Paris street and cafe

14 of the Best Things to Do in Paris

Danette St. Onge

Danette St. Onge

November 29, 2023

7 min read

Table of Contents

You could spend a lifetime in this buzzing world capital of gastronomy, art, fashion, and culture and never run out of things to do and see, so for those just visiting, the endless options of Paris can seem overwhelming. Even if you’ve already checked all the top musts off your list, there may be other ways to experience them that you hadn’t considered or more off-the-beaten-track activities to discover. Here are some of the best ways to make the most of your time in this magical city.

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1. View new art in the Old Stock Exchange

ceiling at the Pinault museum

One of Paris’s newest museums, the Pinault Collection opened in 2021 in the Bourse de Commerce, a circular, 18th-century building that was once the city’s stock exchange and, prior to that, a grain storage facility. The museum displays pieces from the vast art collection of billionaire businessman François Pinault as well as an ongoing series of contemporary art exhibitions.

  • Location: 2 rue de Viarmes, 1st arrondissement 
  • Métro: Louvre-Rivoli (line 1), Les Halles (line 4) or Châtelet (lines 7, 11, 14)
  • Cost: €14
  • The Halle aux Grains restaurant on the third floor of the museum, from Michelin-starred, father-son chefs Michel and Sébastien Bras, serves creative, contemporary French cuisine.

2. Play Paris-themed mini golf

Pressed for time? Visit all of Paris’s top sights at once! The Parc Floral, a public park and botanical garden located in the 12th arrondissement’s Bois de Vincennes, is home to an 18-hole miniature golf course, with each hole featuring a small-scale version of famous Paris monuments like the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Panthéon, and more. The course is open from late spring through early fall on Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons. Hours depend on the time of year, so check before going.

  • Location: The Parc Floral is in the northern part of the Bois de Vincennes, about a 10-minute walk from the Château de Vincennes, in the 12th arrondissement.
  • Métro: Château de Vincennes (line 1)
  • Cost: €12 for adults, €8 for kids
  • The Parc Floral also has a butterfly garden, where you can learn about local species, a treetop rope course with zip lines, and three-seater pedal cars for rent.

3. Enjoy a fashion show and panoramic views at Galeries Lafayette

Galeries Lafayette

You might not have nabbed an invite to Paris Fashion Week, but if you’ve always wanted front-row seats for a catwalk, here’s your chance! The venerable Galeries Lafayette department store, known for its stunning Art Nouveau stained-glass dome, puts on fashion shows featuring on-trend designer styles on its fourth floor every Thursday and Friday.  

  • Location: Galeries Lafayette, 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9th arrondissement
  • Métro: Chaussée d'Antin–La Fayette (lines 7, 9) or Havre-Caumartin (lines 3, 9)
  • Cost: Tickets are €18 for adults, €10 for kids
  • The roof terrace, with panoramic views over the city,  is definitely worth a visit – and it’s free. Throughout the year, the rooftop often hosts pop-up bars and restaurants.

4. Discover the history of Montmartre

While the hilltop Montmartre neighborhood is one of the most popular with tourists, just steps away from the perennially mobbed Place du Tertre is one of Paris’s most charming and peaceful museums. The Musée de Montmartre, installed in historic studios where artists including Renoir and Suzanne Valadon once worked, has a permanent collection dedicated to the history of this bohemian quarter and also holds temporary exhibitions.

  • Location: 12 rue Cortot, 18th arrondissement 
  • Métro: Anvers (line 2) or Lamarck-Caulaincourt (line 12)
  • Cost: Tickets are €15, free for children under 10
  • The museum’s lovely, tranquil gardens are home to a small cafe with indoor and outdoor seating selling sweet and savory fare, tea, coffee and wine by the glass.

5. Explore the Paris canals by boat

canal in Paris.

While a boat tour on the Seine is on nearly every visitor’s to-do list, there’s another way to see the city from the water. Easy-to-drive electric boats (no license or previous experience required) can be rented by the hour for leisurely excursions up and down the canals of northeast Paris. Add on a table and picnic basket and turn it into a floating picnic. The boats are available from one- to six-hour rentals in various sizes that can hold anywhere from five to 11 people.

  • Location: Marin d’Eau Douce, 37 quai de la Seine, Bassin de la Villette, 19th arrondissement
  • Métro: Riquet (line 7), Laumière (line 5), or Jaurès (line 2)
  • Cost: Boat rentals cost €45–€95/hour, depending on the size. It’s €10 to add on a table and €9 per person to add on a pre-packed picnic basket.

6. Take a spa day at the Grande Mosquée

If you’ve never experienced a traditional hammam, give it a try at the Latin Quarter’s Grande Mosquée (Great Mosque), the oldest and largest in France. The mosque’s hammam, open only to women, is a series of marble steam baths decorated with elaborate mosaics. After steaming and lathering up with Moroccan black soap comes the full-body gommage, during which you’ll be scrubbed to within an inch of your life with an exfoliating mitt. Once you’re velvety smooth, shower and then relax with a fresh mint tea.

  • Location: 39 rue Saint-Hilaire, 5th arrondissement
  • Métro: Place Monge (line 7)
  • Cost: €50 includes entry, a towel and locker, gommage, and tea. For another €5, you can rent a robe, and you can also add on treatments like massages and facials for an additional cost ranging anywhere from €13 to €70. 
  • Bring a swimsuit bottom required to enter the hammam.
  • Continue your immersion in Arabic culture at the mosque’s restaurant or tea room, or the nearby Institut du Monde Arabe, a modern museum and cultural center.

7. Indulge in sublime Parisian pastries

French pastries

While there is certainly no shortage of excellent pastry shops in Paris, the refined and elaborate creations of acclaimed patissier Philippe Conticini stand out even amidst such stiff competition. While, sadly, his international Pâtisserie des Rêves shops have closed down, he still has several pastry shops in Paris, and any are worth a visit to sample classics like Paris-Brest, éclairs or a Saint-Honoré. There is a Philippe Conticini pastry counter in the Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet food hall as well as standalone shops in the 3rd, 7th, and 16th arrondissements

  • Location: Philippe Conticini shops: 31 rue Notre-Dame de Nazareth, 3rd arr., Métro: Temple (line 3), 37 rue de Varenne, 7th arr., Métro: Rue du Bac (line 12), Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet, 35 boulevard Haussmann, 9th arr., Métro: Chaussée d'Antin–La Fayette (lines 7,9), 42 rue de l'Annonciation, 16th arr., Métro: La Muette (line 9)

8. Shop for gourmet goods at the Grande Épicerie

A must for food lovers, the Grande Épicerie, a massive, elegant food hall across from the historic Le Bon Marché department store is a gastronomic destination offering fresh produce, deli counters, pastry shops, restaurants, a wine cellar, and a dizzying array of gourmet food products from around the world. It’s the perfect place to gather supplies for a picnic or find souvenirs and gifts to bring back home.

  • Location: 38 rue de Sèvres, 7th arrondissement
  • Métro: Sèvres-Babylone  (lines 10, 12)
  • The historic Bon Marché department store also deserves a visit, especially if you’re interested in the latest styles from chic French designers and labels like Claudie Pierlot, Isabel Marant, Inès de la Fressange, Sézane, and Rouje.

9. Wander through a hidden hilltop village

Buttes-Chaumont park

If you’re yearning to escape the tourist throngs and bustle of the city center, the Butte Bergeyre is a tranquil hilltop village in the 19th arrondissement, just south of the scenic Buttes-Chaumont park. Like Montmartre, this hilly area was once covered in windmills and still features charming cobblestone streets and one of Paris’s few remaining vineyards. It offers sweeping views of the city and Sacré-Cœur cathedral atop Montmartre hill. During the Fête des Vendanges grape harvest festival, which takes place the first weekend of October, you can taste the wine produced by the small vineyard.  

  • Location: Butte Bergeyre: rue Georges Lardennois, rue Philippe-Hecht and rue Barrelet-de-Ricou, 19th arrondissement. You can reach the Butte Bergeyre via picturesque staircases, one leading directly from the southwest side of the Parc des Buttes-Chaumont.
  • Métro: Bolivar (line 7B) or Laumière (line 5)

10. Have tea, Parisian style

Teatime might be more strongly associated with British culture than French, but pair exquisite Parisian pastries with the vast selection of teas at the venerable Mariage Frères, and you have the perfect way to spend an afternoon in Paris. They also offer a menu of Asian-inspired, tea-infused gourmet dishes. You can opt for a full afternoon tea seat with both savory and sweet delicacies, order à la carte, or even simply have a cup of gourmet tea.

  • Location: Mariage Frères has several tea rooms in Paris, but the original, in rue du Bourg-Tibourg in the Marais, is one of the most atmospheric, with skylights, fan palms, woven rattan chairs and 19th-century decor. Salon de Thé Mariage Frères, 30 rue du Bourg Tibourg, 4th arrondissement
  • Métro: Hôtel de Ville (lines 1, 11) or Saint-Paul (line 1)
  • Cost: €52 for a full afternoon tea set; à la carte options are also available.

11. Visit the Eiffel Tower after dark 

Eiffel tower at night.

Many feel that a trip to Paris is not complete without a visit to the iconic Eiffel Tower, but while most flock to the tower during daylight hours, during certain seasons, the tower remains open until late at night. An evening visit can offer a completely different perspective on the city’s most famous landmark and a chance to view its dazzling after-dark sparkles from within. The tower’s twinkling lights begin every evening at dusk and repeat for five minutes at the beginning of each hour until 11pm. There’s a brasserie on the tower’s first level and a Michelin-starred restaurant, the Jules Verne, on the second level, as well as casual buffets on each level and a champagne bar at the top.

  • Location: Champ de Mars, 7th arrondissement
  • Métro: Champ de Mars
  • Cost: Tickets range from €11.30–€28.30 for adults, €2.80–€7.10 for kids, depending on whether you want to take the stairs or the elevator and which level of the tower you want to reach. Discounts are available for youth (ages 12–24)

12. Powder your nose in a Belle Époque bathroom

Recently reopened in February 2023 after 12 long years of closure for renovation, the Art Nouveau public toilets in the Place de la Madeleine, dating from 1905, might be the loveliest in Paris. While some of the original fixtures, such as the bronze sink taps, have been replaced by nondescript modern versions, most of the original features remain, such as the mahogany stalls, stained glass in floral motifs, faceted mirrors, and decorative tiles. Forget ducking into a fast-food joint for a bathroom break, in Place de la Madeleine, you can relieve yourself in style.

  • Location: Lavatory Madeleine, Place de la Madeleine (accessed via steps leading down, located to the side of the church), 8th arrondissement
  • Métro: Madeleine (lines 8, 12, 14)
  • Cost: €2 entry fee, open 10 a.m.–6 p.m. daily

13. People-watch at a sidewalk cafe 

paris sidewalk cafe

Perhaps the most quintessentially Parisian activity of all is parking yourself on a classic bistro chair on an outdoor terrace, lingering over a coffee or glass of Sancerre while the world rushes by. While the two most famous cafés are Les Deux Magots and Café de Flore in Saint-Germain, they’re also, by extension, very crowded, and snagging a sidewalk seat at them can be difficult. But don’t worry, there are plenty of atmospheric—and historic—cafés in every arrondissement. 

Le Nemours, the cafe of the Comédie Française theater, has tables set up for slightly larger groups of three-to-four people, while Café Charlot, in the 3rd arrondissement, has the classic set-up of two chairs facing the street. Low-key Le Tambour, in the 2nd, is a great after-dark option with unusually late hours (open until 2 a.m. daily), and you can order a bottle of wine à ficelle here, meaning you only pay for the amount that you drink.

  • Locations: Le Nemours: 2 place Colette, 1st arrondissement, Métro: Palais Royal–Musée du Louvre (lines 1, 7). Café Charlot:  38 rue de Bretagne, 3rd arrondissement, Métro: Filles du Calvaire (line 8) Le Tambour: 41 rue Montmartre, 2nd arrondissement, Métro: Étienne Marcel (line 4)

14. Relax in a garden

Jardin du Luxembourg

A strong contender for the second-most-Parisian pastime is relaxing in a garden, perhaps with a good book. Chairs are provided for this purpose in some of the city's public parks and gardens, some permanently reclined at a leisurely angle, far more comfortable than a rigid bench. Initially, visitors had to pay to rent the chairs, but today they are free for all to enjoy. Bring a paperback and settle in for a few hours of tranquil lounging. 

The Jardin du Luxembourg is the primary spot for this, with its iconic green metal chairs arranged around its central fountain, but they can also be found in the Jardin des Tuileries and Palais Royal Gardens. Fun fact: Some of the chairs in the Palais Royal garden are joined in pairs, facing each other, and feature lines of poetry.

  • Locations: Jardin du Luxembourg, 6th arrondissement, Métro: Saint-Sulpice (line 4). Jardin des Tuileries, 1st arrondissement, Métro: Tuileries (line 1). Jardin du Palais Royal, 1st arrondissement, Métro: Palais Royal–Musée du Louvre (lines 1, 7)
  • Cost: Free. There are kiosks throughout the Jardin du Luxembourg selling refreshments.

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Danette St. Onge

Danette St. Onge

Freelance Writer

Danette is a freelance food and travel writer. She lived in Paris for the past six years and is now based between Paris and London.

Published November 29, 2023

Last updated December 21, 2023

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