I was planning my first trip to Paris and was excited about the possibilities, but had no clear idea of what things to do in Paris I really wanted to take in while there.
I knew I wanted to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre, but that was about it. I talked to a friend who had been several times. She knew exactly what her favorite places were and gave me a wonderful list. Boy, was I lucky to talk to her before I left.
Here is a great starting point of things to do in Paris France if going for the first time. I am going to tell you what I loved and didn’t, some great tips, and do’s & dont’s while visiting this amazing city.
What To Bring And Wear
- Comfortable shoes – we walked an average of 10-15 miles a day
- Umbrella or hat (or both) – you never know when it’s going to rain
- Camera – I took almost 500 pictures each day
- Map – You don’t want to get lost in the city
- Band-Aids – we walked a ton
My 7 Top Tips To Save Time & Money
Ladies Tip: Ladies, even when we bring the right travel adapters for our hair appliances, sometimes they don’t work. So I always advise to bring headbands, ponytail holders, and barrettes, just in case.
Clothing Tip: I was told to wear black to blend in, but wear what you want, everyone wears an array. Just be sure that you don’t stand out like a tourist by wearing USA shirts, or US sports team shirts.
Money-saving Tip: When we got to Paris, dropped our luggage at the hotel and wanted to get a celebratory drink, we went to an outside bistro and ordered two beers. When the bill came, (that is ALL we ordered), it was 26 euros, which calculated to $29.60 and when we asked she said it was even happy hour. What? So we learned that the little market next to our hotel sold very reasonably priced bottles of wine and champagne. So for that week, we sat on our balcony at night enjoying the amazing view of the Eiffel Tower drinking our reasonable priced wine, instead of buying drinks at any restaurant or bistro. With one exception, we had to have one Martini a piece at the famous Cafe’ Fouguet’s on the Champs-Élysées and they were insanely overpriced. But worth it. It is a great beautiful spot to people watch and has been visited by many famous people in the past. Just an iconic cool spot. By the way, here’s how you pronounce Champs-Élysées.
Shopping Tip: Find a local market for wine and snacks to save some money.
How To Get Around Tip: Walking, walking and more walking. The best way to see the city and soak up the architecture and ambiance.
Restaurant Tip: The food at nearly every restaurant we tried was excellent. Stay away from the fancy “known” places and eat where the locals eat. This is where you’ll find the best (and most authentic) French food.
Piece of Mind Tip: Sometimes traveling from home can be a bit unnerving. To feel secure about your money and Passport you may want to invest in a little safety wallet. You can keep your money close and know it is near and safe.
Top 10 Things To Do In Paris
These are in no particular ranking, they’re all awesome sights to see.
1) The Musée d’Orsay is a museum in the old train station. They have an amazing Impressionist collection as well as a beautiful sculpture garden. The cafe at the museum is also very nice with excellent food. This is a wonderful museum. We had a great day at this museum.
Note: They are closed on Mondays.
2) L’Oranger ie Museum has a special room just for Monet’s “Water Lilies”. It’s just west of the Louvre. It is a beautiful museum.
3) Musee Jacquemart Andre is a hidden treasure near the Champs-Élysées. The museum was the home of a French banker and his artist wife who married late in life. They traveled the world collecting art and donated their home to the city when they died. It’s a marvelous example of how the rich lived in the late 1800s. They also have a lovely little cafe if you’re there around lunch time. I would suggest visiting in the morning and having lunch there. Or after the tour, walk over to stroll down the Champs-Élysées and eat at one of the many outdoor cafes lining the boulevard.
4) The Picasso Museum – While I’m not a huge fan of Picasso’s work, he was truly a genius and you can see that when you visit this museum. He was never afraid to try new things and push the envelope of the established art critics.
5) A chamber music concert in La Sainte Chapelle – one of the most beautiful spaces in the world. Walking into this space brought tears to my eyes. It was so amazingly beautiful, 360 degrees, it is all stained glass. The acoustics are fabulous and the space is very small, so you are up close to the musicians. We got to hear Pachebel’s “Canon in D” and Vivaldi’s “The Four Seasons”. Once the concert is over, you can stroll to the Latin quarter and have dinner or have a nice glass of champagne.
Note: This was my absolute favorite spot in Paris, one of my favorite things I’ve ever experienced. This was amazing. The church, the stained glass, the space, the music all seemed very majestic. If I ever return to Paris I would go again, and I highly recommend this venue to any and everyone visiting Paris.
6) Ile de la Cite’ (where Notre-Dame is located) is a wonderful place to stroll. A great place to shop, as they have many unique small boutiques. They also have a world famous ice cream and sorbet shop called Berthillon at 31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île.
Tip: If you go to this small island, make sure you get the “real deal” as an ice cream competitor is just next door and uses the same name to confuse people. Also, Rue Saint-Louis is the street that has all the shops, as well as some good restaurants, too.
7) Palace of Versailles is really spectacular. You can take the train out to Versailles and plan to spend several hours touring the palace and gardens. There are a couple of places on the grounds for lunch or stop at a shop and buy sandwiches and wine and take a picnic.
Very Important: once you get to the Palace, you must first purchase your ticket at the ticket office before entering the Palace. Don’t stand in line to get into the Palace if you don’t have your ticket in hand. Also, the lines are very long. Try to go when it is not raining. We had to stand in the rain for a good 30+ minutes.
Tip: Make sure to check the train schedule. This was not my favorite on the list. You have to take a long train, it is about at least 4-5 hours of your day, there are tons of people, and if raining, you will have to stand in the rain.
8) Sacred Heart Basilica of Montmarte (Sacre-Coeur) is an iconic emblem of Paris. Montmarte is the old part of Paris and it is spectacular – cobblestones, quaint cafes, charm and brilliant views. The way up to the Basilica is a delight in itself. There are stunning views of Paris from the Basilica. It was (and still is) a very popular symbol for artists to paint from the 1800’s to modern day. Very iconic.
9) Eiffel Tower – a place that cannot be missed, especially on your first visit to Paris. On our first night we took several pictures near and far of the majestic site and one evening we took a ride to the top and had a toast with champagne of how incredible our trip was and how excited we were to be in Paris.
10) The Louvre Museum is absolutely amazing. I literally think I could spend a week here and not see it all. It is truly amazing. A perfect day in my mind would be to be able to spend an entire day with no one around. That is the only downside, it is incredibly busy. So if able, I’d plan out what I want to see, perhaps — the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and The Winged Victory of Samotrace — early, then take your time and stroll around the museum. It is truly an amazing and incredible museum. One not to be missed.
If You Only Have A Couple Days
In my opinion, if time is an issue, I would definitely visit these 4 things:
- Stroll through the Louvre
- Walk around the Champs-Élysées
- See the Eiffel tower
- Go to a chamber concert in the La Sainte Chappelle
Before You Go To Paris For The First Time
Before you come to Paris be sure to do a little research.
- Get yourself a great travel guide about Paris
- Look on sites such as TripAdvisor and Yelp for Reviews and Ideas
- Know the best times of the year to go: weather, peak times, special events
- Educate yourself about Paris transportation: renting a car, trains, taxi’s, The Metro
- Book some Paris tours – every site will offer a tour, so you may want to take a tour or two of your top picks
I found the people were basically very friendly, unlike what you normally hear about Paris. We felt safe, welcome and had an incredibly amazing time. I can’t wait to go again.