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Things to Do in Paris

Home to the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, and Notre Dame Cathedral, the City of Lights boasts some of the most iconic attractions in Europe. While the cosmopolitan French capital leads the way in fashion and cuisine, its boulangeries, cafes, and quirky Frenchisms — not to mention its rich and inescapable history — prove the city timeless. The clock doesn’t stop for visitors stuck waiting to get inside Paris’ top attractions, but those in the know skip the lines (and save time) with priority-access tickets. Explore the Catacombs, see the ‘Mona Lisa,’ or cruise the Seine River with no wait, or opt for the VIP treatment at the Palace of Versailles or Moulin Rouge.
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Place de la République
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Nearly a dozen streets converge at Place de la Republique—a popular square in the heart of Paris. This historic town center may measure fewer than 10 acres but was once home to impressive military barracks. Though the grounds are relatively small, there are numerous points of interest including intricate fountains, monuments paying homage to the grand republic and artistic relief-panel depicting some of the city’s most impressive political feats.

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Petit Palais
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The Petit Palais, as you can imagine, is the smaller of the two museums on Avenue Winston Churchill, between the Champs-Élysées and the Pont Alexandre III. Unlike many museums in Paris, it was built (in 1900) specifically as an exhibition space, as evidenced by its abundance of soft natural light and open spaces. It is now home to the Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris.

Its collection covers a wide range of styles and eras, from medieval paintings to 19th-century sculpture. Fans of Monet and Cézanne will enjoy their lesser-known works, and there's plenty of Rubens, Rembrandt and Rodin to go around.

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Luxembourg Gardens (Jardin du Luxembourg)
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When the weather is warm Parisians of all ages flock to the formal terraces and chestnut groves of Luxembourg Gardens, the lung of the Left Bank located in St-Germain. There are art galleries, activities, and plenty of room to run about.

At the Grand Bassin, model sailboats can be rented, while at the pint-sized Théâtre du Luxembourg, visitors are treated to a complete theater experience in miniature: in a hall filled with child-sized seats, marionettes put on shows whose antics can be enjoyed even if you don't understand French. Just north of the theater, kids of up to 35kg (75lbs) can ride Shetland ponies. Less rider-friendly, you can visit the 'ruches' (beehives), established here in 1856. There are also numerous sporting fields and facilities. For higher-brow visitors, the early-20th-century Musée du Luxembourg at 19 Rue de Vaugirard is dedicated to presenting the work of living artists. The Palais du Luxembourg is worth a look.

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Place Dauphine
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Place Dauphine is an iconic public square wedged between lavish townhouses on the western tip of Ile de la Cité in Paris. The square was the second project of the “royal squares program” instigated by Henri IV – the first one being what is now known as Place des Vosges – and was named after his son, soon-to-be Dauphin of France Louis XIII. To this day, it remains one of the most prestigious areas in the city.

The square’s – which is actually triangular in shape – westernmost corner connects to Pont Neuf, linking the right and left banks of the Seine River. Although the houses surrounding Place Dauphine were built in the early 1600s, only two have preserved their original features, i.e., the two located on either side of the narrow entrance leading to Pont Neuf. Nowadays, the oddly three-sided square is popular with both locals enjoying apéro and photographers searching for a quintessential Paris atmosphere.

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Printemps
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Printemps is a major luxury department store in Paris with 25 floors located in three different buildings. The shopping center has more than 470,000 square feet dedicated to luxury goods, glamour, and fashion, as well as home goods, beauty products, and more. You'll find French and international brands here, including over 300 brands that are sold exclusively at Printemps. There is also a food hall with the biggest brands in luxury gastronomy, plus an eating area where you can stop for a meal while you shop.

Aside from shopping, Printemps is worth visiting to see the impressive building. It has a huge art deco cupola, a Haussmannian facade, a panoramic terrace with views of Paris, and artistic window displays. The facade was registered as a Historic Monument in 1975. Though the shopping center is proud of its heritage and history, it strives to keep up the tradition of a modern image and experience.

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Bastille
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Place de la Bastille is one of the more well-known squares in Paris and occupies an important place in French history. This is where the Bastille Prison stood until 1789, when this 'symbol of royalist tyranny' was stormed on July 14 during the French Revolution. No trace of the Bastille prison remains but the square is still a place where Parisians go to raise their voices in political protest.

In the middle of the square stands the July column, commemorating the three-day July Revolution of 1830. yet another overthrowing of a French king.

These days the Bastille is a large traffic roundabout and the surrounding area is known for its bars, cafes, and nightclubs. It is home to the Opera Bastille, a marina for pleasure boats and the Canal Saint Martin.

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8th Arrondissement
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The 8th arrondissement (neighborhood), one of Paris’ 20 districts, is probably best known for the famous boulevard Champs-Élysées. With sidewalks lined by trees, high-end shops, and fashion boutiques, the boulevard is also home to the Arc de Triomphe and the Place de la Concorde, as well as the Élysée Palace (the official residence of the President of France). On one end of the Champs-Élysées is the Arc de Triomphe, which offers sweeping views of the city from its top. On the other end of the Champs-Élysées is the Grand Palais, an historic building dedicated “to the glory of French art.” The Grand Palais is now a museum and an exhibition hall that is home to an impressive art collection. The 8th arrondissement is probably best known as a retail district, where posh shoppers come to sip a beverage at one of the area’s numerous cafes or restaurants, then browse name-brand boutiques like Chanel, Christian Dior, and Louis Vuitton.

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La Madeleine
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La Madeleine church in Paris is one of the most striking building in the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Rumour has it that it was built in order to mirror the Palais Bourbon – which houses the French National Assembly - on the opposite bank of the Seine river in order to create harmony between the clergy and the republic.

But in reality, La Madeleine was designed as a temple to Napoleon’s army and its glorious victories back in the early 1800s – which would certainly help explain why the church doesn’t actually look like a church (it doesn’t have a spire or bell-tower) but rather a lavish Greek temple. It was completed in 1828 and built in the Neo-Classical style and was inspired by an exceptionally well preserved Roman temple named Maison carrée in Nîmes; it now dominates the entire Faubourg Saint-Honoré, with its 52 20-meters high Corinthian columns.

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More Things to Do in Paris

4th Arrondissement

4th Arrondissement

7 Tours and Activities
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Rue Montorgueil

Rue Montorgueil

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Located in the center of Paris in the 2nd arrondissement, Rue Montorgueil is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood where, within a three block radius, you’ll find some of Paris’s best bites. The market street was once the home of the iconic Les Halles wholesale market, and while that was disbanded in the 1970s, its foodie culture remains in the form of fish and meat markets, restaurants, bistros, food shops, chocolatiers, pastry shops and kitchen supply stores.

For many a traveling foodie, the crowning jewel of the Rue Montorgueil neighborhood is La Maison Stohrer, a patisserie that opened in 1730, making it the oldest still-standing pastry shop in the city.

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Marché d’Aligre

Marché d’Aligre

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Tucked behind the Bastille in Eastern Paris, the Marché d’Aligre is one of the capital’s liveliest markets, mixing the traditional and the bohemian with plenty of rustic French charm. The market is split into two parts: the Marche Beauvau, one of the few remaining covered markets in the capital, and an outdoor flea market where everything from antiques and crafts (including many African and Asia works), to clothes and fresh flowers, is on sale. Seasonal fruits, vegetables and meat line the indoor stalls, alongside huge slabs of local cheeses, fresh oysters and delicious baked goods, and there are plenty of free samples available to challenge your taste buds.

The market is open Tuesday-Saturday from 9am-4pm, as well as Sunday mornings; although many stallholders take a break for lunch around 1pm. The surrounding streets are packed with bijou cafes and charming eateries where you can watch the world go by while sampling some fine cuisine.

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Palais de Chaillot

Palais de Chaillot

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The Palais de Chaillot is located on the Place du Trocadéro in Paris’ 16th neighborhood (arrondissement). Because it is just across the river Seine from the Eiffel Tower, the terrace of the Palais de Chaillot provides one of the city’s best views of the tower — it is a great place to snap photos of the famous landmark. Visitors can easily spend an entire day visiting the Palais de Chaillot, the Eiffel Tower, and walking or taking a cruise along the Seine. The Palais’ surrounding gardens (Jardins du Trocadéro) are ten hectares surrounding Paris’ largest fountain, which is well worth viewing at night while lit up.

The Palais de Chaillot was originally built for the 1937 World’s Fair/Universal Expo, and today houses the national theater (Théâtre National de Chaillot) and a number of different museums: the Musée de la Marine (Naval Museum), the Musée de l'Homme (The Museum of Man), and a museum of architecture (Cité de l'architecture et du patrimoine).

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Promenade Plantée

Promenade Plantée

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Promenade Plantée’s well-manicured gardens, flowering shrubs and romantic views make it one of the most popular destinations for budget conscious travelers visiting the City of Lights. Athletic visitors jog along the 2.9-mile scenic pathway as the sun rises, and dozens of couples in love gather to watch in the evening as the sunsets over Paris streets.

The greenway winds through Viaduc des Arts, where interested travelers can explore high-end shops and exquisite galleries, or comb through handmade arts and crafts booths before relaxing into the urban oasis of Promenade Plantée’s incredible gardens.

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Viaduc des Arts

Viaduc des Arts

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Few places offer travelers the unique shopping experience of Viaduc des Arts. This restored railway station in the heart of Paris is home to a wide variety of local artisans, from cabinet-makers to textile artists, fashion designers to painters. Dozens of one-of-a-kind shops are tucked beneath the picture-perfect arches of this old-world train station, providing travelers with one of Europe’s most idyllic shopping experiences.

After combing through the oddities and artwork of Viaduc des Arts, visitors can wander the gardens of nearby Paris’s Promenade Plantee—an elevated park just above the shops. Travelers agree this quintessential Paris walk is a must for anyone visiting the City of Lights.
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Berthillon

Berthillon

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Paris is a city best explored with your taste buds, and nowhere is that more true that at Maison Berthillon, the city’s most famous ice cream and sorbet shop. The iconic luxury ice cream shop and tea room opened on Rue Saint Louis en l’Ile in 1954, and eager visitors have been queuing up outside ever since.

Visit on any given day (except during the summers when the shop is closed) and you’ll find 70-odd flavors of decadent ice creams and fruit sorbets, many that change with the season. The wild strawberry (fraises des bois) sorbet is particularly famous, as is the salted caramel (caramel au beurre sale) ice cream, but all are well worth the wait.

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Gare du Nord

Gare du Nord

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Gare du Nord is one of the six major train stations in Paris, with service to London, Brussels, Amsterdam and other destinations north of the French capital. Strictly speaking, Gare du Nord is the busiest railway station in Europe and the busiest in the world outside Japan with over 700,000 passengers every day for a grand yearly total of 190 million. Because of the role it plays in Paris’ daily transports, Gare du Nord was featured in many movies, including Ocean’s Twelve, the Bourne Identity and The Da Vinci Code.

The train station itself was built in the 1860s and comprises 36 platforms, including a separate terminal for the Eurostar trains which require security and customs checks. The U-shaped terminal is made out of cast iron and stone, including the statues that decorate the main entrance – each representing destinations outside of France.

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École Militaire

École Militaire

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Montmartre Cemetery

Montmartre Cemetery

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Officially known as Cimitière du Nord, the 19th-century Montmartre Cemetery is the third-largest necropolis in Paris, and the final resting place for many of Montmartre's famous artists and writers including Edgar Degas and Jacques Offenbach, Dumas, Hector Berlioz and Emile Zola's family.

Built in the early 19th century in an abandoned gypsum quarry at the foot of Butte Montmartre, Montmartre Cemetery was intended to take the strain off the inner-city cemeteries reaching dangerous levels of overcrowding. Today, the 25-acre site is a peaceful place crisscrossed by cobbled lanes shaded by cedars, maples, chestnuts, and limes. You can spend about an hour seeing the tombs with their ornate designs.

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Canal Saint-Martin

Canal Saint-Martin

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The streets of Paris are filled with romance and excitement, but for travelers looking to escape the hustle of the city, a wander along the scenic Canal St-Martin, located near the River Seine, offers a welcome respite from the typical urban energy.

Visitors can stroll along the picturesque waterway where quaint storefronts and tiny homes nod to another era. Travelers can relax at one of the numerous café tables and sip on glasses of fine wine under a quiet city sky or float along the waterway in one of the city’s famous riverboats. Travelers agree that some of the best shopping is to be had along Canal St-Martin, making it an ideal place to spend a late afternoon in the open air.

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Montparnasse

Montparnasse

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Legendary for harbouring some of Paris’s most iconic artists and intellectuals, Montparnasse lies on the city’s Left Bank, in the 14th aggrandisement, and remains a popular tourist attraction. Taking its name from the Greek Mount Parnassus, home to ‘the Muses’ (the nine Greek Goddesses of the arts and sciences), Montparnasse was the central hub of Paris’s creativity throughout the 20th century. Home to a vibrant population of penniless artists and grass roots intellectuals, the area was a meeting ground for the era’s burgeoning arts scene. Future icons like Pablo Picasso, Jean Cocteau, Ernest Hemingway and James Joyce were among the immigrants who flocked to the area, along with a number of key French figures, many of whom are now buried in the Montparnasse cemetery. While the golden era might be long gone, the neighbourhood retains much of its gritty charm, with its many traditional cafés and creperies (pancake houses) recreating some of the vibe of historic Paris.

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