8 unforgettable reasons to visit Paris
8 reasons to visit Paris, including famous landmarks, delicious food, shopping opportunities, the café culture, the art collections, the parks and gardens, the day trips, and the Worldpackers experiences!
Paris has a place on pretty much every traveler's bucket list. It is known as the most romantic city in the world, and is home to some world famous sights that are constantly shown in travel magazines, movies, and other works of art.
Paris, the capital of France, has a population of over two million people and is one of Europe's most-visited cities.
There are two major international airports in Paris, Orly Airport and Charles de Gaulle Airport, the latter of which is the second busiest airport in all of Europe. There are also plenty of buses and trains passing through Paris, making it a convenient stop on a European budget backpacking trip.
But why is Paris so famous? What is it about this city that attracts travelers from all over the globe? There has to be more than just the Eiffel Tower, right?
Right. Paris is a diverse and sophisticated city that appeals to the wealthy but can also be enjoyed on a budget. In addition to the Eiffel Tower, Paris has countless other gorgeous landmarks and monuments that add to the beauty of the spacious boulevards and their charming cafés.
French cuisine is also world famous, and you can find some of the best of it in Paris. There is world class shopping and a dynamic fashion scene, and plenty of interesting museums and art galleries.
Just outside Paris, there are plenty of fun day trips to take for a further insight into the culture and history of France.
Paris is absolutely packed with things to do, so no traveler who stops here will find themselves bored. As a wonderful insight into French culture and cuisine, with some incredible photo opportunities, Paris deserves its place on every traveler's bucket list destinations.
In this article, I'll explain some of the reasons why travelers should visit Paris. At the end I'll reveal some of the amazing Worldpackers volunteer experiences available in Paris and around France.
8 unforgettable reasons to visit Paris
- Famous landmarks
- Amazing French food
- Shopping opportunities
- The café culture
- Impressive art collections
- Parks and gardens
- Fun day trips
- Worldpackers experiences
1. Famous landmarks
When people think of Paris, they most likely picture its famous landmarks. Paris has many stunning sights that showcase impressive architecture and design, and these places have become world-famous for their beauty.
The ample photo opportunities are some of the most popular reasons to visit Paris for travelers, writers, artists and bloggers.
Here are some notable landmarks in Paris that draw tourists to the city:
The Eiffel Tower
As one of the most famous monuments in the entire world, the Eiffel Tower has become a symbol of Paris. Made of wrought-iron and standing at 324 meters tall, the Eiffel Tower is a sight to see. At night time the tower lights up in shimmering gold, and there are nice gardens surrounding the tower that make for a once in a lifetime picnic spot.
Tickets to enter and climb the Eiffel Tower vary; it costs €7 if you are willing to climb the stairs and €11 to take the elevator, and there are different prices for different age groups. The line also gets very long, so try to arrive early.
The Louvre Museum
The Louvre is the largest art museum in the world, but even those who aren't interested in art will stop here to witness the incredible design of the massive building and take pictures with the pyramids.
There is one large pyramid and three smaller ones, the largest one being the main entrance to the museum and all four are constructed of glass and metal. Tourists love to pose on the concrete blocks around the Louvre courtyard and pose with the iconic pyramids.
It costs €15 to enter the Louvre Museum, and it is completely free to hang out in the courtyard and admire the building.
Notre Dame Cathedral
This medieval Gothic cathedral has become known as a symbol of Paris, and there has even been a Disney movie set in the cathedral (The Hunchback of Notre Dame).
Construction of the cathedral began in 1160, though it has had its ups and downs throughout history. Nowadays, it stands tall and magnificent, and is a huge draw to anyone who loves impressive architecture and photo opportunities.
It costs €8,50 to enter Notre Dame, though there is usually a very long line so try to arrive early.
Arc De Triomphe
Located at the end of the famous shopping street, Avenue des Champs-Élysées, this massive arch commemorates the soldiers who fought in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. It has become a well-known national monument of France, and you can climb about 280 stairs to get to the top for an amazing view over the city.
It costs €12 to enter the Arc De Triomphe and climb to the top, though it is free to admire the landmark from the outside.
Also known as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, this Roman Catholic Church stands at the highest point in the city and is known for its towering white domes.
It is located on top of Montmartre Hill, which is a charming area full of history and art. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica is a relatively new landmark in Paris; construction began in the late 1800s and the church was completed in 1914.
It is free to enter Sacre Coeur basilica, though you can pay €5 to climb to the very top if you would like.
The Palais Garnier
This monument is a giant opera house that is arguably one of the most impressive buildings in Paris.
Built in the 1800s, this magnificent building has hosted so many operas, ballets and other artistic performances and it is a huge part of Parisian history and culture.
This opera house was also used as the setting for the famous novel, The Phantom Of The Opera, which has now become a Broadway musical and major motion picture film.
You can take a guided tour of Palais Garnier to learn all there is to know about this significant building.
2. Amazing French food
One of the best reasons to visit Paris is easily the food. French cuisine has earned itself a place on the list of best cuisines in the world, and foodies from all over the globe travel to France just for the food.
To prove how amazing the French are at cooking, they even invented the prestigious Michelin Star rating system that measures the quality of the best restaurants all over the world.
But you don't have to dine out at Michelin-star restaurants to get a taste of French cuisine. There are some staple French dishes that you can find in restaurants of all price ranges.
Some French classics to try include Soupe à l'oignon, a heartwarming beef stock and onion soup commonly known as french onion Soup, Bouillabaisse, a fish and seafood stew, Steak-Frites, pan sautéed steak with french fries, and Beef Bourguignon, beef cooked with red wine and mushrooms. All these classic French dishes can be found in restaurants all over Paris.
You also have to try some of the delicious bread products and pastries in Paris. Just a classic baguette or croissant will taste better here than anywhere else in the world.
Also when it comes to desserts, the French do them so well. Desserts like chocolate mousse, Crème au Caramel, Crème brûlée, éclairs, chocolate soufflé, and more are native to France. You can find these sweets all over the world but you might as well try them where they originated.
Also be sure to stop by Ladurée to try their famous macarons, which are small meringue based cookie sandwiches with a layer of creme in the middle.
3. Shopping opportunities
With an overwhelming sense of classic culture mixed with sleek modernity, Paris has so many shopping opportunities for travelers who want to treat themselves. Whether you want to shop in some famous high-end stores or just pick up a few nice souvenirs, Paris has it all.
The most famous place to shop in Paris is Avenue des Champs-Élysées. This wide avenue is almost 2 km long and is packed full of cafés, restaurants, theaters, and of course, shops. Everything here tends to be more luxury, so this is the place to go if you have a bit of money to spend and want to blend in with the high-end Parisian fashionistas.
Other shopping locations for high-end purchases include Rue Du Commerce, Boulevard Saint Germain, Triangle D'or, and Rue De Rivoli.
Boulevard Haussmann is another location in Paris with gorgeous department stores.
Even if you don't plan on buying anything fancy or expensive, it can be fun to explore the luxury stores and admire all the beautiful items without buying anything. Paris takes presentation very seriously, so just pretending you are among Paris's fashion elite and browsing the high-end stores if a fun way to spend an afternoon in the city.
There are also plenty of places for budget travelers to shop in Paris. Visit the Saint-Ouen Flea Market to find some cool vintage goods from around the world, or visit Le Marais for more vintage collections.
You will also find an abundance of the classic souvenir shops in touristy areas around Paris, so pop in to one of those if you're just looking for a cute t-shirt or a keychain.
4. The café culture
Paris has one of the strongest café cultures in the world. There is nothing quite as satisfying as sitting on a wicker chair at an outdoor café in Paris, sipping a coffee and eating a croissant while watching the Parisians go about their day.
Parisians have café culture engrained in their society. During a busy day, or before work, or after work, locals love to relax in a café with a drink and either catch up with friends and colleagues or just enjoy some solo time.
Café culture has been part of the Paris lifestyle for centuries. You can even find mementos to historical figures that have visited certain Paris cafés (Les Deux Magots is a classic café in Paris that prides itself on its famous visitors).
Keep in mind that people are allowed to smoke at outdoor tables in France. If you'd prefer to avoid the cigarette smoke that wafts through France's streets, you might want to sit inside. Most cafés are open all day long and serve small plates of food as well. You do not need to tip at cafés in Paris, though you can round up to the closest euro if you want.
Here are some of the best cafés in Paris to visit during your stay:
- La Fontaine de Belleville: A café on a street corner that serves all the French classics
- Au Vieux Paris D'Arcole: Has a beautiful design and lots of flowers outside
- Lomi: This rustic café has a tasting and training centre on site
- Le Fouquet's: Like Les Deux Magots, this café is famous for having many influential guests
- HolyBelly: Has delicious brunch in addition to coffee
- Le Rotunde: Writer Ernest Hemingway mentioned this café in his book, The Sun Also Rises
- Odette: Known for its delicious tea and cakes
- Café Oberkampf: Small and cozy café that serves incredible coffee
- La Fourmi Ailée: Has a vintage atmosphere with lots of books on the walls
- Café de Flore: One of the oldest cafés in Paris
- O Coffeeshop: A mix of Aussie and French culture, this place has a beachy feel
- Deli-Cieux: A rare café that is located high up and offers amazing sunset views
Whether you can visit one or two, or all of these cafés, you will surely be impressed with the charming decor and delicious treats and drinks available. No trip to Paris in complete without a stop in a café to relax and refuel during a long day of sightseeing.
5. Impressive art collections
Many people think of Paris as an artistic city, and they are not wrong. France has been very involved in European art movements throughout history, and there are plenty of places to witness some incredible and famous art while traveling through Paris.
Even if you're not an art fanatic, it can be quite fascinating to see some of the famous art and culture that came out of this world capital.
So for those interested in learning more about the history and culture of the world through visual masterpieces, Paris is a great place to visit. There are too many different art collections around Paris to list them all, but I'll briefly describe a few of the most popular ones.
The Louvre has over 30,000 pieces of art and is home to the famous Mona Lisa.
Musée d'Orsay showcases famous french art from the 1800s and 1900s, including works of art by famous artists Monet, Manet, Degas, and Van Gogh.
Centre Pompidou has lots of different exhibitions and art collections on view, and it has a very impressive display of modern art.
Musée National Picasso has thousands of artworks by the famous Spanish artist, Pablo Picasso, and is set inside the Hôtel Salé.
Petit Palais is a stunning building that houses the City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts. This art collection is free to enter and has forms of art including painting, sculpture, and even furniture and antiques.
Musee du Quai Branly showcases a very diverse range of indigenous art from Oceania, Africa, Asia, and the Americas, thus enlightening visitors about different cultures and their histories.
6. Parks and gardens
For such a massive city, Paris has plenty of green spaces designed to break up the stuffiness of the metropolis. This beautiful gardens make the city feel more open, and they make for lovely stops during a day of exploring.
You may stumble across some of the more centrally-located parks by accident, or you can pack a bag and head to one of the further parks for a day of enjoying nature. Either way, the green spaces of Paris are simply stunning and they make the city feel so much more enjoyable.
The abundance of spacious parks are definitely some of the best reasons for families to visit Paris, because they can take their kids here to let off some steam. There is plenty of space for family picnics and sports games, so if you are traveling as a family than stopping by a park is a must.
Here are a few of the best parks and gardens to visit in Paris:
Bois de Vincennes
This is the largest green space in Paris and was created in the 1800s by Napoleon III. In addition to the peaceful gardens, here you can also find a zoo, a botanical garden, a racing track, and other eye-catching monuments.
I recommend coming here for a day and bringing some snacks and a blanket so you can just wander around and soak in the relaxing energy.
The Tuileries Gardens
These stunning gardens were created in 1564, but were originally only designed for royalty. After the French Revolution, the area became a public park and it is now one of the most beautiful areas to stroll through in Paris. It is located near the Louvre, and makes a wonderful stop during a day of sightseeing.
Parc des Buttes-Chaumont
In northeastern Paris you'll find this large public park full of green grass and trails perfect for running, walking or cycling. There is a wide artificial lake inside the park which has a 50-meter high cliff in the center. If you want to feel like you are really in the woods and not in the middle of the one of the world's biggest cities, then come here!
The Luxembourg Gardens
Inspired by the beautiful Boboli Gardens of Florence, the Luxembourg Gardens exude an aura of luxury and designs. With landscaped gardens, rich green grass, fountains, lots of flowers, and the Luxembourg Palace just nearby, you may feel like royalty while hanging out in this park.
Bois de Boulogne
As one of the biggest parks in Paris, this green space is more than double the size of Central Park in NYC. There is a beautiful lake here as well as lots of space for having picnics, playing frisbee, or just taking a tap in the soft grass.
This charming green space is located just across from the Eiffel Tower, so it is a nice place to relax and take some photos of the iconic landmark. This park is most famous for the Fountain of Warsaw, which is a long pool filled with fountains that create a beautiful scene.
7. Fun day trips
If you have more than a few days to spend in Paris, why not venture outside the city for a day? Paris is surrounded by lots of natural beauty and historical landmarks, so if you've seen all there is to see, take a day trip so you can experience more of France.
Funny that some of the best reasons to visit Paris are located outside Paris! But day trips are a great way to explore a new country without having to spend lots of money.
Here are some fun day trips to take from Paris:
The Palace of Versailles
With construction starting in 1631, the Palace of Versailles is famous for housing a few of France's past leaders. The ground originally served as a hunting lodge and chateau for Louis XIII, and later on Louis XIV lived here until the French Revolution started in 1789.
After the French Revolution, the palace had a turbulent history; it was used for many different roles by many different French leaders.
Nowadays, the palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a historical monument that travelers from all over the world come to visit. The palace has stunning decorations and rooms that exude regality. The landscaped gardens outside are massive and aesthetically pleasing, full of fountains and sculptures. A highlight of the palace is the Hall of Mirrors.
The Palace of Versailles is only 30 minutes away from Paris, and you can either take the train, the bus, or book a group tour.
This is the most-visited tourist attraction in Normandy, and makes a lovely day trip from Paris. Mont Saint-Michel is a tiny island located about 1 km off of France's northwestern coast.
Though this used to be a pilgrimage centre and is mainly a religious site, anyone can come and admire the hilltop monastery surrounded by the sea. The monastery is known as the Mont Saint-Michel Abbey, and there are a few monks and nuns who live inside the Abbey. It costs €10 to enter the Abbey.
At high tide, the island appears to be floating in the water, and at low tide you can walk along the sand, right up to the edge of the attraction. Wear comfortable walking shoes while visiting here as you'll have to climb lots of hills and stairs to reach the height of Mont Saint-Michel.
It takes about three hours by train to travel from Paris to Mont Saint-Michel. You can easily do this is a day if you are short on time, but if you don't want to rush you can even stay overnight in a town near the island and return to Paris the next day.
Claude Monet's Gardens in Giverny
Located in the charming town of Giverny in Normandy, the Fondation Claude Monet has worked hard to preserve the residence of this famous painter.
As one of the founders of the French Impressionist movement, Claude Monet's paintings are smooth, colorful and simply gorgeous. Even if you are not an art fanatic, this day trip can still be fun because the area is so beautiful.
The village of Giverny served as a common place of inspiration for other French painters, Édouard Manet and Pierre-Auguste Renoir. Giverny also has an American Museum of Art and plenty of nice cafes and restaurants.
Claude Monet lived in the village of Giverny from 1883 to 1926, and his picturesque house and gardens have been well-kept. There are plenty of colourful flowers and a Japanese Bridge, and many other scenes that seemed to appear in Claude Monet's paintings.
You can visit Giverny either by train or car from Paris, or you can book a tour.
Though Disneyland is actually in Paris, people normally spend a whole day here so I think it fits better under the category of day trips.
Those who have already visited Disneyland in the USA may not be interested in this, but if provides a super fun and exciting day for those who have never experienced the magic of Disneyland.
Disney is very near and dear to many people's hearts, as the movies and characters grew up with us throughout our childhood. Spending a day meeting all the characters and riding roller coasters and other rides makes you feel like a kid again.
You can also head to the Walt Disney Studio Park to watch performances and behind the scenes shows. If you are traveling with a family, this is a great place to visit as it has entertainment for all ages.
From the city center, you can take a shuttle, train or metro to Paris Disneyland.
8. Worldpackers experiences
If you have a few weeks or more to spend in France, you can always try volunteering with Worldpackers in Paris.
Volunteering at local establishments is a great way to explore the culture deeply, and you can save plenty of money on accommodation.
Most work exchanges require roughly 20 hours of work per week, and in exchange you get free room and board, and sometimes free meals, tours, laundry, and other perks. This is also a great way to gain valuable work experience for your resume while on the road.
For an incredible French experience, spend a few days exploring Paris and then venture outside the city to volunteer in a different area of France.
Head to northwestern France to work in a guest house in Côtes-d'Armor. If you're a dog lover, you can volunteer in a guest house here and help with gardening and taking care of the dogs. What better way to enjoy this stunning coastal French town than living with locals and helping out local businesses?
Also in the northwest of France is a small village called Hambers, where there a few volunteer opportunities for travelers as well. If you love to work outside, there is a homestay here that needs help with farm repair and roof restoration. Past travelers say this is a great place to relax and connect with nature, so during your time off you can explore the landscape or enjoy some peace and quiet with a book.
If you want to explore some different parts of the country, head south to the city of Montpellier. Here, you can volunteer at an eco village, or work as a web developer or event organizer. There is also an interesting experience here for a renewable energy youth training, only if you are a French or Dutch resident though.
Another top-rated Worldpackers host in south western France is located in the historical area of Dordogne. Here there is a friendly local family who needs help renovating their home. In exchange for your efforts, the family will feed you all your meals and help you explore nearby towns and attractions. This is a great way to explore this area of France while saving money and getting to know a local family.
For a change of scenery, you can even volunteer in the French alps. Visit Oz en Oisans in southeastern France to work in a guest house in the mountains. Here, they need help with general cleaning, housekeeping and gardening, and in exchange you will get free meals and the opportunity to explore this beautiful area of France.
So another one of the best reasons to visit Paris is all the doors it opens for you! After exploring the city, you can hop on a train or bus and head to a different area of France for a life-changing volunteer experience.
Even if you don't have the time to volunteer in France, your time in Paris will undoubtedly be a wonderful experience and introduction to the French culture.