Paris Sightseeing guide for first time visitors by a native French speaker

It is no secret that I love Paris. It is a city that appeals to the romantic in me with the Seine flowing across the city and the wonderful Parisian lifestyle. If this is your first time in Paris, then I am pretty confident in saying that you will love it too.

Paris has a very distinct identity and culture and my theory is that a lot of that is because of the revolution. The revolution taught Parisians that they were in control and gave them a certain “je ne sais quoi” which cannot be found anywhere else.

Champs de Mars - Paris

I have previously written about my perfect day in Paris which is all about what I would do if I only had one day in Paris.

This guide on the other hand contains all the information you need to visit the most famous sights in Paris. I have included some useful tips on how to best beat the queues.

I would not recommend cramming all of these into a day, after all the best way to discover the beauty that is Paris, is by meandering through the streets and the various arrondissements.

Eiffel Tower 

It is such an amazing experience when you finally see the Eiffel tower appear for the first time. The Eiffel tower is one of the most visited sights in Europe and that means that there is always a queue.   In the summer months, it is out of control.

The Eiffel Tower viewed from Trocadero

There are two ways to avoid the queues:
1. Pre-book your tickets 
You will still need to queue to go through security but buying tickets online is much faster than having to queue for your tickets and then for security.
I would highly recommend that you buy a ticket for the summit. It is truly worth it.

2. Have Lunch or Dinner at the restaurants located on the Eiffel Tower
There are two restaurants on the first floor of the Eiffel tower. They have a dedicated entrance and if you have lunch there and pre-book your tickets, you can make your way up without having to queue.

Le Jules Verne is an Alain Ducasse restaurant and is highly rated and the other one is 58 Tour Eiffel.
You can also see this magnificent monument from Place Trocadero and several restaurants around the Seine.
After Sunset, the Eiffel tower lights up on every hour until 1am. One of the best ways to see the Eiffel tower is from the Seine on the “Bateau Mouche” (boat). My favourite is Le Calife

Closest Metro Price/Tickets Opening Hours
Metro Name: Bir Hakeim

Line # : 6

Adult – 17€ (summit)

Buy Here

Everyday

9am-midnight

Louvre
I have previously written about the Louvre and my “secret” entrance. I skipped the queues by pre-booking my tickets and using the “secret” entrance.

You cannot see everything at the Louvre in a day, it is physically not possible. So I will suggest making a plan of the attractions that you want to see and then build your personalised walking guide.

The Louvre is closed on Tuesdays but open every other day with free entry on Sundays. I would suggest avoiding Sundays and the days either side of the Tuesday as they are the busiest days.
Friday is actually a great day to visit as the Louvre is open till 10pm. Not only is it better value for money, you also maximise your time there while it’s relatively quiet with most other people going out on Friday evenings.

Closest Metro Price/Tickets Opening Hours
Metro Name: Palais Royal

Line: 1 & 7

Adult – 17€

Buy Here

Everyday except Tuesdays

 

Jardin Des Tuileries
This garden, once the private playground of kings, is now available for everyone to enjoy. Once you are done with the Louvre, you simply walk out straight into the Jardin des Tuileries.
If you skipped lunch on the balcony at the Louvre, this is a good place to have a picnic and maybe even a cheeky little nap. It is also a great place for people watching, as many locals enjoy their lunch on the grounds.

Closest Metro Price/Tickets Opening Hours
Metro Name: Tuileries

Line # : 1

Free Everyday

7am-9pm

Champs D’Elysees
The Champs D’Elysees is one of the most famous shopping strip in Paris . It is quite leafy and a nice walk down to the Arc de Triomphe. I personally would not recommend going there specifically for shopping. The shops are mostly high end international brands which is not exactly wallet friendly.
The one place I do recommend going to is the Laduree cafe, it is the perfect place for a pit stop while consuming some amazing macarons. Try to get a seat outside and indulge in one of the favorite pastimes of Parisians which is people watching.

Paris cherry blossoms

Arc De Triomphe
The Arc De Triomphe is the second most recognised symbol of Paris. It is a beautiful monument, at the bottom of which lies the tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This honours the 1.3 million French soldiers who lost their lives in WWII.
There is an eternal flame lit in their memory which is rekindled daily at 6:30 pm. It is a very poignant ceremony and I would highly recommend that you witness it if you can.
You can also climb to the top of the arc de Triomphe for a different perspective of Paris.

Closest Metro Price Opening Hours
Metro Name: Charles de Gaulle Étoile

Line #1, 2, 6, & RER-A

9.50€

Buy Tickets

Everyday

10am-10:30pm

Catacombes

The Catacombes de Paris is a unique if not slightly creepy experience. It contains the bones of over six million people transported from the overflowing cemeteries in Paris to re-inforce the tunnels of Paris.

This is a popular attraction and there can be long lines as there are only 200 people in the tunnels at any given time.

I would highly recommend buying tickets in advance.

Closest Metro Price/Tickets Opening Hours
Metro Name: Denfert-Rochereau

Line #: RER-B

Adult – 12 €

Buy Here

Tuesday-Sunday

10am-8:30pm

Notre-Dame de Paris

Ah, the Notre Dame de Paris, the setting for the famous book by Victor Hugo. What the Hunchback of Notre Dame does not prepare you for is the sheer beauty of this famous monument. Looking at the Notre Dame from the banks of the Seine is the moment that I fell in love with Paris.

This is such an awe-inspiring building and surprisingly very peaceful given the amount of people inside.

Notre Dame de Paris

We were quite lucky when we first visited the Notre dame as there were no queues. That is a very unlikely occurrence but you can try mimicking our strategy by going around lunchtime when everyone scatters for food.

 

Closest Metro Price Opening Hours
Metro Name: Cité

Line # : 4

Free Tuesday-Sunday

10am-8:30pm

 

Sacre Coeur

The Basilica de Sacre Coeur is perched atop a hill which is definitely worth the climb – not only to visit this splendid church but also for the panoramic views of Paris. The Sacre Coeur is located in Montmartre also known as the art district of Paris.

I love Montmartre, it has a very different vibe to the rest of Paris. It is filled with cute little shops and there are street artist everywhere selling their arts and who, if you are willing to pay for it, sketch a picture of you.

Basilica de Sacre Coeur

I would not recommend eating near the Sacre Coeur as the restaurants are quite pricey and the food is geared for tourists and hence not necessarily nice or authentic. Most of the shops are geared for tourists as well, so be wary if you are trying to buy anything.

TIP: Beware of the people at the bottom of the hill with string in their hands – they will attempt to stop you to tell a story and tie string to your hand or finger, then demand payment afterwards.  Keep walking and do not interact with them.

There are also lots of pickpockets around the Sacre Coeur, so keep an eye on your belongings.

 

Closest Metro Price Opening Hours
Line #: 2 & 4 Free Everyday

6am-10:30pm

I hope that you have enjoyed this guide. Please let me know your tips and tricks to avoiding queues in Paris

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