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Top 12 Paris Attractions to Visit

Updated: Sep 5, 2023

Paris, France's capital, has remained a significant city for more than 2,000 years. Also known as the "city of love" and "city of lights," is one of the most important hubs for commerce, fashion, entertainment, art, and culture today. Paris's world-famous landmarks, museums, and cathedrals come to mind just by mentioning the city.

Planning your first visit to Paris? With these top 12 Paris attractions, learn what makes the City of Light so enticing and about the unique sites to explore.

1. Eiffel Tower (Tour Eiffel)

For the majority of visitors, seeing the city's famous symbol is the top activity to visit. This iron structure was built for the 1889 World Exposition and stands at over 1,000 feet (300 meters) tall in the Champ de Mars park.

The Eiffel Tower, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, offers fantastic opportunities for both day and nighttime photography. On the third floor, there is a panoramic champagne bar, a brasserie, and a Michelin-starred restaurant in addition to the new glass floor that was put in in 2014 and is a great journey if you're courageous enough to walk across it. The girders of the Eiffel shine in the dark like Christmas trees with ornamental lights (every hour, on the hour).

2. Louvre Museum (Musée du Louvre)

The Louvre, a lavish palace that previously housed France's kings, is the most important of Paris' major museums. In the courtyard of the palace at the Pyramid du Louvre, the glass pyramid Ieoh Ming Pei created in 1917, where visitors can enter the museum. Thousands of works of art, many of which are regarded as masterpieces, including antiquities and European paintings from the 15th to the 19th century, are on display at the Musée du Louvre.

It is impossible to view everything in one visit, but visitors can concentrate on a specific gallery, such as classical sculpture, Italian Renaissance art, or paintings from the 17th century in France, or take a self-guided tour to see the highlights of the Louvre Museum.

The Mona Lisa, also known as La Gioconda (or La Joconde in French), was painted by Leonardo da Vinci between 1503 and 1505. There are many other must-see works of art to admire even if time is short, but many people quickly pass through the museum simply to peek at this one sculpture.

3. Versailles Palace

The Château de Versailles, which was once simply a small hunting lodge, can today unquestionably lay claim to being the most opulent residence in Paris. With each new occupant, it has expanded until it boasts an astounding 2,300 rooms, which over the years have housed many members of the French royal family. Louis XIV ordered the bulk of the ostentatious work in 1678. The magnificent Hall of Mirrors and the stately, vast grounds were both added by the Sun King, who is virtually synonymous with Versailles. During peak hours, it may be crowded, so reserve a skip-the-line ticket in advance and arrive early.

It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Paris, drawing tourists to its stunning gardens and the Hall of Mirrors, which features 357 mirrors adorning 17 arches. During the French Revolution, the Palace of Versailles ceased to be a royal palace and is now a museum dedicated to French history.

4. Latin Quarter (Quartier Latin)

Spend some time exploring the Latin Quarter to get a sense of an earlier Paris. This well-known Left Bank neighborhood, which was first inhabited by Romans in the first century, has long drawn bohemians, scholars, and political protest. If you look closely, you can see remnants of medieval Paris in the older structures and the curvy, winding streets. Visit the Pantheon to see the tombs of French philosophers and heroes, have a drink at a brasserie along Boulevard Saint Germain, and admire the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries at the Cluny Museum for their eternal beauty.

Explore the quaint, winding side alleyways that are lined with vintage bookstores, quaint restaurants, and quirky shops. Visit the stunning, historic cathedrals that are home to priceless works of art, such as Saint Julien le Pauvre from the Middle Ages. Visit a Roman arena from the first century, one of the Latin Quarter's "secret jewels," to travel even further back in time.

5. Seine River - Beaches, Cruises, & More

One of the best ways to take in Paris' appealing landscape is to take a boat tour along the Seine River. Visitors can view the sites from a fresh angle on Seine River Cruises. From a riverboat's vantage point, the Seine River bridges, Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral, and Louvre Museum are all breathtaking.

The most romantic experience is a nighttime cruise, though travelers can admire the majesty of the monuments during the day as they are illuminated by the sun. When the city's landmarks are illuminated after dusk, a unique effect is produced, and the city somehow seems more mystical.

6. Montmartre and Sacré Coeur

The Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, which is perched atop Paris' highest point like a decorative accent, has a special aura. From a distance, its Romanesque and Byzantine-styled alabaster facade resembles a wedding cake (which is its nickname).

Given that the Basilica was built as a symbol of hope following the Franco-Prussian War, the remarkable mosaic of Christ with a flaming heart lends the interior of the church an emotional and spiritual intensity. Numerous candles that are lit in the sanctuary contrast with the gloomy, solemn setting.

If you go to the Sacré-Coeur, don't forget to stroll through the charming Montmartre district. This medieval rural community, which was long excluded from the city, has been included into Paris' 18th arrondissement. Montmartre emanates both an avant-garde edge and an old-fashioned charm. Small, independently owned shops and restaurants, art galleries that represent the quarter's former bohemian lifestyle, and tranquil squares dotted with outdoor cafés are all accessible via winding cobblestone alleyways and stairways for pedestrians.

7. Musée d'Orsay

In the repurposed Gare d'Orsay, the Musée d'Orsay exhibits a magnificent collection of 19th- and 20th-century artwork produced between 1848 and 1914. For the 1900 Universal Exhibition, this Belle Epoque railroad station was constructed.

The museum's large galleries are home to some of the most beloved paintings in existence. One of the best sites to go in Paris to learn about the history of Impressionist art is the Orsay Museum. The wide range of works, from canvases that display the soft pastel-hued brushstrokes of Monet to the wild, vibrant images of Gauguin, delights visitors.

8. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe honors the troops who served in the French Revolutionary and First Empire armies (Napoleonic Wars). Although Napoleon gave the go-ahead for its construction in 1806, he did not live to see it finished in 1836.

The monumental 50-meter-high arch, created by architect Jean-François Chalgrin, was inspired by the Arch of Titus in Rome and has bas-reliefs with larger-than-life figures that show the marching forth, triumphs, and triumphant return of the French forces.

An observation platform at the summit of the structure offers panoramic views of the Place de l'Étoile's 12 avenues, including the path that leads from the Avenue des Champs-Elysées to the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre. The Eiffel Tower, the Montmartre area on a hill, and La Défense are all visible.

9. Luxembourg Garden (Jardin du Luxembourg)