Paris Top Attractions
Paris Top Attractions
There are few cities on earth that match the mystique and romanticism of Paris, the “city of lights”, and one of the principal capitals of European history and culture. Paris hosts roughly 15 million visitors a year, making it the 2nd-most visited city on the continent just behind London. Whether it’s exquisite cuisine, art, architecture, or shopping, Paris is a world-class city that checks all the boxes. Here are our top attractions to visit during your visit!
1. Eiffel Tower
The words Eiffel Tower resonate with Paris unlike any other when it comes to recognition. It is the monument that is not only synonymous with Paris, but France itself as a whole. The Eiffel Tower is over 130-years-old, and a masterpiece of architecture and engineering. The tower is 324 meters (1,063 ft) tall, and visitors can access three of its levels, two of which have restaurants, with the third (and tallest) being the observation deck. Due to its popularity, the Eiffel Tower has enormous lines and long waits, so make sure to get your tickets online in advance, and get straight to the top without hassle.
2. The Louvre Museum
Take a tour of the famous Louvre Museum and discover one of the most priceless and cherished art collections available for public viewing. The Louvre is the world’s largest art museum, housing roughly 38,000 pieces that date from prehistoric times all the way to today. The building itself is a work of art, built within the Louvre Palace, who’s original structure was erected nearly 900 years ago. Due to its size and popularity, the Louvre Museum receives close to 10 million visitors per year, which means nearly half of Paris’ total average visitors see the Louvre during their trip.
Tickets in high season sell out, so make sure to book early, and book online. Also, because of its size and volume of guests, it is highly recommended that you take a guided tour to ensure you see the best of the museum, and get the most out of your experience without any stress.
3. Seine River Cruise
Paris is a city of beautiful sites and scenery, and cruising through the Seine River is a fantastic way to see and experience them first-hand. The Seine cuts right through central Paris, giving you a truly unique (and romantic) way to view the City of Lights at a relaxed pace, full of sightseeing and stories. Seine River Cruises are quite popular with visitors to the city and there are many to choose from, each with their own appeal. There are dinner cruises, lunch cruises, cruises that focus on history/education, and even themed entertainment cruises, which are especially great for kids.
4. Palace of Versailles
The Palace of Versailles housed the French royal family from 1682 until the French Revolution in 1789. It is one of the modern world’s most coveted architectural sites, and an ode to what was once French (and European, in general) royal opulence and majesty. The palace is a UNESCO World Heritage site, open to visitors, and sits on a massive plot of land in Yvelines, France, around 20km (12 miles) from Paris’ city center. The most popular attractions within the Palace of Versailles are the Hall of Mirrors, royal residences, and the Royal Opera. Just under eight million people visit the palace each year, making it the country’s third-largest attraction. Because of this, crowds and lines can get fairly large during peak time, so make sure to book ahead and skip the wait!
5. Disneyland Paris
For families, kids of all ages, or those who are a kid at heart, there’s no place quite like Disneyland Paris. When it comes to encapsulating the fun, nostalgia, and creativity of the brand, Paris’ version of this iconic theme park does not disappoint. Disneyland is split into two theme parks under one larger park property: Disneyland Park, and Walt Disney Studios Park. You can purchase tickets for each park separately, or purchase tickets that cover entrances to both. There are also some great deals for multi-day passes that allow you to pace yourself during your visit, plus save time and money in the process.
6. Orsay Museum
This is one of the more unique museums you’ll ever see, as it’s housed in the former Gare d’Orsay railway station which dates back to the turn of last century, and is emblematic of French architecture and style at the time. The Orsay Museum contains mostly French art from the mid-19th Century, with many well-known sculptures, paintings, and photography from the era. It features works by Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh, Degas, Gaugin, and Manet, just to name a few. The museum has been in operation for over 30 years and attracts millions of visitors each year. The Orsay Museum is located alongside the Seine River, and is one of many gorgeous landmarks visitors see during Seine River cruises.
7. Paris Catacombs
Just underneath Paris’ city streets, in the Place Denfert-Rochereau, lie the Paris Catacombs, where some six million people were laid to rest after their death. These underground burial sites, or “ossuaries”, were created in the late 18th Century as a way to more efficiently (and safely) bury Paris’ dead after a series of problems with the city’s overflowing cemeteries. The catacombs are very well-preserved and are a popular historical attraction for visitors to the city these days. Due to the delicateness of the structure and its size, only 200 people are allowed inside the catacombs at one time. This can cause lines that back up for up to three hours during peak times of the day.
You can skip the line, however, and ensure your entrance by booking ahead. There are also some fantastic guided tours you can purchase which will help you navigate the catacombs and explain their rich history to you along the way.
8. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is an iconic symbol of the City of Lights, standing at the center of Paris as a monument to the fallen who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars. The structure is large, with an overall height of 50 meters (164 ft.) and a width of 45 meters (148 ft.). It is located at the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, which connects 12 of Paris’ principle avenues into a star shape, and acts as a proud centerpiece of France, so to speak. You can catch some incredible views from the top of the Arc de Triomphe, and get there by foot by climbing the stairs inside. There are also a number of great works of art and architecture inside the Arc, including a tribute to the fallen soldiers of World War I.
9. Moulin Rouge
When it comes to the Moulin Rouge, the name often speaks for itself, with a reputation for fun, fabulousness, and an iconic, sexy mystique that only this world-famous Parisian cabaret can provide. The Moulin Rouge was created during Paris’ “Belle Époque”, a period of time known for its cultural excess and industrial progress. The cabaret is extravagant by design, meant to stimulate the senses, and during its peak, was the place to be for a large cross-section of Paris’ nightlife crowd and tourists. Today, it is a historical testament to the era, and still stands as an active entertainment venue, with musical shows and dancing available to see every day of the week. This is where the famous “can-can” dance was invented!
10. Notre Dame Cathedral
The Cathedral of Notre Dame is a medieval Catholic cathedral which is famous for some of the world’s finest French Gothic-era architecture. It was built as a consecration to the Virgin Mary, not uncommon for the period, and is considered the pioneer structure for the flying buttress and rib-vault architectural styles. Inside the Notre Dame Cathedral are a number of iconic religious relics, including the Crown of Thorns, and a sliver and nail from what’s known as the “true cross.” Sadly, in April of 2019, a fire destroyed a significant part of the structure. This caused the church to be temporarily closed to the public while it’s being repaired. The good news, however, is that France has committed to restoring it to its previous stature as meticulously as possible, and full reconstruction should be complete by 2024.
11. Musee de l’Orangerie
Paris’ Musee de l’Orangerie is a 19th-Century art gallery, commissioned by Napoleon III, that features both impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It is most famous for Monet’s “Water Lilies” murals. The museum underwent a major renovation in the early 2000s, and now has a very modern look and infrastructure, while still maintaining its historic ambience and decor. Aside from Monet’s famous murals, the Musee de l’Orangerie also contains works from Picasso, Cézanne, Matisse, Rousseau, and Renoir. Tickets to the museum are available online for purchase, as are tours, and both will help save you time and skip the line during your visit!
12. Montparnasse Tower
This gleaming Paris skyscraper boasts having the best views in all of Paris, including the Eiffel Tower, and for good reason. From the top, you can see practically all of Paris, as well as unprecedented views of the Eiffel Tower itself! The Montparnasse Tower is relatively modern (completed in 1973) and acts as an office tower, housing some of the biggest corporate names in France. It was the tallest building in all of France until 2011, and remains a symbol of modern Paris. The observation deck is on the 56th floor, where you can see a truly unique view of the Eiffel Tower from above, with all of its Parisian surroundings.
13. Fondation Louis Vuitton
The name Louis Vuitton is synonymous with French high fashion, so it’s more than natural that they would create such an incredible space right in the heart of the republic. The Louis Vuitton Foundation is a cultural center and art museum run by a non-profit entity of the fashion brand, meant to showcase French art and culture to the public. The building was designed by Frank Ghery and is home to 11 galleries, as well as a 350-seat auditorium, and indoor/outdoor event space. The Louis Vuitton Foundation hosts a number of Jean-Michel Basquiat’s famous works, and showcases a lot of French modernism through its exhibits. The foundation is located in Paris’ northwest section of the 16th Arrondissement, and tickets can be purchased both online and at the doors.
14. Pompidou Centre
Modernism, style, and the classic Parisian desire to push boundaries encapsulate the Pompidou Center, one of Paris’ most fun and engaging places to visit. The center was built in the mid-1970s as an ode to what was known as “high-tech architecture” with much of its structural and mechanical systems built on the outside of the building, rather than the other way around. It was meant to be a place where people could find many things to do and see, and houses a public library, food market, acoustic research center, and the largest museum of modern art in all of Europe. Throughout its nearly 50-year history, there have been an estimated 200,000,000+ visitors to the Pompidou Center, and it remains a popular site to visit for both tourists and locals.
15. Saint Chapelle
Paris’ Saint Chapelle is a medieval holy chapel built in the Gothic style of the early 13th-Century. This is where France’s King Louis IX housed what’s known as his “passion relics” which included the famous Crown of Thorns that now resides in Notre Dame. The interior architecture and colors of the chapel are nothing short of astounding, with bright blue and gold arches, and stained glass that illuminates the inside with radiant light. The chapel has been restored a number of times, with the most recent restoration completed in 2015. It is open to the public, but like many Paris attractions can be crowded, especially during the high tourist season.