What are the best things to do in Paris?
Living in the city of love, I hear that question whenever friends come through town. Each time my answer is the same — everything in Paris is the best because it is in Paris.
Whether it’s strolling down the narrow streets in the Marais, having a picnic on the Seine River with Notre Dame’s soaring spires in front of you or wandering through the Louvre at night with moonlight streaming through its tall windows, Paris is a feast for the eyes and soul.
If forced to choose (over a bottle of Bordeaux or Chablis), my top spots to visit invariably focus on classic Paris favorites…
- Montmartre & Sacré-Coeur Basilica
With charming sloping streets, windmills, Paris’s oldest vineyard, Sacré-Coeur Basilica and the Place du Tertre and its street artists and musicians, Montmartre has it all.
Take the funicular to the top of the Butte Montmartre and look out over Paris from the highest spot. Enjoy a glass of wine or lunch at one of the many cafés.
- The Louvre
One of the world’s greatest museums, it is also the world’s largest museum.
To get the best out of your visit, don’t try and do it all. Choose a section or two to visit.
My favorite sections are Egyptian antiquities, large French paintings in the Denon Wing (a short walk from the always enigmatic Mona Lisa) and the Medieval Louvre in the basement with its hauntingly beautiful moat and keep.
The first murder in Death in the Louvre, a cozy mystery by Evan Hirst, takes place in the elegant Café Mollien in the museum’s Denon Wing that overlooks the Cour Napoléon and the Carrousel Garden.
- Musée d’Orsay – Orsay Museum
A former train station across from the Tuileries Gardens, it is a must-see for art lovers. It house one of the world’s best collections of Impressionist art. Have lunch in its listed dining room with painted gold and gilded ceilings, dazzling chandeliers and contemporary furniture.
Claude Monet’s spectacular Water Lilies Room is just across the river in the Orangerie Museum at the edge of the Tuileries Garden near the Place de la Concorde.
- Tuileries Garden
The Tuileries Garden in Paris is part of the fabric of Parisian life. Located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde, it was commissioned by Catherine de Medici in 1564.
Grab one of the green metal chairs (each one has its own number) and select a spot to watch life go by. Buy lunch in one of the surrounding streets and have a picnic. It’s a perfect place to slow down after a morning in the Louvre or the Orsay Museum across the river.
The Orangerie Museum in the garden’s far corner at the Place de la Concorde houses Claude Monet’s Water Lilies room, a captivating experience that shouldn’t be missed.
- Notre Dame Cathedral
No visit to Paris would be complete without a visit to Notre Dame Cathedral, a masterpiece of Gothic Architecture with flying buttresses, rose windows and scowling gargoyles.
Expect a line. Chat with those around you and share recommendations of things to see and do.
A visit to the little-known Crypt Museum located at the far end of the square in front of the cathedral is a fascinating plunge into the past as you walk through the archeological remains of the Gallo-Roman town of Lutetia.
- Parc Rives de Seine – Riverside Promenade
A riverside promenade along the Seine River in the center of Paris.
The right bank of the Seine is great for rollerblading and cycling. You can even travel back in time with (free) 3D Timescope binoculars. End your day by watching the sunset on the water across from the Ile de la Cité with a bottle of wine and some cheese. You might even see the swans. Street musicians often play there in the summer and on warm fall weekends.