Things to Do in Paris
The 8th arrondissement (neighborhood), one of Paris’ 20 districts, is probably best known for the famous boulevard Champs-Élysées. With sidewalks lined by trees, high-end shops, and fashion boutiques, the boulevard is also home to the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, as well as the Élysée Palace (the official residence of the President of France). On one end of the Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe, which offers sweeping views of the city from its top. On the other end of the Champs-Élysées is the Grand Palais, an historic building dedicated “to the glory of French art.” The Grand Palais is now a museum and an exhibition hall that is home to an impressive art collection. The 8th arrondissement is probably best known as a retail district, where posh shoppers come to sip a beverage at one of the area’s numerous cafes or restaurants, then browse name-brand boutiques like Chanel, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton.
Ile de la Cité shares the Seine River with its upstream neighbor, Ile Saint-Louis, right in the middle of Paris's city center. The westernmost end of the island is mostly residential with a small park at the tip, while the eastern end gives visitors the best view of the flying buttresses of Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Palais de Justice is also housed on the island, which has the Sainte-Chapelle inside, a tiny jewel box of almost kaleidoscopic color thanks to its wonderful stained glass.
Archaeologists found evidence of habitation on this island by the Romans, as early as the first century BC. But the early 17th century was when the island came into its own, after the construction of the Pont Neuf that spans the river and intersects with the western end.
The Paradis Latin is one of the most historic cabaret venues in Paris, in the heart of the Latin Quarter of Paris, and offers very adult entertainment. You'll encounter some of the most beautiful women and men you've ever seen, and they're usually naked. But, it's not just about sex; there are well-choreographed dance routines, trapeze artists and acrobats that turn the experience into a naughty version of Cirque du Soleil.
Originally built in 1803 on the personal order of Napoleon Bonaparte, the theater quickly became the hangout of noted authors of its time, including Alexandre Dumas and Balzac. Sadly it burned down several years later. When Paris began preparing for the Universal Exhibition of 1889 for the World's Fair, Gustave Eiffel restored the theater to its glory. Today, the Paradis Latin attracts tens of thousands of visitors a year. The shows highlight both the history of Paris and its future.
Paris’ Arts Bridge, or Pont des Arts (sometimes known as the Passerelle des Arts), runs across the Seine River, linking the Cour Carrée (central square) of the Palais du Louvre on the North Bank with the landmark Institut de France on the South Bank. The famous pedestrian bridge was first erected in 1802 under Napolean I, but today’s design dates back to 1984 when it was rebuilt following a series of boat collisions and collapses.
Designed by Louis Arretche, the metal arched bridge has not only become an important landmark of old age Paris, but a popular vantage point, affording spectacular views along the Seine. With its wide walkway and picnic benches, the bridge has long been used as more than just a crossing point – artists, photographers and painters flock to the area, and the bridge is regularly used for small-scale open-air art exhibitions.
Gare du Nord is one of the six major train stations in Paris, with service to London, Brussels, Amsterdam and other destinations north of the French capital. Strictly speaking, Gare du Nord is the busiest railway station in Europe and the busiest in the world outside Japan with over 700,000 passengers every day for a grand yearly total of 190 million. Because of the role it plays in Paris’ daily transports, Gare du Nord was featured in many movies, including Ocean’s Twelve, the Bourne Identity and The Da Vinci Code.
The train station itself was built in the 1860s and comprises 36 platforms, including a separate terminal for the Eurostar trains which require security and customs checks. The U-shaped terminal is made out of cast iron and stone, including the statues that decorate the main entrance – each representing destinations outside of France.
It's easy to pass by the Palais-Royal in Paris's first arrondissement; there is so much around it of note, and visitors are either rushing past to get to the Louvre, or wiped out after an afternoon at that world-famous museum. But its gardens, which are free and open to the public, are an oasis in this otherwise tourist-heavy neighborhood that's practically hidden in plain sight – so keep it in mind when you want to take a load off after trekking through the Louvre.
Originally the home of Cardinal Richelieu, it was built in the 1630s and after the Cardinal's death fell into the hands of King Louis XIII. Today it is the location of the Ministry of Culture and a branch of the National Library.
One of the most striking of Paris’ public squares, Place Vendome's historic architecture meets luxury shopping in a large octagonal space located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris. The majestic ensemble of early 18th-century buildings designed by architect Jules-Hardouin Mansart encircles the plaza. At its heart, the 43-meter Vendome Column towers overhead, topped with a regal statue of Napoleon perched on a white marble pedestal.
The landmark statue was erected by Napolean himself, replacing the previous monument to King Louis XIV that had once dominated the square. Today a cluster of luxurious hotels, including the Bristol and Park Hyatt, have joined the Ritz, lending the square an air of grandeur and the surrounding buildings dazzle with exclusive jewelry showrooms.
More Things to Do in Paris
When in Paris, do what the French do and head to Galeries Lafayette to shop. Here you’ll find ten floors full of designer fashion, plus accessories, shoes, perfumes and nearly a whole floor of lingerie. Well, what did you expect? This is Paris. And all of it enclosed under a 1900s Belle Epoque dome. Riding the escalators through the middle of that glass and steel glowing-golden dome, you feel special. As you will climbing the Art Nouveau staircases. This is not just shopping, this is an experience.
If you want some true French fashion guidance there is a free weekly fashion show on Friday afternoons (you need to book ahead). But it’s that dome which just continues to give the whole place a sense of luxury and opulence; this could well be the most elegant department store in the world.
Place du Tertre is a famous square in the Montmartre neighborhood of Paris known for its artists and bohemian crowd. It is located just a few meters from Basilique du Sacré-Coeur and close to where painters like Picasso and Modigliani used to live and work; at the time, Montmartre was called the capital of modern art in the early 20th century. In fact, there is a museum dedicated to the works of Salvador Dali a few steps from Place du Tertre. Its other claim to fame dates back to 1898, when Louis Renault’s first automobile was driven up the steep Montmartre hills, kickstarting the lucrative automotive industry in France.
An idyllic stretch of greenery encircling the iconic pinnacle of the Eiffel Tower, the Champs de Mars is one of the most popular of Paris' parks. Named after Rome’s Campus Martius, a tribute to the Roman God of War, Champs de Mars was originally designed as a military training area for the nearby Ecole Militaire (Military School), but became an important arena for national events when it opened to the public back in 1780. Many key moments throughout the French Revolution took place here - including the first Fête de la Fédération (Federation Day or Bastille Day) in 1790, the legendary Festival of the Supreme Being in 1794, and it was the site of the 1791 Champs de Mars massacre - a bloody demonstration against King Louis XVI.
Grands Boulevards is an area in Paris situated in close proximity to Opéra Garnier and Grands Boulevards metro station. The plural form is not a coincidence; these lavish avenues and boulevards all exemplify the Parisian style created by the Baron Haussmann, whose work completely changed the city’s allure during the second Napoleonic empire in what is now considered a primitive form of urbanism. The grand scale, transformative works saw Paris welcome wider avenues, numerous fountains, intricately ornate buildings, and plentiful green spaces. But Haussmann did not create those spaces out of thin air; most of the Grands Boulevards now stand on what used to be the Louis XIII wall, which explains their remarkable size, uncommon for Paris at the time.
Officially known as Cimitière du Nord, the 19th-century Montmartre Cemetery is the third-largest necropolis in Paris, and the final resting place for many of Montmartre's famous artists and writers including Edgar Degas and Jacques Offenbach, Dumas, Hector Berlioz and Emile Zola's family.
Built in the early 19th century in an abandoned gypsum quarry at the foot of Butte Montmartre, Montmartre Cemetery was intended to take the strain off the inner-city cemeteries reaching dangerous levels of overcrowding. Today, the 25-acre site is a peaceful place crisscrossed by cobbled lanes shaded by cedars, maples, chestnuts, and limes. You can spend about an hour seeing the tombs with their ornate designs.
Les Invalides began as the army hospital, initiated by Louis XIV in 1670 and finished six years later. These days, it is a complex of buildings including a collection of museums, a hospital and retirement home for war veterans, and a chapel which is a burial place of war heroes including Napoleon Bonaparte. The museums include Contemporary History, Maps, as well as Military History.
As is the way with French Kings and their projects, a simple idea to build a place for war veterans to retire grew into a massive and grand statement with fifteen courtyards, a chapel - the Eglise Saint-Louis des Invalides, and then a royal chapel - Eglise du Dome. Based on St Peter's Basilica in Rome, this latter became the prime example of French Baroque architecture.
With its spectacular Neo-Renaissance frontage presiding over the Place de Grève in the city center, the Hotel de Ville is among Paris' most impressive architectural works. Reconstructed in 1873, the prestigious building kept much of its original style and its exteriors remain a celebrated example of 16th-century French Renaissance architecture, inspired by the Châteaux of the Loire Valley. Designed by architects Théodore Ballu and Édouard Deperthes, the arresting façade features a central clock tower and 136 statues representing historical figures from Paris and other French cities. The interior boasts the grandest makeover, though, with the ceremonial rooms -- including a long Salle des Fêtes (ballroom) - lavishly decorated and featuring wall paintings by a number of key 19th-century artists.
Fashioned from the blueprint of London's world famous Madame Tussauds, Paris's own waxwork museum, the Musée Grévin (Grevin Museum), has been sculpting famous faces since it was founded back in 1882. A collection of some 500 waxwork figures are on display, alongside an exhibition on the making of the waxworks and the renowned 'Hall of Mirrors,' where deforming mirrors and a bizarre lightshow add to the curiosities.
The waxworks feature an array of famous faces, with American film stars like Brad Pitt and George Clooney, political figures like Barack Obama and legendary singers like Celine Dion and Michael Jackson, posed alongside homegrown heroes like French rally driver Sebastian Loeb. There are plenty of unique celebrity photo opportunities, too: cuddle up to Bridget Bardott's sultry statuette, pick Albert Einstein's brains or compare your moves with Elvis Presley (though his might seem a little stiff).
A rock music temple if there ever was one, the Hard Rock brand doesn’t require an introduction; not with 170 establishments worldwide! Both a restaurant, a bar and a museum, this peculiar Paris attraction has been drawing in rock music aficionados for over two decades now, thanks to an impressive collection of authentic memorabilia and mouth-watering American-themed menu (something seldom found in grands chefs-driven Paris). Loud rock music, a relaxed atmosphere, original cocktails and humongous quantities of food await at Paris’ most American institution.
Golden records, guitars, costumes and other iconic memorabilia can be found at the restaurant’s two-floor museum. Some of the most popular items include Jimmy Hendrix’s paisley jacket, Whitney Houston’s gown, AC/DC’s Angus Young’s iconic school boy costume, John Lennons’s fox coat, Trent Reznor’s broken Gibson Les Paul guitar, Eminem’s overalls, to name a few.
Each arrondissement in Paris has a number and a name; the fourth arrondissement is known as Le Marais. You'll probably find yourself in this neighborhood more than almost any other in the city.
The historical home of the Parisian aristocracy and the Pletzl, its Jewish community (as well as Victor Hugo and Robespierre), Le Marais includes the practically cloistered first square ever designed in Paris, known as Place des Vosges. Its stately homes surround a park so quiet, that the only sounds heard are from the fountain and bird-songs. But the rest of the arrondissement is much livelier, with the bustling Rue de Rivoli, the gay community along Rue des Archives and the funky labyrinth of stores, galleries and cafes in the Village Saint Paul (its entrance can be found at 12 Rue des Jardins Saint-Paul).
Like most museums in Europe, the Musée de l'Orangerie in Paris wasn't always an art space. As its name would imply, its original purpose in the 19th century was to house the orange trees away from winter weather. Later, it was used for just about everything from soldiers' quarters to sports to one-time exhibits. But it wasn't until 1922, when Nymphéas – known to the world as Monet's Water Lilies – found a permanent home in their specially designed, softly lit room.
But the Water Lilies aren't the only reason to stop in here on the way to Place Concorde after a stroll through the Tuilieries. There are also works by Picasso, Matisse, Modigliani, Cézanne and many others.
Things to do near Paris
- Things to do in Île-de-France
- Things to do in Versailles
- Things to do in Marne-la-Vallée
- Things to do in Rouen
- Things to do in Amiens
- Things to do in Reims
- Things to do in Blois
- Things to do in Deauville City
- Things to do in Le Havre
- Things to do in Lille
- Things to do in Dijon
- Things to do in Ghent
- Things to do in Dover
- Things to do in Picardy
- Things to do in Champagne