Come rain or shine (yes, even in the rain because it rains a lot in Paris), the city of love is one of the most beautiful cities in the World. When you think of Paris, you probably conjure up images of the Eiffel Tower and views over the Champs Élysées. However, there is more to Paris than croissants and caricatures. In fact, there’s a lot more! As such, I’ve come up with the ultimate Paris bucket list, including some of the very best things to do in Paris!
#1 Read ‘How to be ‘Parisian wherever you are’
To prepare yourself for your Parisian adventure, make sure you check out the book that everyone’s talking about on Instagram! ‘How to be Parisian wherever you are’ will make you cry with laughter and teach you how to be a ‘true Parisienne’. After all, Parisians are not born, they’re made…
#2 Visit Jardin des Tuileries
Jardin des Tuileries is Paris’ answer to New York’s Central Park. People often claim that Paris is completely lacking in green space in comparison with a city like London. However, this is just not the case! You just have to know where to look for the green spaces!
In the summer, there is a fairground in the Jardin des Tuileries on the Louvre side of the gardens. There’s also a large Ferris wheel near Place de la Concorde throughout the rest of the year! During the winter, there’s an annual Christmas Market in the Jardin des Tuileries, which is, in fact, the largest of its kind in Paris.
#3 Visit the Orangerie
Home to Monet’s Nymphéas (waterlilies), the Orangeries houses just some of the 250 oil paintings that Monet created in his flower garden at Giverny. Although you can see the images online, there’s nothing as moving as seeing an artwork in person for the first time. Purchase your Orangerie entrance ticket here.
#4 Visit Place Vendôme
A quaint little square filled with designer boutiques and luxe hotels, Place Vendôme is presided over by a giant Triumphal Column. During the winter, the square is filled with giant trees decorated with hundreds and thousands of twinkling lights. In other times of the year, the pretty square is perfect for photography and can be found just a few streets away from the Palais Garnier Opera House.
#5 Visit Palais Royal
Home to the controversial Colonnes de Buren and located a short walk away from the Louvre, a great place for a picnic.
#6 Visit the Louvre
Take a selfie with the Mona Lisa in the largest museum in the world. At the Louvre you can also find favourites such as the Winged Victory of Samathrace and the Venus di Milo. Truth be told, one of my top tips for visiting the Louvre would be not to try and see everything in one go! Instead, focus on certain areas of the museum or a specific time period. Purchase your Louvre ticket here in advance.
7. Drink hot chocolate at Angelina
I hope that you have a sweet tooth because a visit to Paris is all about all the sweets on offer. From the macaron to the rich hot chocolate, to the endless croissants for breakfast, a trip to Paris is full of culinary delights! For more chocolat chaud inspiration, check out this guide on where to find the best hot chocolate in Paris.
8. Visit Notre Dame
Notre Dame sits right in the centre of the city in the middle of the Seine on Île de la Cité. From the 4th to the 14th centuries, the island was the hub of Paris. Most of the exterior was originally painted (including all of the gargoyles). The cathedral is free to visit and open every day of the year.
Editor’s note: please note that due to the terrible fire at Notre Dame in April 2019, the cathedral is closed until further notice. France, and particularly Paris, is the birthplace of the Middle Ages gothic church and so there are still plenty of other churches in Paris where you can admire stained glass and see some stunning carvings.
9. Eat a crepe
and walk along the banks of the seine…
10. Visit the Flower Market, Île de la cité
and buy a bunch of flowers…
11. Visit Centre Pompidou
The largest collection of modern art in Paris, here you can find Picasso, Braques and a whole host of other famous names. (The Centre Pompidou’s central location in the heart of le Marais also means that the roof terrace provides the most amazing views over the city).
12. Wonder at Sainte Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is home to one of the most extensive and impressive sets of stained glass windows in the World. Dating all the way back to the 13th Century, the gothic chapel was originally built to house Louis IX’s collection of relics of the Christ. One such relic was the Crown of Thorns (now held in Notre Dame). Shockingly, the Crown of Thorns actually cost more to purchase than it did to construct Sainte Chapelle.
13. See the Conciergerie
The largest gothic hall in Europe and where Marie Antoinette was kept prisoner during the French revolution.
14. Shop at BHV
Often hailed as one of the only stores in the center of Paris to sell everything from pillow covers to light fittings to vintage clothing, the BHV (Bazar de l’Hôtel de Ville) department store has been open since 1856. On the 5th floor, there is a sushi bar, Starbuck’s café and cafeteria.
15. Visit Maison Victor Hugo
4e arrondissement, 6 Place des Vosges
Author of Les Miserables and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Victor Hugo lived at #6 from 1832-1849 before his exile to Jersey and Guernsey in 1851 (due to his staunch support for Napoleon I). Although temporary exhibitions are charged, the house museum itself is free.
16. Visit Place des Vosges
Built in the early 1600s, the earliest planned square in the city is enclosed by red brick houses and arcades of shops, bars, and restaurants. Many a famous French people have lived here; including Cardinal Richelieu and Victor Hugo.
17. Have an espresso at one of the many cafés in Paris
“Un expresso s’il vous plaît”. No Paris bucket list would be complete with at least a gentle nod to the coffee culture that the city is so famous for! For your ultimate guide to the cutest places to go, check out the best cafés in Paris.
18. Visit the Paris Panthéon
Originally a church, the Paris Pantheon is now the resting place of many famous French men and women (notably Voltaire, Victor Hugo and Marie Curie). Over time, it has been the scene of many a controversy, including a rumour that Voltaire’s body had been stolen and a feminist criticism in 2012 that very few women were actually interred in the Pantheon.
19. Eat at Hank Burger
You won’t regret it…
20. Buy a book at Shakespeare and Co.
The first Shakespeare and Company was opened in 1919 and attracted writers such as Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce throughout the 20s. It was closed during WWII and never reopened. Originally called ‘le Mistral’, the second store was rebranded ‘Shakespeare and Company’ as a tribute to the founder of the original store, Sylvia Beach.
21. Visit St Sulpice
Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris (after Notre Dame). The current building, built in the 17th Century, was featured in Dan Brown’s novel, the Da Vinci Code.
22. Visit Jardin du Luxembourg
Especially pretty in the summer: here you’ll find cute hand painted boats floating around the pond and a huge assortment of pretty flowers.
23. Drink tea at Café de Flore
A must for any Gossip Girl fan! Sip on a glass of wine in this iconic café and watch the world go by…
24. Secure your love at Pont des Arts
If you and your lover inscribe your names on a padlock, lock it onto a bridge and throw away the key into the Seine, your love will last forever…
25. Visit Musée D’Orsay
Situated in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, the Musée d’Orsay is situated in a former railway station, Gare d’Orsay. Home to Starry Nights and an impressive collection of Rodin bronzes, it is also the site of a window clock that offers views over Paris all the way over to Sacré-Coeur. Musée d’Orsay also happened to feature quite heavily in the Gossip Girl TV Series. After all, it’s where Blair met Prince Louis!
26. Visit Les Invalides
Commonly known as Hôtel National des Invalides, the complex of buildings that form Les Invalides (for short), are located in the 7e arrondissement. The courtyards, church, and gardens are all free to visit. Read more: Les Invalides
27. See the Eiffel Tower (at sunrise)
Okay, if there’s one thing you make a point of doing when you visit Paris and tick off your Paris bucket list, make it waking up early enough to see the sunrise. For the best place in the city to see the sunrise, I recommend heading to Trocadéro and watching the sunrise over Paris).
28. Walk along the Champs Elysees
With a name reminiscent of Ancient Greek mythology’s Mount Olympus, this is the place for luxury shopping. Famous the world over, where else could you find French brands residing in the shadows of the symbol of France, the Arc de Triomphe? The avenue is just under 2 km long and is completed by matching rows of impressive trees.
29. Go up the Arc de Triomphe
If you’re pressed for time, I don’t recommend going up the Eiffel Tower. Instead, I can’t praise the view from the Arc de Triomphe instead! Not only is the view fantastic, but the waiting time is about a third of that of the Eiffel Tower.
30. Eat a macaron at Ladurée
31. Shop at Galeries Lafayette
No trip to Paris would be complete without visiting the World Famous department store, Galeries Lafayette. The best ‘window licking’ experience in town (the French phrase for window shopping ‘lèche vitrine’, literally means window licking). Also equipped with a roof terrace that offers incredible views over the city…
32. See Palais Garnier
(The Opera building)
33. Visit Cemetery Pere Lachaise
From Oscar Wilde to Jim Morrison, many famous people are buried here. The Cemetery is also the final resting place of tragically star-crossed lovers Heloise and Abelard.
34. Walk along Canal St Martin
Canal Saint-Martin is over 4 km long and was commissioned by Napoleon I in the early 1800s.
35. Visit Bastille
Formerly the site of a fortress, now an area full of bars and cafés (and a great place to go on Friday night).
36. See Rue Cremieux
The prettiest street in Paris, situated in the 12e arrondissement, La Rue Crémieux lies close to Gare de Lyon. Opened in 1865, the road was renamed ‘Crémieux’ in 1897 in honour of Gaston Crémieux.
37. Go down into the Catacombs
Head right down into Paris’ underbelly. The macarbre scene that greets you in the Paris Catacombs is like stepping right into the pages of history.
38. Visit Cemetery du Montparnasse
39. Go up Tour Montparnasse
Tour Montparnasse is the tallest building in Paris (that’s not the Eiffel Tower). From the top, everything looks like tiny doll’s house pieces. Head here at sunset for an amazing view over the city o lights! Read more: Going up Tour Montparnasse
40. Visit Palais de Tokyo
41. Stroll around Montmartre
Bring a camera, get up early and head to one of the quaintest districts that Paris has to offer!
42. See the Moulin Rouge
The iconic Moulin Rouge sits in the very heart of the infamous Pigalle District. Not far from Opera (the iconic Parisian opera house), this is one of those places that you must visit in Paris, if only to say “I’ve been there!”
43. Walk the steps at Montmartre
There’s nothing quite like seeing the amazing panoramic view over Paris from the first time! With a carousel at the bottom and the Sacré-Coeur at the top, this is one of those walks that will stay with you. It’s also on the main steps leading up to the Sacré-Coeur where you’ll soon discover the sinking house of Montmartre.
44. Visit Sacré Coeur
Over 11 million visitors visit the Sacré-Coeur every year. Completed at the beginning of the 20th Century, the stone comes from Château-Landon. During wet weather, the stone leaks calcite, re-bleaching the stone and maintaining the basilica’s chalky appearance. Read more: The Sacré Coeur and its Pagan origins
45. Take a day trip to Fontainebleau
Napoleon called Château Fontainebleau ‘house of the centuries’ and gave his final salute at the bottom of this very staircase. Fontainebleau is one of those places that you could easily visit over and over again.
46. Visit Château de Chantilly
Situated to the North of Paris, the Château at Chantilly was home to French princes for almost two centuries. The Château now houses the Musée Condé, one of the largest collections of paintings in France. Opened in 1898, the museum collection includes three paintings by Rafael and three by Tra Angelico.
47. Take a day trip to Château de Vincennes
The royal fortress began life as a hunting lodge in the middle of the 12th Century. In the 13th Century, a larger manor was constructed before the site was turned into an important royal castle during the following three centuries.
48. Take a day trip to Versailles
Rich with history and brimming with fascinating tales of times long gone by, Versailles is famous the world over. Once home to one of the richest kings in history, Louis XIV commissioned the Palace that would have cost over $2 billion to build in today’s money. Read more: Versailles
49. Take an afternoon out to visit Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen
St-Ouen (le Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen) is the biggest flea market in the World. The flea market in Paris consists of 14 markets; all carrying goods of varying time periods and styles, it is possible to find everything from dishes, to armchairs, to vintage clothing.
50. Buy an Eiffel Tower keyring
And to end the Paris bucket list, and your time in the city of lights, make sure you buy a keyring so that you’re always reminded of your special time in Paris! Even if it is a little tacky…