Paris, France. It’s often considered the best city in the world. Many would argue that point but just as many would agree. There are in fact many other great major cities in the world to contend with, but there’s simply no arguing that Paris is a world-class city and deserves to be mentioned as one of the greatest. With so much history and so many iconic landmarks, Paris is one of those cities that simply must be visited at least once in a lifetime.
It isn’t just the famous landmarks that it has become famous for though. It’s the feel of the entire city and the aesthetically beautiful architecture that lights up at night. It’s the scenic views of the river and the cafés and shops lining its cobblestoned streets. It’s the art and the culture as well. It’s the Parisians walking around and the history of the city. It all adds up to a vibrant city with a rich past and an incredibly distinct present. As soon as you arrive, everything is so… Paris.
If you are in the city for a quick trip and have to visit the essentials, you need to have an agenda with all of the places you must visit, while accounting for those you should probably skip. If you’re in Paris for a day, here are the 15 things you have to do before leaving and 5 of the more overrated ones you can leave out.
20 MUST DO: Odeon Theatre
Located around many of Paris’ other famous landmarks, the Odeon Theatre is situated right next to the Luxembourg Gardens and also sits right on the bank of the Seine River. The theatre, inaugurated by Marie-Antoinette, was built in the late 1800’s by the same architect who designed the Arc de Triomphe (also on our list). The façade’s style resembles a period of the past adding to the city’s historic and antiquated feel.
Considered one of the country’s six national theatres, the Odeon is still in use today and is a great part of Paris’ history and makes for gorgeous pictures with is picturesque surroundings.
19 MUST DO: Pont Neuf
Another landmark you have to visit on your trip is the grand Pont Neuf. It is the oldest bridge still in use today that crosses the Seine River. The bridge’s span is 761 feet and is over 70 feet wide. Constructed in the late 1500’s, the Pont Neuf is over 400 years old and is a perfect site to visit while vacationing in Paris. The bridge’s physical appearance is not only beautiful, but unique, because of its perfectly shaped and numerous arches standing over the river. It’s also a fantastic location to take some of the best pictures of the Eiffel Tower and the Institut de France as they loom in the distance.
18 MUST DO: Avenue des Champs-Elysees
The Champs-Elysees is an avenue in Paris, perhaps its most famous. It is a 1.2 mile stretch of road that runs from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. It is a fan favorite of the city because visitors can start at the beautiful arc and make their way down the street and enjoy all that it has to offer in the way of shops, luxury stores, theatres, restaurants and cafes.
With plenty to do as you peruse the avenue, there’s always something to take in or visit in this pristine road with beautiful scenery surrounding it. The Avenue des Champs-Elysees also serves as the finish line of the world-famous Tour de France race.
17 MUST DO: Getting a View OF the Eiffel Tower
This is an obvious entry onto the list… the Eiffel Tower, but more specifically, getting a view OF what is very likely the most famous structure ever built. Find a perfect spot from anywhere in the city and simply take in the beauty that is the Eiffel Tower. There are more locations than can be counted, but plenty offer a great vantage point to simply take in the sight of the tower. There are bridges, observation decks from surrounding towers and even the park right in front that all offer incredible views. Make sure to stop and marvel at it as the sun sets and the tower lights up the nighttime sky. There’s simply nothing else like it.
16 MUST DO: Musee du Louvre
More commonly known simply as the Louvre to the outside world, it is the most famous museum in the world. Visited by over 8 million people last year, the Louvre was ranked number one in the world. It’s also considered the largest art museum in the world in addition to being the most visited.
Before it was a museum, it was once the Louvre Palace, home to the country’s royalty before they moved to the Palace of Versailles. In the late 1700’s, it was established as a museum and is now home to some of the most recognizable and popular art pieces ever created including the Mona Lisa, Death of the Virgin, and The Coronation of Napoleon.
15 MUST DO: Notre Dame
Notre Dame, one of the oldest churches in the world at nearly 800 years old, is a staple of the city of Paris. The name itself has become synonymous with the city and is also considered one of the most well-known religious sites in the world, made famous through pop culture, appearing in movies and other depictions of art. At 300 feet tall, the cathedral stands tall above the surrounding buildings and continues to be one of the more beautiful structures in the city. It’s definitely worth a visit on any trip to Paris.
14 MUST DO: Seine River
The Seine, a nearly 500 mile river, runs right through the city of Paris and is one of the city’s key landmarks. It is famous throughout the city as the land immediately off its banks is considered some of the most sought-after real estate. Many of the bridges that run over the Seine are visited just for the idyllic views of the river. The Seine runs past many of Paris’ famous monuments including the Eiffel Tower, the Luxembourg Garden and the Odeon Theatre.
13 MUST DO: The Palace of Versailles
Not quite in the city of Paris, but a little over 10 miles out, the Palace of Versailles is one of the city’s most famed and visited landmarks. Home to the country’s royalty for centuries, the grounds truly are a thing of beauty. The entire land includes the palace itself, a chateau, gardens, ponds, fountains and several salons within the building which hold relics, art paintings and furniture made of gold.
No trip to France is complete without a visit to Versailles.
12 MUST DO: Moulin Rouge
Long established in pop culture, Moulin Rouge even has its own movie which was a relatively big hit in Hollywood. The establishment is a cabaret in Paris, located near the banks of the River Seine, famously known for giving birth to the can-can, an alluring dance which became famous in the city that led to it becoming a popular form of entertainment. It ultimately led to the rise of cabarets across the world.
The Moulin Rouge is now a pretty famous tourist attraction which still holds much of the allure it held during its start over a century ago. Make sure to visit this landmark without the kids!
11 MUST DO: Latin Quarter
An area in Paris, named after the language that was widely spoken in the district during the Middle Ages at its peak, the Latin Quarter is still a popular part of the city for both residents and tourists alike. The area is famously known for its younger crowd due to its high density of higher learning establishments including universities, tech schools and several other educational sites.
The district is full of young adult life, including shopping, cafes, restaurants, and bars to go along with beautiful architecture and historic streets. Definitely a place to go grab a bite and take in the sights!
10 MUST DO: Le Marais
Another district in the city, Le Marais is a well-established area of the city, known for its high concentration of art housed in many of its institutions to go along with buildings of important architectural significance to Paris.
It’s often considered the part of the city that gave Paris the look and feel it has become known for. Many of the hotels are still standing today which are all great for a tour. The area is also home to many trendy art galleries which house a lot of historic pieces to go along with some of the more modern and contemporary art of today.
9 MUST DO: Sacre Coeur
Commonly known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, this structure is actually a Roman Catholic Church. The church is a landmark of the city and one of its most visited because of its beauty and incredible size.
At 272 feet, the basilica towers high in the air as it also sits on hill adding to its impressive size. With sprawling green lawns in front of it, visitors can sit in front of the structure and enjoy the incredible view while peacefully resting on the greenery.
8 MUST DO: The Catacombs of Paris
Gaining a lot of recent popularity over the past decade because of the mystery surrounding them, the Catacombs of Paris are underground sites holding the remains of six million people.
Basically serving as an underground cemetery, the Catacombs are now open to the public for daily visits and have been featured in many pop culture references including a horror movie that takes place in the underground tunnels. A fascinating place to visit, albeit a bit scary, the quarries underground can make for an interesting afternoon.
7 MUST DO: Arc de Triomphe
A monument that honors those who fought in the French Revolutionary wars, the Arc de Triomphe is a monument that stands near the center of the city and is surrounded by several of the city’s busiest avenues. Traffic flows around the 164 foot tall monument which has become one of the most recognizable landmarks in the city.
The arc is massive in size and breathtaking in its beauty. This is a must while visiting Paris, as you are unlikely to be disappointed after visiting.
6 MUST DO: Montparnasse Tower
The 689 foot skyscraper is Paris’ second tallest tower and the 14th tallest in Europe. Visiting this site isn’t a must do because the building is beautiful or offers much in the way of historic or cultural significance. The best reason to visit is because of its observation deck.
This is the perfect site in the city to get a bird’s eye of all of Paris' skyline including the Eiffel Tower. Be sure to visit in the evening when the city’s lights brighten up the nighttime sky!
5 OVERRATED: The Mona Lisa
The Louvre landed on our list of must-dos and with great reason. It is home to tens of thousands of pieces that represent the pinnacle of art. That includes Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa. Although this piece is widely considered the most famous and recognizable painting in the world, the unfortunate truth is it’s a bit overrated.
It’s not necessarily that the painting itself is underwhelming, but more so the setting. When you visit the exhibit, prepared to be surrounded by herds of fellow tourists, standing shoulder to shoulder, each fighting for a glimpse and a photo opportunity of the famed lady.
If peace and quiet with her smile is what you are searching for, prepared to be let down. Try one of the many other exhibits the Louvre has to offer.
4 OVERRATED: Going UP the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower was listed earlier on our must-do list, but in a different light. The must do is to take in a view OF the beautiful tower, but actually going UP Eiffel… well that’s a different story. Going up the tower to the observation deck is an activity you can skip.
The biggest reason to go up to any deck is to get a glimpse of the city’s incredible skyline. There’s little reason to escalate Eiffel’s when you’re likely trying to see the tower itself in the backdrop of your photo.
There are other ways to enjoy the infamous tower and traversing with hundreds of other tourists in a crowded space is not one of them.
3 OVERRATED: Paris Disneyland
Paris’ version of the famed Disneyland park is located outside the city and attracts about 14 million annual visitors. Although the park itself offers many incredible rides and amusement activities that entertain the entire family, it’s simply a version of the park that doesn’t stand up to its foreign counterparts.
If a trip to Disney is what you are looking for, it’s probably best to book a trip to the Orlando or L.A. parks instead. Vacationing to Paris means spending time in the city’s incredible culture rather than at an amusement park.
2 OVERRATED: Pere Lachaise Cemetery
The 110 acre cemetery is the largest in Paris and is home to many famous deceased. It attracts 3.5 million visitors annually and has become one of the more famous landmarks in the city.
The cemetery is home to the tombs of many well-known people including Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf, and Oscar Wilde. Although the grounds are beautiful, the truth is visiting Pere Lachaise is a bit overstated. Walking through the site is a bit on the gloomy side and there are simply other famed landmarks the city has to offer that can be better worth your time.
1 OVERRATED: Montmartre
Montmartre is a district in the city marked by the 400 foot high hill that overlooks the city. It has become famous for the churches that sit on its land as well as the nightclub and bar scenes.
Although a great site to visit the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur, the hill and the surrounding district has become overrun with tourists and is often difficult to navigate. There are other areas within the city that offer more peaceful with idyllic scenery, with less pedestrian traffic.