Top 10 Things to Do in Paris on a First Visit, France inner banner

Top 10 Things to Do in Paris on a First Visit, France

Planning a first visit to Paris? Trust us, it won't be the last! Work your way through these ten must-sees and dos.
16 Feb, 2024
Ten of the best things to do in Paris
Ten of the best things to do in Paris on a first visit

Don’t make the mistake of trying to tick off every museum and monument on a first trip to Paris.

Following your nose, buying flowers, and enjoying great bread and cheese at a cute cafe in your quartier can be just as rewarding. Pencil the key sights into your itinerary, but give yourself plenty of time to wander at will; there literally is something magical to discover around every corner.

To ensure that your Parisian experience is nothing short of perfect, a travel package may be the answer. The team of experts at Guide To Europe have curated a range of travel packages to Paris, France to cater to all types of travellers. Whether you’re a romantic, a history buff, an art enthusiast, a foodie, or a fashionista, there’s a package for you.

Here’s a checklist of our top ten things to do in Paris on a first visit. Bon voyage!

1. Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral

A practical way to get your bearings in Paris has always been to visit Notre-Dame Cathedral on the central Île de la Cité. On the 15th of April 2019, the world looked on in shock as this iconic 12th century edifice went up in flames — causing significant damage. The painstaking reconstruction is well underway, with the Cathedral scheduled to reopen by the end of 2024. Visitors can still access the Parvis Notre-Dame (front square) to view progress on the restoration, and descend into the archaeological crypt.

Ten of the best things to do in Paris
Ten of the best things to do in Paris: Cathedral Notre Dame de Paris. Image: Bigstock

2. Walk in the footsteps of literary greats

Opposite the Cathedral on the Left Bank (the southern side of the Seine River) is the famous English bookshop Shakespeare and Company. Once an intellectual hangout for the likes of Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce, here you’ll find a great collection of books and manuscripts on the history of Paris. It’s well worth a browse. Next, cross the road to the bouquinistes — the second-hand book sellers that line the banks of the Seine. You can pick up tales of times past, along with Belle Époque post cards and posters (which make fabulous souvenirs).

Ten of the best things to do in Paris
Browse the wares of the Paris bouquinistes. Image: Shutterstock

3. Choose a museum; any museum

OK, so you’ll no doubt want to visit at least one museum or gallery during your stay, and there are countless cultural attractions to choose from. Top options include the Louvre, Musée Marmottan Monet, Museé d’Orsay, Musée Rodin, and Musée du quai Branly. Important note: The last thing you can afford to do in Paris is waste time queuing, particularly at the Louvre. Consider booking a guided tour that includes skip-the-line entry. You’ll be able to stay on afterwards and explore at your own pace.

Ten of the best things to do in Paris
Ten of the best things to do in Paris: Musée Rodin. Image: Bigstock

4. Do a self guided walking tour

Paris is packed with characterful neighbourhoods that are best explored on foot — and most visitors miss them entirely! We’ve put together a number of self-guided walking tours, so take your pick. They’ll get you off the beaten tourist track and into the real Paris!

Paris self-guided walking tour from the Arc de Triomphe to Notre Dame
Paris self-guided walking tour from the Eiffel Tower to Les Invalides
Paris self-guided walking tour of Belleville
Paris self-guided walking tour of Montmartre

Ten of the best things to do in Paris
Ten of the best things to do in Paris: Go on a self guided walking tour of Montmartre.

5. See a show

Seeing a show while on holiday in Paris is de rigueur — and from lavish musicals to experimental theatre, there’ll be something playing that appeals to your taste. Splash out on tickets to the prestigious Opéra national de Paris (Paris Opera) at the Palais Garnier, or perhaps a cabaret show at Folies Bergere in the 9th or the Moulin Rouge in the 18th. The latter is one of Paris’ most popular attractions and features flamboyant cancan dancers doing their thing.

Paris city guide
Paris city guide: Moulin Rouge

6. Eat fresh at local markets

Forget the forgettable tourist restaurants that plague Paris and self cater at least once a day by visiting a local fresh food market. You’ll feel better for it, as will your budget. Outdoor marketplaces are set up in streets and public squares across the capital most days of the week, and the atmosphere is always convivial. Open from Tuesday through to Sunday, the Marché des Enfants Rouge in the 3rd arrondissement is the city’s oldest covered market. Buy flowers and fruit, gawk at the gigantic cheese wheels, and graze on multicultural fare.

7. Dine at Le Bouillon Chartier

In terms of more substantial eats, you can’t go wrong at Le Bouillon Chartier. Housed in a former train station concourse, this iconic eatery has been in operation since 1896! Enjoy classic, reasonably priced main course dishes and wonderful desserts (such as Baba au rhum with chantilly cream). The classically attired waiters, high ceilings, heritage luggage racks, and wooden seating all add to the atmosphere.

Great places to eat and drink in Paris
Great places to eat and drink in Paris. Image: Le Bouillon Chartier

8. Get some retail therapy

Shopping isn’t just a pastime in Paris — it’s a way of life! If independent and up-and-coming designers are your thing, head directly to Le Marais in the 3rd. Rue de Turenne, rue Charlot, and rue Vieille du Temple have a tonne of funky and fun shops that offer perfumes, clothing, and to-die-for homewares. For elegant clothing and accessories, the 1st and 2nd arrondissements are home to all the top labels. Rue St-Honoré is the place to shop for designer perfumes. To get on the trail of more unique treasures, head to the huge Marché aux puces de Paris Saint-Ouen flea market (just watch your bag).

9. Enjoy an apéro

Parisians are fond of the after-work/evening apéro: a kir (white wine with syrup), a demi of beer, or perhaps a Perrier (the champagne of sparking mineral water, which is served with a slice of lemon). So, live like a local and join them! Order on the ‘terrace’ (outside seating area) of almost any street cafe, then sit back, relax, and watch the world go by.

Paris city guide
Paris city guide: Enjoy the city’s cafe culture.

10. Go on a day trip

Paris is utterly enchanting — but rather than spending your entire holiday in its embrace, devote at least one day to exploring further afield. There are great day trip destinations in every direction: explore grand palaces, admire extravagant chateaux, lose yourself in storybook towns, and sample the bounty of world-renowned winelands. Lovers of French Impressionism should make a bee-line for the quaint village of Giverny in Normandy to visit Claude Monet’s splendid house and garden.

Book your Paris holiday package

Ready to make your dream holiday a reality? Book a fully customised 7 day Paris tour package with airfare, and embark on a journey filled with elegance and charm. Paris is waiting to welcome you!

Do you have any suggestions to add to our list of top things to do in Paris on a first visit? We would love to hear from you. Please leave a comment below.

Additional images: Bigstock

Ruby Boukabou

About the writer

Ruby Boukabou is a travel, culture, and food writer based between Europe and Australia, and has written for The Age, The Australian, Qantas, Issimo, The Diplomat, Paris Voice, and Inside Film. She has also produced culture and travel stories for the ABC, SBS, and Screen Australia. Ruby’s books — The Art Lover’s Guide to Paris and The Architecture Lover’s Guide to Paris (White Owl Books) — are available in bookshops and to order online.

Adam Ford

About the writer

Adam Ford is editor of Top Oz Tours & Travel Ideas, and a travel TV presenter, writer, blogger, and photographer. He has travelled extensively through Europe, Asia, North America, Africa, and the Middle East. Adam worked as a travel consultant for a number of years with Flight Centre before taking up the opportunity to travel the world himself as host of the TV series Tour the World on Network Ten. He loves to experience everything a new destination has to offer and is equally at home in a five-star Palazzo in Pisa or a home-stay in Hanoi.

 

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