First time in Paris? 5 Must See Sites

There’s something irresistible about Paris. Whether it’s the famous sights, rich culture, or the magnificent cuisine and wines the country boasts, it’s sure to be a place you’ll want to add to any European itinerary!

Taking a Paris city break was one of the best decisions I made when I lived in London. A short flight, drive, or – better still – Eurostar train ride from central London, you will discover one of Europe’s most fascinating countries.

Paris is a big place to explore even in two-weeks but here are my tried and tested places that I just kept coming back to whilst visiting the city of love.

The Sacre Coeur in Montmartre in Paris, France

La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

It’s a sight you can make out from around the city, set atop the only hill in Paris. La Basilique du Sacré Coeur de Montmartre, otherwise known as the Sacré Coeur, is one of the worlds most famous catholic churches. With its build date beginning in 1875 the Sacré Coeur has some remarkable features including being built of travertine stone which contains calcite, which prevents the stone from discolouring and remains white; the mosaic in the apse titled ‘Christ in Majesty’ and dominating the ceiling can’t be ignored; the dome, if open, offers beautiful views across Paris, and, if you have time, take in one of the church services.

Whilst atop the cities hill take a walk through Montmartre and enjoy the sights across the city, the street art, & the artists and portrait painters in the square.

Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre
Nearest Métro: Abbesses
Website: Sacré Coeur de Montmartre

The Moulin Rouge in Paris, France

Moulin Rouge

Famous long before the movie, the Moulin Rouge is perhaps the most famous cabaret house in the world located in the suburb of Pigalle.
The Moulin Rouge is famous for modernising the can-can dance, leading to its spread throughout cabaret houses in Europe.

Since 1963’s success with the show “Frou-Frou”, Jacki Clérico has only chosen revue titled that begin with the letter F.
Currently the show Férrie is running, which continues the cabaret tradition which has made the Moulin Rouge famous but also brings back the famous giant aquarium, in which barely-dressed dancers dance in the water, draws inspiration from Indonesian dances and folklore, as well as a host of circus-style acts.

Whilst seeing the Moulin Rouge from outside is great there are also options to see the show and have lunch or dinner.

Address: 82 Boulevard de Clinchy
Nearest Métro: Blanche
For information on their show or meal & a show offers please click here.

Arc de Triomphe in Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe is part of the Voie Triomphale (triumphal way), a line of monuments and important buildings that extends from central Paris to the cities west between the Le Louvre and La Defense.

With building finished in 1836, the Arc de Triomphe was dedicated to those who fought and died for France in both the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars, and has the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces, as well as home to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier under the arc, a continually burning flame for those dead who were never identified during all wars that the French have taken part in.

At 50metres in height you can also take a lift to the museum level, which tell the story of the Arc and about its construction  It is also possible to then climb 46 stairs to reach the ‘terrasse’, the top of the monument, to panoramic views across Paris.

Address: Place Charles de Gaulle
Nearest Métro: Charles de Gaulle – Étoile
Because the Arc is in the centre of a busy thoroughfare visitors are encouraged to use one of two underpasses to access the Arc.

The Notre Dame in Paris, France

Notre Dame de Paris

Have you read Victor Hugo’s novel The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Then you may recognise the name of this Parisian cathedral as the novels backdrop. With its build date beginning in the 2nd Century, the Notre Dame is considered on of the best examples of medieval architecture.

There are four ways to see the Notre Dame on your visit – from the outside and going inside – both options free if not adding additional costs, such as audio guides, by visiting the crypts, and visiting the towers – both of which cost a small fee. (Around 10€)

My tip is to climb the 387 stairs of the tower where you can see the Emmanuel Bell, built in the 17th century and the largest bell of the tower, and spend time hanging out with the 19th century gargoyles and chimera who have perhaps my favourite view of the city that rival Montmartre as you gaze down at the Parisians streets, following the River Seine, and even lay eyes on the Eiffel Tower.

Address: Place du parvis de Notre Dame (4th arrondissement)
Nearest Métro: Cité or Saint-Michel
Website: Notre Dame de Paris in English

Eiffel Tower in Paris, France

Eiffel Tower and the Champ de Mars

The tallest building in the world until 1930 at 324 metres (1,063ft), you can’t escape the Eiffel Towers presence in Paris. Spend time taking photos of it, picnic in the Champ de Mars beneath it or take in the views whilst dining in it each experience is unique.

The Eiffel Tower has four floors, including the ground floor where you can send a postcard with a Eiffel Tower postmark, first floor with the 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant and the ‘Cineiffel’, second floor which is home to the Jules Verne restaurant and the vision well (glass window), and the top floor which has Gustave Eiffel’s office and a champagne bar – which will be well deserved once you make it to the top!

Be sure to stay around until dark when the Eiffel Tower will delight with a 10 minute light show each hour.

Address: Avenue Gustave Eiffel
Nearest Métro: Bir-Hakeim, Trocadero, Ecole Militarie or Champ de Mars – Tour Eiffel on Line C of the RER
Opening Hours/Rates: vary depending on time of the year. For more information check the official website.

Let me know in the comments below:

What are the must see Paris sights?

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  • Reply
    May 20, 2012 at 5:08 pm

    Eiffel tower is a must and i believe, just like Taj mahal it has become a symbol of love..

  • Reply
    David Wang
    October 25, 2012 at 10:39 am

    The Eiffel Tower was an attraction I visited on my first trip to Paris, along with Arc de Triomphe, Jardine Tulleries, Notre Dame and the Lourve. We went on a Segway tour which was really fun! You get to see the city from a pedestrian perspective, but can cover a lot more ground. Here’s the link if anyone is interested – http://citysegwaytours.com/paris 🙂

    • Reply
      October 28, 2012 at 9:37 pm

      Thanks for sharing the segway link, David! That would be such a fantastic way to see the city.
      I didn’t see the Jardine Tulleries – what was it like?

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 11:16 am

    I can proudly say I’ve been to all of these 🙂 Albeit breifly – I wish I’d had more time to properly explore. I didn’t even climb to the top of the Arc de Triomphe, let alone Notre Dame. Next time!

    • Reply
      October 28, 2012 at 9:36 pm

      There’s always next time and plenty more to explore. If you have the chance definitely climb the Notre Dame – amazing!

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 11:18 am

    Ohhh, I didn’t love Paris the first time I went either. Liked…..but then when I went back in a Summer month, I loved it!
    There is so much too it!
    Your top 5 here is a very good starting point!

    • Reply
      October 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

      Thanks Tash and glad to hear someone else felt a similar way.
      Paris in summer would be fantastic! It’s a wee bit too chilly for my liking in winter 😉

  • Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    I confess to a bit of surprise that Moulin Rouge is still running Féerie – they were doing that in 2006(!) when I visited, though it seems they like the 10+ year runs. We found that buying the meal plan (dinner before the show) was well worth it. It’s also very important to note that none of the dancers are completely naked: topless is as far as it goes, and it is not ubiquitous. The topless dancers have their own cast list in the programme, but no dancer ever is completely nude.

    • Reply
      October 28, 2012 at 9:34 pm

      Thanks for distinguishing that Darcey. I will be sure to correct that!
      Glad to hear the meal option is worth it, I might have to do that when I visit next. 🙂

  • Reply
    October 27, 2012 at 1:00 am

    The river makes the city look lovelier. Also, the Eiffel Tower looks fabulous at night time. You’re really lucky for having the chance to visit Paris.

    • Reply
      October 28, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Thanks Jemma! I feel really privilaged to have been able to visit. I hope you get to experience Paris yourself. 🙂

  • Reply
    November 10, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Hi Nicole. We found the best way to get around Paris was to use the Velib bikes. They’re really really cheap and easy to hire and once you’re on them it just opens up secret parts of the city that you’d never otherwise see. Definitely worth a try for anyone visiting!

  • Reply
    Lynn Chou
    November 28, 2012 at 11:14 am

    Paris has grown to be one of my favorite cities over the years. My French was rusty when I first visited a few years back. And the Parisians are not known for their warm hospitality (which I found true, haha). However, after coming back to the States from my trip, I actually really missed Paris. It’s hard to imagine that one would miss a city that they’ve never “lived” in before. But I did, and still do. Paris is a fascinating city with so much to offer. I was surprised by the title of this post – 5 must-see’s, only 5? It’s hard to pick out 5 from all the amazing places, but I like your list. There are definitely certain neighborhoods and museums every visitor must check out, but good job on selecting the top 5! 🙂

  • Reply
    May 20, 2013 at 1:02 am

    I am delighted to see such sites during 1985 and still remember to see now the developments in Paris

  • Reply
    May 23, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Im kinda surprised the Louvre isn’t on this list..

  • Reply
    September 10, 2014 at 12:05 pm

    Hi Nicole – just want to say this is a great post! Am planning a trip to Europe now so this post will come in handy 🙂

    I love the 1st shot on this post – where can you get such a beautiful birds-eye view of Paris?

  • Reply
    sally and cassy cornfild
    October 27, 2014 at 2:29 pm

    This site is very surprising and fab and funky
    So going to paris xoxoxo love this site 🙂

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