10 Things to do in Paris for First-Time Visitors
There are so many things to do in Paris that it seems impossible to plan an itinerary. Paris is the second most visited city in Europe, so there are tons of attractions to choose between, and it can be difficult to decide what is worth visiting and what isn’t.
This post covers the top ten things to do in Paris for first-time visitors. If you’ve never been to Paris before, you’ll want to visit these tourist attractions! They give you a taste of all the best of Paris.
A taste of history, culture, and extravagance that you can explore even if you only have a few days in Paris.
Tip: Paris is always busy and if you don’t buy skip the line tickets, you will wait in line for a long time. I recommend getting the Paris Pass which covers most of the top Paris attractions as well as public transport AND gives you skip the line benefits! Read the full review here>>
Also read our guide on where to stay in Paris, which includes description of the most popular arrondissements and the best hotels in each area (for every budget).
1. Louvre Museum
The Louvre is the most popular museum is Paris and holds some of the most famous pieces of art in the world. It is best known for being home to the Mona Lisa, but it has countless other pieces of art you can view.
The museum holds every type of art you can imagine. It has artwork from the Renaissance era, Egypt, Africa, contemporary art, and anything else you can imagine!
It is one of the most popular things to do in Paris, and it is always busy and crowded. The best way to avoid the crowds is to purchase an advanced ticket online with an entrance time first thing in the morning. Booking a ticket for a weekday is better than getting a ticket for the weekend. It will still be busy, but it will be significantly less busy than at any other time of the day.
Tickets are ~20$ if purchased online in advance and €15 if purchased at the museum the day of your visit. Click here to buy skip the line Louvre tickets>>
Tip: It is slightly more expensive to purchase tickets online, but it is worthwhile as it saves you a lot of time on the day of your visit. Lines to purchase tickets can be upwards of 2 hours during peak season!
The Louvre is open Wednesday through Monday from 9:30am to 5:30pm. It is closed on Tuesdays.
Be sure to arrive 15 minutes before your entrance time to get through security and into the museum.
There is free wifi at the Louvre, so you can waste time on your phone if you get through security quickly and have to wait a few minutes before you’re allowed to enter.
2. Disneyland Paris
No matter how old or young you are, visiting Disneyland Paris is one of the most fun and carefree things to do in Paris.
It is the only Disney park in Europe, and there are French touches throughout the park.
Disneyland Paris is actually home to two separate parks. It has Disneyland Paris, which is the classic castle park, and Walt Disney Studios, which is home to the more thrilling and modern rides.
Disneyland Paris is so much fun and a unique experience if you’ve visited other Disney parks around the world. It is home to a few unique (and amazing) rides you won’t find anywhere else in the world!
You get all the classic Disney nostalgia and a pop of new and exciting Disney innovation. Disneyland Paris is one of the most fun Disney parks in the world and a must visit for first-time visitors to Paris!
Lines can get quite long during the summer and school holidays, so you want to have a FastPass strategy to make sure you get on all the rides without spending a lot of time waiting in line.
The food at Disneyland Paris isn’t great or up to Disney standard. There are only two or three table-service restaurants in each park, and the food is overpriced and not very good (sadly).
The best place to have a sit-down meal is in Disney Village. It is a shopping and dining area outside the two parks that has more choices and better food. So skip the in-park food and enjoy a more relaxed meal in Disney Village.
Outside of the lack-luster food, Disneyland Paris is magical and one of the best things to do in Paris for any Disney fan.
The Champs-Elysées is probably the most famous street in Paris. It is the Rodeo Drive of Paris, and luxury shops line the streets.
You can find all the famous designers and drop thousands of Euros in minutes, but it is still worth visiting the Champs-Elysées even if you don’t have a luxury budget.
There are tons of cute cafés and restaurants along the street where you can sit outside and people. You can find expensive restaurants or affordable cafés, so there is something for every budget.
The Champs-Elysées is one of the best places in Paris to people watch. You never know what you’ll see! From high-class women carrying high-end shopping bags to backpackers dragging through luggage through the crowds, there is always something to see at Champs-Elysées.
If you’re interested in live theatre and music, you’ll want to try to get tickets to a show at the Theatre Champs-Elysées. It is one of the most famous theatres in Paris and is known for its stunning Art Deco interior. It is the perfect way to spend an evening in Paris and experience a taste of local theatre and culture.
No matter what your interests are, there is something fun to experience at Champs-Elysées. From luxury shops to McDonald’s, this street has it all and is a fascinating intersection of every different lifestyle and budget.
4. Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the icons of Paris, and no trip to Paris is complete without visiting it!
As you probably know, Notre Dame caught fire in April of 2019 and has been closed to the public since then for restoration and renovation. The French government anticipates construction will be complete by the 2024 Paris Olympics.
You can still visit Notre Dame while renovations are ongoing. You can take photos of the outside and privately pray in the square, but you are not able to enter Notre Dame at this time.
The cathedral is one of the best examples of Gothic architecture. It is best known for the two towers on the west side of the building and the enormously high ceilings, which are perfect for acoustics and church choirs.
The windows are filled with intricate stained glass art, and you should take the time to stop and admire them. There are two windows know as the Rose Windows. One is on the western side of the cathedral and the other on the northern.
The North Rose Window is one the largest stained glass windows in the world. It is 12.9 meters in diameter. If you include the accent stained glass around it, the entire window is 19 meters in diameter!
The cathedral is open to the public every day, and it is completely free to visit.
You may see a long line at the entrance of the cathedral. That is for people who need to check their bags. If you only have a small purse, you can skip the line and go straight in Notre Dame. If your bag is larger than a purse (e.g. a backpack), you need to wait in line and check your bag.
5. Musée d’Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay is a nice compliment to the Louvre. It holds mainly French artwork created between 1848 and 1914. The museum is located in an old train station, and the building itself is a piece of art.
Musée d’Orsay is home to the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. You can view art by Monet, Van Gogh, Degas, and Renoir.
The artwork by these famous artists is what makes the museum so popular. The rooms housing their paintings and sculptures are always packed, but it is worthwhile to explore the rest of the museum.
There are hundreds of paintings on display, and they are all incredible even if they aren’t painted by a famous artist.
Just like the Louvre, you can purchase your tickets online in advance, and that is the best way to avoid long lines. Tickets are €14 for adults. You can buy a skip-the-line ticket here>>
The museum is open Tuesday through Sunday from 9:30am to 6pm (open until 9:45pm on Thursdays) and is closed on Mondays.
Musée d’Orsay is busiest on Tuesdays when the Louvre is closed, so you don’t want to visit then. Wednesday or Thursday are the quietest days. If it works with your schedule, try to visit the museum one of those days.
Sacré-Coeur is one of those things to do in Paris that not enough people are talking about!
It is the heart of the Montmartre district and sits on a hill with an unbeatable view of Paris. You want to visit on a clear day, so you can enjoy the view and have a picnic on the lawn.
Sacré-Coeur is the second most visited church in Paris behind Notre Dame. It is known for its three-domed roof and pipe organ.
The organ was built insider the designer’s home and was transferred to Sacré-Coeur once construction was complete. It was the first organ to feature multiple divisions, and it allowed more than one musician to play it at a time.
The interior of Sacré-Coeur features a colorful mosaic of Jesus above the pipe organ. It is also home to the largest bell in France, which is more interesting than you imagine.
Anyone can tour Sacré-Coeur, and admission is free. It has the same bag policy as Notre Dame, so try to only bring a small purse otherwise you have to wait in line to check your bag. You can also do a guided tour of Sacré-Coeur.
The Montmartre district around Sacré-Coeur is worth exploring after you tour the church. It has winding streets, art shops, boutique clothing stores, and tons of cafés. It is known as the Montmartre is known as the artist’s district of Paris, and it has a lot of personality that you don’t find anywhere else in Paris.
7. Château du Versailles
The Palace of Versailles is the most popular day trip from Paris. Nearly every first-time visitor makes the 45-minute train journey from Paris to Versailles to tour the former French palace.
In addition to touring the main palace, you can also visit the gardens and Marie Antoinette’s private quarters outside the main palace.
There are multiple ticket tiers you can get, but the best is the Palace Ticket. It is ~$24 and gives you access to access to everything at the Palace of Versailles. You are allowed entry to the main palace, Marie Antoinette’s quarters, the chapel, the musical fountain show, gardens, and the special exhibits.
You purchase your ticket online in advance and are assigned an entrance time. Try to get as early an admission time as possible to help avoid the crowds. Get your ticket here>>
The cheapest way to go to Versailles is on your own, but if you prefer an organized tour that includes transport from Paris (via bus or train) and a guide, take a look at these options here: Versailles Day Trips
Another tip to avoid the crowds is to visit the gardens before the Palace opens. The gardens open two hours before the palace, so you can have them basically to yourself if you get there early enough. It does require you to be up and on the train early, but it is worth the effort. The crowds can get overwhelming, so anything you can do to avoid them is worth it.
8. Eiffel Tower
There is nothing more iconic in Paris than the Eiffel Tower. It is on nearly every souvenir and is at the top of every first-time visitor’s list of things to do in Paris.
Did you really go to Paris if you didn’t visit the Eiffel Tower?!
The tower was constructed as the entrance piece to the 1889 World’s Fair. Many Parisians were opposed to the Eiffel Tower because it was “ugly”, but it has since become one of the most famous landmarks in the world and a global icon.
The Eiffel Tower has three levels to it. The first two floors are accessible by stairs or elevator, and the third floor is only accessible by elevator.
From the top of the tower, you can see almost all of Paris and a number of other famous landmarks including Notre Dame and the Arc de Triomphe. The third floor is 276 meters above the ground, and there is no higher viewpoint in Paris.
Eiffel Tower Tickets
Like most of the other popular tourist attractions in Paris, it is advisable to purchase your ticket online in advance. Your ticket has an entrance time, and there is a separate line at the base of the Eiffel Tower who pre-purchased their ticket.
Tickets range from €10.40 to €25.90 depending on what floor you want to visit and whether you want to take the elevator or stairs. The least expensive ticket is one that allows you to walk to the second floor, and the most expensive ticket is the one where you take the elevator all the way to the third floor without climbing any stairs. Take a look at all Eiffel Tower ticket options here>>
You can climb to the second floor of the Eiffel Tower in less than an hour, and a person in moderate health and fitness ability is able to take the stairs without issue.
Another fun way to experience the iconic landmark is to stay at a hotel with a view of the Eiffel tower.
The Panthéon is one of the most underrated things to do in Paris. A lot of people don’t even know it exists, but it is one of the Paris tourist attractions in Paris!
The building was originally designed to be a palace, but by the time construction was finished, the French Revolution was in full force.
The National Constituent Assembly voted to change the Panthéon into a mausoleum to hold the remains of important French nationals. The remains of 78 people are in the Panthéon crypt, so it is an exclusive club. There are 73 men and only 3 women in the crypt.
It holds the remains of some of the most famous people in France’s history. You can visit the tomb on Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Marie Currie, and many, many more. There is more to see than just the crypt though.
You can take a guided tour and explore the dome and roof of the Panthéon. The view of Paris from the top of the dome is outstanding and one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower you can find. There is an additional charge above and beyond the admission price to visit the dome, but it is well worth the extra money!
The final thing you have to do when visiting the Panthéon is to visit the Foucault pendulum. It is a 220-foot pendulum that hangs from the dome and represents the rotation of the Earth.
You can’t help but marvel at the giant pendulum swinging back and forth. It is oddly relaxing and awe-inspiring at the same time.
The Panthéon is open every day from 10am to 6:30pm. Tours of the dome are at 11am, 12pm, 1:30pm, 2:30pm, 3:30pm, 4:30pm, and 5:15pm.
Tickets cost €11.50, and a tour of the dome is an additional €2.
10. Arc de Triomphe
The last place every first-time visitor to Paris has to visit is the Arc de Triomphe. It is located on the west end on the Champs-Elysées and is one of the most famous landmarks in the city.
The Arc de Triomphe was built in was constructed to honour French soldiers who fought and died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. The names of French generals who won battles are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces of the Arc.
After WWI, the tomb of the unknown soldier was placed below the Arc de Triomphe to honor fallen French soldiers who never made it home from the war. It is a very important military symbol even to this day.
As a tourist, you can climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe and get a view of the Champs-Elysées and Paris from above. There is no elevator, and you have to walk up about 300 stairs to reach the top. The stairway can be a bit tight, so you may want to skip this activity if you’re claustrophobic. But the view is absolutely stunning and worth the effort.
There are small small displays and informational panels as you make your way to the top of the Arc de Triomphe. They tell you a little bit about France’s military past, the Arc itself, and Napoleon’s reign over France.
The Arc de Triomphe is open to visitors every day from 10am to 10pm or 11pm depending on the day.
You can purchase your tickets online in advance, but it isn’t as important to do that as it is at other popular tourist attractions. The line to purchase tickets often isn’t longer than 5 minutes, so you can be flexible with your schedule and when you want to visit.
Tickets cost €12 for adults. Children under 18 enter for free, and EU citizens under the age of 25 are allowed to enter for free as well. If you have the Paris Pass, your entry is included as well and you can skip the line. You need your EU passport or ID card in order to enter for free, so be sure you have that on you!
As you can see, there are tons of different things to do in Paris, and there is something for everybody!
Whether you’re a history buff, art lover, or want to indulge in one too many croissants, you will find something to fall in love with on your first visit to Paris.
More Tips For Your First Time in Paris
Paris is a very popular city, and it is overrun with tourists during peak season. The crowds can take a bit of the fun out of the city, but there are ways to avoid them.
Come in the Off-Season
The best way to avoid the crowds is to visit at off-peak times. Avoid summer break and the holiday season. There is no quiet time in Paris, but if you can avoid the busiest times, the crowds will be much more manageable.
Buy Skip The Line Tickets or the Paris Pass
The next best way to avoid the crowds is to purchase your entrance tickets to the popular tourist attractions online in advance. This saves you a lot of time standing in line waiting to purchase a ticket and allows you to see more of Paris in the same amount of time. To make it even simpler, get the Paris Pass (read our full review of the Paris Pass here)
The downside is that it requires you to plan your itinerary in advance, and you can’t be spontaneous. It is worth it though!
Where to Stay in Paris First Time
For your first time in Paris, you should stay in a centrally located arrondissement. That way, you have more time to enjoy the city and spend less time on public transport. Here are the top 5 arrondissements to stay in for your fist time in Paris:
- First Arrondissement: You’ll find the Louvre and many other historic sites and buildings. It is the most central location in Paris and while expensive, a great choice for your first visit to Paris.
- Third Arrondissement: Also known as the Marais is a great choice if you are looking for the artsy-romantic vibe of Paris.
- Fourth Arrondissement: This is the medieval part of Paris and has lots of attractions within walking distance, including Notre Dame, St. Chapelle, and the National Museum of Art in the Pompidou Center.
- Fifth Arrondissement: This area is on the left bank of the Seine, opposite of the Fourth Arrondissement and known as the Latin Quarter. It is home to the Sorbonne University and offers a great vibe and affordable hotels.
- Seventh Arrondissement: Home to the Eiffel Tower and many hotels with spectacular views of the iconic landmark makes this a great choice to stay for your first visit to Paris.
Paris is a magical city, and no matter what you see and do in Paris, you’ll have an amazing time. The city has a charm and culture unlike any other.
Erica Riley wrote 10 Things to Do in Paris for First-Time Visitors for EuropeUpClose. Erica is an avid solo traveler who has been to over 40 countries. She loves spending long periods of time in each country to get a sense of the country and culture. Erica’s favorite travel activities include attending local theatre and dance performances, wandering through museums, eating way too much food, and riding every rollercoaster she comes across. Take a look at her website, Facebook, and Instagram.