Paris is not a city to be visited, but a city to be experienced. Don’t just visit the museums and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower. Buy a baguette from a French bakery and cheese from a local market to have a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower. There are so many ways to experience Paris that will make it an unforgettable trip for you.
Here is the complete guide to the best of Paris including viewing spots of the Eiffel Tower, places to eat, places to stay, day-trips and more!
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The Best Time to Visit Paris
I am truly of the opinion that Paris is a great city to visit at any time of year. Even during the winter, Parisians are out on café patios enjoying their morning coffee and croissants. Your itinerary may look a little different if you visit during the winter versus in the summer. Attractions like Versailles or rooftop patios may be closed in winter months, however there is still plenty to do all year round in Paris.
If this is your first trip to Paris, my opinion on the best time to visit would be between May and June. This will be before the peak of the summer crowds, but you should still expect nice weather.
See below for a guide to Paris in the winter and spring.
The Best Views of the Eiffel Tower
Sunrise / Sunset at Trocadéro
My personal favorite is watching the sunrise from Trocadéro as there are way less people here at that time than sunset.
However, don’t read that as you will have this place to yourself. Even before the sun comes up there will be people setting up for wedding, engagement, birthday and general photo shoots.
Come as early as possible and stay for an hour or two. Then go grab some coffee and breakfast while the crowds start flooding in!
View from Avenue de New York and Pont d’Iéna
I’m not sure if this spot is a secret, but there is never anyone around when we visit in the morning! After you have spent some time at Trocadéro in the early morning, you can make your way towards the Pont d’Iéna and along the Avenue de New York for more stunning angles of the Eiffel Tower.
Head down the steps along side the Seine River for the most stunning morning light reflecting off the Eiffel Tower and the Ponte Lena. You can’t go wrong making this a stop for sunrise or sunset!
Sunset from the Galeries Lafayette (flagship location)
One of the best, and FREE, spots to watch the sunset over Paris with the Eiffel Tower in the background is from the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette on Haussmann street.
Sometimes the security comes to close down the viewing point an hour before the department store closes for security purposes.
There is a restaurant/bar at the top which if you make reservations for sunset would allow you to continue enjoying the view.
View from Avenue de Camoens
Avenue de Camoens is a little street tucked away past Trocadéro where you can get a breathtaking view of the Eiffel Tower peeking out from beautiful Parisian buildings. There are usually no other people around, so you can really take in the sight!
View from Rue de L’Université
Contrary to the above location, this is a VERY popular little street to catch a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower. Come early in the morning so you can get a clear shot without others in the background, and enjoy a quiet view almost to yourself.
View from the Rue de Monttessuy & Avenue Rapp
If you are already at the Eiffel Tower view on Rue de L’Université, this spot is not far away. With the Eiffel Tower to your back, walk straight towards the corner of Rue de Monttessuy & Avenue Rapp to capture the entire Eiffel Tower in your shot (and WAY less people)!
View from Le Recrutement Café
You can easily find this view by googling “Le Recrutement Café”, and I think it is one of the more unique views of the Eiffel Tower with a bit of everyday Parisian life included.
Top of the Arc de Triomphe
Another fabulous view of the Eiffel Tower is from the top of the Arc de Triomphe. Here you can get an amazing view if the Parisian architecture with the iron lady in the background.
But don’t run across the famed round-about to get here. There is an underground passage way that can be found by either the Charles de Gaulle Étoile Champs-Élysées bus stop or the Charles de Gaulle – Étoile Grande Armée bus stop.
The Best Things to Do in Paris
Walk around Montmartre
Montmartre is located in the 18th arrondissement and is a neighborhood that makes you feel like you have stepped back into Paris in the 20’s. Artists set up easels displaying their artwork in the Place de Tertre and vendors are selling delicacies on the streets.
Hop into any of the cafes you walk past in Montmartre and you won’t be disappointed. You can find a postcard perfect view of Paris (left above photo) on Rue de l’Abreuvoir at the bottom of the street from La Maison Rose, if you walk past La Maison Rose towards Buste de Dalida.
Related Post: The 16 Prettiest Streets in Paris & the History
Admire the Architecture of the Louvre
Many come to the Louvre museum and spend hours inside missing some of the most stunning architectural aspects outside. The courtyard of the Louvre museum is something worth taking time to appreciate. Unfortunately once the Louvre is open, crowds swarm the entrance to the museum masking the elegance of the courtyard behind lines of tourists.
We made a stop here one morning before the museum opened to the public and were able to peacefully enjoy the contrast of modern glass triangle against the renaissance architecture.
Tour the City by Night in a Classic Parisian Car
Imagine yourself on a private tour of Paris at night in a classic convertible Citroen with a bottle of Champagne. I think I just described my perfect evening. After dinner, a two hour tour of Paris by car with a knowledgeable driver sounds like the perfect way to cap off the night!
Walk along the Ponte Alexandre III
The Ponte Alexandre III is known as the most decorated bridge in Paris and is a natural crossing point if you are heading from South of the Seine towards the Champs-Élysées and the Arc de Triumph.
From the gold statues of eagles to the black detailed lamp posts, there are endless angles to photograph this bridge. It even makes for a nice photo on a rainy day in Paris!
Stop into the Bakeries
There really isn’t a better afternoon activity in Paris than hopping into a French bakery and letting yourself indulge in whatever looks the best! A Paris staple would be to visit Strohrer on Rue Montorgueil for an eclair or one of the many Ladurees around town for a famous French macaron. Make sure to stop into the local, not as famous bakeries too.
Visit the Museums
From the famous Louvre (right photo above) to the less famous Gustave Moreau museum in Montmartre (left photo above), there are endless museums to visit while in Paris. Check out my guide to visiting Paris in the winter for a list of my favorite museums in Paris!
Enjoy the Café Experience
One of the most relaxing things you can do in Paris is to take a break from all that walking and exploring to just sit on the porch of a café!
See the section below for some of my recommendations for the best cafes in Paris. However, you can’t go wrong with just stopping into a local café that isn’t on the list of the most famous.
These cafes are truly where you can find the best prices and the most authentic experience.
Shopping for Parisian Goods
Everyone knows about the famous Champs-Élysées street for luxury shopping in Paris. While I am definitely into window shopping and people watching here, the more authentic shopping is elsewhere in Paris.
My favorite neighborhoods for unique gifts, Parisian designers and quality finds are in Montmartre, St. Germain des Pres and La Marais.
Visit the Parisian Parks
There are many parks around Paris, and when the sun is out, Parisians will find any inch of grass to take advantage of the weather. Therefore really any green space in Paris can be considered a park. One of the most famous and most crowded parks in Paris is the Champs de Mars with the Eiffel Tower as your background. On the other side of the Seine from the Champs de Mars, you will find the Trocadéro Gardens which will afford you a view of the opposite side of the iron lady.
If you’re looking for some quieter parks, check out Le Jardin du Luxembourg in the 6th Arr., Tuileries Garden in the 1st Arr., and Place des Vosges near Marais. If you are visiting during cherry blossom season, make sure to check out Jardin du Palais Royal , Square Jean XXIII Park, and Parc de Sceaux for the best chance to catch the blooms in Paris.
Wander around Île de la Cité
The Île de la Cité is one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine within the city of Paris (the other being the Île Saint-Louis). It is the center of Paris and the location where the medieval city was founded.
It is the island where the cathedral of Notre-Dam is located, so it will surely be on your itinerary. There are a ton of cute cafes on the island, so take your time walking around more than just the cathedral.
Watch the sunset over the Seine
Another great activity in Paris is to catch the sunset over the Seine River from one of the many bridges. My favorite is from Pont Neuf, looking towards Pont des Arts to catch the Eiffel Tower and the sunset in one view.
Watch the Eiffel Tower Twinkle at Champs de Mars
Bring a bottle of wine and a picnic blanket to the Champs de Mars to watch the nightly Eiffel tower light show. Every hour on the hour, from dark until 12AM the Eiffel Tower sparkles for about 15 minutes.
You will be approached multiple times by guys selling beer & wine, but just politely decline letting them know you brought your own! This is a full family affair every night in front of the Eiffel Tower!
The Best Places to Eat in Paris
Traditional French Restaurants in Paris
Café de Flore – A Classic Parisian Cafe with a vibrant patio where people go to be seen (pictured above). This cafe is world famous and comes with price tags to match. However, it is worth a stop in to see what all the hype is about.
Les Deux Musées – for pommes and french onion soup
Café Kitsune – great for an early breakfast if you are near Le Palais Royal
Le Bonaparte – French café in Saint Germain
Crepes stand at Saint Germain des Pres – skip the sit-down restaurants if you want to experience the best crepe in Paris and stop by the stand outside the Saint Germain de Pres metro stop
Marché des Enfants Rouges – oldest covered market and great place to grab some picnic foods
Les Pipos – Located in the Latin Quarter of Paris, this is a fun area to spend a night people watching from a patio. Les Pipos has been on of our favorite French restaurant finds, with a no frills approach to French food which is very much appreciated.
Angelina – best hot chocolate
Stohrer – the best spot for those classic French eclairs, original shop is in the 2nd Arr.
Pierre Hermé – for great pastries
Non-French Restaurant Recommendations
Pink Mama – if you are looking for something other than French cuisine, come to Pink Mama for some of the best Italian food in Paris. Also, the views of Paris from their top floor are worth a visit on its own.
Le Refuge des Fondus – if you are reading this then you are in for a treat – and quite possibly my favorite recommendation in Paris. This is a hole in the wall restaurant in Montmartre with only two long tables in the entire restaurant. The menu consist of two things: cheese fondue and meat fondue. You drink either red or white wine served from baby bottles. It is the most different and fantastically fun dinner I think we have ever had!
FTG – Frenchie to go! is the younger brother to the famous Frenchie restaurant in Paris. Only open till 5PM, this is a great place to stop in for a quick lunch while you are in the area shopping. Located in the 2nd Arr., this is a fun neighborhood of Paris to walk and shop. There will be a cheese store, next to a fish shop, next to a fresh fruits and vegetable stand. Second to Montmartre, it is a great spot to pick up fresh produce if you plan to cook dinner in.
The Best Places to Stay in Paris
Deciding which arrondissement to stay in Paris is the biggest decision you have to tackle before booking accommodation. Paris is rather large, so planning to stay near the activities you have planned is a good idea. But location isn’t the only thing to consider.
We love staying in the Saint Germain des Pres neighborhood because there is an abundance of shopping and restaurants. It is also slightly less touristy than near the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe.
However, getting a place close to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, or the Arc de Triomphe also puts you in the center of the action. You can also find some amazing hotels or Airbnbs in these areas with view of the Arc de Triomphe or the Eiffel Tower. Imagine waking up to that view!
Another great option if you plan on spending a lot of time in the north of Paris is Montmartre. Grab an Airbnb in the Montmartre neighborhood for an all around Parisian experience!
Related Post: Where to Stay in Paris: The Best Arrondissements and Hotels for Every Type of Traveler
The Best Day Trips from Paris
Monet Gardens at Giverny
An hour west of Paris is the little town of Giverny, France, home to Monet gardens. Only open from April 1st to November 1st, Monet Gardens are a fabulous escape from the busy city. However try to visit in the morning as the gardens are not a secret and do get very busy with tourists. You can also buy your ticket in-advance to skip waiting in line. We went in June and were able to see the lavender growing in the petite garden near Monet’s house.
Getting to Monet Gardens at Giverny From Paris
The best way to get to Giverny is to drive. As it is a very small French town, there are no direct trains or buses. If you don’t have a rental car and would prefer a transfer directly from your hotel I would suggest a half-day tour that takes you to Giverny to visit Monet’s Gardens and where Van Gogh painted some of his last master pieces.
Here are some of the day-tours I would recommend:
The Palace of Versailles
Visiting Versailles is always a good idea – but do yourself a favor and buy your ticket in advance here. The crowds here are no joke! Once you make it through the inside of the palace however, you will have plenty of space outside to enjoy the gardens without the crowds.
Getting to Palace of Versailles from Paris
You can easily take a train directly from the Paris city to Versailles. Go to any Métro or RER station in Paris and buy a round trip fare to Versailles-Chantiers. From this station, it is about a 1 minute walk to the front gates of Versailles.
It is also possible to drive yourself if you already have a car (I wouldn’t rent a car just to make this trip). There are numerous parking garages a 5 – 10 minute walk to the palace. If you are not comfortable navigating the metro or the driving yourself, booking a group tour and transfer to Versailles is a good alternative. The tour will include the ticket to the palace and the gardens, the audio guide, as well as an airconditioned transfer to and from your hotel in Paris.
Reims & The Champagne Region
If you have some extra days in Paris, consider a day trip or even a few days to visit the Champagne region of France. This is truly a once in a lifetime experience for any wine or champagne-lover. There are many towns to explore, Champagne houses to visit, and views to be dazzled by. Read more about our experience driving the Champagne Region of France.
Getting to Reims & the Champagne Region from Paris
It is best to rent a car so that you have the flexibility to stop in small French towns along the way. This way you can visit as many or few champagne houses are you want. If you do not want to self-drive, you can also book day tours to Champagne that will leave and return to Paris.
Here are some of the day-tours I would recommend:
The Loire Valley
The Loire Valley of Paris, southwest of the city, provides an escape into the countryside with stunning castles and wines. It is the perfect place to visit if you want to tour more castles, but don’t have Germany on your itinerary.
Getting to the Loire Valley from Paris
The Loire Valley is about a 2 and a half hour drive from the center of Paris. There are no good train or bus routes that will easily take you to this region, therefore a car would be necessary.
If you don’t want to self-drive, the best option is to join a tour from Paris to the Loire Valley.
I hope that your trip to Paris is pure magic and you are able to see the warmth and friendliness that we have found in this city and its people. Whether its your first time, or your tenth time to the city, if you have any questions at all about what to do in Paris, drop me a comment below!
If you are planning an international trip, check out my international trip planning process for an easy checklist.
Looking for more Paris inspiration? You may also enjoy these posts:
- 16 Prettiest Streets in Paris & the History
- Driving the Champagne Region in France
- Where To Stay in Paris: The Best Arrondissements
- Spring in Paris: Where to Find the Best Blossoms
- Top 15 Things to do in Paris in the Winter
- Travel Smarter: My International Trip Planning Process