When I think of things to do in Paris, I instantly romanticize about visiting museums, people watching with a cup of coffee and stuffing my face at a bistro. What is it about this historical city that conjures up these emotions and desires to eat Pain au Chocolat every day?
To me, Paris is the epitome of food, art, and history. If you hear someone talk about the major cities in the world, Paris will be mentioned in the same breath as London, Tokyo, and New York. Here is our guide on 7 Awesome things to do in Paris, France.
1. The Montparnasse Tower
You can get an aerial view of the city and see the Eiffel Tower from the Montparnasse Tower! Controversial for breaking Paris’ urban landscape, the 59 storey Montparnasse Tower was completed in 1973 and was France’s tallest building ,outside of the Eiffel Tower, until Tour First was renovated in 2011. A running theme for all of the major attractions is to get a ticket in advance. You will save valuable time avoiding the queues. Once you reach the 56th floor; you can take in the view and find out information about the tower and other sites around the city. You can go to the 360° viewing platform on the 59th floor that has a Champagne Bar. Arrive before sunset and you can watch the city lights go on as the Sun goes down. Other major sites around Paris like Notre Dame and the Arc du Triomphe are illuminated too. The Eiffel Tower stands out especially when it’s sparkling lights and search beam are switched on at night. Related Article – Best Backpackers Hostels in Paris
Closest Metro Station: Edgar Quinet.
Out of all the things to do in Paris; the museums are a large part of what defines this cultural Mecca. Go to the Louvre and Musee d’Orsay. The Louvre is huge and most tourists only go for two exhibits. Research the other exhibitions in the Museum and you will find large, serene spaces with beautiful artifacts and not just fight other people (almost literally) to get to see one painting. Tickets can be bought in advance and there are various ticket concessions available. There are stunning pieces from Egyptian, Roman, Greek, Islamic and other cultures that should be seen. It is a truly expansive collection and I’d suggest allowing a full day to soak in the treasures. The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays and expect it to be busier on Monday’s. This is because the Musee d’Orsay is closed on Monday and their traffic, no doubt, heads to The Louvre. Based on a old railway station, the Musee d’Orsay continues to impress where The Louvre left off and is a must see. The museum contains an expansive collection of expressionist paintings and a large amount of sculptures amongst a whole host of other treasures including Van Gogh’s self portrait and some fascinating Pointillism paintings. Related Article: Best Luxury Hotels in Paris
The Musee de l’Orangerie was truly inspiration and awe inspiring. The l’Orangerie is home to part of Claude Monet’s Nymphéas (Water Lillies) series. The panoramic paintings take up whole walls in the two oval shaped rooms and really let the viewer soak in and immerse themselves in Monet’s vision. After tearing yourself from the Water Lilies, head down to the basement where you can find works by French Impressionist masters Renoir, Cezanne, Picasso, Gaugin, Matisse and more. A joint ticket for The Musee de l’Orangerie and Musee d’Orsay can be purchased saving time and money. The Musee de l’Orangerie is a small museum compared to the gargantuan Louvre and d’Orsay. The well controlled entrance system helps keep the museum calm and peaceful. If you are visiting the Musee de l’Orangerie it’s worth noting that the Musee d’Orsay is within walking distance. The route takes you along the Siene and through the Tuileries Gardens.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Musee de l’Orangerie.
Closest Metro for The Louvre: Louvre Rivoli and Palais Royal Musée du Louvre.
The Musee d’Orsay: Solferino
Musee l’Orangerie: Concorde.
3. Catacombs and Graveyards
After having spent time above ground you may want to go underground and spend some time with the dead! Officially named l’Ossuaire Municipal, the Catacombs (as they are more commonly known) hold the remains of approximately six million people and were consecrated when the smaller cemeteries in Paris began to overflow in the 18th century. The bones have been arranged into more (for lack of a better term) decorative patterns and the Catacombs were opened to visitors who are asked to consider the lives of the remains before them. The Catacombs are approximately a 2km walk with stairs to take on at either end and visitors are limited to 200 at a time.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Paris Catacombs.
Closest Metro: Denfert Rochereau.
To continue the morose theme, you can visit the cemeteries of Paris. Cimetière Père Lachaise contains such celebrities as musician Jim Morrison, writer Honoré de Balzac, and writer Oscar Wilde. Cimetière Montparnasse is eternal home to Singer Serge Gainsbourg authors and philosophers Jean-Paul Satre and Simone de Beauvoir. These are wonderfully serene places that you can visit to get away from the bustle of the streets and spend some time to reflect the lives and influences these people have brought to the world.
Depending on your direction the closest Metro for Cimetière Père Lachaise are: Phillipe Auguste, Alexandre Dumas and Gambetta. Cimetière Montparnasse: Gâitè.
4. Cafè Culture
Time and contemplation seem to go hand in hand with a Coffee or a Beer at a local Cafè. The Parisian Cafè culture permeates every angle of society. Artists, Intellectuals and even Resistance fighters have spent hours plotting, writing, creating art and debating philosophy in Paris Cafés. One of our favourites was the KB Cafè just south of the Pigalle. I managed to find my favourite Flat White Coffee there. Finding an Australasian coffee might represent a contradiction in terms but the KB Cafè represents true aspects of Parisian Cafè culture allowing us to sit and watch the world go by and in our case make plans for where to get dinner.
While some Cafès mainly stick to serving drinks and snacks, similar atmospheres can be found at restaurants. We found La Cantine du Troquet Dupleix that had a special Charcuterie Board. We were able to gorge ourselves on Blood Sausage Pâtè, Prosciutto, Salami and wash it down with some fine Red Wine. The Cantine du Troquet had the same outdoor patio atmosphere we were after and enabled us to relax in the summer sun contemplating our next move in the city.
5. Paris during August…
This might not count as things to do in Paris but is definitely an important point to include. People like to go on vacation during the summer. A lot of shop, bar and restaurant owners in Paris like to do the same! This might seem odd in today’s fast paced business oriented culture that small business owners would want to be open for the high tourism season. This is not necessarily the case with more traditional bars, shops and restaurants in Paris. The more traditional owners like to take the holiday season off and pay a visit to the French Riviera or beyond. This will affect a lot of the classic bistros, bars and some shops. Several of the places that we really wanted to go to were closed and we only found out when we got to the location. Not everyone lists closures on their website, either. The city can feel a bit quieter than usual, but to those who are new to the city may not notice the difference. Don’t let this deter you, Paris still has a lot to offer even if a few places are closed.
6. Don’t forget to relax, Parisian style.
Take a leaf out of this couple’s book. Grab a wheel of Brie, a fresh Baguette and sit in the Sun while you eat your picnic. The couple in the picture later grabbed a glass of wine and as they relaxed. The woman opened her sketchbook and started making sketches of the surrounding local architecture and the man opened a book of poetry to read. We adopted a similar style and took a few hours to drift away after experiencing the mania of visiting the Sacre Couer. This was a much welcomed opportunity to relax considering how close we were to the bustling Sacre Couer and Pigalle neighbourhood. If the previous point about Paris during August could have been perceived as off putting consider the extra quiet time the city receives as a chance to soak up the culture and perhaps take things at a slower pace. This can tie in with the Cafè culture and give you a chance to contemplate philosophy, history, art and where you’ll get the next chocolate almond croissant from.
7. Drinks, Dinner and the Opera.
One of our favourite things to do in Paris was, surprise surprise, eating. There are a phenomenal amount of restaurants and bistros to visit. Many of the bistros in Paris will have a menu of the day or daily special. We’d always go for these options as they are more likely to include local ingredients that are available during that season. This isn’t always the case when special ingredients are needed, but it means the food will include more local flavours and lend itself to classic French bistro cuisine. A lot of restaurants and bistros start serving from around 7pm but others are open through the day so you can grab a drink or something to eat before you see a performance at the Palais Garnier Opera House.
There are many places to visit in Paris for a show or performance. The Palais Garnier has to be the most opulent of all the performance venues in Paris with it’s architecture matching that of Notre Dame or the Louvre. Built between 1861-1875 and ordered by Emperor Napoleon III, the Palais Garnier can seat almost 2000 people. The building and it’s underground “lake” were inspiration for Gaston Leroux’s Phantom of the Opera. If seeing the orchestra or ballet there isn’t in your plans, a trip to the building might be. You can see the eponymous lake and take in the decadent architecture of the building. The choice is yours. Closest Metro for Palais Garnier Opéra.
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Palais Garnier – Paris Opera.
That concludes our DIY Travel Guide – 7 things to do in Paris, France. We hope this has helped you get a better idea and feel for this great city. Hopefully one day we’ll be able to go back to so we can experience seven more things to do in Paris!
Check out some of the cool and cheap tours you could do in Paris.
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