10 Views on Top Things to See & Do in Paris
Ainnelise Niyvold Liundbye UPDATED: 10 APR 2021
Top Things to See & Do in Paris
1. Canal Saint-Martin
2. Paris Picnic
3. Eight Statues of Liberty
4. La Promenade Plantée
5. Les Arènes de Lutèce
6. Rue Mouffetard
7. Les Bouquinistes
8. Fashion & Art
9. Jardin du Luxembourg
10. Moulin Rouge
-> Where to Stay in Paris?
Are you looking for unusual ways to experience Paris – or a new angle on some of the famed sights? Then do take a look at this list of 10 top things or places to see on your next Paris trip! They are all iconic places or hidden gems, described in articles written by different people – locals or others with a special interest, view or knowledge about their history or cultural contribution to Paris today – and tips about particular places to see / things to do here.
You may also want to check our Paris 3-day itinerary for how to include a number of these sights in your Paris itinerary!
Where to stay in Paris? Hotel Le M Saint Germain (budget) in the Latin Quarter, Dauphine Saint Germain (mid-range) in the Latin Quarter in a 17th century building, Hotel Ducs de Bourgogne (top) in a Louis Philippe style décor at Louvre/Notre-Dame.
Inspiration for your France trip: Explore Medieval Aigues-Mortes at Camargue, South of France and Paris in 3 days
A walk along the idyllic Canal Saint-Martin, the 4.6 km (2.86 mi) long canal in the middle of Paris, can be an off-the-beaten-path and fascinating experience in the city. It connects the Canal de l’Ourcq with the river Seine. In the 19th century it was covered to create room for impressive boulevards and recreational open spaces above, and today it is a piece of culture summing up the waterway development of Paris during the last centuries – and one of the top things to see on a brisk morning walk or an afternoon stroll!
Discover the colourful neighbourhoods, the history, impressions, vibrant markets, charming cafés etc. along Canal Saint-Martin in this article written by Alison Browne: Canal Saint-Martin Paris: What To Do In This “Bobo” District. Read it here.
What can be a better way to explore Paris than through a picnic organised in a Parisian setting surrounded by historic buildings, along the riverbank, in a vibrant Parisian neighbourhood or improvised inside a park? Choosing authentic, rustic ingredients for your picnic will only reinforce the ambiance of the place you pick for the experience!
Popping in at the local fromagerie, charcuterie, boulangerie in addition to the local morning market will only add to the gastronomic adventure. Don’t forget to buy some crispy French baguettes! Of course, you will also grab a local bottle of rouge to accompany your meal.
The article How to pack a perfect Paris picnic by Leah Walker will be a great inspiration for your improvised picnic! Read it here.
You needn’t make a stopover in New York to experience the Statue of Liberty! Paris actually possesses a whole range of ‘Statues of Libery’. You can easily arrange to visit these sculptures in the cityscape on a self-guided tour of Paris!
The probably most famous Parisian Statue of Liberty goes back to the Exposition Universelle in 1900, where the sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi created a smaller version of his iconic Liberty Enlightening the World from 1889 as a gift to the Musée du Luxembourg. Initially, it was placed outside the museum. Only in 2014 was it transferred to the Musée d’Orsay, now leaving a new bronze replica in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Check out this article by Oliver Gee guiding to 8 such replicas and amazing liberty sculptures dispersed across the French capital: Did you know there are eight Statue of Liberty replicas in Paris?
The Parisian Promenade Plantée, also known as La Coulée Verte, is a remarkable elevated walkway in central Paris, constructed on a former railway line. It is the perfect green surroundings for an energetic morning walk or a few leisurely hours when you most need to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The green oasis has without doubt given inspiration to the famous Highline in New York!
For a thorough description of this spectacular and unique promenade, read this article from Good Morning Paris written by Christine Bokobza: La Promenade Plantée: A Green and Unusual Walk in Paris!
Hadn’t I already known about it, would I never have believed that a true Roman arena can be found in the middle of Paris, more precisely in the Latin Quarter! This hidden gem is well preserved, unusually large, maybe the largest of its kind, and serves multiple purposes in the neighbourhood today – among others as a beloved site to play pétanque which is done on a frequent basis! Whenever you enter the ancient arena at Rue Monge, there is a good chance that you will spot a group of elderly men playing the traditional game.
Manning Leonard Krull has written an excellent post Les Arènes de Lutèce — an ancient Roman arena hidden in the 5th arrondissement about the spectacular arena tucked away on the left bank of the Seine. If you want to know more about the ancient Roman arena, you should read this!
What is Paris without French gastronomy as found in the little restaurants in the Quartier Latin? My favourite street is without doubt the unparalleled Rue Mouffetard – a quite unique cobblestone street originally created by the Romans – and centuries later occupied by the butchers of Paris. It is the prolongation of Rue Descartes, only interrupted by the charming square Place de la Contrescarpe which always offers the opportunity of a good cup of coffee in the terrace café.
Today, with Sorbonne all close, it is the students’ part of Paris and the area drawing ambiance-seeking visitors all during the year. Besides people-watching this is where you will come at least once during your Paris stay to enjoy a Parisian meal at reasonable prices. You may also buy your food for a picnic in one of the speciality food shops, if not on the local market, Marché Mouffetard!
Check out this post by My Traveling Joys: Rue Mouffetard: The Best Foodie Street in Paris, written by Joy, with enticing pictures of the local food.
One of the truly iconic views in the city are the picturesque green boxes lined up along the Seine riverbank. This is where the traditional booksellers present their collection of second-hand literature, old magazines, posters and postcards among a bunch of other souvenirs.
The antiquarian books displayed here along the from ancient times most significant waterway through Paris represent the cultural heritage of a bygone era.
Their origin can be traced back to the 16th century merchants who opened their bookstalls along the Seine, including its bridges.
Visiting les bouquinistes and Shakespeare and Company in Paris by Darlene C Alvarez appearing on the Bonjour: A Francophile Blog is great inspiration for an afternoon stroll at the famous bouquinistes. Read it here.
Fashion & art is the epitome of Paris. Fashionable galleries, art exhibitions and world-famous museums go hand in hand with designer shops in bohemian streets located around Paris’s inner arrondissements.
Impressive buildings in a wealth of architectural styles, often dating a few centuries back, host renowned department stores tempting with this season’s trends, quirky classical boutiques, as well as other surprising hidden gems.
For more inspiration on the fashion & art side of Paris, check out some options in the Culture Tourist’s My travel diary: Three days in Paris. Read it here.
Amazing Jardin du Luxembourg is a cherished ‘refuge’ in the middle of Paris – with a fascinating history! It was built in 1612 for Marie de Medici, the later Queen of France. The park has found inspiration in the garden architecture in Florence and is highly influenced by the Italian Baroque style.
One of the park highlights is the intriguing Medici Fountain located in a corner of the garden. A lovely circular lake is another attraction that is popular with both children and adults. A favourite activity here is to set out and play with small sailboats.
For a vivid description of the Jardin du Luxembourg, you may want to read the article Why the beautiful Jardin du Luxembourg was such an unexpected find, posted by Happiness and Things.
Moulin Rouge, one of the iconic top things to see in Paris, is topped with a red windmill, which is illuminated at night. It was founded by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller in 1889. Set in an artistic neighbourhood of Paris, it became the entertainment place introducing the cancan dance at the time of la Belle Époque.
Over the years the cabaret genre developed at Moulin Rouge and influenced the entertainment industry in all the European countries.
Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec gave Moulin Rouge worldwide attention and fame with his popular posters of the red windmill!
Come to watch a show here at the famous dance hall with a true nightclub atmosphere. It is the place where famous people such as are Édith Piaf, Josephine Baker and Frank Sinatra have performed!
For further details about the history of Moulin Rouge, you may want to read the engaging article A History of the Moulin Rouge by An Historian About Town.
The hotel is located in the Latin Quarter in Paris, 350 m from the Notre Dame Cathedral and a 20-minute walk to the Louvre. Rooms have a private bathroom, and a buffet breakfast is available in the morning. The hotels features an Italian restaurant with a terrace.
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The hotel is located a 15-minute walk from Jardin du Luxembourg in the Latin Quarter. Rooms include an en-suite bathroom. Close to the Maubert Mutualité metro station.
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This hotel is located in the Latin Quarter near the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Soundproofed and equipped with a private bathroom and satellite TV. Very close to the Maubert–Mutualite Metro and Boulevard Saint-Germain. The Roman amphitheatre, Arènes de Lutece, is only 600 m away.
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Situated between Saint-Germain-des-Prés and The Latin Quarter in a 17th century building, only a 10-minute walk from Notre-Dame Cathedral. The hotel features elegant rooms with en-suite bathroom and a breakfast with fresh pastries. Close to the Metro Station Saint-Michel. The Louvre is only a 20-minute walk away.
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The hotel is located a few minutes’ walk from the Louvre and the Notre-Dame Cathedral. The Louvre-Rivoli Metro Station is only 300 m away. Rooms have a Louis Philippe style décor, a flat-screen TV with satellite channels and a desk. A buffet breakfast is served each morning in the renovated cellar.
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The hotel is located a 10-minute walk from the Luxembourg Gardens and 200 m from the Maubert Mutualité Metro. It offers en-suite accommodation, a garden, a fitness centre and a sauna. All rooms have a flat-screen TV with cable channels and free Wi-Fi.
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