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  • Nancy Webb

Paris - What Not To Miss On Your First Visit!

Updated: Apr 22, 2023

"A walk about Paris will provide lessons in history, beauty, and in the point of life." Thomas Jefferson

Paris has a way of romancing her visitors. It begins with your first glimpse of the Eiffel Tower, then continues with strolls along the wide tree-lined avenues, and people-watching as you start your day with coffee and croissants at one of the many cafés.

You can’t help but be seduced by the city’s beauty. Each neighborhood will reveal her charms. The Latin Quarter is a labyrinth of medieval pedestrian streets and narrow alleyways. The fashionable Champs-Elysees is vibrant and oh-so-elegant. Montmartre brims with old-world village charm flaunting its Bohemian past.

As you are planning your Paris Itinerary, how do you decide what to do? There are famous places that everyone dreams about such as the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. However, in between partaking of the museums and monuments on your checklist, be sure to seek out the small surprise, like family-run bistros with handwritten menus; cobblestone lanes full of quaint boutiques, flowing fountains in secluded squares, and elegant tea salons where jewel-like pastries beckon from glass-covered pastry cases.

Paris casts a spell of enchantment in every hidden corner and at all the famous sites. To help with this, here is a list of some of the best things to do in Paris for every type of traveler. It will be challenging to visit everything on the list, so be sure to select the ones that speak to you as you create your Paris itinerary. The official Paris Tourist Office offers passes for discount tickets that could enable you to skip most of the lines.

"There are only two places in the world where we can live happy - at home and in Paris." Ernest Hemingway

Paris Landmarks: These sites can be experienced visually as you travel about the city as well as on an actual tour.

1. Eiffel Tower – View from the Trocadero Gardens across the Seine.

2. Walk along the Champs-Elysees – One of the most recognizable streets in the world.

3. Arc de Triomphe – Situated at the top of the Champs-Elysees – with one of the best views of Paris.

4. Île de la Cité – Small Island that is home to Notre Dame. It is the historic heart of Paris.

5. Pont Neuf – The oldest bridge in Paris. It connects the Right Bank with Ile de la Cite.

6. Nôtre-DameCathedral – One of the oldest and grandest Cathedrals in the world. On April 15, 2019, Notre Dame suffered a devasting fire and is closed for tours.

7. Sainte Chapelle. Another gorgeous cathedral with some of the best-stained glass in the world.

8. The Conciergerie. Located beside the Sainte Chapelle. This is the place where Maria Antoinette and others were imprisoned before being taken to Place de la Concorde to be executed.

9. Place de la Concorde. A large roundabout that is sandwiched between Tuileries Garden and Champs-Elysees. This was where King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette and Robespierre were executed by guillotine.

10. The Big Wheel on Place de la Concorde. From November – May a giant Ferris wheel with a 360 view of Paris.

11. Basilica Sacré-Coeur – The second most popular tourist church in Paris after Nôtre- Dame. If you are visiting Montmartre – as you should – it would be a mistake not to wander through the basilica and enjoy the view from its steps.

"Mona Lisa is the only beauty who went through history and retained her reputation." Will Rogers

Major Museums: Lines will be long – be sure to get there at opening, late afternoon, or prepurchase a line-skipping ticket.

1. The Louvre – Founded in 1793 and the largest in the world. Located along the Seine in the heart of Paris, it is home to some of the most iconic works of art in history, including the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Liberty Leading the People. It can take days to see the entire collection.

2. The Musée d'Orsay – Former grand railway station that was converted into a museum in 1986 to house the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. Think Van Gogh, Manet, Degas, Monet, Cézanne, Renoir and Gauguin.

3. The Musée Picasso – Housed in the 16th-century Hotel Sale, the building itself is almost worth the entrance fee. It contains the largest collection (over 5,000 pieces) of Picasso’s work.

4. The Pompidou Centre – Housed in a building that is an attraction in itself. One of the largest public collections of modern and contemporary art in Europe.

5. The Musée Rodin – Housed in a beautiful 18th-century mansion, the museum is dedicated to the work of French sculptor August Rodin, who is best known for his work The Thinker.

6. The Musée due Quai Branly – Opened in 2006 near the Eiffel Tower, the museum is devoted to “the arts and civilizations of Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas.

A section of the cycle of the Water Lilies at the L'Orangerie. A gift from Claude Monet to France given the day after the armistice of November 1, 1918.

7. L'Orangerie – Neoclassical building in 1852, that was initially constructed to protect the orange trees in the Tuileries. This smaller museum is known for both impressionist and post-impressionist art. The museum’s main attraction is a series of the water lilies paintings by Claude Money, which were designed to flow seamlessly around the curve of the walls. located in the Tuileries Gardens, between the Louvre and Place de la Concorde.

8. Paris Museum of Modern Art – Located in a converted Art Nouveau building, which opened in 1961. It houses an impressive collection of over 10,000 artistic creations from the 20th and 21st-century.

9. The Musée Marmottan – Housed in the former home and studio of famous painters such as Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Suzanne Valadon, the museum offers a rare glimpse into the bohemian lifestyle of last 19th and early-20th century Paris. Be sure to check out the basement with a great selection of the paintings by Monet.

10.The Musée Carnavalet – This museum is devoted to the history of Paris, and is housed in two adjoining mansions. The museum contains over 600,000 exhibits comprising paintings, drawings, sculptures, objets d’art, photographs, and archival documents, which chronicle the story of Paris from the Middle Ages to the present day.

Creating the Gardens of Versailles was a monumental task. Thousands of men, sometimes even entire regiments, took part in the project.

Day Trips from Paris: Consider touring these two sites outside the city by a combination of train/bike. I have personally taken multiple bike tours with Fat Tire Bike Tours. Your feet will thank you.

1. Palace of Versailles - Louis XIV built the largest palace (housing up to 20,000 people at a time) in Europe as the center of political power in France. The Palace is visited by millions each year. Biking in Versailles is the only way to take in the sheer magnitude of the 2,000 acres of manicured gardens, colorful flowerbeds, a forest of exotic trees, and an entire village built for Queen Marie Antoinette. Cycling tours also include skip-the-line access to the place, as well as a stop at a market to pick the perfect picnic on the grounds.

Monet's Water Lily garden is lovingly cared for by the Monet Foundation.

2. Monet’s Garden at Giverny – The soft, translucent light of the Seine valley has drawn artists to Normandy for centuries and it is here that Claude Monet made his home at Giverny. Many of his paintings were inspired by the garden he created, full of flowers like splashes of color on an artist’s palate. The garden and home can be toured all meticulously cared for by the Foundation Monet.

Parisian Experiences not to be missed: Most of these are obvious and can be slipped into between tours and other activities.

Take a break and get off your feet with a cruise on the Seine.

1. Paris Saint-Ouen Flea Market

2. Ultimate Street Food – visit a crepe stand

3. A breakfast of Croissants and Coffee at a neighborhood café

4. Evening Picnic at any Park

5. The light show of the Eiffel Tower

6. Macarons from Ladurée

7. Visit a French department store = Galeries Lafayette or Printemps. Both have rooftop restaurants with fabulous views.

8. French Pharmacy - Stock up on French Skin Care Products. Some of my favorite brands include Violette, Avene, Bioderma, Klorane, Homeoplasmine, Biafine, Nuxe, A313 Vitamin A Pommade, Sanoflore, Filorga, Caudalie, and Rene Furterer.

9. Moulin Rouge – Enjoy a night at a French cabaret in the heart of Montmartre.

10. Cruise on the Seine – boat tour, lunch, or dinner.

I have listed some of the landmarks, museums, day trips and Parisian experiences I have had during my 6 trips to Paris. Every time I go – I discover things to see and do on my next trip. It is my favorite place to visit on the Planet – I couldn’t live there as I always want it to be special – but now that the genie is out of the bottle – my goal is to visit once a year as long as I am traveling.

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