Quick Guide to the Essential Sights of Paris

Paris has a number of iconic sights, and if you have just a few days to enjoy this enchanting city, you want to be sure to make these sights a priority. Sometimes, when planning a trip, trying to decipher from afar how much time you'll need to see this or that, or to travel between point A and point B can be very difficult. In this posting, I'll attempt to help you out with that conundrum.

We arrived in Paris at the Gare du Nord Station, having taken the Eurostar rail from London that morning. When you arrive, just follow the crowd to the exit and then get in line for a taxi. Get in the long line for the taxi. There are numerous signs that warn you against taking (something like) "uncertified taxis". We got the impression the short line was for those. The long line is monitored by station employees who will beckon a taxi over for you, once you reach the front of the line, based on how many people and how much luggage are in your party.

Our train got in around 11:30 a.m., and by the time we waited in the taxi line, traveled to our AirBnB rental, checked in there, freshened up a bit, and were out the door again, it was about 1:00 p.m. We devoted all the rest of the afternoon to seeing the Louvre, which was just about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. To get there, we crossed the Seine and paused for a moment to enjoy the view.

In Paris (or before you arrive), you can purchase the Paris Pass OR a Paris Museum Pass. We chose the latter, shipped to our home weeks before we left home, so we were ready to go as soon as we arrived. It allows you free entry to a long list of museums and attractions, and you save much time standing in line for a ticket. It does not allow you to skip any security lines, however.

The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world, and you could not possibly see the whole thing in any sort of adequate way even in one whole day. So, choose the galleries in which you are most interested to visit, and don't miss the essentials...like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa.

Don't get so absorbed in the art that you fail to notice the beauty of the architecture of the Louvre itself. Gorgeous!

The entirety of the next day was spent visiting a variety of the must-see sights, eating at some fine restaurants, and walking, walking, walking. We started our day about 9 a.m., and arrived back at our apartment about 8 p.m. It's a long day, but it is possible to do all of this.

First stop was Notre Dame. Again, our Paris Museum Pass got us in the door. We did not get any sort of tour, but merely wandered through, stopping to decipher a few plaques along the way.

From there, we walked to a Metro station and took it to the restaurant, Angelina, for a late breakfast and cups of hot chocolate (link to my food guide at the bottom of this posting). After a leisurely breakfast, we walked up the famous Champs-Elysees.

There are shops all along the famous avenue. We did not stop to shop, but we did stop for lunch at Laduree. (Again, see food posting at the bottom.) Our destination at the end of our long walk was L'Arc de Triomphe. Can you spy the people at the top?

If you purchase the Paris Museum Pass, it will also give you free access to L'Arc de Triomphe.

And if you have stout legs, you can climb the 284 steps to the top of it! The view is quite worth it! This is looking back down the Champs-Elysees, the length of which we had just walked.

Looking toward Basilica du Sacre-Coeur du Montemartre, the highest point in Paris. If you have extra time, it would be great to journey out there to see it too.

And there's a great view of the Eiffel Tower from the top too!

After descending the 287 steps, we wandered about the base of it, pausing to see the flame to the unknown soldier and the view looking up at the arch.

Then we grabbed a taxi to get us quickly to the Eiffel Tower, as we had 3:00 p.m. tickets to go to the very top deck. Your Paris Museum Pass will NOT cover admission to the Eiffel Tower. You can, however, purchase tickets in advance, which I would highly recommend. You will still spend lots of time standing in line and on the second deck, because there are still plenty of lines.

A view from the second deck looking down at the Jardins du Trocadero. Keep that view in mind, because we're headed there in a moment.

Hello, Paris! View from the third deck...the tippy-top of the Eiffel Tower!

And zooming in bit by bit with my camera, you can see the details of the buildings and how most are built around a central courtyard.

After taking the elevator down, and purchasing some ice cream (dark chocolate and pistachio soft serve from a street vendor?...yes please!), we walked across the street to the Jardins du Trocadero. Here is a wonderful vantage point to take great photos of the Eiffel Tower.

From there, we traveled via Metro and on foot to the Jardins du Luxembourg. So beautiful! I would highly encourage you to make this a priority. 

If you arrive at a reasonable daytime hour, you will have the opportunity to rent a boat to sail on the fountain pond. These votes are nearly 100 years old, the idea of one man, who thought children would derive much joy from sailing them here. Over the years, they have been repainted and their sails replaced, but the boats remain the same. We rented one, like all the other 6-8 year olds, and had so much fun!

Next posting will be on our next day in Paris, which was spent at Versailles!

To read about our Paris lodgings, click here:
To read about our food guide to Paris food click here or here.

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