What are the Best Sites to See in Paris?
A city brimming with culture, style and romance, Paris draws millions of tourists every year - all searching for the best places to visit and usually fighting a tight schedule at the same time.
Little wonder that when planning what to see in Paris, it can be hard to find the hidden gems amongst the hundreds of places to visit. From world famous lures such as the Eiffel Tower, to tucked away places such as the Crypte Archeologique, there are so many things to do in Paris that a long weekend just isn’t enough!
So if you’re planning to visit this romantic hub and want to make the most of your trip, then our selection of the top places to visit in Paris could be just the thing for you. We’ve put together an expert selection highlighting what to see in Paris on a short trip, with our top ten places to visit stacked alongside a few additional recommendations that didn’t quite make the cut but shouldn’t be ignored if you have more time.
Ok, so everyone puts the Eiffel Tower top of the list of things to see in Paris. But with good reason, because the Eiffel Tower is a place you just can’t miss. From its looming construction to its stunning views of the city and just the general energy and buzz of the place, it really does live up to the billing.
Visitors can climb or use the lifts to reach the first or second floors, the latter of which is 115 metres high. The most expansive views can be found on the Eiffel Tower’s third level at 276 metres, which has its own separate lift from the second floor. A backstage tour is available, which details the workings of the Eiffel Tower and its history.
If there was ever an example of good things in small packages then Sainte Chapelle is it. A 13th century church, its beautiful upper chapel is formed of intricate stained-glass windows and a richly decorated ceiling. It’s easily one of the top ten places in Paris to visit and really has to be seen to be appreciated.
Audio tours are available guiding visitors through and explaining the significance of its colourful stained glass windows and statues. In particular, the windows at Sainte Chapelle depict over a thousand images relating to the Old Testament and the Passion of Christ.
While most people come to this city for romance, there’s a darker side to be found… This underground burial complex houses six million skeletons. Stacked in endless corridors, it’s a fascinating and haunting place. If you have the courage, it’s one of the most interesting places in Paris to see.
They came into use as a burial place in the eighteenth century following the overpopulation of Parisian cemeteries and the closure of the Cemetery of Innocents. A fascinating, unusual and somewhat haunting tourist attraction, the catacombs are well worth a visit for those who are not claustrophobic or easily spooked. A tour takes approximately an hour and involves climbing 83 steps.
Firmly seated among the most famous places to visit in Paris, you could spend your entire trip exploring the Louvre. It is vast and packed full of masterpieces at every turn. So do you zip through to see the highlights – the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo et al - or do you take your time and risk joining the collection…
Set over 60,000 square meters, the Louvre can be fairly daunting, but guided tours and audio tours are available in English and French lasting ninety minutes. Tours can be historically themed.
The Pantheon's in Rome right? True, but it’s also in Paris. At least, the Paris Pantheon is in Paris. Makes sense, if you think about it. The Paris Pantheon is a church turned mausoleum and resting place of France’s famous. Little visited, it’s a magnificent building and ranks as one of the best things to do in Paris.
The crypt is now the burial place of many French icons. Those buried there include Rousseau, Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean Moulin, Marie Skłodowska-Curie, and the architect of the Pantheon Jacques-Germain Soufflot. Guided tours of the Pantheon are available and last approximately 45 minutes.
A monument to the decadence of royalty and a constant draw for vast numbers of visitors, Versailles is simply astonishing. And if the massive opulent palace isn’t enough, the gardens will simply blow your mind. Representing ostentatiousness beyond measure, it’s clearly one of the very best and most popular places to visit in Paris.
Originally the hunting lodge of King Louis XIII, it was transformed into a magnificent residence by his son, Louis XIV. The ostentatious monarch built the Grand Apartment of the King and Queen which included the magnificent Hall of Mirrors before moving both his court and the government to Versailles in 1682.
There's a range of tour options and audio headsets are available as are guided tours.
Standing at the very heart of the city, Notre Dame is an iconic cathedral and a staple entry on any list of things to see in Paris. With its looming ceilings and magnificent stained-glass windows, it's a wonderful place to visit. Its fame and location leave it slightly over-glorified, but it's genuinely impressive all the same.
Visitors to Notre Dame can tour the building and appreciate both its beauty and sheer size. Highlights include its stained glass windows, gothic architecture and many sculptures. Free tours are conducted throughout the year.
The nearby tower outside the cathedral is also worth a visit. Dating back to the 13th century, it houses the 17th Century Emmanuel Bell as well as Viollet-le-Duc’s 19th century chimera and gargoyles. Those feeling particularly fit can climb its 387 steps for magnificent views.
This cemetery is not the most obvious of things to do in Paris, and yet it has a strange allure. As well as the many famous figures and military grandees buried here, and alongside ornate and elaborate tombs, are a number of graves which have become cult destinations – principally the burials of Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.
Pere Lachaise is also home to the Mur des Fédérés or ‘Communards Wall’ where 147 of the working class defenders of Belleville or ‘Communards’ were shot on 28 May 1871 as part of the ‘Bloody Week’. This is also surrounded by monuments to concentration camp victims from the Holocaust. Maps are available to buy at the entrance, but you can also use the directories on the grounds. Overall, Pere Lachaise is a peaceful and interesting way to spend an afternoon.
One of the city’s best hidden gems is the Crypte Archeologique – an underground museum of Roman Paris. Indeed, few people even think of Roman ruins among the interesting places in Paris to visit. This site is more curious as it's directly below Notre Dame; yet of the thousands above, barely dozens descend its steps.
The Crypte Archeologique contains the remains of Gallo-Roman Lutetia, including its third century BC walls, its streets and heating systems and even the ruins of an ancient cathedral. Some of the remains are medieval, dating to the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries and including a hospital. A little hidden gem in the heart of the city.
10. Musee de Cluny
A hidden gem in the heart of Paris, Musee de Cluny is a medieval museum nestling within an ancient Roman bath complex. In fact, this tucked away treasure is one of the very best remnants of the ancient Roman city which would become Paris.
The museum has an impressive collection, including Roman statues, gothic sculptures, a treasury filled with the works of medieval goldsmiths and an exhibit of funereal objects. Notably, Musee de Cluny is made up of two main buildings, the fifteenth century Cluny Abbey Hotel (Hôtel de Cluny) and an important series of Gallo-Roman baths. These baths date back to the first to third centuries AD and represent some of the best preserved remnants of the Gallo-Roman city of Lutetia. If you’re seeking interesting places to visit in Paris, this is hard to beat.