There's a lot to see in Paris… and we mean a LOT! It seems that no matter how many days you have in the City of Light you don't have time to see everything you wanted to. At least that's how we always feel. So, to help out, we've taken the big list of must-see Paris attractions (and we do mean BIG list) and grouped them together to create manageable half-day or full-day itineraries. See a lot of Paris, have as much fun as possible.
Luckily for visitors, Paris is a relatively small city, so it's possible to see a lot in a short amount of time. Whatever your pleasure — the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Place de la Concorde, Sacre Coeur, Champs Elysées, the Louvre, or Musée d'Orsay — our itineraries will save you time and get you to a whole bunch of great Paris attractions in one fell swoop.
Of course, it's important to leave extra time to explore the neighborhoods after your visit to the top attractions. There are small, local parks; narrow streets; bars and cafés to discover in every part of Paris. Did we mention the shopping?
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Hop on the Metro and take line 6 or 9 to Trocadero station to start your first day of exploration. We're going to start out with a killer view of the Eiffel Tower. Exit the train and make your way up the stairs and then turn into the plaza ("place" ) at the Palais du Chaillot and there, in front of you, is the oh-so-popular Iron Lady.
You'll want to take a few photos, maybe even pose with the tower in the background. After you've had an eyeful, you might want to visit one of the museums located in the palais, perhaps the fascinating naval museum, Musée National de la Marine.
From the place, stroll down the hill, past the fountains and gardens, and cross the Seine to get directly to the Eiffel Tower. If you've booked your tickets in advance, or have booked an Eiffel Tower tour, you'll be able to get to the top without the long wait. Or just stroll beneath the tower and marvel at its size.
After your visit to the Eiffel Tower you have a choice to make. It's a short walk to the Musée du Quai Branly, which we think of as the museum of the rest of the world, or you can choose to take the pedestrian bridge at Quai Branly (in front of the museum) and cross to Palais de Tokyo, home of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris. We prefer the latter, and not only because it's free!
If you've had enough of sightseeing and want to have an authentic Paris moment, stroll to Rue Cler, also in the 7th Arrondissement, where you'll find a variety of cafés, markets, and food shops.
This itinerary tour starts at the top of the Arc de Triomphe, at the west end of Champs Elysées. To get there take Metro line 1, 2 or 6 to the station Charles-de-Gaulle-Étoile. Once above ground, don't try to cross the traffic circle! Instead, find the stairs that take you underneath the traffic to the place on which the Arc sits. (Find the stairs on the north side of Champs-Elysées or, on the other side of the tower, on the north side of Avenue de la Grande Armée.)
We think that the Arc de Triomphe offers one of the very best views of Paris. It's much more human-scale than the aircraft-like view from the top of the Eiffel Tower, and you have clear sight lines right up to the Louvre in one direction and La Grande Arche at the La Defénse in the other.
Take your time to get a real feel for the city. When you're done, return on the underground stairs to walk down Champs Elysées towards the Louvre, and do a bit of window shopping at Louis Vuitton and the other designer shops.
From Louis Vuitton it's an easy nine-minute walk to the traffic circle at Avenue Montaigne, home to another batch of luxe shopping destinations — Christian Dior, Valentino, Chanel, Bulgari and others.
But you can't shop forever, especially at these prices! So, pop down to Avenue Winston Churchill (turn right at the next intersection) and stop at the Petit Palais, home of the Museum of Fine Arts of the City of Paris, for a dose of free art. (Almost all City of Paris museums are free.) It's a lovely museum and they have some surprising pieces. We also like the gift shop!
Back on Champs Elysées, turn right to stroll along the beautiful, tree-lined section of the avenue and pass through Place de la Concorde (the US Embassy is on your left) into the luscious Jardin des Tuileries, where you can have a rest and a drink at one of its outdoor cafés. You've earned it, you've walked the entire length of the most famous avenue in the world!
Loire Valley Chateaux & Wine Tasting, Day Trip from Paris
Small-Group Day Tour to the Loire Valley Castles
This walking itinerary starts at the postcard-pretty Places des Abbesses where you get off the Metro at station Abbesses (Line 12). As you come above ground (there's an elevator to get you up most of the way) notice one of the last surviving Art Nouveau Metro station entrances designed by Hector Guimard.
From there wander uphill on Rue des Abbesses (against the traffic direction) to take in the Montmartre village vibe. It wasn't that long ago the the was, in fact, a village on a hill near Paris, with dirt streets and cheap accommodations that attracted the likes of Picasso and his bohemian clique. You'll notice that this part of the neighborhood is not jammed with tourists. Stop in one of the prize-winning boulangeries along Rue des Abbesses for a mouthwatering, warm baguette. Grenier à Pain at 38 rue des Abbesses was the Grand Prize winner for the best baguette in Paris in 2015.
After a slice of real life in real Montmartre, continue up Rue des Abbesses and then take Rue Lepic uphill (it forks off to the right). Wind your way through the old village streets and historic cabarets (and more tourists!) until you reach Place du Tertre, hangout of artists in Picasso's day and still the haunt of many Parisian artists. It's touristy, but fun!
Follow the curves of Rue Lepic up the hill and you'll end up Sacre Coeur, the big white church on the hill. Walk around to the front of the church for some of the best views of Paris. If you have your Paris Metro pass with you take the funicular down the hill and then walk two short blocks to Metro Anvers on Line 2.
It started life as a train station, but the d'Orsay is now home to the most famous Impressionist paintings and one of the major attractions in Paris. And that's where we start this itinerary. Musée d'Orsay, located on the Left Bank of the Seine at the border between the 6th and 7th arrondissements, is something you are not going to want to miss. Plan to spend three hours there, maybe having lunch in the Belle Époque dining room.
Metro Solferino and Metro Asssemblée Nationale are the closest stations; both are on Line 12. From Solferino walk towards the Seine on Rue de Belle Chasse; from Asssemblée Nationale walk east along Rue de Lille. (We often take bus 24, which stops right in front of the museum.)
After your morning, and perhaps your lunch, at d'Orsay, cross the quay to the Seine and take the pedestrian bridge to the pretty garden of the Jardin des Tuileries, attached to the Louvre. Stroll through the garden, enjoying the paths and fountains. If you haven't eaten lunch, stop into one of the cute cafes in the park. After your stroll, be sure to head to the west end of the park (towards Place de la Concorde) to take a quick tour of the Musée l'Orangerie to see Claude Monet's famous water lily paintings. The rest of the collection is also worthwhile.
Exit the Orangerie into the Place de la Concorde, replete with fountains and romance, as well as the famous Egyptian obelisk. If you're up to it, turn right and cross Rue de Rivoli for a well-deserved hot chocolate or pastry at Angelina tearoom. (There will be a line there!)
It can't be done in a day, perhaps not even in a lifetime, but the Louvre Art Museum should be on your shortlist. So far in our Paris attractions itineraries we've sort of skirted around the Louvre — we've visited Place de la Concorde and the Jardin des Tuileries. A quick glance at a map will show you that these both are related to the Louvre and that, if you start at Concorde and head east through the Tuileries, you will finally arrive at the Louvre.
The Louvre is, by itself, a full-day itinerary. Even if you don't spend all day inside, you need time to absorb what you've seen and time to wander around the grounds, up and down Rue de Rivoli, and stroll along the banks of the Seine.
Start your tour at the Tuileries Metro station (Line 1), where you'll approach the Louvre through the garden. Turn left to head toward the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel and stop to admire the other Napoleonic victory arch — the only one actually completed in his lifetime.
Now, use the secret staircases near the Arc to access the Louvre from underground. This tip alone will save you time by avoiding the Pyramids entrance where the major lines are formed. If you want to see many of the highlights in a short time (and avoid the looong ticket lines), you should think about booking a Louvre museum tour. (At the very least, make sure you have a Paris Museum Pass.)
A normal person can probably only take 3 or 4 hours at a time in the Louvre. (That's us, anyway, if you can call us normal!) So, after you emerge from the museum, stop in at the terrace of Cafe Marly for a refreshing glass of champagne. Then, cross Rue de Rivoli and spend time relaxing in the garden of the Palais Royal, one of the more under-appreciated spots in Paris.
• Quick Guide To 8 Attractions…
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