Paris is home to some of the world’s most iconic (and most visited attractions), as well as a charm that’s been captivating travelers, artists and lovers for centuries. Take a virtual walk through the City of Light with us as we check out some of the city’s headliners and hidden gems.
While Notre Dame ranks as the most visited cathedral in Paris, there’s another that’s just as dazzling. There’s nothing that can prepare you for the sight as you step inside Sainte-Chapelle on a sunny day, when light pours through the wall-to-wall stained glass (some of the oldest in Paris). Some 70 percent of the glass is original, dating back to the mid-1200s.
More than 130 museums lie within the Paris city limits, but none are quite so celebrated as the Louvre. This massive complex – among the most-visited museums in the world – houses a collection of tens of thousands of pieces. It’s said that if you spend eight hours a day looking at each piece on display for one minute, it would take you 75 days to see them all.
The Sacré-Cœur Basilica towers over the steep quarter of Montmartre, a favorite neighborhood among artists. The charming neighborhood offers the best views of the city from the top of the hill, and cobbled alleys lined with souvenir shops and historic cafes.
No trip to Paris would be complete without a stop (or two, or three) at a patisserie. These sugar-fueled bakeries cook up a whole host of sweet indulgences, perhaps none quite as iconic and colorful as the macaron. You can even find them at McDonald’s (but we wouldn’t recommend it).
Historic cafés dot the streets of Paris, establishments that have hosted the likes of Pablo Picasso, Simone de Beauvoir, Henri Matisse and Vladimir Nabokov. The experience of sipping a coffee (alongside a croissant or tartine) isn’t really about the coffee itself, but about people watching.
You don’t have to step foot inside a museum to enjoy works of art in Paris. The city has street art installations and murals in all sorts of places. Just outside the Centre Pompidou, you’ll find the whimsical Stravinsky fountain, filled with colorful sculptures of elephants, snakes and musical notes.
Photo courtesy of iStock / DaLiu
The most colorful street in Paris
Rue Crémieux, one of the most Instagrammed streets in Paris, attracts photographers to the 12th arrondissement with its pastel-hued, shutter-framed houses, many with vines creeping up the facades. The street is named after Adolphe Crémieux, a human rights lawyer who defended the Jewish community of France.
If you want to enjoy a sunny day in Paris like a local, head to Butte Chaumont, one of the city’s largest public parks. Built in 1863 on the site of a former gypsum quarry, the 61-acre green space boasts a puppet theater, waterfalls, walking paths and a swan-filled lake.
The building that houses the Musée d’Orsay is as impressive as the collection of impressionist and post-impressionist works held within. The structure is a beautifully restored Belle Époque train station. The fifth floor clock face doubles as a window and popular photography spot.
Those who’ve only seen photos of Paris might not realize the city has a modern downtown skyline. La Défense, the city’s business district is home to the tallest towers in France, as well as some 60 works of public art along the central esplanade.
To see the darker side of the City of Light, head into the underground tunnel system lined with skulls and bones. This series of disused quarry tunnels were converted into catacombs in 1810 to help solve the city’s problem with overcrowded cemeteries.
One of the most charming architectural features of Paris are its series of glass-roofed covered passages, and galleries, where Parisians and visitors alike go to shop and dine. There are about 20 of them near Grands Boulevards; Passage des Panoramas, the oldest, dates back to 1799.
Paris has become a melting pot of cultures over the last decades, and nowhere is this more evident than in La Chapelle. Take a walk through this off-the-beaten-path neighborhood in the 10th arrondissement, and you’re more likely to hear Tamil being spoken than French. La Chapelle is home to a thriving Sri Lankan and South Indian community.
The Jardin du Luxembourg comprises 57 acres of French and English gardens dotted with sculptures, lawns, playgrounds and fountains. It’s one of the city’s most beloved free attractions – a perfect place to while away an afternoon.
The sheer volume of architectural masterpieces in Paris can be overwhelming. Among the most impressive is the Grand Palais, built for the 1900 Exposition Universelle. The structure is topped with an Art Nouveau glass roof, weighing in at more than 9 tons.
As temperatures warm up each summer, the banks of the Seine and La Villette Canal transform into a leisurely seaside resort, complete with beach sand, lawn chairs, umbrellas, palm trees and swimming pools. The free Paris Plages event includes a whole lineup of concerts and activities, in addition to the pop-up beaches.
Paris is well known as a shopper’s paradise, and Galeries Lafayette has been a retail destination for more than 120 years. The neo-byzantine dome was added in 1912 and remains one of the building’s most notable features. Come during the holiday season to see the department store decked out in Christmas cheer.
There’s a lot to love about visiting Paris in the winter, not least of which are the traditional Christmas markets that start popping up around the city in November. Besides shopping the markets, seasonal visitors can ice skate inside the Grand Palais or on the rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette.