Whether it’s your first time in Paris or your fifth, this breathtaking city has something for everyone. While you’ll never get to see the entire city in just one vacation, here are the top 20 things to do in Paris to make your stay memorable.
Paris is the world’s cultural capital and has been for a few hundred years. From the Louvre Museum to the Luxembourg Gardens and some of the finest European restaurants, Paris has something for everyone.
The city has an inexhaustible wealth of things to see and do, so don’t freak out if you can’t get to all of them.
If you’re okay with walking, the city is relatively compact, and most of the top sites are available on foot. Just be sure to review the best times to visit Paris as you don’t want to be caught walking unprepared during rainy season.
If walking gets to be too much, you’re never too far away from a metro station.
Below our recommendations, we’ve included everything you need to start your journey.
We also included an overview called “for fans of” to help you quickly decide if this site is for you.
Best Things to Do and See In Paris
Want to jump around our list of what to do in Paris? Click the links below to hop around the list:
- 20 – Les Deux Magots
- 19 – The Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)
- 18 – Palais Garnier Opera House
- 17 – Petit Palais
- 16 – Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
- 15 – Place des Vosges (Place Royale)
- 14 – Panthéon
- 13 – Sacré Coeur
- 12 – Place de la Concorde
- 11 – Musée Rodin (Hotel Biron)
- 10 – Paris Catacombs
- 09 – Sainte-Chapelle
- 08 – Arc de Triomphe
- 07 – Centre Pompidou
- 06 – Les Invalides
- 05 – Notre-Dame de Paris
- 04 – Palace of Versailles
- 03 – Eiffel Tower
- 02 – Musée d’Orsay
- 01 – The Louvre Museum
20 – Les Deux Magots
For Fans Of: History, Cafes
Address: 6 Pl. Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 45 48 55 25
Les Deux Magots is admittedly a tourist trap. The owners know what they have, and you’re paying for the name, but it is fantastic.
Les Deux Magots is the most famous literary cafe in Paris.
Opening in 1914, Les Deux Magots became the cafe to visit during the Golden Age of Paris.
It served as the rendezvous of the world’s foremost artists and intellectuals, such as
- Jean-Paul Sartre (a key figure in 20th century Marxism & Existentialism)
- Ernest Hemingway (Nobel Prize-winning author of A Farewell to Arms)
- Albert Camus (author of The Stranger)
- Pablo Picasso (painted Guernica)
- James Joyce (author of Ulysses)
- James Baldwin (author of Go Tell It on The Mountain)
The list could go on and on. Anyone of literary, painterly, or academic merit visited the cafe on a near regular basis.
Avoid paying for lunch or dinner. Instead, grab coffee and a Pierre Hermé pastry and visit nearby landmarks.
Looking For More Things to Do in Paris?
Paris has a great nightlife, especially if you are into wine and cocktails. We wrote the guide on Paris’ best bars.
19 – The Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)
For Fans Of: Gardens, Outdoors, Architecture
Address: 75006 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 42 34 20 00
These tranquil gardens date back to 1612 when Marie de’ Medici, widow of King Henry IV and member of the Medici House, constructed the palace as her new residence (talk about living in luxury).
Today, though, the Luxembourg Gardens are owned by the French Senate, which still occupies it regularly.
At just under 57 acres, you will undoubtedly struggle to see the entire property (nor is there reason to).
When visiting Jardin du Luxembourg, you should aim to see:
- Medici Fountain (built-in 1620)
- Twenty statues of prominent women and French queens, including busts of Marie de’ Medici, Mary, Queen of Scotts, and Saint Genevieve
- The original model of Liberty Enlightening the World (Statue of Liberty)
The Luxembourg Gardens have been featured prominently in several pieces of literature, including Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables and William Faulkner’s Sanctuary.
The beautiful architecture and manicured gardens place Jardin du Luxembourg on our list of the best places to visit in Paris.
18 – Palais Garnier Opera House
For Fans Of: Architecture, Ballet, Opera
Address: Place de l’Opéra, 75009 Paris
Phone: 33 1 71 25 24 23
Making it onto our list at number 18 is one of the most marvelous monuments in all of Paris.
Palais Garnier is a 1,979-seat opera house built during the mid-to-late 1800s at the behest of Emperor Napoleon III (who will reappear throughout our list). At the time of construction, it was the most expensive building in France.
Some of the world’s preeminent ballets were shown throughout its life. It was the primary theater of the Paris Opera and Ballet until 1989, when a new opera house, Opéra Bastille, was opened.
While indeed a popular destination, it’s not as crowded as you’d think given how it’s “. . .the most famous opera house in the world, a symbol of Paris like Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, or the Sacré Coeur Basilica.”
Palais Garnier’s depiction in Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera is part of the appeal. Take one step inside, and you’re transported to one of the most opulent buildings in the world.
17 – Petit Palais
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art
Address: Av. Winston Churchill, 75008 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 53 43 40 00
This architectural gem is nestled in the heart of the city and serves as the Paris Museum of Fine Arts.
Petit Palais was built for the 1900 World Fair by Charles Girault and took more than 20 years to complete.
The building is a work of art, with the architecture alone worth a visit, but the museum inside is why people stay.
The museum holds a permanent collection from some of the world’s greatest artists, including:
- Eugène Delacroix (Combat of the Giaour and the Pasha)
- Paul Cézanne (Portrait of Ambroise Vollard)
- Rembrandt (Self-portrait in Oriental Attire)
- Edgar Degas (Madame Alexis Rouart and her Children)
- Claude Monet (Sunset on the Seine at Lavacourt, Winter Effect)
With 1,300 pieces, the museum has enough to keep you busy for an entire afternoon.
As of writing, the permanent collection is entirely free to the public. The temporary exhibits cost between €6 and €13.
16 – Musée du Quai Branly – Jacques Chirac
For Fans Of: Art, History
Address: 37 Quai Branly, 75007 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 56 61 70 00
If you’re interested in something decidedly less Parisian, Musée du Quai Branly is for you.
The massive 370,000 pieces in this museum focus on work from Africa, the Near East, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas. It is Europe’s largest museum focused on the promotion of non-European civilizations.
The aim is to show the richness and cultural diversity from the Neolithic period to the 20th century.
The collection was once dispersed across Paris in various museums, but they were moved to the Musée du Quai Branly when it opened in 2006.
My wife is Filipino, so spending time in the Oceania section impacted us. It provided a unique glimpse into cultural themes we hadn’t seen in other museums (and we’ve been to many of them).
It’s just a short, five-minute walk from the Eiffel Tower. If you’re in the area, you should stop by and see what pieces move you.
You won’t be able to miss it. The Musée du Quai Branly’s exterior “green wall” comprises 15,000 plants of 150 varieties.
15 – Place des Vosges (Place Royale)
For Fans Of: History, Squares
Address: Pl. des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France
Located in the Marais district, Place des Vosges is the oldest planned square in Paris and is an excellent example of Louis XIII-style architecture.
Often considered one of Europe’s most beautiful squares, it is a perfectly symmetrical design (140m x 140m) and is bordered by 36 buildings.
Designed and built at the start of the 17th century, the Place des Vosges instantly transformed the Marias district into an upper-class haven. Indeed, some of Paris’ most recognizable have lived there:
- Victor Hugo (author of The Hunchback of Notre Dame)
- Maximilien de Béthune (Duke of Sully)
- Théophile Gautier (poet)
- Georges Dufrénoy (post-Impressionist painter)
But you don’t have to be uber-wealthy to appreciate the simplicity of the square and take a well-deserved break from your travels.
As you look around the square, it is lined with rows of red brick mansions fashioned in the Mannerism style of Italy.
These homes have existed for as long as the square and feature dormer windows and white stone quoins.
Many of these homes, including the aforementioned Victor Hugo’s residence, are now museums you can tour for free.
Place des Vosges is the perfect park to relax and enjoy being in the moment.
14 – Panthéon
For Fans Of: Architecture, History, Art
Address: Pl. du Panthéon, 75005 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 32 18 00
Situated on the highest point in the Left Bank, the Pantheon is close to other must-see locations, like Notre Dame, the Eiffel Tower, and Musee d’Orsay.
Construction started in 1758 after King Louis XV vowed to build a new church to replace the Sainte-Genevieve. It would be his only positive moment as King.
The rest of Louis XV’s rule consisted of bankrupting France, ruining the monarchy, and creating the discontent that led to the French Revolution (15 years after his death).
Despite starting in 1758, the Pantheon wasn’t finished until 1791. The construction was tumultuous. It was suspended multiple times due to a lack of funds and poor soil conditions that resulted in an unstable foundation.
By the time the Pantheon was open, the French Revolution was underway (talk about bad timing). It was quickly occupied by the Constituent Assembly, who renamed the building the Temple of the Nation as a shrine to the “heroes of France.”
The Pantheon would serve as a place to “receive the bodies of great men who died in the period of French liberty.”
Today, there are 76 men and two women within the crypt of the Pantheon, including
- Victor Hugo (author of Les Miserables)
- Alexandre Dumas (author of The Three Musketeers)
- Maurice Genevoix (author of Ceux de 14)
Depending on the weather, try to get to the top of the Pantheon. It offers fantastic views of the city, including the Eiffel Tower.
13 – Sacré Coeur
For Fans Of: Architecture, Holy Relics, Art
Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 53 41 89 00
No Paris must-see list would be complete without visiting the Sacre Coeur. Although young compared to many of the churches throughout Paris, the Sacre-Coeur is one of the most well-known due to its history and lavish white exterior.
First commissioned by the French National Assembly in 1873, the Sacre Coeur came after one of the worst times in Parisian history. There was the Franco-Prussian War, the Paris Commune, Emperor Napoleon II fled into exile, and many buildings were destroyed in riots.
The National Assembly seized the land by force from the legal property owners. On one side, royalists and the Catholic Church supported the decision; on the other, many Parisians, including French Prime Minister Georges Clemenceau, opposed it.
To this day, some locals we spoke to were less than happy with the church – many complained that it was an unattractive eyesore.
I think the building is beautiful and offers some of the best views in the city if you’re willing to climb the 237 steps of the dome.
Love or hate it, visiting the Sacre Coeur should be on your list of things to do in Paris.
12 – Place de la Concorde
For Fans Of: Art, Squares
Address: 75008 Paris, France
Place de la Concorde is Paris’ largest square and the second-largest square in France after the Place des Quinconces in Bordeaux.
Designed between 1757 and 1779, it was initially named Place Louis XV and featured a large equestrian statue of the King, symbolizing his return to health after suffering a long illness.
In 1792, the statue was torn down and melted during the French Revolution. The square was renamed Place de la Revolution and was the chosen location for public beheadings.
From 1792 to 1795, over 1,200 people fell victim to the guillotine. This included some of France’s most famous public figures, Queen Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI.
After the revolution, the square was named Place de la Concorde.
From 1836 to 1840, the Place de la Concorde was renovated to include a giant 3,000-year-old Egyptian obelisk from the Luxor temple.
The obelisk was presented to France by the Khedive of Egypt, Muhammad Ali Pasha, and features hieroglyphics exalting the reign of the pharaoh Ramses II.
Alongside the obelisk are two river and sea-themed fountains influenced by the many squares and fountains found in Rome (Fontana di Trevi and Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi being the primary influences).
11 – Musée Rodin (Hotel Biron)
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art
Address: 77 Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 18 61 10
When he died in 1917, Auguste Rodin donated his life’s work and the artwork he had collected throughout his life to the French government. He wanted them to be shown at the Hotel Biron, where he had lived since 1908.
Rodin was a prolific artist, so his collection is vast. The donations of just his artwork include 6,500 sculptures and around 10,000 drawings, including lithographs, watercolors, and engravings.
He also collected around 1,700 paintings and over 6,400 sculptures and ancient artifacts throughout his lifetime.
While not everything is on display, you can see a large portion of it in the museum’s permanent collection.
Don’t have all day to wander the grounds? The must-see art includes:
- The Thinker (shown above; left)
- The Kiss
- The Walking Man
- The Age of Bronze
- The Gates of Hell
- The Burghers of Calais
- Père Tanguy (painted by Vincent Van Gogh)
The museum dates back to the 1700s and features some beautiful châteauesque (Revivalist architectural style famous in France).
The Rodin Museum is “pay what you wish,” but they suggest you give € 12 for adults. The Sculptor Garden (where many of his famous works appear) is free year-round, so there’s no real reason not to go!
Rodin’s massive collection and unique style place this museum at number 12 on our list of things to do in Paris.
10 – Paris Catacombs
For Fans Of: History, Creepy
Address: 1 Av. du Colonel Henri Rol-Tanguy, 75014 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 18 61 10
Breaking into our top 10 things to do in Paris are the Parisian Catacombs.
By the 17th century, Paris ran into a significant problem most don’t think about: what do you do with millions of bodies when your cemeteries are already overflowing?
When the government began surveying areas of opportunity, they realized that the city had an extensive network of old limestone mines left abandoned from the 13th century.
By the time the burials ended, some 6 million Parisian bones had come to the city’s catacombs, giving it the nickname the “Empire of Death.”
Cemeteries started to be emptied in 1786, and it took the city nearly 12 years to move all the bones into the catacombs. We know from testing that some of the oldest date back as far as the Merovingian era, more than 1,200 years ago.
At first, the bones were stacked randomly, but engineer Louis-Étienne Héricart de Thury decided to make the catacombs into the mausoleum we know today.
You can opt for a guided tour, but not required. We opted for the audio guides that were €3 at the time. They offered great insights into the process, the sculptures (made from bones), and other fun facts.
Bring a jacket, though. The tunnels are chilly and rarely rise above 57° F.
09 – Sainte-Chapelle
For Fans Of: Art, Architecture, Holy Relics
Address: 10 Bd du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 53 40 60 80
Sainte-Chapelle is Paris’ most exquisite Gothic monument and features the city’s oldest, finest stained glass (1242-48).
Initially conceived by Louis IX and completed in 1248, Sainte-Chapelle houses the former King’s collections of holy relics, including the famous Holy Crown.
It is one of the first and most important works of Rayonnant Gothic architecture and is considered by many the height of architecture from the era. This style is known for its lightness, sense of height, and massive areas of stained glass and rose windows.
As soon as you enter the church and look up, you’re treated to blue vaults trimmed with gold and dotted with fleurs-de-lis (as seen in the left photo below).
People come to Sainte-Chapelle to observe the original stained glass, which takes up 640 square meters of the church.
The glass depicts 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments and recounts the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris.
The church graciously provides free 90-minute guided tours in English (daily between 11 am and 3 pm). If you miss it, you can also rent a 30-minute audio guide for €3.
08 – Arc de Triomphe
For Fans Of: Architecture
Address: Pl. Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 55 37 73 77
Upon first glance, there’s not much to Arc de Triomphe. It’s a large arch in the center of a large roundabout. But upon further inspection and understanding of the history, it becomes much more meaningful.
Commissioned by Napoleon in 1806, L’Arc de Triomphe commemorates his victory at Austerlitz.
This is the second version of the arch. The first was a wooden mock-up created so Napoleon could march beneath it with his second wife, Marie-Louise.
The version we see today wasn’t completed until 1836 and has served as a monument for many passing armies and historical figures:
- The Germans when they took over and defeated Paris in 1871 and 1940
- The French military after World War 1
- Allied Armies in 1944
- General de Gaulle (leader of the Free French)
Arc de Triomphe honors those who fought and died for France during the French Revolution, Napoleonic Wars, and the World Wars.
As of 1920, it is also known as Paris’ Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, as an unknown fallen soldier from WWI was buried at the base of the arch.
The United States would borrow the sentiment with their Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Virginia’s Arlington National Cemetary.
The Arc de Triomphe serves as the center point of the Axe Historique, a long, straight line of monuments from the Louvre in the east to La Defense in the west.
The arch is carved with reliefs of key episodes from the 1790s and 1800s and depicts events like the Fall of Alexandria and the Battle of Austerlitz.
The large pillars feature sculptural groups, including Marsellaise, which has a winged personification of liberty leading volunteers to France’s first revolutionary uprising.
The rest of the arch features engraved names of 158 battles fought by the French First Republic and the First French Empire and the names of 660 military leaders who served during those times.
07 – Centre Pompidou
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art
Address: Place Georges-Pompidou, 75004 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 78 12 33
You can tell this will be a unique museum by just taking a single look at Centre Pompidou.
Named after France’s president, Georges Pompidou, this high-tech architectural structure was opened on January 31, 1977.
The idea was to create a multicultural complex that brought together different forms of art and literature (it also houses the Public Information Library).
681 competitors placed bids and designs for the structure, with the winner being chosen by world-renowned architects Oscar Niemeyer, Jean Prouvé, and Philip Johnson.
It was a memorable event because it was the first time in history that France allowed international architects to participate. A British and Italian team were declared winners.
People come to the Centre Pompidou for the Musée National d’Art Moderne, Europe’s largest modern art museum and one of the world’s 10 most visited art museums.
I admit that the art in this museum is not for everyone, and that’s fine. I dismissed Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain (a used public urinal Duchamp submitted as art in 1917) the first time I saw it and moved on.
With that being said, there are some genuinely mesmerizing and evocative artists here:
- Jackson Pollock (Number 26 A, Black and White)
- Thomas Hirschhorn (Outgrowth)
- René Magritte (La Décalcomanie)
- Henri Matisse (Tete blanche et rose)
- Picasso (Femmes deviant la mer)
In 2013, the museum did a retrospective on Salvador Dalí, and it shattered daily attendance records – with 7,364 people a day going to see his work (790,000 in total).
If Centre Pompidou is not your thing, you might want to nearby Musée de l’Orangerie – a museum dedicated to the works of Monet and include pieces by Paul Cézanne, Matisse, Renoir, Rousseau, Sisley, Picasso, and Chaim Soutine.
06 – Les Invalides
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art, Military History
Address: 129 Rue de Grenelle, 75007 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 44 42 38 77
Les Invalides is an assortment of things: a museum, a monument, a mausoleum, a retirement home for soldiers, and a hospital for war veterans. It’s dedicated to all things French military.
In 1670, Louis XIV ordered the construction of a retirement home for soldiers. It would serve as a haven for sick, old, or disabled soldiers.
By the time Les Invalides was complete, the complex had 15 courtyards, a gilt-domed chapel, and enough room to house 4,000 residents.
Military enthusiasts will love the museum. Of interest are suits of armor, historical uniforms, swords, paintings (including Ingres’ Napoleon on his Imperial Throne), photographs, sabers, and sculptures.
The standout here, though, is Napoleon’s tomb. You’ll be able to find it quickly because the tomb is positioned under a beautiful golden dome (exterior shown above, interior shown below).
The royal chapel and dome were completed in 1706 by famed architect Francois Mansart and are one of the most recognized domes in France.
Before entering, you’re greeted by the Doric and Corinthian columns and statues of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne.
In 1861, forty years after his death, Napoleon’s remains were interred in the chapel’s crypt. Buried next to him are his brothers and his son, Napoleon II.
The sheer luxury and historical prestige of Les Invalides propel it to number 6 on our list of top things to see in Paris.
05 – Notre-Dame de Paris
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art, History
Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 42 34 56 10
What is there to say about Notre Dame Cathedral that you haven’t heard a thousand times before?
It is just behind the Eiffel Tower as the Parisian landmark to see when you visit the City of Lights. So why is it at number 5 on our list?
Due to the 2019 fire that nearly destroyed the church, it is still not open to the public, and, according to President Emmanuel Macron, it likely won’t reopen until 2024.
Still, even in its current state, you should visit Notre Dame. We visited a year before the fires and then again in 2022, and this beloved historical monument still gives me goosebumps.
Notre Dame Cathedral is hands-down the most famous and beloved Gothic monument in the world and is known for flying buttresses, bell towers, menacing gargoyles, and soaring spires – all of which you can still see today.
Just like Rome, Notre Dame wasn’t built in a day. In fact, it wasn’t built in 100 years.
It took Parisians 182 years to fully erect the church due to complications and new techniques being developed.
Even after completion, it underwent several changes throughout the years – including attempts during the Renaissance to replace the Gothic style (which had fallen out of favor).
During the French Revolution, Notre Dame barely survived. It was battered and used as a storage warehouse. It wasn’t until Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, that interest in the cathedral rose.
Hugo is often credited with the church’s revival and why it was brought back to life over the next 25 years by expert architects Jean-Baptiste-Antoine Lassus and Eugene Viollet-le-Duc.
Notre Dame may be undergoing construction and revitalization, but there is still enough to see. It’s a very sobering visit as you realize how quickly hundreds of years of history can be wiped out in one day.
04 – Palace of Versailles
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art, History, Gardens
Address: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Phone: 33 1 30 83 78 00
The Versailles Palace is the most luxurious and extensive royal estate ever created. Exploring the numerous palaces, gardens, lakes, and Grand Canal could easily take an entire day.
Versailles is a testament to the luxury and excess of King Louis XIV.
In 1623, Louis XIII built a small chateau as a hunting lodge on these grounds. Ever extravagant, just 40 years later, Louis XIV started a massive expansion that would require help from the most recognizable figures of their day:
- Architects Louis Le Vau and François d’Orbay designed the layout
- Painter Charles Le Brun designed the interior decoration
- André Le Nôtre landscaped the extensive gardens
The palace underwent several other expansions, including one from 1678 to 1715, and added the enormous north and south wings, Petites and Grandes Écuries stables, Grand Trianon chateau, and Théâtre de la Reine and the Hameau (farm).
Louis XVI gave the Trianon estate, palace, farm, and gardens to his queen Marie-Antoinette as a way to profess his love.
You need a lot of time to get the most from the palace, but there are five highlights you need to see when visiting:
- Louis XIV’s Grand Apartments, Chamber, and The Hall of Mirrors
- L’Opera Royal
- Les Appartements des Mesdames
- Le Petit Trianon
- The Gardens & Les Grandes Eaux Musicales
Depending on what time of the year you go, the palace offers a variety of extra things to do. When we visited, there was a fountain night show at the gardens of Louis XIV that combined lights, water, fireworks, and Baroque classical music.
03 – Eiffel Tower
For Fans Of: Architecture, Art, History, Gardens
Address: Place d’Armes, 78000 Versailles, France
Phone: 33 1 30 83 78 00
The Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument in the world.
Over the decades, hundreds of millions of visitors journeyed to Paris to view and climb this beautiful tower.
With popularity comes crowds. The queues to visit the tower can be two hours or more. If you want to climb to the top, make sure you get your tickets ahead of time.
The best viewing is at night from the base of the tower, or anywhere you can see it. Trust us; you won’t be able to miss it when the lights come on.
The history of the Eiffel Tower comes from a humiliating military defeat.
In 1870, Napoleon III pushed France into a war with Prussia, and it didn’t take long for it to become a disaster. The French army was defeated just a few weeks after the first battle in July, and Napoleon III was captured.
To rekindle spirits and return Paris to its former glory, a series of expositions were held in the city leading to the culmination of 1889’s World’s Fair (it also happened to mark the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution).
Gustave Eiffel and his team of engineers were already famous when they conceptualized the tower. They dreamed of building the world’s tallest structure.
It took two years, two months, and five days to complete the construction, but by the time they finished, they had achieved their goals. At 324 meters, the tower was the tallest structure in the world.
It remained the tallest structure in the country until the Millau Viaduct was completed in 2004.
The Eiffel Tower is a spectacle you don’t want to miss. From the fields below it to the views from the tower’s peak, it’s worth seeing; for that reason, it comes in third on our list of things to see in Paris.
02 – Musée d’Orsay
For Fans Of: Art
Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 75007 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 40 49 48 14
Built as a train station in the 19th century, this structure was transformed into a museum to house France’s collection of paintings when the nearby Louvre ran out of space.
In 1977, President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing gave final approval to transform the train station into the museum we see today. It would take nine-year, but the doors were finally open to the public in 1986.
Sitting on the left bank of the Seine, Musée d’Orsay is home to some of the world’s greatest art treasures from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Here, you’ll find some timeless pieces:
- Vincent Van Gogh (Portrait de l’artiste)
- Claude Monet (Londres, le Parlement. Trouée de soleil dans le brouillard)
- Eugène Viollet-le-Duc (Maisons à pans de fer et revêtement de faïence)
- Auguste Renoir (La Balançoire)
- Raoul Brandon (Immeuble de rapport, 1, rue Huysmans, Paris 6e)
Ironically, this building started as a runoff for excess Louvre pieces, and now Musée d’Orsay is expanding even further because it doesn’t have enough room to house its works.
From 2020 to 2026, the Musée d’Orsay will undergo a complete renovation to convert office space (13,000 square feet used for administration) into art space.
The renovated areas will house expanded Impressionist and Post-Impressionist galleries.
There are plans to build a new art education center on the fourth floor.
An anonymous American donor donated €20 million to fund the project.
01 – The Louvre Museum
For Fans Of: Art
Address: Rue de Rivoli, 75001 Paris, France
Phone: 33 1 40 20 50 50
Here we are at number one on our list of the top things to do and see in Paris.
The Louvre is exceptional, and you can tell immediately upon entering.
It is the world’s largest and most visited art museum and has so many paintings and sculptures they had to build the world-renown Musée d’Orsay to take the excess works.
Planning a Visit to the Louvre?
With thousands of paintings, you can get overwhelmed quickly. Here are the 20 most famous paintings and where to find them.
The Louvre’s history is just as rich as any other on the list, perhaps more so.
The museum started as a fortress, and then in the 12th century, it was used as the royal residence of French Kings.
This structure (not including the glass pyramid) has lasted through multiple revolutions, wars, occupations, and long periods of housing bureaucrats to become one of the world’s most recognized cultural icons.
The Louve museum has five levels and eight curatorial departments, so you’ll need to grab a map along the way. For reference, here are the eight departments:
- Egyptian Antiquities
- Greek and Roman Art
- Near Eastern Antiquities
- Islamic Art
- Decorative Arts
- Prints and Drawings
Don’t try to see everything in the Louvre. It’s not possible. It would take 200 straight days to see each of the 35,000 works of art displayed at the museum if you took just 30 seconds to view every piece.
That’s just the work on display! The museum owns roughly 550,000 works, most of which it keeps locked up in storage.
If you are going to the Louvre, and there’s no reason you should skip it, we wrote the ultimate guide to what paintings are in the Louvre.
In our article, we go over the top 20 paintings, the history behind each work, why it’s important, and where to find them once inside the museum.
There you have it—the absolute best things to do in Paris. Of course, there’s more to do and see, but we felt these were the essentials to make your next trip memorable.
What do you think of our list? Would you replace something on it? Do you want to argue the merits of adding the Musée de l’Orangerie? Let us know in the comments section below.
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