6 Must Do Paris Experiences

Paris is a city that seems to evoke a strong reaction from most travellers – they either love it or hate it. There rarely tends to be an in between. No matter what side of the fence you sit on, Paris is a city that shouldn’t be missed, even if just for a fly by visit for the must do Paris experiences.

We have been to Paris twice now. Like many, Paris was fairly high on my travel bucketlist due to the iconic sights and hype.

Simon on the other hand had no interest in visiting the French capital. When it got added to our big family trip in 2008, he had to go with the flow and it turns out he’s glad he did. He loves Paris.

We did most of the must do Paris experiences on that first trip. On our second, we simply took our time to enjoy the city we were semi-familiar with, going for a more authentic, off the beaten track Paris holiday.

While you will hear plenty about what not to do in Paris, there are some experiences in Paris everyone should have, so add them to your Paris itinerary. While this was going to be a 5 must see places in Paris… we couldn’t narrow it down to just 5, so you get some bonus inspiration!!

Must do Paris experiences


1. Notre Dame Tower Tour

Perhaps it was my love of the Hunchback of Notre Dame animated film I watched endlessly as a kid (not the Disney version – that came later), but Notre Dame Cathedral was a Paris must see experience for me before our first visit and it did not disappoint.

Must Do Paris

The cathedral is just as impressive from the outside as it is from the inside. At the very least you should take the time to visit Notre Dame Cathedral and do a walk through to appreciate the size and the Gothic-era detail. For a structure that was built over many centuries, with the first stone estimated to be laid in 1163, the cathedral is my first recommendation for anyone heading to Paris.

To truly appreciate the grandeur of Notre Dame Cathedral, the tower tour is a must. Although be prepared for a lot of stairs so reasonable fitness is needed. There are no lifts. From the rooftops, you have the most amazing views of Paris that rival those from the Eiffel Tower, amongst the ancient stone gargoyles that guard the cathedral.

Must Do Paris
Enjoy the views and make friends with gargoyles on top of Notre Dame Cathedral

You also get up close and personal with the mammoth bells in the bell tower, which is a little bit exciting for those of you familiar with The Hunchback of Notre Dame story.

One negative was the lengthy wait in line for the tour, but we felt it was worth it and wouldn’t hesitate to do it again. Of course if you are visiting with kids, you might want to check out our ideas for keeping them entertained while waiting in line.


Prices – Adult : 10 € and Children/concession rate : 8 €  (Current as of September 2018)

Opening Times – Vary throughout the year. Check the website for more details.


2. Go Up the Eiffel Tower

So I made mention of the Eiffel Tower views already, which means I better add it to this list. Yes it’s a bit of a cliche travel experience in Paris, but we don’t regret doing it at all. Again, there were big line ups but the views were impressive and it is iconic so if you have the time, give it a go.

Must Do Paris

You can either take the stairs all the way up, or pay extra to go up the lift. Both options involve pretty large crowds. The stairs is likely a shorter line up, but the time it takes you to get up there may equal the time you spent waiting for a lift. In our case, I had a swollen ankle at the time so the lift was the safer option.

We spent quite a while up the tower on the different viewing platforms and took our time, having a light lunch in the cafe area. This made it more enjoyable than a rushed visit just to tick it off the tourist to do list. You’re not really surprised it made the list of must dos in Paris, right?

Must Do Paris
Not the greatest photo on this foggy day but the views are still impressive from the Eiffel Tower

While we do recommend you do it, once is enough. The only exception I would make is to maybe go up the Eiffel tower at night one day, since our experience was limited to day time. Seeing the city lights would be pretty cool, but even better might be to head up in the afternoon and have the chance to experience it in both daylight and night fall as the sun goes down.


Price – Adult tickets from €11,00 for the lift and €7,00 for the stairs to the second floor. Extra costs to catch the lift higher.

Opening Times – From 9am til midnight during warmer months or, 9:30am til 11pm for the rest of the year. More details on the website.


3. Visit a Food Market

On our first visit to Paris we arrived early in the morning and our accommodation was not yet ready for us, so we left our suitcases and went for a walk to explore the nearby areas. Along the way we happened to stumble upon a fresh food market.

5 Must DO Paris Experiences
Cured meats (image credit:Pixabay)

Coming from a country like Australia, it’s pretty hot most of the time so other than fruit and veg, you don’t really see a lot of other fresh food on display at markets. So we were rather in awe of the cured meats, cheeses, breads and everything in between at these markets.

Everything is so incredibly fresh and delicious. Rather than spending lots of Euros on fine French dining for every meal, make an opportunity to pick up some fresh foods from a market and have a picnic at one of the numerous parks or scenic locations in Paris instead.

We love to check out local food markets wherever we are staying around the world, and feel it’s definitely a must do non touristy Paris experience!

4. Take a Night Cruise on the Seine

Cruising can be a relaxing and enjoyable way to experience any city and we often like to incorporate a cruise in any city we visit on the water. A Seine river cruise should be a must do experience in Paris, especially at night.

While I will admit my jet lag was severe during our Seine cruise and I may have started to nod off… it had absolutely nothing to do with the Paris experiences itself. I loved every part of it. My body was just no longer cooperating. I can’t wait to do this again next visit, minus the jetlag!

Must Do Paris

Thankfully Simon got some great photos while I fought with my fatigue, but the views along the river are breathtaking at night, all lit up and vibrant. Notre Dame was especially magnificent at night.

Our cruise followed a bus city tour, so a great way to see a lot of Paris in the space of a few hours if you are short on time in the city. Plus you get to hear some of the history and interesting facts too!


5. Eat Creme Brulee

Another of those experiences somewhat wasted during my jet lag, but made up for during our second trip – the creme brulee is a dessert quite famous in France and one not to be missed during your stay.

Get a recommendation from a local or find a popular restaurant based on reviews. TripAdvisor is my go to for travel reviews. Either way, you definitely need to get yourself an authentic creme brulee while you’re there.

Must to do in Paris
Creme Brulee (Image Credit: Pixabay)

Actually, French dessert in general needs to be enjoyed. The patisseries are AMAZING! And yes, I love food… especially dessert! Must do things in Paris is always going to involve some sort of sweets! They are pretty much the masters of dessert!


6. Marvel at Sacre-Coeur

Sacre-Coeur, otherwise referred to as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, is located at the summit of Montmartre and is the highest point in Paris. The Basilica towers over the rest of the city in its grandeur, offering a stunning backdrop to some impressive views. You can also explore inside the Basilica of course.

Must do paris experiences
Sacre-Coeur during summer with large crowds gathered on the basilica steps.

Depending on the time of year you visit, Sacre-Coeur can be a very popular and busy attraction. Even in winter it attracts a lot of tourists, however in summer the entire area is a buzzing hub of activity, with plenty going on in the Montmartre centre .

During our summer trip in Europe there were street performers entertaining the crowds at the bottom of the stairs as well as people walking around selling beer out of cartons. Crazy!

Must do's Paris
Far less people on a winter afternoon, soon before nightfall

Montmartre is a unique part of Paris to spend some time in, known for its artsy vibe. There are cafes to grab a bite to eat or drink, or sometimes you may be lucky enough to visit when the markets are on, with many Parisians selling their handmade wares, such as one of a kind artwork. With so much to see and do, it also makes for some pretty amazing photo opportunities! Check out these tips for the best Instagram spots in Montmartre.



You can access Sacre-Coeur Basilica by either walking up the massive flight of stairs to the side. We did this the first time. A reasonable amount of fitness needed for that many stairs. Or you can travel up in the funicular to save your legs, at a cost.


Sacre-Coeur is open daily between 6am and 10:30pm.

There are other must do Paris experiences and sights to see, however these were the stand out Paris attractions that we would recommend if you only had a short stay in Paris and wanted to maximize your time. There is plenty more to see and do in Paris.

Many of the attractions and Paris can be seen with an inclusive Paris Pass, which is an entry ticket into major attractions, museums and galleries around the city. It can be a great way to save money travelling in Paris. And if you are looking for accommodation, check out our top 10 Places to Stay in Paris recommendations.



While we only named our top 6 must do Paris experiences above, we thought it was time for a 2018 update and wanted to add a few more of our recommendations for what to see and do when in this beautiful city:

  • Versailles Palace
  • Musee d’orsay
  • Arc de Triomphe
  • Catacombs
  • The Louvre (don’t get lost inside like we did though)
  • The Pantheon
  • Moulin Rouge
  • Disneyland Paris
  • Pere Lachaise Cemetery (burial place of Jim Morrison, Chopin, Edith Piaf, Oscar Wilde and other well known people)
  • Grand Palais



5 Must DO Paris Experiences for short stays

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What would be your must do Paris experiences?

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21 comments Add yours
  1. I’ve been to Paris twice too (once as a 14 yo on a choir trip and later for my honeymoon) and I agree with everything on your list. The Eiffel Tower is a must-do. A night cruise on the Seine is magical. And Notre Dame is simply breathtaking. I long for the day I can return – I can’t wait to take the kids and introduce them to it’s splendour as well!
    Kirsty @ My Home Truths recently posted…Memories of my DadMy Profile

    1. And of course taking the kids will mean a trip to Euro Disney. I would love to do that one day but also just share all these things with my kids. Plus there’s plenty we still haven’t done after 2 trips! It’s a great city 🙂

  2. I adore Paris! I went there on my honeymoon. For me it was about the shops, the cafes and the people. Oh, and of course the food! I don’t do anything with heights but I loved envy thing about the city. Musee D’Orsay is my favourite art gallery as I adore the Degas pastels and sculptures of his ballerinas. I can’t wait to get back there one day. Bron x
    Brian from Flat Bum Mum recently posted…Family Friday – Flying with kids + Link UpMy Profile

    1. Bron, it really is a perfect honeymoon destination. We did the reverse and went a second time as a pre-wedding express Euro trip. We didn’t feel the need to do a lot of the really touristy stuff second time around and haven’t done Musee D’orsay but hear so many good things. In a future post I will tell the story of how we got lost and couldn’t find a way out of the Louvre though. My memory of the visit isn’t overly fond as a result hahaha

  3. i really think biking around Paris is a must. You can see the small streets and really allows you to move around the city in a more convenient way. It’s very cost efficient too and rental bike racks all around the city.

    I’m also shocked that neither the orsay or louvre are mentioned. The art is Paris is a must see.

    1. The louvre got a mention in a different post… Our experience wasn’t our favourite thanks to getting lost for 45 minutes. Great for a laugh now but while I appreciate art, it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. I think on our next trip, the Musee d’Orsay will be a must do though instead.

    1. The Notre Dame tower tour was amazing. A total stand out for us, with great views and history. We didn’t go up either again on our last visit but I think a night time visit up the Eiffel Tower would be great too.

  4. We wanted to visit the Marie Curie museum, but it was closed for August(believe the hype–don’t go in August!) but instead we spent a couple of hours in the Pantheon, including the crypt, which was awesome! Also, Sainte Chapelle is not to be missed!

    1. We did this and it was an amazing event! You get to see Sainte Chapelle at night which not everyone gets to do. If something is happening at Sainte Chappelle in the evenings on the days you are there … this is a must do!

  5. We also did a trip to the Versailles Palace, absolutely beautiful. Loooooong queues and it was -5 that day but the moment you enter the palace you will forever be happy you did it

  6. I can’t wait to take my little here one day! I definitely think the city is best experienced with fewer touristy activities and more when you just enjoy the culture 🙂

  7. We were recently in London, and I did a “treasure hunt” at the British Museum with my kids organised through THAT Muse – it was great! They also do treasure hunts at the Louvre and the Orsay. (The Orsay would make my must do list in Paris)

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