Europe Travel Tips, Travel

Know Before You Go: Sightseeing in Paris

Paris is full of things to do, but you don’t need a month to see the main sights. We recently went for 3 days and saw almost everything we wanted to see. This was my second time to Paris and Eric’s first, so our focus was on the main tourist sights. I broke down everything we were able to see in 3 days (plus more) along with a lot of helpful information to help you plan your trip.

Bon Voyage!

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Eiffel Tower

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Eiffel Tower at sunrise

Price: 16€ to go to the second floor, 25€ to go to the top

Time needed: 2 Hours

Tips: The sunrise from the Trocadero looking eye to eye with the Tower is not to be missed in my opinion. If you’d like to go up inside the Tower, make sure to buy tickets online for a specific day and time before your trip. We would not have been able to go up the tower if we didn’t do this because the line to get tickets was so long. It’s a risk because of weather, but I thought it was worth it.

We went all the way to the top, but if I’m being honest, it wasn’t worth it. They had way too many people crammed up there and the views from the middle floor were just as good as the top. You absolutely do not need to pre-book a tour or get “skip the line” tickets from a 3rd party like Viator. This is the most simple thing to do on your own. Just buy tickets on the official Eiffel Tower website, show up on your day/time, and enter with everyone else that already has their tickets. There’s nothing to be “guided” through.

*Tickets sell out quickly, so make sure you get them a couple months in advance*

Official Eiffel Tower Website to buy tickets

Arc de Triomphe

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Price: Adults are 12€, 18 years and under are free, 18 – 25 are free with valid student ID (I think, the rules and regulations are in French so there might be further stipulations on that)

Time needed: 1 hour, longer if you stay for the ceremony at 6:30pm

Tips: We did this on a whim the day we flew in. We just happened to walk over there around sunset and decided to walk up. I think you could do this at any time of day, so if you randomly find yourself over there just go up. It was my favorite view of the city. There are quite a few stairs to get to the top, but there is one elevator for those who are handicapped.

Bonus: At 6:30pm every night there is a ceremony for the unknown French soldier fallen in battle. It’s beautiful and we just happened to be there for it. If you can make it work in your schedule to do the Arc de Triomphe in the evening, you’ll get to witness this ceremony too.

Notre Dame

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Notre Dame with no one around!

Price: Free if you’re just looking around the church; 10€ to go up top

Time needed: 30 minutes if only walking through the cathedral; leave at least an hour if you’re going up top

Tips: GO EARLY! The tour groups will descend on the Notre Dame as soon as the stairs to go up top open. The actual church will open 30 minutes prior at 8:00am. Those 30 minutes are so precious! The first time I went to the Notre Dame it was in the evening and it was a madhouse. The second time, we went right when it opened and there was hardly anyone in there. I was in shock! We did this immediately after we watched the sunrise at the Eiffel Tower and it worked perfect. And for the love of God, it’s NOTRA DAHM not NOTER DAME!

Louvre

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Price: 15€ if you are over 18 years old; 18 years and under are free

Time needed: 4 hours; However this is different for everyone. You could be in and out in an hour if you just want to see the Mona Lisa.

Tips: GO EARLY!! Go 30 minutes to an hour before it opens. We went an hour before because I wanted pretty pictures with no one around and then got in line 20 minutes before the doors opened. We were through security with tickets bought within 10 minutes of the doors opening and got in faster than some of the people who had pre-bought tickets. Note: The Louvre is closed on Tuesday’s, open until 9:45pm on Wednesday’s and Fridays, and free for anyone 26 or younger every Friday starting at 6:00pm.

The Pantheon 

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Price: Adults are 9€, 18 years and under are free, 18 – 25 are free with valid student ID (I think, the rules and regulations are in French so there might be further stipulations on that)

Time needed: 1 – 1.5 hours

Tips: Do this at any time. We did this right before lunch and there was hardly anyone there. This wasn’t on my list of things to do initially, but we stumbled upon it and decided to go. I think it was worth it. There are some very prominent French people buried in the crypt and the interior is beautiful.

Sainte-Chapelle

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Stained glass at Sainte-Chapelle

Price: Adults are 10€, 18 years and under are free, 18 – 25 are free with valid student ID (I think, the rules and regulations are in French so there might be further stipulations on that)

Time needed: 45 minutes, could be less depending on how many pictures you take

Tips: This was not originally on my list of things to do, however, just like the Pantheon, I think it is totally worth seeing right after the Notre Dame. They are very close. Sainte-Chapelle is a church with incredible stained glass windows that will make your jaw drop. If you have 45 minutes to spare, definitely do this.

Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur

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We were dodging raindrops so quality had to take a backseat for this photo

Price: Free for both

Time needed: A walk around the Sacre Coeur Cathedral will take about 30 minutes, the neighborhood of Montmartre is beautiful and if you choose to eat here, you could be there for a few hours

Tips: I’ve only ever gone at night so I’m not sure how it is in the morning. I would imagine it’s as quiet as the rest of Paris is early in the morning. Sunset from Montmartre is so beautiful so that’s why we chose to go in the evening.

Champs Elysees 

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Louis Vuitton Flagship Store on the Champs Elysees

Price: Free

Time needed: 30 minutes to walk down

Tips: Definitely not a must-do. It’s just a bunch of high-end shops on a long stretch of road leading to the the Arc de Triomph. Of course, if it’s on your list, then put this as an item to do at any time. It will always be busy. Also, if you’ve ever heard of the famous macarons made by Laduree, the main store is down this street. I had been told the line would be out the door, but we went around dinner time and there was hardly anyone in there. Either there’s something to our timing or we just witnessed a miracle that day.

The Catacombs

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Price: 29€ with audio guide, 5 – 17 years old are only 5€ with audio guide (ages 5 and under are not allowed)

Time needed: 2 – 2.5 hours

Tips: Whatever you do, make sure you buy tickets ahead of time for this. I am so thankful to the blogs I read with this tip. The line to get in for those without tickets was insane (and it was raining when we got there). We walked up at our ticket time and walked right in with zero wait. It was raining at the time so we were even more happy about this. Make sure you get the audio guide because there are very limited signs explaining what you’re looking at down there. If you buy tickets online, this is the only option (but it’s worth it).

Catacombs website

Website to buy tickets for Catacombs

IMPORTANT: The site to buy tickets to the Catacombs is all in French with no option for English. Google tried to translate the page for me, but failed. Luckily, my (limited) knowledge of the French language helped me purchase our tickets. Don’t let this deter you from purchasing ahead of time. Here’s how to get through the site:

First, you’ll need to create an account (you’ll enter your credentials here to sign in once your account is created).

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Once your account is created, check your email to see if you need to confirm the account (I can’t remember if you do or not), then log in to the site.”Valider” means submit. Hit this once you’ve typed in your email and password. Once you are in, choose “Catacombes”

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Make sure “Acces Individuels” is selected and choose “Reserver” under “Catacombes Histoire de squelette”

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You’ll be asked to select your date, time, and how many tickets you need.

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Once you submit, you should see your selection pop over to the right hand box under where you signed in. Once you confirm this is correct, choose “Valider L’Achat”. (I know, I had 2 selected above and only 1 is showing below… it’s not the site, I was just inconsistent while taking screenshots!)

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You’ll be brought to a confirmation page. Double check that everything is correct, then move on to payment. Be sure to check the box I highlighted below or it won’t let you proceed.

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I did not hit continue because I wanted to avoid buying additional tickets for this. However, if you get stuck at any point, Google is your friend. Translate the words via Google to make sure you’re entering the right information. The form should be similar to any payment form you fill out online. You can also send me a DM on Instagram (@letravelgram) and I can help you or send me a message through the contact page on my site. I’m more than happy to help if I can! I know this seems like a total pain, but if you really want to see the Catacombs, trust me, getting the tickets ahead of time is SO worth it.

Here are a few additional activities we did not have time for, but could be good additions or replacements if something above doesn’t seem like something you’d enjoy. Since I haven’t done most of these myself, I took my best guess on time needed for each one.

Chateau de Versailles

Price: Varied depending on package

Time needed: More than half a day

Tips: If we had another day in Paris, this would have been our activity. There are several ticket options. Click the link above to find out the price you’ll pay to visit. Keep in mind that this activity is a bit outside the city center, so you’ll need to take the metro to Versailles Château Rive Gauche (the closest stop).

Musee de l’Orangerie

Price: 9€; 18 years old and under are free; can combine this with the d’Orsay museum for 16€

Time spent: 1 – 2 hours based on how you typically do museums (everyone is different on this)

Tips: This is where you’ll see the famed Water Lillies by Monet. I went to this museum the first time I went to Paris and since Eric isn’t a museum person, we stuck with the Louvre. If you enjoy museums, this is a lovely one to visit.

Musee d’Orsay

Price: 16€ if combining with L’Orangerie above, or 12€ on its own; 18 years old and under are free

Time spent: 1 – 2 hours based on how you typically do museums (everyone is different on this)

Tips: If you have even more time and really love museums, this is another great one. The museum itself is a work of art. Google “d’Orsay clock” and you’ll see what I mean.

Moulin Rouge

Price: Range from 77€ – 420€ per person. There are so many different packages you can buy, so check the site out for yourself to see which option is best for you. Prices vary by date and time as well.

Time needed: Plan to be there for about 4 hours if doing the dinner show

Tips: This is something I’ve never really had interest in doing. I’ve heard it’s fun, but I would just rather spend my evening at a nice cafe people watching (not to mention the money). However, if you’ve been dying to do this, check their website for reservation details. I would also check around to various 3rd party sites to see if you can find a better deal. Groupon and Viator would be the sites I would check first. Bottom line: It’s very expensive and very touristy, but it’s definitely an iconic show to see in Paris.

River Cruise or Bateaux Mouche

Price: Adults are 14€, 5 – 12 years old are 6€, and 4 years old and under are free

Time needed: 1hr 10min, a boat leaves every 30 minutes.

Tips: This is another activity I really didn’t have any interest in. Mostly because I enjoy walking through the city. However, if you have tired kids (or adults) and just need a relaxing activity for an hour, this is a great option. You can buy tickets here or just buy them when you get there if you find yourself with some extra time. There’s also an option to have dinner on one of these boats. I don’t know anyone who has done this, so I can’t comment on quality, but could be a fun evening option one night if you’re in Paris for a while.

Opera Garnier

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Price: Changes based on whether there is an exhibit or not. Regular price is 11€ and children 12 and under are free

Time spent: 1hr (approx.)

Tips: We actually tried to do this and were met with a sign on the gate (shown above) that read “we’re closed today”. I was so disappointed, but that’s life. I would have loved to have seen this. It is stunning on the outside and inside. I believe it’s relatively simple to purchase tickets in person once you get there, but you can purchase them online if you’d like.


It’s worth noting that if you plan on doing a majority of these activities (plus more), the Paris Pass might be worth a look. It’s an all-inclusive sightseeing pass where you pay a one time fee and show it to the ticket taker when you get to each attraction. It includes many sights in Paris plus some additional activities (including the river cruise). Before we went to Paris, we calculated exactly what we knew we would do and compared the prices with getting a Paris Pass. A few things we did were not included, so calculating the price of the pass plus the activities that weren’t included, it was not worth it for us. However, it is definitely worth checking out. There is also a pass just for Paris museums that might interest you if you are planning on seeing quite a few. Paris Pass Website 


This post took a long time to put together, so if you found it helpful I’d love to know in the comments below. Also, if there is something you would add to this list, let me know in the comments below!

Bisous!

-Lauryn

P.S. I’ll be posting a first timer’s guide to Paris soon. It will be full of information I was glad to know and a few things I learned that I wish I knew before we went! 

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2 thoughts on “Know Before You Go: Sightseeing in Paris”

  1. WOW, I posted the message on trip advisor about the catacombs. Your post here is a god send. I know this took a lot of time so thank you. All of your info was what I have been looking for. I thought all the tours looked over priced so this nice to find.
    Looking for some advice for a good place that has a great view for a nice evening meal. Any suggestions.

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    1. Oh I’m so glad you were able to find this! It did take a while to put together, but it was worth it to help others figure this out. I’m really surprised they don’t have English on their site. For dinner, honestly we had our best meal by going to a grocery store, buying delicious baguette, cheeses, meats, and wine. Then we had a picnic in front of the Eiffel Tower to watch its first sparkle of the evening. It’s very fun and memorable! We didn’t eat out at very many places with a view so I might not be much help there. I do know you can eat inside the Eiffel Tower and that is probably the best view you’ll get. You can do this for lunch or dinner, just make sure you book a reservation in advance and I believe you have to specify a window table. Let me know if you have any other questions! I hope you enjoy your trip!

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