I fell in love with Paris after exploring the city for 6 days. After lots of research and reflection, I’ve put together a list of 15 things you absolutely can’t miss while in Paris. This list was crafted for anyone visiting Paris for the first time, whether you’re traveling solo or with your partner or friends. It’s for anyone who loves seeing the highlights but wants to skip the tourist traps. Paris is truly magical, and I want everyone to experience the art, cuisine, culture, and beauty!
1. Visit Sainte-Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is the most gorgeous church I’ve seen, and I’ve been to lots of churches throughout Europe! The stained glass is absolutely breathtaking, and I love the gothic style and explosion of color. Even if I only had a day in Paris, Sainte-Chapelle would be first on my list. This is one of my favorite solo travel experiences to date.
You’ll need to reserve a ticket online, and I recommend booking through GetYourGuide or through the official website. As of December 2022, the tickets are about $12 per person. And remember, “skip the line” tickets mean that you’ll skip the ticket booth line, not the line to enter the church! Either way, buying your ticket in advance saves so much time, so I highly recommend it. And yes, Sainte-Chapelle is included in the Paris Pass, if you choose to purchase one.
2. Visit Arc de Triomphe
Arc de Triomphe offers my favorite panoramic view of Paris, and it’s something you truly can’t miss while in this magical city. Not only can you walk around it, but you can also buy tickets to see the view from the top of the Arc. Click here for my blog post with everything you need to know before visiting Arc de Triomphe. These are all things that I genuinely find useful, especially after visiting myself.
3. See the Eiffel Tower at Sunset
The Eiffel Tower is beautiful any time of day, but there’s something so special about seeing it sparkle at night. It’s the perfect spot to bring your dinner, hang out in the grass, and people watch. It’s such an incredible atmosphere, and it’s something everything should have on their bucket list. It’s hard to choose a Paris “favorite,” but if I only had a day in Paris, this would be on my list.
You can pay to climb up the Eiffel Tower, but I wasn’t interested because the view is amazing from the ground. The history’s funny because many French people thought the Eiffel Tower was really ugly back in the day. William Morris (a famous designer in the 1870s) frequented the Eiffel Tower and said, “this is the only place in the city where I can look out and avoid seeing this hideous thing.” It’s ironic how famous of a landmark it’s become, although it was supposed to be a temporary display.
4. Book a Macaron Baking Class
As a solo traveler, I always book a few scheduled activities. It’s a great way to socialize while traveling alone, and it gives you a chance to learn from locals and to meet like-minded people. I booked a macaron baking class through Airbnb Experiences, and we made macarons (from scratch) with a French baker! We chose our own macaron flavors and colors, and the chef emailed us the recipe, so now I can attempt them at home!
5. Walk Down Rue Cler
Rue Cler is arguably the most famous market street in Paris. It’s lined with sidewalk cafes, boulangeries (French bakeries), markets, and restaurants. When I picture Paris… this street fits the perfect image. It’s a great spot to grab lunch or dessert and people watch. Rue Cler is so iconic and pretty that it almost doesn’t feel real. Here’s an extensive list of shops on Rue Cler. Some of my favorite photos and memories from Paris are on this street. It’s also less than a 15 minute walk from the Eiffel Tower.
6. Visit Domaine National de Palau’s Royal
This is another iconic photo spot near the Louvre. Palais Royal was built in 1633, and it was home to royal families before the Palace of Versailles was built. The statues, garden, fountain, and architecture have a contemporary and fancy feel to them. You’d probably recognize the 260 black and white columns, since they’ve become one of the symbols of Paris.
I walked through here after visiting the Louvre, and it’s the perfect spot to hangout for a bit. The garden is beautiful, and it has a very peaceful feeling.
7. Visit the Louvre
The most famous museum in Paris, but not my favorite. You should still visit to see the Mona Lisa, and the museum itself is grand and beautiful. I’m glad I visited the Louvre, but if I could do it over, I’d spend less time here. The museum is made up of three wings, and the most famous paintings are in the Denon Wing. There are 4 entrances into the Louvre, and the most crowded is at the glass pyramid. The other 3 entrances are pretty much guaranteed to have shorter lines.
I recommend buying your ticket in advance through the official website. The museum averages 30,000 visitors a day, so you can’t really get same-day (or even same week) tickets. As of December 2022, tickets cost €17,00, or 18 US dollars. Realistically, you should dedicate half a day to the museum.
I don’t think it’s necessary to book a tour inside the museum. You can easily get a map and hit the highlights on your own. There are so many amazing walking tours and experiences in Paris, and I wouldn’t say a tour of the Louvre is one of them. Realistically, you’re not going to remember half the paintings you saw there, unless you’re an art fanatic. That’s why I recommend hitting the highlights and then spending most of your time exploring Paris elsewhere.
Domaine National de Palau’s Royal is within walking distance and a great place to visit after the museum.
8. Hangout in Le Marais
Le Marais is a very artsy, trendy, and picturesque district, located in the 4th arrondissement. It’s known for being fashion forward, with loads of great restaurants, shops, and cafes. Le Marais is also home to the Picasso Museum, which is one of my favorites in the city.
I chose an AirBnb in Le Marais because the area is so charming and centrally located. I was steps away from the subway, which made it super easy to get around the city. I’ve noticed that people choose their accommodation based on proximity to the Eiffel Tower, without realizing there’s actually not much to do around the Eiffel Tower. I highly recommend staying in Le Marais because it has a local feel, and the location is great for seeing the city.
9. Explore Musée Picasso
As a Picasso lover, this museum was like a dream for me. Although Picasso was Spanish, he spent most of his adult life in France, so it was amazing to see his art in the city he painted in for so long. The museum is small enough to see in a couple hours, making it easy to enjoy without a rush. It’s located in Le Marais district, so be sure to add it to your list while exploring this area. As of December 2022, the tickets cost 14 Euros, or roughly 14.85 US dollars. And yes, the Picasso museum is included in the Paris Pass. You can click here for details about the artwork on display and the history behind the art.
10. Visit Musée d’Orsay
Musee d’Orsay is my favorite museum in Paris! It’s the perfect size because you can take your time and see it all without getting overwhelmed. In my opinion, it’s better than the Louvre and the best place to see Impressionist art. It’s also way less crowded than the Louvre, which is a huge plus. Musee d’Orsay used to be a train station, so the building is beautiful and has a gorgeous gold clock inside.
My ticket cost $14.10 (or 13 euros) in 2022, and I ordered mine on GetYourGuide. I bought my ticket the day before visiting the museum, and I always prefer to buy them online because it saves me from waiting in the ticket line. You can also click here to check the current ticket rates on the official website.
Musee de l’Orangerie is another great Impressionism museum to visit, and it features some impressive Monet murals.
11. Explore Montmartre
Montmartre is a dreamy part of Paris, also known as the “Painters Neighborhood.” Located in the 18th arrondissement, this hilly and cobblestoned neighborhood was home to the most iconic Impressionist artists, singers, dancers, musicians, and actors of the 19th century. Some of these artists include Claude Monet, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Edgar Degas, and Pablo Picasso, just to name a few.
I booked a walking tour through AirBnb Experiences because I’m a huge fan of Impressionist art. The tour was incredible because I saw the apartments where the artists lived, the restaurants they painted at, and I learned interesting details and stories that I would’ve never noticed, had I only walked by.
Montmartre is easily one of the most photogenic neighborhoods in Paris, and it has a unique feel compared to the rest of the city. In fact, Montmartre used to be on the outskirts of the city and started as the only place where artists could afford to live. Now it’s one of the most expensive places to live in Paris.
It also borders the former red light district, where Moulin Rouge is located, if you’re interested in going to a show.
Perhaps the best part of Montmartre is the view from the top of the hill. It’s the highest point in Paris, so there’s an amazing panoramic view of the city from Sacré-Cœur.
12. Visit Sacré-Cœur
Sacre-Coeur is an iconic Catholic church, located in Montmartre at the top of the hill. It offers a spectacular panoramic view of Paris, and it’s the second highest point in Paris besides the Eiffel Tower. It’s free to enter the church, and it’s open daily from 6:30am-10:30pm. I recommend watching the sunset here, but the restaurants at the top are quite touristy. So I suggest going back down the hill, where there’s more authentic restaurants to choose from.
13. Eat Lots of Pastries & Dessert!
This is self explanatory, but every year Parisians vote on the 20 best butter croissants in Paris. It’s almost 2023 as I’m writing this, but I’ll link an article to the 2022 winners. The winners hang their ranking in their shop window, but you’ll need to get there early because these shops sell out fast! They usually stay open until they sell out of croissants for the day.
Of course, there are lots of amazing pastries and desserts in Paris. I recommend looking up places with the best ratings, but it’s also fun to blindly walk into places just to try things.
14. Book a Photoshoot
I always recommend booking a photoshoot while solo traveling. If you’re spending the money on a Europe trip, you shouldn’t rely on a selfie stick to capture those memories. Not only does it support local photographers, but it’s a great way to meet locals and to get great recommendations. My favorite photos from my Europe trip were the ones that I got in Paris. They’re so iconic, and I think they’re better than any souvenir I could have bought. Paris is such a magical city, and the photographer truly captured that. The photographer and I also ate croissants together afterwards and hung out for a bit. Find a local photographer through Instagram, or book a shoot through Airbnb. You won’t regret it!
15. Visit the Abbey Bookshop
If you’re a reader and have time to stop here, it’s quite lovely. The books are stacked from floor to ceiling, and they’re all in English. It’s an adorable shop, and I’m glad I stopped in. They sell new and used books, and the vibe was very relaxing. It’s also a 5 minute walk from the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore, which I recommend checking out too!