10 tourist spots not to miss in Paris – best city breaks

If you have seen my latest posts, you already know that I spent a week-end in Paris with my mom. It was sunny, it was tiresome, but we got to see so many things. We found some hidden gems, but we also went full tourist mode 😊 so… here are the 10 tourist spots not to miss in Paris, if you have a long week-end at your disposal.

We should begin with some practical tips, though. These are always useful 😛 Soooo… buy entry tickets in advance, where you can. Paris is a very sought-after destination, so, in order to avoid at least one queue, better to buy your tickets online. I said “at least one”, because in most of the tourist places, you will need to stay in a queue anyway, for the security control.

In terms of transportation around the various locations, I suggest you use the public transportation – metro and/or bus. We used both and we managed to see a lot of things. In our last day, we took the bus around and saw even more things. It was like we had our own private tour 😛 Metro and bus tickets can be bought from vending machines or directly from operators, from the metro stations. The tickets apply to all means of transportation, including the RER (only on certain lines). If you want to spare some money, buy yourself a 10 rides ticket!

Getting back to our main item on the agenda…

Galeries Lafayette

Let’s start off light! And by light, I mean an upmarket French department store. Who hasn’t heard of it? I am convinced that at least one time a photo of these marvelous shopping heaven came up on your Facebook or Instagram feed – or whatever social media you’re following. If not, google it quickly. It’s that place where you find everything you need to buy, at exorbitant prices. But, when you get home, you have a Lafayette bag and the world is brighter.

If you do go to see (and maybe buy something) the galleries, you need to know that there are actually located in four different buildings, in the 9th arrondissement in Paris. The flagship store, the initial building which housed Lafayette, has a great terrace on its roof, from where you have a splendid view of Paris rooftops and the Eiffel Tower 😛

My advice… go, visit (emphasis on visit! keep your money for better purposes :)) and enjoy the view 😊 Oh! And don’t forget to look up – the glass dome is always beautiful to admire!

Manufacture des Gobelins

This was my mother’s choice for a Saturday visit. It is the museum of the tapestry factory of Gobelin. The Gobelins were royal supplies of tapestry of the French court, starting with Louis XIV. Their work can still be seen today in Versailles.

When we visited, there were no tours scheduled, however, we were able to walk freely and admire the beautiful works of art on exhibition in the two stories building.

If you do want to be guided through the museum, you have to go in the afternoon, but better call in advance. French tend to cancel things, without notifying people 😊

Since we were lucky to have the place almost to ourselves (I guess not many tourists come to see tapestry on walls :P), we got to see up and close the intricate designs of the tapestries and not only.

More modern pieces were displayed, complementing perfectly the older works. Think 16th century old works of art!

Despite not being my choice, the museum turned out to be very interesting, so I recommend it to those interested in art in all its forms 😉

Fragonard – the perfume museum

For a truly “smelly” experience, you have to make time to visit the Nouveau Musée du Parfum, located close the Galeries Lafayette. The museum belongs to the Fragonard perfume producer and it traces the history of the various fragrances from the antiquity to present.

The guide and entry are free, but it is expected that at the end of the tour you buy something from their store. Truth be told, despite being a bit expensive, the products do make for a nice gift for those left at home.

On the other hand, you can act indifferent and just ignore the subtle hints that the sales women are throwing at you 😛

Don’t imagine this is a very exquisite experience, but it is interesting, as the guide explains various facts about perfumes and also presents an interesting collection of objects related to the production of perfume or used for applying and carrying perfume around.

What I liked most are the different types of containers that ladies used to store their fragrances, displayed according to the historical timeline.

It is quite nice to see the evolution of the importance given to perfume throughout the years – if in the beginning, the containers were rather simple, across the years, they became more “artsy”, more elaborate, depending, of course, on the statute of the lady for whom it was created.

All in all and around 50 EUR later, I decided that this place goes on the blog – if not for anything else, I absolutely love how it smelled!

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

A popular landmark, the basilica is located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1870 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871[1] crowning its most rebellious neighborhood, and an embodiment of conservative moral order, publicly dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus (admittedly, I totally googled this! 😊)

I went into the basilica back in 2016, during my first visit in Paris, but I could not take any photos, since a service was in progress and it would have been too disrespectful. In any case, I was impressed with the beautiful architecture the basilica displays and I encourage you to go there during one of the evening services, as there is a beautiful performance of the choir, at the end of the service.

Specifically with photos in mind, I went up the hill to the Basilica, this time around in Paris. My mother was “parked” at a café, left to her own devices. I was completely surprised to see how many people were on the steps of the basilica and also to the steps that went down to Montmartre neighborhood. It was, admittedly a lovely, sunny day, but still… as I understood from one of my friends who previously lived in Paris, that location is always very crowded, as it is a favorite spot for tourists and locals alike. I was not able to take any photos in the basilica, since the line to enter it was incredibly long. Who knows… maybe next time 😊 I did however catch the exquisite sight that is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica.

When you are visiting the basilica, make sure you take the afternoon to walk and lose yourself in Montmartre. This known Parisian neighborhood is a great place to experience Parisian culture and food. The entire atmosphere this neighborhood offers is perfect for an afternoon in Paris.

Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral

I am sure everyone has seen this in photos one time during their searches of Paris photography. It is a very sought after touristic attraction, which means it is always full of tourists. Sometimes, the line gets so long upon entering the cathedral, that it reaches the bank of river Seine. It might be a bit off putting, but I can assure you that the line moves really quick and the inside of the cathedral is totally worth it.

For an even better experience, you can also climb one of the belfries and get a marvelous view over Paris. We did not do that, satisfied with oohing and aahing around the impressive Gothic interior.

The church is open for services, during which you are not allowed to take photos or wander around. There are organized tours, though, in various languages, which you can opt for throughout the day. We, again, decided just to wander around and take in the architecture, the beautifully carved altars and just marvel at the powerful vibe sent off by the cathedral.

If you have enough time, I suggest you also check the cathedral’s schedule on concerts. These are held regularly and the entry is sometimes free.

Dôme des Invalides

Another marvel of architecture, this church is inspired by St. Stephan’s cathedral in Rome and was built in French Baroque style. I was pleasantly surprised by the beauty of this church, the way the white marble was used to enhance, in the interior, the opulent and intricate exterior.

Not like any other church, the dome has two floors, the open plan allowing visitors to see the entire second floor. The second floor is surrounded by tombs, mostly of French fallen soldiers, from various wars that France participated, but also of state personalities.

Out of all the tombs one stands out. It is actually the reason why this church is such a known landmark of Paris. It is the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. I am sure I don’t need to tell you who this guy was – if still unclear, google him 😊

The church is part of a bigger museum complex, the Army Museum. A ticket is required for the visit – it costs around 12 EUR and it gives you access to all the permanent exhibitions and buildings. The museum often organizes temporary exhibitions or concerts, for which an extra fee is required.

In all honesty, when we visited the Army Museum we only had time to check out the Dôme and just walk a bit around the museum’s courtyard, but nevertheless, it seemed like an interesting place to visit, especially for those interesting in France’s more military history 😛

Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

This famous Parisian landmark is a must see when you are traveling to Paris. It is an exquisite example of neoclassical version of Roman architecture and it depicts scene from France’s history.

I got to climb the Arc de Triomphe during my last visit in Paris, but not this time. This time, the line was way too long and my mother was way to exhausted. Nevertheless, if you find yourself around this landmark, try and wait in line to get up on the roof of the arc. You will find an incredible 360° view, over Paris and the also famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées. Make sure you also walk this avenue, if not to shop, just to marvel at all the high-end stores 😊

Currently, the Arc is undergoing some renovations and is covered with construction materials. In 2016 it was not, so the photo seen here is from then 😛 same applies for the view of the Champs-Élysées. one more thing that changed since 2016 is the ticket price – now it is 12 EUR. Back then, it was only 9 EUR ☹ Also, make sure that you are willing to climb a few stairs. Although there is an elevator taking you most of the way up the arc, you still have to climb some high steps in order to get to the viewing platform on top of the arc.

Tour Eiffel

I actually thought twice whether to write anything about this landmark. It is so well known in Paris, I didn’t think it needed any introduction or mention. Eventually, I thought I’d give my own opinion on it.

Honestly speaking, I never understood why this is such a loved and popular place. It is a huge wrought iron tower, initially built for a World Exhibit, but left behind for more “administrative” purposes (it was repurposed as a radio antenna). It is, however, a nice sight in the evenings – when it lights up, it puts on a show and it provides a very romantic setting. Basically, you can’t help but propose or declare your undying love.

Joking aside, it is not worth paying a lot of money and staying in line to get to the top, as the view is the same from de Triomphe or Galeries Lafayette, without the wired fancing that surrounds the viewing platform of the tower. It is however worth it to grab a blanket and a bottle of champagne and enjoy a nice warm afternoon in the Champ de Mars Park, which is located just next to the tower. Locals and tourists alike feel the park each day, enjoying themselves and the nice weather and drinking various alcoholic drinks. Apparently, public drinking is not forbidden in France so… go for it. That’s the only advice I have 😊 😊

Saint Chapelle

This Gothic style royal chapel was, by far, one of my favorite place to visit in Paris, along with Père Lachaise Cemetery.

Built as part of Palais de la Cité, the chapel was actually built to hold precious Christian relics, including Christ’s crown of thorns. When we first entered the chapel, we were not at all impressed. There was no sign of why we had to pay 10 EUR for the entrance and we could not understand why everybody had told us to visit this chapel.

Our surprise was huge when, going up a small corridor, to the second floor of the chapel, we found ourselves in an immense hall, surrounded by stained glass windows, reflecting the light in hundreds of various shades of colours. Arranged across 15 windows, each 15 meters high, the stained-glass panes depict 1,113 scenes from the Old and New Testaments recounting the history of the world until the arrival of the relics in Paris. The architecture itself is marvelous – Gothic style at its best. We were so impressed, we couldn’t pull ourselves away. I left with a heavy sigh, acknowledging that, if I ever find myself in Paris again, I definitely need to come back here.

The Palais de la Cité can be visited on its own, as well – different entry tickets are needed. As I understood, it is also interesting to visit, but we preferred to go and enjoy a bit of cake and some champagne at one of the bistros 😛

Père Lachaise Cemetery

This particular place is perfect for a Sunday walk. I know, I know, it might seem totally creepy, but bare in mind that it is in every travel guide and it is an open air museum of architecture 😊 Among other famous personalities, Jim Morrison was buried here and is a constant pilgrimage spot for those who are interested in this sort of things.

For me, it was really interesting to see how social status made a difference in Paris, even after death. You could see the bigger tombs, built with more architectural details and intricate design. These belonged to various families, well known in Parisian history as upper society. Most of these were left to decay, a clear sign that their times had passed.

Other people preferred to be cremated, so there are smaller tombs built for them. I admit, we had the morbid curiosity to check out names, dates of birth or death and tried to make up stories about the people buried in the cemetery. We found tombs dating back from the 19th century.

The cemetery is enormous and, on a Sunday morning, it was perfectly quiet for a walk. All the greenery and silence make you think you are in a park and not in a cemetery. Add to that some fine example of architecture and sculpture and you might not think that visiting a cemetery is such a bad idea.

As a bonus, one more tourist attraction that you must see while in Paris is Château de Versailles. Located outside of Paris, the palace needs to be given the proper attention. Take a half day trip to Versailles, like we did and enjoy the opulence of French aristocracy.

Visiting Paris has raised some mixed feelings inside me. I actually reached the conclusion that there is a love/hate relationship between me and Paris, but… hey… it is still worth visiting for a number of reasons!

Enjoy it!

9 comments

  1. Gosh I missed a bunch of these on my trips to Paris. I do love the Invalides though. Did you know that the reason it is on two floors is because Napoleon wanted his tomb to be somwhere where visitors would have to bow their head to him?

  2. There are so many amazing sights to take in while visiting Paris. I only made it to half of the locations on this list in the two times I’ve visited. My favorite so far has been the church of Notre Dame. We heard part of a service there while they were singing and it was magical.

  3. It’s funny, I’ve been to Paris quite a few times, but I’ve missed so many of these. Thanks for the recommendations – can’t wait to cross them off the list on my next trip. How did you hear about all of these? Your picture of the purple stained glass at Saint Chapelle is incredible!

  4. Paris is one of those places you never tire of returning to. I love Montmarte and just enjoy walking around the neighbourhood and pretending to be Parisian. I’ve not yet visited the Musems des Gobelins, so would like to see all these incredible objects for myself.

  5. Paris is such a remarkable city and these are 10 truly great spots to visit! I wish I had more time during my 5 day visit but I didn’t get to see all of these and I was so disappointed. I definitely have to return though, so I’ll be definitely take advantage of the opportunity to check out those I missed – especially Notre Dame and Saint Chapelle!

  6. The pictures look amazing. The carousel got me hooked. Loved this post. Didn’t know about many of these places. Will keep this post handy to plan my next trip to Paris.

  7. Oh no, I miss half of these places although I was in Paris for 5 days. I didn’t know about Galeries Lafayette until lately with its exposure all over Instagram and Facebook. I will need to visit Paris again!

  8. I missed three of the 10! However we probably covered a few other things. I always maintain that we can never completely see a place. Père Lachaise Cemetery does look interesting. We had been chasing a few cemetries in Europe last year.

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