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Major attractions worth seeing?

Going to Paris with the hubby in the fall--generally we hate tourist traps but we have a feeling in Paris a lot of them will be worth seeing. Anyone have any favorites they really think are worth the trouble of navigating our way through a lot of fanny-packed tourists?

9 Answers

top answer by
Courtney from Los Angeles

Hey, Jenna--

Paris is the one place where just about every tourist trap is worth seeing! The only ones I would absolutely, positively NOT recommend are: 

  • The Bastille
  • Les Halles (this is under construction anyway)
  • Café des 2 Moulins (this is the cafe in Amelie--the food is vile)
  • George Pompidou -and I'm not saying this because the building is so ugly--I'm saying it because I've never seen an interesting exhibit here and it's always blazing hot. And the building is ugly. ;)

OK, now that I've got that out of the way, here's what you SHOULD see:

  • Opera Garnier - beyond incredible--try to see an opera there if you can
  • La Conciergerie - where Marie Antoinette stayed before being executed--totally incredible if you love French history
  • Musée Carnavalet - A sort of Cooperstown for Paris nerds, the Carnavalet is dedicated to the city itself, housing everything from reconstructed storefronts to some incredible pieces of Parisian memorabilia like part of the rope ladder used to take down the Bastille. Insider tip: this free museum is a great place to run in and use the facilities.
  • Arc de Triomphe - When Napoleon married his second wife, he was so determined to knock her out by passing through the arc he was having built to himself that he had the architect build a replica of the as-yet-unfinished arc so they could have their moment. Seems like he could have just carried her over the threshold. 
  • Sacre Coeur - Some people really keep their word. During the Franco-Prussian war two businessmen made a pact to build a church should France survive and is pretty easy to understand their desperation. By the time the battle came to an end, the citizens of Paris were literally out of animals to eat.
  • Panthéon - The views from here are great but you need to go with tour guide and it takes a while to get everybody up and then get everybody back down. The crypt in the basement is fascinating as visitors leave giant wreaths and things for people who've been dead for 100 years. Another interesting feature is Foucault's giant pendulum which proves the rotation of the earth.
  • Luxembourg Garden - one of the most beautiful places on earth. Period. 
  • Jardin des Tuileries - It seems appropriate that this fairy tale-beautiful garden was opened to the public thanks to the request of "Sleeping Beauty" author, Charles Perrault. Although originally only meant for royalty, the grounds became the place for Parisians to see and be seen. While Perrault's request stipulated that the garden would not be open to beggars or, bizarrely, soldiers, anyone can now stroll here.
  • Musée d'Orsay - Made famous by a serious accident, the Musée d'Orsay is considered by many to be the best museum in Paris. Once a train station, this building was all but destroyed when a train ran right through the side of the building, causing major damage and killing a newspaper vendor. Later, when trains became too big for the antiquated station's tracks, the station was closed and in the 1980s, became the extraordinary museum it is today.
  • Place des Vosges - It's amazing how fickle real estate can be. The oldest planned square in Paris, the Place des Vosges started life as one of the most desirable parts of town (not to mention the place to be if you were in the mood to watch a good joust), and even served as the site for the wedding of Louis XIII to Anne of Austria. Over the years it was home to Victor Hugo of Les Miserables fame (his house is now a museum) and other notables, but somehow fell out of favor with the public. It wasn't until the 1980s that both the square and the Marais neighborhood itself, experienced a serious revival and is now not only one of the most beautiful parts of town, but one of the most expensive. If you go, try to catch it on a Sunday as it's one of the few neighborhoods where most businesses are open.
  • Sainte-Chapelle - When an über-pious king acquired Christ's Crown of Thorns, not to mention a bunch of other relics, he knew he had to come up with a really great place to show them off. Thus, Sainte-Chapelle was born. In fact, if you look carefully at the pinnacles on the front of the church, you'll find a crown of thorns on each. By the way, when you're walking the aisles here, keep in mind that there's a whole other place of worship beneath you where commoners and servants were relegated.
  • Notre Dame Cathedral - While it may be an iconic place of worship, Notre Dame was actually once used as a wine store. At 850 years old it's survived just about everything including wars and even its own bells (the giant bells that once rang here rang so strongly they actually damaged the building and had to be taken out). When you go, see if you can spot architectural details that remind you of bats; the architect responsible for the cathedral's restoration in the 1800s, Viollet-le-Duc, used bats as his signature and incorporated them into some of the design elements. 
  • Grande Galerie de l'Evolution - As if the city's leaders didn't have enough on their hands, this museum was created smack dab in the middle of the French Revolution. Having been updated since it's largely missed by tourists which is a shame because it's one of the city's best (in what other museum in the world would you find an Hermès Kelly bag on display?!?). Among the myriad of fascinating items on display is a box containing the sometimes very intimate garbage disposed of by one family during a period of a week or so.
  • Cimetière Montparnasse, Paris. - If you come to Paris and don't visit at least one cemetery you haven't really seen Paris. The city is very serious about making sure its most illustrious citizens stay put (so-to-speak), and as a result, their resting places are chock full of superstitions, traditions, and even art work. Among its best is the one at Montparnasse which is "home" to, among others, Serge Gainsbourg, Jean Seburg, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, Man Ray, Alfred Dreyfuss, and Samuel Beckett. When you go, make sure you stop by the grave of Charles Pigeon which features a bronze of he and his wife in bed.
  • Institut du Monde Arabe- Although it looks like a run-of-the-mill modern building from afar, if you look closely you can see that each little square on the building is actually an aperture that opens and closes to control the amount of light let in. If you visit in the summer, be sure to go on a Sunday night when dancers come out to dance the tango in front of the structure.
  • Tour Montparnasse - Parisians love to tell people that the Montparnasse Tower is the best place to see the city because it's the only place from which it can't be seen. Amazingly, in 1995 a French "urban climber" climbed the tower using no safety equipment whatsoever. Assuming you're not that brave (or crazy), you can get to the top for 13 euro.
  • Rue Mouffetard - Hemingway referred to this pedestrian street as the "cesspool of the rue Mouffetard," and although it unquestionably retains a certain bohemian quality, it's considerably more refined than it was in his day. There are great restaurants and stores to be found here, not to mention fabulous people watching.

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bastille (attraction)
  2. Les Halles (attraction)
  3. Café des 2 Moulins (restaurant)
  4. Opera Garnier (attraction)
  5. La Conciergerie (attraction)
  6. Musée Carnavalet (attraction)
  7. Arc de Triomphe (attraction)
  8. Sacre Coeur (attraction)
  9. Panthéon (attraction)
  10. Luxembourg Garden (attraction)
  11. Jardin des Tuileries (attraction)
  12. Musée d'Orsay (attraction)
  13. Place des Vosges (attraction)
  14. Sainte-Chapelle (attraction)
  15. Notre Dame Cathedral (attraction)
  16. George Pompidou (attraction)
  17. Grande Galerie de l'Evolution (attraction)
  18. Cimetière Montparnasse, Paris. (attraction)
  19. Institut du Monde Arabe (attraction)
  20. Tour Montparnasse (attraction)
  21. Rue Mouffetard (attraction)
17 thanks

answered by
Laura from Buenos Aires

I strongly recomend you to spend at least half a day in Montmartre , not just visiting Sacre Coeur but walking through the neibourghood, it's absolutly charming. Rue des Abbesses and Rue Lepic are incredibly full of life with their street markets, little bistros and caffes. You can also walk to the back of Sacre Coeur to get to Rue Caulaincourt, you'll see the vineyards and the old moulins. Have a coffee at Café des Deux Moulins like Amelie, buy a baguette, some cheese and enjoy the day. 

In Paris I also love the Boulevard Saint-Germain and the Quartier Du Marais, the museums of course, specially Musée d'Orsay, but mostly I love the streets, the people, the atmosphere. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Montmartre (attraction)
  2. Sacre Coeur (attraction)
  3. Rue Lepic (attraction)
  4. Rue Caulaincourt (attraction)
  5. Café des Deux Moulins (restaurant)
  6. Boulevard Saint-Germain (attraction)
  7. Quartier Du Marais (attraction)
  8. Musée d'Orsay (attraction)
  9. Rue des Abbesses (attraction)
7 thankscomments (1)

answered by
Erin from Salt Lake City

Tourist traps that you can't miss:

Going to the top of  Notre Dame Cathedral is worth the crowds. Magnificent views of the city and you get to see the gargoyles and architecture up close. 

Musée du Louvre can take an entire day, or a few hours depending on what you choose. The Louvre has 3 different wings. If you do all 3 plan on the full day. For a quick stop go to the Denon Wing. The infamous Mona Lisa is in this wing, but it will be jammed packed with tourists. I would spend more time on other artwork that is not as known but just as wonderful. I highly recommend getting the audio tours for any museum. They are worth the money and make the experience better by teaching you and letting you go through the exhibits faster than reading everything. For The Louvre there is a free audio tour podcast online. 

Stroll down the  Champs-Élysées and people watch. This is a famous street with luxury shopping, cafes, and is in the heart of Paris next to attractions like the  Arc de Triomphe and  Place de la Concorde. If you don't have money for shopping, sit down at a cafe and enjoy a cappuccino. 

Some not as touristy attractions that are still worth checking out: 

Musee Rodin - museum that is dedicated to the works of Auguste Rodin. Includes sculptures such as "The Thinker,"  "Gates of Hell," and "The Kiss." 

Père Lachaise Cemetery - If you are a music fan, or just like cool architecture this is a great place to see. The Doors singer Jim Morrison is buried here as well as the piano player Chopin. It's the largest cemetary in Paris City and dates to the early 1800s. Spend a couple hours here roaming around and enjoying the monuments. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Notre Dame Cathedral (attraction)
  2. Musée du Louvre (attraction)
  3. Champs-Élysées (attraction)
  4. Arc de Triomphe (attraction)
  5. Place de la Concorde (attraction)
  6. Musee Rodin (attraction)
  7. Père Lachaise Cemetery (attraction)
6 thanks

answered by

Just a couple to tips to add to the list. Rather than just see Sainte-Chapelle, go see a concert there. You'll see flyers around town. Get there a bit early - they sell out. Also plan your trip to Musée d'Orsay around lunch in the second floor restaurant. Spectacular and a decent prix fixe menu. Have fun!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sainte-Chapelle (attraction)
  2. Musée d'Orsay (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Alyssa from United States

One thing that attracts tons of tourists but is totally worth it is the Bateaux Mouches, the tour boats on La Seine.  If the weather is nice, you can go up on top of the boat and take some beautiful pictures.  A great introduction to the city!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bateaux Mouches (attraction)
  2. La Seine (attraction)
3 thanks

answered by
Natalie from Toronto

Sounds like you've got a lot of suggestions about tourist traps that are worth the effort. But in terms of areas that are not overrun with tourists, try venturing out to Bercy one day. There's a really quaint stretch of cobblestone streets with outdoor cafes and a small amount of shopping. It's situated right next to a lovely park. It's out of the way so it's full of locals, not tourists. Enjoy Paris!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Bercy (neighborhood)
3 thanks

answered by
Ryan from Redondo Beach

Sacre Coeur is the best view of the city. Most think the top of the Eiffel Tower is the best, but let's be honest, whats a view of Paris without the Eiffel Tower in it? Also the food in the neighborhood around Sacre Coeur is pretty good!

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Sacre Coeur (attraction)
  2. Eiffel Tower (attraction)
3 thankscomments (1)

answered by

Jenna, I would consider looking into a bed and breakfast through Good Morning Paris - we've stayed the same place twice now and LOVED it! We were in the 9e arrondissement near Montmartre. Another suggestion is go to the Cimetière de Montmartre and/or the Père Lachaise Cemetery  - fascinating places and many historical figures buried in them. 

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. 9e arrondissement (neighborhood)
  2. Montmartre (attraction)
  3. Cimetière de Montmartre (attraction)
  4. Père Lachaise Cemetery (attraction)
2 thanks

answered by
Ritu from Gurgaon

Paris is a nice place to visit.There are so many options to explore,but I have mentioned only few which are must to experience.

check my blog :

Mentioned in this answer:

  1. Paris (city)
1 thanks

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