Ohhh, Champs-Élysées … France’s capital surprises with incredible versatility. In Paris you will find world-famous sights, but also unknown treasures are waiting for YOU! Here you can find out how you can make the most of a day in the city of love without missing out on the BIG5 things to do on your city trip to Paris.
What do you learn in this article?
BIG5 Things to do in Paris
BIG5 Paris – Speed Date
Free (!) admission to many famous sights for under-26s Europeans, including Louvre & Arc de Triomphe
Paris is always full of tourists, to get a photo alone you have to get up early or bring some patience
Some routes sometimes run on foot! The metro is super practical, but this way you get to know more about Parisian life and discover a few insider tips
Drive / travel through the center by car! If you don’t necessarily have to travel by car: leave it at home and use the comfortable metro. Finding a parking space is not a pleasure either. Your nerves will thank you!
Don’t tell your mother:
Paris is full of pickpockets – a side effect of the many tourists from all over the world. Be especially careful on the metro.
BIG5 Paris – Rapid Fire Q&A
- How many days should I plan for Paris? – There is soooo much to discover, you should treat yourself to 3 days
- Phew, 3 days are a little too much for my vacation budget, can it be shorter? – Sure, check out the city’s BIG5 here
- Should I book tickets in advance? – A clear YES for the number of visitors!
- I’ve been to Paris before, would you go again? – Even after several visits, you can still find a new attraction or exciting district
- I have no desire for Eiffel Tower and Co. Still Paris? – The city is incredibly diverse, no matter what you are interested in, from history to art, culture, drama, nature to fashion
BIG5 Paris – Orga
Best travel time
The best months for a trip to Paris are July, August and September (warm and little rain).
Arrival & Departure
Visa: Check here, whether you need a visa for France with your passport
- Flight: Many airlines fly directly to Charles-de-Gaulle International Airport (IATA: CDG)
- Flight: Paris-Orly (ORY) is primarily a place for regional flights and low-cost airlines
- Bus: Some very good offers from leading long-distance bus companies
- Train: Paris as the central transport hub for the rail routes offers good opportunities for a relaxed train journey
- Attention: There are 6 large train stations in Paris, the travel direction decides
- Gare du Nord: Northern France, Belgium, the Netherlands, England, western and northern Germany
- Gare de l’Est: Eastern France, Western and Southern Germany (Stuttgart, Frankfurt), Austria
- Gare Lyon: Southeast and South of France, Switzerland
- Gare Montparnasse: Western France, Brittany, Aquitaine, Northwest Spain
- Gare d’Austerlitz: Central and Southern France, Spain, Portugal
- Gare Saint-Lazare: Normandy
Next it goes to … London / Great Britain or Cologne & Frankfurt / Germany.
- Recommended location: Book a hotel in the immediate or justifiable vicinity of a train station or metro station, then you save yourself the hassle of dragging your suitcase over narrow or crowded sidewalks
- Budget: St Christopher’s Inn Paris – Gare du Nord (5 rue de Dunkerque, 10th arrondissement, 75010 Paris; ~ 40 € in a dormitory), best location directly at Gare du Nord and Gare du L’Est and great events
- Budget: The Loft Boutique Hostel (70 Rue Julien Lacroix, 20th Arrondissement – Ménilmontant, 75020 Paris; ~ 40-45 € in the dormitory), great hostel with a good location and quick access to the metro
- Medium: Studio Saint Germain (154 Boulevard Saint-Germain, 06th Arrondissement – Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris; ~ 70 €), apartment in a great location in the trendy district of Staint Germain
- Medium: Motel One Paris-Porte Dorée (295 Avenue Daumesnil, 12th Arrondissement, 75012 Paris; ~ 80 € double room), very modern 3 * hotel near the metro with excellent value for money
- Noble: Helussi Hôtel (22 bis, rue de Bellefond, 9th Arrondissement – Opéra, 75009 Paris; ~ 130 €), extremely good location in a short walking distance to Montmatre, including sauna
- Noble: Le Grand Quartier (15 Rue de Nancy, 10th arrondissement, 75010 Paris; ~ 150 €), right in the center with a noble garden / courtyard
Withdraw money: ATMs on every street corner, no problem at all
Beer indicator: In cheap bars there is a large local beer for 3.50 euros (e.g. in the “Château d’Eau”), otherwise plan +5.00 euros in restaurants for a large beer
Cost of a taxi: price per kilometer between 1.10 – 1.60 euros (depending on the category); Basic price EUR 2.60;
Taxi from the airport: Charles-de-Gaulle to “Rive Droite” (right or above the Seine) ~ 50 euros; “Rive Gauche” ~ 55 euros; Orly after “Rive Droite” (right or above the Seine) ~ 35 euros; “Rive Gauche” ~ 30 euros
There is something for all tastes in Paris, the offer is almost overwhelming
- Pizzeria Popolare (111 Rue Réaumur) -> super tasty, relatively cheap. Warning: long lines possible!
- Le Bel Ordinaire (several, e.g. 54 Rue de Paradis) -> upper price range, in a stylish atmosphere with high wine racks
- BocaMexa (several, e.g. 84 Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis) -> Tex-Mex cuisine, very cheap
- Keep your eyes and nose open in Rue de Paradis & Rue du Faubourg Saint-Denis: there are many great restaurants of different nationalities and price ranges
- You can find more tips with good filter options at www.lafourchette.com
BIG5 Paris – Activities
- Climb the Arc de Triomphe with a great view of the city and the twelve access roads to the “Étoile”, especially the Avenue Champs-Elyssées
- Stroll through the trendy artist quarter Montmatre and pose in front of the Sacré-Cœur basilica
- Admire the imposing Eiffel Tower, best from the terraces & steps of the Trocadéro
- Stroll along the famous avenue Champs-Elyssée and marvel at the shop windows of well-known fashion chains
- Marvel at the gigantic collection of art treasures in the Musée du Louvre
BIG5 Paris – Photo spots
- View of Paris with great gargoyle motifs from the towers of the Notre-Dame cathedral
- From the Arc de Triomphe with a great view of the Champs-Elyssées and the other 11 streets of the l’Étoile
- The Eiffel Tower from the terraces & steps of the Trocadéro on the other side of the Seine
- Pose in front of the “Mur des je t’aime” in Montmatre
- From the Louise-Michel park at the foot of the steps up to the Sacré-Cœur basilica
BIG5 Paris – Things to do off the beaten track
- Château de Vincennes – easily accessible by metro and not as crowded as the highlights of the center
- Visit the eerie, exciting catacombs of Paris
- Walk on the former Petite Ceinture railway, which winds 36 kilometers around Paris. Some sections are freely accessible
- Enjoy the great (and free!) view of Notre-Dame from the roof terrace of the Institut du Monde Arabe (Terasse l ‘I.M.A)
- Discover the many covered passages (les Passages Couverts) in the city center
BIG5 Paris – Culinary Journey
- Parisian macarons – delicious sweets, especially with coffee / tea
- Croque Monsieur – toast with bechamel sauce topped with cheese, don’t miss!
- Local wine – hello, you’re here in France!
- There are crèpes with various fillings in many places
- Entrecote with fries – typical of Parisian bistros
BIG5 Paris – Communication
- thank you – merci
- yes – oui
- no – non
- hello – bonjour
- good bye – au revoir
BIG5 Paris – Helpful Websites / Links
- Official Website of the Paris Tourist Office
- Preparation for a trip to Paris
- Get additional tips from Alysa where to stay in Paris as first-timer
BIG5 Paris – Overview Map with all things to do
Discover the BIG5 things to do in Paris in one day
Unfortunately you don’t have much time in Paris, but still don’t want to miss the highlights? Here you will learn how!
What is the best way to prepare for a trip to Paris?
First of all, you should check whether one of the tourist passes makes sense for you.
The collective ticket “Paris Visite”
The collective ticket is available for 1, 2, 3 or 5 days in zones 1-3 (city center) or for zones 1-5 including Versailles and the airports (Orly / Charles-de-Gaulle).
With this ticket you can use the metro, buses and the RER train network.
The costs (as of December 2019) are:
1 day = 13.20 euros (so it is worthwhile from more than 6 trips)
2 days = 21.50 euros
3 days = 29.40 euros
5 days = 42.20 euros
An advance order is possible here.
Paris Museum Pass
Is the Paris Museums Pass worth it? With limited time budget? Definitely!
You save money and can avoid the sometimes extremely long queues.
The pass includes more than 50 sights and museums in and around Paris.
The cost is € 52 for 48 hours (2 days), € 66 for 96 hours (4 days) or € 78 for 144 hours (6 days)
Order the passport here on the official website.
This pass, especially for tourists, is available from € 45 per day and includes a one-hour boat trip on the Seine, a day in the panoramic bus, access to many city museums and free use of public transport.
The Eiffel Tower is also included with a surcharge of 20 euros.
This pass is also an interesting, albeit costly, alternative for visiting Paris on a budget.
Ordering online is possible here.
Don’t waste time in the queues / with searching
For the most important sights of Paris there are special tickets with which you can skip the line and do not waste valuable time waiting in line:
Memo of the JOURNICATION BIG5
Print out the useful summary, a piece of paper with a few personal notes in your jacket pocket is worth gold – and uninteresting for pickpockets in the metro.
The local public transport card is not worth it for you? Still you need for a metro ticket because …
The most comfortable and fastest way to get around Paris is without a doubt the Metro. After a maximum of a few minutes, the next train arrives and you save yourself annoying traffic jams and the search for a parking space – not to mention parking fees.
As of December 2019, a single trip only costs 1.90 euros. Different languages can be selected on the ticket machine so that a ticket can be obtained easily, even without extensive knowledge of French.
Check the weather report
Honestly – no matter how many days you have in Paris, I personally make the daily program and order often dependent on the weather forecast. This flexible detailed planning is particularly useful in Paris.
A rainy Champs-Élyssées? Not nice to look at! A Mona Lisa in the Louvre Museum, however!
You can book tickets for many museums and attractions online in advance from FNAC.
A perfect day in Paris 🇫🇷 – here is your overview:
Best suited for screenshots 📷📝
Your morning in Paris
Discover the artistic district of Montmartre
- Basilika Sacré-Cœur
- Place du Tertre
- Mur des je t’aime
Île-de-la-Cité & surroundings
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- Saint Chapelle
- Hôtel du Ville (town hall)
- Pont Neuf Bridge
Your afternoon in Paris
- Explore the Louvre Museum
- Tuileries Garden
- Pont Alexandre III
- Avenue des Champs-Elysées
- Arc de Triomphe de l’Etoile
- Eiffel tower
Your evening in Paris
- Parisian variety shows (e.g. Lido or Moulin Rouge)
In addition to the BIG5, I have summarized the things to do in Paris and the circular route for you in an overview map:
Click on the icon at the top left to use the full range of map options!
Paris Things to do in the morning
Montmatre artists’ quarter / Sacré-Cœur basilica
Metro stations: Anvers (line 2) or Château Rouge (line 4)
Your day full of highlights begins in the artists’ quarter of Montmatre.
It is best to come from Place Saint-Pierre and walk past the carousel up the stairs of Place Louise-Michel to the picturesque Sacré-Cœur basilica. Plan enough time for photo stops on the way, whether with the church or Paris in the background, the pictures from there shouldn’t be missing in any Paris travel photo album.
The earlier you come, the fewer other tourists are in your pictures 😅
The climb is worth it – in front of the basilica you have a great view of Paris!
Either you want to admire the basilica from the inside or you go straight through the cute little streets of Montmatre. You arrive almost automatically at the Place du Tertre, where countless artists offer their works – or make them quasi live for you.
If breakfast in the hotel is a little sparse, you also have plenty of opportunities in the district to fortify yourself for the long day of sightseeing – from small handmade chocolates to hearty Petit Dejeuner with café-au-lait and croissant.
Take a look around the streets of Montmatre, it’s worth it! Street art and many small shops with jewelry or galleries invite you to discover.
A short walk down the hill for you to the “Mur des je t’aime” near the Abbesses metro station. A great wall with the saying “Je t’aime” (“I love you”) typical of the city of love in countless languages.
Either you start the next stage directly from the Abbesses station, or run past another highlight: the Cabaret Moulin Rouge, whose iconic red windmill can be seen from afar even in daylight. From here, the route continues via the Blanche metro station.
Île-de-la-Cité & surroundings
Metro station: Saint-Michel Notre-Dame (line 4)
You can of course also go directly to the Cité station (also line 4), but it is worth walking over the Seine bridge Pont Saint-Michel to the Île-de-la-cité – above all because of the special perspective of the Notre Dame de Paris cathedral.
Without question, Notre-Dame is one of the most famous churches in the world and the front view with the two towers is one of the typical images of a sightseeing tour of Paris. Particularly impressive is the visit to the towers with a great view of the city and the opportunity to get very close to the “Gargouilles de la cathédrale Notre-Dame” (gargoyles). From here they watch over the city.
Sadly, a devastating fire destroyed the roof of the famous church in April 2019, which unfortunately results in a (hopefully short) closure.
Not so well known, but no less impressive than your “big sister” Notre-Dame is Saint Chapelle. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is really very impressive, the play of light through the huge stained glass windows is indescribable!
Now you have three options for the next stage:
1) If you are in a hurry: straight to the Cité metro station
2) On foot across the Pont au Change with a great view of the Conciergerie with its round towers (14th century royal palace) to the Hôtel du Ville, the magnificent city hall of Paris.
3) With a few minutes more time: On foot directly past the conciergerie, over the beautiful Place Dauphine and over the famous Seine bridge Pont Neuf.
Things to do on a Paris Afternoon
Explore the Louvre Museum
Next stop: The Louvre Museum! Metro station: Palais Royal / Musée du Louvre (lines 1 & 7)
The glass pyramid of the Louvre is one of the main tourist attractions in Paris.
The Louvre is the third largest museum in the world! In the 60,000 square meter museum, 35,000 exhibits from various eras and countries can be seen, from Egyptian sculptures and paintings to the world-famous Mona Lisa. The entire collection of the Louvre comprises approximately 380,000 works.
Here you could spend Taaaage to take a close look at everything. For the day trip you should limit yourself to 2-3 hours or the photo in front of the pyramid. If you are planning a visit, you should definitely order tickets online in advance or book one of the tourist passes.
Now a long walk is on the program: You will stroll past the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel (the first triumphal arch in the 3-line) through the former castle park Jardin des Tuileries. If you have a marathon through the galleries of the Louvre, an ideal place to sink into one of the deckchairs and recharge the sightseeing batteries.
The peaceful park leads to the Place de la Concorde traffic junction with the imposing Egyptian obelisk with the golden tip. On the other hand, one of the most famous streets in the world begins: the Avenue des Champs-Elyssées with its many shops and restaurants.
If you have a few minutes more time, I recommend a short detour via the Pont de la Concorde along the Quai d’Orsay. The next bridge over the Seine back to the main route is one of the most beautiful in Paris: the Pont Alexandre III. From here you also have great photo opportunities with the Eiffel Tower in the background.
Past the Grand Palais with its many exhibitions, it goes back to the Champs-Élyssées. Depending on your time and holiday budget, you can stroll, shop, enjoy a café-au-lait as you please.
Ohhhh, Champs-Élyssées: the boulevard of Paris
The high-priced shops of the Champs-Élyssée are surmounted by the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. Should you go up? I definitely think! For me personally one of the top things to do in Paris! From here you have a great view over the city, the 12 access roads to the Étoile, the Eiffel Tower and the business district La Défense with the white Grande Arche, the 3rd “triumphal arch” in the axis through Paris.
The sight par excellence: the Eiffel Tower
We continue on foot to the Tour Eiffel. From my point of view the best view with great opportunities for photos is from the Palais de Chaillot and the Terasses de Trocadéro.
You stroll over the Pont d’Iéna to the breathtaking Eiffel Tower. If time and budget allow it, a trip up with a great view of the huge city is another highlight.
When it gets dark, the lights of the Eiffel Tower are switched on and the headlight at the top turns its circles. Every hour, around 20,000 lights come on for 5 minutes! A nice spectacle that is worth watching up close.
Things to do in Paris in the evening
There are two ways to round off a great day in Paris:
Visit the famous variety shows with a princely dinner
The Parisian variety shows like the Lido on the Champs-Élyssées or the Moulin Rouge are world famous and you should have seen their shows.
Rest your tired legs with a good meal and a glass of champagne and enjoy the show – and still experience part of the Paris sightseeing program? Great idea! You can easily book tickets for Lido or Moulin Rouge in advance.
Moulin Rouge metro station: Blanche (line 2)
Dinner with a view: boat trip on the Seine in the evening
Alternatively, you can also enjoy another city tour from a completely different perspective and in a special atmosphere.
The basic idea is the same: you have had a long day through Paris and a relaxed dinner is just the right thing? But of course it would be nice to have some sightseeing during the dinner, especially with all the beautiful lights in the city? A tour on the Seine in a comfortable diner boat combines both in a special way.
Another note: from the Basilique de Sacré-Cœur you have a great view of the city. Depending on the weather conditions or whether you prefer to experience the sunrise or sunset, my recommended day tour can be run in one direction or the other.
You see, there are a lot of great things to do in Paris – and many more! Try to plan more than one day for your city trip!
Have you ever been to Paris? What are your personal BIG5? 🇫🇷
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