If it is your first time in Paris, surely you are looking for activities and plans to do in Paris to make your trip special. For me, the key to success is combining the typical Parisian things with some more original ones. Although of course, I am aware that it is difficult to choose because Paris is one of those cities that you cannot finish.
Therefore, in this article, Julius Homes is going to explain the things to do in Paris on your first trip. My goal is to help you with my experience so that you can spend unforgettable days in the city.
Stay and I’ll show you!
1. Visit Notre Dame Cathedral
Currently, you will have to settle for seeing the Notre Dame Cathedral from the outside. After the 2019 fire in the cathedral, it was closed to the public and the renovation works will last several years. Go in front of the cathedral to see its façade.
We already warned you that you cannot get too close because they have fenced off the entire area. Where is the best place to view the exterior of Notre Dame Cathedral right now? From a boat on the Seine River. We did a cruise on the Seine (included in the Paris Pass) and from there we could see the cathedral in perspective and the burned part.
2. Use the Paris Pass to skip the lines at the monuments of Paris
What is the Paris Pass? It is the tourist card of Paris that includes the entrance to more than 60 monuments and tourist attractions. We have a specific article in which I tell you how it works and if the Paris Pass is worth it.
If you let me give you some advice, for a trip to Paris of 2 days or more, I consider this card essential. Paris is one of the most visited cities in the world and it shows in the queues. With the pass, you skip the queues at places as important as the Louvre or the Palace of Versailles.
If this is the first time you hear about the Paris Pass, read our article because it will help you a lot. And if you already know it, remember to always buy it on the official website because it is the only one that offers you a full refund in case you have to cancel the trip.
3. Discover places only known to Parisians
Shall I show you a place that doesn’t appear in the guides, but that Parisians adore? Albert Kahn’s Japanese Gardens are brutal. They opened their doors in October 2019 after several months of renovations. Although they are a bit far from the centre, this is an ideal visit to do in Paris to get out of the ordinary..
4. Visit the Pompidou Center and be amazed by its works
The Pompidou Center is the museum of modern and contemporary art in Paris. For me, visiting this place is one of the essential things to do in Paris. Even if you have no idea of art! Everything is possible here: from works of art that are entire rooms to paintings that will make you laugh. In addition, the top floor of the museum is a viewpoint of the city. I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. Skip-the-line entry is included in the Paris Pass.
5. Admire the city on a cruise on the Seine
One of the most beautiful experiences to do in Paris is a cruise on the Seine. We loved it! I admit that we decided to do the boat trip because it was included in the Paris Pass and “you can try it for free”. Can you believe that it became one of our favourite activities in Paris? Since then, we always recommend it.
The ride was very calm and relaxing. We got to see a lot of bridges over the Seine River that we wouldn’t have seen walking over long distances. And the views of some of the monuments of Paris from the boat are fabulous. I have already told you that the best view of the Notre Dame Cathedral is from the river at the moment. If you want to know more details about our experience, I encourage you to read our article on the Seine cruise.
6. Lose yourself among the works of the Louvre
One of the essential places to visit in Paris is the Louvre Museum. If you go for a few days, you may be wondering whether to see it inside or not. In my opinion, if you are going to spend two days in Paris, it is worth it. The collection of objects from Egypt, the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo are just some examples of the works of art that it houses.
We are talking about the most visited museum in the world so you can already imagine that the queues are enormous. When we went, the queue for people without the Paris Pass was 3 hours (low season). With the Paris Pass you have skip-the-line entry included for the Louvre (you enter through another site). I give you more advice in this article on how to visit the Louvre.
7. Attend a performance at Moulin Rouge
Did you know that cabaret is still very much alive at the Moulin Rouge? Every day, more than 100 dancers take to the stage with their sensual and playful dances in the “Féerie” show. This is one of the funniest things to do in Paris at night and one of the best memories you will keep.
Being such a famous site, it is important to book the ticket online because they sell out easily. When you buy the ticket, you can select if you will only see the show or if you want to be served dinner.
8. Fill up on crepes and waffles, one of the typical things to do in Paris
And croissants! Throughout the city, you will find pastry shops, food stalls and boulangeries to succumb to sugar. You are on a trip… Enjoy it!
You will see that in the City of Light, they make crepes in a thousand different flavours. My favourites are always the ones with ham and cheese and the ones with Nutella. But you will not lack options! Is there something more typical to do in Paris than try its gastronomy?
9. Visit the Palace of Versailles and its gardens
The Palace of Versailles and the Versailles Gardens are one of the most popular things to do in Paris. It is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO and the site is huge.
To visit the Palace of Versailles, calculate that you will need between half a day and a whole day. It will depend on what you want to lengthen in the gardens because they are gigantic. We really liked this excursion from Paris to change scenery and spend a relaxing day among its gardens and fountains. It is one of the most important palaces in France and it shows that they spared no expense in some rooms such as the Hall of Mirrors. For a trip to Paris in 4 days or more, I recommend this excursion.
Keep in mind that to enter Versailles you will have to go through an exhaustive security control very similar to that of an airport. Also, if you are travelling with children, it is not allowed to enter the Palace of Versailles with the baby’s stroller (they will keep it for you past the security arches).
Not to mention the very long queues to enter the Palace of Versailles.
10. Get around Paris by public transport, but be prepared to walk
Public transport in Paris is quite convenient. In fact, I think that is what disappointed me the most about the destination. I’m not exaggerating if I tell you that 80% of the time we got on a bus we had to get off because there was some protest or because the driver had finished his shift (and they leave passengers stranded at any stop).
In addition, the subway is so crowded and you may have to let 3 trains pass before you can get on. Awful! So be prepared to walk when you’re in a situation like this. There are many demonstrations and sporting events in Paris, so public transport is greatly affected.
11. Let yourself be carried away by the tourist bus of Paris
We told you that public transport works quite badly so plan B is to get on the tourist bus in Paris. It was the first time we got on a tourist bus and we found it very practical to get to the main monuments. As it was included in the Paris Pass we wanted to try it and it was a success. In my opinion, if you combine the Big Bus with public transport you will make the trip much more comfortable.