With more than 130 world-class museums to visit, scores of attractions to discover, extraordinary architecture to gape at, and wonderful neighborhoods to wander, Paris is an endless series of delights. The hardest part is figuring out where to begin. Fortunately, you can have a terrific time even if you don’t see everything. Some of your best moments may be simply roaming around the city without a plan. Lolling on a park bench, dreaming over a drink at a sidewalk cafe, or noodling around an unknown neighborhood can be the stuff of your best travel memories.
The following pages will highlight the best that Paris can offer area by area, from iconic sights known the world over to quirky museums and hidden gardens, from 1,000-year-old castles to galleries celebrating the most challenging contemporary art, and from the must-sees to the only-if-you’ve-seen-everything-else. Here, then, is the best of Paris’s attractions.
Passing on the Passes
Paris is a walkable city with numerous free museums and serendipitous experiences, so paying for a travel and museum pass doesn’t always make sense. It comes down to math. The Paris Passlib’ sightseeing package comes in 2-, 3-, and 5-day options, costing 109€, 129€, and 155€, respectively. Each includes unlimited public transport (zones 1–3), a 1-hr. boat cruise, and a 1-day bus tour, as well as a Paris Museum Pass (see below), offering free, skip-the-line entry to many of the city’s major museums, including the Louvre, the Pompidou Center, and the Musée d’Orsay. This may sound like a good deal but remember that the average adult museum entry fee ranges around 10€ to 14€, a carnet (pack) of 10 metro tickets is 14.90€, a boat trip is around 14€ and a 1-day bus tour costs about 32€. If you buy the 2-day pass, you’ll need to visit four museums to make it worth your while and take the bus tour and take a boat tour. That’s not only an overload of cerebral stimulation, it’s nearly impossible to do since it’s a 1-day long bus tour. The 3-day and 5-day passes make a little more sense: You’ll only need to see a maximum of two museums per day (and do the bus and boat tours) to make back your investment—still a lot, but doable. The Paris Museum Pass, which makes up part of the package, can be bought separately and costs 48€, 62€, and 74€ for 2-, 4-, and 6-days respectively. This may look like a cheaper deal, but you’d still need to do a lot of museums to break even (four to five sites in 2 days, five to six in 4 days, and eight in 6 days). In short, if you are a serious museum fan, consider the passes. If not, do without. For more information, visit www.parisinfo.com.
Paris's Top 14 Sights and Attractions
- Arc de Triomphe
- Basilique du Sacré-Coeur
- Cathédrale de Notre-Dame
- Centre Pompidou
- Cimetière du Père-Lachaise
- Hôtel des Invalides/Napoleon's Tomb
- Jardin du Luxembourg
- Musée d'Orsay
- Musée du Louvre
- Musée du Quai Branly
- Palais de Tokyo
- Parc de la Villette
- Sainte Chapelle
- Tour Eiffel
Seeing Museums for Free
With one or two exceptions, all city museums are free (permanent collections only), all the time. That includes the following cultural cornucopias:
*Musée du Louvre, October to March
Getting Out of Line
Lines at Paris’s museums and other attractions keep growing, and visitor frustration levels are rising accordingly. Even smaller museums can have long lines during school holidays and special temporary exhibits. To avoid wasting precious hours standing in queues, buy your tickets ahead of time whenever possible, either online or at an Fnac store (www.fnac.fr). They may cost 1€ or 2€ more than at the door, but e-ticket in hand, you can generally breeze past everyone; just follow the signs marked billet coupe-file. A Paris Passlib’ card (http://booking.parisinfo.com) will also get you to the front of the line at many major museums.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.