Paris is one of my favorite cities in the world. I have visited a few times and I definitely plan on returning many more. There are so many things to do in Paris, you can’t do it all in one visit.
I wanted to share my Paris bucket list with you to provide some travel inspiration for us both.
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This is not a comprehensive listing of what to see in Paris. It includes the top attractions and some special things to do in Paris that I feel should be on your bucket list! Luckily, many of them are part of the Paris Pass. Some of them are perfect for your first trip to Paris, and others might work for return trips. If you are bringing the whole family, check out these tips for visiting Paris with kids.
Paris has some of the best museums in the world especially when it comes to art! You could easily spend all your time in Paris at museums, there are many interesting ones! Make sure you add at least one of these museums to your Paris must do list.
Keep in mind, many of the museums in Paris are free on the first Sunday of the month. Also, entry to all museums and cultural attractions in France is free for all children under 18, and free for all EU citizens under 26 (proof of identity will be required).
The Louvre definitely needs to be on your Paris itinerary. I have been three times and I still want to go back. There is so much to see. Consider taking a guided tour like this one to make sure you don’t miss any of the highlights. Also, be sure to get a selfie with the Mona Lisa and a picture with the Pyramids in the courtyard.
Auguste Rodin is one of my favorite artists. We visited the Rodin Museum when the Hôtel Biron, the building that houses the museum, was under renovation. While we still got to see the lovely gardens, I want to go back to see the art inside the museum. In addition to some of Rodin’s most popular works like the Thinker and the Kiss, you will see works from other artists (Monet, Renoir, Van Gogh) from Rodin’s personal collection.
I would also like to visit the Maison d’Auguste Rodin a Meudon villa on the outskirts of Paris.
I am also a big fan of Picasso. We loved the Picasso Museum in Barcelona. You may not realize it but Picasso lived for a while in Paris.
I love impressionist art, so I enjoyed visiting the Musee d’Orsay. It’s a unique museum because it is located in what used to be a train station. Russell has not been yet, so that’s a good excuse to go back. You can get fast-track entry with the Paris Pass or you can purchase it separately here. If you would like a guide to show you the hightlights of Musee d’Orsay, check out this tour which also includes skip the line entry.
Read more about Musee d’Orsay on Tripadvisor here.
The Orangerie Museum
I wanted to visit the Orangerie the last time I was in Paris, but we ran out of time. It is located on the bank of the Seine in the picturesque Tuileries Gardens close to the Place de la Concorde. The Orangerie Museum is filled with impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces including works by Cezanne, Renoir, Picasso, Matisse, and Modigliani.
To save time, you can purchase a ticket that allows you to skip the line for Musee de l’Orangerie and D’Orsay here.
Les Invalides is the striking dome you see not too far from the Eiffel Tower. It is home to Napoleon’s tomb and military museums. On our last visit, we arrived barely before closing time, so our visit was rushed. We saw Napoleon’s tomb but we didn’t have time for the museums, I need to go back.
The Centre Pompidou
The Pompidou Center is an interesting building because the air-conditioning, pipes, elevators and the escalators are on the outside! This makes it an interesting building to look at, and almost a work of art itself – which, no doubt the architects intended. Inside you will find the largest collection of modern art in Europe.
Like many European cities, Paris has several beautiful churches that you need to visit. Even if you are not religious, you will appreciate the architecture and stained glass inside. Luckily, many of the churches are free to visit.
This list is not comprehensive, there are many more churches in Paris that are worth visiting, but I chose the ones I thought were most impressive.
Notre Dame is one of the most famous churches in the world. Inside you can admire the stained glass and stunning Gothic architecture. Then, climb the stairs to the top, see some of the bells and get close to the Notre Dame Gargoyles. Remember the bells were designed to be heard across the streets of Paris, so they will be noisy if you happen to be beside them when they ring. It is free to go inside but you will need a ticket (or Paris Pass) to climb to the top.
Note: Due to the fire, Notre Dame is closed to visitors until further notice.
Perched high on a hilltop in the Montmartre district, you will see the Sacre Coeur Basilica. You don’t have to climb the steps to the top of the hill, there is also a funicular that you can take. Sacre Coeur is one of my favorite spots in Paris because the design of the church is so different from everything else you see in Paris and the views are amazing.
I have been several times but I still need to climb the steps to the top of the dome. It is free to go inside and also to climb up to 400 steps to the top.
Sainte-Chapelle is known for its amazing stained glass and has been designated a UNESCO world heritage site. It was built by Louis IX at the Palais de la Cité to house the relics of the Passion of Christ.
St. Sulpice Church
St. Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris after Notre Dame. If you are a fan of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, you probably remember reading about St. Sulpice. St. Sulpice is the church that the Rose Line goes through. Scenes from The Da Vinci Code movie were also filmed inside. It is free to visit St. Sulpice.
La Madeleine is a beautiful church built by Napoleon in honor of his troops. The church opened in 1842, but the classic Greek architectural style makes it look much older than that. In addition to the impressive architecture, the church is known for its organ. It is free to go inside La Madeleine.
The city has so many beautiful and iconic landmarks, I have selected the ones that I think are most interesting to visit to add to your Paris to do list. You should also allow time to wander around Paris and see what impressive buildings you can find.
I always stop by the Eiffel Tower when I am in Paris and I have been to the top a few times. The last time I was there we had a little picnic in the evening and watched the sparkle show. On future trips, I still want to climb the 700+ stairs to the top and dine at the restaurant.
Since the Eiffel Tower is so popular, you might want to consider one of these skip the line tours to save time. Note that some skip the line tours only go to the second level, then you will have to wait in another line and purchase another ticket if you want to go to the summit. Also, the skip the line tours at night are cheaper than during the day, but you won’t be able to see as much.
You don’t need a skip the line tour if you are going to climb the stairs. Unfortunately, the Eiffel Tower is not part of the Paris Pass. Oh and here’s a tip, if you want the best picture of the Eiffel Tower, go to Place de Trocadero around sunrise. It is worth getting up for I promise!
Arc de Triomphe
I have climbed the steps to the top of the Arc de Triomphe twice and I would do it again. Since the Arc is located at the western end of the Champs-Élysées in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, the views are fabulous. Don’t miss the Tomb of Unknown Soldier at the base of the arch, the flame of remembrance is rekindled every day at 6:30 pm.
Note: Be sure to use the underground passage to get to the Arc. Do not try to cross the roundabout.
I remember visiting the Panthéon in Rome, but the one in Paris was under renovation when I tried to visit. The Panthéon is an impressive and imposing neoclassical building that was rededicated as a ‘Temple to Reason.’ It would not be used for religious purposes but as a mausoleum for the greatest French minds. Many famous French men and women are buried here including Voltaire, Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie.[click_to_tweet tweet=”What’s on your Paris Bucket List? Check out this post for inspiration.” quote=”What’s on your Paris Bucket List?” theme=”style2″]
The Père-Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris and many of the tombs are elaborate. It’s not surprising that it is also the most visited cemetery in the world. Many famous people including Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison are buried here. You can visit the cemetery on your own, admission is free and it is located in the northeast corner of Paris. For only a few extra dollars, you can take a guided tour. Click here to check prices and availability.
The Opera House in Paris is stunning, it was the inspiration for the Phantom of the Opera. I am not an opera fan, much to Russell’s disgust, but I would love to tour the inside. I would love to see the seven-ton chandelier made of pure bronze and crystal and the impressive Grand Staircase made of white Italian marble.
The Conciergerie is the oldest remaining part of the Palais de la Cité, the seat of the kings of France from the 10th through the 14th centuries. After it was no longer used as a palace. It became one of the most notorious prisons in all of France. During your visit to the Conciergerie, you can explore the ancient court, see the cells of criminals, visit the tombs of the heroes of the French Revolution, and admire the beautiful architecture.
The Montparnasse Tower is the only skyscraper in Paris. I would love to go up to the observation deck on the 56th floor. On a clear day, you can see up to 25 miles away. I would also like to dine at the restaurant, Le Ciel de Paris (meaning The Sky of Paris), which is Europe’s highest restaurant.
Paris is also about the experiences, I think these things may be what you will remember most. I know that you can do these things in other cities too, but there is just something special about doing them in Paris. It might be worth splurging for a private tour in Paris. If you are looking for more Paris ideas, how about these?
Boat Cruise on the Seine
We did a boat cruise on the Seine the last time we were in Paris and enjoyed it. The ride was peaceful and it was a pleasant way to see the city. Next time I am in Paris, I think I will upgrade to a dinner cruise on the Seine. Doesn’t that sound romantic?
A boat cruise on the Seine is included with the Paris Pass, but if you want to do a dinner cruise that will have to be purchased separately. Click here to check out options for dinner cruises in Paris.
I have been wanting to see a show at the Moulin Rouge ever since I saw the movie! I have walked by it several times and taken a few pictures. The bright lights outside it are calling me! It’s not cheap though, but I think I am going to have to splurge. If you are looking for something a little more risque, consider going to the Crazy Horse.
I have wanted to visit the Catacombs in Paris, but have been scared off by the reports of long-lines! The Catacombs hold the remains of more than six million people in a small part of an underground tunnel network.
Unfortunately, the Catacombs are not part of the Paris Pass, but you can buy skip the line tickets. Click here to see the options and pricing for skip the line tickets.
Paris Cooking Class or Food Tour
Food is such a big part of the culture in Paris and I want to learn more about it. I loved the cooking class in San Sebastian and the food tour in Porto. I would be happy to do either one in Paris. I thought these options looked interesting:
- Paris Chocolate and Pastry Food Tour
- Paris Secret Food Tour: Taste of Montmartre
- Marché d’Aligre Food Walking Tour
- Paris Small-Group Macaron Cooking Class
- Small-Group French Cooking Class in Paris
I do enjoy seeing street art when I travel (like the Mural Mile in Philadelphia), but I have not seen much of it in Paris. You might see the odd bit of graffiti but the touristy areas don’t have many murals. I think it would be best to take a tour. Not only will you see more art, but you also get to learn the story behind it. I think this private street art tour in the Belleville area would be interesting.
Day Trips from Paris
Even with all there is to do within the city limits of Paris, it’s still a good idea to explore the area more. You can learn more about the history, art, and culture. It’s also a great opportunity to see the beautiful French beautiful countryside. These Paris day trips are on my bucket list for Paris, although I would like to spend a weekend or even longer at some of these places.
Palace of Versailles
Versailles is one of the largest and most opulent palaces in the world. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site. I did the day trip to Versailles years ago, but the famous Hall of Mirrors was under renovation when I was there. I enjoyed the palace and the gardens, but I feel like I need to go back and see it again. There is the magic fountain show that I also want to see.
Even though the palace is located outside the city, regular entry is still included as part of the Paris Pass. The musical fountain shows require a separate ticket though. If you don’t have the Paris Pass, you can still take the train and visit on your own or go as part of a guided tour. Click here to see the Versailles tour options and prices.
Just about fifty miles west of Paris you will find the small village of Giverny. Here, Monet built a small house with a beautiful garden where he lived from 1883 until his death in 1926. You can go inside the house and explore the gardens that inspired some of Monet’s most popular paintings. To get to Monet’s Giverny, take a train to Vernon and then the shuttle bus. If you prefer to go with a tour group, you can check out the prices and availability through Viator here.
Paris Wine Tasting Tour
I have done plenty of wine tastings (or more like wine drinking!) in Paris but I have not had the chance to visit any vineyards. A day trip to Reims in the Champagne region sounds wonderful. It’s probably best to go on an organized tour so that no one has to worry about being the designated driver. Check out some of the wine tasting day tours available here.
Another unique experience that is part of the Paris Pass is the Les Caves du Louvre. It is a wine tasting in a historic royal wine cellar. You can also do a guided tour and learn more about the wine-making process.
Lyon has become the capital of gastronomy in France and it is about two hours from Paris on the fast train. It has so much history and some impressive architectural landmarks which led to it becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site. I would love to visit, try some of the food, and see all the Instagrammable places in Lyon.
If like me you are interested in learning more about the history of World War II, you will want to visit the Normandy D-Day beaches. It’s a few hours drive through the beautiful French countryside to get to Normandy, but if you are not doing the driving I think it is doable as a day trip. I vividly remember my visit to the American Cemetery in Cambridge and the one in Normandy is much bigger. I think it would be moving to visit Omaha beach, where the Allied troops landed on D-Day, and the American Cemetery. Check out price and availability for this tour from Viator.
As my regular readers know, I am obsessed with castles. There are a few fairytale ones in the Loire Valley that I would love to see. Russell has been to the Loire Valley before and is looking forward to taking me at some point. I would love to do a tour like this one that includes skip the line access to two castles and wine-tastings or this one that takes you to three chateaux including the one where Leonardo Di Vinci spent his final years.
I have been to the Disney Parks in the US, but I would love to visit all the locations around the world. The Disney Park is located about 20 miles from the center of Paris. Disneyland Paris is actually two theme parks – Disneyland and Walt Disney Studios Park. I don’t think you can see both in one day so if you want to stay in that area there are several resort hotels to choose from.
Save Money with the Paris Pass
The Paris Pass is an economical way to check a lot of attractions off your bucket list. It includes a Metro pass, admission to more than 60 attractions, the hop-on-hop-off bus and special savings. For many attractions, it will also allow you to skip the line saving you valuable time. Click here to read more information about the Paris Pass.
In the box below you can see the items from my bucket list that are part of the Paris Pass.
Paris Pass Attractions
- Musee Rodin
- Maison d’Auguste Rodin a Meudon
- Musee Picasso
- Musee D’Orsay*
- Musee de l’Orangerie
- The Centre Pompidou*
- Notre Dame (Climb to the Top)
The starred attractions include fast-track entry.
Even with this long list, I feel like I have barely scratched the surface of all there is to do in Paris. I didn’t even mention shopping in Paris, the lovely parks, or all the restaurants that I want to try! I have visited several times and still have plenty of places I still need to see. What are some of your favorite things to do in Paris?
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Expert Tips for Checking off Your Paris Bucket List
- Consider getting the Paris Pass to save money if you plan on visiting a lot of attractions in one trip. Click here to read more.
- Paying for a skip the line ticket may be worth it, as your time is valuable and there is so much to do in Paris.
- You are going to need more than one trip to Paris to see everything on your to-do list.
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