Things to do in Paris, FRANCE

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Undoubtedly the most romantic city in the world, Paris is also one of the most beautiful. Little wonder then that Paris attracts about 45 million tourists a year.

They come for a variety of reasons. First, there is the art and culture. It is was here that the impressionist movement was born, and that you will find many of the world's great museums such as the Louvre (and da Vinci's Mona Lisa), the Pompidou Centre, the Musee d'Orsay and the Musee Rodin.

Then there are iconic tourist attractions. The Eiffel Tower is perhaps the most famous structure in the world, with Notre Dame, Montmatre and the Sacre Coeur not far behind. The grand Palace of Versailles is a short train ride away, with other things to see including the Arc de Triomphe, Pere Lachaise and the Jardins de Luxembourg.

And then there is the food and atmosphere. With trendy cafes lining its wide boulevards and 35 Michelin-starred restaurants, this is a place for food-lovers. And the beautiful River Seine, cobblestone medieval streets, sporting standia such as Roland Garros and Stade de France, bars and night life make this a perfect place for romance or to let your hair down.

The best dozen activities and things to do in Paris are described below.

1. The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower.

At 324 metres, the iconic Eiffel Tower is the tallest structure in Paris.

Built between 1887 and 1889 for the World Exhibition, the Tower is made from over 7,000 tonnes of metal and has observation decks on three levels. The first two are accessible by lift or foot (by climbing 695 steps!); but the third level can only be accessed by lift from the second.

The views of Paris from all three levels, and particularly the third, are spectacular and will help you to get your bearings.

where? The Eiffel Tower, 7th Arondissement, Paris. Metro: Bir Hakein, Dupliex (both line 6); Trocadero (line 6 and 9); Ecloe Militaire (line 8). Overground (RER): Champy de Mars-Tour Eiffel (line C). Bus: 42,69,72,82,87.

when? 365 days a year. 13 Jun - 31 Aug: 9 am to 0.45 am. 1 Sept - 12 Jun: 9 am to midnight.

£$€¥ Stairs to second floor: €3/€3.5/€4.5 (children/youths/adults); elevator to second floor: €4/€6.40/€8; elevator entrance to top floor: €7.5/€9.90/€13.

2. The Louvre

The modern pyramid outside Paris' Louvre (© Martin Falbisoner, distributed under a CCASA3.0 Unported licence). The Mona Lisa, housed in the Louvre museum

Occupying over 60,000 square metres, the Louvre attracts around 9 million visitors each year, making it the most visited tourist attraction in the world.

Housed in the magnificent Louvre Palace on the right bank of the Seine, the museum continually displays over 35,000 objects dating from 4000 BC to 1850 AD (later works are housed in the Musée D'Orsay (see below)). The Louvre is accessed via the I M Pei designed Grande Pyramid (pictured), standing over the main court, the Cour Napoléon.

The collection is arranged into eight departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture; Decorative Arts; Paintings; and Prints and Drawings.

Amongst the museum's greatest treasures are da Vinci's Mona Lisa (one of the World's Top 10 Paintings), a Large Sphinx (c. 2000 BC), the Venus de Milo, Michelangelo's Dying Slave and Titian's The Crowning with Thorns.

where? Palais Royal, Musée du Louvre, 75001 Paris. Metro: Station Palais-Royal-Musée du Louvre (lines 1 and 7). Buses: 21,24,27,39,48, 68,69,72,81,95

when? 9 am to 6 pm six days a week (not Tues). Closed 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec. Late opening on Wed and Fri till 10 pm.

£$€¥ Free for: under-18s; 18-25 year-olds resident in the EU; and everyone on 14 July and the first Sunday of each month. For all others admission is €9 for permanent galleries, €11 for temporary galleries, or €14 for both.

3. The Palace of Versailles

The Palace at Verseilles (© Marc Vassal, distributed under a CCASA 2.0 licence). The Hall of Mirrors in the Versaille Palace (© Regi51, distributed under a CCASA3.0 Unported licence).

The Palace of Versailles and its surrounding grounds, situated about 20 km to the south-west of central Paris, are a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Palace is historically important because it was the home of the French royal court between 1682, when it was established by Louis XIV, and 1789, the start of the French revolution. It also has a continuing political function: heads of state regularly meet there, as do the French Senate and Assembly when debating changes to the constitution.

The Palace itself is vast, containing 67 staircases and over 6000 paintings. Large parts of it are accessible to visitors, including the King's and Queen's apartments (which house a number of state rooms and the Queen's ornate bedchamber), the Hall of Mirrors (still used for state functions) and the Palace's baroque Chapel. Don't miss the grounds either, and especially its formal gardens, canal, fountains and statues.

where? Chateau de Versailles, Place d'Arme, 78000 Versailles. RER from Paris to Versailles Rive Gauche (line C). SNCF from Paris Montparnasse to Versailles Chantiers or from Paris Saint Lazare to Versailles Rive Gauche.

when? 1 Apr to 31 Oct: Palace 9 am to 6.30 pm; Gardens 8.30 am to 7 pm. 1 Nov to 31 Mar: Palace 9 am to 5.30 pm; Gardens 8 am to 6 pm. Closed 25 Dec, 1 Jan and 1 May.

£$€¥ For entry to the Palace, Gardens and temporary exhibitions: €20 from 1 Apr to 31 Oct, and €16 for 1 Nov to 31 Mar. Free for under 18s and 18-25 year old EU residents.

4. The Musée D'Orsay

Edouard Manet's Dejuner sur l'herbe was rejected from the 1863 Salon but shown in the Salon des Refuses (Salon of the Refused). Edouard Manet's Olympia was displayed in the Salon of the Academy des Beau Arts in 1865. Monet's Gare Saint Lazare, shown at the third impressionist exhibition held in 1877.

The Musée D'Orsay is found on the left bank of the Seine and displays a collection of mainly French art dating from 1850 to 1915.

The collection is housed in an imposing converted railway station and is best known for its impressionist masterpieces. The best known pieces include:

  • Cezanne's Apples and Oranges (one of the most significant works painted by this interesting and difficult painter in his later years);
  • Manet's The Luncheon on the Grass (Dejuner sur l'herbe) and Olympia;
  • Monet's The Saint-Lazare Station (painted in 1877 and considered one of his most important works), Rouen Cathedral (one of his series of 31 paintings of this scene) and Blue water lilies (part of the series of hundreds of works Monet painted over the final three decades of his life);
  • Renoir's Montmatre (where Renoir lived for a number of years);
  • van Gogh's Starry Night over the Rhone (one of van Gogh's most iconic works and the subject of the eponymous Don McClean song) and Self-portrait; and
  • Whistler's mother.

Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia

Of these works, Manet's Luncheon on the Grass (Dejuner sur l'herbe) and Olympia are particularly important. Exhibited in the Salon de Refuses and the Salon of the Academy des Beau Arts in 1863 and 1865 respectively, they challenged the conservative art establishment which favoured paintings of religious, mythological or historical scenes.

These paintings were instead of modern topics, and used broad brush strokes and a light palette. To make things worse, the subject of Olympia is almost certainly a prostitute. Manet was only to achieve acclaim towards the very end of his life, but it is now generally accepted that Luncheon on the Grass was the first true work of modern art.

where? Rue de Lille, 75343 Paris, France. Metro: Solferino (line 12). RER: Musée D'Orsay (line C). Bus: 24,63,68,69,83, 84,94

when? 9.30 am to 6 pm six days a week (not Mon). Late night opening on Thurs to 9.45 pm. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May and 25 Dec.

£$€¥ Free for under-18s and 18-25 year old EU residents. €5.50 for 18-25 year-olds not resident in EU and all 26-30 year olds. Otherwise €8. A combined ticket for the D'Orsay and Rodin Museums can be purchased at a small extra cost.

5. Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Situated on the eastern portion of the Íle de la Cité (the small island in the middle of the Seine) lies Notre Dame de Paris.

Considered by many to be the best example of French Gothic architecture, this cathedral was built between 1163 and 1345 (yes, it took nearly 200 years!). It is known for its imposing bell towers (holding five bells, of which one weighs 13 tonnes), flying buttresses, and having hosted important moments in France's history (for example the coronation of Napoleon I in 1804).

It was also the inspiration for Victor Hugo's Hunchback of Notre Dame

where? Place Jean-Paul II, Íle de la Cité, 4th arrondisement. Metro: Cité or Saint-Michel (line 4); Hôtel de Ville (lines 1 and 11); Maubert-Mutualité or Cluny-La Sorbonne (line 10); or Châtelet (lines 7, 11 and 14). RER: Saint-Michel--Notre-Dame (lines B and C).

when? 365 days a year, 8 am to 6.45 pm (7.15 pm on Sat and Sun)

£$€¥ Free

6. The Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe at night. Paris' Arc de Triomphe from the air (© Taxiarchos228, distributed under a CCASA 3.0 Unported licence).

Found at the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the west end of the Champs-Élysée, is the Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc, finished in 1836, was built as a monument to France's soldiers, and particularly those who died in the Napoleonic wars. After the end of the great war, the tomb of the unknown soldier was built at its base.

The Arc is 162 ft high, 150 ft wide and 72 ft deep-so big that a biplane was flown through its arches in 1919 post-war celebrations. Visitors can climb to its top, from which many other Paris landmarks can be seen. This is also a great spot to watch the brave drivers who attempt to negotiate the eight lane roundabout that encircles the Arc.

After you finish, why not visit the cinemas, cafés, and luxury shops on the adjoining chestnut tree-lined Champs-Élysée.

where? Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008, Paris. RER and Metro: Charles de Gaulle-Étoille (lines A, 1, 2 and 6). Bus: 73.

when? 1 Apr to 30 Sept: 10 am to 11 pm. 1 Oct to 31 Mar: 10 am to 10.30 pm. Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, 25 Dec, and the mornings of 8 May, 14 Jul and 11 Nov.

£$€¥ Free for under 18s, and 18 to 25 year-old EU residents. Otherwise €9 or €5.50 for concessions.

7. Père Lachaise

The tranquil Père Lachaise cemetry

At almost 120 acres, Père Lachaise is the largest cemetery in the city of Paris.

Located in the 20th arrondisement, the cemetery was established by Napoleon I in 1804. It is reputed to be the world's most visited burial ground, for two principle reasons. The first is that it is a beautiful and tranquil spot. And the second is that it is the final resting place for a number of well-known individuals with a close association with France.

Those buried at Père Lachaise include Oscar Wilde, Honoré de Balzac, Maria Callas, Frédéric Chopin, Felix Faure, Marcel Marceau, Amedeo Modigliani, Jim Morrison, Camille Pissarro and Gioachino Rossini.

where? Boulevard de Ménilmontant, 20th arrondisement. Metro: Philippe Auguste (line 2), Père Lachaise and Gambetta (both line 3)

when? 16 Mar to 5 Nov: Mon-Fri 8 am to 6.30 pm; Sat 8.30 am to 6.30 pm; Sun 9 am to 6.30 pm. 6 Nov to 15 Mar: Mon to Fri 8 am to 5.30 pm; Sat 8.30 am to 5.30 pm; Sun 9 am to 5.30 pm.

£$€¥ Free

8. The Musée Rodin

The Thinker, found at the peaceful Rodin Museum

The Musée Rodin is undoubtedly the most romantic museum in Paris. Displaying the works of French sculptor August Rodin, the museum occupies a converted hotel and its grounds.

The museum's most famous works include The Kiss and The Thinker (pictured). Many works are found outside in the museum's well-kept and extensive gardens. Also found in the gardens are a small lake and a casual restaurant.

The museum has a limited number of works by other artists, including pieces by Renoir and van Gogh (which were donated by Rodin himself to the French state). A particularly good option for a fine day.

where? 79, Rue de Varenne, 75007 Paris. Metro: Varennes or Invalides (line 13). RER: Invalides (line C). Buses: 69,82,87,92.

when? Six days a week (not Tues) between 10 am and 5.45 pm (museum) or 6.45 pm (garden). Closed 1 Jan, 1 May, 25 Dec.

£$€¥ Free for under-18s and 18-25 year-old EU residents. Otherwise €6 (museum only), €10 (museum and exhibits) or €11 (museum, exhibits and gardens). Small discounts apply for 18-25 year-olds resident outside the EU. A combined ticket for the D'Orsay and Rodin Museums can be purchased at a small extra cost.

9. Montmartre

The iconic Sacre Coeur, Montmartre.

Situated on the right bank of the Seine in the 18th arrondisement is Montmartre.

The setting for films such as Amelie, Moulin Rouge!, and La Vie en Rose, Montmartre was the place of work and inspiration for the likes of Pissarro, Picasso, Modigliani, van Gogh, Renoir and Degas. Today, there are three principal draws.

First is the famous Sacré Coeur church, situated at the top of Montmartre's 130-metre high hill, and its white-domed Basilica (pictured,

Second is the bustling Place de Tertre, replete with artists, easels, entertainers, coffee tables, multicoloured umbrellas and atmosphere.

Third comes Montmartre's nightlife, and cabaret clubs such as Moulin Rouge and Le Chat Noir.

where? Montmartre, 18th arrondissement. Metro: Anvers (line 2) or Abbesses (line 12). You can take the fenicular from Abbesses to the top of Montmatre for the price of a metro ticket.

when? Sacré Coeur is open between 6 am and 11 pm, 365 days a year. Its dome and crypt are open between 9 am and 6 pm. Moulin Rouge has shows at 9 pm and 11 pm.

£$€¥ Entry to Sacré Coeur is free, though access to the crypt and dome is €5. Dinner and a show at the Moulin Rouge costs between €150 and €180.

10. A boat trip down the Seine

Why not take a boat trip down the River Seine, Paris. A bridge over the River Seine (© Alex Proimos, distributed ander a CCA 2.0 licence).

On a fine day, there is no better way to see Paris than by taking a trip down the beautiful Seine.

The 776 km long river, which flows from Burgundy (near the Swiss Alps) to the English Channel, is crossed by 37 bridges within the Paris region alone. They include the famous Pont-Neuf, built in 1607, and the Pont Louis-Philippe.

Highlights of a boat trip include passing the beautiful Íle de la Cité and getting up close and personal with the architecture of Notre Dame, and views of the Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, Musée D'Orsay, Institut de France, Grand Palais, Trocadéro, Invalides and Hôtel de Ville. Two reliable cruise operators are Bateaux Mouches and Bateaux Parisiens.

where? Bateaux Mouches cruises leave from Pont d'Alma, Rive Droite, 8th arrondisement. Bateaux Parissienes leave from the foot of Notre Dame (see above).

when? 10.15 am to 11 pm in peak summer season. In winter, cruises stop running as early as 4.45.

£$€¥ Bateaux Mouches charges €10 for adults and €5 for children for a standard cruise. Bateaux Parisiens are slightly more expensive. Both companies offer more expensive lunch and dinner cruises at prices ranging from €50 to €135.

11. The Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre (© Aldrik, distributed under a CCASA 3.0 Unported licence). A van Doesburg at the Pompidou Centre

Situated in the Beaubourg district of the 4th arrondisement is the remarkable Pompidou Centre.

The Centre, finished in 1977, is immediately recognisable by reason of a most unusual architectural feature: it has an exposed skeleton of brightly coloured tubes which hold the building's mechanical systems. Inside there is to be found a vast public library, a centre for music and acoustic research, and, most importantly, the Musée National d'Art Moderne.

This museum houses a large collection of modern art including works by Matisse, Picasso and Pollock. The Centre also hosts a number of major exhibitions on its first and sixth floors.

Past exhibitors include Hockney, Pollock and Dali, and the current exhibit is by the French sculptor Henri Gaudier-Brzeska. If modern art isn't your thing, you could always buy a panorama ticket that allows you access to the building but not the museums and exhibits inside.

where? Centre Pompidou, 4th arrondisement. Metro: Rambuteau (line 11), Hôtel de Ville (lines 1 and 11), Châtelet (lines 1,7,11,14). RER: Châtelet-Les Halles (RER A, B and D). Buses: 21,29,38,47,58, 69,70,72,74,75, 76,81,85,96.

when? The Centre is open from 11 am to 10 pm six days a week (not Tues), and is closed on May 1. The Museum closes at 9 pm.

£$€¥ Tickets for entry to the Centre and the Museum cost between €10 and €12, depending on the season (€8 to €9 for concessions). A panorama ticket costs €3. Under 18s and 18-25 year old EU residents go free.

12. Jardins de Luxembourg

One of many statues found in the Jardins de Luxembourg

For those looking for calm, we recommend the Jardins de Luxembourg, Paris' largest public park.

Situated next to the French Senate, the Jardins were designed by Marie de Médicis, a French Queen, and opened in 1612. They are made up of grass lawns, gravel paths, a large central pool (where children sail toy boats), various statues (in particular of former Queens), several fountains (including the 1630 Medici Fountain and the nineteenth century Fountain of the Observatory), sporting facilities, and a number of discrete planted gardens.

A lap of the Jardins will take about 20 minutes at a brisk pace, but we recommend a leisurely stroll to take in the Jardins' tranquillity. You may run into the children's playground, a tai chi class, old men playing chess, or a band playing underneath the gazebo.

where? Jardins de Luxembouurg, 75006 Paris. Metro: Odéon (lines 4 and 10), Rennes (line 2), Mabillon (line 10). RER: Luxembourg, Parc Royal (line B).

when? Opening times depend on the season. In high summer the Jardins are open between 7.30 am and 8.15 pm. In deep winter, they are open from 8.15 am to 4.45 pm.

£$€¥ Free