oldest surrounding walls dating back to the 12th century.
What is it? One of the last ‘villages’ in the capital.
Why go? Hidden in Paris’s periphery and saved from Haussmann’s architectural purge, Butte-aux-Cailles presides over the 13th arrondissement with modest majesty. There’s a certain serenity about the place, and it’s still reasonably priced. Street art, cute restaurants and tip-top bars for a nightcap... you’ll never want to leave the Butte’s warm embrace.
Don’t miss? Take a dip in the Piscine Butte-aux-Cailles and soak up its 1930s charm.
What is it? An oyster and cocktail bar.
Why go? With its PVC door and simple neon sign, you’re likely to walk straight past this unassuming spot, which could give the city’s best bars (hello Candelaria and Glass) a run for their money. There’s a friendly central counter shaped like a horseshoe, flanked by a row of stools as well as chairs and tables catering to a well-heeled clientele.
Don’t miss? Make the most of ‘happy oyster hour’, where they come as cheap as €1 a pop.
What is it? A tourist hotspot which you can do like a local.
Why go? Once out from the dizzying maze that is Abbesses metro station, you’ll immediately get swept up in the area’s charming daily chaos.
Don’t miss? Spend a few blissful moments perusing the array of rugs and materials on offer at the Marché Saint Pierre.
What is it? The very heart of French patrimoine.
Why go? This neoclassical megastructure commissioned by Louis XV was the great architectural success of its time. But many things have changed since then: in 1790, during the revolution, the building was converted into a ‘temple to reason’ and welcomed the graves of the nation’s most revered men. On the front entrance you’ll see the well-known phrase: ‘To the great men, the grateful homeland.’ The austere vaulted crypt includes the tombs of Voltaire, Rousseau, Hugo, Zola, Veil and resistance fighter Jean Moulin.
Don’t miss? You’re in the 5th arrondissement, so choose between a drink on the Rue Mouffetard and a stroll in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
What is it? A rock-focused venue in Bastille where every gig is free.
Why go? This 250-venue capacity, reminiscent of a New York loft, hosts up-and-coming talent from around the world. Rock nights run every weekend, and the bi-monthly Sunday Tributes event is not to be missed.
Don’t miss? The lengthy ones. The live rock nights and DJ sets run until 6am, so come energised.
What is it? A former railway station in Saint-Ouen converted into a multi-disciplinary arts complex.
Why go? Transformed by three young Parisians, Hasard Ludique brings to life a quiet, remote area between Saint-Ouen and Guy Môquet metro station. The venue is multi-purpose, with a bistro, a 300-capacity concert hall, an outdoor terrace and a studio space full of collaborative art. For evening downtime, this ticks all the boxes.
Don’t miss? The new 300-square-metre terrace opens out on to the railway tracks.
What is it? A hotel garden sheltered from the chaos of Montmartre.
Why go? Tourists, caricaturists, old-fashioned painters and, er, more tourists... when talking about Montmartre, it’s always the same story. So take a break from the crowds and relax in this hotel's gardens, which are so secluded and bucolic that if you close your eyes you might whisk yourself far, far away. Total relaxation is guaranteed.
Don’t miss? Try your hand at a game of boules at CLAP, one of the city’s top-secret courts.
What is it? France’s most famous cathedral, recently closed following a devastating fire.
Why go? Even after the inferno that tore through the roof in April 2019, 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? For an equally mesmerising experience, check out the beautiful stained glass at nearby Sainte-Chapelle.
What is it? A bookshop for insomniacs in the heart of the Marais.
Why go? If you’re looking for a quiet escape from the bustle of the Maris, La Belle Hortense is the hideaway of dreams. In this little book shop-bar with a charming blue front, you’ll find a gentle, tasteful soundtrack that won’t interrupt your reading, as well as plenty of good wine. It’s a genius concept that brings together students, intellectuals and hedonists in equal measure.
Don’t miss? The mini-exhibition in the back room.
What is it? A new record shop in the 11th with more than 20,000 vinyl in stock.
Why go? Spread over two floors, this understated vinyl store offers a happy mix of new and second-hand records at decent prices (some as low as 50 cent). Whether you’re after some French garage, Moodymann’s latest effort, or Moebius's cult sketches of Jimi Hendrix to decorate your room, this eclectic musical haven has you covered.
Don’t miss? Enjoy a beer (and DJ set) at the on-site bar.
What is it? One of the world’s most luxurious spas.
Why go? You’ll be welcomed by smiling staff and can choose from a host of activities: the super-intimate 16-metre swimming pool with curtains for privacy, the personal training area, the hammam and three treatment rooms with massages and facials using Nescens products.
Don’t miss? We’d highly recommend booking a room at the hotel while you’re at it.
What is it? The city’s coolest basketball court.
Why go? Housed between two blocks of flats, this formidable brightly-coloured training ground on Rue Duperré is surely the best-looking in Paris. We owe it to designer Stéphane Ashpool, who also founded the fashion label Pigalle. Despite its funky dimensions and rather dubious upkeep, the court’s cult status is untouchable.
Don’t miss? Treat yourself to a bowl of beef bourguignon at Bouillon Pigalle.
What is it? You can spot the lengthy L’As du Fallafel queue as soon as you hit the Rue des Rosiers, with its army of staff running up and down scribbling orders. This traditional kosher falafel temple is, so its tagline goes, ‘often imitated, never equalled’, and few connoisseurs can argue with that.
Why go? The falafel special: an explosion of crisp red cabbage, creamy tahini, roasted aubergine, and light, herby falafel, crammed into a pillowy pitta pocket. Trust us, it’s worth the wait (and getting your trousers dry-cleaned).
Don’t miss? It’s closed for Shabbat on Saturdays, so plan your visit accordingly. Eating in the dining room is a less casual experience than munching this messy sandwich on the street, but it’s worth paying a little extra for the atmosphere inside.
What is it? The most famous theatre in France.
Why go? You don’t need to be a thesp to appreciate the beautiful red and gold finery of the Comédie-Française, a bastion of French theatre in which you can shiver in horror at Phèdre or laugh at poor Orgon’s misfortunes.
Don’t miss? Bring your kids along (if they can hack it). Child tickets cost as little as €7.
What is it? Paris’s first planned square, commissioned in 1605 by Henri IV and inaugurated by his son Louis XIII in 1612.
Why go? With its harmonious red-brick and stone arcaded façades and steeply-pitched slate roofs surrounding a lush grassy square, it’s one of few manicured parks you can stretch out on in the city.
Don’t miss? Come here to rest your feet after shopping ’til you drop in the Marais.
What is it? An iconic art gallery and exhibition space.
Why go? Built at the height of France’s artistic glory for the Exposition Universelle of 1900, the Grand Palais has been putting on exhibitions such as the FIAC International Contemporary Art Fair since 1990. Turn your attention away from the art for a moment, and you’ll notice several beehives on the Grand Palais roof, which have helped support urban biodiversity since 2009.
Don’t miss? Make it a double with a trip to the Grand Palais’s sibling the Petit Palais across the road.
What is it? The capital’s flagship football stadium.
Why go? Since the arrival of the Qatari and Neymar in particular, the Parc des Princes has become a tourist hotspot. The club now offers a raft of activities around the site, including an escape room that will delight all football fans.
Don’t miss? After the match, everyone heads down to the Brasserie d’Auteuil for hearty Italian comfort food.
What is it? A neighbourhood wine bar with a menu from yesteryear.
Why go? You’ll find true Bacchanalian glory in this tiny drinking den, with its walls covered in tapestries, and towers of beer barrels and bottles of wine reaching up to the ceiling. Here you’ll find a list of local wines of good vintage in a typically French setting.
Don’t miss? On Sundays, you can top off your outing with a shopping trip at the Marché d’Aligre.
What is it? A street a few minutes from Gare de Lyon which is reminiscent of London’s Portobello Road.
Why go? Deep in the 12th arrondissement and popping with green, purple and pink, Rue Crémieux was modelled on a typical mining town. If you’re walking through, cast your eye over number eight, where you’ll see the damage from the great flood of 1910, which saw water levels rise to 1.75 metres.
Don’t miss? If you still feel you haven’t seen enough, head up to the Coulée Verte garden walkway.
What is it? The place to be for fashion lovers and foodies.
Why go? Thought up by three members from the ‘Young Modern People’ collective, this is a neat and tasteful boutique full of handpicked clothes, books, records, furniture and shoes. After satisfying your shopping itch, sit down at one of the lovely wooden tables for an excellent cup of coffee and a pastry (the cookies are better than perfect, as is the blueberry cheesecake).
Don’t miss? Pop by the neighbouring Carreau du Temple and check out its excellent programme of cultural events.
What is it? It's no secret painter Claude Monet was a gardener extraordinaire. The luxurious gardens surrounding the artist’s pink house in Giverny (where he lived for 40 years) are an ode to the painter’s green fingers, with lines of rose bushes, willow trees hanging over Japanese bridges, and lily pads floating on ponds as if waiting for the father of Impressionism to return home.
Why go? Giverny is one tourist attraction that rivals the beauty of the artist’s paintings themselves.
Don’t miss? Get breakfast near the train station and rent bikes to cycle to the Fondation.
What is it? A green haven in the centre of Paris.
Why go? You can choose between a small zoo with more than 1,200 animals, recently renovated greenhouses, and museums of mineralogy, geology, palaeontology, anatomy and botany.
Don’t miss? Take the perfect profile picture under those Japanese cherry trees.
What is it? The back end of the city’s taps.
Why go? Descend into Paris’s spongy underworld, in which long underground walkways are filled with everything Parisians flush down their toilets. The meandering museum alleyways snake all the way to the city centre, tracing the evolution of the city’s water system.
Don’t miss? When you resurface, grab a restorative coffee and all the fresh air you can get at the Champ de Mars.
What is it? Once the main residence of King Louis XIV, it’s now packed with priceless art.
Why go? Overdose on all things gold at the Château de Versailles: the hall of mirrors, the Royal Chapel, the Grand Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s boudoir. From Jeff Koons and Xavier Veilhan to Takashi Murakami and Joana Vasconcelos, big art names abound at the Sun King’s royal abode.
Don’t miss? The Château de Versailles is simply mind-blowing, so make the most of it.
What is it? The only museum in the world dedicated to this infamous spirit.
Why go? After paying Vincent van Gogh’s grave your respects at Auvers-sur-Oise, it’s only right you learn more about the drink many blame for his instability and suicide.
Don’t miss? While you’re in Auvers-sur-Oise, make sure to stop off at Auvers castle.
What is it? One of the most important sporting events in the world.
Why go? Hot sun, commentary from Nelson Montfort and orange-bordered shoes: three signs you’re at the second grand slam of the year. Always a highlight of the Parisian spring calendar, it’s time to dust off your best summer hat and get yourself down to Porte d’Auteil.
Don't miss? Start proceedings early with a pre-game picnic in the newly renovated Jardin d'Acclimatation.
What is it? A Saint-Germain bar run by chef Yves Camdeborde, who serves a totally pig-tastic menu.
Why go? Each dish here is more indulgent than the last – think hay-baked new potatoes, anchovy butter and deliciously pink shoulder of lamb confit for €8.50, Bayonne ham croquettes for €3.50 and a sublime pork ravioli for €6.50. Don’t miss the pasta dishes and charcuterie (including melt-in-the-mouth pig trotters).
Don’t miss? If you’re not keen on pork, head to l’Avant Comptoir de la Mer, Camdeborde’s seafood joint.
What is it? Storied picturehouses that put on obscure screenings at low prices.
Why go? A historic flytrap for Parisian cinephiles, the 5th and 6th arrondissements are still full of independent cinemas, most notably Le Champo on Rue des Écoles, where many of the Nouvelle Vague directors hung about in the 1950s and 1960s.
Don’t miss? Legend has it that on his travels to Paris, Quentin Tarantino would often make a pilgrimage to the Latin Quarter’s Filmothèque.
What is it? The very best of French artisanal beer.
Why go? In summer 2013, the owners of Les Trois 8 decided to refine their craft. No longer serving anything and everything, they now offer only artisanal beer and organic wines alongside good and simple food (try the fantastic sharing platters of charcuterie, cheese, pâté and sandwiches).
Don’t miss? If you want to taste more from the guys behind Trois 8, check out their second outpost Outland.
What is it? A former workers’ cooperative reinvigorated as a multi-disciplinary arts centre and restaurant.
Why go? Rock concerts, burlesque shows, jazz brunches, electronic nights and jam sessions: it’s always popping at La Bellevilloise, the liveliest postcode in town. The proof is in the loyal crowds already queuing outside 21 Rue Boyer as soon as the sun sets.
Don’t miss? Grab a bite to eat at the excellent restaurant on site.
What is it? An elegant, old-school bistro serving fuss-free French cuisine.
Why go? At this excellent Right Bank spot, the charismatic maître d’ perches behind a bar and advises punters on the best red to enjoy with their confit beef cheeks (or indeed whatever else they order). It’s perfect for Sunday lunch, a boozy dinner with mates, or even a solo trip. However you do it, you’ll savour every single bite.
Don’t miss? You won’t find sausage and mash like this anywhere else, so loosen your top button and dig in.
What is it? A proper old-fashioned hot chocolate stop.
Why go? The owner may be Japanese, but this little tea shop reminds us of being in our grandmother’s kitchen, with checked tablecloths, a cast iron oven and simple cakes temptingly arranged on the counter. The hot chocolate is served in a bowl – just as Grandma does it – and you can add as much chantilly cream as you like.
Don’t miss? Your inner child will want to order everything on the menu.
What is it? Opera and ballet in styles old and new, performed across two spaces.
Why go? The Palais Garnier is one of the city’s pride and joys, and since its inauguration in the second half of the 19th century, the stage has played host to only the most refined ballet and opera productions.
Don’t miss? If you fancy an adrenaline rush after the show, try the Opéra Escape Game.
What is it? The quaint café at the city’s largest and most beautiful mosque.
Why go? Waiters hurry past with large trays of fresh mint tea, to be taken with North African pâtisserie, sorbet and fruit salad. Over in the restaurant, you can enjoy copious portions of couscous and tagine.
Don’t miss? Bellies filled, we always take a look around the Grande Galerie d'Évolution.
What is it? France’s foremost film institution, presided over by the good-natured ghost of film archivist Henri Langlois.
Why go? For just a couple of euros, you can spend the day exploring hundreds of hidden cinematic treasures within the library, as well as network, attend talks, join cinema clubs inspired by the legendary Jean Douchet, or even visit the tongue-in-cheek exhibitions dedicated to filmmaking.
Don’t miss? After indulging your inner cinephile, catch a gig at the AccorHotels Arena.
What is it? A giant institute dedicated to the Arab world designed by Jean Nouvel.
Why go? Tackling the history and archaeology of the Arab world, the main permanent exhibition begins on the seventh floor with artefacts from the classical era, and the subsequent levels tackle the ensuing centuries, from the first Islamic dynasties to the present day. There’s also an excellent library dedicated to the Middle East, a splendid panoramic view from the rooftop (to which entry is free), and you can expect brilliant temporary exhibitions to run throughout the year.
Don’t miss? Finish your trip with a potter around the zoo in the Jardin des Plantes.
What is it? Tucked away at the back of the world-famous Ritz Hotel, this richly wood-panelled watering hole doubles up as a shrine to the American author. The walls are adorned with his photos, boxes of fly-tying paraphernalia and a framed pack of his Lucky Strike cigarettes.
Why go? From the Picasso Martini to the French 75, the cocktails are as old-school as it gets.
Don’t miss? If money’s no object, while away an evening in this luxurious leathery snug. Or treat yourself to just one and stumble back out on to the Place Vendôme, smug in the knowledge you’ve just quaffed a glass of literary history.
What is it? A museum within a Cistercian abbey and convent.
Why go? Since owning the property in 1970, the General Council of Val-d’Oise has converted this abbey, nestled in the middle of ten acres of parkland, into a temple to the fine and visual arts. You may be at a suburban museum, but you’ll feel like you’re in the countryside.
Don’t miss? For a breath of unusually fresh banlieue air, explore the surrounding parkland.
What is it? One of the most controversial artworks of the last 40 years.
Why go? The art installation deux plateaux (two levels), more commonly known as Buren’s Columns, has stirred debate ever since it was created in 1985. And you can see why: 260 columns of black and white marble were installed in the historic court of the Palais Royal. While hardly subtle, the work attracts plenty of tourists, for whom loudly jumping on the cylinders evokes blissful childhood nostalgia.
What is it? Put simply, the most beautiful swimming pool in Paris.
Why go? This legendary establishment and listed historical building was bought by the AccorHotels group several years ago. The result? A luxury complex with a five-star hotel, a very good restaurant, a 48-metre spa and all-round architectural beauty.
Don’t miss? Order cocktails from the bar without leaving the pool.
What is it? One of Paris’s most recently built museums.
Why go? A spectacular building designed by starchitect Frank Gehry hosts the collection of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault. Far out in the western suburbs of Paris, this brand-new stage for contemporary art showcases the biggest names of our time.
Don’t miss? Its prime location by the Bois de Boulogne makes for a convenient forest stroll.
What is it? Billed as the world’s largest flea market.
Why go? The scale of the Puces de St-Ouen is astounding. You could get lost in these labyrinthine stalls for days. Around 1,000 traders sell artisan products, and new and second-hand clothes, while 2,500 traders sell antique goods. There’s a knick-knack to suit every taste. Just don’t forget to negotiate your price.
Don’t miss? Cool off with a drink at La Recyclerie.
What is it? A former coal station that’s become a musical hotspot.
Why go? Since June 2016, the MU collective have made the most of this old coal station’s architectural quirks, and turned it into an events space reminiscent of underground Berlin. Explore its three rooms, outdoor stage and two indoor stages, playing everything from hardcore punk to pure techno.
Don’t miss? An edgy atmosphere and budget-friendly prices.
What is it? A Mediterranean canteen with Israeli influences.
Why go? Come here from 10am for a breakfast of excellent coffee and colourful brunch dishes that taste as good as in Jaffa. The Shakshuka is also worth mentioning: a delicious dish of baked eggs, tomato, peppers, onions and feta.
Don’t miss? Continuing the Israeli theme, finish your meal with a pitta from Miznon.
What is it? A true mecca for children (and it’s educational, too).
Why go? Let your children play mini-Einsteins at the Cité des Sciences, which features everything from rocket models to robots, and can even help them make sense of quantum physics. The most interactive – and fun – museum in the capital.
Don’t miss? Round off your visit with a picnic in the surrounding Parc de la Villette.
What is it? Founded in 1896, Bouillon Chartier (housed in a former railway station) exudes all the charm of Belle-Époque Paris. If you can survive the queue, it’s the perfect mood-booster: uniformed waiters scurry around, your neighbour will probably try to engage you in conversation, and American couples loudly discuss the merits of their saucisson ardéchois.
Why go? A vast menu covers everything you could ever want from a Parisian brasserie: snails, oeuf mayonnaise, andouillette with mustard, several types of steak frites and bargain wine. The wallet-friendly prices and jolly art deco brouhaha have well and truly won our hearts.
Don’t miss? Take your time. Even if the waiters are hurrying you along, make it as languorous as possible by ordering everything you can stomach.
What is it? A former train station-turned-jazz bar.
Why go? Every day at 9pm, this former train station foyer hosts free jazz concerts. The setting is perfect: the airy four-metre-high space enhances the warmth of the saxophones and trumpets.
Don’t miss? Make a beeline for the patio in summer.
What is it? The 7th’s best-kept dining secret, ideal for impressing your date.
Why go? This 18-seater gem is worth booking ahead for. Go for the à la carte dreamt up by young duo Kwen Liew (ex-Antoine) and Ryunosuke Naito (ex-Meurice and Taillevent), together in cooking as in life.
Don’t miss? Enforce the all-important ‘no phones at dinner’ rule – bar a quick snap of Gérard Ronzatti’s excellent interiors.
What is it? Every first Sunday of the month, the first four Parisian arrondissements are fully pedestrian.
Why go? Like the Champs-Elysées, the first four arrondissements will be empty of cars and left to the command of the city’s walkers. Take in the heart of the capital at a different pace.
Don’t miss? Walk the length of main drag the Rue de Rivoli, from the Marais to the Tuileries.
What is it? Simply put, the city’s most famous nightclub.
Why go? Long-reigning temple of nightlife, Rex Club still boasts a high-end avant-garde programme and is a darling of the international DJ scene. Admittedly, the nights won’t beat those of the 1990s, but we’ll keep coming until our knees give out.
Don’t miss? Come on a Thursday, when the entry fee never pushes the €8 mark.
What is it? A design hotel and bar with a sordid past.
Why go? Inspired by the Parisian brothels from the Belle Époque period, Maison Souquet’s hidden frontage leads to a vision of Orientalist splendour, designed by Jacques Garcia. Styled on Arabian Nights, it’s all pretty pleasing to the eye: from the 1895 Cordovan leather on the walls to the Moorish tiles, porcelain, copper and vintage furniture.
Don’t miss? If you fancy a private pool party, you can rent theirs by the hour.
What is it? An old network of railway lines that have been transformed into the perfect romantic walk.
Why go? Built 150 years ago, La Petite Ceinture is almost 32km long. A public transport network until 1934, it was then used to transport goods until the late 1970s. Left untouched for years, it’s now been cut up and transformed into various distinct sections, much like New York’s High Line. Stretching across the 15th, 16th and 18th arrondissements, the Petite Ceinture’s most famous part begins in the 12th, a bucolic vision of plants and trees.
Don’t miss? If you’re checking out the 15th arrondissement segment, why not head to the Parc André Citroën for a hot air balloon ride?
What is it? Every Parisian café-goer’s dream, created by the team behind the Brûlerie de Belleville.
Why go? Thomas Lehoux and David Flynn decided to renovate the old Parisian café concept by keeping the original décor but switching up the offering. No more crap beer, instant coffee and sad sandwiches – expect artisanal, ethically produced products. Independence doesn’t hurt, even if it costs a little more.
Don’t miss? Nab a wicker chair overlooking the intersection of Rue de la Grange-aux-Belles and Rue Juliette-Dodu. It’s people-watching paradise.
What is? A 24-hour club on a barge, the trailblazer of Paris’s nightlife renaissance.
Why go? The Concrete club barge draws partygoers from all over Paris to keep the hedonism alive until the wee hours. Thanks to Samedimanche, the 24-hour night, rarely have weekends felt so long (in a good way). Offering easily one of the best nights out in Paris, it really is the boat that rocked.
Don’t miss? Because not everyone can party for 15 hours straight without refuelling, there’s Pansoul, the on-site restaurant.
What is it? Michelin-starred chef Bertrand Grébaut’s bistro of the future.
Why go? If you like to be surprised and transported to far-flung locations with every bite, Septime’s your place. Expect sublime ingredients, perfectly cooked and seasoned.
Don’t miss? If you want another piece of Septime, head to Septime La Cave next door.
What is it? A former hospital in the 14th that’s taken on a new role as a buzzy arts space.
Why go? Even if it only takes up a quarter of its original surface area, Les Grands Voisins still hosts an impressive 86 ‘artist spaces’. You won’t find anywhere like it, Paris or further afield.
Don’t miss? Go green-fingered with Mama Petula, the cutesy plant boutique.
What is it? THE street for street art, nestled on a Belleville hill.
Why go? This little street is famed for the arts scrawled on walls and buildings, but it’s in constant flux, so no two visits will be the same.
Don’t miss? Stop off at Aux Folies to see artists at work while you sip your coffee.
What is it? Paris’s ultra-modern temple to classical music, near the gently flourishing Pantin area.
Why go? The Philharmonie, which forms part of the Cité de la Musique, has a rich and abundant live music programme. In addition to its impressive concert hall, the Philharmonie has an exciting exhibition space and an educational centre like its neighbour the Cité des Sciences.
Don’t miss? The prices are super-accessible so you can experiment without breaking the bank.
What is it? A restaurant with a new chef every six months.
Why go? We’re madly in love with Fulgurances, the restaurant set up by a trio of ultra-friendly thirty-somethings. The concept? Every six months, the sous-chef takes over from the chef, for a constantly shifting menu and vibe.
Don’t miss? Head across the street for a glass of wine at restaurant’s wine bar Fulgurances, en face.
What is it? A mezcal speakeasy hidden in Hotel 1K.
Why go? This one-of-a-kind bar boasts a glass roof that opens to the sky during summer, chalk-graffitied walls and more mezcal than you could consume in a lifetime. Have it by itself for the best results.
Don’t miss? After quaffing as many mezcal shots as you can manage, bed down in one of the hotel rooms, where the vibrant décor matches that downstairs.
What is it? The chance to play the much-loved summer game in one of the capital’s most popular spots.
Why go? Whatever your age, pétanque is a real joy to watch and play in Paris. As temperatures shoot up, watch as the whole city gets ready to aim and shoot. The sandy banks of the canal remain one of the city’s best playing spots.
Don’t miss? If you haven’t got your own, borrow balls (and grab a drink) from Bar Ourcq.
Why go? Because no visit to Paris is complete without a spin around Beaubourg.
Why go? Behind Richard Rogers’ and Renzo Piano’s piping and air ducts lies one of the richest collections of modern art in the world. Step inside the Centre Pompidou to fall under the spell of Picasso, Magritte, Duchamp, Pollock, Warhol and Tinguely.
Don’t miss? Head to the top floor for a truly eye-popping view.
What is it? Frédéric Vaucamps may have perfected his recipe for merveilleux in Lille, but these mini-meringues coated in chocolate, whipped cream and chocolate shavings are the go-to choice for Parisians.
Why go? Freshly made in the window of the seven shops every day, pâtissiers smooth whipped cream on to each individual meringue with a spatula before rolling or patting them with chocolate flakes. Prepare to be mesmerised; it’s like a live cooking show, but you get to eat the finished product.
Don’t miss? Buy a box of bitesize merveilleux to work through as you pound the pavements.
What is it? The Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche, near Saint-Michel, is the capital’s narrowest street.
Why go? Named after the picture of a cat on a street sign, the Rue du Chat-qui-Pêche also happens to be the narrowest street in Paris. At a width of 1.8 metres, it’s best avoided if you have broad shoulders.
Don’t miss? Soak up the glow of the nearby Sorbonne, one of the world’s oldest universities.