Must See Sites in Paris

January 1, 1970

by Alana Ballantyne

You’ve made it to Paris! You’ve survived the plane trip, you’ve checked into your hotel, now you just have to decide what to do! Paris is a big city and not every site in the tourist’s guide book it worth it. You have limited time to enjoy one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Here are three sites you have to see during your Parisian vacation-and a tip on what you can skip!

Must See: The Eiffel Tower

This is one famous landmark that you simply cannot miss while your in the City of Love.

The Eiffel Tower dominates the skyline in Paris and is visible from nearly every angle on the Concorde. The tower is now one of the most recognizable landmarks in Paris, but it was never meant to be permanent. In fact, when the tower was completed in 1889, many Parisians thought it was an eyesore! One french artist at the time bemoaned the Eiffel Tower as “ridiculous” and called it “a giant, black smokestack”.

Prepare for a crowded, but memorable experience.

Now, of course, people flock from all over the world to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory. You can get some great pictures of the tower from any of the popular river tours on the Seine. If you want to go up into the tower it will cost you about $20 USD to go to the first deck and about $30 USD to go all the way to the top. The tower opens at 9:30 AM, but people begin queuing early. Be prepared for long lines; the Eiffel is one of the most popular landmarks in Paris and is always crowded. Depending on your budget, skip the line passes/ priority access tickets may be worth it. These tickets are readily available on apps like Headout. 

Must See: Notre Dame Cathedral

This Cathedral is an absolutely worth it stop on any Parisian vacation.

You may remember this medieval cathedral from the 1996 Disney movie The Hunchback of Notre Dame. This beautiful landmark is so much more than the setting for a children’s cartoon. The western face of this ancient church is instantly recognizable all over the world and has been featured in well respected magazines such as National Geographic and Time. 

The lines are short and this stop is very cost effective!

Notre Dame is the best kind of tourist attraction. It’s free to get in and well worth the typical half-hour wait. The cathedral is open Monday to Friday from 8AM to 6:45PM and Saturday and Sunday from 8AM to 7:45PM. While you wait outside for your turn to enter the cathedral, be sure to enjoy Notre Dame’s stunning architecture. It was one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses and is considered to be a shining example of Gothic architecture. The church is covered with incredible detail heavy depictions of religious icons and terrifying gargoyles designed to ward off water damage rather than demons, as is commonly thought.

The views are simply stunning.

The inside of the church is just as stunning as the gargoyle encrusted exterior. Inside, you can enjoy views of the stunning stained-glass windows and elegant statues that surround Notre Dame’s alter. Photographs are allowed inside the church, though flash photography is not. Word to the wise; keep moving once you are inside the cathedral. No one likes a dawdler, especially when there are plenty of people behind you waiting to get in.

Must See: Sacré-Cœur

This gorgeous landmark is located in an off-the-beaten path neighborhood.

Also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, this landmark is a little more out of the way than the first two sites on this list. It is located in the very hip Montmartre neighborhood and is surrounded by a very vibrant nightclub scene. Be sure to check out Montmartre while you are there, not many tours take you that far out from the city center. Sacré-Cœur is a little more modern than most landmarks in Paris. The basilica was completed in 1914 and consecrated in 1919. The basilica was commissioned in the 1870s  in response to what the archbishop at the time called “the steady moral decline” of France since the French Revolution.

It boasts some of the best art work in Paris.

Sacré-Cœur is the home of some gorgeous interior artwork, stained glass windows, and one of the most stunning alters that this author has seen. The distinctive white exterior makes for an incredible background for group photographs and will brighten up any Facebook or Instagram. This landmark can clearly be seen from either of the Eiffel Tower’s observation decks. Swing by the Eiffel first if you are unsure where Sacré-Cœur is in relation to the city center.

It is free to go, but requires a bit of legwork to fully enjoy.

The basilica is open to visitors from 6:00 AM to 10:30 PM every day. Like Notre Dame, entrance is free and reservations are not needed. The dome of the basilica is open from 9:00 AM until 5:00 PM (October to April)  or 8:30 AM to 8:00 PM (May through September) every day. All are welcome to tour the dome, but be warned-there are 300 steps up and no elevator. The journey is not for the faint of heart, though the view at the end is worth all the huffing and puffing.

Skip: Arc de Triomphe

Don’t get me wrong; the Arc de Triomphe is an fantastic architectural achievement. But it is located in the middle of a busy Parisian roundabout right in the middle of the city. The cost to get in is $14 USD and the long narrow staircase to the top is difficult to navigate and sometimes feels downright dangerous! You are rewarded for all that climbing with so-so views of the city and Eiffel Tower. If it’s cloudy-forget it! You will not be able to see the Eiffel Tower from your vantage point. Bottom line, you can drive by this landmark and get some nice pictures. There is no need to stop at this one!

Well fellow adventurers, we are through! Paris is full of amazing sites and there is always plenty to do and see when you are exploring the city. Hopefully this guide will help you plan your amazing trip to the City of Love! Happy travels!

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