While you may find yourself wishing you had a week more in the City of Light, hitting these destinations will leave you with a deep and satisfying Parisian experience. In no particular order, we present to you the Paris Top Ten. You decide what’s first on your list.
1. The Louvre
This enormous museum has over 35,000 works on display. There will be a crowd around the Mona Lisa, but you’ll find the museum’s vastness is conducive to a quiet, subdued art experience. This is an all day or multiple day destination, so don’t plan anything else when you tackle its beautiful rooms, lest you exhaust yourself. Be sure to see the Venus de Milo, Ruben’s Marie d’ Medici cycle, Winged Victory of Samothrace, the Marly horses, and Vermeer’s Lacemaker. Admission is waved on the first Sunday of each month, but be prepared to wait hours in line to gain entrance.
2. Rodin Museum (Musée Rodin)
This small museum in the the former Hôtel Biron was a favorite place for Rodin to display his statues. The garden still hosts many of his sculptures, while the interior displays even more of his sublime marbles and sketches. The building itself is a work of art with a rich history dating back to the early 1700s. A peaceful and hidden gem, the Musée Rodin will enchant you with its mix of quiet and beauty.
3. Petit Palais, Musée des Beaux Arts de la Ville de Paris
Here you can see the work of Monet, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec, Delacroix, and Courbet free of charge. Showcasing a mix of tapestries, icons, sculptures, and paintings from the last 2,000 years of European history, this museum is a wonderful microcosm of the best Paris has to offer. Its recent renovation is faithful to the original vision of architect Charles Girault and has restored the building’s luminosity and brilliance.
4. Arc de Triomphe
In the center of the Charles de Gaulle, the Arc de Triomphe is a monument to all those who have fought for France. Commissioned by Emperor Napoleon to honor the war dead of the Napoleanic Wars, it was not completed until 1836. Within sight of the Louvre and in the center of the Place de l’Étoile, the Arc de Triomphe is an impressive testament to history and architecture.
5. Centre Pompidou
This strange building was originally designed to look like a building turned inside-out. It holds an extensive collection of contemporary and modern art, showcasing the best in 20th and 21st century creations. Adjacent to the Stravinsky Fountain, it is an excellent spot to see fantastic art and then take in Paris’s culture on the street.
6. Eiffel Tower
Built in the 19th Century for the 1889 World’s Fair, this iron lattice tower is located on the Champ de Mars. In addition to being the tallest structure in Paris, it is also the single most visited paid monument in the world. Its view of the city is unparalleled, and well worth the trip up.
7. Notre Dame Cathedral
This cathedral is considered one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture in all of Europe. It is one of the first buildings in the world to use flying buttresses, and its famous rose window has no equal. Fun fact: all distances to elsewhere in France are measured from the square in front of the basilica. Make sure you take a close look at the exterior walls, you’ll find the twisted faces of gargoyles staring back at you.
8. Les Catacombes
This maze of underground tunnels became the lasting grave of millions of France’s dead. Used as a hideaway for the Resistance movement during World War II, you can still walk through its tight spaces and open rooms, seeing the skeletal remains of dead over 230 years old. In addition to these graves, you might find old graffiti from centuries ago. Make sure you bring a jacket and flashlight, as it can get cold underground.
9. Musée d’Orsay
The Musée d’Orsay is housed in a former railway station. Its beautiful ceiling is the perfect background for its collection of French paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. Boasting the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings by Monet, Manet, Renoir, Cézanne, Degas, Gauguin, Seurat, and Van Gogh, there are jaw-dropping surprises on every wall.
10. Moulin Rouge
In the heart of Montmarte, the Moulin Rouge blazes at night, enticing bold visitors inside. A matinée show is much less expensive than its night shows, and still includes a half-bottle of champagne. Check the schedule to pick your poison: cabaret, comedy, and other acts are regular features.
Bonus destination: Musée Curie
This museum showcases Marie Curie’s scientific laboratory, including all her original instruments, furniture, and the Nobel prizes she and her colleagues won. Visit free of charge.