Museums, macarons and the Mona Lisa – city breaks to Paris are the crème de la crème of European escapes.
Paris can be known as the City of Love or the City of Lights, depending on what kind of holiday you’re after. Either way, the French capital is a world-renowned travel destination that captures visitors’ attention with its timeless charm. It’s not all about Emily – there’s something for everyone in Paris. Its architecture, history and romantic atmosphere score it a spot in the top 10 most-visited cities list every year.
Every street corner tells a story. From art to literature, fashion to film, Paris has inspired some of the greatest creative minds in history. It’s got museums like the iconic Louvre and Musée d'Orsay to shout about, and landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame Cathedral and the Arc de Triomphe. Stroll along the banks of the Seine River and through the charming neighbourhoods of Montmartre or Le Marais to take it all in. In summer, they even turn the riverbanks into an urban beach, complete with sand and deckchairs – who knew?
Top things to see and do
Culture vultures and history geeks are well looked after here. Your flight lands or you step off the Eurostar – what are the first things you should do?
Eiffel Tower: A classic. Finished in 1889, this iron lattice tower offers unreal views of the city from its observation decks. It took just over two years to build and was initially only intended to be a temporary structure for the World's Fair.
Louvre Museum: It’s the world's largest art museum and is home to Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo sculpture – just a couple of must-sees.
Notre-Dame Cathedral: A masterpiece of Gothic architecture, the Notre-Dame Cathedral is a symbol of Paris. It’s over 850 years old and the likes of Napoleon were crowned here.
Top tip – plan your visits in advance and book skip-the-line tickets to avoid long queues. Comfortable shoes are also a win for full days of walking and you can book a guided tour experience, so all the hard work and planning is done for you.
The non-touristy pick
Instead of the Eiffel Tower, visit Belleville in search of its street art. Paris' art scene goes way beyond gallery walls and the best is in the east of the city in Belleville, Oberkampf and Ménilmontant.
Top places to visit
While there are loads of sights to tick off while you’re in Paris, sometimes an afternoon just calls for a wander and spontaneous explore. Pick from a few neighbourhoods and nosy around the streets to see what you can find.
On a hill overlooking Paris, Montmartre is a haven for artists and creatives. Explore the narrow cobblestone streets and soak up the bohemian atmosphere that inspired greats like Picasso and Van Gogh. Don't miss the iconic Sacré-Coeur Basilica.
This historic neighbourhood is known for its charming architecture, trendy boutiques and a vibrant LGBTQ scene. Check out the Musée Carnavalet to learn about the history of Paris and indulge in some tasty falafel from the local eateries.
If you're seeking sophistication and elegance, Saint-Germain-des-Prés is the place to be. This upscale neighbourhood is all about its literary and artistic legacy. Walk along the iconic Boulevard Saint-Germain and take in the intellectual vibes of famous cafes like Café de Flore and Les Deux Magots.
Events and festivals
Want to see a different side to the city? Plan your break to cross over with a local cultural festival or event.
What: a national holiday that celebrates the storming of the Bastille in Paris that marked the beginning of the French Revolution
Where: Various venues across Paris
When: July 14th
Key highlights: Military parade, fireworks at the Eiffel Tower, parties and concerts in the streets
What: a four-week festival that turns Paris’ waterside spots into free beach resorts
Where: The Seine River between Pont Neuf and Pont de Sully bridges and Bassin de la Villette
Key highlights: Deckchairs set up on the sand, sandcastle building competitions, watersports, volleyball matches and an open-air cinema
Paris Fashion Week
What: a series of designer fashion shows held twice a year to showcase annual spring/summer and autumn/winter collections
Where: Various venues in the city
When: February-March and September-October
Key highlights: Fashion shows of renowned designers, glamorous parties and the chance to spot the latest trends
What: Seasonal stalls that pop up all over the city during the festive season – find out more.
Where: Champs-Elysées, Montmartre and other locations throughout the city
Key highlights: Festive atmosphere, mulled wine, traditional crafts and delicious seasonal treats
Food and drink
Paris is a dining delight for foodies. The city’s famous for its world-class French cuisine, served up in Michelin-starred restaurants right through to charming local bistros. And let’s not forget the wine. The French sure know how to bottle up the best stuff. Take your pick from Champagne, a Bordeaux or a glass of Burgundy.
You’ll find authentic French classics, such as coq au vin and bouillabaisse, all over the city. But no trip to Paris is complete without a visit to the local food markets – this is how you do French food on a budget. These bustling hubs invite you to explore fresh produce, sample artisanal cheeses and dive into delicious pastries.
Paris is also known for certain famous foods that are an absolute must-try. That includes the iconic croissants and pain au chocolat for breakfast, escargots and foie gras for lunch and divine macarons for dessert. Fresh baguettes stuffed full of ham and cheese are perfect for a bite on the go, and a hot crêpe always goes down a treat. Bon appetit!
Top tip – buying produce in the place it's made always gets you the best price. Leave a bit of room in your suitcase for a couple of bottles of your favourite red and a box of macarons – your family and friends don’t need to know…
"I was there for the Rugby World Cup and went to this epic alpine restaurant called 'Le Plomb du Cantal Jolivet' – very off the beaten path and away from tourist central." – Abi Devaney
We’re talking about a global fashion capital, here. From renowned luxury brands to unique department stores and bustling flea markets, shopaholics are spoilt for choice in Paris. So, we've narrowed down the best shopping spots for you.
Chanel, Louis Vuitton and Dior were all born and bred here – this is fashion heaven, darling. Spend your days shopping the high-end boutiques, dotted around the glamourous Champs Élysées.
Galeries Lafayette is like Paris’ Harrods – the building itself is as important as the shops inside. Over 100 brands sit under its glass-domed roof and the food court’s on hand to keep you going. Le Bon Marché is another iconic department store, also showcasing a mix of designer brands, cosmetics and homeware.
If you're after unique and vintage finds, Paris's flea markets are where it’s at. The Marché aux Puces de Saint-Ouen has around 3,000 different vendors flogging antiques, vintage clothing and quirky collectibles if you’ve got an eye for one-of-a-kind pieces. Don’t be afraid to bargain here – it’s all part of the fun.
Top tip – for the best deals, neighbourhoods like Le Marais and Montmartre are known for their eclectic mix of trendy boutiques and independent designers. Here, you can rummage for unique fashion finds but at more affordable prices.
Museums and art galleries
If you’re going to find your inner artiste anywhere, it’s in Paris. And you don’t need to be into your brush strokes to have heard of the Mona Lisa. Check out some of the top museums and galleries to stop by in the city…
The Musée d'Orsay is a converted railway station that displays an extensive collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist artwork. Heard of Vincent van Gogh's ‘Starry Night Over the Rhone’ and Edouard Manet's ‘Olympia’ paintings? We thought so… It’s also got sculptures and decorative arts to mix it up a bit.
The Centre Pompidou is known for its distinctive exposed pipes and colourful outside. Inside, visitors can explore the National Museum of Modern Art, which boasts an impressive collection of contemporary art from the 20th and 21st centuries. Highlights include works by artists Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dalí and Henri Matisse – that’s quite the line-up.
In a beautiful mansion and surrounded by a peaceful garden, the Musée Rodin is dedicated to the works of the famous sculptor Auguste Rodin. You can admire iconic sculptures like ‘The Thinker’ and ‘The Kiss’ here. The museum also showcases Rodin's drawings, photographs and letters so you can learn more about his creative process.
Top tip – if you can, visit during weekdays or in the morning, as these times are generally less crowded.
Picks that don't cost a penny
The Museum of Modern Art is one of Paris' many free museums – there's even a free multilingual app you can download to guide you round.
You best believe that the City of Lights shines bright well into the evening. Happy Hour is just called ‘afterwork’ here, so keep an eye out for any signs to score yourself a deal on drinks. Café Marly is an iconic venue with a rather exclusive location, right next to the Louvre. The prices are higher here but it’s a special spot for a cocktail or two. To drink in the surroundings, head to the Les Ombres restaurant’s terrace bar – it’s got a completely unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. For dancing, it’s all about L’Arc on the Champs Élysées. It stays open until around 6am and is a hot spot with some celebs.
If you’re after more of a chilled one, take a seat for one of Paris’ numerous concerts, cabarets and shows. The Palais Garnier venue puts on ballet, the Opéra Bastille belts out classical music recitals or the Palais des Sports also has concerts and theatre shows. You can’t beat the sequins and show-stopping performances at Moulin Rouge, though.
Want to tick off as many sights as possible or just pick a pace that suits you? Paris is a super accessible city and there are plenty of ways to get around.
The Paris Metro system is a popular pick for locals and tourists. With its extensive network of lines, it provides easy access to all the major attractions and neighbourhoods around the city.
You’ll need to buy a ticket or a travel pass in advance. Single-use tickets can be bought at the stations' ticket machines or at any Metro station's ticket office. But, if you plan to use public transport throughout your stay, it’s easier and better value to get a Paris Visite travel pass, which offers unlimited travel on the Metro, buses and RER trains. Remember to always keep hold of your ticket, as you'll need it to exit the station.
If you prefer to get around a bit quicker, taxis are available around Paris. Flag one down as it’s passing by, or you can find them at designated taxi stands. If you’re in a large group or have heavy luggage with you, this pick might be a bit comfier.
Just so you know, taxis in Paris operate on a meter system, so make sure the driver starts the meter at the beginning of your journey. Unless you’re confident in your French, we also recommend you write down the address of your destination on a bit of paper to show the driver, just in case there are any communication issues.
For the eco-conscious traveller or those looking for a unique way to explore the city, Paris offers various bike sharing programs, like Vélib' and Lime. They have stations scattered across the city, where you can pick up and drop off rental bikes. The systems are pretty easy to use, too. Download the app and you can pay, unlock and lock the bike online. It only takes around two hours to walk from the western outskirts over to the east, so exploring Paris by bike’s even quicker.