Known as the “City of Light”, Paris is a true example of a city that never sleeps. Its vibrant neighbourhoods (arrondissements) are teeming with people, both locals and tourists, traffic, and music from nearby clubs. With its magnificent architecture, museums, churches, glorious sculptures, numerous gardens and artsy corners, Paris is a city everyone should visit at least once in a lifetime.
For the best city break experience, check out this 4-day plan through must-see places in Paris!
Start your visit at the Centre Pompidou, industrial-style museum of modern art, that represents a radical high-tech architectural design where all the plumbings, cables and air vents form part of the facade instead of being hidden inside the building. The museum also hosts different events and exhibitions, and the admission is free of charge every first Sunday of each month.
A short walk down the Rue de Renard, you will reach Paris city hall, called Hôtel de Ville. This impressive mansion is composed of several pavilions with 136 sculptures placed on four corners of the building.
Crossing the Pont d’Arcole bridge, you will enter Île-de-la-Cité, the first settlement and the location where the city was founded. There you can find the cathedral, Notre-Dame, the most famous church in Paris, and one of the most famous in the world. The glorious rose window from the 13th century is a must-see.
On the other side of the Seine, at Rue de la Bûcherie, you can find the famous Shakespeare & Company bookstore. Although not the original one, opened in 1919 by Sylvia Beach, and the meeting place for the most famous writers of the 20th century like Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce and Ezra Pound, this 1964 bookstore is a tribute to Sylvia Beach and keeps the tradition of helping aspiring writers and artists.
In the area called the Latin Quarter, you will find a lot of bistros and restaurants for your late lunch. Since Paris is the capital of France, you will probably be able to find some traditional food from other regions as well. You could try the famous French onion soup and quiche Lorraine, or the traditional French casserole. As for the wine, whatever you choose, you won’t be disappointed.
The famous University of Paris, known as the Sorbonne, founded around 1150 which makes it the second-oldest modern university in Europe, is located in the Latin Quarter. You can see some of the main buildings around Pathéon.
In the Panthéon you can find the tombs of Victor Hugo, Emile Zola, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau… but also the famous Foucault’s pendulum.
Just around the corner from the Sorbonne, you can find the Luxembourg Garden with the Luxembourg Palace, constructed as the residence of regent Marie de’ Medici, and modeled after Palazzo Pitti (situated in Florence, the city ruled by the Medici family). Today, the palace is used by the French Senate. In the garden, you will see a big circular basin, surrounded by benches and chairs, where you can sit and relax, away from the city hustle.
Dedicate your second day in Paris to exploring some of the most famous museums, starting with the Louvre. Some of the collections you can see here include Oriental, Egyptian, Greek and Roman exhibits, sculptures and paintings, decorative art… Certainly, the most popular exhibit is the famous Mona Lisa – Da Vinci’s masterpiece from the early 16th century. To explore the Louvre, you would need more than just one day, and especially if you plan to spend just a few hours inside. It is advisable to book the ticket in advance, online, and to check the exact location of the exhibits you wish to see, to minimize the waiting time. In front of the Louvre Palace, you will see the famous Louvre Pyramid. It is surrounded by seven wells and fountains and three smaller pyramids pointing to the three wings of the museum: Sully, Denon and Richelieu.
Opposite of the Louvre is the Place du Carrousel with the Arch dedicated to Napoleon’s victories. If you look through the arch, you will see the Arch of Triumph. It is because these two arches were designed to be in a straight line. Passing through the Arc du Carrousel, you will enter the Tuileries park, bought in 1563 by Catherine de’ Medici in order to make an English-style amusement park. Take a stroll along the park, sit at one of the chairs placed around a big basin with the fountain, and relax before visiting another museum.
At the end of the Tuileries park, is the Place de la Concorde, with an Egyptian obelisk and two fountains designed to resemble the fountains at St. Peter’s square in Rome. From Place de la Concorde it is possible to see the Eiffel tower.
On your way from Place de la Concorde to the Pont de la Concorde bridge, you will see the Orangerie Museum. Once an orange conservatory, today it hosts 144 post-impressionist paintings of Cézanne, Picasso, Modigliani, etc. You can also see the famous Water Lilies from Monet series, located in two oval halls on the ground floor.
Across the Seine is the famous Musée d’Orsay, containing a large collection of impressionist paintings, but also the works from other art movements. Some of the paintings you can find here are among the masterpieces of Cézanne, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, Manet, Gauguin and Toulouse-Lautrec.
Start your day at the Arch of Triumph, located at Place de Gaulle. Built in 1836, it is a national symbol and although designed to celebrate Napoleon’s victories, it is dedicated to the armies of the Revolution and the Empire. At the base of the monument, you will see the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, buried in 1921 and the flame of remembrance is lit every day at 18:30 (6:30 PM).
The Arch of Triumph is the starting point of the most famous boulevard in Paris, the Champs-Élysées avenue. Take a walk down the boulevard and enjoy the cosmopolite atmosphere: luxurious boutiques, theatres, restaurants… Sit at a café and try the famous French macarons.
At the end of the Champs-Élysées, you will reach a large park with Grand Palais and Petit Palais. The two palaces were constructed for the 1900 World Expo (Exposition Universelle) that was held in Paris. Placed between the palaces, you will notice the statue of general Charles De Gaulle at the beginning and the statue of Winston Churchill at the end of the Winston Churchill avenue.
At the end of the Winston Churchill avenue, you will see the bridge Pont Alexandre III. Decorated with nymphs, cherubs and gold, it is the most ornate and extravagant bridge in the city. It is also a symbol of the Franco-Russian alliance.
Crossing the bridge you will reach the Maréchal Gallieni avenue which leads to the Place des Invalides with the former residence for retired soldiers (Hôtel des Invalides), now transformed into the Army Museum, the church of St. Louis and the Dome with Napoleon’s tomb. Napoleon’s remains were brought from the island of Saint Helena in 1840 and placed into the crypt, in six different cases (like those of the Egyptian pharaohs): sheet metal, mahogany, lead, ebony and oak, before they were put into a red granite sarcophagus.
Just around the corner from the Invalides, you will find a large park, once used for military parades, Champ de Mars. Today, this is the location for many events and international fairs. However, the most important thing regarding the Champ de Mars is that it is located right in front of the Eiffel tower.
Built in 1889 for the World Expo, the Eiffel tower is 320 meters high and has three viewpoint platforms. On the first two floors you can find restaurants offering some of the best views of Paris and the bridges over the Seine.
On the other side of the Seine, you can find the Trocadero park, a great place to take a walk and relax, and enjoy one of the best views of the Eiffel tower.
It is time to visit one of the most interesting parts of Paris – Montmartre. This picturesque neighbourhood is located on a hill, 130 m high. During the 19th century, Montmartre gathered all the artists and bohemians of the city and beyond. Today, we can feel that part of history in the architecture, artsy souvenir shops down the narrow streets and especially at Place du Tertre, a square filled with artists selling their paintings and sketches. Take a walk around the stalls and maybe find a unique souvenir to take back home.
One of the symbols of Montmartre is Sacré Coeur, an 83 m high basilika made of white travertine stone. It offers a great view of the city, being located at the top of Montmartre hill. The best way to reach it is to take the funicular from Place St. Pierre, or walk up the stairs or up the path from St. Pierre square.
Another important landmark is Moulin Rouge. A cabaret founded in 1889 in the city district of Pigalle, was once the inspiration of Toulouse-Lautrec and other artists who had spent many nights enjoying the can-can dance and courtesan entertainment. Today, the nightclub still has a large part of the fin de siècle decor and offers musical dance entertainment for tourists and visitors from around the world.
In the area around Pigalle you can find a lot of restaurants serving lunch. For the dessert you may want to try the traditional crème brûlée or éclair (pastry dough with different kinds of filling and icing on top).
In the afternoon, you could visit the famous Opéra Garnier. This beautiful palace was built in mid-19th century and decorated with marble statues, pillars and a flattened dome over the theatre hall. The place was an inspiration for Gaston Leroux and his Phantom of the Opera.
Just around the corner from Garnier opera house, on Boulevard Haussmann, you can find the luxurious Galeries Lafayette department store, opened in 1912, offering brands like Balenciaga, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Chanel, etc.
To round up the day, you could take a river cruise along the Seine. Sit back, relax, and enjoy your evening cruise in the most romantic city on the planet. And make sure you come to Trocadero park just before 22:00 (10 p.m.) to see the Eiffel tower twinkle. 20,000 light bulbs are designed to flicker on and off to create a unique sparkling moment that lasts for 5 minutes every hour between sundown and 1 a.m. It is the most perfect way to end your Paris city break!
If you will have some more time, you could visit the famous Versailles palace and gardens.
Paris is a huge city and to visit all the sights, you will need to use the Metro.
If you will be flying to Paris, check our posts about reaching Paris city center from the airports Orly and Charles De Gaulle.
If you would like to visit Paris by bus, check getbybus.com to see the best travel options, or see some of the most popular routes like London to Paris, Amsterdam to Paris, Brussels to Paris, Strasbourg to Paris, Marseilles to Paris, Zurich to Paris, Madrid to Paris.
Travelling by bus can be both cheap and comfortable!
|Lyon to Paris||Dusseldorf to Paris||Basel to Paris|
|Nice to Paris||Munich to Paris||Ghent to Paris|
|Bordeaux to Paris||Nuremberg to Paris||Antwerp to Paris|