Paris is a feast, said Hemingway. Breathe Paris in it nourishes the soul, said Victor Hugo. Words to describe this jewel of a city are never enough. Paris is a magical city, where at every step you are amazed, you admire beauty and breathe history. Rich in works of art, palaces and museums to visit, Paris is a city full of beauty, tangible and intangible. It is a cosmopolitan city, a swarm of people and cultures where there is always something to learn. Many go to Paris, but there have been few, said Count Francesco Algarotti. Yes, because to truly grasp the essence of Paris, it’s not enough to visit it as a simple tourist: you have to visit it with a capital V, lose yourself in its streets, immerse yourself in Parisian life.
That’s why we’ve prepared a Paris bucket list, a list of things you can’t miss to do in this magnificent city. A list of experiences that will allow you to make it your own, to get to know its rare gems, to live it like a true local.
The bucket list: 15 things to really get to know Paris
1. Take a romantic walk along the Seine at sunset
The first approach to Paris can only be this. The Seine, one of the symbols of Paris, cannot but be included in the bucket list of Paris. Strolling along the Seine, from the Pont Marie to the Pont des Arts, immediately immerses you in the magical atmosphere of this city. Enjoy the facades of the Renaissance buildings and the sunlight reflecting in the river, walking surrounded by people chatting, running, talking on the phone, riding bicycles or scooters. At some point stop, have a beer in one of the bars along the bank and admire the sunset.
2. Stroll through the streets of the center eating a galette
When you’re in the city center, get lost in the streets around the Seine, between the islands and the Les Marais district eating a galette, one of the typical Parisian dishes. The galette is the savory crepe made with buckwheat. The French, when they talk about crêpe, they mean the sweet one, made with wheat flour. Our suggestion is to buy it at Droguerie du Marais in Rue de Rosiers, and then head to the Jewish quarter up to Place des Vosges.
3. Watch a star from the Arc de Triomphe
You may be wondering how it is possible to see a star from a monument in the center of town, not even that tall. Just wait and see. When you enter the Arc de Triomphe, you’ll be able to discover the history of this iconic Parisian monument and climb up to the panoramic terrace. From here you will have access to a breathtaking view of the entire city, the best in my opinion. You will also be able to admire the star formed by the six streets that intersect in the square below. It is for this reason that Charles de Gaulle Square was formerly called Place de l’Étoile (Star Square).
4. Fill your eyes with color at the Sainte-Chapelle
In my opinion, the Sainte-Chapelle is one of the most beautiful monuments in Paris and absolutely unmissable. It is one of the most important works of Gothic architecture, famous for its immense and colorful stained glass windows. The visit to the upper chapel will leave you speechless for at least ten minutes.
5. Climb to the top of the Montparnasse Tower and admire the city from its highest point
Although many people only consider the Eiffel Tower as a way to see Paris from above, I prefer the Montparnasse Tower, which in addition to being higher, gives you the opportunity to…see the Eiffel Tower. So take the elevator up to the roof at 210 meters. If you arrive when the light is going down, wait until the hour is up to see the Eiffel Tower shine.
6. Go back to the time of the Sun King at the Palace of Versailles
A whole day should be dedicated to the Palace of Versailles. Not only because you have to leave Paris, but also because its size makes one day barely enough for the visit. Entering the Palace of Versailles will catapult you into another dimension, back to the days of Louis XIV’s splendor. In addition to the Castle, a visit to the gardens is a must, especially in spring, where you can rent a bike or take a boat ride on the Grand Canal.
7. Admire the great classics of art history at the Musée d’Orsay
Although it is a must to visit the Louvre at least once in a lifetime, the Musée d’Orsay remains for me at the top of the city’s museums taking its place on the Paris bucket list. It houses the most important collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings, from Manet’s Breakfast on the Grass to Cézanne’s The Card Players, from Degas’ Absinthe to Renoir’s Bal au Moulin de la Galette, to works by Gauguin, Van Gogh and the pointillists Seurat and Signac. Its size makes it easier to visit, though equally dense with works of art.
8. Go down into the macabre underground network of Catacombs
Many do not know that Paris hides under its surface the largest necropolis in the world. An underground network of about 285 km that preserves an ossuary with the remains of about 6 million people. The catacombs of Paris, inaugurated in the late 18th century, are not a sight you see every day. The entrance is in the Denfert-Rochereau square and it will be easy for you to spot it because the queue of people that forms is always quite long.
9. Immerse yourself in the oasis of the Great Mosque
The Grand Mosque of Paris, in addition to being a place of prayer, is a beautiful place of peace on our Paris bucket list, a symbol of the multiculturalism of the capital. In respect of the faithful, the Mosque is open to tourists. You can also take advantage of the Hammam and the adjacent bar, which serves an excellent mint tea accompanied by tasty treats.
10. See a show at the Opera Garnier
If you want to spend a special evening, we recommend that you book a show at the Opéra Garnier, not only for the quality of the performances but also for the majestic building and the beauty of the theater. If the theater or the opera is not for you, don’t worry, there is also the possibility of taking a guided tour of the building.
11. Enjoy a picnic at Buttes-Chaumont Park
A lake, a stream, a temple and a cave are just some of the natural beauties contained in this bucket list urban park. The best way to take advantage of Buttes Chaumonts Park is definitely a picnic with friends on a beautiful sunny day. On the other hand, for a Parisian, every sunny day is a good opportunity for a picnic. So arm yourself with a large beach towel and get ready for a relaxing afternoon in the green.
12. Playing the “pétanque” along the Canal de l’Ourq
The pétanque is the name with which the French call the game of boules. In France, it is much more popular among the young than among the old, and you’ll be amazed at the number of boys and girls who, between one beer and another, spend entire evenings and afternoons playing pétanque. Walk along the Canal de l’Ourq, the continuation of the Canal Saint Martin, and choose your place. Don’t worry about the boules: most of the places on the shore rent them.
13. Become a child again at the Luxembourg Gardens
Another oasis of peace to escape city stress is the Luxembourg Gardens. Filled with flowers and sculptures, this park is peaceful just to look at. Here you can enjoy being a kid again by joining the miniature boat races that take place daily in the small pond. Alternatively, there are tennis courts, basketball courts, petanque courts and chess tables. If you love reading, the benches around the fountain are the perfect place to immerse yourself in a book in peace and quiet.
14. Stepping into a painting in the Montmartre district
Definitely on the Paris bucket list is the artists’ district of Montmartre, undoubtedly one of the most picturesque areas of the city. From the Anvers stop reach the base of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart to admire its beauty from the best point. Then follow the colorful alleys of murals that climb the hill until you reach the church, which we recommend you visit, and the beautiful view that presents itself.
With our Food Tour, you can see this neighborhood from another mouthwatering perspective.
15. Gain a few kilos by eating a raclette
Raclette, more than a dish, is a sort of cheese feast, which can never be missing on the tables of the French. An occasion for the French to get together with friends and eat together, often from the same plate. Raclette is a typical dish in which cheese is melted and eaten with potatoes cooked in foil, toasted bread, mixed cold cuts and pickled vegetables. A real pleasure usually eaten in winter, but the bravest ones eat it also in summer.
To find out where to eat in the city also read our blog article on the best brasseries in Paris.
This was our Paris bucket list. We hope it will be useful for you to plan your itinerary in the magnificent French capital.