Essential Paris Tourist Attractions

by nightowl

Most Paris travelers will want to do some sightseeing in the city of light. Here's a quick reference guide of my essential Paris tourist attractions.

If this is your first time to visit Paris, and you only have a limited time to see the sights, be sure to include these iconic attractions,

Paris has many more treasures for you to discover, but if you can only visit a handful of them, then these are your must-see, do-not-miss essentials.

Eiffel Tower | Le Tour de Eiffel

World famous symbol of Paris

When in Paris, one can't help but notice the Eiffel Tower sooner or later. Designed by Gustave Eiffel, and built in 1889 just in time for the opening of the World Fair, the Eiffel Tower is one of the world's most recognizable structures. It has become not only a symbol of Paris but also an icon for the entire French nation.

So then, a visit to the Eiffel Tower should be the staple on every Paris tourist list of things to do. Depending on your physical constitution, you may either ride the elevator or climb the more than 300 steps each to the first and second levels. Restaurants are located on each of these levels which are a tad pricey but provide a great view over the city.

The third level, at the top of the tower, can only be reached by elevator. To access the Eiffel Tower, tickets must be purchased, and lines may be long. Regardless, if you've never been here before you will not want to miss this.

Paris Eiffel Tower

Icon of Fance

Champs-Élysées and Arc de Triomphe

"La plus belle avenue du monde"

The Champs-Élysées is the major boulevard leading to the Arc de Triomphe monument. It is famous for it's world-class luxury shopping, bistros, theaters and cafes and has been named the "most beautiful avenue in the world". The sidewalk is lined with specially trimmed chestnut trees.




Champs Elysees to Arc de Triomphe

Although traffic gets quite congested during rush hour, it is a sight to behold. Take a leisurely stroll down this most expensive (rent-wise) avenue, which runs for about 1.25 miles (or 2 kilometers) from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe, which was built by Napoleon to commemorate his victories. Truly one of the premier Paris tourist attractions especially for first time visitors.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Almost 200 years in the making

The Notre Dame Cathedral was built between 1163 and 1345 in the French gothic architecture. It almost goes without saying that Notre Dame has seen its share of historic events: The coronation of Napoleon in 1807, the wedding of Mary Queen of Scots. the canonization of Joan of Arc, to name but a few examples. The cathedral also contains the Holy Crown of Thorns reliquary. 

Its flying buttresses, fearsome Gargoyles, magnificent organ and beautiful stained glass windows are just a few of the architectural details that put this famous church on my must-see list of Paris tourist attractions.

Pictures of Notre Dame Cathedral

Click on image to enlarge
Notre Dame view from Montparnasse Tower By Edal Anton Lefterov
Notre Dame vi...
Notre Dame South Facade, By Zuffe
Notre Dame So...
Notre Dame de Paris By Sanchezn
Notre Dame de...
Organ of Notre Dame, By Eric Chan
Organ of Notr...
Notre Dame Altar, By Kurt Muehmel
Notre Dame Al...
Gargoyles of Notre Dame
Gargoyles of ...

Other Famous Paris Churches

By Tirithel (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC-BY-SA-3.0-2.5-2.0-1.0 (], via Wikimedia CommonsSacré-Cœur Basilica

The Sacre-Coer Basilica, also known as The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, is a very popular landmark located atop the Montmartre hill.



Inside the Pantheon of ParisThe Panthéon

Modeled after the Pantheon temple in Rome, this neo-classicistic church has become the final resting place of many of Paris' notable citizens. Voltaire, Victor Hugo, Marie Curie, along with a host of other illustrious Parisians, are interred here.

Map of Paris, France

Including the featured, essential tourist attractions

Louvre Museum and Palace

Most visited art museum in the world

The Musée du Louvre is not just one of the largest museums, but also (unfortunately) the most visited art museum in the world. Long lines may be taxing your determination to behold the magnificent masterpieces of Leonardo da Vinci, Rembrandt & Co., but you must persevere!

Visiting the Louvre, at least once in your lifetime, is not optional. Plan the day early, bring some snacks and entertainment for the wait, ensure your camera has good batteries (no flash allowed inside though) and prepare to be blown away.

Additional Information for the Louvre Museum

Keep this in mind when planning your visit to the Louvre:

  • Like many museums in Paris, the Louvre is closed on Tuesdays!
  • Admission to the permanent collection is free for all on the first Sunday of every month and on July 14 (national holiday)
  • To make the most of your visit to the Louvre you might want to use the information available on the official (english) website.

Tip for Museum Fans and Art Lovers

Although the Louvre may be the largest and most famed of them all, Paris has many other significant museums. In fact, you could probably visit a different museum every other day for an entire year, and not run out of destinations.

If you are an art lover and museum fan I'd highly recommend investing in the Paris Pass. You'll not only gain free entrance to over 40 museums but it also includes front-of-the-line priviledges for some of the most popular ones like the Louvre, Musee d'Orsay, Centre Pompidou and many others.

Guides to the Louvre

Get one to take along, and one for the coffee table
The Louvre: All the Paintings
$41.17  $48.79
The Louvre: The Many Lives of the Wor...
$16.59  $1.25
The Louvre: The History, The Collecti...
$77.05  $52.46

Conclusion and Further Information

There are, of course, a myriad of other landmarks and attractions that Paris has to offer. As such, one page cannot do justice to this topic. However, if you are planning your first trip to Paris and have limited time, this little guide will point you to the essential Paris tourist attractions that should not be missed.

If you do plan on doing a fair amount of sightseeing, I highly recommend planning your stay ahead of time and investing in the Paris Pass. One price will give you access to all the major attractions, not just in the city of Paris, but also some surrounding areas, and it even includes a cruise on the River Seine.


Updated: 11/21/2013, nightowl
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What are your favorite Paris Tourist Attractions?

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DerdriuMarriner on 06/20/2017

nightowl, Thank you for the essential Paris tour. I think that if I could do only one indoor experience it would be the Louvre and only one outdoor experience it would be the Champs Élysées (even though I love the Jardin des Plantes and the Luxembourg and Tuileries gardens).

cmoneyspinner on 08/13/2013

Never been there. That's why every time I see something talking about this marvelous place, I'm attracted to it. It's on my Places I'd Like To Go list.

MikeRobbers on 05/27/2013

Nicely written article and beautiful photos. Paris is must see destination and the attraction one can visit are countless.

WriterArtist on 05/18/2013

Paris is a lovely place and it is in my wish list. A beautiful tourist vacation place which is an epitome of ancient art, culture and heritage. The photos are amazing.

Mladen on 03/15/2012

Last year I visited Paris, and I would recommend everyone to do go there and enjoy rich culture, history, and beautiful architecture.
Louvre amazed me! HUGE museum! Wonderful art!
You have covered the most important tourist attractions in this article! Love it!

nightowl on 03/11/2012

Thanks for your comments and tips. It has been many years since I last visited, but Paris is unforgettable. One day I hope to bring my kids.

katiem2 on 03/10/2012

One fine day I'll need this as Paris is high on my travel list. You've heightened that desire with a beautiful review of the magical Paris.

fanfreluche on 09/24/2011

Pere Lachaise cemetery for taking photos and the amazling interesting Quai Branly museum ( indigenous art, cultures and civilizations)

mivvy on 07/20/2011

A very difficult question. Maybe I kike best just wandering about, no special goal. Rue de Rennes is my favourite shopping street, so I often end up there.

sheilamarie on 06/18/2011

I love visiting Paris. Notre Dame is my favorite place to go, though there are so many other places to visit as well.

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