The iconic attractions of Paris need no introduction. From the Eiffel Tower to the Louvre and Moulin Rouge to the Latin Quarter, the City of Light is internationally celebrated. Here’s how to spend a whirlwind first-time trip to Paris.Less
One of the world’s most recognizable landmarks, the Eiffel Tower’s spire is visible across the entire French capital—but nothing beats getting up close and personal with the iron giant. You can brave the lines during a spontaneous visit or book ahead to make things seamless. Opt to visit its second level, still an impressive 377 feet (115 meters) up, for a more budget-friendly way to explore, or soar all the way to its summit, some 906 feet (276 meters) above street level.
Long before it was immortalized on the silver screen (and on Broadway), the Moulin Rouge was one of Paris’ most popular cabarets, where high-kicking can-can dancers mingled with bohemians and artists like Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Today, it still promises many of the same delights as it did more than 100 years ago, from racy cabaret performances to overflowing flutes of bubbly. Book your admission in advance to guarantee your entry.
The world’s largest and most-visited museum, the Louvre is one of Paris’ most popular attractions—and that can mean some lengthy lines. Bypass the crowds and enjoy minimal hassle when you book priority admission, opt for a private tour of its galleries, or plan a special visit after dark. And while it’s worth seeing the Louvre’s highlights—from the Mona Lisa to the Venus de Milo—you’ll also discover a calmer side of the iconic museum when you explore its lesser-known galleries, too.
Few areas of Paris are infused with as much romance as the Latin Quarter. Located on the Left Bank and spanning the 5th arrondissement, the area has long been associated with intellectuals, artists, and bohemians. Its highlights include the legendary Shakespeare & Company bookstore, the Sorbonne University, the historic Panthéon building, and the serene Luxembourg Gardens. Head out on a small-group walking tour to see the best of the neighborhood, or consider a food-led experience.
The River Seine is Paris’ central artery, dividing the Left Bank from the Right Bank and flowing past many of the city’s best-known sights. For the best perspective of the city’s waterfront (and to learn more about the landmarks you pass as you go), hop aboard a river cruise departing the Bateaux Mouches dock. Whether you opt for a daytime option or wish to see the City of Light live up to its name at night, there are various cruise options to choose from.
Paris is a city that takes its cuisine seriously, which means you can’t leave the City of Light without sampling the finest French wines and cheeses. Whether you take part in a tutored, small-group tasting, attend a wine-and-cheese pairing session in a real cheese cellar, or opt for a luxe 10-pairing cheese and wine outing, you’re sure to know your Beaujolais from your Burgundy and be able to name several French cheese varieties.
Montmartre has long captured visitors’ imaginations with its cobblestone streets, artisan food markets, and the hilltop Sacré-Coeur Basilica, not to mention it has some of the best views across Paris. To experience a dose of its magic, embark on an introductory walking tour of its cultural highlights, enjoy a dedicated tasting tour, or follow in the footsteps of its former resident artists (including the likes of Vincent van Gogh).
If you don’t mind a day trip beyond the Paris city limits, you shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit Versailles. One of the world’s largest and most opulent palaces, Versailles dates back to the early 17th century and was the former residence of royals like Louis XIV and Marie Antoinette. Located just 12 miles (19 kilometers) west of Paris, this UNESCO-listed marvel (and its unmissable gardens) can be reached by train, though tours that depart straight from Paris make exploring even easier.
Beyond the major landmarks and the buzz of the Latin Quarter, discover another Paris, one with a distinctly local feel. See how real Parisians live in the Canal Saint-Martin district, where you’ll discover the charming waterway that gives the neighborhood its name (as well as the destination-worthy bakeries and wine bars that line its banks). And nearby, the Belleville neighborhood attracts those looking for edgy street art and destination-worthy bites.
As well as dipping into the lesser-known galleries of perhaps Paris' most famous museum, it's worth detouring to some of the city's lesser-known attractions ... even on a first-time visit. Take the Paris Sewer Museum, for example, a surprisingly informative and intriguing look at how the City of Light deals with, ahem, a darker side of human life. Or if you'd rather something sweeter smelling, try the Fragonard Perfume Museum, because Grasse needn't have all the olfactory fun in France.