The 22 best sights in Paris: All the important information & travel tips
You’re planning a city trip to Paris and want to make sure you get to see all the important sights? Awesome! Paris has so much to offer that it’s easy to lose sight of the essentials. Our Paris expert Meike will give you a rundown of all the important sights in Paris that you absolutely have to see!
Paris has an incredible wealth of sights and attractions. If you really wanted to see everything, you’d have to spend a few weeks in the city.
Unfortunately that isn’t a real option for most people – that’s why I’ll be giving you a rundown of the 22 most important sights in this post.
I’ll be sharing what you absolutely must see and do in Paris, as well as travel tips on the best way to plan your visit to the individual sights for a stress-free experience.
And of course there I’ll be sharing information about each individual sight and all the essential details such as prices, opening hours, how to get there, and the best ticket options.
General tips on sightseeing in Paris
Before we get started with my 22 top highlights in Paris, let me share a few general tips on sightseeing in the French capital. That way you can prepare and make the most of your time in Paris.
Tip #1: If possible, purchase your tickets online in advance. That way you can avoid wasting time in line at the ticket counter and can head straight to the entrance.
Tip #2: As a rule, Monday to Thursday is a lot less busy than Friday to Sunday.
Lunchtime, i.e. at around 1 p.m., is also a great time to visit. That way, the first wave of visitors will already be gone and the second wave will still be at lunch. This doesn’t always pan out, but it’s definitely worth a try.
Tip #3: When planning your trip to Paris, take a look at the map to see which sights are located close to one another. Especially in the city center, the highlights are often only a few meters apart. That can save you a lot of time and travel.
Tip #4: Admission is free at many sights for anyone under 26 with a European ID or passport! Check the information boxes for the individual sights to see if the offer applies.
Tip #5: If you plan to visit a lot of sights, a city pass offers great value for money. I recommend the Paris Turbopass, which includes admission to many of the attractions listed here. It also grants you full access to public transport.
There are a total of four city passes for Paris. In a detailed comparison I have written down the advantages and disadvantages of each pass:
If you are planning a weekend trip, check out my 3 day itinerary for Paris.
Okay, now let’s get started with the information about the sights!
The most important sights on a map
If this is your first visit to Paris, finding your bearings might be a bit of a challenge. To help you find your way around, I’ve compiled this sightseeing map featuring all the most important sights.
That should give you a rough idea of where to find which sights in Paris and how to plan your visit even better.
#1 Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower has dominated the skyline of Paris since 1889. The locals often just ignore it as an ugly hunk of steel, but it’s a magical attraction for every visitor to the French capital.
I’m definitely in the latter camp and think everyone should have been up the Eiffel Tower at least once in their lives. And if you’re going to visit, you should make sure to venture all the way to the top.
The easiest and fastest way (but not the cheapest) is an online ticket with an elevator ride to the summit. That way, you can avoid the lines at the ticket offices.
But you’ll still have to wait in line at the security check and the elevator, there’s no avoiding that.
My tip: I recommend taking the Métro to Trocadéro station. There’s a platform there with an amazing view of the Eiffel Tower. Perfect for photos! And it’s only a few minutes’ walk from there to the Tower.
There are so many different ticket options to visit the Eiffel Tower that you might be a bit overwhelmed at first.
To give you a quick and easy overview, I’ve written a post with all the information you’ll need to make the most of your visit.
#2 Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe, constructed under Napoleon, stands at the far end of the Champs-Élysées, giving off the distinct impression that it’s guarding the city center. The monument is an absolute must-see for every visit to Paris.
The traffic circle surrounding the arch is notorious – don’t try to cross it! There are two underpasses at the upper end of the Champs-Élysées and on the road directly opposite leading straight to the Arc de Triomphe.
You can also head up on the rooftop, which offers a fantastic view of the city.
But please note: There’s no elevator. To get to the top, you have to climb a steep spiral staircase on the inside of the Arc de Triomphe.
You can wander around underneath the Arc de Triomphe for free. If you want to take the stairs to the rooftop, you can either buy tickets in one of the underpasses, or pre-purchase them online.
Daily, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Charles de Gaulle – Étoile
Starting at €12
€0 for EU citizens younger than 26
#3 Opéra Garnier
Right in the center of Paris, not far from the Louvre, you’ll find a frequently overlooked gem.
The Opéra Garnier isn’t high up on most visitors’ to-do lists, which is a shame because it’s a real highlight. In fact, it’s one of my absolute favorite buildings in Paris.
Even at first glance, the opera is very impressive. But if you take the time to take a closer look at the exterior and interior, you’ll discover some amazing details.
The only place you mustn’t enter is box number five – it’s reserved for the Phantom of the Opera!
You can explore the Opéra Garnier on your own or as part of a guided tour. The tours are available in English and French and provide a great deal of interesting facts about the opera house.
The entrance for sightseeing and guided tours is located at the back of the building. When facing the main entrance, turn left and walk around the building – you can’t miss the visitors’ entrance.
Of course, you can also catch a performance at the opera house. It mainly hosts ballets and classical concerts, but sometimes you might be able see something a bit more contemporary, such as hip hop battles.
Operas are rarely staged here nowadays. Most opera productions these days are shown at the new Opéra Bastille, but it’s nowhere near as beautiful as the Opéra Garnier.
My tip: A special gift: You can buy honey at the Opéra Garnier gift shop. This honey is collected from the beehives on the roof of the building by the opera’s very own beekeeper!
Sep to Jul: daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last admission 4:30 p.m.)
Aug: daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admission 5:30 p.m.)
General admission: starting at €12
Guided tour: starting at €17
#4 Champs-Élysées and Place de la Concorde
The Avenue de Champs-Élysées is France’s most magnificent boulevard! Over the full length of the Champs-Élysées, from the Arc de Triomphe to the Place de la Concorde, France celebrates everything there is to celebrate here. It is the main venue for the country’s great parades and celebrations.
Lining the Champs-Élysées are flagship stores of all the major brands, from Cartier to Louis Vuitton. Stores such as Zara and H&M also offer something for the non-Cartier budget.
Even if you don’t want to go shopping, a stroll down the Champs-Élysées is still a wonderful experience, especially on sunny days. The many cafés offer ample opportunity to relax and take a break from all the sightseeing.
At the end of the 80-meter-wide road, you’ll find the Place de la Concorde with the famous obelisk at the center.
Even though it’s a huge tourist magnet, the Champs-Élysées is a regular thoroughfare, so you don’t have to pay any admission here.
Every first Sunday of the month, the Champs-Élysées is closed to cars and transformed into a promenade. On these days, bag checks are carried out at the entrances to the street.
Métro stations: Charles de Gaulle – Étoile, George V, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Champs-Élysées Clemenceau, Concorde
#5 Pont Alexandre III
The most beautiful bridge in town! Just a stone’s throw from the Champs-Élysées, the Pont Alexandre III leads across the Seine to Les Invalides.
The bridge itself is an architectural gem dating back to 1900, and with the Eiffel Tower in the background you can take some stunning pictures here.
At night, the bridge is lit up by beautiful streetlights. They might not be the original gaslights of yore, but they certainly look the part.
If you’re in the area after nightfall, you should make sure to pay the bridge a visit.
My tip: Underneath the bridge are several great places where you can enjoy a coffee or a cocktail right on the banks of the Seine.
Métro stations: Champs-Élysées – Clemenceau or Invalides
#6 Tour Montparnasse
After the Eiffel Tower, the Tour (French for ‘Tower’) Montparnasse is the tallest building in Paris and also the only high-rise in the city center.
The Tour Montparnasse is mainly used as an office building. Except for the 56th floor, which is reserved for visitors. An elevator will take you to the top in a matter of seconds. From here, you can enjoy a great view of Paris while sipping coffee or champagne at the bar.
There’s also a staircase leading up to the roof terrace where you can stand 210 meters above the rooftops of Paris.
My tip: Head to the tower just before the sun sets for the best chance to take excellent sunset photos of the Eiffel Tower. Stay up there until it gets really dark, the view of Paris by night is stunning!
#7 Grand Palais and Petit Palais
The Great Palace and the Small Palace are located on either side of the Champs-Élysées, facing one another as if locked in a perennial staring contest. They both opened in 1900 and although they share a connection on some level, they’re actually very different.
The most impressive thing about the Grand Palais has to be its roof. It’s completely made of glass with a dash of steel, casting a fantastic light inside.
It’s used for temporary exhibitions or for fashion shows during Fashion Week. And in 2017, the final stage of the Tour de France passed through the Grand Palais!
Check the Grand Palais website to see what’s going on before you arrive in Paris. It might be worth a visit.
As the name suggests, the Petit Palais is smaller than the Grand Palais and more classical in design. It is the permanent home of the Museum of Fine Arts.
The magnificent palace houses a broad spectrum of French and Italian Renaissance art. No less impressive are the works by Monet, Renoir, Delacroix, and Toulouse-Lautrec on display here.
There’s a great garden with a small café in the courtyard – the perfect spot to take a break in summer!
The permanent exhibition and access to the café are free. You’ll have to pay for admission to see the temporary exhibitions though. You can find out which exhibitions take place when on the Petit Palais website.
As the Petit Palais is one of the museums with a much smaller number of visitors, you can just show up here without pre-ordering a ticket.
The Louvre isn’t just a museum, but rather refers to a gigantic building complex that used to be a royal palace. The famous Musée du Louvre is located inside the palace grounds.
The wealth of artworks exhibited at the Musée du Louvre is incredible. No other museum in the world has such an impressive collection of individual works.
The most famous work by far is the Mona Lisa. If you love art, then the Louvre should be at the top of your list of places to visit.
But even if you don’t want to visit the museum itself, it’s still worth stopping at the Louvre. In the courtyard of the historical building, you’ll be greeted by a glass pyramid that has become one of the city’s modern-day landmarks.
In the underground area of the Louvre, you’ll even find a small shopping center.
You can visit the courtyards, the pyramid, and the shopping center without paying any admission. You only need a ticket if you want to visit the museum itself.
Mon-Sun: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Closed on Tue
Palais Royal – Musée du Louvre
Starting at €17
€0 for EU citizens younger than 26
*On certain days of the week, the museum stays open until 9:45 p.m. Check the website to see which days it opens late.
#9 Centre Pompidou
You can tell right away when you first set eyes on the building: The Centre Pompidou is unlike any other museum. In short, the building’s ‘innards’ have been turned outwards.
All pipes, ventilation shafts, stairs, and elevators are on the outside and are also color-coded. This gives the building a unique appearance. If you’re into unusual architecture, then it’s definitely worth your time.
The Centre Pompidou boasts the largest collection of modern and contemporary art in Europe. With many works by Picasso, Kandinsky, Dalí, and Andy Warhol, the museum is a genuine highlight for art lovers.
It also has a café on the roof with a magnificent view of the city. Admission to the roof terrace is already included in the price of the museum ticket.
You can also visit the roof terrace without visiting the museum. Admission to the terrace without a museum ticket costs five euros.
You can buy the ticket for the museum online and save yourself the wait at the ticket office. Tickets for access to the roof terrace without visiting the museum can be purchased on site for five euros.
Wed-Mon: 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. (tickets available until 8 p.m.)
Closed on Tue & May 1
Starting at €14
#10 Musée d’Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay is a must for art aficionados. The works of the great impressionists have found a worthy frame in the former train station building. The building itself is a work of art in its own right.
Located right by the Seine, opposite the Louvre, you’ll find a truly impressive collection of 19th and early 20th century art.
Over 4000 exhibits in the form of paintings, sculptures, graphics, architecture, and handicrafts are on display here.
You can buy tickets for the Musée d’Orsay online. This allows you to head directly to entrance C, which is reserved for visitors with tickets.
Unfortunately, the museum’s ticket website is only available in French. If that isn’t a problem for you, you can just book your tickets there.
If you’re uncomfortable buying tickets from a French website, you can also book them in English for a few euros extra:
Tue-Sun: 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (Thu extended until 9:45 p.m.)
Closed on Mon
Starting at €12.40
0 € for EU citizens younger than 26
#11 Musée du Quai Branly
My favorite museum!
Located almost right next to the Eiffel Tower, the Musée du Quai Branly is home to a very special world: The museum is entirely dedicated to non-European art and culture.
You’ll find African woodcarvings, Mexican Day of the Dead costumes, Maori artworks, and much more. The whole world is represented here with all of its diverse traditions.
If you’re interested in foreign cultures, then this is just the right place for you!
There’s also a restaurant on the roof of the museum where you can enjoy an excellent view of the Eiffel Tower.
Please note: The Musée du Quai Branly can get surprisingly chilly, so make sure to bring a second layer of clothing.
Tue-Sun: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
(Thu-Sat: until 9 p.m.)
Closed on Mon
Starting at €10
0 € for EU citizens younger than 26
Please note: On April 15, 2019, a fire destroyed large parts of the famous cathedral. It currently isn’t possible to visit the church.
The famous cathedral awaits you on the island Île de la Cité, located in the River Seine, in the middle of the city. At over 800 years, Notre-Dame is one of the oldest buildings in Paris.
The huge cathedral is considered a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, a sight you definitely need to see for yourself when you’re in Paris.
Admission to the inside of the cathedral is free. That’s probably one of the reasons why Notre-Dame is one of the most popular sights in the city.
The line in front of the entrance can be daunting, but it actually moves along very quickly. Don’t be deterred, it’s worth the wait!
Métro station: Cité or Saint-Michel
Notre-Dame bell towers
You can also visit the bell towers of the cathedral for an admission fee.
422 steps lead to the top, where you can look down on the city from between the gargoyles in the footsteps of the hunchback of Notre-Dame. There’s no elevator and no toilets!
Facing the facade of Notre-Dame, you should see the entrance to the towers on the left side of the building.
There are vending machines at the entrance to the towers where you can buy a ticket for later in the day.
If you plan to climb the towers, it’s a good idea to go to this machine as soon as you arrive at Notre-Dame.
If your ticket is valid for one or two hours later, you can explore the inside of the cathedral in the meantime.
Of course you can also visit the towers as part of a guided tour, where you’ll learn a lot about the cathedral and the historical alleyways surrounding it.
Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at the highest point in the city, right in the middle of Montmatre.
You can’t miss the cross dome church built from white stone. It’s one of the landmarks of Paris and something you mustn’t miss when visiting Montmartre.
If you’re standing at the foot of the steps in front of the Sacré-Cœur and don’t feel like climbing up all the way to the church doors, you can also take the funicular to the left of the steps.
It’s part of the Paris Métro system and you can ride it with your day ticket or a regular Métro ticket.
Admission to the basilica is free. But you’ll have to pass through a bag check before you enter.
Please note: Respectful behavior is very important in the church. If you try to enter wearing a cap or something similar, you will quickly be told to stop and take it off. Inappropriate clothing will also not be tolerated. If you try to enter the basilica in hot pants that are too short, you may be asked to leave.
Opening hours: 6 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The basilica is closed during the first two weeks of January for regular restoration work.
Dome of the Sacré-Cœur
You can also visit the dome of the Sacré-Cœur, where a stunning view awaits you.
The entrance is located right in front of the main doors. There’s no elevator, the only way to reach the dome is via the 300 steps of the stone spiral staircase.
May to Sep, daily from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Oct to Apr, daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Included in the Turbopass. Includes a tour of the artists' quarter of Montmartre, including a visit to the Sacré-Cœur (without dome)
#14 Les Invalides
You’re sure to notice the golden dome of Les Invalides while exploring the streets of Paris.
It used to be a church, but today the Dôme des Invalides is the final resting place of Napoleon Bonaparte. He lies buried in a seven-layered sarcophagus in the church.
A visit to the tomb of the great general and emperor is a must for any serious history buff.
Most visitors come mainly because of Napoleon. But next to it is the Hôtel des Invalides with an Army Museum, which is definitely worth a visit.
Convenient: The ticket to the Dôme des Invalides is also valid for the Army Museum.
If you want to visit an exceptionally beautiful building a little off the beaten track, the Panthéon is just the place for you.
With its huge columns at the entrance, it evokes the splendor of Roman antiquity or Greek architecture.
Today, the former church is dedicated to the heroes and revolutionaries of France as a site of glory and remembrance.
The Panthéon is my absolute favorite building in Paris! Inside, it exudes a sublime sense of peace and serenity.
The famous Foucault pendulum, with which Jean Bernard Foucault was able to demonstrate that the earth was turning, hangs from the dome. It’s hard to convey in how it works in words, but you’ll understand right away once you see it for yourself.
The crypt of the Panthéon is the final resting place for scores of French heroes and revolutionaries. Among others, these include Marie and Pierre Curie, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas, and Louis Braille, who invented the Braille alphabet.
Audio guides are available at the entrance for an extra charge, which I highly recommend. The audio guided tour lasts one and a half hours. That might sound a bit long at first, but it’s so interesting that the time passes in no time!
Daily, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last admission: 5:15 p.m.)
Closed on Jan 1, May 1 & Dec 25.
Starting at €9
On the island Île de la Cité, very close to Notre-Dame, lies the Sainte-Chapelle. Tucked away in the courtyard of the Palais de la Cité is one of the most beautiful Gothic churches in the world.
The huge, colorful windows and the interior design as a whole create a very special atmosphere.
Highly recommended for architecture and church-lovers!
Coming from the street, you won’t even notice that you’re standing right in front of it. You’ll be greeted by a security check and, if you’re unlucky, a more or less crowded line.
Once you pass the security check and enter the inner courtyard, you’ll suddenly be standing face-to-face with this Gothic beauty.
You don’t need a ticket to get into the courtyard. But you do need a ticket if you want to enter the chapel, and the easiest way to get one is to buy it online.
Not for the faint at heart: The Catacombs of Paris!
Almost 250 years ago, the Parisian cemeteries were so overcrowded that the limbs of the deceased protruded from the graves, and the walls of neighboring basements buckled under the pressure of all the corpses.
This led to a rapid spread of diseases and epidemics, so a solution had to be found quickly. And so the corpses were transferred to the abandoned quarries below Paris.
The bones of the dead were carefully piled up. This new realm of the dead was later made accessible to the public.
The underground tour leads you past entire walls of bones and skulls.
If this description isn’t enough to stop you dead in your tracks, then a visit to the Catacombs is the right thing for you.
However, you should be aware that it can get very cold in the Catacombs even in mid-summer. Even when it’s 35 degrees outside, it rarely gets warmer than 15 degrees in the 20-meter-deep tunnels. So make sure to bring a second layer of clothing.
As the Catacombs are a very popular attraction, you should definitely buy your tickets online ahead of your visit. Only a limited number of people are allowed to descend into the Catacombs at any one time, which often results in long waiting times.
#18 Palace of Versailles
Just outside Paris lies the Palace of Versailles. ‘Versailles’ is not only the name of the opulent estate of the Sun King Louis XIV, but is also shared by the typically French and very charming small town.
The palace is a huge building complex, behind which you’ll find the even vaster palace gardens.
The gardens are free of charge if there aren’t any musically accompanied fountain shows that day.
You’ll need a ticket to enter the castle. The most convenient option is an online ticket for Versailles and Gardens with an audio guide and no lines.
You can reach Versailles in about 45 minutes by RER, the local light rail service. The train station is only a few meters from the castle. Make sure to take the yellow RER C with the destination Versailles Château – Rive Gauche.
Tue to Sun: 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Closed on Mon
Versailles Château – Rive Gauche
Starting at €26
Included in the Turbopass(not including audio guide)
Disneyland isn’t just a theme park. To be precise, there are two parks and the Disney Village with restaurants, cinemas, shops, and cafés. And lots and lots of hotels surrounding the three of them.
If you just want to spend a fun day at a theme park, a day trip from Paris is a great idea. Disneyland is about an hour away from Paris and it’s easy to get there by local train.
If you want to spend more time in the world of Mickey, Donald, Star Wars, and the Pirates of the Caribbean and really want to see and do everything in the park, you should stay at one of the hotels for two or more days.
#20 Moulin Rouge
The cabaret with the red windmill is probably the most famous of its kind. The Moulin Rouge at the foot of Montmartre hill has been welcoming guests for over 125 years. The lavishly furnished 1920s style building can accommodate up to 850 guests.
It was here that the Canacan was born, where the wide skirts were swung high into the air, and lots of legs were shown. A lot of skin and little costume, but many feathers, rhinestones, and sequins decorate the dancers. A trip back in time to the Belle Époque!
Performances take place three times a day at the Moulin Rouge. The first show at 7 p.m. includes a three-course meal and champagne. No food is served during the shows at 9 and 11 p.m. Champagne is also included in the price of these shows.
Prices vary depending on the season and day of the week. In winter during the week, tickets to the 11 p.m. show start at 77 euros per person. As a general rule, the 11 p.m. show is the cheapest.
Please note: Shirt and ties or evening gowns aren’t required, but elegant clothing is still important. Sneakers and shorts are frowned upon.
The Moulin Rouge is almost always sold out, so you should book your tickets online as early as possible.
Métro station: Blanche
Actually, Montmartre is a whole neighborhood. But I don’t have any qualms describing the whole district as a landmark and highlight.
Art, flair, small alleys, great views, and of course the many places to wine and dine make Montmartre very a special place indeed.
The neighborhood is located on a hill, the highest point of the city, so a stroll through its streets is always worthwhile for the amazing views of Paris.
If you get tired, you can take a break at one of the countless cafés and watch the colorful hustle and bustle.
Métro stations: Anvers, Pigalle, and Blache are at the foot of the hill – you can climb to the top from there. The Métro station Abesses is the only station at the top of the hill.
The Paris Turbopass includes a tour of the Montmartre artists’ quarter.
#22 Jardín du Luxembourg
The Jardín du Luxembourg is one of the most beautiful parks in Paris. Located to the south of the Seine River near the Panthéon, you can take a stroll through the park with its many sculptures or relax in the sun by the small pond.
If you’re traveling with children, you should also consider this park for a break. You can rent small sail boats by the pond in summer.
Your child can push the boat with a stick, making it sail across the pond. This keeps most children busy for a long time, because you never know where the boat will hit the edge of the pond next.
On Sundays, you might stumble upon string quartets or choirs performing at a pavilion in the park. So don’t be surprised if you suddenly hear hundreds of people singing “…Ooohh, Champs-Élysées…”.
In the park, you’ll also find Luxembourg Palais, a palace dating back to the 17th century. Unfortunately, you generally can’t take a tour of the palace, as it’s the seat of the French Senate.
A few meters further into the park, you’ll find the old Orangerie, which hosts a number of frequently changing temporary exhibitions. These exhibitions are mostly free of charge, so just go in and take a look around.
From sunrise to sunset (8:15 a.m. at the latest and 4:30 p.m. at the earliest)
Those were my top 22 sightseeing tips for Paris. If this is your first time in this wonderful city, now you know which attractions you mustn’t miss at any cost.
Do you have any questions or comments? Then I look forward to hearing from you in the comments section!
Louvre photo: outline205 / depositphotos.com; Centre Pompidou photo: kmiragaya / depositphotos.com; Musée d’Orsay photo: gilmanshin / depositphotos.com; Moulin Rouge photo: dvrcan / depositphotos.com