Headed to Paris for the first time and overwhelmed by all the possibilities? I’ve got you covered! I’m sharing 7 things you absolutely have to do your first time in la Ville Lumière. And if you know me at all (or if you’ve traveled with me) you know that I am as anti-tourist as they come, so my recommendations are going allow you to experience the city in full without dipping too far into the tourist culture 🙂
See the Eiffel Tower
This is arguably the only touristy thing I’m going to encourage you to do. But you obviously cannot come to Paris and NOT go see this beautiful landmark. There are 2 ways I recommend you accomplish this:
- Watch the sunrise over the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero. This is a popular spot for photo shoots for a reason. Getting up early and ringing in the day here is SO serene. Highly recommend. And afterwards, go treat yourself to a croissant and coffee at Carette!
- Watch the Eiffel Tower sparkle from the Champ de Mars. Every night from sundown to 1am (at the top of the hour), the Eiffel Tower lights up and sparkles and it’s absolute magic. Pack a blanket and some wine and come enjoy the views (either with some cheese as an apéro before dinner or as a night cap after!).
Pick at Least 1 Museum to Visit
Paris is home to TONS of incredible museums. Pick a topic that interests you and do a quick search – I bet there is something in town for you! Here’s a handy list from Wikipedia that gives you a general sense of the genre of each museum: List of Museums in Paris.
Even if art isn’t necessarily your thing, I would certainly recommend planning a few hours at the Louvre. It’s an absolutely stunning building and the sheer magnitude of works it holds is mind-boggling. Do not overdo it here – it can be easy to feel pressured to try to see as much as you can, but that can be exhausting and can eat up a lot of your time. So just pick a section of the museum and tackle that. Here’s a very detailed map to help you plan.
A few things to note:
- Double check the date you are thinking about going – France has a lot of public holidays during which the museum would be closed
- Also be sure to check room closures to make sure the rooms you want to see are open that day
- The museum is closed on Tuesdays
- Rooms begin closing at 5:30pm
- There is free admission on the first Saturday of each month from 6pm to 9:45pm
- There are a lot of eligibility options for free admission – be sure to check the website to see if you qualify!
Other museums I highly recommend would be:
- Musée d’Orsay
- Musée Marmottan-Monet
- Musée National Rodin
- Musée de l’Armée
Spend Time in a Garden
There are so many beautiful gardens in Paris and they are the perfect place to get off your feet and pass some time on a nice day. I highly recommend you check out one (or more!) of these three gardens during your first visit:
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Jardin des Tuileries
- Parc Monceau
Stroll Through Montmartre
Aside from checking out the views at Le Sacré-Cœur, my main recommendation is to just wander here! Make sure your phone is charged in case you need to figure out where you are later but then put it away and just get lost along the historic cobblestone streets! The Montmartre district is so charming, especially as you stray away from the basilica. Check out the historic (and popular photo op) café Le Consulat while there.
Enjoy Apéro en Terrasse
Apéro is wildly important in French culture. Essentially it’s an hour or so spent having a cocktail and some light snacks. It’s a time to unwind before dinner and have lively conversation with friends. Apéro typically takes place after 6pm and can be as long or short as you’d like it to be! My recommendation is to enjoy apéro en terrasse. Pick a café (pretty much any café) with an available table on the patio and settle in! Sitting among the locals and watching the streets come to life in the evening is a big part of what makes Paris so magical.
Shop in Le Marais
Le Marais is such a cool, trendy neighborhood and it’s a really fun place to shop. Again, just wander around here! Try to stay away from the big name stores and instead pop into little boutiques. You won’t be disappointed!
Sroll Along the Seine
Sure there are cruises you can do to see the Seine, but a) those aren’t cheap and b) they’re packed with tourists. I’m all for soaking in this beautiful river, but I actually think the better way to do it is to just walk! Even better would be to pack some cheese and wine, pick a section to stroll and then pick a spot to sit and enjoy apéro as the sun begins to set.