In a city that brims with stunning architecture, gastronomy, culture, and delights in every neighborhood, it’s no wonder that many can’t tick everything off of their Paris bucket list in a single trip. We’ve visited more times than I can count, and I never run out of new-to-me things to do in Paris, France.
It’s a place that warrants multiple visits over a lifetime to visit all the highlights on this list eventually. But, to properly experience Paris, one must embrace spontaneity, too. Stop into a patisserie on a whim, sit on a park bench, get sidetracked on a shop-lined avenue, and stay up later than usual with a cocktail.
Embrace joie de vivre, if you will. If you need further convincing, take a peek at the Paris travel guide put together by Air France experts who also know the city well.
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1. Dine in the Eiffel Tower
With the Eiffel Tower visible from many parts of central Paris, it won’t be hard to snap that Instagram-worthy shot.
If you’d like to visit the Eiffel Tower, do what it takes to skip the line. Dining inside is one way as with a reservation (which will need to be made well in advance), one can use the VIP elevator and enjoy access to the Eiffel Tower viewing decks without queuing up.
Our family experienced a very memorable lunch at Michelin-starred Le Jules Verne with its decadent Modern French cuisine. Fast track entry is also available to diners at the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, though other options inside the tower include a champagne bar and a macaron bar.
If you’re not going to skip the line with a restaurant reservation, buy Eiffel Tower entry tickets in advance. There are too many other things to do in Paris to waste time waiting in line.
2. Musee d’Orsay
A less overwhelming experience than the Louvre, the Musee d’Orsay houses the world’s most extensive collection of Impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gaugin, and Van Gogh.
It’s located on the Left Bank in the former Gare d’Orsay, a Beaux-Arts railway station built between 1898 and 1900.
3. Fondation Louis Vuitton
The Frank Gehry designed building home to LVMH’s contemporary art collection and tributes to its luxury brands. Fondation Louis Vuitton opened in 2014 and has quickly become one of the best things to do in Paris for chic Parisians, art enthusiasts, fashion lovers, and international visitors looking to see unique pieces.
The experience is worthy of at least a half-day to wander the sailship-like building, perhaps longer to enjoy the adjacent Bois de Boulogne park.
4. Chocolate Walks
It’s entirely possible to take a chocolate walk in Saint Germain des Pres, where many of the world’s best chocolatiers are located. You’re bound to find a famous outlet wherever you are in the city, however.
These dark chocolates, ganaches, and works of art will turn any skeptic of sweets into a fan. Don’t miss Patrick Roger, Jean-Charles Rochoux, Sadaharu Aoki, and others mentioned here.
Worth seeking out is also Fouquet, first opened in 1852 and one of the city’s oldest sweets shops.
5. Pere Lachaise
The most-visited cemetery in the world honors those laid to rest here in the city’s largest green space home to thousands of trees and birds. Notable gravesites to see include Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Chopin, Delacroix, Proust, and many others.
Walk uphill to the highest point in Pere Lachaise for a spectacular view and be sure not to miss the World War II monument in the southeast corner.
One could spend days exploring antiquities and art inside the Louvre. It’s worth studying the museum’s galleries in advance to identify what you’d like to see in what order.
Or, better yet, take a private tour or a scavenger hunt both of which will pass highlights including the Mona Lisa, Victoire de Samothrace, La Liberté Guidant le Peuple, and other treasures.
Note: Reservations are required now for visiting the Louvre.
7. Les Puces de Saint-Ouen
Visit the largest flea market in the world, Les Puces de Saint-Ouen, with its over 2,500 vendors that sell vintage art, clothing, books, household items, furniture, trinkets, and much more.
It is only open Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (though many dealers take Monday off), and best to visit in the morning before it gets crowded.
8. Designer Shopping
There is indeed no shortage of designer shopping in Paris. I buy my Goyard and Louis Vuitton handbags in Paris as I tend to pay less (after VAT refund) than in the United States.
Explore rue Saint-Honoré where Colette, Astier de Villatte, and the flagship Goyard store await—it’s my favorite shopping street in the city. We also often stay at Mandarin Oriental, Paris here.
Of course, there’s the famous Champs Elysees, flanked by the Arc de Triomphe, where every designer brand is represented.
From Champs Elysees, walk down Avenue George V past Four Seasons Hotel George V, Paris to Avenue Montaigne for a quieter, yet the higher concentration of designer shops. This route is referred to as Triangle d’Or (Golden Triangle).
Boulevard Haussmann near the Opera is where the fabulous mega department stores Galeries Lafayette and Printemps are located. Both are worth a stop into.
9. Luxembourg Gardens
One of the most peaceful things to do in Paris is to sit in one of its many gardens. Queen Marie de Medici created Luxembourg Gardens in 1612. The famous Luxembourg Palace is now a government building.
Visitors should wander through the garden’s 62 acres, including dozens of apple varieties, beehives, greenhouses full of orchids and other prized flowers, a rose garden, and over 100 statues. Kids enjoy the summer puppet theater and remote control boats in the pond.
10. Stroll Les Berges
On the Left Bank of the Seine, the newly redesigned and pedestrianized Les Berges stems from the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre.
You’ll pass some activities and street art along the way ranging from a climbing wall to floating gardens. One could even take a snooze in a converted cargo crate or rent a teepee for a kids’ party.
11. Cruise the Seine
Whether you hire a private Venetian water taxi or hop on to a Bateaux Mouches open-air boat, be sure to take to the water on your Paris vacation.
You’ll pass sights along the Ile de la Cite and the Eiffel Tower while sipping champagne and viewing the city of lights from a different angle.
12. Macarons, Eclairs, and More Pastries
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to enjoy the delightful pastry options and then walk it off during sightseeing. After walking Rue Saint-Honore (with a quick stop into Pierre Hermes on Rue Cambon), I usually wind up on Rue Royale where the flagship Laduree and Fauchon stores await. Hediard is here, too, though currently closed for renovation. All have multiple outlets around Paris.
Lovers of hot chocolate and mont blanc desserts should head to Angelina on Rue de Rivoli, also in the 1st arrondissement.
Truthfully, though, some of the best Parisian pastries I’ve had are from cafes and stalls that I couldn’t tell you the name of. There is also a new generation of pastry chefs on the rise worth seeking out.
13. Enfant Rouges Food Market
For a glimpse of everyday Parisian food, stop into Marche des Enfant Rouges, the oldest covered market in the city, dating back to 1628.
Here in the Marais district, you’ll find fresh produce and regional products in addition to prepared foods and ingredients from Japan, Africa, the Caribbean, Italy, and beyond.
And, there are many more Paris food markets to explore.
14. Ile de la Cite/Notre Dame
Paris’s two natural islands in the middle of the Seine are Île de la Cité and Île Saint-Louis. Cross the Pont Neuf bridge to the tip of Ile de la Cite and walk over to Notre Dame cathedral.
This favorite thing to do in Paris is probably heaving with people. Take a souvenir photo in front of its Gothic architecture and skip waiting in any lengthy queue (though if it’s short enough to go inside, definitely do).
Time is better spent exploring the islands. Include a stop into the Marche aux Fleurs to see the myriad of plants and flowers on sale daily and walk over to Île Saint-Louis for some of the world’s best ice cream at Berthillion.
Sure, you can find it in various Parisian cafes, but indulging at its original location is quite a treat (literally). Then, browse the quaint and quirky shops nearby rue Saint-Louis en l’Île and maybe stop into a cafe or two.
15. Musee de l’Orangerie
Walk through the Tuileries Garden to Musee de l’Orangerie, to see eight of Monet’s large-format waterlily series paintings creatively housed across two oval rooms, in addition to works of art by Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and Derain.
What are your favorite things to do in Paris?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).