15 Best Things to Do in Paris, France for First-Timers

15 Exciting Things to Do in Paris for First-Timers

Time to live out your Parisian dreams!

 The City of Lights, the City of Love. Paris is the romantic destination that lingers in the dreams of many. At the mention of this place, you’d probably also think of the Eiffel Tower. But don’t forget the French capital isn’t just all about its main landmark. There are a lot of fun things to do in Paris, from enjoying artworks at museums to having authentic French desserts at cafes. 

Let’s start off by seeing how you can find your way around Paris. 

Also read: 14 Most Incredible Places in France

Navigating around Paris

Paris arrondissement map

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Paris is divided into 20 districts (arrondissements), with each one having its own charm and iconic landmarks. 

Fun fact: The arrangement of the arrondissements goes in a clockwise spiral, much like the shell of a snail (escargots, anyone?). That places the 1st to 4th Arrondissements in the centre of the city. We recommend planning your travel route by using the map above to locate the places you wish to go. 

Now, let’s have a look at some of the best things to do in Paris — especially if it’s your first time!

Top Paris sightseeing activities to add to your itinerary

1. Find the perfect spot to gaze at the Eiffel Tower

 eiffel tower from montparnasse tower

Image credit: Louis Paulin

Looking for the best photo spot for your commemorative shot with the Eiffel Tower? You can try going up Montparnasse Tower. Standing at 210 metres, it is one of the tallest skyscrapers in France. Go to the outdoor terrace for a panoramic view of the city, with the Eiffel Tower standing out amongst everything else. It is truly a view to behold, perhaps even more so at sunset. While you are waiting for golden hour, you can do a little shopping in the building.  

You can also make plans to live out your romantic dining experience at Le Ciel de Paris, the city’s largest restaurant. Just be sure to make a reservation beforehand. 

eiffel tower from place du trocadéro

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Not a fan of heights? You can still get an exceptional view of the Eiffel at Place du Trocadéro. The square has an intricately designed platform, with the middle part giving a symmetrical perspective. We recommend coming here early in the morning if you want to avoid crowds.

eiffel tower night

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FYI — The Eiffel Tower is just as beautiful at night! It even sparkles for five minutes at the start of every hour until 11.45pm. For this, we recommend going to Trocadéro Gardens (pictured above), just ahead of Place du Trocadéro.

2. Head up the Eiffel Tower

view from eiffel tower

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Instead of just looking at the Eiffel Tower, why not go up and get a glimpse of what the member of the Seven Wonders of the World sees from its perspective? Consisting of three floors, there is a range of activities you can do there; from enjoying a scrumptious meal at Michelin restaurant Le Jules Verne to souvenir shopping on the first floor. You can go up to the summit to check out the view from 330 metres above ground, or simply head to the second floor to admire the scenery. 

It’s best to get Eiffel Tower tickets in advance to avoid long queues. One option is Go City, Paris City Card and Paris PassLib’ travel passes, which include a trip up to the second floor. Alternatively, you can purchase individual tickets for the second and third floors from their official website, with access to either the staircase or lift.

3. Go museum-hopping

Walking through museums is one of the best things to do in Paris. It would definitely be a pity to miss out on these museums that are practically time capsules. If you plan to visit multiple museums, get yourself a Paris Museum Pass, which includes free admission to more than 50 museums. Having this lets you skip the queues and save on waiting time. 

Here are some museums you should pay a visit to on your first trip:

Louvre Museum

Louvre Museum,best things to do in paris

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Home to the renowned Mona Lisa, this pyramid-shaped art museum is so popular that you will need to make a reservation to enter. Situated in the heart of Paris, the ground on which the Louvre Museum stands today was formerly a palace for the French monarchs. The place was later converted into an art museum in 1793. 

Apart from being one of the many visitors hoping to get a glance at ​​Leonardo DaVinci’s Mona Lisa, the museum is also famous for its sculptures. These include the Venus de Milo and The Winged Victory of Samothrace a statue which is over 2,000 years old!

Musée d’Orsay

Musée d'Orsay

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Here’s a newer museum established in 1986. Despite its young age, Musée d’Orsay is home to Western artwork from the years 1848 to 1914 of varying mediums, including photographs! You can find a selection of the famous oil painter Vincent Van Gogh’s works such as Self-Portrait and Starry Night Over the Rhône

The Centre Pompidou

The Centre Pompidou

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Recognised for its intriguing snake-like escalator tubes that run on the outside of the building, The Centre Pompidou contains the National Museum of Modern Art and boasts a wide collection of 20th- and 21st-century works, including those by artists like Picasso and Andy Warhol. It is hard to believe that the museum, which some Parisians once looked down upon when it first opened in 1977, is now admired for its unconventional exterior.

Note: The Centre Pompidou will be closed from the summer of 2025 until 2030.

4. Explore the beautiful historic buildings

These castle-like structures have been around for centuries, with magnificent designs for both their exteriors and interiors. Here are some historic places to visit in Paris that double as architectural masterpieces! 

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral,paris attractions

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This is a medieval icon with gargoyle statues staring you down as you enter the building. Notre Dame Cathedral retained its gothic architecture from the 14th century  — being one of the first buildings to have pointed arches, rib vaults (curves in the ceiling), and flying buttresses (bar-like structures). 

While you are inside, spend some time at the chapel and take in the grandeur of the place as you stare up at the vast ceiling space, colourful stained glass windows, and lovely chandeliers. 

Note: The Notre Dame Cathedral is currently closed and will reopen in 2024.

The Conciergerie

The Conciergerie,paris attractions

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The Conciergerie is a building that has put on many hats, from being a palace, a courthouse, and then to a prison during the French Revolution. It still retains its majestic castle structure that faces the Seine River. Inside, you can admire the medieval arched ceilings in the Hall of the Men-at-Arms and have a look at the exhibition of the prison cells. 

Palace of Versailles

Palace of Versailles

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While not technically within Paris, one can easily get to the Palace of Versailles via train or car. Founded by Louis XIV in the 17th century, it has become largely a museum. Many know it as the location where the Treaty of Versailles was signed, concluding World War I. 

In comparison to the other two buildings, the Palace of Versailles will make you feel like a royal as you enter through the golden gate. As you stride through the Hall of Mirrors, rows of chandeliers and mirrors on both sides of the gallery create an interior oozing with lavishness. When you visit the King’s State Apartments, you can catch a glimpse of the lives of royalty. The ceiling is lined with gold, while the deep red walls symbolise power and majesty.

5. Get Instagram-worthy shots at Colonnes de Buren

Colonnes de Buren,paris attractions

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Colonnes de Buren is the perfect place for a monochrome photoshoot, with installations made of striped cylinders of various heights. You’ll find this in the inner courtyard of the former palace, Palais Royal

With its original intentions to conceal the ventilation shafts on the ground, the peculiar black and white stripes were simply too much to bear for Parisians. They were too bold-looking against the opulent palace. After years of backlash and attempts to remove the structures, it is now a popular photo spot. Go visit this installation and embrace your inner quirkiness with some creative poses!

6. Visit the Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe,paris attractions

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Here’s another of the popular Paris attractions not to miss on your first visit. At 50 metres, the Arc de Triomphe is one of the world’s tallest arches. This historical landmark honours those who lost their lives during the French Wars between the 18th- and 19th-centuries. Beneath the arch, there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame which is rekindled daily at 6.30pm. 

Eternal Flame

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Walking through the arc is a poignant experience in itself, and you can also pay an entrance fee to go up to the top of the arch. Accessible by climbing 284 steps (a lift is available for those with reduced mobility), a mesmerising view of the Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower awaits you at the top. The Paris Museum Pass also includes free admission to the arch.

7. Admire the landscape of the local parks and gardens

Luxembourg Garden,best things to do in paris

Luxembourg Garden | Image credit: Pavlovakhrushev via Canva Pro

These are definitely some of the best things to do in Paris if you need a breather from the hustle and bustle of the city. Fortunately, there are a handful to choose from! 

Depending on your plans for the day, Tuileries Garden may be a good stopover after seeing the Louvre Museum and Arc de Triomphe. On the other hand, Luxembourg Garden is located in the 6th Arrondissement, a distance away from the other sightseeing places. 

Tuileries Garden,places to visit in paris

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Speaking about historical richness, both gardens share a similar background of being the new palace grounds for the wives of the kings who passed away. Catherine de’ Medici moved out of the Louvre to Tuileries Palace, while Marie de’ Medicis settled in Luxembourg Palace. The gardens were built along with these palaces and eventually opened to the public. With spacious lawns for picnics, you can enjoy a good book while resting on a garden chair; perhaps even catch sight of children at the pond with their colourful toy boats.

8. Get an accommodation with a balcony

Ever wanted to live out your dreams of having breakfast on a balcony, while glancing out to see the Eiffel Tower? That’s totally possible in Paris.  

Four Seasons Hotel George V Paris, Shangri-La Paris, and Hotel Regina Louvre are some of the most luxurious hotels with this majestic view. 

For more budget-friendly options, you can find a vacation rental apartment in various neighbourhoods. Le Marais in the 4th Arrondissement is a trendy neighbourhood bustling with activities. Meanwhile, Saint-Germain-des-Prés in the 6th Arrondissement is a flourishing literature-centric area with cafes and boutiques. 

If you are looking for a more romantic experience, stay at Montmartre in the 18th Arrondissement. It is a village up a hill with enjoyable views and pastel-coloured houses. Those looking to immerse in the local creative scene should head over to Place du Tertre and see street artists showcasing their works.

Also read: 15 Airbnbs in Paris That Are Close to the City’s Top Sights

9. Watch a spectacular performance

Opera Garnier,paris attraction

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Absorb yourself in the cultural richness of Paris by getting tickets at Opera Garnier, one of the most famous opera houses worldwide. It is also the place that inspired the musical, The Phantom of the Opera. Ballets and orchestral performances are some of the many kinds of shows you can catch here. 

Moulin Rouge,paris attractions

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For those who enjoy enthralling, flamboyant shows with bright lights and vibrant colours, Moulin Rouge is the place to go. The showtimes are at 9pm daily and 11pm on some days, with the option of a dining experience at 7pm. 

10. Tour around Paris on a bus

Sightseeing in Paris can be made comfortable by going on the Big Bus Paris. If the weather permits, get yourself a seat on the upper deck to feel the breeze and have a windowless view of the city. Since the bus tour lets you hop on and off at different stops, you can get off to spend more time at the landmarks you want to visit.

11. Take a few trips on the Metro

Paris Metro

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Are you interested in experiencing the daily life of a Parisian, or are you simply tired of walking from one attraction to another? You can hop onto one of the 16 lines of the Paris Metro that run through the city. 

To get around, Parisians use the reloadable metro card, Navigo Easy. However, you may also want to consider t+ tickets which you can purchase for single use or in a pack of 10. For unlimited travel within a certain duration, there is the Paris Visite pass.

Also read: The Ultimate Guide to Avoiding Scams and Theft in Europe

12. Rediscover your inner child in Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris, paris attractions

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About an hour away from the city centre lies the magical world of Disneyland Paris. The theme park has five zones and 54 rides in total. Head over to Discoveryland if you are into Star Wars and futuristic displays. Thrillseekers will love Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain, one of the most popular and intense roller coasters in the park. 

On the other hand, the adorable cottages and castles in Fantasyland will certainly enchant you. Kids and kids-at-heart can also go on a maze adventure together at Alice’s Curious Labyrinth. Also, don’t miss out on the Disney Parades during the day and end your visit with dazzling fireworks that illuminate the castle.

More things to do in Paris for those who enjoy shopping and eating

13. Shop for luxury goods on Champs-Élysées

Champs-Élysées, places to visit in paris

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Beyond Arc de Triomphe is Champs-Élysées: a 1.9-kilometre-long avenue and the shopping heaven of Paris. You can find a wide selection of stores, from heritage designer brands like Chanel and Hermès to younger high-street labels like Sandro Paris and Zara. Here’s your chance to find something fit for Paris Fashion Week!

In between, you can also try out the many cafes that Champs-Élysées has to offer. Check out Café Joyeux Champs-Élysées for some speciality coffee. Meanwhile, Café La Belle Ferronnière is your best bet for apéritifs (alcohol that comes before a meal).

14. Indulge in French delicacies from local restaurants and cafes


Ratatouille | Image credit: Mizina via Canva Pro

Parisian delicacies are definitely the talk of the city — or perhaps even of the world! And nope, we aren’t just talking about croissants and baguettes. Trying out a dish you’ve never had before is one of the best things to do in Paris. It’s considered a gourmet destination, after all!

Here are some food suggestions to fuel your sense of adventure: foie gras (pronounced “fwaa-graa”), which is a buttery and silky delicacy made with duck or goose liver; and coq au vin (pronounced “kok-oh-van”), a stew dish with chicken braised in wine. Disney fans may also be excited to try ratatouille, the iconic stewed vegetable dish from the film of the same name. We recommend going to restaurants in the 11th Arrondissement for your gastronomical pursuits.

When it comes to desserts, you can expect nothing less. Best known for their petite, flavourful macarons, Pierre Hermé is a bakery chain that has several outlets across the city. The macrons are split into two categories: ​​those with single flavours (Infiniment) and those with multiple flavours (Signature). For Infiniment macarons, the vanilla and salted caramel ones are a must-try. Those looking for something more interesting can order Signatures like the passion fruit and milk chocolate combo, as well as the rose, raspberry, and lychee combo.

Another delicacy worth a try are crepes. At Breizh Café, these also come in savoury flavours such as zucchini with egg and spinach, apart from the usual fruity flavours. Don’t forget to sip on a cup of tea while doing a bit of people-watching; it’s actually a Parisian art form!

15. Sip wine while cruising down the Seine

seine river cruise, eiffel tower

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Hop aboard the Seine River Cruise for a fabulous way to do sightseeing in Paris while clinking your glasses for a toast. Some cruises offer champagne tasting, while others provide you with a full-course meal, exciting both your sight and taste. 

Also read: 16 Best Filming Locations for ‘Emily in Paris’ Season 3

parisian cafe

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This concludes our list of the best things to do in Paris, France on your first visit. There may be quite a bit of walking to do, so wear comfortable footwear. While you may still romanticise the City of Love, do secure your valuables in a safe spot to avoid being pickpocketed, especially on the metro. Bon voyage!

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About Author

Jessie Lee

Jessie is a writer and an avid dreamer. She enjoys quiet time pondering over new ideas and stories. If she isn't dreaming about her next travel destination, she's probably engrossed in anime and K-dramas.