Paris has so much on offer that you’ll never squeeze everything into just one weekend break.
Start your sightseeing with these world famous attractions. Then explore in more depth if you have time. Or come back another weekend.
Paris Sightseeing – Top Paris Attractions
1) The Louvre
A fortress, a royal palace and now one of the world’s greatest museums, the Louvre somehow successfully mixes old and new, with the Mona Lisa inside and a daring series of glass pyramids outside. The Louvre is staggeringingly beautiful, impressive and crowded.
It’s free to walk around its magnificent courtyard – and worth doing twice – once in the day and once at night to really appreciate it. To go inside, get here early and prepare to queue, especially to see the Mona Lisa (which often seems smaller than expected and a bit of a disappointment).
2) The Eiffel Tower
It may feel like a cliché, but the Eiffel Tower symbolizes Paris and no sightseeing trip would be complete without it. It’s actually hard to miss from riverbanks along the Seine, illuminated by night and standing proud in the day.
It’s free to walk around the base, but you need to pay to climb to the top.
3) Sacré Coeur in Montmartre
This white domed cathedral sits romantically at the top of a sweeping flight of stairs in the artistic part of Paris, the home of old bohemian dreams. Entrance again is free, but the real highlight is walking around Montmartre’s narrow streets that ooze with Parisian charm.
Add Montmartre to the evening of your sightseeing plans and enjoy dinner in one of its many atmospheric restaurants.
4) Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe, a giantic block of stone in the centre of the Paris’s swirling traffic, honours Frenchmen lost in battle, with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier underneath.
5) Champs Élysées
Broad, leafy and overflowing with wealth, the Champs Élysées leads directly from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde. Decorated with lights at certain times of the year, it can look spectacular. Under grey rain in the middle of the day, perhaps less so.
However, the walk along this broad boulevard takes you from one symbol of Paris to another. From the Arc de Triomphe to…
6) Place de la Concorde
Standing in Place de la Concorde rates as one of the best sightseeing spots in Paris. It’s free, it’s impressive – and it offers views of most of Paris’ key sights: the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower and the finally the Champs Élysées leading majestically to the Arc de Triomphe.
It has a bloody history, however. During the French Revolution, thousands of people were executed here by guillotine, including Marie Antoinette.
Today, the Luxor Obelisk, from the original Luxor Temple in Egypt, stands proud in the centre, covered in hieroglyphics.
7) Notre Dame
This world famous cathedral (with the legendary hunchback) looks rather squat from the outside. From the inside, however, it is amazing – with enormous stained glass windows. Visit at night to see the intricate outside walls come to life.
8) Cruise Along the Seine
Plenty of sightseeing boats – or Bateaux Mouche – crusie along the river day and night and a twilight crusie really is the best time to fall in love with Paris. From the boat, you can see Notre Dame, the side of the Louvre and the Eiffel Tower.
Sightseeing in Paris – Potential Pitfalls
Toulouse-Lautrec first made the Moulin Rouge famous, years later Nicole Kidman wore frilly knickers and continued the tradition. A visit today, though, is far from inspiring. The photos of the scarlet windmill may entice you there, but some serious cropping has taken place to hide the run down surrounding neighbourhood. There’s no hint of bohemia any more and the shows are strictly aimed at tourists.
In my opinion, there are better things to see when you are sightseeing in Paris.