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  • Writer's pictureJulian Canlas

40 things to do in Paris for tourists and non-tourists

Whether you’re a tourist or not, it’s always a challenge to figure out the things to do in Paris, because it is such a big city with so much culture happening in its historic landmarks and less frequented places.

So with the help (and to their annoyance) of my great friends, I created a list of 40 things to do in Paris, arranged in districts, Paris’ landmarks and picture-perfect streets.

We’ll start with 7 things to do in the cultural neighborhood of Montmartre, where one of my favorite French films, Amélie, was shot. Then there’s the multicultural Le Marais, with 4 spots that I loved to hang out in. Then, we’ll move to the more touristy parts, including 4 things to do in Île-de-la-Cité and the 12 landmarks that make Paris.

There are the 7 places my friends and I know and love, and where we’ve spent countless hours, away from the crowd. And finally, I’m finishing this journey with the best streets to wander around and appreciate Paris’ hustle-and-bustle. Enjoy!

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Appreciate Montmartre’s rich art and history

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

Things to do in Monmartre

First stop: the neighborhood of Montmartre, with its bygone culture and art full of poets, artists and other creatives that made Paris for what it is today. From the winding cobblestone streets and charming squares packed with artists to the quirky small eateries for a nice café or a full-blown cassoulet, Montmartre is a great place to wander through at any time of the year.

Montmartre is also the central setting of the Paris that we know and love in Amélie Poulain, so I suggest that you watch the film, then visit Montmartre, to see some familiar places that Amélie has visited.

1. Sacré-Cœur

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

Located on the top of a hill at Montmartre, Sacré-Coeur was built at the end of the 19th century as a symbol of the Sacred Heart of Christ, an embodiment of moral order, after the French defeat against Prussia was attributed to moral decline of an increasingly secular nation.

At 300 meters tall, it is also the highest point in Paris after the Eiffel Tower (of course). You can visit the dome for free but going up to the parvis for a view of Paris will cost you 5 euros. I think that the price is right for such a wonderful panoramic view of Paris. Here’s how the parvis looks like.

2. Maison Collignon - Marché de la Butte

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

A few stones away from Amélie's house is the Maison Collignon, the iconic épicerie, where Amélie listens to neighborhood gossip and befriends Lucien, the young vendor in the place. It's a charming store that has retained its charm across the years. Located in a ruelle leading towards Sacré-Coeur, it is a nice detour, if you’re on your way to Sacré-Coeur (or just left it).

3. Place du Tertre

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

Translated as public square (place) on a hill (Tertre), Place du Tertre was once frequented by many famous artists during La Belle Epoque, including Van Gogh, Picasso and Maurice Utrillo. Flash forward to the 21st century, it is still full of artists, and it’s one of the most frequented squares in Paris.

4. Vineyard Vignes du Clos Montmartre

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

As the only (and oldest!) vineyard in the heart of Paris, Vignes du Clos Montmartre supplies wines sold in October's Fête des Vendanges.

While it is not available to the general public, it warrants a peek for its historical significance and odd existence. You can walk across rue des Saules, which borders the vineyard, and you can see the grapes behind the wire fence.

5. Cinema Studio 28

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

Located on the way to Sacré Coeur, Cinema Studio 28 is an iconic cinema venue that's opened in 1928 to the screening of Abel Gancé's Napoléon. If you love international indie films, French art-house and avant-garde films and lamps designed by Jean Cocteau, director of the 1946 rendition of The Beauty and the Beast, then this is for you.

6. Funiculaire de Montmartre

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

With approximately 220 steps between the bottom of the hill to the Sacré-Coeur, it's not hard to find the value in taking this funiculaire. At the price of a métro ticket, you can bypass these steps and travel to the basilica in under 90 seconds. It’s also a fun ride to take.

7. Rue des Abbesses

Things to do in Montmartre, Paris

With many restaurants, hotels, bars, cafés and small independent stores, Rue des Abbesses is a perpetually lively street in the heart of Montmartre.

On its cobblestones lies a history of artists, bohemians, flamboyant cabaret owners and drag queens. Nowadays, you can see many wide-eyed tourists navigating across, on their way to Sacré Coeur or Moulin Rouge. It's still an absolutely beautiful street for a nice stroll across Montmartre.

Explore the melting pot of Le Marais

Things to do in Le Marais, Paris

Things to do in Le Marais

Le Marais is the Parisian neighborhood for the hip and trendy. It is a cultural melting pot, where Orthodox Jewish and Chinese people walk along stylish gay guys and androgynous queer folks.

Le Marais has many small winding streets, with nice cafés, boutique shops and museums that capture the charm of old Paris that has largely escaped the controversial renovations that took place in the 1800s as enacted by Baron George-Eugène Haussmann.

In my opinion, a visit to Paris is not complete without seeing the trendiest swamp in the world (Le Marais literally translates to swamp in English)

8. Église Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis

Things to do in Le Marais, Paris

A Baroque-styled edifice, the Eglise Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis was built in the 17th century. It is the first one to move away from the Gothic tradition, and served as a blueprint for other constructions, including Les Invalides and the Val-de-Grace.

It is a magnificent church with a large dome, and while a large part of its religious ornamentations was destroyed during the French Revolution, the whole place still teems with religious history.

9. Place Ste-Catherine

Things to do in Le Marais, Paris

Place Sainte-Catherine is the perfect spot to feel like a local at Le Marais. Lined with cafes, bistros and restaurants, there are loads of options for a nice lunch or afternoon at a terrasse with friends.

10. Rue des Rosiers

Things to do in Le Marais, Paris

A historic street in the heart of the Parisian Jewish quarter, the Rue des Rosiers has undergone significant changes in the last few decades.

What was a street in the 1980s full of Jewish mom-and-pop stores and bakeries has now been replaced by high-end small boutiques.

It remains a charming street in its own right that reflects the history of Le Marais' Jewish community, and it still has great falafel places.

11. Place des Vosges

Things to do in Le Marais, Paris

Built in the 17th century, Places des Vosges is the oldest square in Paris, and it is the place in Le Marais if you just want to linger around and observe people. The place was originally named as Place Royale, but it was renamed to Place des Vosges after the French Revolution.

With 4 large fountains and a large statue of Louis XII, it is an excellent example of 17th century architecture.

Wander through the world-famous Île de la Cité

Things to do in Île de la Cité, Paris

Things to do in Île de la Cité

An urban island with several historic landmarks, this ship-shaped district lies the origins of Paris, back when it was still called Lutèce, which was described by emperor Julian in Gaul from 355-361 AD as:

I happened to be in winter quarters at my beloved Lutetia - for that is how the Celts call the capital of the Parisii. It is a small island lying in the river; a wall entirely surrounds it, and wooden bridges lead to it on both sides.

Aside the history, Île de la Cité is one of Paris’ most frequented places, so it is almost always bustling with people. There’s also so many things to do in the district, so if you’re into a bit of traditional sightseeing, this is the place to be.

12. Pont Neuf

Things to do in Île de la Cité, Paris

A bit of a misnomer, Le Pont Neuf is the oldest bridge in Paris. Built in 1578 by architect Jean Baptiste Andorite du Cerceau, the bridge stretches 238 meters long, between the Louvre and Notre Dame.

Inaugurated in 1607 by King Henry IV, at the center of the bridge, there's an equestrian statue of the king that's actually a replica recreated in the 19th century. The original statue was destroyed by revolutionaries in the 1790s.

13. Square du Vert Galant

Things to do in Île de la Cité, Paris

Get a bottle of wine, some bread from the local bakery, and spread a picnic blanket for a nice afternoon in this beautiful square. At the edge of the island, it's a nice, quaint spot to escape the hustle and bustle of Parisian life. It also has a beautiful view overlooking the Seine, and there are some spots under the trees, in case it gets too hot.

14. Marché aux fleurs et aux oiseaux

Things to do in Île de la Cité, Paris

One of Paris' well-known flower markets, this floral paradise is a nice way to spend your afternoon, if you just want to walk, or actually buy flowers and plants. It's full of colors and scents, and there's also a bird market on Sundays, if you want to see and hear the chirping of thousands of birds (and maybe get a pet bird).

15. Sainte-Chapelle

Things to do in Île de la Cité, Paris

Built in the 13th century, this chapel was commissioned by King Louis XIV to house Christian relics in an effort to make Paris the second Christian capital after Rome, which was dubbed, at the time, as the New Jerusalem.

During the French Revolution, Sainte-Chappelle was one of the many places sacked by the revolt for symbolizing the divine right to rule.

Sainte-Chapelle is widely-recognized as one of the greatest masterpieces of Gothic architecture during the medieval times. It's a beautiful building, with a lot of history behind its stained-glass windows.

Visit Paris’ iconic landmarks

Of course, a visit to Paris isn’t without achieving this childhood dream of visiting the places that we associate with the city of lights.

Whether this is the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe or the infamous Moulin Rouge, there’s quite a satisfying feeling when you see these places in real-life after fantasizing about them for so long.

16. Paris’s Panthéon

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Situated at the top of the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève, the Latin quarter of Paris, the Panthéon was conceived by French architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot to mimic the original structure in Rome and embellished with Gothic elements.

Considered to be the secular temple de la République, in the Panthéon peacefully lies many authors, artists, intellectuals and military figures of note. It's an astounding monument from the outside and is full of history within its premises.

17. Hôtel de Ville

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Europe's biggest municipal building, L’Hotel de Ville is an impressive Renaissance-style building, and its façade features 338 statues of French historical figures, including Voltaire, Molière and Boileau. If you're lucky enough to get a guided group tour, you can witness, first-hand, the lavishness of the interior, from hanging chandeliers to its ornately-embellished walls.

18. Défense, La Grande Arche

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

A structure out of glass and Carrara marble, La Grande Arche is in some ways the younger, 20th century sibling of L'Arc de Triomphe.

Conceived by Danish architect Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and French architect Paul Andreu, the idea for this 110-meter open tesseract-like monument came from a national design competition launched in 1982 by the then-president François Mitterand to symbolize French humanitarian ideals.

In Johann's words, La Grande Arche was: “a modern Arc de Triomphe, erected to the glory of the triumph of humanity; a symbol of hope that in the future people may meet freely”.

19. Galeries Lafayettes

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

The mythical upscale department stores' flagship in Boulevard Hausmann is an architectural marvel.

A dream by cofounder Théophile Bader to create a luxury bazaar has spawned a bold Art Nouveau-inspired masterpiece inspired by the Paris Opera. It is notable for its large neo-Byzantine windows, and, of course, its upscale stores that present their items in a manner similar to art exhibitions.

It’s easy to get lost across its many floors, but there’s an undeniable sense of grandeur as you wander across the building.

20. Palais Garnier

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Built in 1875, the Palais Garnier boasts an impressive façade and interior, with its decadent golden statue-work and the Grand Staircase.

Commissioned by Baron Hausmann in his plan to transform Paris during the 19th century, the Palais Garnier is an impressive icon of French wealth at the time. Today, you can have a tour of the Palais, or watch the numerous opera shows that take place.

21. Arc de Triomphe

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Created under Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, Arc de Triomphe was created in honor of La Grande Armée, the French army at the time. But it was only in 1936 when the edifice was finished, almost 20 years since Napoleon's death.

Walking around the arches is free, but you can also pay to climb to the rooftop, which boasts a great view of Paris.

22. Palais et Jardin du Luxembourg

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Commissioned by Queen Marie de Medici, widow of the assassinated king Henri IV in the 17th century, the Palais du Luxembourg is located in the 6th Arrondissement in the Latin Quartier and was originally owned by the Duke of Luxembourg, hence the name. The palace itself was created to resemble the Pitti Palace in Florence, Italy, where queen Marie lived as a child.

Le Jardin du Luxembourg is also one of Paris' most well-known gardens. In the middle of the park, there's a small pond, where children can rent a boat to paddle across.

23.Eiffel Tower

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Of course, for every globetrotter around the world, the Eiffel Tower represents an image of Paris that they dream of visiting. Completed on March 1889 by Gustave Eiffel, it has been visited by more than 250 million people since it first opened. The Eiffel Tower is such a marvel that it's spawned replicas around the world including in Las Vegas and Shenzen, China.

Every night, around 20,000 light bulbs illuminate the whole tower. If you want to go inside the tower, you could climb up the stairs or take the elevator - both for a fee of course. But really that should be the least of your concerns. You should worry more about booking there on time, as the waiting line can get very long.

24. Champs Elysées

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

One of Paris' well-known avenues, Champs Elysées attracts 300,000 visitors per day. Champs Elysées is lined with stores of all kinds, from luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton’s flagship store (seriously, it looks pretty amazing, even if you’re not into luxury clothing) to ready-to-wear apparel.

It also boasts a range of museums, theaters and cinemas. If you're looking to get into Paris' hustle-and-bustle lifestyle, then this avenue is the perfect introduction for that.

25. Les Invalides

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Located in Paris' 7ème arrondissement, Les Invalides is a historic complex of buildings that served - and still does to some extent - as a hospital and accommodation for soldiers.

Established by Louis XIV in 1970, this complex now houses several museums relating to the military history of France. Notable for its gilded dome, in 1989, it was given a new coat of gold leaf - equivalent to 12.5 kg or 26.5 pounds of gold - to celebrate the bicentenary of the French Revolution.

26. Place de la Concorde

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Located between the Champs Elysées and Tuileries Garden, Place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris.

Originally named as Place de Louis XV after the late king in the late-18th century, the square was renamed as La Place de la Révolution during the revolts and became the square where guillotine beheadings regularly took place.

In 1795, the square finally took its current name to symbolize the reigning peace and harmony after years of bloodshed.

27. Centre Pompidou

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

In the 4th Arrondissement, Centre Pompidou is postmodernist architectural masterpiece, with its metallic structure that literally feels out of place from the historical buildings that fill Paris.

As Europe's most important modern art museum and one of the most popular galleries in France, it's also had its fair share of significance in Parisian art history.

Named after the late French president Georges Pompidou, who commissioned the museum, the building is notable for having all its wiring and tubing outside of the building.

Visiting Centre Pompidou for its collection and last library is a must, but it also boasts a nice rooftop terrasse, making it one of the best places to have a panoramic view of Paris.

28. Moulin Rouge

Famous Paris landmarks to visit

Moulin Rouge is undeniably part of Paris’ many iconic landmarks. This world-class cabaret features high-octane shows that are a riot of color, frivolity and costume changes.

Fun fact – did you know that Moulin Rouge is Paris’ first building powered by electricity?

Take a walk across Paris’ many green spaces

Of course, sometimes Paris can get too much for some, or you might be looking for an alternative to the touristy places that everyone visits.

I have to confess – these are some of my favorite places in Paris, where you’re surrounded by nature but can still return to the city very easily. These places are like getaways within the city itself.

29. La Coulée Verte

Unusual things to do in Paris

Opened in 1993, the Coulée Verte is an abandoned elevated railway that's now covered with elevated plants and greenery. Starting from Place de la Bastille and ending at Palais de la Porte Dorée, this 5km path is a beautiful stroll if you'd like to admire the 12th Arrondissement outside the typical touristy attractions. This is not Paris that tourists know about.

Some people call it the High Line of Paris, but the Coulée Verte precedes the High Line – an elevated linear park in Manhattan, New York - which opened in 2009.

30. Saint-Martin Canal

Unusual things to do in Paris

Remember that scene in Amélie, in which the narrator talks about Amélie's small pleasures in life? Skipping stones at the Canal Saint Martin is one of them. From a lazy stroll along its waters to boarding a barge to have a new perspective on the neighborhood, Canal Saint-Martin is a nice alternative when the busier, more touristy parts of Paris feel just too much.

31. Mont Valérien

Unusual things to do in Paris

If you can find this place, then you're one of the lucky ones. It is not known even by many of the Paris locals.

This is the panoramic view of Paris from Mont Valérien, which is located in Surèsnes, a suburb in Western Paris. Built in 1841, the place, itself, has a history behind it, from being a religious site to a place of execution during the Second World War by the Nazi occupiers of Paris. There's a memorial opened by General de Gaulle on 1960, in homage to the deaths.

32. Jardin des Tuileries and Jeu de Paumes

Unusual things to do in Paris

Commissioned by French queen Catherine de Medici in the 16th century, the Jardin des Tuileries is located between Le Louvre and the Place de La Concorde in the 1st Arrondissement. Tuileries in English means tile, and the name of the garden come from its past as a tile factory.

In the 17th century, the gardens were radically redesigned under orders from Louis XIV to how it currently looks.

Today, it's a nice place to take a stroll when the weather is pleasant or go to the Louvre and the other museums located within the gardens.

Located in the north corner of the Tuileries Gardens, Jeu de Paume is an arts center for contemporary and postmodern photography and media.

But created in the 17th century, it used to be many different things, from a tennis court for French nobility, a storage facility by the Nazis when France was under occupation and a national gallery for impressionist art to what it is today.

33. Little Belt

Unusual things to do in Paris

Suggested by many of my friends on the Twitter , La Petite Ceinture is an abandoned railroad that used to be a transport railway in the 19th century for material goods from dépôt yards to the center of Paris. Since its closure in 1934, there's haunted beauty within its rusting tracks and the grass growing in-between.

It has since attracted many adults and children, alike, who have a quench for Paris beyond its manicured façade.

34. Jardin des Plantes

Unusual things to do in Paris

France's main botanical garden, Le Jardin des Plantes is a great hidden gem and a great getaway from the busyness of Paris.

Founded in 1626 as a royal botanical garden for medicinal plants as commissioned by King Louis XIII, it is still home to a botany school, where students sometimes do guided plant tours that show the garden’s plants from around the world.

35. Cimetière du Père-Lachaise

Unusual things to do in Paris

It might be a bit spooky, but Père-Lachaise is Paris' Neo-Gothic cementary for many of Paris' well-known figures, from Oscar Wilde and Marcel Proust to Edith Piaf and Jim Morrison. It's a solemn, peaceful visit, with many interesting monuments. And it's a nice walk, away from tourists (and the living).

36. Parc Bercy & Cinémathèque Française

Opened in the 1990s, Parc Bercy is a contemporary park that’s made up of three smaller gardens: la Grande Prairie with the Canyoneaustrate - a giant, man-made sculpted canyon and water fountain - les Parterres that has a beautiful rose garden and Jardin Romantique, a nice garden with ponds.

In la Grande Prairie, Cinémathèque Française is a museum one of the largest collections of film documents in the world. Designed by Canadian American architect Frank Gehry, the Cinémathèque Française is also a marvel of deconstructivist architecture.

It's a great visit for any film buff out there, and its exterior warrants a nice glance or two.

Take photos of its most beautiful Parisian streets and passageways

Beautiful streets in Paris
Beautiful streets in Paris

Paris is beautiful. That’s almost a given considering the flocks of tourists that go to the place for a taste of its culture and history. But beyond its monuments and edifices are beautiful streets the line its cityscape. Here are some streets that I love to wander about and are just pretty to look at.

37. Rue des Martyrs

Parisian streets to visit

A street passing between the 9th and 18th arrondissements of Paris, Rue des Martyrs is a magical street that's littered with cafés and small stores. It's also teeming with history, and in his novel, Nana, Emile Zola situated a lesbian dinner club. Most recently New York Times writer Elaine Sciolino has written a book, The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs, that tells the history behind this street.

38. Les Passages Couverts

Parisian streets to visit

In the 18th and 19th century, glass-roofed shopping arcades were quite popular in Paris. Nowadays, while less frequented, they're still great architectural remnants of the old Paris that also act as great passageways under rainy days, and they’re also very beautiful. If you want to know more here's a great Time Out article on these places to visit.

39. Rue Cler

Parisian streets to visit

Lined with stores, cafés, restaurants and food markets, Rue Cler is a lively street near the Eiffel Tower. This is a great street for foodies, who want to see butchers and bakers expertly doing their craft. After all, this is one of Paris' most famous "street markets".

40. Rue Crémieux

Parisian streets to visit

Dubbed as one of the most Instagrammable streets in Paris, many of the street's residents have since complained about the number of tourists and people wanting to take a quick snapshot of the street.

So if you want to take a photo here and there, do it with respect and courtesy.


I hope you enjoyed these 40 things as much as I loved writing them.

If you want to know about the best restaurants, hotels and bars to visit in Paris, don’t hesitate to download TWISPER and add me , Julian Canlas.

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