Paris is one of the best cities for sights and sounds in the world. It has history, romance, famous landmarks and is a great place to visit en route to somewhere else or as a main stop. Below I have devised a list and description of the best things to do in this capital city which has been coined by many as the city of love. Take someone special or a friend, it does not matter, Paris offers something for everyone.
Must see and do
The Eiffel Tower is what many people picture when thinking of Paris. The first decision you have to make is when to climb the tower. Do you want to see the city lights at night or pick out the sights below in daylight? I prefer to climb just before dusk so that when you climb you can see the city in the light, as you arrive at the top it is sunset, and on the way down you can see the lights coming on.
You can get to the top in two ways. You can either climb to the second floor and take the mandatory lift to the top, or take a lift right to the top from gorund level. To climb all the stairs to the second floor is over 1000 steps but in my opinion this makes the experience much richer and a lot more fun as queues to get the lift from the bottom can get long depending on the time of year and day of the week (weekends are busier). To climb the tower is will cost roughly 6 Euros to the second floor and then 3 Euros to the top, or 12 Euros and a lengthy wait to get the lift all the way.
Once at the top you can enjoy the view, perhaps with a glass of champagne, but the top deck can get crowded as it is quite small so you may want to save the champagne for when you are back down. There are two restaurants on the Tower. Eiffel 95 is on the first floor offering good food with a typical main costing around 40 Euros. If you want to splash out and have booked in advance, you can go to the pricier restaurant where a main would cost roughly 70 Euros, situated on the second floor. Of course you get a private lift to the restaurant so you do not have to travel with everyone else. Other snacks are available from the canteen on the first floor also.
Notre Dame is situated on an island in the middle of the River Seine. Made famous by the stories of the hunchback which supposedly lived in the bell towers of the cathedral, it has become a very popular attraction. Walking around the cathedral is free, but you will have to pay 6 Euros to climb the towers. You get to see a bell, excellent views of the Latin Quarter, Eiffel Tower and Arc De Triumphe, and many gargoyles which are in keeping with the gothic nature of Notre Dame. The climb is long and the winding staircases do become very narrow the higher you go but worth it in the end. The surrounding area has plenty of gift shops and several good opportunities to buy a crepe. Street entertainers line the bridges which provide access to and from Notre Dame, and once off the island you can walk through quaint streets dotted with authentic French shops, and there are more great photo opportunities of the cathedral.
The Louvre The amount of time you spend in The Louvre entirely depends on how interested you are in art or history. The average person may disappear in to the galleries to find the Mona Lisa, get a glimpse over the crowds that do accumulate around the painting, and then leave. These people would then miss out on the other exhibitions their ticket price includes entry to. There is a huge collection of artefacts from around the world in the Louvre including a sizable selection of Egyptian finds, Greek and Roman antiques and sculptures (including the Venus De Milo), and other constantly changing exhibitions. You can easily spend a day in The Louvre if fine art is your thing but for 9 Euros the entry fee is worth saying you have been there.
The Concierge was the holding area, or prison if you like, for people who had been sentenced to death by guillotine at the Concorde. The most famous resident was Mary Antoinette, and they have a replica of her cell and a memorial in the chapel. The visit will only take an hour at most but the entrance fee is low and I would recommend combining this attraction with a visit to Notre Dame.
The Arc De Triumphe is a war memorial to the dead soldiers that have fought for France and a tribute to the victories of Napoleon. Marking the start of the Champ Elyseeses this huge arc is only accessible by underpass beneath the surrounding roundabout. For 6 – 10 Euros you can climb the arch and go to the exhibition within the arc itself. From the top you get good views of Paris and a great shot down the Champs Elysees all the way down to The Louvre. You may not want to do this on the same day as Notre Dame or The Eiffel Tower as your legs may feel the burn. Be sure to check out the crazy traffic on the roundabout below, especially during rush hour.
The Champs Elysees is one of the most popular shopping destinations in Paris. You can shop during the day and grab a bite to eat at any of the numerous bistros along the road. If you are lucky you may coincide with a movie premiere. There is an enormous Louis Vuitton shop for anyone looking to splash the cash, and I ensure you there is plenty of that in this area of town. You might want to walk via the Champs Elysees to get from the Arc De Triumphe to the Concorde or The Louvre.
The Latin Quarter is a great place to find a meal in Paris. If you decide to go for food during the day you will get a better deal than in the evening, but will miss out on the lights and atmosphere. Restaurant owners will try to get you in but are not too pushy. Many restaurants offer set menus for a fixed price and the food is always good and the options are varied. After dining, there are plenty of bars and clubs to help bring in the next day.
Sacre Coeur literally means the “Sacred Heart”, this Catholic Church has become a popular tourist destination in the Montmartre district of Paris. The church stands on top of a hill and offers great views over Paris. Despite its elevation, it is accessible by Metro and then a funicular or of course you can walk. You can look around the church for free but it will cost to climb the dome or enter the crypt. If you decide to walk down from Sacre Couer then there is a good path leading you through an art market and also via the Moulin Rouge.
Seine Cruise The Seine runs right through the centre of Paris and a great way to see the sights of Paris is by river boat. The river passes Notre Dame, The Concierge, The Eiffel Tower and much more. Boats are regular but can be an expensive way to see the sights although definitely recommended.
There are discounts available at a lot of attractions for under 26 year olds so be sure to take a student card or a form of identification with you.
Buy a book of ten Metro tickets when you arrive in Paris for roughly 12 Euros. This offers a significant discount to buying tickets separately. You should use the Metro as your main form of travel in Paris if you do not plan to walk.
Grab a crepe for breakfast because it is cheap, comes in many sweet and savoury flavours, and are available on most street corner. It is just what you do when you visit France.
Paris shares a similar but more extreme climate to the UK. It has warm summers with the occasional heatwave and winters where temperature drop close top freezing on average. The warmest months are from June to September and the coldest from November to March. Paris is susceptible to sudden showers throughout the winter and into spring.