This incomparable city, Paris is full of grandiose monuments such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and the Pantheon. Yet the charm of Paris lies in the small details: avant-garde art galleries, Belle Epoque brasseries, exquisite tea rooms, perfectly manicured trees and quaint cobbled streets. A veritable open-air museum, the buildings of the city are works of art, and the daily fashion of Parisians is worthy of a magazine.
A spell of enchantment is casted by Paris in all the hidden corners and on all the famous sites. A visit can inspire a lifelong love story. Find the best places to visit in this magical city with our top Paris tourist attractions.
1. Eiffel Tower
The most visited tourist attraction in Paris, the Eiffel Tower also ranks at the top of the list of places to visit in France. It’s hard to believe that when it was first unveiled, the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity. For the 1889 Paris Exposition, the iconic tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel which marked the centenary of the French Revolution.
The tower is held together by 2.5 million rivets consisting of 18,000 sturdy iron sections. Today, this innovative structure is considered a masterful architectural feat and constitutes the most emblematic spectacle in Paris. For a perfect photoshoot, the Jardins du Trocadéro and the lawns of the Champs de Mars, there is just the right distance to the Eiffel Tower. The tower was the tallest building in the world reaching 324 meters in height, until the Empire State Building was erected.
To get to the first level, visitors can take an elevator or climb the 360 steps (57 meters) and an additional 344 steps to the second level (115 meters). To reach the next level, at the dizzying altitude of 276 meters, from the second level, it takes an exhilarating lift climb. Visiting the highest level is one of the most exciting things to do in Paris, but it is not for the faint of heart.
For those who wish to indulge in a gourmet meal, the Jules Verne restaurant is on the second floor. Diners enjoy incredible panoramas as this restaurant has large windows.
If you are visiting during peak season, it is best to buy tickets in advance. Tourists can register for the Eiffel Tower with priority access to ensure the best possible experience. A knowledgeable guide will share information which is interesting and provide historical background.
2. Louvre Museum
Sumptuous palace that was once the home of the kings of France, the Louvre is the most important of the greatest museums in Paris. In the courtyard of the Palace, visitors enter the museum with the Glass Pyramid (designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1917). The Louvre Museum has over 30,000 works of art (many of which are considered masterpieces) – from antiques to European paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries.
In one visit, it’s impossible to see everything, but tourists can focus on a particular gallery, such as classical sculpture, Italian Renaissance art, or 17th-century French paintings, or take a self-guided tour to see the strengths of this museum.
The most famous piece is the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda (or La Joconde in French) painted in 1503-1505 by Leonardo da Vinci. Other exceptional works are the ancient sculpture of Venus de Milo, the monumental Winged Victory of Samothrace from the Hellenistic period, the huge Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese (1563) and the frescoes by Botticelli.
Tourists can take a guided tour to make the most of a visit to the Louvre. The Skip-the-Line: Louvre Museum Tour allows attendees to skip the long lines and head straight to the museum’s most famous works of art, including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. During this tour of three-hour, an experienced guide discusses the collections, explains interesting information about the paintings, and answers questions.
On one side, the Louvre is surrounded by the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Paris. The Tuileries gardens in a classic French style was created by the famous landscape architect André Le Nôtre (who designed the gardens of Versailles). There are also several café-restaurants with terraces.
3. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
Notre-Dame is a triumph of Gothic architecture which stands in the heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité. Ile de la Seine, Ile de la Cité is the geographical and historical center of Paris. The Romans built the Gallo-Roman town of Lutèce on this small piece of land, and from the 6th century to the 14th century, the kings of France resided here.
In 1163, Notre-Dame Cathedral was founded by Bishop Maurice de Sully and King Louis IX (Saint Louis), and construction took over 150 years. First, the cathedral was created in the early Gothic style, while later additions (the west facade and the nave) show the transition to the high Gothic style. (Now, the heads are on display at the Cluny museum.)
After admiring the decorative door, enter the sanctuary to admire the grandeur of this immense vaulted space. The shrine seems almost endless and attracts visitors by the light of twinkling candles. Magnificent stained glass windows are used to lit the interior. The rose window in the north transept is the most remarkable window. From the Old Testament, this stunning work of art features 80 scenes centered around the Virgin.
Note: A fire caused extensive damage to the cathedral in April 2019. The interior is closed to the public. In the coming years, the structure will be subject to repairs.