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Travel Guides Mapped

Here's the crème de la crème of things to do in Paris

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Kellie Paxian Feb 14, 2019 1:07 pm

The City of Love is one of the most visited destinations in the world for good reason. It is architecturally stunning, it captivates with its charm, and is jam-packed with things to do that are so uniquely Paris.

This is a city where you’ll never get bored. And if you do, a) we can’t be friends anymore; and b) just park yourself on a terrace and people-watch the day away.

Here at Mapped we have compiled a Paris travel guide for that including where to drink, a neighbourhood guide, Instagram inspiration, and below, the activities you can’t miss.

From the must-see tourist attractions to the locals’ day-to-day activities, here are the top things to do in Paris.

Hit up the top tourist attractions: A custom Mapped walking tour

We all know Paris is filled to the brim with iconic, recognizable landmarks. The hop on, hop off buses are a great option for getting the lay of the land, but we are big fans of conquering a city by foot.

So set yourself aside a few hours and put on your comfiest shoes. Your trusty friends at Daily Hive Mapped have hand-crafted you a custom walking tour of Paris’ hottest spots. (We accept payment in the form of trips to Paris.)

With the majestic Seine River as your navigation guide, here is the route you should take to hit up the major tourist attractions along its banks.

things to do

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris. (Shutterstock)

Start at the Notre-Dame Cathedral and marvel at the gargoyle sculptures and stained glass ceilings (if you can brave the line to go inside). It’s a historical monument that is as stunning on the inside as it is on the outside.

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The Louvre. (Shutterstock)

Head up the Seine to the architecturally stunning glass pyramid of the Louvre, where you have to embrace your inner tourist and take the classic pic of pinching its top. Check out the smaller Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which if your eyes follow the Champs-Élysées boulevard, you will see is directly facing the larger Arc de Triomphe. Complemented by the insanely grand design of the museum’s exterior, these former royal grounds are simply exquisite.

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Jardin des Tuileries. (Shutterstock)

From there, stroll through the gorgeous Tuileries Gardens and observe the perfectly manicured grounds of sculpted trees and bushes, colourful flowers, and white marble statues. Sit in one of the iconic saje green chairs surrounding the fountain pools, and don’t forget to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower in the background.

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Place de la Concorde. (Shutterstock)

Keep strolling through the grounds to reach the Place de la Concorde, one of the most historically significant areas of the city. Once an area for guillotining kings and queens, this square is now a stunning representation of Parisian grandeur with its Luxor Obelisk, Ferris wheel, and green and gold fountains, as well as the mirrored pillared buildings on either side. And did we mention the Eiffel Tower in the background?

Continue onto the picturesque Pont Alexandre III Bridge, where you can marvel at its towering bronze sculptures and ornamental design. It’s said to be one of the most beautiful river crossings in the world, and you’re not gonna hear any arguments from us!

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Alexandre III Bridge & Les Invalides. (Shutterstock)

Across the river, check out the impressive grounds and architecture of Les Invalides, a golden-domed symbol of France’s military history. Yet another example of why Paris is winning in the elegance race.

Finally, you’ll get to your end game – perhaps the most recognizable and iconic landmark in the entire world – the Eiffel Tower. We never thought a giant hunk of metal could make us feel so tingly inside. The sight really is spectacular, and you can take it in by sitting on the grass of the Champ de Mars, one of the side street café terraces, or the optimal photo op from Palais de Chaillot across the river.

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Eiffel Tower from Palais de Chaillot. (Shutterstock)

Make sure you’re nearby when the sun goes down. The entire tower glitters for five minutes every hour, on the hour. It’s hands-down the most magical sight in the world – fact check us, we dare you.

That concludes your custom Mapped walking tour – now take a load off and enjoy some wine! The entire stroll would take you about an hour and a half, but that’s not factoring in the million times you’re going to want to stop for a photo along the way. A perfect way to spend a Parisian afternoon, if you ask us.

Experience a Parisian terrace

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Typical Parisian terrace. (Shutterstock)

To be honest, this one is pretty much impossible to avoid, but we are putting it on here because it just might be the ultimate Parisian experience. There are bustling restaurants and cafés lining streets throughout the city, and one of the best ways to soak in the local lifestyle is to park yourself at one of its front-facing chairs with a tiny round table, sipping on a strong coffee or glass of wine – depending on the time of day (you get to decide the time).

A Parisian will likely be blowing cigarette smoke into your face, and you may get snubbed by your waiter, but in the moment, nothing will have ever been more charming.

Get lost in the streets of Montmartre

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Streets of Montmartre. (Shutterstock)

One of Paris’ most charming neighbourhoods is Montmartre, and you just have to set aside some time to get lost in its hilly, winding, cobblestone streets.

Check out the white-domed marvel, Sacre Coeur, and take the stairs or the lift to the top for a stunning panoramic view of Paris. Meander your way through the various boutiques of jewelry, perfume, or souvenirs, stopping for a Parisian bite to eat along the way. And make sure to check out the infamous Moulin Rouge for a cheeky show – even if it’s just the windmill from the outside.

Party as the Parisians do

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Bar in Belleville, Paris. (Shutterstock)

Parisians may be sophisticated and suave but they know how to get down and party. Just don’t expect them to do so until the hours of approximately 2 am – 6 am.

The recipe for a perfect Parisian night starts with finding the right terrace, ordering a plate of cheese and charcuterie, and of course a bottle of wine. Soak in the atmosphere of ambient music, delectable bites, oh-so-sippable wine, and yes, the Parisian cigarette smoke that is still being blown in your face.

From there, the night is your oyster. Hit up traditional spots like Le Mauri 7 or Chez Jeanette for an authentic Parisian bar experience, Baiser Salé or Caveau de la Huchette for jazz, Experimental Cocktail Club or Little Red Door for a speakeasy, Chez Georges for cave dancing, O’Sullivans Grand Boulevard for dancing with fellow internationals, or REX Club for party-your-face-off DJ shows. Not done partying yet? Stay tuned for our full list of where to drink in Paris!

Museum hop

Paris as a city is a work of art in itself, so of course its many museums are a staple part of its existence. Art lovers are spoilt for choice in this city. Our main advice is to get your skip-the-line tickets online ahead of time!

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Inside the Louvre. (@museelouvre/Instagram)

As the largest and probably most well-known museum in the world, the Louvre is absolutely a must-visit whether you’re a museum person or not. It would take approximately a gazillion years to really take in each of its 380,000 pieces of art (don’t fact-check us on that one) but you definitely have to go to see the most well-known pieces such as the Mona Lisa and Victory of Samothrace.

Situated on the left bank of the Seine and set in a former train station, Musée d’Orsay houses one of the most impressive collections of impressionist art in the world (see what we did there? Impressive… impress- no? Okay.) This beautiful piece of architecture is a great place to hang out with your buds Monet, Picasso, and Van Gogh for the day.

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Centre Pompidou. (Shutterstock)

The Centre Pompidou is as artistic on the outside as it is inside. This modern art museum catches the eye of everyone walking by with its vibrant colours and exposed pipes, escalators, elevators, and air conditioner lining the exterior. The building literally looks like it’s been turned inside out. Definitely photo-worthy.

Take in the views

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Aerial view of the Arc de Triomphe. (Shutterstock)

Parisian rooftops just may be our faaavourite rooftops in the world, and there are plenty of vantage points to soak in the beautiful city skyline.

You can go all the way up to the top of the Eiffel Tower for a true bird’s eye view of the systematic webs of avenues and boulevards that make up Paris.

The Arc de Triomphe is also a great spot to climb up and take in the panoramic views. Plus, the Arc itself is a massive architectural marvel at 50 metres high, and is a national symbol of France. Once you’re at the top, take a look down at the largest roundabout in the city, where 12 avenues converge.

In addition, there are rooftops like La Terrasse and Le Perchoir to offer a lovely view. And of course, you can score accommodation with a view of the Eiffel Tower, your dreams – and Instagram feed – will be made.

Check out the gardens

Parisians are all about their urban parks. The second the weather starts warming up (or even before that), the parks and gardens throughout the city are flooded with people picnicking, reading, lounging, sipping their coffee, and just generally being all adorably Parisian.

Here are a few that should be on your list.

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Jardin des Tuileries. (Shutterstock)

Jardin des Tuileries is the crème de la crème when it comes to Parisian parks. These pristine grounds are right in the middle of the action, situated between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde. The gardens were built at the same time as the Louvre and are a must-visit in Paris thanks to their immaculately manicured grounds, ponds and fountains, voluptuous ivory-coloured statues, and, best of all, distant views of the Eiffel Tower. Sit yourself down in one of the iconic green chairs and people-watch the day away. C’est parfait.

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Place des Vosges. (Shutterstock)

Place des Vosges in Le Marais is an Instagram favourite with its wide open central space and red brick façade. One of Paris’ oldest parks, this is a very trendy square in a very trendy area.

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Parc des Buttes-Chaumont. (Shutterstock)

Parc des Buttes-Chaumont resides in the northeast of Paris. We’re getting major Central Park vibes due to its size, people out for runs and picnics, plenty of trees, and overall un-manicured nature. Make sure to head up the cliff in the middle of the lake for beautiful views of the city.

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Gates to Parc Monceau. (Shutterstock)

Parc Monceau, located near the Champs Élysées, is lovely and posh, and makes you dream of being an elite Parisian (don’t worry, friends. We’ll get there). Its embellished wrought iron gated entrance, Renaissance archway, and pillar-lined pond make it a luxurious oasis in the city.

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Champ de Mars, Paris. (Shutterstock)

Champ de Mars is the stretch of grass directly in front of the Eiffel Tower. We dare you to name a more prime picnic destination. We’ll wait.

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Jardin du Luxembourg. (Shutterstock)

Jardin du Luxembourg is situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, and is a lovely place to spend an afternoon. With symmetrical gardens and circular ponds surrounded by statues and trees in pots, this will check off all your Parisian park goals.

In the springtime, Paris turns into a cherry blossom paradise. You will see blooms throughout the city, but if you want to experience next level blossoms, head to Parc de Sceaux – only 45 minutes by RER train from Gare du Nord. You will be blown away by all of the pretty pink petals.

Get your shop on

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Galeries Lafayette department store. (Shutterstock)

Parisian fashion is internationally renowned, and you have got to step up your wardrobe while you’re in this sophisticated city. Sometimes you will feel like you’re at a fashion show just strolling the sidewalks – oh hello there, men who know how to wear scarves!

There is shopping all around you here. Hit up the boutiques of Le Marais, mainstream staple retailers on Rue de Rivoli, and designer brands of the Champs-Élysées, just to name a few.

Also, check out the Bon Marché and Galeries Lafayette for department store shopping. With innovative design features like the knotted escalators and stained glass ceilings, they are a marvel in themselves!

Take in some live jazz

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Jazz night at Caveau de la Huchette. (@michaelandrewha/Instagram)

Paris is the city of romance, so cue the sultry soundtrack and soak it all in. There are jazz clubs scattered all throughout the city – a couple favourites are Baiser Salé, Caveau de la Huchette and 38 Riv – and you also may stumble upon some live jazz at whatever spot you happen to be having dinner!

Musicians from all across the city (and beyond) will show up to join in on a spontaneous jam session that stretches into the wee hours of the morning. This is an art that’s taken seriously in Paris, and you will love getting lost in the rhythm.

Eat all the French food

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A table of Parisian dishes. (@eltastparis/Instagram)

Crépes. Croissants. Escargot. Baguettes. French onion soup. Croque Monsieur. Macarons. Cheese. Charcuterie. Pâtée. Anything “au confit” (translation: salt curing a piece of meat and then cooking it in its own fat. A true French delicacy).

Also wine… it counts as a meal, right?

If there’s one place in the world where you should indulge, it’s Paris. The local cuisine is truly decadent and you need to try it all. We are giving you permission; take it and run with it!

Treat yourself to an evening at the ballet

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Palais Garnier. (Shutterstock)

Paris is the place you get to feel fancy, and there’s not many things we can think of that are fancier than an evening at the ballet. It’s worth it to go see the grand architecture of the venue, whether you’re catching a show at the iconic Palais Garnier or Opéra Bastille.

Pro tip: Head to the box office one hour before showtime for 10 euro tickets! Your view may be a bit cut off, but your budget will thank you.

Explore the Latin Quarter

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Rue Mouffetard. (@emma.neuvonen/Instagram)

Once you’ve checked the go-tos off your list, visit this old yet vibrant neighbourhood for some more must-visit spots.

Here’s another mini little Mapped walking tour:

Start around the University of Paris where you’ll see the chicest university students there ever were. Then stroll over to take in the iconic architecture of the Panthéon, which was built as a church but now serves as a burial grounds for French heroes.

Then head over to the charming little intersection of Place de la Contrescarpe, a square with a fountain surrounded by perfect Parisian cafés. This is a great place to pull up a spot on the terrace for a glass of wine.

From there, head down the adorable street known as Rue Mouffetard, which offers specialty eats and boutique shops, old fashioned signage, and most likely a charming French man playing an accordion on the corner while his dog sleeps lazily beside him.

Drink wine along the Seine

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Hanging out along the Seine. (@parisjetaime/Instagram)

This is basically a right of passage if you’re a Parisian. So if you want to live as the locals do, go get yourself some wine (bottles are cheaper the further away you get from the river – shout out to that 3 euro bottle I got in Montmartre) and a couple of to-go cups.

The banks of the Seine River are pedestrian areas with plenty of cool restaurants and bars, and are very vibrant particularly after 4 pm – especially the left bank. Every evening of the summer you will find the banks packed with people sipping wine and taking in the  captivating atmosphere.

Go to a cabaret show

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Dancers preparing for the show. (@moulinrougeofficiel/Instagram)

Paris is a sexy, sultry city, and nothing embodies this quite like a traditional cabaret or burlesque show. If you’re in for a bit of cheeky fun (we mean that literally), lose yourself in the world of glitz and glam, can’t-look-away costumes and choreography, and a healthy dose of the can-can.

Visit the classic Moulin Rouge venue in Montmartre (you’ll recognize it instantly), the risqué Lido dinner and show on the Champs-Élysées, or the possibly even risqué-er Crazy Horse between the Champs-Élysées and Eiffel Tower. Va va voom.

Visit the catacombs

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Catacombs of Paris. (Shutterstock)

Hidden deep within the Parisian earth is a network of tunnels on tunnels with bones on bones on skulls on skulls. On bones. On skulls.

The Catacombs of Paris are an underground network where the remains of over six million people have been relocated from cemeteries and intricately arranged throughout the tunnels. That’s what happens when you have a city that’s more than 2,000 years old, eventually, the cemeteries will start to overflow. A slightly creepy and definitely amazing experience. Located in the central area of Montparnasse, there will almost always be a line for this attraction, so book ahead if you can!

Visit the Château de Versailles

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Hall of Mirrors in Palace of Versailles. (Shutterstock)

No matter where you are currently living, prepare to feel like it’s a shack after visiting Versailles. The former home of Louis XIII, his son Louis XIV, and their successors, is next level elegant living and a breathtaking example of French 17th century art. The palace was a royal residence from 1682 until 1789, when the French Revolution forced Louis XVI to leave for Paris. Its exact layout and design has been preserved and attracts mobs of tourists on the daily (read: get your ticket online in advance).

Every inch of this site is embellished in the most grand way imaginable – and at over 800 hectares, that’s a lot of room for embellishment. The palace’s gold exterior stuns from the second you approach the gates, and each one of the 2,300 rooms will make you feel like you’ve been transported back in time.

The grounds of Versailles are redefining garden goals. We’re talkin’ rows and fields of perfectly manicured gardens and bushes, a lake with giant horse statues, perfectly trimmed trees as far as the eye can see. Don’t forget to check out the old stomping grounds of Marie Antoinette, tucked away at the far corner of the grounds.

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Gardens of Versailles. (Shutterstock)

… Okay, that should tie you over for most of your visit in Paree. But there is always more to see, so get out there and enjoy, and please take us in your suitcase!

Do you want to contribute to Mapped and share your favourite things to do in Paris, or any other destination? Email us at [email protected].

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