I am lucky to have been to Paris two times in my life. Paris is my favorite city in the world and has been for as long as I can remember. I have always been entranced by the language, the history, the food, and the culture in general. It is a beautiful and charming city that is full of interesting things to do as well as many hidden gems that are begging to be discovered. I have yet to go into any arrondissement that I haven’t found charming or couldn’t see myself living there sometime in the future. Paris truly is an enchanting city that deserves a visit. Below I have written about my favorite things to do in Paris, some are a little more obscure while others are ones that you would expect. This is in so shape or form an exhaustive list but it does cover what I think of as necessary must sees when in Paris.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
This is probably my favorite thing to do in Paris, it’s a little off the beaten path so there won’t be the hoards of people you see at the Louvre or at the Palace of Versailles, making for a more enjoyable experience. The reason to go is for the architecture. This is not the kind of building that makes you think of Paris because it has a very modern exterior, but it really is a sight to behold. I could stare at this building forever and never go inside, but that would be a mistake. Inside there are numerous art exhibitions to explore, but if you go down to the lowest level and up to the roof you will be able to explore the unexpected architectural treasures that are all over the building. If you are an architecture nerd you will love visiting the Fondation Louis Vuitton. Another unexpected treat is after you have finished exploring the museum you have a free entrance into a park with your museum ticket. This park has amusement rides and is perfect for children, but even as an adult you will enjoy a stroll around because it really is quite wonderful.
Eiffel Tower from Trocadéro
No visit to Paris is complete without visiting the Eiffel Tower, but in my opinion a better way to experience the tower is from the Trocadéro which is on the opposite side of the Seine from the tower. Viewing it from here offers a more unique view and has less tourists so you won’t feel pushed around or in the way of others. And because it is so close to the Eiffel Tower you can walk over to the other side of the Seine and get your more classic view and if you so desire wait in the long line to take the elevator or walk up the stairs to the very top for a panoramic view of Paris.
Le Centre Pompidou
Le Centre Pompidou is an interesting museum that can best be described as eclectic and bizarre. The exhibits are not my thing, for me there are two types of modern art, ones that are simple and charming and ones that take it a little too far, so far that nobody else would ever think to make it. You know, the art that is only appropriate in a gallery and not for your home. That is the kind of modern art at the Pompidou, which is not to my taste. The reason I recommend going to the Pompidou is to see the interesting architecture, to ride the escalator in what I will call the gerbil tube, and to eat at the rooftop restaurant which has beautiful views of the city (and is very expensive but worth it). It is a very funny place to visit and I can understand why the Parisians are not enthused about it’s existence in Paris, because it does feel rather un-french.
Le Musée d’Orangerie
Before I ever visited Paris I watched the Woody Allen film Midnight in Paris, which to this day remains my favorite film. In the film, the characters go to a museum and see the famous Monet paintings (pictured above) and when I went to Paris for the first time I really wanted to see the paintings. Unfortunately my mom and I didn’t think to look up where the paintings were, because we assumed they would be in the Louvre and when they weren’t there my mom found out that the Musée d’Orsay was known for it’s impressionist paintings, and by the time we visited the museum and discovered the Monet paintings were somewhere else, our time in Paris had come to an end. This was very sad to me and I finally researched where they were and found out they are in the Musée d’Orangerie, a place I had walked past countless times. Luckily for me I got my chance to return to Paris and going to this museum was one our first stops, and it did not disappoint. We stayed in the gallery longer than anyone else and sat on the benches and stared at the paintings for a long time. These paintings have a calming effect from their intense beauty and magnitude of size. Of all the museums in Paris this is my favorite, and for those who want to see more than just Monet, on the lower level there are many other excellent pieces of art to explore including Picasso.
Printemps Department Store
I have a fear of heights, I haven’t always but it’s been a more recent development. If I am high enough and don’t feel secure I freeze up and start hyper ventilating and start looking for my escape. Because of this I refuse to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, a fact that was perfectly fine with mother who hates waiting in lines, or the Arc de Triomphe which was a little too high (and expensive) to go up. Despite my fear of heights I really wanted to find a place that was high enough to get a good view of the city and low enough that I didn’t have a panic attack. Free was also high on my list because I didn’t want to feel guilty if I had to leave immediately. After doing some research I landed on visiting the Printemps Department Store (you can also go to Galleries Lafayette next door) which has a roof terrace that anyone can go up. The view was stunning because you could see all of the historical landmarks in the city such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, the Opera House, Notre Dame Cathedral, etc… What is nice about going to such a different location to view the city is that unlike going on top of the Eiffel Tower or the Arc de Triomphe is that you can see every monument making for a more unique experience.
Le Musée d’Orsay
As I mentioned earlier the Musée d’Orsay is the place to go to see most of your favorite impressionist paintings. They have art from many different time periods but the impressionist paintings are my favorite. Before walking into the impressionist exhibit you also get to see their iconic clock that when you look through it you can see the other side of the Seine and the Louvre. This museum is beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
Although the Louvre is one of the most beloved tourist attractions in the city, this was probably my least favorite thing to do in Paris. Don’t get me wrong the museum is fantastic and is perfect for art lovers and history buffs but the sheer magnitude of the museum is overwhelming. I visited the Louvre on my first visit to Paris when I was staying for a week. This was one of the first things we did, and if we were going to see everything in the museum it would have taken our entire week and we probably still would’ve had to skip something. There are countless halls containing countless pieces and each hall contains pieces that are nearly identical. The room that I felt most overwhelmed by was the Ancient Egyptian exhibit that had items which were thousands of years old. There was a section that had hundreds of little figurines that were nearly identical. This is my biggest problem with the museum because after I’ve seen 5 or 10 similar pieces my interest drops to nearly zero despite the subject having initially been very interesting. I really wish the museum focused on a few of their favorite pieces as opposed to everything they have in their collection. This is really just my opinion and if you go yourself or have been there and have a completely different opinion from mine that is perfectly fine with me. I will say my favorite exhibit was Napoleon’s living space. How he lived was nothing short of extravagant and the amount of money and excess of where he lived is impressive. For those who are also overwhelmed by the Louvre I do recommend exploring the exterior because the building is beautiful and captivating and is especially wonderful in the evening.
I hope you have enjoyed reading about some of my favorite things to do in Paris, if you did please like this post and leave a comment.