Some ideas for a first weekend in Paris

Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, the Champs-Elysées there are many wonderful top sights in Paris

Welcome to Paris! The capital is full of not-to-be-missed places and things to do if you are planning your first trip to Paris. This will be a particularly magical trip and you will always want to keep coming back …

Day one

 To begin the day, the Mona Lisa, by famous artist Leonardo da Vinci awaits you at the Louvre Museum. History and culture buffs will also be attracted by the museum’s many other galleries. After visiting the Louvre, you can stroll through the magnificent Tuileries Gardens to the famous Place de la Concorde with its obelisk. If you continue on towards the Madeleine and Opéra districts, you’ll find plenty of good places to eat at. A suggestion for lunch: try the Café Marly.

 In the afternoon, a bus tour with PariscityVision shows you the best of the city, with panoramic views of Paris’s most famous monuments. Take advantage of a stop on boulevard Haussmann to go shopping in the elegant Grands Magasins (major department stores). Now you are very close to Montmartre, so this is a good opportunity to see the Sacré-Coeur Basilica.
Round off this wonderful day at a cabaret! At the Moulin Rouge, in the famous Pigalle district or at the Lido to finish off in style on the Champs-Élysées.

Day two

It is time to visit the Eiffel Tower, Trocadéro and the Champs de Mars. This is a mythical district dominated by the Eiffel Tower. Finish off the morning with a well-deserved lunch at the Café du Marché, for example, in rue Cler.

In the afternoon, explore the Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, home to Notre-Dame, Sainte-Chapelle and the Conciergerie. Walk along the Seine quaysides and watch the boats go by or browse through the stalls of the ‘bouquinistes’ (riverside booksellers) on the embankments. Continue on to the Latin Quarter, dominated by the Pantheon. So many exciting discoveries …
And there is more to come … This evening have a dinner cruise on a boat and then go on to a jazz concert at the Petit Journal at Saint-Michel.

Day three

Already the last day? Let yourself be tempted by an out-of-town getaway. Visit the Palace of Versailles and its majestic park and gardens. Treat yourself to a meal at La Petite Venise restaurant before setting off to explore the Trianon and Marie Antoinette’s hamlet.

In the course of these three wonderful days, the Paris Museum Pass and the Paris Passlib' will open the doors for you to visit Paris’s top monuments in complete freedom!

The Louvre Museum: a never-ending journey of discovery

Le Louvre, Paris © Thinkstock

This palace, formerly the residence of France’s kings, has been constantly extended and transformed since the 12th century, and more than two centuries ago, it became a museum. Today, it is one of the world’s biggest museums. 

It has wonderful collections from ancient Egypt, and Greek and Roman Antiquity, and paintings and sculptures dating from the Middle Ages to the 19th century: 35,000 works in total, including the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Venus de Milo, The Wedding Feast at Cana by Veronese and thousands of other treasures …

Since 1989, the main entrance has been via the famous glass Pyramid (in the centre of the Cour Napoléon). In 2012, a Department of Islamic Art opened adding to the thrilling treasures to be seen here.

More info on the Louvre

The Madeleine: a church and a district

L'Eglise de la Madeleine, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

The Madeleine Church has neither a clock nor a clock tower, but it has monumental bronze doors and is encircled by a colonnade of Corinthian columns; you might almost mistake it for a Greek temple! And rightly so: built from 1764 to 1842, it was once destined to become a temple to the glory of Napoleon’s armies.

Inside, there are sculptures, paintings and a superb neo-Byzantine mosaic to admire; you can also attend the frequently-held reputed classical concerts. Situated in Haussmanian Paris, between Concorde and the Palais Garnier Opera House, the church gave its name to the square and surrounding district, full of upscale boutiques and gourmet addresses.

More info on the Madeleine Church

Opéra de Paris: behind the scenes at the Palais Garnier

Opéra national de Paris © OTCP - David Lefranc

It was in 1861, at the request of Napoleon III, that Charles Garnier undertook the construction of a new opera house. Inaugurated in 1875, the building is an exuberant mixture of splendour, baroque style and eclecticism. It remains a symbol of the luxury and highlife of the Paris of the Second Empire.

A 1hr30 guided tour takes you behind the scenes to marvel at the interiors taking in the Rotonde des Abonnés (Members’Rotunda’), the main auditorium, lounge areas, foyers and the Grand Staircase. During the visit, you will be impressed by the sumptuous decoration and wealth of paintings and sculptures, including the famous Prophetess Pythia.

More info on the Palais Garnier

Montmartre: Sacré-Cœur Basilica and Montmartre village

Basilique du Sacré-Coeur, Paris © OTCP - Daniel Thierry

Consecrated in1919, after forty years of work, the white Sacré-Cœur Basilica dominates the Montmartre hilltop. To reach it, you can choose between the funicular and several flights of steps. The view from the top is well worth the effort.

A short walk from here, the Place du Tertre and adjoining little streets are full of activity with things to see and places to eat. And for a complete tour of the ‘village’, nothing beats the Petit Train de Montmartre.  The itinerary starts from Place Blanche and takes you from the Moulin Rouge to the Halle Saint-Pierre via the Arènes de Montmartre, the vineyard and the Lapin Agile cabaret.

More info on the Sacré-Coeur Basilica

The Moulin Rouge: the magic of cabaret

Moulin Rouge, Paris  © OTCP - Daniel Thierry

Created in Montmartre in 1889, the famous cabaret which inspired an equally famous film perpetuates the enchantment with its revue ‘Féérie’, a magical extravaganza: 80 artistes, including 60 Doriss Girls recruited from all over the world. They wear costumes adorned with feathers, rhinestones and sequins that come from the best Parisian ateliers. Together with sparkling decor and outstanding acts, the mixture is magical. A feast for the eyes.

Several dinner & show packages combine show and French gastronomy in a belle époque room with authentic wall frescoes, with Morris columns and original posters. A place to admire famous artists who performed on this legendary stage: Mistinguett, Édith Piaf, Jean Gabin, Frank Sinatra, Liza Minnelli, etc.

More infos on the Moulin Rouge

The Champs-Élysées: stroll along the most beautiful avenue in the world

Avenue des Champs-Élysées - Vue aérienne, Paris

‘The most beautiful avenue in the world’ is 1,910 metres long and 70 metres wide. Dating back to 1670, it links the Place de la Concorde and the Place de l’Etoile offering an incredible perspective starting at the Louvre and finishing at the Arc de la Défense.

The lower part is bordered by ornamental gardens, whilst the upper reaches are studded with luxury boutiques, showrooms, cinemas and cafe restaurants. Celebrations of popular events take place on the Champs-Elysées.

The ‘Champs’ saw the return of the ashes of Napoleon I in 1840, scenes of jubilation during the Liberation of Paris in 1944, and after the victory of the French football team in the 1998 FIFA World Cup, and every year, the 14 July Bastille Day military parade and the finish of the last stage of the Tour de France!

More infos on the Champs-Elysées

Eiffel Tower: a legendary 10,100 tons

Are you ready to scale the heights? Built for the 1889 World Fair, the Eiffel Tower, also known as the ‘dame de fer’ (‘iron lady’), towers over Paris from a height of 325 metres. Choose between taking the 1,665 steps … or one of the lifts!

Shops and restaurants on the 1st and 2nd floors provide a break before going up to the 3rd floor for a breathtaking view.

For those interested in finding out more, the guided tour ‘Behind the Scenes of the Eiffel Tower’ (booking required) visits the machine room, a former bunker under the Champ-de-Mars.

More infos on the Eiffel Tower

Notre-Dame de Paris: the enchanting heart of the Cité

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris au printemps arbre en fleurs, Paris © Thinkstock

A bronze star inscribed ‘Kilomètre zéro’ indicates the centre of the country in terms of travelling distances to other towns and cities in France. Cradled between the two arms of the Seine, in the middle of the Île de la Cité, Notre-Dame is at the geographic but also historic heart of Paris.

Built from 1163 to 1345, the cathedral is a magnificent example of Gothic architecture. It took two centuries to build it. It is admired for its magnificent architectural features: sculpted portals, 13-metre-diameter rose windows, statues of saints, gargoyles and monumental bells in the bell towers.

The two towers are 69 metres high and offer a wonderful vista for courageous visitors. It is also possible to go down into the archeological crypt on the square, where archaeological excavations have revealed fascinating Gallo-Roman and medieval remains.

More info on the Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris


The Sainte-Chapelle: colour and light

La Sainte Chapelle, Paris © Thinkstock

A short walk from Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral, the Sainte-Chapelle offers a privileged moment. This gem of Gothic art was built in the 12th century at the request of King Saint-Louis, in the heart of the Palace de la Cité on the island of the same name.

The chapel was originally built to house Christ’s Crown of Thrones ¬– today preserved at Notre-Dame – and is decorated with a unique series of fifteen glass windows and a large rose window, that is 600 m² of stained glass windows, which encircle the lower chapels and royal chapel of the building with an incredible halo of colours and light.

More infos on the Sainte-Chapelle

The Conciergerie: palace and prison of kings and queens

La Conciergerie, Paris © OTCP - Amélie Dupont

This palace built by the Seine was originally a royal residence, the first in the capital, when Clovis established himself there in the 6th century. After being a residence and seat of power of the kings of France until the 14th century, the palace was gradually converted into a state prison. Marie-Antoinette was imprisoned there in1793.

What’s more, the name ‘Conciergerie’ makes reference to a ‘concierge’, a person responsible for ensuring order. On a visit, with or without a guide, you can see temporary exhibitions and a reconstruction of jails of the French Revolution .

More infos on the Conciergerie