There are so many attractions in Paris, 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.
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What to Know Before Traveling to Paris
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 the 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*
Eiffel Tower ticket price: 16€ to go to the second floor, 25€ to go to the top
Time needed: 2 Hours
Arc de Triomphe
We visited the Arc de Triomphe on a whim the day we flew in. We just happened to walk over there around sunset and decided to walk up. This is a great Paris attraction to do 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 6:30 pm 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.
L’Arc de Triomphe ticket 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 6:30 pm
My best advice for visiting the Notre Dame is to 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 8:00 am. 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 perfectly. And for the love of God, it’s NOTRA DAHM, not NOTER DAME!
Notre Dame ticket cost: 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
The Louvre Museum
This is another Paris attraction to visit first thing in the morning. 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. The Louvre ticket price is the same whether you purchase online or in person, so there really isn’t a big advantage to purchasing early. Note: The Louvre is closed on Tuesday’s, open until 9:45 pm on Wednesday’s and Fridays, and free for anyone 26 or younger every Friday starting at 6:00 pm.
We felt that exploring on our own was fairly simple, however, if a Louvre guided tour is more your style, check out this tour from Viator. If you do explore on your own, make sure you pick up a free Louvre map near the ticket kiosks.
Louvre Museum ticket 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.
The Pantheon Paris
The Pantheon is a great Paris attraction to visit 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. The Pantheon hours are 10:00 am – 6:00 pm Monday through Sunday.
Pantheon Paris ticket 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
Sainte-Chapelle 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. These Paris attractions are very close to each other. 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. Sainte-Chapelle hours are 9:00 am – 5:00 pm Monday through Sunday.
Sainte-Chapelle ticket 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
Montmartre and the Sacre Coeur
I’ve only ever visited Montmartre and the Sacre Couer 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. The sunset from Montmartre is so beautiful so that’s why we chose to go in the evening.
Cost: 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.
The Champs Elysees is definitely not a must-do. It’s just a bunch of high-end shops on a long stretch of road leading to the Arc de Triomphe. 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.
Time needed: 30 minutes to walk down
Visiting the Paris Catacombs was one of the coolest things we did on our last trip. My best advice is to pre-purchase tickets ahead of your visit to Paris. 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). If you cannot buy tickets online, I would suggest heading there when they open at 10:00 am. This will be your best opportunity to beat the crowds! The Paris underground is such a unique attraction.
Paris Catacombs ticket price: 29€ with audio guide, 5 – 17 years old are only 5€ with an audio guide (ages 5 and under are not allowed)
Time needed: 2 – 2.5 hours
Additional Paris Attractions
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
If we had another day in Paris, visiting Chateau de Versailles would have been our activity. There are several ticket options. Click the link below 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).
Website: Chateau de Versailles
Recommended tour: Skip the line Chateau de Versailles tour
Chateau de Versailles ticket price: Varied depending on the package
Time needed: More than half a day
Musee de l’Orangerie
The Musee de l’Orangerie 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.
Website: 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)
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.
Website: 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)
The Moulin Rouge show is something I’ve never really had an 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.
Website: Moulin Rouge
Recommended tour: Moulin Rouge ticket deal through Viator
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
River Cruise or Bateaux Mouche
A bateaux mouche ride is another Paris attraction I really didn’t have any interest in. Mostly because I enjoy walking around 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 online (link below) 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.
Website: Bateaux Mouche Tickets
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
We tried to visit the Opera Garnier and were met with a sign on the gate (shown above) that read “we’re closed today”. I was so disappointed, but c’est la vie. I would have loved to have seen this. The Opera Garnier 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.
Website: Opera Garnier
Recommended tour: Skip the line Opera Garnier
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.)
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 of our activities 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
If you’d like to learn more about visiting Paris, check out my Beginner’s Guide to Paris.
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