Paris, France’s capital, is a major European city and a global center for art, fashion, gastronomy and culture. Its 19th-century cityscape is crisscrossed by wide boulevards and the River Seine. Beyond such landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and the 12th-century, Gothic Notre-Dame cathedral, the city is known for its cafe culture and designer boutiques along the Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré.
Popular things to do in Paris
1. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel) ranks high on the list of places to visit in France and is the most-visited tourist attraction in the world. It’s hard to believe that the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity when it was first unveiled. The iconic tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel for the Paris Exhibition of 1889, which marked the centenary of the French Revolution.
The Eiffel Tower is composed of three levels, the 1st floor, 2nd floor, and the summit (top level). The first floor has museum exhibits, a glass floor, changing exhibitions, souvenir shops, and restaurants. The second floor has more eateries and shops, the Jules Verne restaurant, and an observation area.
To arrive at the Eiffel Tower’s first level (at 57 meters) requires an elevator ride or a walk up the 360 steps. This level has public restrooms, a gift shop, cafeteria, brasserie restaurant , and outdoor terrace space for admiring the views.
The second level (at 125 meters) of the Eiffel Tower is reached from the first level by a staircase of 344 more steps or an elevator ride. This level has similar amenities as the first level, except the viewing platforms offer a perspective onto more of the Paris monuments , and this level has a fine-dining restaurant.
Address: Tour Eiffel, Champ de Mars, 75007 Paris (Métro: Bir-Hakeim, Trocadéro, Iéna, or Passy station)
Official site: https://www.toureiffel.paris/en
2. Musée du Louvre
The Louvre or the Louvre Museum (French: Musée du Louvre), is the world’s most-visited museum, and a historic landmark in Paris, France. It is the home of some of the best-known works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. A central landmark of the city, it is located on the Right Bank of the Seine in the city’s 1st arrondissement (district or ward). At any given point in time, approximately 38,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are being exhibited over an area of 72,735 square meters (782,910 square feet).
The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built in the late 12th to 13th century under Philip II.
The most famous piece is the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (or La Joconde in French) painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503-1505. Many tourists breeze through the museum just to glance at this one piece, but there are many other must-see works of art to admire even if time is limited.
The Louvre is surrounded on one side by the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the loveliest parks in Paris. The celebrated landscape architect André Le Nôtre created the Tuileries Gardens in the formal French style of the 17th century, with perfectly manicured trees, statues, and pathways. Park benches and café-restaurants with outdoor seating allow visitors to relax and enjoy the scenery.
Address: Musée du Louvre, Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris (Métro: Palais-Royal Musée du Louvre or Pyramides station)
3. Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris, referred to simply as Notre-Dame, is a medieval Catholic cathedral on the Île de la Cité, in the 4th arrondissement of Paris. The cathedral, dedicated to the Virgin Mary, is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture
Visitors should take a close look at the Gallery of Kings above the doorway on the elaborately detailed west facade. Rows of 28 intricately carved figures reveal representations of the French kings, from Childebert I (511-588) to Philippe Auguste. These figures lost their heads during the Revolution.
Note: A large fire in April of 2019 caused considerable damage to the cathedral: The medieval roof and the 19th-century spire collapsed. The extent of the damage is still being assessed. At this time, the interior is closed to the public.
4. Palais Garnier, Opéra National de Paris
A 19th-century architectural masterpiece, the Palais Garnier Opera House, built by Charles Garnier and opened in 1875, is the 13th opera house in Paris since the introduction of French opera by Louis XIV in 1669. Napoleon III commissioned it as part of the renovation works in the capital carried out under his command by Baron Haussmann. A historical monument open to visitors during the day staging opera and dance. Don’t forget to admire the ceiling painted by Chagall in the main auditorium.
The Opera House also has a boutique that sells opera-related books and souvenirs.
Connoisseurs of fine dining will be delighted to discover CoCo, a chic restaurant within the Opera House (entrance is at 1 Place Jacques Rouché) that serves refined contemporary cuisine prepared from seasonal ingredients. CoCo offers lunch and dinner daily, as well as weekend brunch (every Saturday and Sunday) featuring musical entertainment. Reservations are recommended.
Address: Palais Garnier, Place de l’Opéra, 8 Rue Scribe (at Auber) 75009 Paris (Métro: Opéra, Chaussée d’Antin-La Fayette or Havre-Caumartin station)
5. Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The most monumental boulevard in Paris used to be a desolate field of marshland until the 17th century, when it was landscaped by André Le Nôtre. A century later, the Parisian city planner Baron Haussmann designed the boulevard’s elegant buildings.
The Champs-Élysées is a cultural hotspot, boasting cinemas, theatres, exhibition venues … take your pick! Theatre lovers can head to the famous Théâtre du Rond-Point, which puts on contemporary plays; the Théâtre Marigny, the Espace Pierre Cardin or the nearby Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.
Address: Avenue des Champs-Elysées, 75008 Paris (Métro: Champs-Élysées Clemenceau station to visit the Jardin des Champs-Élysées and Petit Palais, Franklin d. Roosevelt station for Ladurée, George V station for the main shopping area).