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Paris is one of the most popular cities on earth, and for some pretty compelling reasons (not least of all the food). Many of its more popular charms are so well-known that they almost seem cliche—and yet it’d be a travesty to come all this way and never sit in a classic boulangerie or cafe on the Left Bank, watching the people go by. Here are some more deliciously touristy, classic Parisian things to do in the City of Lights.

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Climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower

This is Paris’ most famous landmark, bar none. It’s also incredible to look at, whether you’re lounging in the grass below or all the way at the top, taking in some spectacular views of the city. You can also hit the champagne bar and two restaurants located in the tower on the way up. There’s also an unexpected treat at the bottom, if you know where to look—a former military bunker-turned-museum is tucked under the south pillar.

Gaze at the Mona Lisa

Go see what that knowing little smile is all about. And then take a tour of the rest of the Louvre, whose collection includes the likes of Théodore Géricault, Michelangelo and Jacques-Louis David, as well as some iconic Grecian sculptures. Be warned: ‘enormous’ is a bit of an understatement concerning the size of this museum, so plan to spend at least a few hours here.

Check in on the Cathedral de Notre Dame

The world wept when fire swept through Notre Dame Cathedral on April 15, 2019. The French cultural and historical treasure was severely damaged and remains closed to visitors, but on the upside, a $1 billion restoration process is underway. You can still view the stunning exterior of the 800-year-old edifice from the Seine River and nearby bridges, and check how things are coming along.

Get cultured with some classical ballet at Palais Garnier

Window shop stores like Laduree and their delicious macarons

Stroll down the Champs Elysees and window shop stores like Laduree and its delicious macarons | Flickr CC: Anna & Michal

Sure, ballet is a stunning art form, and the Paris Opera Ballet is one of the best on earth. Just as beautiful, though, is the opera house they perform in. Look up as you stroll beneath incredibly opulent chandeliers and frescos that rival those of the Sistine Chapel. One of the theater’sbiggest draws, though, is the underground lake, of Phantom of the Opera legend. If you tour this underground chamber, your tour guide will tell you that, yes, the phantom was real, and Leroux’s famous tale was true (to an extent, of course).

Stroll along the Champs-Elysées

There’s no doubt that the Champs-Elysées is easy on the eyes, and of course strolling this verdant avenue is a must. And what you discover (or taste, rather) along the way is equally notable. From fine dining to casual eats, you can sample plenty of mouthwatering, traditional French fare. Or plop down at a patio and whittle away an afternoon, drinking wine, people watching and waiting for the sun to set—the avenue is particularly enchanting at night.

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Snap a photo of the Arch de Triomphe

This magnificent marble arch is located along the Champs-Elysées, a towering tribute to Napoleon Bonaparte. Take the underground tunnel over (the safest way to cross the avenue) to get an up-close-and-personal view.  Or you can climb to the top to get an aerial view of the city. It’s not free, but the seriously cool selfies (and the exercise you’ll get climbing all those stairs) are worth paying for.

Go people-watching at Place de la Concorde

Paris’s biggest public square is tucked between the aforementioned Champs-Elysées and the beautiful Jardin des Tuileries garden. Grab a sandwich (or a croque monsieur) and park it by the ornate fountains, gazing up at the 3,300-year old Luxor Obelisk as you munch. Stopping in a nearby restaurant for a glass or twoof red wine isn’t required, but it’s highly recommended.

Get wild with a cabaret show

That famous red windmill, the frilly skirts, the quick flash of garter belts…only in Paris could a little bawdiness seem so classy. The cancan show lives on in its full, albeit modern, glory at the infamous Moulin Rouge. See what painter Toulouse-Lautrec was so jazzed about as the dancers perform a raucous cancan, showing off those legs—they pair quite well with a glass of champagne or three.

Experience the French Disneyland

Yes, this is probably a little more American than Parisian, but how can you ignore Disney’s call? Besides, you’ll get a pretty French spin on the classics while zipping along on Space Mountain: Mission 2 or the rickety rails of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Peril (yes, peril). Best of all, it’s all just a short trip from the city center.

Cafe de Flore

Cafe de Flore | Flickr CC: Karen Corby

Sip coffee at a sidewalk café

This is as close to the ‘great outdoors’ as you’ll probably get in Paris. These quaint, little sidewalk cafes are the stuff of postcards and travel dreams. Park it at popular spots like Aux Folies and Le Sancerre to sip some coffee or wine and mingle with (or watch) the bohemian, biker and touristy crowds. For a tasty slice of classic Parisian history, head to Cafe de Flore, the site of many a rendezvous of Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sarte.

Discover something unexpected at the Musee d’Orsay

The former train station that houses the Musee d’Orsay is just as easy on the eyes as the artwork that lies within. And among the incredible paintings, sculptures and photographs by artists such as Paul Cézanne and Jean-Baptiste Carpeaux, you’ll find a vast collection devoted to the decorative arts. Meaning you can literally see where French royalty sat, how they decorated their homes and how they drank their wine.

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Tagged: Destinations, Europe

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Elle-Rose Williams
Elle-Rose is an award-winning travel blogger from the UK, who is the editor of She is based in London, but travels as far and wide as she can, as often as possible.
Elle-Rose Williams

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