Whether the sun shines on the café terraces of Boulevard Saint-Germain or the melancholy mists of the Seine envelop Notre-Dame Cathedral, the magical ambiance of Paris has a way of wooing visitors. This incomparable city 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 little details: quaint cobbled streets, perfectly manicured trees, exquisite tea rooms, Belle Epoque brasseries and avant-garde art galleries. Works of art include a veritable open-air museum, the buildings of the city, and the daily fashion of Parisians is worthy of a magazine.
A world of discovery awaits you in the distinctive quarters: the atmosphere of the bohemian village of Montmartre, the legendary café scene in Saint-Germain-de-Prés and the winding labyrinth of old streets of the medieval Latin Quarter. Paris casts a spell of enchantment 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 list of top Paris tourist attractions.
1. Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the most visited tourist attraction in Paris and also ranks at the top of the list of places to visit in France. It’s hard to believe the structure was dismissed as a monstrosity when it was first unveiled. For the 1889 Paris Exposition, this iconic tower was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel which marked the centenary of the French Revolution.
The tower consists of 18,000 sturdy iron sections which are held together by 2.5 million rivets. This innovative structure is today considered a masterful architectural feat and constitutes the most emblematic spectacle in Paris. From the Jardins du Trocadéro and the lawns of the Champs de Mars, there is just the right distance to the Eiffel Tower for a perfect photoshoot. The tower was the tallest building in the world reaching 324 meters in height until the Empire State Building was erected.
Visitors can take an elevator or climb the 360 steps to get to the first level (57 meters) and for the second level an additional 344 steps (115 meters). The perspectives are spectacular of the first and second level. To reach the next level, at the dizzying altitude of 276 meters, it takes an exhilarating lift climb from the second level. One of the most exciting things to do in Paris is visiting the highest level, but it is not for the faint of heart.
For those who wish to indulge in a gourmet meal, the Jules Verne restaurant is located on the second floor. Diners can enjoy incredible panoramas as this restaurant has large windows.
It is best to buy tickets in advance, especially if you are visiting during peak season. To ensure the best possible experience, tourists can register for the Eiffel Tower with priority access. This hour-long tour allows tourists to avoid standing in several long lines and offers the added benefit of educational commentary. A knowledgeable guide will share interesting information and provide historical background.
2. Louvre Museum
Sumptuous palace which was once the home of the kings of France, the Louvre is the most important of the greatest museums in Paris. Visitors enter the museum in the courtyard of the Palace with the Glass Pyramid (designed by Ieoh Ming Pei in 1917). The Louvre has more than 30,000 works of art (many of which are considered masterpieces) – from antiques to European paintings from the 15th to 19th centuries.
It’s impossible to see everything in one visit, 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 the Louvre museum.
The most famous piece is the Mona Lisa or La Gioconda painted by Leonardo da Vinci in 1503-1505. Other outstanding 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. To see also, Liberty leading the people (1831) by Eugène Delacroix, depicting the Parisian uprising from July 27 to 29, 1830 known under the name of “Trois Glorieuses” (“Trois Glorieuses”).
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 Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa.
The Louvre is surrounded on one side by the Jardin des Tuileries, one of the largest and most beautiful parks in Paris. The famous landscape architect André Le Nôtre (who designed the gardens of Versailles) created the Tuileries gardens in a classic French style. The formal gardens have perfectly maintained trees; two ponds; and statues by Rodin, Giacometti and Maillol. The park benches provide a place to enjoy the scenery and relax. There are also several café-restaurants with terraces.
3. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
Notre-Dame is a triumph of Gothic architecture that stands in the heart of Paris on the Ile de la Cité near the attractions of the Latin Quarter. Ile de la Seine, Ile de la Cité is the historical and geographical center of Paris. On this small piece of land, the Romans built the Gallo-Roman town of Lutèce, and from the 6th century to the 14th century, the kings of France resided here.
Notre-Dame Cathedral was founded in 1163 by King Louis IX (Saint Louis) and Bishop Maurice de Sully, and construction lasted for over 150 years. The cathedral was first created in the early Gothic style, while later additions (the west facade and the nave) show the transition to the high Gothic style. Tourists are immediately struck by the ornamental design of the facade, with its profusion of carvings and gargoyles, while elaborate flying buttresses ensure the structural integrity of the enormous building. Above the door of the Gallery of Kings, look for the 21 figures who lost their minds during the Revolution.
After admiring the decorative door, admire the grandeur by entering the sanctuary to this immense vaulted space. The shrine seems almost endless and attracts visitors with the light of flickering candles. Its interior is designed by magnificent stained glass windows. The most remarkable window is the rose window in the north transept. This stunning work of art features 80 scenes from the Old Testament centered around the Virgin.
Note: In April 2019, a fire caused extensive damage to the cathedral. The interior is closed to the public. The structure will be subject to repairs in the coming years.