Guide on The Best Things To Do In Paris
Our favourite things to do in Paris
Don’t ever let it be said that we’re not persistent, here at Airport Park and Ride.
Sticking with the theme of embellishing on the brief introductions to the cities we visited in our Top 5 Bank Holiday getaways blog, today we’re off to Paris.
Why? You may ask.
Well, we’ll tell you why; you can be there in under two hours on flights from Glasgow Airport, the city is beautiful – indeed, it is the city of love – and, on top of that (as if you needed any more reasons) if you book your airport parking with Airport Park and Ride, you’re bound to get the best possible price, and know that your car is safe in a Park Mark awarded Glasgow airport car park, so that’s one less thing to worry about while you’re in a city that is both beautiful and notoriously full of pickpockets.
So, when you’re jetting off for a romantic break in Paris, take a look at this guide for our advice on the best things to do in Paris.
Jardin de Luxembourg
The Jardin de Luxembourg is the garden of the French senate, and also the second largest park in Paris. You can happily spend the entire day wandering around its landscaped lawns and manicured flower beds.
Built in the 17 th Century, the gardens are the home of hundreds of fountains, statues and other monuments – including Frédéric Bartholdi’s first model of the Statue of Liberty, which sits opportunistically amongst the well-kept flora, waiting for passers-by to stumble upon it.
Additionally, the park is within walking distance of loads of Paris’ main attractions. The reason it’s first on our list? It’s free and it’s the perfect place to relax, read a book and have a picnic. In our view, it is one of the city’s main attractions in its own right.
Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris
Notre Dame Cathedral is a stunning masterpiece of Gothic architecture, cutting a truly imposing figure on the Île de la Cité (one of two remaining natural islands in the Seine), was the focus of Catholic Paris for almost 700 years, and is now Paris’ most visited free-to-visit attraction; with over 14 million visitors a year.
The cavernous interior accommodates 6,000 worshippers and is absolutely mind-blowing, both in its scale and its design.
With its three famous rose, stained glass windows, remarkable treasury, spindly Gothic buttresses, and twin bell towers – which can be climbed by the public, for some of the most awe-inspiring views over the city – Notre Dame should be near the top of anyone’s list of things to do in Paris.
Museé du Louvre
Hard as it is to believe, when observing its current architectural style, the Louvre began life as a fortress, built in the late 1300s by Philip II. However, the expansion of the city, left the Louvre’s defensive function redundant, and in 1546 it was converted, by Francis I, into the main residence of French Kings, which, through various expansions, it remained until 1682, when Louis XIV moved the royal household to Versailles.
It was at this point that the Louvre began its life as a museum and gallery – as Louis XIV used it mainly as a place to display the royal art collection. Remnants of the original fortress can still be seen in the museum’s basement.
The Louvre is now, not only the largest but also, the most visited museum in the world; displaying over 35,000 pieces of art across nearly 800,000 square feet, split into eight curatorial departments: Egyptian Antiquities; Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Etruscan and Roman Antiquities; Islamic Art; Sculpture, and; Decorative Arts.
One controversial piece of advice we have, is not to bother with the Mona Lisa, it’s not particularly impressive (paintings whose eyes follow you around the room aren’t rare, it’s an optical illusion you can see in almost every eyes-forward portrait ever painted), and the scrum you will have to endure to get close enough to the tiny painting to see it, will leave you feeling like you’ve come out the wrong side of an encounter with Jona Lomu.
The most macabre sight in a city that is full of them, is quite probably the Catacombes.
In 1785, Paris had hygiene issues due to its overflowing cemeteries. It was decided, that to attempt to combat the issues the city was facing, bones would be exhumed from the cemeteries and stored in disused quarry tunnels beneath the city. The resulting Catacombes were created in 1810.
You descend 20 metres to the Catacombes, via 130 narrow and dizzying spiral steps. After traversing the steps, you will follow 2km of dark subterranean passageways, until you reach the ossuary, where you will exit via 83 further steps. Along the way, you’ll see walls lined with, and frankly, looking like they’re made from, thousands of skulls and bones.
As things to do in Paris go, it’s a grisly, but really interesting experience.
Stroll along La Promenade Plantée
La Promenade Plantée is a beautiful, tree-lined walkway, situated on an old elevated railway line in eastern Paris; and it was opened in 1993, six years before the High Line project in New York.
The promenade is four and a half kilometres long and will take you across viaducts and up and down staircases above the streets, and is a delightful way to explore the city. Your journey along La Promenade Plantée will take you across the Viaduc des Arts, a bridge where all of the arches are occupied by art galleries.
Visit the Cime tière du Père Lachaise
In the 20 th arrondissement, lurking beyond a menacing stone threshold, Paris’ largest cemetery, the Cimitière du Père Lachaise, awaits.
And many come. In fact, it is the world’s most visited cemetery, largely due to the strangely enticing combination of bombastic, ostentatious tombs and an impressive roll-call of celebrities whose remains inhabit them.
With around 70,000 tombs sprawling across the 100 acre sculpture garden the cemetery occupies it will take you a significant chunk of a day to explore it all. But well worth it, it is. The cemetery’s most visited tombs are those of Jim Morrison (whose grave, contrary to the general theme, here, is a simple stone marker) and Oscar Wilde. Other notable residents include: Georges Rodenbach, Chopin, Molière, Apollinaire, Balzac, Proust, Gertrude Stein, Pissaro, Yves Montand and Èdith Piaf.
Also of interest whilst visiting the Cimitière du Père Lachaise, is the Mur des Fédérés – the Wall of Federalists; where, in 1871, cornered by government forces, the last of the Communard fought a desperate night-long battle amongst the tombs.
In the morning, the 147 captured survivors were lined up against the plain brick wall and shot; to be buried where they fell in a mass grave. Directly opposite this wall, is a series of commemorative memorials to those who’ve died in pretty much every war in modern history – creating a poignant and moving alleyway.
Visit the Panthéon
Squatting above the city on the Left Bank, the Panthéon’s imperious Grecian dome is an iconic element of the Parisian skyline.
Originally built as a church, the Panthéon was commissioned circa 1750 by Louis XV, as an abbey dedicated to Saint Geneviève, as thanks for his recovery from illness. Financial and structural issues meant that the building wasn’t completed until 1789.
Now serving as a mausoleum, the Panthéon provides the final resting place of some of France’s most famed philosophers and luminaries. Voltiare, Rousseau, Braille and Hugo are all interred there. It also hosts the remains (in some cases symbolically) of Marie Curie and her husband, Pierre, and resistance fighters, Pierre Brossolette, Jean Zay, Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz.
It also houses a copy of Foucault’s pendulum, which first hung from the Panthéon’s dome in 1851, to demonstrated the rotation of the earth.
Climb the Eiffel Tower
Or get the lift if you don’t fancy the 704 steps it takes to get you to the second floor (there are 1,710, in all, however, visitors wanting to get to the top have to take the lift the rest of the way).
But, if you want to take the lift, book tickets online, in advance, to avoid queues that can often be hours long. By avoiding these queues, you’ll also limit the amount of time that you expose yourself to the pickpockets that proliferate the area.
However you get up there, the view from the top of the Eiffel Tower is not to be missed!
See the Arc de Triomphe
Alongside the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe is, without a shadow of a doubt, the most iconic symbol of Paris.
Commissioned, in 1806, to be built as a monument to Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz, the intricately sculpted arch stands at the end of the Champs Élysées, in the centre of the Étoile roundabout (which, incidentally, is arguably the most dangerous place in France. The ghettos of Marseille have nothing on the driving on display here!). After ascending its 284 steps, you can see the dozen avenues from the viewing platform at the top.
The exterior of the monolithic monument to those who died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, is inscribed with the names of all the French generals and victories on its inner and outer surfaces. Beneath the vault of the Arc de Triomphe, are the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the Eternal Flame.
Amongst the extravagant memorials, you’ll find the breath-taking Tuileries Gardens; a lovely place for a stroll.
Whilst you’re strolling around, visit Canal St. Martin. This, once derelict, part of the city is now swarming with nonchalant cafés and lively boutiques that will wow your senses. Call into a pavement café, grab a cup of coffee and a croissant (or one of my favourites: a pan au chocolat, or a chocolate croissant – they are different things!) and just sit and enjoy the awesome atmosphere of this amazing city.
A beautiful and awe-inspiring city, there are so many things to do in Paris that I couldn’t possibly fit them all in here.
My best advice? After you’ve ticked off the bucket list items on this list – and any others you have that aren’t featured here – just go and explore, you’ll never tire of the magical attractions that Paris has to offer.
Airport Park and Ride
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With the largest selection of Park Mark awarded, secure airport car parks in Glasgow, all of which provide on-demand shuttle buses to and from the airport, or airport approved meet and greet parking services, book your airport parking with us and make sure your car is in safe hands while you’re enjoying the sights in Paris.