Whether you know it as the City of Love or Light, there’s no denying the appeal of Paris. It’s filled with beautiful architecture, fascinating museums, and delicious food. While it’s impossible to see everything on one trip, there are a handful of attractions you really can’t miss.
You’ll see one noticeable absence in this article: Notre Dame Cathedral. In April 2019, a fire caused severe damage to the incredible 850-year-old structure. It’s been closed to the public since and isn’t expected to reopen until 2024.
Alas, even if you can’t go inside Notre Dame, there are still plenty of things to see and do in Paris, and these are the attractions you really don’t want to miss.
The Louvre Museum
The Eiffel Tower
The Musée d’Orsay
The Musée de l’Orangerie
The Arc de Triomphe
Père Lachaise Cemetery
At first glance, the Panthéon seems out of place in Paris, as both its name and architecture have a distinctly Roman flair. Of course, this is because it was modeled after the original Pantheon in Rome. Since the French Revolution, the Panthéon has served as a mausoleum for famous citizens of France.
Like many monuments in Paris, the Panthéon does require a ticket to go inside. At this writing, it costs about 12 euros (around $13) per person, with a few exceptions for students and teachers in the European Union.
You can enjoy the outside of the building for free, but you’ll find an indoor ticket well worth the price. The architecture and artwork inside are simply breathtaking.
You can read more about the Panthéon and other Paris landmarks in Fodor’s Paris 2022 travel guide. It’s chock-full of info about all the monuments, restaurants, public transportation, and much more.
Many people skip Sainte-Chapelle in favor of the far more popular Notre Dame. Of course, as we mentioned previously, the latter will be closed to the public until 2024.
That means 2022-23 is the perfect time to visit Sainte-Chapelle. Although this church is smaller than its world-famous neighbor, it is no less impressive, and absolutely worth the price of a ticket (currently 11,50 euros, which is about $12.50).
Standing just a few steps from Notre Dame, Saint-Chapelle is a 13th Century Gothic cathedral that was built with the intention of holding precious Christian relics. Its 15 stained glass windows depict hundreds of Biblical scenes and stretch all the way to the ceiling.
Trust us: you don’t want to skip seeing this beauty, so be sure to add it to your itinerary.
Tip: After visiting Saint-Chapelle, grab lunch or dinner at Le Bistro des Augustins, which is just across the Seine. It’s known for its gratin dishes, which are French delights consisting of potatoes, cheese, cream, and other ingredients that are baked until piping hot.
The Louvre Museum
The Louvre is the most-visited museum in the world for good reason. This historic landmark houses some of the most famous paintings in the world, including the Venus de Milo and Liberty Leading the People. Of course, the most famous of all, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, remains one of its biggest attractions. Currently, admission will cost you 17 euros (around $18.50).
The Louvre dates from the 13th century and was originally a royal palace. In other words, it’s absolutely massive and impossible to cover in only a few hours, or even an entire day. The first rule of visiting the Louvre is to accept that you can’t see it all in one visit.
To plan your visit more realistically, research the artwork you want to see ahead of time, and then use the museum map to plan your route.
If you’re unsure where to begin, this guide to the masterpieces tells you where to find all of the most famous pieces. You can also book a tour of the museum with a guide who will help you make the most of your time.
You’ll probably be in the Louvre for several hours, so be sure to bring a water bottle so you can stay hydrated. It’s also a good idea to keep your necessities in a waist pack that sits in front of you, so you can avoid accidentally bumping something (or someone) with your backpack.
The Eiffel Tower
No trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to the city’s most prominent structure. The Eiffel Tower sits on the west side of the city overlooking the Seine. It was originally built as the entrance to the 1889 World’s Fair to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution.
Only intended to stand for 20 years, the Eiffel Tower proved to be such a famous landmark, it was left in place. Now, it’s easily the most recognizable symbol of Paris.
You can see this amazing structure from two main vantage points: Parvis des Droits de l’Homme, a plaza and park across the Seine, and Champ de Mars, a large park directly in front of the Tower. Both are free to access, but Champ de Mars is often full of locals and tourists enjoying picnics on the grass.
It’s a particularly beautiful place to sit in the evening when the Tower is lit up. You can also take an elevator to the top for fantastic views of the city, but you’ll want to buy your tickets well in advance to avoid standing in a long line. At this writing, a ticket to the top will run you 26,80 euros (about $29).
Tip: To escape the crowds, head to Rue de l’Université, which is just east of the Eiffel Tower off Champ de Mars. This side street will reward you with an incredible photo of the Tower and far fewer people.
You’ll find catacombs all over Europe, but those in Paris are often considered the most intriguing. These tunnels under the city stretch out at least 200 miles, with a small portion holding the bones of more than 6 million people.
The Catacombs have been of interest to tourists since the 1700s, when wealthy and influential leaders began visiting them. They’ve been open to the public since 1867. Located south of the city center, it is not difficult to find this destination on your own. However, you’ll definitely want to purchase your tickets ahead of time (29 euros, or about $31.50) during busy travel seasons.
The Musée d’Orsay
The French love art, which is evident, considering how many museums you’ll find in the country. After visiting the Louvre, consider stopping at another equally impressive exhibition.
The Musée d’Orsay boasts many pieces by Claude Monet, including Poppy Field and Woman with a Parasol, Turned to the Right. You’ll also find an extensive selection of Van Gogh’s work, including Self-Portrait, The Church in Auvers-sur-Oise, and Starry Night Over the Rhône. Paul Cézanne and Jean-François Millet are other notable giants whose work you’ll encounter here.
You can’t beat the cost to see these amazing works of artistic genius either—currently, admission costs a mere 16 euros (under $17.50). To prepare for your visit to this (also) massive museum, flip through Musee d’Orsay (Museum Collections). It features photos and information about many of the pieces in the museum, so you can plan your route through the various galleries.
The Musée de l’Orangerie
Fans of Claude Monet won’t want to miss the Musée de l’Orangerie. This museum isn’t far from the Louvre, but it shouldn’t remain in the shadow of its super-famous neighbor. Primarily known for housing Monet’s series of water lily paintings, Les Nymphéas, admission to this museum will only cost you 16 euros (just under $17.50).
As the artist intended, Monet’s eight-foot-tall panels of water lilies are situated inside two large oval rooms and bathed in natural light from a skylight above. The museum also features works by Picasso, Modigliani, Soutine, and Braque.
If you want to brush up on Monet’s work, including his amazing water lily paintings, pick up a copy of Monet by Christoph Heinrich. about the artist’s accomplishments.
The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most famous monuments in Paris (second only to the Eiffel Tower). It stands at the West end of the Champs-Élysées, one of the city’s most notable streets.
This monument is quite a sight to behold. Standing 164 feet tall and 148 feet wide, it was built to honor soldiers who fought and died for France in the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. It also houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War I.
It does, however, sit in the middle of an extremely busy roundabout that you should never attempt to cross. Instead, take the underpass pathways that are clearly marked around the monument on the sidewalks. You can visit the ground level for free, but you’ll have to purchase a ticket (13 euros, or around $14) to access the top.
Also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, Sacré-Coeur is a Roman Catholic church and the second-most visited attraction in Paris. It is also the second-highest point in the city and sits in the village of Montmartre. You have to climb a lot of stairs to get to the top, but the views are worth every step. Plus, admission is free!
The absolutely massive basilica is made of bright, white stone, which makes it stand out even more. Inside, you’ll find beautiful architecture and art, including one of the largest murals in the world.
Tip: Plan to spend some extra time in Montmartre when you visit Sacré-Coeur. Many famous artists once lived here, including Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, and Moreau. Along its streets, you’ll find quaint bakeries, street murals, and fairs where many promising artists showcase their work.
Situated in the middle of the city not far from the Panthéon, the Luxembourg Gardens boast 55 acres of pristine green space for anyone who wants to relax and soak up the sun. The gardens used to be part of the Luxembourg Palace estate in the 17th century. Today, the palace is used by the French senate and the gardens are open to the public.
You’ll find many walking paths, as well as statues and fountains that used to belong to French royalty. The area is a popular place for families, so you’ll see many kids running around as their parents watch. It’s an excellent place to stroll, relax, or people watch.
For an ideal afternoon, pack a lunch, sit on the grass, and watch the crowds come and go.
Whether you’ve seen The Phantom of the Opera or not, you don’t want to miss the Palais Garnier. This extraordinary opera house is considered an architectural masterpiece, and you’ll understand why as soon as you step inside—trust us, your jaw will drop.
Built in 1875, the Palais Garnier is so visually stunning inside, it’s often compared to the Palace of Versailles. Admission is free during the day, but a guided tour (18,50 euros, or around $20) will provide you with a ton of fascinating details about the building’s mysterious history, including the lake below and the fictional phantom’s lair.
The Phantom of the Opera musical was based on the book of the same name. It would make a fantastic read for your flight.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
While visiting a cemetery might not be high on every traveler’s list, Père Lachaise is truly a beautiful location to behold. Not only is it the largest cemetery in Paris, but it’s also the most visited one in the world.
This is largely due to the many famous men and women who are buried here, including Frédéric Chopin, Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Sarah Bernhardt, Oscar Wilde, and Jim Morrison. The cemetery opened in 1804, contains over 70,000 burial plots, and is free to visit.
It’s actually a relaxing way to spend an afternoon after lunch. The many trees provide tons of shade if you’re visiting during the summer
Paris is an incredibly popular tourist destination because there’s just so much to see and do! With so many attractions, it’s easy to overstuff your itinerary. This list of must-sees in the City of Light will ensure you return home feeling like you properly “did Paris.”