Paris, the City of Light, is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. It’s known for its beautiful architecture, rich history, and vibrant culture. For first-time visitors to Paris, it can be overwhelming to decide what to see and do in this amazing city. Even on your first trip, you won’t be able to do everything that you want. That being said, don’t be afraid to do the touristy things. Their iconic and popular for a reason.
First time in Paris must-dos
- The Eiffel Tower: This iconic landmark is a must-see for any first-time visitor to Paris. You can take the elevator to the top for a breathtaking view of the city. Be sure to book your reservation in advance especially if you are looking to go all the way to the top. Even a month in advance the tickets to the top were sold out. We ended up buying tickets to the Summit through another route but it was much more expensive.
- Notre-Dame Cathedral: This beautiful gothic cathedral is one of the most famous landmarks in Paris. Although it was damaged in a fire in 2019, you can still admire its stunning architecture from the outside.
- Sainte-Chapelle: This beautiful chapel is known for its stunning stained glass windows, which are some of the most beautiful in the world.
- Arc du Triomphe: This historic monument is known for its iconic arch design and commemoration of French military victories. It stands at the western end of the Champs-Élysées and serves as a symbol of national pride and heritage. Although it is in the middle of a pretty busy roundabout, the views from the top rival the Eiffel Tower.
- Statue de la Liberté Paris: If you didn’t know, now you do – yes, Paris has a Statue of Liberty. In fact, the French are the ones that gave us ours! You can see this historic landmark just outside of the limits of the Eiffel Tower on a little island in the Seine. Although you can walk up to it, you can also get a great view of it during a lunch or dinner cruise.
- The Louvre: The Louvre is one of the world’s largest museums and home to some of the most famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa. It’s a must-visit for art lovers and history buffs alike. But just keep in mind that this is an extremely large museum! It make take a couple of days to see it all.
- Hôtel des Invalides: No it’s not a hotel. It’s a historic complex known for its stunning architecture and rich military history. It houses several museums, including the famous Musee de l’Armee.
- Cathédrale Saint Louis des Invalides: This is a continuation of the Hotel des Invalides. The inside is breathtaking beautiful and serves as the final resting place of several French military leaders, including Napoleon Bonaparte. (pictured above)
- Château de Versailles: Located about 30 minutes outside of the Paris city center, this palace is an iconic symbol of absolute monarchy and opulence. Its grand architecture, expansive gardens, and rich history showcase the splendor and extravagance of the French monarchy.
- Luxembourg Gardens: This beautiful park is a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic. You can also rent a sailboat to float around the pond.
- Jardin du Palais Royal: If you weren’t looking for this garden, odds are you won’t find it. The street that it’s on is known for all of its designer shopping. And if you end up going in March, you can even watch as the cherry blossoms start to bloom! It’s a fantastic spot for pictures. (pictured above)
- Jardin des Tuileries: This garden is located just outside of the Louvre. It is a very popular spot for tourists and locals. There are plenty of ponds, statues, and chairs to enjoy a perfect day in Paris. You’ll often see families having picnics, people running in groups, and others just taking the day in with a good book or great conversations.
Places to wander
- Montmartre: This historic neighborhood is known for its bohemian atmosphere, quaint streets, and stunning views of the city. Climb up the steps to the top of the hill to see the beautiful Sacré-Cœur Basilica. It’s also where a few iconic scenes from Emily in Paris have taken place!
- Île Saint-Louis: This island is located in the middle of the Seine River and is a great place to wander around and discover hidden gems like small shops, restaurants, and galleries.
- The Catacombs of Paris: This underground network of tunnels and chambers is home to the remains of over six million people. It’s a unique and somewhat eerie experience that you won’t forget.
- Canal Saint-Martin: This beautiful canal is a popular spot for picnics and boat rides. You can also explore the trendy boutiques and cafes that line the canal.
- Rue Cler: This charming street is known for its open-air markets, bakeries, and cafes. It’s a great place to pick up some authentic French delicacies like cheese, wine, and pastries.
While you definitely don’t want to miss the top tourist attractions like the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and Notre-Dame, there are also some hidden gems that will make your first time in Paris unforgettable.
Hidden gems in Paris
Like any incredible destination, there are also some unique experiences that not everyone knows about. Here are a few hidden gems to add to your itinerary:
- Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature: This quirky museum is dedicated to hunting and nature and features some unusual exhibits, including a collection of taxidermy animals and antique hunting equipment.
- The Père Lachaise Cemetery: This famous cemetery is the final resting place of many famous people, including Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, and Édith Piaf.
- The Paris Sewer Museum: This unusual museum takes you underground to explore the city’s sewer system, which played a major role in the city’s history.
- The Musée des Arts et Métiers: This museum is dedicated to science and technology and features exhibits on everything from airplanes to clocks to robots.
- The Palais de Tokyo: This contemporary art museum features cutting-edge exhibitions and installations. It’s a great place to discover new and emerging artists.
Best recommendations for your first time in Paris
- Buy a museum pass. There are so many museums that are door to door to one another. And if you prefer wandering versus a solidified itinerary, this will help you. While you walk around, if you stumble upon a museum, with your pass you can just walk right in. No need to worry about paying extra!
- Walk to your destinations. Many things are right next to each other. Plus traffic in Paris can get a little crazy. If your destination is within a three mile radius, I suggest walking. During my honeymoon, my husband and I walked a total of 53 miles during our one week there!
- Bring comfy shoes. I get it – Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world. But fashion and walking everywhere do not mix. Wear comfortable shoes so that you can stay out all day enjoying the city.
- Use the metro. This is another great and cheap option to get around the city. When coming back from Disneyland Paris, my husband and I took the 45 minute metro ride back in to the city. For both of us to ride was 10 euros.
- Try as many street-side cafes as possible. The food in Paris is incredible. My husband and I ate like royalty and our bill was nowhere near how much it would have cost in the US. Not to mention that my husband had the best burger of his life at one of these cafes. I had a bite and I can confirm – it was the best burger ever.
Final thoughts for a first time in Paris
These are just a few suggestions for things to do during your first time in Paris. With so much to see and do, you’ll want to plan your trip carefully to make the most of your time in this amazing city. I will say for our honeymoon though, we only planned to go to one place per day, and then the rest of the day was spent just finding things to do and see while we were out and about. Whether you stick to the top tourist attractions or venture off the beaten path to discover some hidden gems, your first-time experience in Paris is sure to be unforgettable!