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Paris Travel Guide Part II: Major Attractions

Updated: Jun 2


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Introduction: Paris Travel Guide II

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Ah, Paris—the city of love, lights, and limitless charm. Nestled along the picturesque banks of the Seine, Paris beckons travelers from across the globe with its rich tapestry of art, history, and culture. From iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower and Notre Dame Cathedral to the cobblestone streets of Montmartre and the bustling avenues of the Champs-Élysées, every corner of this enchanting metropolis is steeped in allure. But beyond its famed attractions lies a treasure trove of hidden gems waiting to be discovered—a thriving culinary scene, quaint cafes perfect for people-watching, verdant parks ideal for leisurely strolls, and world-class museums brimming with artistic masterpieces.


There's something for everyone!


So, let's dive in and see all of what Paris has to offer!


Buy Tickets in Advance

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Paris is a popular tourist destination. Tickets to popular attractions can sell out months in advance. If you're planning a trip, be sure to purchase your tickets beforehand! If not, sometimes you can find openings with tour groups on sites such as TripAdvisor or Viator. However, these are often more expensive than buying individual tickets alone.


Expect Long Lines

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When planning your trip, expect long lines when visiting popular attractions such as the Eiffel Tower or the Louvre (especially during tourist season). Yes, you did pre-book your ticket, and you'd think it would be a simple scan and enter, but that's often not the case. You still have to stand in a rather long line for your entry time before you can even enter. So, I'd show up early to your ticketed time and give yourself room in your schedule.


How early should I plan to arrive? Each attraction will be different. Google can be helpful with this, or you can e-mail or call the venue and see what they recommend.


Note: Tourist season is generally from June to September, with July being the busiest month. Also, pay attention to any major events that might be happening during the time you plan to visit. For example, unless I plan to attend the Olympics this summer (2024), I wouldn't step foot in Paris until they're over. No, thank you!


Book a Tour

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If you're not a tour person, skip this section. I, however, often find value in booking tour guides to help me through many of these major attractions. They have so much knowledge to offer and will take you straight to the most popular and significant sights. The only downside is that you might not be able to spend as much time as you'd like at each stop.


The following tours I have personally booked in Paris and can recommend:


A new tour that recently opened up that I'm keeping my eye on is:



Moulin Rouge

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One of my favorite things to do in Paris!


The Moulin Rouge is a mesmerizing spectacle that captivates audiences with its dazzling display of music, dance, and theatricality. Located in the heart of the vibrant Montmartre district, this iconic cabaret venue has been enchanting visitors since its grand opening in the late 19th century. Step into a world of glamour and extravagance as the curtain rises on a whirlwind of color, energy, and artistic flair. From high-kicking can-can dancers to acrobatic feats and spellbinding musical performances, each act is a testament to the Moulin Rouge's legendary status as the birthplace of modern cabaret. The show transports audiences back to the Belle Époque era, evoking the romance and hedonism of Parisian nightlife at its zenith.


Yes, there are topless females in the show. For some reason, this seems to be the first thing that comes to mind when some foreigners think of the Moulin Rouge. It's really not that big of a deal. It's Europe. I've been to multiple full nude German spas. It's just a human body, and all the costumes are beautiful and tastefully done. Heck, at my last visit, a French couple had their 9-year-old child in attendance with them! Of course, I understand if your religion/beliefs forbid it, but if not, I'd give this show a chance. It was so much more than I ever imagined.


I have not had the VIP experience yet, but my friend did during her honeymoon and highly recommends it! The full experience, which includes dinner, is around 455€ per person.


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Warning: If you are claustrophobic or need more space when seated, they pack you in like SARDINES in the regular ticketed seating. It's TIGHT. VIP might be a better choice if you can afford it.


Other cabaret/burlesque-like venues of note:



Louvre Museum

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The Louvre, a majestic palace turned world-renowned museum, stands as a testament to the grandeur of art and history. Located in the heart of Paris along the banks of the Seine River, this iconic institution beckons visitors with its sprawling wings and iconic glass pyramid entrance. Within its walls lies a vast and diverse collection spanning millennia, from ancient Egyptian artifacts and classical sculptures to masterpieces by Renaissance masters and modern art luminaries. As you wander through its hallowed halls, you'll encounter iconic works such as the Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, and Winged Victory of Samothrace, each offering a glimpse into the evolution of human creativity and expression.


I can't imagine a trip to Paris that doesn't involve the Louvre.


It's such an iconic museum; how could you not!?


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Note: This museum is HUGE. To see everything the Louvre has to offer, it would take an estimated 65-200 days. We, as tourists, often only have hours. Its halls are also a maze that can be rather confusing. I highly recommend booking a tour guide to take you through all the important and iconic pieces of artwork that you want to see without wasting time. It's more expensive, but worth it, in my opinion.


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Warning: There is little airflow in the museum, but it is not very effective on some floors when temperatures rise. It can feel like a furnace! At one point, the ladies I traveled with had to take a seat and find water (there is food and water near the entrance).


Catacombs

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Beneath the bustling streets of Paris lies a haunting labyrinth known as the Catacombs, a subterranean realm steeped in history and mystery. Originally limestone quarries dating back to Roman times, these underground tunnels were repurposed in the late 18th century to address the city's overflowing cemeteries. Today, the Catacombs serve as a macabre yet fascinating tourist attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into Paris's darker past. Descending into the depths, you'll encounter walls lined with the bones of over six million souls, arranged in eerie yet meticulously crafted patterns.


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I'll be honest, yes, it was really neat and educational to see this, but towards the end, I was like... when will this end!!! It was just narrow hallways of bones, and more bones, and morree boneesss.... I'm glad I got to check it off my bucket list, but I feel like I should have left one of those silly Google reviews that everyone jokes about: "Too long, too many bones." 😄


Warning: As most things are in Europe, the Catacombs are NOT accessible if you cannot navigate stairs. The only way in and out of the labyrinth is the somewhat narrow staircase. I also do not recommend this experience if you are claustrophobic.


Eiffel Tower

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Duh - Did you think I was going to skip it!?


Rising majestically above the Parisian skyline, the Eiffel Tower stands as an enduring symbol of romance, innovation, and architectural marvel. Designed by Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World's Fair, this iconic iron lattice structure has since become synonymous with the City of Light, drawing millions of visitors from around the globe each year. Ascend to dizzying heights via its elegant elevators or winding staircases and be rewarded with panoramic views of Paris's iconic landmarks, from the winding Seine River to the historic Notre Dame Cathedral and beyond.


There are so many ways to explore the Eiffel Tower! Click on each option to see descriptions straight from the official website.



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Above photography by Rachel Calvo Portraits.


And... Here is where I make a confession...


I've only looked at it; I've never gone up. 🙈


I have pretty bad anxiety when it comes to heights. I'm hoping to possibly bravely go up mid-way one day to dine at the restaurant in the evening. I'd love to capture the romance of a sunset, then relax with a crisp glass of wine as the lights start to twinkle."🙏


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Note: At the moment, there is a wall/barrier surrounding the Eiffel itself. You can't just walk up to it and explore it because of security concerns. Also, due to the Olympics, the grassy area that you used to be able to walk on in the middle to take photos or have a drink at has been commandeered for Volleyball. In fact, for the past year and a half, it was closed every time I visited. Hopefully, after the Olympics, it will be restored to its original condition, and we can have this experience again!


Note: The lights will sparkle starting at dusk on the hour, each hour, until around midnight. For official information, please check the official website. You don't want to miss it, it's an enchanting display, and a must-see when visiting Paris!


Arc de Triomphe

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Above photography by Rachel Calvo Portraits.


Standing proudly at the western end of the Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe is a timeless symbol of Parisian grandeur and resilience. Commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 to honor the French army's victories, this majestic monument has since become an iconic landmark and a testament to the city's rich history. Admire its imposing neoclassical façade adorned with intricate reliefs and inscriptions commemorating France's military triumphs and ascend to its rooftop terrace for panoramic views of the bustling streets below. From the majestic avenues radiating outwards like the spokes of a wheel to the distant silhouette of the Eiffel Tower on the horizon, the Arc de Triomphe offers a breathtaking perspective on the City of Light. But beyond its architectural splendor, this monumental arch serves as a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made in the name of liberty and democracy—a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the French people and a beacon of hope for generations to come.


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Like the Eiffel, ascending to the top hasn't been on my priority list... but I've seen lots of photos from up there and the view is definitely worth it! You can also wait in line in the middle of the street for a circular spot in which to take fun photos with the Arc in the background. It's a huge traffic circle around the structure, so make sure to yield and be mindful of traffic!


Versailles

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Found in the idyllic outskirts of Paris, the Palace of Versailles reigns as a timeless symbol of opulence and grandeur. Once the epicenter of French royal power, this magnificent château, with its sprawling gardens and ornate architecture, continues to captivate visitors from around the globe. Step through its gilded gates and be transported back to the lavish court of Louis XIV, the Sun King, whose vision transformed Versailles into a dazzling showcase of art, architecture, and political prowess. Wander through the sumptuous halls adorned with intricate tapestries and priceless works of art, marvel at the glittering Hall of Mirrors where history was made, and stroll through the meticulously manicured gardens that stretch as far as the eye can see.


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The Palace is about a 30-minute metro/train ride from the Eiffel Tower and is easily accessible from anywhere within the city. This is another popular destination full of history and stunning sights both inside and out. The city itself is quite charming and boasts many high-quality restaurants and bars. I recommend scheduling a full day to explore and really take it all in.


Note: Pay attention to the events that the Palace offers! You might be able to catch a concert or even add on the Versailles Grand Masked Ball to your trip!


Montmartre

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Perched atop a scenic hill in the heart of Paris, Montmartre exudes an irresistible charm that has captivated artists, poets, and dreamers for generations. This bohemian neighborhood, with its winding cobblestone streets and quaint cafes, is a haven of creativity and inspiration. Explore the iconic Place du Tertre, where street artists showcase their talents amidst a backdrop of bustling bistros and charming boutiques. Ascend the steps of the majestic Sacré-Cœur Basilica and be rewarded with panoramic views of the city below, a breathtaking vista that has long inspired countless works of art. Montmartre's rich artistic heritage is palpable at every turn, from the legendary Moulin Rouge Cabaret to the former haunts of luminaries like Picasso, Van Gogh, and Renoir.


You can't miss the giant Basilica, a stunning example of Romano-Byzantine architecture, perched upon the hill. As stated above, the view just gets better as you climb. This district is so much fun to wander around. I'd dedicate at least half a day there.


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Note: While climbing to the Basilica, I encountered the most aggressive peddlers I've come across to date (in Paris). They actually had the ones where they try to put the bracelet on your wrist and trick you into buying it. My friend was even grabbed and physically stopped by another. Be very firm, don't accept anything you don't want, and try to ignore them as you walk through without stopping.


Musée d'Orsay

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The Musée d'Orsay in Paris is a cultural gem found along the picturesque banks of the Seine River. Housed within a stunning Beaux-Arts railway station dating back to the late 19th century, this iconic museum boasts an unparalleled collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist masterpieces. Step inside and be transported to a world of artistic brilliance, where works by renowned artists such as Monet, Van Gogh, Renoir, and Degas adorn the walls. From luminous landscapes to captivating portraits, each piece offers a glimpse into the revolutionary spirit and boundless creativity of the era. Beyond its celebrated paintings, the Musée d'Orsay also showcases an array of sculptures, decorative arts, and photography, making it a treasure trove of artistic inspiration and cultural heritage.


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This museum had been on my bucket list for a while, and I just recently managed to visit! It was just as beautiful inside as I had imagined. Our casual lunch at the Museum's Café Campana was both delicious and a work of art in itself with the picturesque clock window and Art Nouveau décor.


Palais Garnier

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The Palais Garnier stands as a testament to the opulence and grandeur of the Belle Époque era. Designed by architect Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1875, this magnificent opera house is a masterpiece of Second Empire architecture, boasting a sumptuous façade adorned with ornate sculptures and elaborate embellishments. Step inside its hallowed halls and be transported to a world of unparalleled beauty and refinement, where shimmering chandeliers cast a soft glow over gilded balconies and plush velvet seats. From its breathtaking Grand Staircase to the glittering auditorium with its iconic ceiling painted by Marc Chagall, every corner of the Palais Garnier exudes an air of timeless elegance and artistic splendor. Today, this historic venue continues to enchant audiences with its world-class performances, from ballets and operas to concerts and galas, ensuring that its legacy as one of the most iconic cultural institutions in Paris endures for generations to come.


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It is quite possibly the most beautiful building I've ever toured, and I've seen many breathtaking interiors. It's most likely the impressive density of beautiful paintings, golden chandeliers, and stunning architecture that surrounds you at every turn. It is almost overwhelming in its opulence. I hope to return one day to attend an event inside the Opera itself (general tourists cannot enter the interior area with seating). I heard tickets sell out fast, so I'll have to time it just right!


Please enjoy the short video clip below from my visit. 👇


Note: This is a popular tourist destination, and the interior isn't all that expansive, so it is often very crowded. I would try to time your visit for first thing in the morning, and arrive early to be one of the first let in. I had a difficult time taking photos and videos due to the amount of people present.


I mean... the audacity of others being at the same place at the same time as me... Rude! 😂


Notre-Dame

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The Notre Dame Cathedral is a timeless symbol of French Gothic architecture and spiritual magnificence. With its majestic spires and intricate façade adorned with gargoyles and statues, this iconic landmark has inspired awe and reverence for centuries. From the moment you approach its grand entrance, you're greeted by the breathtaking beauty of its rose windows, each a masterpiece of stained-glass craftsmanship. Inside, the cavernous nave beckons visitors to wander beneath its soaring vaulted ceilings, while the ethereal light filtering through the windows casts a kaleidoscope of colors upon the ancient stone walls.


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I still haven't been inside. All of my travels to Paris have sadly been after the fire in 2019. Currently, the projected reopening looks like it will be around December (2024). However, these things take time, and delays are common.


The Army Museum & Napoleon's Tomb

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The Musée de l'Armée in Paris is a treasure trove of military history and heritage, housed within the magnificent surroundings of the Hôtel des Invalides. Spanning centuries of conflict and conquest, this renowned museum showcases a vast collection of weapons, armor, and artifacts, offering visitors a glimpse into the evolution of warfare from ancient times to the present day. Explore the halls lined with gleaming suits of armor worn by knights and nobles, marvel at the precision of antique firearms and cannons, and discover the stories of legendary military leaders and strategists. From Napoleon's tomb to exhibits highlighting France's role in both World Wars, the Musée de l'Armée is a fascinating journey through the triumphs and tribulations of human history, reminding us of the sacrifices made in the pursuit of peace and freedom.


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I really didn't think I was going to like this museum, and then I finally went inside, and the displays were actually super cool. I didn't realize armor and weapons could be so captivating! Napoleon's Tomb was housed next door inside the magnificent Dôme des Invalides (with other important individuals as well). Overall, I would highly recommend this experience to all who plan on visiting Paris. It's something I had originally written off as "not for me," and boy, was I wrong!


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If you need advice on how to navigate the city, be sure to check out my first Paris travel guide, "Allie's Parisin Guide Part I: Navigation."


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Above photography by Rachel Calvo Portraits.


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