Top Things to See in Paris
The City of Lights is one of the top destinations in the world for good reason. This list is a compilation of my favorites and places you’ll be sorry you missed.
Obviously, most people have to see the city’s iconic monument, which can be seen for miles. Tourists swarm around the base of the tower, as well as vendors selling mini tower statues and scammers playing the cup or shell game. There are several fantastic locations to view the tower including at the Trocadero across the Seine, where there are museums and a beautiful garden or from the Champ de Mars Park on the other side. There is an option to go up the lift in the tower to the various levels, where you can see all of Paris but the lines can get crazy so get there early or pre-book. We brought a picnic of bread, cheese and wine on the grass, followed by a Nutella-covered waffle from the many vendors while waiting to see the tower’s light show.
Musee du Louvre
One can easily get burned out on museums while doing a Euro Trip, but the Louvre should be one you don’t miss. My favorite statue (Winged Victory of Samothrace), the Mona Lisa, countless Greek and Egyptian statues, and the Louvre Palace itself make it an amazing must-see stop. My friend booked a tour which meant we didn’t have to stand in the humongous line (we snuck right past it – au revoir suckers!) and we had a very informative guide who led us through the museum. The downfall of any tour is they just show you what they want. Luckily, our tour turned us loose at the end so we could roam about and see what we wanted. A word of warning: the crowd around the Mona Lisa forms a mosh pit and I was nearly laid out by a little old lady and her granddaughter. There are some hard core art fans!
Another Parisian classic, this beautiful French Gothic cathedral has stunning stained glass, a gigantic organ, countless relics and chapels. As a gargoyle nerd, I couldn’t get enough of all of the statues, gargoyles and chimeras covering the outside of the building. We got there early to avoid the lines and got to hear the legendary bells. And if you are anything like me, you’ll have to resist the urge to scream, “Sanctuaryyyy” as you enter the cathedral. Understandably, there are a host of shushers inside to prevent such an outburst.
Love Lock Bridge
If you must declare your love while in one of the most romantic cities, you and your lover can initial a lock and attach it to the bridge’s railings. By throwing the key into the Seine river below, it symbolizes an unbreakable love that no one can unlock. Awwww… I was really glad I got to see this with a tour guide because I had no idea of the facts behind this bridge and new love lock trend spreading all over Europe. The locks may not be up for much longer because they are such a safety hazard (sorry love). According to my guide, they counted nearly 1 million locks at one point which weigh nearly 45 tons, which has caused parts of the bridge to fall into the Seine River below. It’s very romantic on top of the bridge and a little risky underneath it. Also, I can’t help but think of the effects of the plethora of keys piling up on the riverbed.
Arc de Triomphe
From our visit to the Louvre, we walked to the western end of the Champs-Elysees to see the monument that honors the soldiers that fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. I wasn’t expecting the arch to be as big as it was, so I was really surprised to see it looming over us as we approached it on the roundabout called Place Charles de Gaulle. Many people don’t realize there is a tunnel that goes underneath the roundabout, so don’t risk your neck trying to cross the road filled with crazy Parisian drivers going far too fast. Watching people try to run across is another thrilling activity you can enjoy free of charge!
I had never heard of this part of Paris until I arrived at my hostel, Plug Inn, which was in this neighborhood known for housing famous artists and writers like Picasso, Monet, Dali, van Gogh, and Degas. The narrow cobblestone streets wind around and up the hill where you can see the gorgeous white Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur as well as panoramic views of Paris. There is also the Pigalle red light district at the base of the hill with the legendary Moulin Rouge, as well as adult shops and peep shows. There is a cafe-lined square on the top of the hill called Place de la Tertre, where you can find artists and peddlers selling art and offering to paint your picture. It was pretty touristy, but we shared a delicious bottle of wine at one of the cafes and people-watched while the buskers hassled the foreigners.
This museum isn’t as popular as the Louvre, but for many people, Musee d’Orsay is the favorite museum of Paris. The building itself is gorgeous, especially it’s clock within the Main Hall. I really felt like an art nerd with their various exhibitions that compared similar artists in a way I hadn’t seen before, so I felt I really learned a lot here. Masterpieces by Manet, Monet, van Gogh, Cezanne, and Renoir were everywhere, along with countless other artists, sculptures, photographs and even furniture.
Starting at the Place de la Concorde through to the Arc de Triomphe, this boulevard stretches a little over a mile and is chock full of cafes, high-end shops, and lots and lots of vendors and tourists. It is also home to the most expensive toilet on my trip which cost 2€ or $2.50 to use, although it was the fanciest bathroom by far. You have to dodge the slightly pushy street vendors trying to sell you a model of the Eiffel Tower or Arc. There are many monuments, like the Luxor Obelisk, and museums along the path and you can spend days exploring this little stretch of road.
As I said before, this list is just a taste of all the amazing attractions of Paris. I had limited time in the city so I have to go back to take in everything I missed. Make sure you include any of your favorite things to see in Paris that I might have missed in the comments!
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