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The Top 10 Things To Do In Paris For First – Timers

Paris, the iconic city of love, art, and fashion, captures the hearts of millions of visitors every year. As a first-timer in Paris, you may feel overwhelmed with endless sites to see, foods to try, and experiences to be had. This curated guide on the top 10 things to do will help you make the most of your Parisian adventure!

Paris, the iconic city of love, art, and fashion, captures the hearts of millions of visitors every year. As a first-timer in Paris, you may feel overwhelmed with endless sites to see, foods to try, and experiences to be had. This curated guide on the top 10 things to do will help you make the most of your Parisian adventure! From strolling along picture-perfect neighborhoods and exploring opulent palaces to indulging in buttery croissants at a local patisserie or marveling at world-famous artworks, there are myriads of ways to create everlasting memories in the City of Lights. Follow this itinerary to not miss the best that Paris has to offer on your maiden trip.

1. Wander Around the Charming Montmartre Neighborhood

Perched atop a steep hill in northern Paris, Montmartre exudes old-world Parisian charm with its winding cobblestone streets, vine-covered buildings, quirky art studios, cafés, and magnificent Sacré-Cœur basilica crowning its summit.

Once home to renowned artists like Picasso, Dalí, Van Gogh, and Renoir, Montmartre has retained its bohemian ambience from 19th century Paris when it was the hub of avant-garde art and culture.

  • Start your walk at the foot of Montmartre and stop by the iconic Moulin Rouge cabaret theater. Recognizable by its red windmill, it was the birthplace of the provocative can-can dance in the 1890s!
  • Weave your way up the hill through Place du Tertre square, dotted with portrait artists and filled with artistic flair.
  • Further up, visit the Montmartre Museum inside a 17th-century manor for an intriguing glimpse into the area’s radical history.
  • At the summit, behold the magnificent Basilique du Sacré-Cœur perched atop the butte. Meander through its Byzantine-style interior and climb up 300+ steps to the dome for a breathtaking panorama of Paris.
  • End your Montmartre walk with a relaxing break at one of its many cafés and bistros while soaking in the unparalleled ambience.

With its old-world vibe, artistic heritage, and postcard-perfect city views, an aimless stroll through Montmartre is undoubtedly one of the best things to do in Paris for first-timers!

2. Marvel at the Grandeur of Notre-Dame Cathedral

The medieval Catholic cathedral Notre-Dame de Paris needs no introduction. This feat of French Gothic architecture has been made globally famous by Victor Hugo's 1831 novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Although the recent devastating fire damaged parts of the 850-year-old cathedral, its grandeur remains intact. Here is how to experience Notre-Dame's architectural magnificence:

  • Start by approaching the cathedral from Ile de la Cite island. Pause to admire its awe-
    inspiring façade flanked by twin bell towers.
  • Walk around to appreciate intricate details like flying buttresses, gargoyles, and sculpted portals decorated with biblical figures.
  • Head inside to marvel at its cavernous interior with vaulted ceilings, pointed arches, stunning stained-glass rose windows, and sculptures.
  • Visit the archaeological crypt beneath Notre-Dame containing ruins dating from Gallo- Roman times to 19th century.
  • Although you cannot currently access the towers, the views of river Seine and Paris cityscape from front plaza are just as impressive.

As restoration work continues for a few more years, admiring Notre-Dame's architectural brilliance from the outside remains an awe-inspiring experience for first-timers in Paris.

3. Travel Back in Time at Palace of Versailles

No trip to Paris is complete without a day-trip to the flamboyant 17th-century royal residence - the Palace of Versailles. Located just 12 miles outside the city, this UNESCO World Heritage Site transports you to the opulent world of French royalty through its sheer extravagance.

Although the recent devastating fire damaged parts of the 850-year-old cathedral, its grandeur remains intact. Here is how to experience Notre-Dame's architectural magnificence:

  • Start with the Grand Apartments where King Louis XIV and his successors lived amidst gold-gilded rooms and ostentatious décor.
  • The glittering 240m long Hall of Mirrors is undoubtedly the palace’s pièce de résistance, featuring 17 giant arched mirrors facing an equal number of windows overlooking the gardens.
  • Next, wander through the sprawling geometrically designed Gardens with ornate fountains and sculptures for a glimpse of how royals amused themselves.
  • Visit Marie Antoinette’s countryside-inspired Hameau de la Reine – an enchanting mock-village and pastoral escape within palace grounds.

Versailles practically defined ostentatious regal living in 17th-18th century Europe. And no trip to Paris is truly complete until you marvel at this ultimate royal extravaganza!

4. Indulge in Sweet and Savory French Pastries

Parisians take their breakfast pastries very seriously. So your Paris trip merits starting the day by indulging in some sweet and savory viennoiseries native to France. Here are top picks for the best patisseries in Paris:

  • Ladurée: Favored by royalty and celebrities, Ladurée’s melt-in-your-mouth macarons in flavors like salted caramel, pistachio, vanilla, or chocolate are simply to die for.
  • Pierre Hermé: The celebrated pâtissier pioneered unique macaron flavors like Ispahan (rose, lychee, raspberry) or Mogador (passionfruit, milk chocolate) that have reached cult status.
  • Du Pain et des Idées: Their escargot-shaped brioche aux raisins (raisin bread) is perfect alongside café au lait for a quintessential French breakfast.
  • Poilâne: Poilâne’s signature large, round sourdough loaves baked in a wood-fired oven are perfect for tearing off chunks and eating with butter and jam.

Alternatively, simply stop by your neighborhood boulangerie or pâtisserie, easily identifiable by their displays of baguettes, croissants, tarts, and éclairs. Choosing between pain au chocolat and chausson aux pommes for breakfast while taking in the aroma of freshly baked goods is an irreplaceable Parisian experience!

5. Things To Do In Paris wouldn't be complete without a Picnic by the Eiffel Tower

No trip to Paris is complete without a day-trip to the flamboyant 17th-century royal residence - the Palace of Versailles. Located just 12 miles outside the city, this UNESCO World Heritage Site transports you to the opulent world of French royalty through its sheer extravagance.

Although the recent devastating fire damaged parts of the 850-year-old cathedral, its grandeur remains intact. Here is how to experience Notre-Dame's architectural magnificence:

  • On the banks of Seine river with the Pont d’Iéna bridge in the background
  • Under shady trees in Champs de Mars facing Eiffel Tower
  • Near Trocadéro Gardens for impressive views of the glittering Eiffel Tower at night

You’ll be amazed at how a simple meal underneath the Iron Lady feels like the quintessential French experience!

6. Stroll Down Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Every first-timer in Paris dreams of strutting down Avenue des Champs-Élysées, Paris’ iconic boulevard synonymous with luxury retail, vibrant nightlife and the annual Bastille Day celebrations.

Often called “the world’s most beautiful avenue”, Champs-Élysées stretches 1.2 miles from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe. A leisurely stroll takes you past:

  • Luxury flagship stores of brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Sephora alongside car showrooms like Peugeot or Citroen
  • Historic venues like the Grand Palais exhibition hall and Petit Palais art museum
  • Sidewalk cafés perfect for people-watching
  • L’Arc de Triomphe at the western terminus, from where 12 grand avenues radiate across Paris

No Paris trip is complete without experiencing the energy, glamor and allure that Champs-Élysées infuses into the city!

7. Find Hidden Gems in Le Marais District

For an off-the-beaten path Parisian neighborhood abundant with trendy boutiques, galleries, and cafés, head to Le Marais. Centered on Place des Vosges - Paris's oldest planned square, Le Marais exudes understated charm with something to discover around every corner.

  • Wander through Place des Vosges with its arcaded walkways, red brick buildings, and quaint gardens
  • Find street art and graffiti in the hipster Rue Denoyez
  • See the Maison de Victor Hugo where the famous author wrote Les Misérables
  • Unearth cool concept stores, artisan workshops, and cafés in the winding backstreets
  • Stop for couscous, falafel, pastries or coffee in the neighborhood’s many ethnic eateries

With its trendy bohemian vibe alongside old-world vestiges, no first Paris trip is complete without getting lost in Le Marais’ charming streets!

8. Cruise Along the River Seine

What better way to acquaint yourself with Paris’ magnificent cityscape than gliding along the River Seine on a sightseeing cruise? From the open upper deck of a river boat, you’ll be treated to picture-postcard views of Parisian landmarks like:

  • Notre-Dame Cathedral: Gaze upon the awe-inspiring 12th-century Gothic cathedral on Île de la Cité island
  • Musée d’Orsay: Marvel at the former railway station transformed into an art museum displaying Monets, Van Goghs and Renoirs
  • Louvre Museum: Spot IM Pei’s iconic glass Louvre Pyramid beckoning visitors to the world’s largest art museum
  • Pont Alexandre III bridge: Admire Paris’ most ornate bridge featuring golden cherubs, nymphs and lamps
  • Grand Palais: Feast your eyes on the magnificent Beaux-Arts style exhibition hall with huge glass roof

Gliding leisurely along River Seine through the heart of Paris, while iconic structures unfold around you is an unmissable experience for first-timers!

9. See Masterpieces at the Louvre Museum

No Paris trip is complete without visiting the Louvre Museum, the world’s largest and most-visited art museum located in a former royal palace. With over 38,000 artifacts and artwork spanning millennia, it can be overwhelming to navigate for first-timers.

Instead, focus on the must-sees here with this helpful Louvre cheat sheet:

  • Mona Lisa: Da Vinci’s beguiling portrait behind bulletproof glass requires some patience to see up-close
  • Venus de Milo: Witness the epitome of feminine grace in this iconic Greek sculpture
  • Winged Victory of Samothrace: Marvel at the Hellenistic marble statue depicting the Greek goddess Nike
  • Liberty Leading the People: Eugene Delacroix’s personification of the French Revolution spirit
  • The Raft of the Medusa: An epic 19th-century painting by Théodore Géricault showcasing human struggle

With this checklist, you’ll know exactly what not to miss at the Louvre Museum as a first-timer, without feeling lost in its vastness!

10. Wander Through Père Lachaise Cemetery

It may seem strange to visit a cemetery on your first Paris trip, but Père Lachaise is worth it for the ornately sculpted tombs of many iconic names. Paris’ largest cemetery is not only a place of rest but also a museum of sculpture and history, where visitors pay respects to famous individuals like Oscar Wilde and Jim Morrison.

Exploring Père Lachaise offers a unique experience as you delve into the lives of historical figures and appreciate the artistry of their final resting places. Visitors often leave mementos or notes at tombs, engaging in a silent conversation with history and the legacies of those who shaped our world.

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