Best Paris tourist attractions
Travel back through history in the Natural History Museum's Grande Galerie de l'Evolution, with its stuffed creatures and skeletons. Big and small kids enjoy the diversity of nature and breathtaking setting, learning about endangered and vanished animals (where a dodo takes pride of place) and the importance of protecting them. This, the rest of Jardin des Plantes and its other buildings (from the small zoo, to the hunks of meteorites and crystals in the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie) is a favourite Sunday pastime of many Parisian families.
OK so they might not actually go up, but Parisians do have a genuine fondness for their national emblem. From the rooftops of Le Terrass" and Le Perchoir, to the spectacular fireworks every July 14, seeing the Eiffel Tower, just does something in the hearts of Parisians. Plus, the Champ de Mars makes a great place for a picnic too...
La Coulée Verte's 5km long trail of elevated gardens, from the Jardin de Reuilly to the tree-lined cycling paths of Bois de Vincennes, are a preferred stroll/jog for many Parisians. Lifting you up into the calm, a stone's throw from Bastille, La Coulée Verte/Promenade Plantée is a beloved way of getting some green in the city. There are lots of benches for a quiet sandwich, good sightseeing opps, and the woods of Bois de Vincennes to explore. No wonder it's a Paris favourite.
It's undoutedly one of France's most popular tourist attractions and there's no denying its grandeur. Centuries of makeovers have made Versailles the most sumptuously clad château in the world – a brilliant, unmissable cocktail of extravagance. There's a week's worth to explore, including the Domaine de Marie-Antoinette, King's Garden, and the fountain-dotted grounds. And while you might not have Parisians queuing up to do the château repeatedly, you'll find people enjoying the grounds (free entry up to a point). Picnic on the side of the Grand Canal and then rent a boat - the perfect country escape.
This newish concert hall is beloved for its season of eclectic musical events, orchestra-accompanied cinema screenings, music-themed art exhibitions and worldclass operas. Ticket prices are kept accessible and the fact that the Philharmonie de Paris is set in the grounds of the Parc de la Villette - all the better. Plus, summer 2017 saw their huge rooftop open up with a 360° view of Paris.
Père-Lachaise might be a celebrity cemetery - with almost anyone French, talented and dead that you care to mention - but that doesn't mean that it's glum. Parisian cemeteries are beautiful as well as starfilled. Many love a walk through history tracing the famous names that have lived and died in Paris. A sunny autumn day makes for the perfect stroll around Père-Lachaise. Look at our Insiders' Guide to Père-Lachaise for tips and ideas for enjoying a day at this iconic spot, and this handy walkers map of where to find the most famous.
With its stalwarts of Paris’s nightlife, Point Ephémère and Chez Prune, the Canal St-Martin is home to 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. You'll find the most locals on Sundays when the roads are reserved for walkers and cyclists. During the week or weekend, take your place along the banks of the canal for a soirée à la parisienne, with a full apéro of cheese, wine and saucisson.
Since its beautiful redo, even Parisians can't get enough of this place. Set in the great 17th century Hôtel Salé in the heart of the historic Marais area, Picasso’s masterpieces hang on the walls of bright, spacious exhibition rooms. First opened 29 years ago, the Musée Picasso is one of the city’s most precious and prestigious institutions – holding the largest collection in the world of Picasso’s masterpieces. Book in advance and go during the weekdays to avoid quite so many crowds.
The Fondation Louis Vuitton modern art gallery opened in the Bois de Boulogne, Paris’s second largest public park, in October 2014. Designed by architect Frank Gehry, the impressive new space plays host to Louis Vuitton Group CEO Bernard Arnault’s art collection. It's a bit of a trophy, with the 3,850m2 exhibition space blowing Gehry’s Guggenheim museum in Bilbao out of the water. Every year brings really big exhibitions from collectors, enabling Parisians and tourists to see some of the world's greatest works of art in a beautiful setting.
Even though everyone knows about it, something about this café makes you feel as though you've been let in on one of Paris' secrets. Buried in the heart of touristy Montmartre, this café adjoins the Musée de la Vie Romantique and feels like it was created with the same theme in mind. The terrace is fringed with roses and fuchsias, making it a romantic (duh) and secluded spot that feels far away from the pace of the city. No wonder we all adore it so much.
There's nothing quite like walking through Garnier's Grand Foyer, with its mirrors and parquet, coloured marble, moulded stucco, sculptures and paintings. Most people attempt to bag opera or ballet shows here but tickets sell like hotcakes. Set in the heart of Paris, looking down Avenue de l'Opera, this is one Paris attraction that residents would shed a tear for if they lost it.
Even though we've all been, there's just something about this hôtel particulier and gardens we go back to again and again. The Kiss, The Cathedral, The Walking Man, portrait busts and early terracottas are exhibited indoors, as are many of the individual figures or small groups that also appear on the Gates of Hell. Rodin's works are accompanied by several pieces by his mistress and pupil, Camille Claudel. There's greatest affection for the gardens: look out for the Burghers of Calais, the Gates of Hell, and The Thinker.
May arrives and all of Paris heads to Parc de Sceaux for cherry blossom season. There's a window every year where there's nowhere better than decamping for a lazy picnic under the pastel stunners. It's like a little piece of Japan, without the high airfare.
One of the oldest in Paris, the market survived the turbulent events of 1789 and 1871, and continues to ply its second-hand clothes, bric-a-brac and cheap food as if the city around it hadn’t changed one bit. Locals to the area come here for their seasonal fruit and veg, fresh flowers, and the covered Beauveau market will take you through the pricier fishmongers’ and butchers’ stalls.
Less well known and more intimate that the nearby Jardin de Tuileries, you'll often find many passing a lunch break around the fountain of Jardin du Palais-Royal. The black and white checquered stumps in the Palais are a popular photo opportunity, but the gardens themselves make for a peaceful stroll and are a plum spot for a game of boules.
Ask someone where to go eat in the Marais, and they'll probably point you in the direction of Marché des Enfants Rouges. The market is equipped to fill the emptiest of stomachs with its impressive range of Italian, Lebanese, African, Japanese and other stalls. If a snappy takeaway meal doesn’t satisfy you, there are plenty of artisanal and organic food stalls to fill a few hours of shopping time. One of the more atmospheric of Paris’s food markets.
Yes it is super crowded and touristy, but try and find someone who isn't in awe of that glass ceiling! Galeries Lafayette is obviously a great place come les soldes (summer sales) but it is also beloved at Christmas time when the giant tree fills the space and the walls are awash with trinkets and baubles.