The national capital of France, Paris is one of the world’s most glamorous cities, a global taste-making metropolis in the fields of fashion, art, and food. Paris is famous all over the planet for its legendary museums, regal palaces, historic basilicas, iconic monuments, and inimitable architecture. It’s likewise a city of trendy neighborhoods, luxury shopping, and destination restaurants. Regardless how you choose to plan your experience, a Paris tourist itinerary is going to be fun, diverse, and full!
At the top of most Paris visitors must-see list are the city’s incredible museums and landmark monuments. The Louvre is arguably the greatest museum in the world, home to more artistic masterpieces under one roof than can be listed here, while the Musée d’Orsay contains a remarkable array of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist treasures. No matter what you’re interested in, though, there’s probably a Paris museum with a sterling reputation that covers that particular topic within its hallowed halls. At the same time, no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and the city’s numerous religious sites are quite popular as well.
For all its world-famous museums, palaces, and architectural landmarks, Paris is a city of wide boulevards, lovely green spaces and enticing gardens. It has its share of nature and science-themed attractions like Cité des Sciences et de l’Industrie, but it also contains zoos, botanical gardens, and multiple public parks of some significance. As tempting as it is to hop straight from one attraction to the next, Paris needs to be enjoyed outdoors, too. When in doubt, take a boat cruise down the Seine or join a guided walking tour of some of the city’s grandest areas.
Paris can be such a charming place, with so many different things to see and do, that the idea of spending a day or two exploring the sights and sounds of its immediate surroundings might see to some like missing out. Still, visitors with flexible schedules and the desire to expand their Parisian horizons will enjoy taking a day trip or extended excursion into the French countryside in search of beautiful scenery, artist’s homes, wine country, historic sites, and a whole lot more. Even if you’ve only got an afternoon to spare, you’ll want to consider visiting nearby attractions like the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis, where nearly all of France’s kings and queens are buried; and the one-and-only Palace of Versailles, which year in and year out ranks as one of the planet’s most visited destinations.
As rich in history as Paris is, it’s also a forward-looking city that more often than not can be counted on to take the lead in shaping all manner of international trends. Paris is one of the world’s most fashionable cities for shopping, so whether you’re in the market for that special outfit, fabulous accessory, vintage jewelry, high-end handbag, designer shoes, or you just want to take home some stylish souvenirs and visit a historic bookstore, you’ll need to make time to browse the city’s wonderful selection of stores. And, of course, there’s the food! French cuisine is renowned the world over; regardless of your budget, you’ll be able to eat like royalty in this distinguished culinary capital—which has more than its fair share of cheese tastings, wine samplings, and food tours to choose from.
Keep reading for more information on the most popular tourist attractions in Paris, including numerous acclaimed museums, national monuments, historic churches, and more.
The Musée de Cluny—or Cluny Museum—is acclaimed for its collection of medieval art and artifacts, which spans centuries, continents, and genres. Rich in jewelry, sculptures, and paintings, the star attraction of the Cluny Museum is the six-tapestry set known as The Lady and the Unicorn
For over 200 years this historic structure housed the offices of the French navy. A recent renovation restored the building to its eighteenth-century splendor, and today the Hôtel de la Marine operates as a museum with a special emphasis on the decorative arts and its lavish royal apartments.
Dedicated to the legendary sculptor Auguste Rodin, the Rodin Museum is where you can come face to face with such masterpieces as The Thinker, The Kiss, and The Gates of Hell. The Rodin Museum also houses several acclaimed pieces by Camille Claudel, and multiple paintings by Vincent van Gogh.
Occupying the northwestern wing of the Louvre Palace, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs is arguably the world’s foremost museum devoted to the decorative arts. Its immense collection contains a multitude of objects spanning the Middle Ages to contemporary times, and the attraction regularly organizes thought-provoking temporary exhibitions.
This Neoclassical monument was constructed by King Louis XVIII to honor the memory of King Louis XVI and Marie-Antoinette, both of whom were buried here for a time after being killed during the French Revolution. The elegant structure contains a chapel and a crypt, while the grounds have a pleasant garden and courtyard.
CSL is a large museum of science and industry located within the lively Parc de la Villette. This family-friendly institution contains a variety of permanent exhibits with interactive displays devoted to the brain, genetic material, math, sounds, the origin of the universe, and many more stimulating topics.
Since it first opened to the public in 2006, the Quai Branly Museum has become known for the striking architectural design of its building and the expansive permanent collection of art and artifacts housed therein. The Quai Branly Museum specializes in the artwork of African, Asian, and Oceanic cultures.
Located five miles north of the heart of Paris, the Basilica Cathedral of Saint-Denis is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture that dates to 1144. It’s most famous as the site where almost all of France’s kings and queens are buried in a series of elaborate tombs.
Located on Île de la Cité directly next to Sainte-Chapelle and just steps from Notre-Dame, the Conciergerie has at various times been a royal palace, courthouse, and prison. Today the Conciergerie is a museum with exhibits focused on its role as a prison during the French Revolution, when it was where Marie-Antoinette was held.
This special institution is dedicated to one of the twentieth century’s most influential artists, Pablo Picasso. Located within the magnificent Hôtel Salé, a seventeenth-century architectural masterpiece, the Picasso Museum is home to an extensive collection of Pablo Picasso’s paintings, sculptures, notebooks, photographs, and more.
Located within the historic Les Invalides complex, the Army Museum tells the story of some 700 years of French military history. Highlights of a visit here include the Dôme des Invalides, Napoleon’s tomb, the Cathedral of Saint-Louis des Invalides, and galleries devoted to the Napoleonic Wars, World Wars I and II, and more.
Once intended as a church to rival St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London, the Panthéon has evolved into a secular monument. The Panthéon is adorned with numerous ornate frescoes and architectural flourishes, while select French icons are buried in its crypt. The Panthéon’s Panorama offers breathtaking views of the city, too.
This masterpiece of Gothic architecture dates to the middle of the thirteenth century and is famous for its beautiful and ornate stained-glass windows. The 15 stained-glass windows that make up the core of the Sainte-Chapelle experience are anywhere from 40 to 50 feet in size and depict over 100 biblical stories.
The Musée de l'Orangerie is most famous as the home of Monet’s eight-canvas Water Lilies cycle for which two specially designed oval rooms were built here during the 1920s. The rest of the Musée de l'Orangerie permanent collection is rich in paintings by notable artists like Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne.
This legendary art museum is famous the world over for its unparalleled collection of nineteenth-century French art. Most acclaimed for its significant Impressionist and Post-Impressionist holdings, the Musée d'Orsay is full of masterpieces by the likes of Monet, van Gogh, Manet, Degas, and Cézanne, just to name a few.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in the seventeenth century by King Louis XIV and served as a royal residence until the French Revolution. Highlights of this opulent attraction include the Hall of Mirrors, Royal Chapel, Marie-Antoinette’s Private Chambers, the Grand Trianon, and the estate’s sizable gardens.
More commonly known just as Sacré-Coeur, this nineteenth-century basilica is renowned for its Byzantine-inspired architecture and the breathtaking views available to visitors from the top of its large central dome. Sacré-Coeur also contains one of the world’s largest mosaics and a historic grand organ.
Few monuments loom as large in Paris (literally or figuratively) as the Arc de Triomphe. Built to honor Napoleon’s military victories, this magnificent triumphal arch has stood at the western edge of the Champs-Élysées since the early nineteenth century. Its observation deck offers spectacular views of the city.
Montparnasse Tower is the only conventional skyscraper located in the whole of Paris. Its observation deck is situated almost 700 feet above the ground and offers visitors unparalleled views of the city in all directions, while its rooftop bar and café are unique places to enjoy a memorable drink or meal.
Without a doubt one of the world’s greatest museums, the Louvre is home to some of the most famous works of art in history. Its massive permanent collection ranges from ancient Egyptian artifacts to Greek and Roman sculptures on through the Renaissance and beyond. Masterpieces found here include the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Liberty Leading the People, just to name
One of the most instantly recognizable structures found anywhere in the world, the Eiffel Tower is a landmark symbol of Paris. Completed in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is made of wrought-iron and stands approximately 1,000 feet tall. It has three viewing platforms, two acclaimed restaurants, and multiple gift shops.