30 Ultimate Things to Do in Paris
From the top of the Eiffel Tower to the Bateau Marche atop the Seine, our ultimate guide gives you the best things to do in Paris, City of Light.
With so much to see and do in Paris—from the museums to the Eiffel Tower to the catacombs, plus the shopping and the cafes—it’s hard to narrow it down to the essentials while still having an experience that mixes authenticity with all the must-see places. We’ve selected the crème de la crème of the city—some are well known, others off the beaten path—to help you plan a long weekend, a week, or even your next few visits. Most of all, the sites listed here make up le vrai Paris, and are sure to provide a memorable and authentic experience without missing out on a single thing. WHAT IS THE BEST MONTH TO VISIT PARIS?It may be a cliche, but it’s true: springtime in Paris (April and May) is lovely. The weather is pleasant (though it can be cool) and the tourists haven’t arrived in droves. The summer months (June, July, August) can be very crowded, so book well in advance. Before visiting Paris, please visit the U.S. State Department website to get the latest advice and information on COVID restrictions. Related: The Best Daytrips From Paris
Discover Degas, Van Gogh, and Manet at the Musée d’Orsay
Housed under the soaring roof of one of Paris’ grand old Beaux-Arts buildings, a former railway station, the spacious galleries of the Musée d’Orsay contain the world’s largest collection of Impressionist masterpieces by the likes of Cézanne, Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Gauguin, and many others. With a snack bar, a gourmet café, and an elegant restaurant original to the train station, dining is a breeze, and guided tours (in English) of the museum highlights are available every day (see the museum website for times and scheduling). Musée d’Orsay also offers a series of lunchtime and evening concerts featuring world-class musicians themed around special exhibitions (tickets sell out quickly so plan ahead), and a top-notch bookstore for stocking up on gifts.
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
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Contemplate the Thinker at the Musée Rodin
Once the great sculptor’s studio, this stately 18th-century mansion is one of Paris’ most beautiful museums and contains more than 6,500 of Rodin’s sculptures, including his great masterpieces The Thinker, The Kiss, The Burghers of Calais, and The Gates of Hell, along with 8,000 drawings and gouaches, and thousands of photographs. The Musée Rodin‘s lovely 7-acre sculpture garden—complete with a fountain, rose gardens, and a pleasant newly refurbished indoor-outdoor café—make for a delightful afternoon outdoors. The museum also hosts special exhibitions and a cycle of exhibits on contemporary artworks.
Related: The 15 Best Museums in Paris
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Explore the Palais-Royal Gardens
Away from the traffic and bustle, these serene formal gardens and elegant boutiques tucked behind the walls of a 17th-century palace are a tranquil haven and one of Paris’ best-kept secrets. Once a royal residence (Louis XIV spent part of his unhappy childhood here), the hushed arcades and manicured gardens of the Palais-Royal are now home to world-class perfumers, antiquaries, and designer boutiques—including Rick Owens, Jerôme Dreyfuss , Pierre Hardy , and Acne Studios—legendary glove-maker Maison Fabre , and niche perfumer Serge Lutens ‘ jewel box of a boutique. Pull up a metal chair around the fountain with the Parisians, or share a picnic lunch on a garden bench. Or if feeling flush, splurge like Zola, Proust, Baudelaire, and Colette did at the exquisite two-Michelin-star Grand Véfour restaurant—a historic monument—or right in the garden at the one-Michelin-star Restaurant du Palais Royal . Afterward, head over to the Louvre , Les Arts Décoratifs , or the Jardin des Tuileries , a stone’s throw away.
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Visit the Fondation Louis Vuitton
Rising out of the Bois de Boulogne like an imperious ocean liner with billowing glass sails, this Frank Gehry-designed contemporary art museum and cultural center is one of the most captivating additions to the Parisian art scene since the unveiling of the Centre Pompidou in 1977. Commissioned by Bernard Arnault, chairman and CEO of luxury-goods conglomerate LVMH, it houses Arnault’s substantial private collection, including pieces by Pierre Huyghe, Gerhard Richter, Zanele Muholi, Trisha Donnelly, Mark Bradford, Sarah Morris, and Christian Boltanski, among others. But the foundation has quickly become best known for its important temporary exhibitions, like a recent survey of artist Cindy Sherman and giants of 20th-century painting from the Morozov Collection, as well as permanent installations by the likes of Daniel Buren and Olafur Eliasson.
Iwan Baan for Fondation Louis Vuitton; Gehry partners LLP
People Watch at the Luxembourg Gardens
Nothing says Paris like the Luxembourg Gardens. Bordered by Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter , these magical gardens are beloved by Parisians of all ages longing to bask on a lawn chair in the sunshine (lawn lounging is strictly forbidden) or enjoy an impromptu picnic. Children of all ages race their sailboats in the basin behind the Sénat, romp in the giant enclosed children’s playground, take in a puppet show, or ride the city’s oldest merry-go-round. A favorite circuit for joggers and amblers, the many flower-lined paths are also perfect for an afternoon stroll past espaliered orchards and the old apiary, where beekeeping is taught and the honey is sold in the fall. The park is also home to tennis courts and several cafés, including a branch of Paris’ cherished pastry shop Angelina. Don’t miss the superb art exhibits at the jewel-like Musée de Luxembourg .
PLAN YOUR TRIP: Visit Fodor’s Paris Guide
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Walk the Narrow Streets of the Île Saint-Louis
Just behind the Notre-Dame gardens, the Pont Saint-Louis pedestrian bridge leads to the atmospheric streets and lively shopping of the Ile Saint-Louis (from the Marais, take the Pont Marie or Pont Louis-Philippe). A perfect walk for flaneurs just taking in the majestic facades and quiet courtyards of beautiful 17th-century mansions, this peaceful island is truly an oasis. Enjoy traditional Parisian fare at the Brasserie de l’Isle Saint-Louis, or one of the shaded cafés at the isle’s western edge, and sample one of the 90 scrumptious handmade, all-natural ice creams and sorbets—in flavors like wild strawberry, noisette, rum raisin, and white chocolate—at Bertillon, Paris’ most famous ice cream maker at their cozy salon, or at one of island’s many of vendors. Be sure to descend a stairway down to the Seine for a riverside stroll. Square Barye, at the island’s eastern edge, is one of Paris’ most charming.
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See the Seine on a Bateau Mouche
There’s nothing quite like seeing Paris from a boat on the Seine—and there’s no lack of boats to choose from. See Paris’ graceful bridges up close along with the city’s most famous landmarks on a relaxing 2-to-4-hour boat ride. The bateaux mouches, which you can find just below the famous Pont Neuf, offer everything from a gourmet meal, a flute of champagne, or just sightseeing with commentary. Another option: the Bateau Bus operates continuously from 10 a.m. until 9:30 p.m. every 20 minutes from nine stops around Paris. For 17€ (8€ for kids) you can hop on or off wherever and whenever you like all day long. Stops include the Musée d’Orsay, Louvre, Eiffel Tour, Champs-Elysées, and Saint-Germain-des-Prés .
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Critique Cubism at the Musée Picasso
This immensely popular museum, which was recently restored to the tune of €52 million, is home to the world’s largest public collection of Picasso’s inimitable oeuvre. The Musée Picasso now covers almost 54,000 square feet in two buildings: the regal 17th-century Hôtel Salé—one of Paris’ most beautiful mansions—and a sprawling contemporary structure in the back garden that’s dedicated to ateliers and temporary exhibitions. Possessing more than 5,000 artworks by the master, including drawings, paintings, ceramics, and sculptures (donated to the city of Paris by the family to offset inheritance taxes), it is an absolute must for art buffs and Picasso lovers alike. Diego Giacometti’s exclusively designed furnishings are an added bonus.
Musée Picasso – Paris by Yann Caradec [CC BY-SA 2.0]
Be Awed by the World's Greatest Art Collection at the Louvre
The most recognized symbol of Paris is the Tour Eiffel, but the ultimate traveler’s prize is the Louvre. This is the world’s greatest art museum—and the biggest, with a staggering 780,000 square feet of exhibition space (the area of about a dozen football fields) and 35,000 works on view from almost every civilization on earth. The three most popular pieces here are, of course, the Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory. But don’t stop there: beyond these marvels, you’ll find masterpieces from every European painter and some of the artistic wonders of the world. Your best bet is to focus on whatever interests you the most—and don’t despair about getting lost, for you’re bound to stumble on something memorable. Hint: the least crowded time to go is on a weekday morning out of high season (July and August).
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Visit the Gothic Notre Dame de Paris
In one of the great rebirth stories in Paris history, the magnificent Cathédrale de Notre Dame is rising phoenix-like from the ashes of the devastating fire of April 2019 that all the world watched in horror. The monument was mostly saved, thanks to 400 heroic firefighters who also managed to evacuate its treasures, though its structure was badly damaged and its iconic black spire was lost. Scores of imaginative ideas were proposed for the restoration, but the architects of France’s National Commission for Heritage and Architecture unanimously voted to restore the cathedral as far as possible to its original state, with the support of French President Emmanuel Macron. Estimates for the restoration’s duration range from 10 to 20 years, but the cathedral’s front square is accessible to the public, and views from the nearby bridges are as magnificent as they ever were.
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Shop 'Til You Drop on Rue Saint-Honoré
If designer shopping and elite French brand names set your heart aflutter, get thee to the rue Saint-Honoré . The favorite haunt of fashionistas the world over, here you’ll rub elbows with everyone from Japanese DJs to Saudi Princesses. Whether it’s the ultra-hip (Balenciaga, Stella McCartney, Comme des Garçons, Isabel Marant, Marni, Alexander McQueen), French status labels (Maison Goyard, Hermès, Balmain, Chanel, Chloé, Louis Vuitton, Dior, Saint-Laurent, Guerlain), or something a bit less pricy but every bit as stylish as the big girls (Maje & Other Stories) you’re sure to find something to love here. Beginning around the Palais Royal—itself an upscale shopping mecca—and ending at the Elysée Palace near the Champs-Élysées, it’s an afternoon prowl to satisfy the most indefatigable shopper.
Rue St Honoré by Christine und Hagen Graf [CC BY-ND 2.0]
Hunt for Treasure at the Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen and Other Markets
A world unto itself, the 150-year-old market is the world’s largest and most famous flea market. Within the Marché aux Puces‘ labyrinthine alleys and stalls can be found every imaginable curiosity and treasure at a price for every pocketbook—from vintage couture and antique luggage to gilded mirrors and burnished silver, there is truly something for everyone. Even if you don’t love antiques or vintage, you’ll still adore the market’s ambiance, totally unique to Paris. Though people often wax nostalgic for the marché of old when true bargains were to be had, there’s still Vanves and the gritty Les Puces de Montreuil for die-hard bargain hunters (Sat. and Sun. from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m., Porte de Vanves; Porte de Montreuil).
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Take in the View From the Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is to Paris what the Statue of Liberty is to New York and what Big Ben is to London: the ultimate civic icon. French engineer Gustave Eiffel—already famous for his viaducts and bridges—spent two years working to erect this iconic monument for the World Exhibition of 1889. Today, it is most breathtaking at night, when every girder is traced in a sparkling cascade of lights originally installed to celebrate the turn of the millennium. The glittering light show was so popular that the 20,000 lights were reinstalled for permanent use in 2003. The tower does its electric shimmy for five minutes every hour on the hour starting at dusk and lasting until 1 am.
Now surrounded by a protective glass barrier, be sure to allow plenty of time for lining up. Or, better still, make a reservation at three-star chef Frédéric Anton’s gastronomic restaurant Le Jules Verne , or two-star chef Thierry Marx’s newly opened bistro on the tower’s first floor and forego the lines in the VIP elevator. You can also head to the top-floor Champagne Bar for some bubbles with your view.
Related: Romantic Things to Do in Paris
Le Jules Verne / Matt Aletti
Explore the Marais, the Most Fashionable Neighborhood in Paris
Hands down the best shopping in the city, the Marais is all that and so much more. Located in the historic 3rd and 4th arrondissements, the Marais’s 17th-century hôtel particuliers (private mansions), outstanding museums ( Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature , Musée Carnavalet , Musée Picasso , Musée Cognacq-Jay , Maison de Victor Hugo, Musée d’Art et d’Histoir du Judaïsme , Maison Europeenne de la Photographe , Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson ), restaurants, cafés, and cocktail bars, Paris’ oldest Jewish quarter, and the lovely Place des Vosges make it an absolute must-see. The Marais is also an epicenter for the city’s LGBTQ+ scene, especially around the Rue des Archives. Wander up the rues Vieille du Temple and Franc Bourgeois, the neighborhood’s perpendicular central spines, and discover charming side streets and the quarter‘s many hidden delights. The Haut Marais, roughly between the rue de Bretagne and République, is the hippest spot for high-end fashion favorites and top concept stores (Merci, Broken Arm, Tom Greyhound, Empreintes).
Related: Neighborhood Guide to the Marais
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Wander Magical Market Streets, Including the Rue des Martyrs
Paris’ old market streets are often overlooked by visitors busily running from one monument to the next. This is a mistake, since they are an authentic slice of Paris that’s not always easy to come by, especially on a short trip. If you visit only one, the Rue des Martyrs, a bustling street heading down from Montmartre, should be it. A neighborhood market for over 200 years, the older purveyors of everything from fruit to fish share the street with newer, more high-end pastry shops, chocolatiers, gourmet cafés, and chic boutiques, adding to the street’s irresistible ambiance and lively atmosphere. Cobblestoned Rue Cler, in the 7th arrondissement, is another gem, where food shopping and people watching are raised to an art form from the many café terraces. Other not-to-miss streets: Rue Montorgeuil, a last vestige of the old Les Halles with tons of chic boutiques; the Left Bank’s Rue Mouffetard, immortalized by Hemingway in his Paris classic A Moveable Feast and lively Rue Daguerre, full of delicacies and delights.
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See Paris From the Top of the Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
It’s hard not to feel as though you’re climbing up to heaven when you visit Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, the white chateau in the sky, perched atop Montmartre. The French government commissioned the church in 1873 to raise Parisian spirits after the devastating years of the Commune and the Franco-Prussian War, and architect Paul Abadie employed elements from Romanesque and Byzantine styles when designing it—a mélange many critics dismissed as gaudy. Construction lasted until World War I, and the church was finally consecrated in 1919.
Nowadays, its perch at the edge of Montmartre is a favorite hangout for musicians, artists, and picnickers, and the views—especially from the basilica’s dome—are some of the most spectacular in the city. If you don’t feel like climbing the 222 picturesque stairs of the much-photographed Rue Foyatier to get there, you can take the Funiculaire de Montmartre for the price of a metro ticket. And while you’re there, might as well make a day of it and visit nearby Église Saint-Pierre de Montmartre, one of Paris’ oldest churches, and the wonderful Musée de Montmartre , dedicated to the quartier’s rich Bohemian history, with extensive gardens and great views.
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Stroll the Avenue des Champs-Élysées Like a True Parisian
Make no mistake: the Champs-Élysées, while ceding some of its elegance in recent times, remains the most famous avenue in Paris—and perhaps the world. Like New York’s Times Square or London’s Piccadilly Circus, it is a mecca for travelers and locals alike. Some Parisians complain that fast-food joints and chain stores have cheapened the avenue, but others are more philosophical, noting that there is a little something here for everyone. Anchoring the Champs is the Arc de Triomphe, Napoléon’s monument to himself. At the other end, the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais (closed for restoration till 2024) play host to some of the city’s grandest art exhibitions.
Soon the Champs-Élysées will transform once again: the City of Paris has earmarked €250 million for a top-to-toe makeover that will add thousands of trees and greenery to the 1.2-mile avenue, narrowing traffic lanes, adding outdoor terraces and gardens, and basically converting the storied avenue into a green “corridor.” The city also plans to close off the Place de l’Étoile, the infamously perilous ring road around the Arc de Triomph, to traffic—all by 2030.
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Traipse Through the Covered Passages of the Galerie Vivienne and Passage du Grand Cerf
A precursor to the shopping mall, these architectural gems, with glass ceilings, marble details, and mosaic floors, were a place for well-heeled Parisians of the early 19th century to gather under the glow of gaslights in the sheltered warmth of the heated arcade’s luxurious shops, restaurants, and cafés. Now the charming vestiges of a bygone era, these beautifully preserved galeries offer a cornucopia of alluring boutiques, bookshops, antiquaires, art galleries, candy shops, and much more.
Although there are dozens to see in Paris, some of the best include Galerie Vivienne , Passage du Grand Cerf , Passages Joffroy and Verdeau, Passage Molière, and the Cour du Bel Air. At the Passage des Panoramas (1799), the oldest and most charming, Michelin-starred restaurants, wine bars, and chic cafés rub elbows with antique stamp and coin shops, while the Passage des Princes, rebuilt after the original’s unfortunate demolition in 1985, contains no less than 17 toy shops of every kind. It’s worth seeking out some of the lesser-known passages too, just for a little slice of Parisian history.
Related: 16 Wine Bars to Sip at in Paris
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Go On a Chocolate Crawl in St. Germaine des Pres
In the last decade, this most storied of Left Bank neighborhoods has morphed into France’s—and the world’s—chocolate central. More than 20 world-class chocolatiers inhabit the quarter, each with a signature style. In an afternoon, chocolate lovers can sample the creamiest gnashes, scented truffles, liqueur-filled bonbons, pralines, caramels, covered wafers, and any other chocolaty confection under the sun. Aficionados will appreciate the artistry of chocolate sculptures from Patrick Roger, Jean-Charles Raucous, and Michel Chardon at Maison Chardon. Other must-visits: Henri Leprous, Jean-Paul Hein, La Maison du Chocolate , Pierre Marcolini, Franck Kestener, Christian Constant, Jacques Genin, Jean-Paul Hévin , Le Chocolat Alain Ducasse, Christophe Michalak, Pierre Hermé, Chocolaterie Cyril Lignac, Debauve et Gallais, À la Mére de Famille, and Chocolat Chapon.
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Discover Cocktail Culture in the 2nd Arrondissement, the Marais, and Pigalle
Though slow on the uptake, Paris’ cocktail scene has surged in the last few years, with an eclectic scene to rival any in the world, mixing ultra-glamorous hotel bars with tiny hidden speakeasies. There’s something in every arrondissement, but for an easy cocktail crawl try the newly chic 2nd arrondissement (Night Flight, Mabel, Jeffry’s, Experimental Cocktail Club, Lockwood, The Shell); the Marais (Carbón, Candelaria, Mary Celeste, Resistance, Little Red Door); and Pigalle (Dirty Dick, Glass, Maison Souquet, Le Mansart, Le Sans-Souci). High rollers can head to the eye-popping Les Ambassadeurs at the Hôtel Crillon, classy Bar 228 at Le Meurice, or sky-high L’Oiseau Blanc at the Peninsula for stellar views of Paris.
Now in its seventh year, Paris Cocktail Week (held every winter) is a great time to explore the scene, with each participating bar featuring a special house cocktail for the event.
JLPC / Wikimedia Commons
Pay Your Respects at Père Lachaise
Of Paris’ two main cemeteries, Père Lachaise is the most scenic and…dare we say, romantic? This is where Paris’ cultural, political, and social history is written in stone, with the elaborate tombs of everyone from Molière to Jim Morrison. Oscar Wilde’s tomb, scrubbed and protected from the lipstick kisses of thousands of fans, is a big draw, so are the graves of Edith Piaf, Colette, Gertrude Stein, Proust, Balzac, Chopin…the list goes on.
Famous romantics include Héloïse and Abelard, the star-crossed 12th-century lovers whose remains were reunited here by Joséphine Bonaparte. Or the marble effigy of Victor Noir, killed in a duel with Napoleon Bonaparte, with its impressive protuberance rubbed to a silky sheen for its alleged powers of fertility.
The picturesque cemetery’s winding cobbled avenues lined with ancient chestnut trees are perfect for a stroll, especially around Toussaint (November 1), when fans and relatives tend and place flowers on the graves of their loved ones.
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Explore Paris' Under-the-Radar Museums, Including Musée Nissim de Camondo
While the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay are absolute musts, the city’s small museums—most set in once-private mansions—provide some of Paris’ greatest pleasures. Must-sees include the Musée Nissim de Camondo , the beautiful home of an art-loving Parisian banker with a tragic history, and its chic café. The Musée Cernucshi, just down the street, is brimming with Asian art collected in the 19th century by its world-traveler owner. An easy walk away, the glorious Musée Jacquemart-André houses not-to-miss world-class exhibitions. In the city’s storied Nouvelle Athènes neighborhood you’ll find the Musée de la Vie Romantique , tucked back in a charming garden with a shaded café terrace, and the Musée National Gustave Moreau , the symbolist artist’s home and studio, a few blocks away. A little-known jewel, the Musée d’Ennery, part of the superb Musée Guimet , contains an extraordinary collection of Chinese and Japanese art and objects collected at the height of Belle Époque Paris’ Japonisme craze (by appointment only). (See the Marais listing for the many excellent small museums there).
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Indulge in the World's Best and Most Beautiful Pastries
Paris’ pastry scene has never been better. While Pierre Hermé remains a benchmark in innovative flavors, there are more skilled pastry makers than you could sample in a month. In the Marais, Pain de Sucre is a perennial favorite; Bontemps, temple to the sablé—a melt-in-your-mouth butter cookie—and its indoor-outdoor tearoom are as charming as they come; and at Yann Couvreur the Paris Brest and éclairs are a standout.
On street-for-sweets Rue du Bac, Claire Damon’s Gateaux et du Pain’s scintillating cakes and pastries are inspired by plants and botanicals (her inverted lemon meringue tart gets our vote for best in Paris). Cyril Lignac has several sweets boutiques around town, but we love the rue Paul Bert shop, across from his café dedicated to chocolate. Jean-Paul Hévin ‘s creations never disappoint (his orange-curd tart and Longchamps are to die for), and whatever you do, don’t miss Du Pain et des Idées for their extraordinary viennoiserie (try the flakysacristan and orange-blossom inflected mouna bread).
Teatime at the Hôtel Meurice is a spectacular splurge, helmed by Cédric Grolet, who is widely considered the best pastry chef in Paris (do not miss his remarkable trompe-l’oeil fruits, which can be bought to go at the pastry shop next door to the hotel or his Ave. de l’Opéra boutique). And it doesn’t get more elegant than the Ritz’s all-sweet teatime, designed by pastry chef Lewis Wilson and served in the hotel’s sumptuous salon Proust.
Be Surrounded by Greenery at the Jardin des Plantes
Paris’ first botanic garden—founded by Louis VIII in 1626 for medicinal plants and to house exotic specimens from afar—its shaded paths, arbors, and flowerbeds are beloved of joggers, lovers, and strollers. A historic treasure trove, besides its many exotic plant species, the gardens contain Paris’ oldest zoo (Ménagerie du Jardin des Plantes), three soaring Belle Époque greenhouses (les Grandes Serres), the Galerie de Minéralogie et de Géologie, the newly renovated Galerie de Paléontologie, and the extraordinary Muséum Nationale d’Histoire Naturelle and its famous Gallery of Evolution. The greenhouses host a year-round series of special exhibitions—like their yearly orchid extravaganza—and lights exhibitions in the gardens around the Christmas holidays. There’s also a fantasy carousel for kids and plenty of shaded benches for picnics or just watching the world go by. Afterwards, stop into Paris’ central mosque, the Grande Mosquée de Paris , for a pastry and sweet mint tea on its colorful mosaic terraces.
Walk Along the Berges de Seine
Since Paris Mayor Anne Hildago took charge of the greening of Paris, the city has never been so flaneur-friendly. The Seine is a major focus: after opening the Berges de Seine in 2013, along the left bank between the Musee d’Orsay and the Eiffel Tower , and the new Rives de Seine on both banks, it’s never been easier to stroll by the river and enjoy endless vistas without the noise of automobiles. Down in the sunken Petit Ceinture (little belt) park, a 20-mile-long abandoned ring railway that traces the city’s circumference and expands its range each year, you can walk among ancient trees, wild greenery, bridges, street art, and neighborhood vegetable gardens. Sections now span the 12th through the 20th arrondissements. And up on the Coulée Verte (aka Promenade Plantée) , atop an old viaduct, you can take a three-mile stroll 30 feet above Paris, from the Bastille to the Bois de Vincennes, through beautiful lush gardens with terrific views of the neighborhoods it spans. Then visit the Viaduc des Arts’ 45 artisan boutiques set inside the viaduct’s arches.
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Run to the Centre Pompidou Before It Closes (in 2023)
Don’t walk, run to Paris’—and Europe’s—largest museum for modern and contemporary art to see it before it closes in late 2023. The now-iconic building, with its famous inside-out design (the ducts, pipes, and supporting girders are on its exterior), was reviled when it opened but has since become a beloved part of the Paris landscape. The Pompidou (which Parisians affectionately call Beaubourg) hosts an ambitious program of exhibitions by the great names of the 20th and 21st centuries, along with an outstanding ongoing series of live performances, video installations, movie screenings, talks, and fun activities for kids.
But the building has deteriorated over the years and its upkeep will include a new heating and cooling system, asbestos removal, and structural maintenance. To do that the museum will close for four years, but if you hurry you can still catch an exhibition or performance, grab a snack at the café, and catch some truly spectacular views of Paris as you ride the escalator up. Be sure to check the museum website for updates, especially toward late 2023.
Discover the New Bourse de Commerce
The Bourse de Commerce Pinault Collection‘s much-anticipated (and much-delayed) opening in June 2021 ended a simmering rivalry between LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault, who opened his Fondation Louis Vuitton in 2014, and luxury goods magnate François Pinault. Pinault’s sights finally settled on Paris’ historic grain exchange, an iconic building abutting Les Halles, and tapped Japanese architect Tadao Ando for the circular building’s redesign. Ando added an elegant internal concrete cylinder and three floors of galleries topped with a glass walkway offering views of the building’s historic frescoes and the galleries below.
Along with the permanent collection, which includes such luminaries as Cy Twombly, David Hammons, and Cindy Sherman, the three floors of exhibition space feature an ever-changing roster of international contemporary artists. The new museum completes a golden triangle between the Louvre and the Centre Pompidou, both within a 10-minute walk.
On the top floor, the light-drenched Halles des Grains restaurant and bar, helmed by the two Michelin-star father-and-son-team Michel and Sébastien Bras, is a great place for lunch, teatime, an apéro or dinner along with fabulous views of Les Halles and the Centre Pompidou.
Discover Nature and Art in the Most Surprising Way at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature
How do nature painting, weaponry, and cutting-edge contemporary art mix in a stately 17th-century mansion? Wonderfully it turns out. At least at the Musée de la Chasse et de la Nature, Paris’ most unique and beguiling museum. Set in two historic mansions, the museum features lavishly appointed rooms where animal- and hunt-themed art by the likes of Rubens and Artemisia Gentileschi mingle with antique weaponry, sculpture, antique curios, and taxidermy animals interspersed with contemporary artworks—all to explore how humans and nature have mixed through the ages. Adults and kids alike will appreciate the jaw-dropping Trophy Room’s impressive menagerie of beasts, not to mention the huge polar bear stationed outside (with a Jeff Koon’s balloon dog). There is a lovely multimedia exhibit on the myth of the unicorn, as well as an interactive display of birdcalls and temporary exhibitions featuring such luminaries as Sophie Calle and Walton Ford.
Get Romantic on a Paris Bridge
Some of the best views of Paris can be had from its bridges, a fact that has not been lost on lovers, who have found Paris’ 37 bridges irresistible for expressing their undying passion. Here are our top picks for memorable tender moments in the world’s great city of romance.
Pont Neuf, meaning “new bridge,” is in fact Paris’ oldest bridge and as such commands a special place in the city’s heart. At the tip of the Ile de la Cité, the bridge overlooks the pretty Square du Vert Galant, another great spot for an amorous moment.
Romantic Pont des Arts, aka the love-lock bridge, once accumulated thousands of locks as a symbol of unbroken love. Though that’s been outlawed, this pedestrian-only walkway offers romantic views of the Louvre and the domed Académie des Beaux-Arts and beautiful vistas of the Pont Neuf.
With its giant gilded sculptures and globe lights, Pont Alexandre III is Paris’ most opulent and photogenic bridge, offering stellar views of Invalides’ gilded dome and the Grand Palais.
For the best views of the Eiffel Tower, the Pont de l’Alma gives close-ups like no other. But to see the Eiffel Tower framed like a picture, the Pont de Bir Hakeim—one of only two viaduct bridges in the city and a favorite of the movies—gives great views from its walkway and from the no. 6 metro line as it passes between the Bir-Hakeim and Passy stations.
Experience Café Culture
There’s nothing that says Paris like a sidewalk café. Writers, philosophers, artists, socialites, politicians, you name it, everyone who’s anyone has passed through—or camped out—on their storied terraces. Paris’ two most famous, and most famous rivals, are the Café de Flore and the Deux Magots, on a cobbled corner of Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Sartre and Beauvoir, Joyce and Hemmingway all drank, argued and held court in these more than century-old watering holes. Not far away at Café Procope —the city’s first café, which opened in 1686—Voltaire, Napoleon, Hugo, Balzac and Rousseau sipped coffee (first-served here) and spawned revolutions. At La Rotonde, in Bohemian Montparnasse, artists Modigliani, Picasso, and Diego Rivera paid for their fare in drawings. And at the historic monument Café de la Paix, across from the magnificent Opéra Garnier, you can still see the marks of a cannonball shot through its windows during the Revolution.