“Paris is not a city; it’s a world.” Who are we to argue with King Francis I? Credit: Shutterstock

Things to do in Paris

See the world through rose-tinted glasses in a city bustling with bistros, culture and romance

Published 04/01/2021 by Lisa Davidsson Weiertz

Oh, la la! There truly is no place like Paris. Stroll down leafy boulevards, people-watch by the Seine or sip on un café in Montmartre in the city that has served as muse to some of the greatest artists in modern history. 

Apart from its dreamy architecture and quaint streets that were featured prominently in “Emily in Paris,” it’s the rich history and joie de vivre exuding from its 20 arrondissements that truly sets Paris apart. The City of Love is for all the senses, making it a destination to return to again and again. 

We guide you on how to make the most of your Paris city break and cover where you should eat, play, and stay during your time in the French capital. Find out what things to do in Paris to make the most out of your stay. From iconic activities to under-the-radar ideas, we’ve got your Paris journey covered, regardless if it’s your first or 10th time in the French capital. From the best restaurants to the hippest museums to local hidden gems, you’ll discover a new side of Paris with every visit as long as you’re ready to go along with the ride. 

Paris

Eat

Paris is a moveable feast. The capital is home to some of the most prestigious restaurants in the world—second only to Tokyo when it comes to Michelin-starred eateries—including the iconic Guy Savoy. Every street corner seems to host mouthwatering boulangeries, and don’t even get us started on those French cheeses and wines! We’ve skipped the usual flavors to give you something a bit out of the ordinary here.

Check out Café de L’Industrie, a traditional brasserie that serves classic French cuisine amid checkered floors and a colorful interior. Start with their cheese platter and follow with the duck leg confit served with honey sauce and potatoes sautéed in duck fat. 

For something sexy, book a table at Datsha Underground in the city’s hip Marais district. This restaurant is all about elevating the sensory experiences of their clientele. The menu is small but tastefully curated (no pun intended). What about sampling a raw beef tartare with tarama and red wine shallot caviar? Sit down by the marble tables and let their culinary treats, atmospheric setting and custom made electronic tunes sweep you away, trust us, you don’t want to miss this one. 

For a taste of Japan in France, head to award-winning Kodawari Yokocho, which resembles a traditional Tokyo fish market. Paris is famous for its café culture and patisseries, so explore the Clignancourt area for everything from pastries to charcuterie to fine dining. 

What would Paris be without a place to get the perfect pastry and café?Head to Chambelland in the 11th arrondissement. Savor a flaky raspberry tartlet or a bite-sized chouquette as you watch the stylish people stroll by. The bakery’s secret: Everything is gluten-free! 

For something new and modern, make way to the French Heritage site Hotel de la Marine’s swanky restaurant MIMOSA. Led by two-star chef Jean-François Piège, his latest success pays homage to Mediterranean cuisine and is a must for seafood lovers. On top of the food experience, the 1970s-chic inspired decor (with a growing tree inside!) is worth the visit alone. Enormous windows let in the light making the atmosphere match the sunny menu boasting plenty of seafood options, from lobster to octopus. Or what about trying MIMOSA’s fresh bass cooked with scales in a wood fire oven, topped with fennel and a lemon emulsion? Don’t forget to add this one to your Paris list! 

Play

Paris is one of the most famous and beloved cities in the world, recognisable by its historic landmarks. These landmarks, many of which have been around for hundreds of years, have withstood the test of time—RIP Notre-Dame de Paris—and are examples of Paris’ rich past. They make a trip to Paris exciting, especially if it’s your first time. 

Most famous of them all is undeniably the Eiffel Tower, which can be spotted from most vantage points in the city and lights up the Paris skyline at night. Engineer Gustave Eiffel designed the wrought-iron Eiffel Tower, which opened to boisterous applause and wonder at the 1889 Exposition Universelle. The Eiffel Tower quickly became an iconic monument and a symbol of Paris that today houses stores, brasseries and, of course, next-level views of the capital. 

Today, there are lifts that will take you straight to the top but the very first visitors had to take 1,710 steps to reach the peak! Make sure to stop by every floor as they all offer unique views and facilities, from transparent floors to macaroon bars to a Michelin-starred restaurant. Toast to making it to the top by visiting the Champagne bar in what was previously Effiel’s very own office. 

Granted, you need days to see everything the Louvre museum has to offer. Let us assure you, there’s much more to this institution that houses some of the most important artworks of all time than just the Mona-Lisa and Venus de Milo. There’s a reason why the Louvre is the most visited museum in the whole world. The former Renaissance palace, with 800 years of history, in the heart of Paris, makes for a perfect setting to get your culture fix. 

Even if you’re not an art fan, it’s worth heading here for the scenery and the Louvre Pyramid alone. The latter, crafted to the same dimension and proportion as the Great Pyramid of Giza, is made out of glass and serves as the main entrance. It’s also located next to the former royal gardens, Tuileries Gardens. Once a playground for the Parisian elite, it has become a public oasis that sees teeming crowds in the spring and summer who stroll through its manicured lawns and sit on a bench to people watch or read a book. 

Another thing to do in Paris is taking a boat ride on the River Seine. The river flows through the city making for excellent boating opportunities and a new perspective on Paris! The river has impressed many artists, including Monet and Renoir, and is an important resource for the city. Admire the architecture of the UNESCO World Heritage–listed Left and the Right Bank, including breathtaking bridges, and make sure to stop by the famous green book stalls on the way. 

Speaking of bridges, there’s more than a dozen of them connecting the two sides of the city but the Pont Neuf is the most famous and also the city’s oldest bridge (circa 1607). For something more ornate, make your way to the Beaux Arts Pont Alexandre III and admire its sculptures. There’s also plenty of affordable and romantic Seine river cruises that you can embark on for a cozy evening or even a proposal. 

Cobbled alleyways, artistic stores and beautiful brasseries​​⁠—the city’s hilly 18th district fulfils all the Parisian cliches in the best possible way. Montmartre has long been connected to nightlife and a bohemian lifestyle, fueled by the painters who’ve lived here and the can-can club Moulin Rouge. If you’re less of a night owl, there’s lots to see around here. Start at the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a white Roman Catholic Church that is just as spectacular to look at as the views it provides. The building is located at the highest point in Paris and offers epic sunsets over the City of Light. Just around the corner is the idyllic Place du Tertre, a square where artists create their masterpieces (you can often see the Place itself depicted in the paintings) and there’s plenty of bohemian cafes and bars to stop for refreshments. Like most quaint areas, it’s sound advice to ditch the map and allow yourself to get lost in the alleyways. Montmartre is bursting with surprises and you never know who you’ll meet around the corner, so make sure to have your camera or smartphone handy! 

Now you’ve seen the bird’s eye view of Paris from the Eiffel Tower and enjoyed it from the riverside, it’s time to step underground and discover what’s underneath it all. The eerie Parisian catacombs under the 14th district are a huge draw for visitors. Make sure to pack a scarf and comfy shoes, however, as it can get a bit drafty underground and the full tour is a bit of a trek! You’ll get rewarded with Medieval alleyways. This is not for the faint of heart, however—around 6 million people have been buried under what is now central Paris!

Under-the-radar activities in Paris 

Now that we’ve covered the main attractions in Paris, let’s clue you in on some under-the-radar activities to enjoy in the city. Walk along the Promenade Plantée—an elevated railway track that became a linear park in 1969—which leads from Opéra Bastille to Boulevard Périphérique. For more greenery, chill with the Parisians in whimsical Parc des Buttes Chaumont. While there, stop by the bustling Rosa Bonheur, a popular boite housed in a former guinguette in the middle of the park. 

We know: you’ve already been to The Louvre and the Musée D’Orsay. If you only visit one museum this time around make it the kooky and stylish Palais de Tokyo, the largest center for contemporary art in Europe. Admire works from up-and-coming artists and cutting-edge exhibitions. 

Looking for a nightcap? Pop into Café A by Canal Saint Martin (after exploring the canals made famous in Amélie) for live jazz in a former monastery. Don’t miss Vignes du Clos Montmartre, an inner-city vineyard. If you’re lucky you can time it with their annual harvesting party!

Stay

Maison Souquet

Make all your Montmartre fantasies come true in the Hotel Maison Souquet, a converted townhouse oozing with La Belle Epoque imagery, located a stone’s throw from the lively Pigalle area. Each suite has been lovingly and uniquely decorated with oriental touches and rooms boast private bathtubs. As if that weren’t enough, there’s a spa with a hammam and swimming pool that can be booked for private use. Walk around the corner and you’ll find great restaurants and cafes, perfect for that romantic dinner. 

Little Palace Hotel
This charming, family-run, four-star hotel is located in the heart of Paris next to the leafy and quiet Square des Arts et Métiers. The Marais hotel has been around since 1911 and is housed in a Haussmann building that was recently renovated and modernized. The hotel boasts classically Parisian wrought iron balconies and Art Deco details throughout. Enjoy a continental breakfast served with fresh croissants, naturalement.

Paris

Hotel des Grands Boulevards 
Built on a garden, the 50-room Hotel des Grands Boulevards is housed in an 18th-century building. The romantic hotel’s four-poster beds feature dreamy pastel canopies tied with silk ribbons. The restaurant serves French-Italian country cooking from chef Giovanni Passerini.