Paris' monument-lined boulevards, museums, classical bistros and boutiques are enhanced by a new wave of multimedia galleries, creative wine bars, design shops and tech start-ups.
The cloud-piercing, wrought-iron Eiffel Tower, broad Arc de Triomphe guarding the glamorous avenue des Champs-Élysées, flying buttressed Notre Dame cathedral, lamplit bridges spanning the Seine and art nouveau cafes' wicker-chair-lined terraces are enduring Parisian emblems. Despite initial appearances, however, Paris’ cityscape isn’t static: there are some stunning modern and contemporary icons, too, from the inside-out, industrial-style Centre Pompidou to the mur végétal (vertical garden) gracing the Musée du Quai Branly, the glass sails of the Fondation Louis Vuitton contemporary-art centre, and the gleaming steel egg-shaped concert venue La Seine Musicale.
France’s reputation for its cuisine (the French word for ‘kitchen’) precedes it, and whether you seek a cosy neighbourhood bistro or a triple-Michelin-starred temple to gastronomy, you'll find that every establishment prides itself on exquisite preparation and presentation of quality produce, invariably served with wine. Enticing patisseries, boulangeries (bakeries), fromageries (cheese shops) and crowded, colourful street markets are perfect for putting together a picnic to take to the city’s beautiful parks and gardens. A host of culinary courses – held anywhere from home kitchens to the world’s most prestigious cookery schools – offers instruction for all schedules, abilities and budgets.
The word 'Parisian' is synonymous with style, and fashion shopping is the city’s forte. Paris remains at the forefront of international trends, and browsing emerging and established designer boutiques and flagship haute couture houses is a quintessential part of any visit. You’ll also find hip concept and homewares shops, and resplendent art nouveau department stores, along with a trove of vintage shops and flea markets, atmospheric bookshops and dark-green bouquiniste stalls stocking secondhand titles along the riverbanks, adorable children’s wear and toy shops, art and antique dealers, venerable establishments selling professional cookware, and, of course, gourmet-food and wine shops galore.
With an illustrious artistic pedigree – Renoir, Rodin, Picasso, Monet, Manet, Dalí and Van Gogh are but a few of the masters who have lived and worked here over the years – Paris is one of the world's great art repositories, harbouring treasures from antiquity onwards. In addition to big hitters like the incomparable Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay’s exceptional impressionist collection, and the Centre Pompidou’s cache of modern and contemporary art, scores of smaller museums showcase every imaginable genre, a diverse range of venues mount major exhibitions through to offbeat installations, and there's also the city's vibrant street art.
The 10 best parks in Paris
8 min read — Published Apr 2, 2021
Lonely Planet EditorsWriter
With incredible museums, shops and restaurants, it’s easy to forget that one of the best ways to enjoy Paris is outside. Here are the best parks in Paris.
Discover some of the most unique and fulfilling experiences your next destination has to offer.
Tips & Travel trends to help you pick the perfect time to visit this destination.
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Add visiting these must-see local hot spots and culture centers to your next travel itinerary.
Check out these fun-filled activities that the entire family can enjoy.
Plan a day trip full of local flavor and get back in time with these same-day options.
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These are our favorite local haunts, touristy spots, and hidden gems throughout Paris.
Even if you're not an art lover, it is worth visiting this high-profile art museum to lose yourself in its romantic gardens. Sculptor, painter, sketcher, engraver and collector Auguste Rodin donated his entire collection to the French state in 1908 on the proviso that it dedicate his former workshop and showroom, the beautiful 1730 Hôtel Biron, to displaying his works. This is where he lived and worked while in Paris. Rodin's artwork is not only installed in the mansion itself, but also on its rose-filled garden—one of the most peaceful places in central Paris. Formal flowerbeds and boxed-hedge arrangements framing 18th-century mansion Hôtel Biron ©Will Salter/Lonely Planet Highlights The rose garden is a wonderful spot to contemplate his famous work The Thinker. Other sculptural highlights are: The Gates of Hell, the 180 figures of which comprise an intricate scene from Dante’s Inferno; Rodin’s marble monument to love, The Kiss; and the world's largest collection of works by Rodin’s protégé and muse, Camille Claudel. On the 1st floor, in room 12, admire paintings by Van Gogh and Monet that belonged to Rodin. The ground-floor 'Rodin at the Hôtel Biron' room incorporates an eclectic collection of sculptures and curiosities acquired by Rodin and placed in the room in which he worked in 1908. Marble monument to love The Kiss (Le Baiser) caused controversy on completion due to Rodin’s then-radical depiction of women as equal partners in ardour ©alarico/Shutterstock Tickets, tips and accessibility A combined ticket with the Musée d'Orsay costs €21; tickets are valid for a single visit to each museum within three months. An audioguide costs €6. End your visit with a relaxed drink alfresco in the museum's garden cafe (closes 5pm). If you just want to see the outdoor sculptures, cheaper garden-only entry is available. Pre-purchase tickets online to avoid queuing. The Musée Rodin is free for everyone on the first Sunday of the month, from October to March. The exhibition, garden, cafe and auditorium are accessible, and the museum is equipped with ramps. Wheelchairs are available to visitors free of charge. Blind and visually impaired visitors can avail of a visitor services assistant who will provide them with gloves and a list of work that can be explored by touch. Guide dogs are welcome. Induction loops are available throughout the museum for visitors with hearing difficulties. The garden is the one of the most peaceful spots in central Paris ©Grant Faint/Getty Images What's nearby? Both Musée d'Orsay and Hôtel des Invalides are about a 15-minute walk away. Nearby boulangeries (bakeries) include Besnier. For traditional French fare, book a table at Paris' oldest and still excellent restaurant, À la Petite Chaise. For something a bit livelier, try Chez L'Ami Jean. How to get there Metro Varenne (line 13), right next door, or Invalides (line 8 or 13), 10 minutes' away on foot. RER Invalides (line C) then a 10-minute south.
This famous inner-city oasis of formal terraces, chestnut groves and lush lawns has a special place in Parisians' hearts. Why you should go Napoléon dedicated the 23 gracefully laid-out hectares of the Luxembourg Gardens to the children of Paris, and many residents spent their childhood prodding 1920s wooden sailboats with long sticks on the octagonal Grand Bassin pond, watching puppets perform puppet shows at the Théâtre du Luxembourg and riding the carrousel (merry-go-round) or ponies. All those activities are still here today, as are modern playgrounds and sporting and games venues. Dozens of apple varieties grow in the orchards in the gardens’ south, while bees have produced honey in the nearby Rucher du Luxembourg since the 19th century; the two-day Fête du Miel (Honey Festival) takes place in late September. Around the back of the Musée du Luxembourg, lemon and orange trees, palms, grenadiers and oleanders shelter from the cold in the palace’s orangery. History The gardens are a backdrop to the Palais du Luxembourg, built in the 1620s for Marie de Médici, Henri IV’s consort, to assuage her longing for the Pitti Palace in Florence, where she had spent her childhood. Since 1958 the palace has housed the Sénat, the Upper House of French Parliament, which is occasionally visitable by guided tour. East of the palace is the Italianate, 1630-built Fontaine des Médicis, an ornate fish pond. Nearby, the heavily guarded Hôtel du Petit Luxembourg was the modest 16th-century pad where Marie de Médici lived while the Palais du Luxembourg was being built. The president of the Senate has called it home since 1825. Sit in the famous green chairs in the Jardin du Luxembourg © Kiev.Victor / Shutterstock Opening hours and other practicalities If you’re planning on picnicking, forget bringing a blanket – the elegantly manicured lawns are off limits apart from a small wedge on the southern boundary. Instead, do as Parisians do, and corral one of the iconic 1923-designed green metal chairs and find your own favourite part of the park. Entry to the park is free, but there is a price to enter the Musée du Luxembourg, which hosts prestigious temporary art exhibitions. Opening hours vary greatly throughout the year; seasonal entry times are posted at entrance gates.
Elegant and regal in equal measure, the massive neoclassical dome of the Left Bank's iconic Panthéon is an icon of the Parisian skyline. Louis XV originally commissioned the vast architectural masterpiece around 1750 as an abbey dedicated to Ste Geneviève in thanksgiving for his recovery from an illness. Due to financial and structural problems, it wasn’t completed until 1789. In 1791, the abbey was converted into a mausoleum for some of France’s most illustrious citizens, modeled after the Pantheon in Rome. Foucault's pendulum hangs beneath the central dome of the Panthéon © Samantha Ohlsen / Alamy Stock Photo A copy of Foucault's pendulum, first hung from the dome in 1851 to demonstrate the rotation of the earth, takes pride of place. Until the Eiffel Tower was completed in 1889, the Panthéon was the highest building in Paris. Who is buried in the Panthéon? It has served since 1791 as the resting place of some of France’s greatest thinkers, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Louis Braille and Victor Hugo. The first woman to be interred in the Panthéon based on achievement was two-time Nobel Prize–winner Marie Curie (1867–1934), reburied here, along with her husband, Pierre, in 1995. Also interred here are Resistance fighters Pierre Brossolette and Jean Zay, as well as the symbolic interments of Resistance fighters Germaine Tillion and Geneviève de Gaulle-Anthonioz, with soil from their graves. In July 2018, Auschwitz survivor, feminist icon and human rights activist Simone Veil became the fifth woman to be interred in the Panthéon. A permanent exhibition provides context on the lives and works of those interred there. Tickets and other practicalities It is €11.50 for an independent tour, or €9 for a group tour. Its colonnaded dome, accessible via 206 steps, is open to visitors (an additional €3) between April and October–predictably, the city panorama is swooningly good. Take a 1½-hour DIY guided tour of the mausoleum with the excellent audioguide (€3), available at the entrance.
Musée d’Orsay may not be quite as famous as the Louvre— though it’s located a mere 10-minute walk away—but this Left Bank museum holds its own in its collection of artistic wonders. The museum is famous for holding the world’s largest collection of impressionist and postimpressionist art. Why you should go Richly coloured walls at the Musée d’Orsay make its impressionist and postimpressionist canvases by masters including Renoir, Gauguin, Cézanne and Degas appear as if they’re hung in an intimate home. Completed at the turn of the 20th century, the Gare d'Orsay – the grand former railway station in which the museum is located – is an exemplar of art nouveau architecture, but the star of the show is France’s treasured national collection of masterpieces from 1848 to 1914. Allow ample time to swoon over masterpieces by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Degas, Pissarro and Van Gogh. There are also some magnificent decorative arts, graphic arts and sculptures. Opening hours and other practicalities The museum is open 9.30am to 7pm Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday to Sunday. It opens from 9.30am to 8.45pm on Thursday. A full rate ticket is €16. Save time by pre-purchasing tickets online and head to entrance C. Combined tickets with the Musée de l’Orangerie (€18) and with the Musée Rodin (€21) are valid for a single visit to the museums within three months. An audioguide costs €5. Concerts, films, performances and cafe readings take place regularly; check the website for schedules.
Opened in 1804, Père Lachaise is the world's most visited cemetery. Its 70,000 ornate tombs of the rich and famous form a verdant, 44-hectare sculpture garden. Highlights include those of 1960s rock star Jim Morrison (division 6) and Oscarbato Wilde (division 89). Pick up a cemetery map (or download digitally using a QR code) at the conservation office near the bd de Ménilmontant and rue du Repos entrances. Other notables include composer Chopin; playwright Molière; poet Apollinaire; writers Proust, Gertrude Stein and Colette; actors Simone Signoret, Sarah Bernhardt and Yves Montand; painters Pissarro, Modigliani and Delacroix; chanteuse Édith Piaf; and dancer Isadora Duncan. Of interest, more for the tale than the tomb, is the Mur des Fédérés or Communards' Wall. On 27 May 1871, the last of the Communard insurgents, cornered by government forces, fought a hopeless, all-night battle among the tombstones. In the morning, the 147 survivors were lined up against this completely ordinary, plain brick wall, shot, and buried where they fell in a mass grave. Commemorative memorials to those who've died during almost every other war in modern history lie opposite to form an emotive alleyway – it is impossible not to be moved. Approaching the cemetery along bd de Ménilmontant, it's difficult to miss – or not be moved by – the city's most recent Monument aux Morts Parisiens de la Première Guerre Mondiale, unveiled on the cemetery's outside western wall on 11 November 2018, the centenary of the armistice marking the end of WWI. The imposing, 280m-long, black metal panel – engraved with the names of the 94,415 known Parisians killed in combat and another 8000 missing – runs the entire length of the boulevard.
Begun in 1875 in the wake of the Franco-Prussian War and the chaos of the Paris Commune, Sacré-Cœur is a symbol of the former struggle between the conservative Catholic old guard and the secular, republican radicals. It was finally consecrated in 1919, standing in contrast to the bohemian lifestyle that surrounded it. The view over Paris from its parvis is breathtaking. Avoid walking up the steep hill by using a regular metro ticket aboard the funicular to the upper station. Some 300 spiralling steps lead you to the basilica’s dome, which affords one of Paris’ most spectacular panoramas – it's said you can see up to 30km on a clear day. Weighing in at 19 tonnes, the bell called La Savoyarde in the tower above is the largest in France. The chapel-lined crypt is closed indefinitely to the public. On Sundays, you can catch the organ being played during Mass and Vespers. Visiting Sacré-Cœur is a veritable experience, from the musicians performing on the steps to the groups picnickers on the hillside park. Watch out for touts and pickpockets, however, who often work the crowds.
Flanked by the 500m-long Esplanade des Invalides lawns, Hôtel des Invalides was built in the 1670s by Louis XIV to house 4000 invalides (disabled war veterans). On 14 July 1789, a mob broke into the building and seized 32,000 rifles before heading on to the prison at Bastille and the start of the French Revolution. Admission includes entry to all Hôtel des Invalides sights (temporary exhibitions cost extra). Hours for individual sites can vary – check the website for updates. In the Cour d’Honneur, the nation’s largest collection on the history of the French military is displayed at the Musée de l'Armée. South is Église St-Louis des Invalides, once used by soldiers, and Église du Dôme, with a dazzling golden dome (1677–1735). Scale models of towns and châteaux across France fill the Musée des Plans-Reliefs. Atmospheric classical concerts (ranging from €5 to €30) take place regularly here year-round.
One of Paris’ most treasured art collections is showcased inside the mid-17th-century Hôtel Salé, an exquisite private mansion owned by the city since 1964. The Musée National Picasso is a staggering art museum devoted to Spanish artist Pablo Picasso (1881–1973), who spent much of his life living and working in Paris. The collection includes more than 5000 drawings, engravings, paintings, ceramic works and sculptures by the grand maître (great master), although they're not all displayed at the same time. The extraordinary cache of works was donated to the French government by the artist’s heirs in lieu of paying inheritance taxes. In addition to the permanent collection, the museum mounts two major temporary exhibitions a year (included in the admission price). An audioguide costs €5.
This delightful 'village' museum showcases paintings, lithographs and documents illustrating Montmartre's bohemian, artistic and hedonistic past – one room is dedicated entirely to the French cancan. It's housed in a 17th-century manor where several artists, including Renoir and Raoul Dufy, had their studios in the 19th century. You can also visit the studio of painter Suzanne Valadon, who lived and worked here with her son Maurice Utrillo and partner André Utter between 1912 and 1926. Allow ample time to stroll the museum gardens, named after Renoir, who painted his masterpieces Bal du Moulin de la Galette and Jardin de la rue Cortot while working in his studio here from 1875 to 1877. Find the tree strung with a swing to evoke the impressionist painter's famous work La Balançoire, also painted here. Follow the path to the end of the garden for a stunning 'secret' view of the Clos Montmartre vineyards and end your visit with a drink or light bite in the garden's enchanting Café Renoir (daily May to September, Wednesday to Sunday October to April). Museum admission includes an audio guide.
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