From the classic landmarks to the lesser-known gems, we’ve rounded up some of the most entertaining, most exquisite, and most quintessentially Parisian attractions and activities the city has to offer
Peruse the skylit arcades—Galerie Vivienne, Passage des Panoramas, Galerie Véro-Dodat, and Passage Colbert are all great options. They’re the city’s original shopping malls and full of tiny boutiques, bookstores, antique shops, cafés, and more uniquely Parisian spots.
Fashion Saturdays at Le Bristol
Situated in lap of luxury amidst the countless designer boutiques on Rue du Faubourg St-Honoré, Le Bristol Paris is an exceptionally chic hotel that draws an exceptionally chic crowd. To cater to said style-conscious patrons, the hotel organizes a special haute couture version of high tea.
On certain Saturday afternoons, Le Bristol will invite one of its high-fashion neighbors (Céline, Saint Laurent, Givenchy, Chloé, et al.) to showcase pieces from their latest collections. You need not be a guest of the hotel to attend—but there’s a fee of €70. This gains you entry to the event and covers your full tea service, a glass of champagne, and a special gâteau inspired by the featured designer. The whole thing is basically heaven for any sartorialist.
One of the most extraordinary churches you’ll ever see, this royal medieval chapel with its impressive gothic architecture and stunning 13th-century stained glass windows, is not to be missed.
Every summer, several spots around the city are transformed into pop-up beaches, each with its own unique theme. From sandy shores on the right bank in the center of the city to water sports at the Bassin de la Villette, these urban beaches bring a taste of the Riviera to Paris.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
The largest cemetery within the city of Paris, Père Lachaise houses the graves of several notable writers, composers, and entertainers, including Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, Frédéric Chopin, Sarah Bernhardt, Marcel Marceau, Honore de Balzac, Marcel Proust, and even Jim Morrison.
PALAIS DE TOKYO
Arguably the coolest, hippest, liveliest space for modern and contemporary art in Paris, the Palais de Tokyo is currently closed as new exhibitions are installed and will reopen June 23, 2016 with an entirely fresh collection.
There are several secret nightclubs and lounges hidden around the city that make your evening out feel more clandestine and exclusive. There’s the exceptionally popular Experimental Cocktail Club, which pretty much started the craft cocktail scene in Paris. It’s accessible via a barely-marked door on a side street off the famed Rue Montorgeuil. From the same people behind ECC we get Le Ballroom du Beef Club, which you get to by an unmarked black door to the left of the Beef Club restaurant, and then down a spiral staircase.
Another speakeasy-style gem is Moonshiner. To get to the old-school lounge, you must walk to the back of the restaurant Pizza Da Vito and through the door of their walk-in freezer. Le Très Particulier is a semi-secret spot in Montmartre at the Hotel Particulier, formerly the villa of the Hermès family. To access this revived hotel bar you must venture down a private-access street, buzz on the intercom and say “prendre un verre” (“have a drink”) to be permitted entry. It’s worth the hassle once inside—interiors are quintessentially Parisian with plush velvet seating in a lush secret garden with black-and-white tile floors and a glass-enclosed terrace
If you’re looking for a challenge with your happy hour, Le Lavomatic (pictured) is where things get next-level tricky. First, you enter into an unassuming, fully functional laundromat. Then, you must find the washing machine that opens up to reveal the spindly spiral staircase that leads up to the bar on the third floor of the building. Once you’re in, the traditional speakeasy experience dissipates—no dim lighting or heavy wooden furniture here—the entire space is decorated in bold, bright colors, accented with quirky laundry motifs, and hanging swings.
Once a Beaux Arts railway station, this glass-ceilinged museum houses a permanent collection that ranges from neoclassicism to art nouveau—but the impressionist works by artists like Monet, Manet, Van Gogh, Degas, Renoir, and Seurat are the crown jewel of Musée d’Orsay.
Musée de Cluny
For those more interested in medieval art, unicorn tapestries and Roman baths, head to the Musée de Cluny in the Latin Quarter.
La Promenade Plantée
Paris’s answer to the High Line? No—theoriginal High Line. Visit the Promenade Plantée (also known as Coulée Verte), the elevated railway-turned-park that inspired New York City’s popular west side destination.
Jardin des Tuileries
Separating the Louvre from the Place de la Concorde, the elegant Tuileries Gardensprovide the perfect setting for a relaxing stroll. The French-style landscaping features statues and art throughout, two tranquil ponds, plus a ferris wheel and old-fashioned carousel. From June through August there is the Fête des Tuileries, a carnival with rides, games, and food.
The Eiffel Tower Apartment
Only recently made viewable to the public, Gustave Eiffel’s secret personal apartment is perched on the third level of the tower. The petite space is still decorated in much of the original furnishings from when the architect used it as a cozy, quiet hideaway, as well as a spot for hosting prestigious guests.
Musée du Louvre
Of course, no trip to the City of Light is complete without a stop at the Louvre. The central landmark is instantly recognizable by the iconic I.M. Pei designed glass pyramids that sit out front. Inside, you’ll find a massive collection of over 380,000 objects and 35,000 works of art—including, yes, the Mona Lisa.
Designed in the 1970s by Renzo Piano, Richard Rogers and Gianfranco Franchini, the Centre Pompidou garners attention for its high-tech style and unique colorful tubular façade. In addition to being an eye-grabbing feat of modern architecture, the Centre also houses the city’s vast Public Information Library, the IRCAM music research institute, one of the city’s best views on it’s top floor and the Musée National d’Art Moderne, which is the largest modern art museum in Europe.
This stunning church sits atop the highest point in the city, overlooking Paris from the summit of Montmartre. Climb its famed steps and enjoy the views and be sure to explore the surrounding area while you’re there—it’s one of the most untouched, authentically Parisian neighborhoods in the city.
Dining at the Eiffel Tower
Take your pick of any of the several restaurants housed in the Eiffel Tower. On the first level you’ll find 58 Tour Eiffel, which is open for lunch and dinner with breathtaking city views. Le Jules Verne is one floor up on the second level, offering exquisite contemporary French cuisine in an elegant, modern atmosphere. Finish your evening with a glass of bubbles at the Champagne Bar on the third level.
Just steps away from the Louvre is the elegant Belle Époque salon that’s now home to Angelina, where you’ll find the most decadent, velvety hot chocolate in all of Paris. Aim to go at an “off” time, if such thing exists, because on the weekends this place overflows with folks queuing up for that liquid cocoa.
Merci & Colette
Colette is Paris’ go-to for a well-curated selection of designer pieces, tech accessories, books and jewelry, and Mercicarries the best of everything from designer fashion labels like Stella McCartney and Isabel Marant to beauty goods, homewares, even flowers. This concept superstore also houses three cafés: Merci Canteen is great for brunch; the downstairs Used Book Café is perfect for a cup of coffee and a good read; Cinéma Café is a favorite place to stop in for a glass of wine and light bites.
The Flea Markets
Paris is famous for its year-round flea markets. The grande dame of them all, possibly the largest in the world, is the Marché aux Puces (literally, the Market of Fleas) de St-Ouen—or as it’s more commonly referred to, Clignancourt. This sprawling market just outside the 18th arrondissement covers seven hectacres with over 3,000 merchants split across 15 different sections, drawing up to 180,000 visitors each weekend. Come with a plan of action and a map in hand, and the understanding that even after spending an entire day here, you might still not have covered the entire grounds.
Those seeking a slightly less overwhelming flea market adventure may find Marché aux Puces de la Porte de Vanves in the 14th to be a more manageable option. While it doesn’t boast the same inventory in antiques and furniture as Clignancourt, it’s still rife with treasures for the keen-eyed browser. Vintage clothes and pre-loved Hermès scarves and delicate French linens are all waiting to be found here—just be sure to arrive early so the selection isn’t already picked over
Some might call it blasphemy to shop at a penny candy stand when you have all the wonderful Parisian chocolatiers at your doorstep. Nonetheless, there’s something decidedly alluring about the vibrant, sugar-filled stalls lined up near the Odeon metro stop on the left bank. Plus, all those colorful confections make for a helluva Instagram pic.
Musée des Arts Forains
Roughly translated, it means ‘Museum of Fairground Arts’—a collection of carnival curiosities and fun fair attractions. The Musée des Arts Forains is a whimsical alternative to the standard art museum scene, showcasing (and inviting you to try/ride) everything from 19th-century games to antique carousels and Belle Époque merry-go-rounds.
Otherwise known as the Temple of Love, this structure sits on an island in the middle of Lac Daumesnil in the Bois de Vincennes, which is the largest public park in the city. It’s the lesser-known twin to another temple in the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont, which means it’s also far less frequented. (Read: more romantic.)
Piscine Josephine Baker
Another summer destination in Paris is the Piscine Josephine Baker. This floating pool is housed in a giant barge right on the Seine. In the summer the glass roof retracts to create an open sundeck for unobstructed views of the river.
Tango on the Seine
For a romantic date spot, head to the amphitheaters that line the Seine in the 5th arrondissement. Here, dance enthusiasts gather in the evenings to tango until twilight. There are also plenty of non-dancing spectators too, if you’d rather bring a bottle of wine and people-watch.
Notre Dame de Paris
Another mainstay of any Parisian tour, Notre Dame de Paris, which translates to ‘Our Lady of Paris’, is one of the very first Gothic cathedrals. Get there early to avoid long lines—those gargoyles and stained glass windows draw quite the crowd.
Pink Flamingo Pizza
Upon ordering from this kitschy pizza parlor, you’ll be handed a cheerful pink balloon. Then, feel free to make your way over to the nearby Canal Saint-Martin where you can lounge along its picturesque banks. But be sure to hold onto your balloon—a bicycle delivery boy will use it as a beacon to locate you and deliver your pizza.
Marché des Enfants Rouges
The oldest covered market in Paris, La Marché des Enfants Rouges—located in the Marais—is one of the best destinations for sampling diverse ethnic cuisines from Moroccan to Lebanese, to French Caribbean, Japanese and more
Hotel du Petit Moulin
Formerly the oldest bakery in Paris, which classic façade it still maintains, this boutique hotel in the Marais district now houses 17 unique guest rooms, each decorated with its own unique motif by French designer Christian Lacroix. As an added luxury, all rooms come stocked with Hermès bath products.
Vintage Car Tour
A company called 4 Roues sous 1 Parapluieoffers a unique sort of Paris tour experience. Get chauffeured around in a vintage convertible Citröen 2CV by a local Breton-stripes-wearing guide with an encyclopedic knowledge of the city. It’s touristy, certainly, but still charming nonetheless.
Catch a burlesque show at Le Crazy Horse Paris, where provocative numbers pay homage to the female form. Porcelain beauty Dita von Teese has been known to perform here as well.
For a less risqué experience than you’ll find at Crazy Horse, the Folies Bergère has replaced its sultry, marabou-feathered performances with musicals, comedy and dance shows—but the grandeur of burlesque and cabaret days past still echo through the elegant theater.
K arl Lagerfeld’s own libraririe, nestled in the Carré Rive Gauche area, is just as you’d expect: a sleek, fashionable space that’s a treasure trove of beautiful books. It’s also where the Chanel designer discreetly houses his photo studio.
Jardin du Luxembourg
These peaceful gardens in the 6th arrondissement serve as one of the city’s most delightful and charming summer areas. Metal chairs dapple the grounds, inviting you to sit and stay a while. Bring a book and read, a picnic of some cheese, a baguette and a bottle of wine to enjoy with friends, or just people-watch for a bit.
Paris Treasure Hunt
For over ten years, people have been participating in the annual Chasse aux Trésors de Paris. Individuals and groups alike are invited to solve the themed set of clues, which will lead them around the city to various stores, museums, etc. in pursuit of the ultimate treasure.
Sunset Cruise on the Seine
Pretend you’re Audrey Hepburn in Charadeand take a scenic boat tour down the Seine. Book a romantic dinner cruise on the Bateaux Mouches for date night—violins and a piano set the mood as you dine and watch the City of Light fade from glowing sunset into illuminated night.
Café de Flore & Les Deux Magots
The ultimate left bank lunch spot, Café de Flore draws a style-conscious, bourgeois crowd—though at a time it was the place of choice for the likes of Picasso and Jean-Paul Sartre. Perfectly situated on the corner of Boulevard Saint-Germain, it’s prime real estate for people-watching. Just across the street, Les Deux Magots, once the go-to spot of Simone de Beauvoir and Ernest Hemingway, offers just as quintessentially French of an experience. Grab a table on their outdoor patios to take a break from shopping, sip some café au lait, and soak up the French-ness.
Housing a 1,979-seat opera house, Palais Garnier features as grand a staircase as you could ever wish to see, along with a massive, glittering chandelier suspended from the theater’s domed-mural ceiling, painted by Russian-French artist Marc Chagall. Take in a ballet or an opera for a night of opulence and culture. And after the performance, head to L’Opera Restaurant—also at Palais Garnier—for high-end French cuisine in a beautifully designed space. It’s a favorite of Victoria Beckham, Alber Elbaz, and Jean Paul Gaultier.
Le Baron Rouge
When you’re not looking for anything fancy, Le Baron Rouge is an ideal spot to hang out and sip on some non-fancy (but undeniably delicious) wine and small bites. Locals often bring their own glass bottles and fill them with wine from the barrels near the door.
La Fête de la Musique
This summer music festival is held each year on June 21. Hundreds of musicians, ranging in genre from jazz to rock to hip-hop and beyond, give free performances in the streets, bars, and cafés all over Paris.
Les Catacombes de Paris
If you’re up for an adventure and can stomach something a bit macabre, descend down into the Catacombs beneath the Paris streets. The underground labyrinth of tunnels holds the remains of around six million people, stored here in the midst of a cemetery over-crowding crisis during the late 18th-century that posed a threat to public health.
Arc de Triomphe
Majestically seated at the western end of the Champs Élysées, you can climb the stairs to the top of the Arc de Triomphe for one of the most spectacular views of the city. Or, if not, you’ll most certainly drive past it at one point, so be sure to get in a nice long gaze.
La Cinémathèque Française
Housed in a postmodernist building designed by Frank Gehry, the Cinémathèque Françaiseserves as a museum and theater, and boasts one of the most impressive film archives in the world. The collection was started from the personal film store of co-founder Henri Langlois, who smuggled them out of France before the German Occupation. There are always exhibitions on display at Cinémathèque Française, along with daily movie screenings. It’s a film buff must.
The Palais Royal and its gardens aren’t too far from the Louvre. The futuristic architecture and graphic columns that punctuate the plaza are incredibly unique and other-worldly—definitely worth a visit. While you’re here, stop in the 18th-century restaurant Le Grand Vefour tucked away in the corner of the Palais Royal. Opulence abounds in this lavish, historic eatery, where Napoleon and Josephine once dined.
Le Bon Marché
More upscale, chic, and sophisticated than the overcrowded Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps department stores, Le Bon Marchéis class and style all the way. Browse the elegant designer fashions from Chanel and Louis Vuitton, as well as contemporary French labels like IRO and Maje. Then, stop by the impressive dining hall/market, La Grand Épicerie, for an incredible selection of gourmet and speciality food items.
T ake in a free movie at the fantastic Cinéma en Plein Air that runs each summer in the Parc de la Villette in the northeast of the city. Chairs and blankets are available to rent, or you can bring your own, and films start at dusk. This year’s lineup includes such titles as Gravity, Rushmore, Casino Royale, Fargoand Drive, along with many other French and International films.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
One of the most beautiful and serene parks in Paris, the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont sits in the north of the city. Venture down to the foot of the waterfall here where you’ll find a very cool little grotto. It’s more hilly and lush than the gardens in the center of town, which means it has a vantage point for great views of the capital. Plus, it’s home to Rosa Bonheur—the ultra-hip watering hole where trendy young Parisians come to sip rosé en grande quantité.
You simply can’t go to Paris and not eat a crepe. Breizh Café has the best in the city, so let’s make that crepes, plural.
The golden-domed building and its offshoots were created by Louis XIV in the 17th Century as a wellness center and sanctuary for wounded or unwell soldiers. Now, the collection of buildings are home to a church, multiple museums, and a hospital/home for retired military, in keeping with its original purpose. Napoleon Bonaparte is buried here.
Fondation Louis Vuitton
Frank Gehry designed this modern art gallery, located in the Bois de Boulogne, at the request of LVMH CEO Bernard Arnault. The exterior of the FLV is constructed of twelve glass sails, like a futuristic ship amidst a sea of green trees, while the interior features an auditorium and several galleries. It’s also where the chic set gathers every Fashion Week to view the new Louis Vuitton collection.
Cartier, too, has its own foundation dedicated to promoting contemporary art and making it accessible to the public. While the initiative is similar to that of the Fondation Louis Vuitton, the actual building itself is entirely unique. Designed by architect Jean Nouvel in 1994, the Fondation Cartier is a sleek glass-and-steel structure surrounded by abundant, lush greenery, creating the sense that there is no separation between interior and exterior. If you find yourself looking for an indoor activity on a rainy day, this is it.
Du Pain et des Idées
One of the best bakeries in Paris, this is a necessary stop on your trip if you’re looking for the most flaky, buttery croissants you’ve ever had in your life.
This quaint pedestrian street tucked away in the 12th arrondissement makes for a lovely escape from the city’s hustle and bustle. With its sherbet-colored buildings and flower-lined sidewalks, it looks straight out of a storybook.
Le Grand Rex
A massive 1930s Art Deco cinema, Le Grand Rex is as much an attraction for its films and concerts as it is for its spectacular presence (on an otherwise unassuming street) and ornate Mediterranean-inspired decor. Many a major movie premiere has been held here, and it’s no wonder why.
Create your own bespoke fragrance at this Paris parfumerie. The experts at Noseperform a “scent diagnosis” on clients to get a sense of your individual taste, er, smell. It’s like a perfume personality quiz. They take into account where you live, along with your current and past perfumes, which then generates your olfactory profile—what notes and families you seem most drawn to. Based on these results, you’re provided a customized list of fragrance recommendations (both perfume and home fragrances) from their vast and unique selection. If nothing straight from the bottle suits your fancy, they’ll concoct something special just for you. This is by far the most interactive and entertaining way of finding your signature scent.
Set in a Baroque 17th-century hotel the heart of the Marais, this recently-renovated museum houses the largest collection of Picasso’s masterpieces anywhere in the world. Works from every period in the artist’s career can be found at Musée Picasso, along with his own personal art collection.
Jardin des Plantes
If the city’s many parks haven’t satisfied your appetite for beautiful French gardens, visit the Jardin des Plantes. What began as a medicinal herb garden for Louis XIII back in 1626, has since blossomed into a stunning botanical garden with beautiful, lush landscaping. The grounds also house a handful of museums, including the Grande Galerie de L’Évolution—a natural history museum of sorts that displays thousands of animal species.
This hotspot on Avenue Montaigne is theplace to go for nearly guaranteed celebrity sightings. L’Avenue is the favorite haunt of the rich and famous—literally everyone who’s anyone (Kim Kardashian, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Katy Perry, to name a few) makes it a point to be seen here any time they’re in Paris. Come for the stargazing, stay for a drink—maybe—the food is painfully overpriced.
When it comes to exclusivity, Montana is among the most difficult to get into of all Paris nightclubs. A veritable VIP magnet, especially within the fashion crowd, you’ll be rubbing elbows with the likes of Kate Moss—if you can make it past the doorman.
Oscar Wilde kept residence in this chic little hotel in the late 1800s, and lived there until his death. Each room at L’Hotel is unique (like the Oscar Wilde room pictured above) and the gourmet restaurant is wonderful. Order the “The Usual” when stopping at the bar—it’s an effervescent cocktail with champagne, violet liqueur and a twist of lime.
Have afternoon tea at Ladurée’s flagship location on the Champs Élysées. Prepare to feel thoroughly French as you nibble (okay, gorge) on some of the city’s most delicious macarons.
Pont Alexandre III
Generally regarded as the most ornate and decorative bridge in Paris, the Pont Alexandre III stretches across the Seine, connecting the Champs Élysées area to the Eiffel Tower on the opposite bank. Its golden-accented arch and statue-adorned lampposts create the perfect spot for a picture.
Musée des Arts Décoratifs
Boasting a massive collection of design and decorative arts, the Musée des Arts Décoratifs’ bread and butter is its antique French furniture and tablescapes collections. But there’s never a shortage of pieces on display–or visiting fashion exhibitions like this summer’s Fashion Forward, celebrating three centuries of fashion history. The staged rooms are a favorite of many, modeling how spaces and rooms would’ve looked during different periods throughout history.
Strap on your skates any Friday night and head to the Tour Montparnasse for Pari-Roller. The 27 kilometer-long path is closed off to traffic and takes you all through the city. The route changes often to keep the experience fresh and new. It’s definitely an unconventional way to sightsee, plus it’ll help burn off those extra macarons you ate at Ladurée.
Au Pied de Cochon
Grab a late-night bite at this old-style brasserie that’s open 24/7. Au Pied de Cochon is a Parisian institution and a popular haunt for the after-hours crowd, as you can imagine. It’s bright neon lights haven’t been switch off since 1947.
Le Mur des Je T’aime
The next best thing, now that the love locks on the Pont des Arts have been removed, the Love Wall in Montmartre is a mural featuring “I Love You” written 1,000 times in over 300 languages. Snap a romantic selfie with bae and soak up l’amour.
Day Trip to Versailles
Though not technically in Paris, the lavish Château de Versailles is just a short jaunt outside the city limits, and definitely worth the trip. Take a stroll through the sharply manicured gardens and admire the sheer opulence of the palace’s famed Hall of Mirrors.
By Harper’s Bazaar
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