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Paris Travel Guide | What to See, Do, Eat and Drink

Paris Travel Guide | What to See, Do, Eat and Drink
Reading Time: 15 minutes

Updated: 9/24/2023 | Paris Travel Guide

la tour eiffel tower paris france travel guide schimiggy

The Eiffel Tower view from across the Seine River

About Paris

Paris is the capital of France and is known as the City of Light. We love perusing the streets which remind us of a chapter out of our art history textbooks. The entire city is like an open-air museum with things to do and see every turn you take.

We recommend staying in Paris for at least 3-5 days to get the full experience of what the city has to offer.

Best Time to Visit Paris

The peak season is during the summer from June to September. You’ll be constantly competing for views at Paris’ main tourist attractions, but the weather is also fantastic during these months. It can get very hot and humid in the summer. In August, temperatures can be as high as 89°F (32°C) on any given day.

Winter is from October to March, and this is the off-season in Paris, but there is still a lot to do and see. There will be fewer travelers around and attractions are still open. Temperatures rarely drop below 39°F (4°C) but rain is common.

The best time to visit is during the shoulder season, which is from April to May. It’s less crowded than in the summer months and the temperature is a pleasant 64°F (18°C) on most days.

Fall is famously stunning in Paris, known for soft-lit afternoons and a warming sun. To avoid the crowds, go in early-to-mid December — the religious visitors start piling in for the Pope’s Christmas address after that (January through February).

Currency: Euro; at the time of this post (November 2022), the Euro was 1:1 with the USD. Now is a great time to visit Europe! Most businesses take credit cards and a 10% tip is appreciated although not required by most establishments.

Official Language: French; You do not need to know how to speak French to get around in Paris. Most people speak English too.

How to Get to Paris

There are two airports in Paris that you can fly into:

  • Charles de Gaul Internation Airport (Airport Code: CDG) – Most people fly in and out of CDG because it’s cheaper to get flights through this hub. 
  • Orly Airport (Airport Code: OLY) – OLY is located just as far as CDG but it’s not as popular for international travelers. The airport itself is great to navigate through and only requires two trains to get to the city center.
  • Beauvais-Tillé Airport, a.k.a. Paris Beauvais Airport (Airport Code: BVA) – If you fly with Ryan Air into Paris, you will be entering through the Beauvais-Tillé Airport (Airport Code: BVA). The airport is actually not in Paris, but you can take an hour-long airport transfer bus from BVA to Paris Port Maillot train station. This will cost you around 13 Euros but you’ll save a ton of money compared to flying through OLY or CDG.

Where to Stay in Paris

There are multiple options for lodging in Paris. We’ve stayed in hostels and all types of hotels.

Here are a few places in Paris that we highly recommend!

  • Hotel de Berri – Very close in proximity to the Arc de Triomphe and the shopping street, Champs Elysée. The hotel is a Luxury Collection Marriott property and it was very easy to take the M1 train to get to the most tourist spots in Paris.
  • Novotel Tour Eiffel Hotel – This hotel is located very close to the Eiffel Tower. I booked with Hotwire, a discounted hotel reservation program and got a really great deal! You can read my Hotwire review here.
  • Le Meridien Etoile – Affordable and central to Paris’ shopping street, the Champs Elysee. We were only minutes away from the Arc du Triomphe.
View from Novotel Hotel in Paris

View from Novotel Hotel in Paris

Hotels with Views of the Eiffel Tower

Here are the top hotels for a great view of the Eiffel Tower. We have more hotels listed on our Paris Travel Guide Map.

How to Get Around Paris

Paris is easily accessible on foot. There is so much to see and do while walking around. So don’t be afraid to wear your most comfortable sneakers to explore the city. While Paris is known to be fashion forward, you may want to reconsider wearing heels on cobblestone streets.

Paris has an extensive public transportation network consisting of buses and the subway (Le Metro).

Here are ways you can get around Paris:

  • Subway: The metro is the fastest way to get around the city. You can get tickets from vending machines at the stations. Tickets are 1.90 Euro each way. It’s also a great way to get to the airport, just allow yourself enough time.
  • Bus: The bus will get you into the areas not covered by the metro system, but it’s a lot slower than the subway due to the constant traffic in Paris.
  • Taxis: Taxis are very expensive here in Paris and I don’t recommend taking them when there are better and less expensive options. 
  • Rideshare: Uber is available in Paris and they’re usually much cheaper than taxis. Take these if you’re not going to take public transport and you have to travel far at night.
  • By Bike or Scooter: Bicycling around Paris is very romantic! It may seem a little scary due to the high volume of traffic but if you plan your routes each day, it should be fine. There are many places that rent bikes and scooters via an App service.
Ornate door by Jules Lavirotte Building Paris France

Ornate door by Jules Lavirotte

What to Do and See in Paris

There is so much to see and do in Paris. I’ve been to Paris 5 times and still haven’t seen everything. 

And unlike many other big cities, Paris doesn’t really start waking up until after 8 am. So wake up early to enjoy all these amazing locations to yourself.

#1 See the Iconic Eiffel Tower

Paris France Eiffel Tower View from Rue L'Universite

Eiffel Tower from Rue L’Universite

You can’t go to Paris and not see the Eiffel Tower (or le Tour Eiffel). You’re bound to see it at least once if not multiple times per day. You can pay to ascend the tower via elevator or by walking up the stairs. We highly recommend having a picnic with bread, cheese, and wine in the jardin (garden) just south of the Eiffel Tower.

Here are some of the best places to get the best view (and Instagram worthy photos) of the Eiffel Tower:

  • Rue Stag
  • Rue L’Universite
  • Trocadero Gardens
  • Rue de Monttessuy
  • Rue Saint Dominique (at Le Recruitment Cafe)
  • Avenue de Camoëns
  • 3 Square Rapp
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#2 Arc de Triomphe

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Arc de Triomphe

One of Paris’ most popular monuments is the Arc de Triomphe. Which was built around the same time as the Arc de Triomphe de Carrousel (near the Louvre Museum) but is twice the size. The arch was built to celebrate Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz in 1806. Today it honors the soldiers who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and World War I. Walk around to see the carved names of generals and important events and definitely climb to the top for excellent 360 views overlooking Paris. You won’t regret it!

#3 Notre Dame Cathedral

The Notre Dame (Our Lady) Cathedral was built in the French Gothic style in 1163. It suffered a fire in 2019 and will be under construction until 2024, so there is currently a barrier around it.

Notre Dame Cathedral Paris France Schimiggy

Notre Dame Cathedral

#4 Pantheon

The Panthéon began its construction in 1757 by the architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot as the Church of Sainte-Geneviève to replace a much older church on the same site. It was secularized during the French Revolution and dedicated to the memory of great Frenchmen, receiving the name Panthéon, which translates to “all the gods.”

Pantheon Paris France Schimiggy


#5 Sacré-Cœur Basilica (Sacred Heart Basilica)

The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is the highest point on the butte of Montmartre. From the dome, two hundred meters above the Seine, it is possible to see all of Paris and the countryside for fifty kilometers. It is the second-most visited monument in Paris, after the Eiffel Tower.

The basilica was designed by Paul Abadie, whose Neo-Byzantine-Romanesque plan was selected from among seventy-seven proposals! Construction began in 1875 and continued for forty years. It was completed in 1914, but, because of World War I, it was not formally consecrated (made sacred) until 1919.

Climb the 300 steps up to the top for magnificent views of the city. And while you’re there, don’t forget to check out the carousel just below the basilica for a fun photo opportunity.

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Basilica du Sacre Coeur

#6 Palais Royal

The Palais Royal is a former royal palace located in the 1st arrondissement of Paris, France. The screened entrance court faces the Place du Palais-Royal and is a great place to take photos. It’s very close to the Louvre so try to see both destinations on the same day.

The Palais-Royal now serves as the seat of the Ministry of Culture, the Conseil d’État, and the Constitutional Council. The central Palais-Royal Garden (Jardin du Palais-Royal) serves as a public park with shops lining the arcade.

Palais Royal Striped Columns Paris France

Palais Royal Columns

#7 Visit the Museums of Paris

Paris is packed with museums. Some of the best ones to visit include:

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Outside the Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum courtyard Paris France

Louvre Museum courtyard

Mona Lisa by Leonardo Davinci at the Louvre Museum

Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci

#8 Grand Palais (Palace)

A huge glass dome that is currently being renovated.

#9 Galleries Lafayette

The Galleries Lafayette is a shopping center on steroids! The mall is packed with high-end designers and Parisian brands. It also has one of the best views from the rooftop terrace where you can see the Palais Garnier Theater and vistas of the surrounding area. Come during the holidays to see the massive decorated Christmas tree along with animated and vibrant holiday displays.

Galleries LaFayette Paris shopping center holiday decoration christmas tree

Holiday display at Galleries Lafayette

#10 See the Prettiest Bridges in Paris

  • Pont Alexandre III
  • Pont Neuf
  • Pont de Bir-Hakeim
  • Pont des Arts
  • Pont de la Tournelle
Pont Neuf in Paris France

Pont Neuf

#11 Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is an arch in Paris located in the Place du Carrousel just next to the Louvre Museum. It was built between 1806 and 1808 by Charles Percier and Pierre François Léonard Fontaine to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories in the Wars of the Third and Fourth Coalitions.

Don’t mistake it for the much bigger Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, at the far end of the Champs Élysées that was designed in the same year; it is about twice the size and was not completed until 1836.

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel Paris France

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

#12 Watch a Show at the Moulin Rouge

It’s worth watching a cabaret show at the Moulin Rouge!

The Moulin-Rouge was founded in 1889 by Joseph Oller and Charles Zidler and sits at the base of the Montmartre neighborhood. And if a show isn’t in the cards for you, it’s always a sight to see and a good photo opportunity.

#13 Stroll Along the Seine River

The Seine is the best-known river in France and it flows through Paris. The Seine starts from the Dijon in the Alps to the English Channel at Le Havre. The Seine is both a major commercial river and a beautiful tourist attraction. Strolling along the banks or relaxing on a boat tour are lovely ways to view the city’s monuments, historic buildings, and ornate bridges.

#14 Explore the Paris Catacombs

The Catacombs of Paris were built because the city needed a better place to put the dead. Due to a prolonged period of spring rain that caused a wall around Les Innocents to collapse, spilling rotting corpses into a neighboring property, the city built tunnels and moved bones five stories underground.

#15 Visit the Père Lachaise Cemetery

If you’re into cemeteries (like me), you have to check out the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It’s honestly a sight to see with huge sepulchers and gravestones that will take your breath away.

#16 Check out Les Invalides

The shimmering golden dome of the Hôtel des Invalides is a splendid sight in the 7th arrondissement. It was initially built as a hospital and home for wounded soldiers in the 17th century.

Today, this stately building is now home to the Musée de l’Armée, the National Military Museum, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs and the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte in the magnificent Église du Dôme.

Hotel des Invalides Paris France

Hôtel des Invalides

#17 Saint Chappelle

One of Paris’ Gothic masterpieces, the stunning Sainte-Chapelle was built in the 13th century for King Louis IX as an architectural jewel box to house his collection of important relics, including the Crown of Thorns. The soaring stained glass windows tell the story of the Bible from Genesis to the Passion of Christ in over 1,000 brilliantly colored panels. For lovers of music, Saint-Chapelle also hosts concerts playing works by Bach, Vivaldi Handel & Mozart.

#18 Palace de la Concorde

The Place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris and marks the beginning of the grand Avenue des Champs-Élysées leading to the Arc de Triomphe. Enjoy the Tuileries gardens on the way to the Louvre Museum or cross the Seine to the Musée d’Orsay. The golden-tipped obelisk from Luxor marks the center of this busy square flanked by two beautiful bronze fountains. A real favorite with our guests and the best hot chocolate experience is Angelina’s Tea House.

Day Trips from Paris

#1 Chateau de Palace of Versailles

The Palace of Versailles is a must see when traveling to Paris. You can easily get there is train. 

A guided tour is highly recommended as it will allow you to bypass long entry lines and see hidden parts of the palace.

#2 Valle de la Loire

#3 Fontainbleau

#4 Domaine de Chantilly

#5 Visit Disneyland Paris!

Disneyland Paris is the perfect place for Disney fans! The park is about an hour away from Paris and is a great day trip for couples and families.

#6 Monet’s Garden at Giverny

Open from April to October, experience first-hand the gardens that inspired Claude Monet to paint some of his greatest Impressionist masterpieces.

 Monet lived in Giverny from 1883 until his death in 1926, and you will able to recognize some of his most famous works when strolling around the vibrant, colorful gardens.

Only 45 minutes west of Paris by train, Monet’s house and gardens are a lovely day trip from Paris!

#7 Normandy D-Day Beaches

#8 Reims

What to Eat in Paris

Paris is HUGE. So naturally, there are going to be tons of restaurants to try. Probably too many for me to visit in my lifetime.

  • Arpege: Legendary Chef Alain Passard created this 3 Michelin-starred establishment in 2001. The restaurant started very meat-forward but has since then introduced vegetarian menus made with ingredients harvested from Passard’s farm. The menu is ever-changing and reservations should be made at least 3 months out. Their lunch tasting menu is 185 Euros and 270 for dinner. Read my full review about dining at Arpege in November 2022.
pigeon wrapped lamb rack table presentation Arpege Paris France

Lamb Rack Wrapped in Pigeon from Arpege

  • Au Pied de Cochon
  • Berthelli
  • Bistrot Paul Bert: Dish to order: milk-fed pork. There’s no escaping a food coma following a meal here. This is a traditional French meal at its finest—from the seasonal plump white asparagus and the Côte de Boeuf for two (served medium-rare only with the most perfect French fries) to their signature praline-buttercream-filled Paris-Brest pastry or big-as-your-head steaming-hot soufflé. There’s tartare, too, of course, plus a yellow-as-the-sun egg served with shaved black truffles. During lunch, the $25 two-course prix fixe is a steal; you can do a formule at dinner, too, or order a là carte.
  • Breizh Café: Created by Brittany-born chef Bertrand Larcher, Briezh Café is THE BEST place to go for crepes in Paris. Larcher uses the highest-quality ingredients such as farmers’ market eggs, Bordier butter, and stone-milled organic flour. Choose from traditional savory galettes with ham, cheese, and egg, or opt for more adventurous toppings such as smoked duck breast. Dessert crêpes also come in both classic varieties and Asian fusion flavors, as Larcher’s wife is Japanese. Complete your crepe with an artisanal cider from Brittany.
  • Cafe de Flore: They are known for their onion soup.
  • Cafe du Marche
  • Cafe Montmartre
  • Cafe Saint Regis
  • Castel Cafe
  • Fluctuart
  • La Favorite
  • La Maison Rose
  • La Poule au Pot
  • La Scene
  • Lao Siam – This bustling Laotian-Thai restaurant offers unique dishes that will satisfy your hunger. We loved the Truite (Trout) Hip Hop, papaya salad (lao style with softshell crab), larb, red coconut curry, and sticky rice. You won’t get anything bad here! Come early or else you’ll have to wait outside to dine during the dinner rush.
  • Le Chardenoux: This newly restored Belle Epoque-era dining room in a trendy corner of the 11th arrondissement attracts. Prior to celebrity chef Cyril Lignac taking over the restaurant in 2014, it was predominantly seafood-focused. Nowadays, the cocktail bar itself is so inviting that you could easily come for a cocktail and not even eat. Things to try include the poké, crispy sushi, and meats like satay-marinated chicken, mussels gratin, and avocado-covered crab served atop a crusty cracker. Don’t skip dessert, because Monsieur Lignac is known for his pastries such as Baba au Rhum or a simple bowl of strawberries topped with merengue crumbles and vanilla cream.
  • Le Moulin de la Galette
  • Le Petit Cler
  • Le Consulat
  • Le Fontaine de Mars
  • Le Servan – Paris Brest
  • Les Deux Magots
  • Liza: Come here for elevated Lebanese food such as black-lemon labneh, codfish, grilled halloumi served with sesame tomato jam, rice pudding, and more. Their space is big and great for groups. Everything is meant to be shared so order a lot with the intention of sharing. 
  • Odette – Come here for the best cream puffs in Paris! The exterior is also super cute and Instagram worthy!
  • Pink Mamma: Come here for some of the best pasta dishes in Paris. We love anything with burrata and truffles. It’s located in Montmarte and you’ll easily spot it due to its pink exterior. Reservations are highly recommended as the place gets super busy for lunch and dinner. And don’t miss the beautiful garden room upstairs.
  • Polpo: Venture a little outside of the city for this gem, especially if you’re craving seafood. From their happy hour oysters to multiple different preparations of mussels to, of course, octopus (“polpo” means octopus in Italian), you can enjoy all of their offerings on a covered terrace. There is a beautiful view over the Seine, just outside of Paris in the lovely suburb of Levallois-Perret. They also offer a surf-and-turf brunch buffet on Sundays from 12-3 pm.
  • Raviolis Nord-Est: The small dining room serves homemade jiaozi, which are small Beijing-style dumplings. They’re both tasty and affordable! The dumplings are served grilled or boiled in orders of 10 and stuffed with your choice of filling (pork and green cabbage/mushrooms, beef, and celery/egg, chives, and shrimp/or tofu, mushrooms, and green cabbage). It’s so good so expect a wait on the weekends.
  • Septime – Come for the lunch or dinner degustation menus. They also offer wine pairings. 
Odette Cafe Paris France Travel Guide

Odette Cafë

Truffle Pasta Ribbons from Pink Mama Paris France

Truffle Pasta from Pink Mamma

Paris outfit idea at Pink Mamma Restaurant in Paris France

Upstairs garden room at Pink Mamma

Where to Drink in Paris

We are craft cocktail snobs, so we’re always looking for the best mixologists and Instagram-worthy beverages when we visit any city. And luckily for us, Paris has a ton of creative drinking opportunities.

Here are our top picks for cocktail bars in Paris:

  • Arbane
  • Bar Hemingway
  • BaraNaan Street Food & Cocktail Bar
  • Bisou.
  • Buddha Bar – High end restaurant and bar serving Asian fusion. Their cocktails are also strong and colorful. We typically only come in here for a drink and to admire the lavish atmosphere.
  • CopperBay
  • Combat – Cute bar that is very close to Lao Siam. Hop over here for some unique craft cocktails in a cozy setting.
  • Dirty Dick: An awesome Tiki bar in a dimly lit venue with fresh and funky drinks. If you love hip hop, this is the place to be!
  • Divine
  • Gatsby
  • Gentleman 1919
  • Gravity Bar
  • Harry’s New Yorker Bar
  • House Garden
  • Isadora
  • Jefrey’s: There’s a dash of the gentlemen’s club to Jefrey’s, a handsome hide-out for the dapper and mustachioed. Inside this stylish, silver-walled space you’ll find plush purple seating, elegant brown leather chairs, cut glass decanters, and a vintage gramophone. It’s masculine but not overwhelmingly so, and the low-lit upstairs space has a softer more romantic feel. The cocktail list, cheekily divided into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sections, favors the classic over the inventive, and they stock a pleasingly large range of spirits. Buy a bottle and they’ll store it for you until your next visit.
  • Lavomatic – An awesome speakeasy bar that is disguised as a laundromat. Their drinks are fruity and fun. Think elevated tiki drinks that aren’t sugar bombs. There is always a line outside, so come early!
  • Le 153
  • Le 1905
  • Le Bar Fondamental L.B.F. – Oberkampf
  • Le Calbar
  • Le Magnifique
  • Le Mary Celeste
  • Le Resistance
  • Le Syndicate
  • L’Éclair
  • L’Épicier
  • Les Justes
  • Little Red Door
  • Moonshiner
  • Prescription Cocktail Club
  • Sherry Butt
  • Solera Paris
  • The Frog & Underground
  • Tiger: A gin bar with over 80 varieties to choose from.
  • Troll Café
  • UC-61 – A cool submarine-style speakeasy bar with creative craft cocktails in a cozy setting.
Craft Cocktails from Lavomatic speakeasy bar Paris France

Cocktails from Lavomatic

Dirty Dick Bar Paris France Sea Shells by the Sea Shore Cocktail

Sea Shells by the Sea Shore cocktail from Dirty Dick (meant to be shared)

Paris Travel Guide Map

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