Ahh, Paris, the City of Lights, and perhaps the most romantic city in the world. Rich in history, culture, and home to some of the finest wine on the planet, it’s easy to see why this city has won the hearts of so many.
Perhaps it’s the river winding its way through the city, or the monuments scattered across its streets, or the quaint cobbled lanes, but you wouldn’t guess that Paris receives close to 40 million visitors a year and is France’s most populous city. It’s remained charming despite its popularity, and its rise to fame as one of the world’s most sought-after holiday destinations has done nothing to dampen the sense of French culture.
Here, we’ll explore some of the things that this magical city is most famous for. Whether you’re there for a long weekend or an entire week, you’ll be hard-pushed to see everything in one trip – so don’t be surprised if you find yourself itching to return in no time!
It’s hard to picture Paris without this iconic monument springing to mind. The Eiffel Tower was designed and constructed by a French company owned by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel back in 1889. It was built as a star attraction for the World Fair that year and the iron lattice structure was typical of the time but unpopular among many initially. Gradually, however, both locals and visitors alike came to know and love the bold design, and it’s now considered a national treasure.
As well as offering spectacular views of the city, the Eiffel tower houses numerous restaurants and stores and makes for an unforgettable lunch break, although it will set you back a bit financially. It’s also impressive at night thanks to the illuminated skyline, and you can really see where the ‘City of Lights’ name came from. In fact, it’s so scenic that you shouldn’t be surprised to see one or two proposals during your visit!
Tickets up the tower are reasonably priced, but the prices vary depending on whether or not you’re willing (or able) to take the stairs versus the lift. See here for up-to-date ticket prices.
Disneyland Paris is actually located in Chessy, a small town just over 30 km east of Paris city centre. It’s a fantastic place to take children of all ages (and most adults love it too), who can expect to come face-to-face with the characters of their favorite films as they wander around the grounds of the hotels and theme parks. Make sure you catch a parade while you’re there too – the sight of their favorite Disney stars marching along in full attire is one your children are unlikely to ever forget. They run daily and are usually held at 5:30 pm.
The Disneyland Hotel is situated just 5 minutes from the Disney Parks and is filled with classic Disney magic. In terms of the parks themselves, the rides themselves cater to all ages, with roller coasters, log flumes, musical tours, and even haunted houses.
This spectacular building suffered tragic destruction in 2019 as rampant flames tore through it, destroying much of the beloved architecture. Prior to that, this cathedral was one of the best-preserved examples of gothic architecture from medieval times. Construction began in 1160 as a dedication to the Virgin Mary, and the building has a rich history, including its desecration during the French Revolution (but more on that later).
The 2019 fire only added to the fame of the building, as it’s suffering was mourned across the world. Unfortunately, the building is currently closed to the public as restoration works are carried to combat the devastating effects of the fire, but the French government hopes that it will be open again by 2024.
The French are known for their elegant, understated fashion, and nowhere is this casual style more evident than in the country’s capital. You can find the headquarters of nearly all major French fashion firms in Paris, such as Chanel, Luis Vuitton, and Dior, and the streets are littered with established as well as up-and-coming boutiques.
Given the international prestige of French fashion, it’s perhaps unsurprising that Paris is the top destination for fashion-related events, and Paris Fashion Week is commonly regarded as the yearly highlight of the fashion industry.
France has been producing wine since Roman times and, these days, it is one fo the world’s leading wine exporters. It’s not surprising, therefore, that the bottles on the shelves of Parisian restaurants certainly won’t disappoint. There are some fantastic wine bars where you can try out some of the best wines that France has to offer. However, if you want to learn a little more about the history of French wine as well as checking out an astonishing permanent collection, you should definitely take a trip to the Musée du Vi, located not far from the Eiffel Tower. As well as the museum itself, you can partake in events such as tasted courses, themed evenings, and more to truly immerse yourself in wine culture.
The Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile (or Arc de Triomphe for short) is situated in the center of the Étoile roundabout. It pays homage to those who fought during the French Revolution as well as the Napoleonic Wars and has become a symbol of French national identity. Its construction was commissioned by Napoleon himself back in 1806, but little did he know it would take 30 years for the works to be completed. Aside from the Eiffel Tower, it is probably Paris’ most famous monument.
You can admire the structure at street-level for free, where you’ll notice the names of hundreds of generals who fought in the wars inscribed on the walls, or you can pay a fee to climb the steps to the top and take in the surrounding views.
The Seine River is without a doubt a major contributor to the romantic vibes of Paris. The river winds its way through the city in a North Westerly direction before it eventually reaches the English channel, and it certainly has a calming effect on the entire city. Historically, the city was erected along the banks of the Seine, which are therefore home to some of Paris’ most historically important features. This is so much the case, that the Banks of Seine was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 1991 and includes key sites such as the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre Museum.
Taking in the sights from the water is a truly unique way to experience Paris, and there are many tour operators in the area offering a range of boat excursions – some with dinner, some with commentary, some residential – so you’ll certainly be able to find one that’s right for you.
As you stroll down the streets of Paris, you’ll encounter cafés at every turn. With most featuring outdoor seating, they’re a great way to soak up the scenery and admire the hustle and bustle of Parisian life. The French take their coffee breaks seriously, so you can be sure to get a good brew, and what better way to compliment it than with one of France’s most famous pastries – the much-loved croissant?
Taught in history classes around the world, the French Revolution is undeniably one of France’s largest claims to fame. During the revolution, the working class rose up and overthrew the dominated and oppressive higher societies, in an attempt to revamp the status quo. This iconic uprising is woven into the seams of Paris, and you’ll see it referenced frequently.
If you want to learn a little more about it, we definitely recommend a trip to the Carnavalet Museum. This somewhat underrated museum provides a rich history of Paris and is less crowded than many other tourist attractions in the city. It presents a comprehensive history of Paris in general as well as including various artifacts from the era of the revolution.
Joan of Arc is somewhat of a national sweetheart in France. Aged just 18 and inspired by God, she led the French army to victory in a battle against the English in 1429 as part of the 100-year war. Unfortunately, this young heroine met her demise shortly afterward, and she was labeled a heretic and burnt at the stake. Years after her death, she was canonized and as a Catholic Patron Saint of Women, Courage, and Bravery.
A gold-plated sculpture of Joan of Arc is located in the Place des Pyramides and is another of Paris’ most famous monuments.
The catacombs of Paris are perhaps its most infamous historical feature. The tombs are the final resting place of approximately 6 million Parisians moved from local cemeteries and reburied in 1786. The tombs are oozing with history and are a great way to escape the heat of the sun during peak summer months in Paris. The circuit is 1.5 km long and takes roughly an hour to stroll through.
French food has a prestigious reputation around the glove, and it’s, therefore, unsurprising that Paris is home to some of the best restaurants in the world. French onion soup is a popular choice in the city, and it is usually served with a cheese layer on top and bread on the side. Parisians also love their duck dishes, so pretty much anything with duck in is going to be a winner. One of the most popular and more traditional duck dishes you’ll encounter is ‘canard aux cerises’, which is a unique sour-cherried flavored delight.
But don’t be disappointed if you have a sweet tooth, the French have definitely got you covered. Macarons have become somewhat of an art form in France, and Paris is home to some of the finest – check out Ladurée Paris on Champs-Élysées Avenue if you want to sample the best macarons Paris has to offer. You’ll also find delicious french creps in restaurants, cafés, and even stalls on the side of the road. These super thin pancakes come with a range of toppings, and are dangerously moreish so beware!
The Palais du Louvre is situated right on the bank of the Seine and is certainly a must-see attraction for any visitor. Originally a fortress-turned-place that house many royal families, this impressive feat of architecture is now a public museum jam-packed full of historical artifacts and artworks (but if history isn’t your thing, we still recommend a trip there simply to marvel at the building itself!).
Various exhibitions are held here throughout the year, and there are three-hour tours available on selected days during the week. For further information and up-to-date ticket prices, check out the website.
Last but by no means least on our list of things that Paris is most famous for is an entire district, the district of Montmarte. This area offers a unique blend of old and new – it’s cobbled streets are oozing with history, yet some of these old buildings are now home to sex shows and peepholes. By day, it’s great for souvenir shopping, dining out, and there are some lovely historical buildings worth checking out, such as the Basilica Sacre-Coeur. By night, it’s one of the best areas in Paris for nightclubbing and features tonnes of quirky, arty bars. With so many things to offer in one little area, if you’re staying here, you’ll have to remind yourself to leave and explore the rest of Paris every now and then!
Whether you’re into art, history, food and fine wine, or simply strolling around and soaking up the riverside scenes, there is something for everyone in Paris, one of the most culturally rich capitals in the world. There’s so much to do here that you’ll probably need more than one trip, and we recommend choosing a few ‘must sees’ and then relaxing and seeing where you end up – after all, you don’t want to miss out on the chance to soak up the atmosphere in this vibrant city because you were whizzing around too much.
Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.