15 unforgettable Paris moments for first-time visitors

15 unforgettable Paris moments for first-time visitors!

Paris.

The City of Love and the most romantic place on earth. We were lucky enough to spent our third wedding anniversary here early in September, and it was everything I thought it would be and more. For five lovely, enchanting, thrilling days we walked the city streets and soaked up as much Parisian spirit as we possibly could. Paris is the perfect place to spend a holiday, whether you’re in a relationship or traveling solo.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed when planning your first trip to Paris. The city is huge and has a lot of hidden gems to discover. To help combat that I’ve put together a list of moments that made our trip absolutely perfect. You might not be able to do all of them, but I think they’re a good starting place. I’d love to hear your favorite memories from Paris if you’ve already been. I’m already collecting ideas for our next trip!

Watch the Tour Eiffel start to twinkle as night falls.

Have you ever imagined an experience only to have it be much more magical when it comes true? That’s how I felt when we brought some macarons to the Eiffel Tower and watched it light up one evening.

Paris - The lights coming on at dusk
The lights have started to come on at dusk!
Paris - Eiffel Tower at night
The Eiffel Tower is gorgeous in any light, but it’s especially magical at twilight.

A major bonus to the evening was the free light show (one of the only free shows you’ll get in Paris, according to a friend) that happens every hour, on the hour, from 9PM from 1AM. Watching her twinkle in the evening was definitely a life moment.

Paris - Eiffel Tower Twinkles
Look at her sparkle!

Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France, 75007 Paris, France

See the Mona Lisa in person for the first time.

Paris - Mona Lisa
Seeing the Mona Lisa in person for the first time.

Fair warning: the Mona Lisa is a bit underwhelming to most people who go and see her. However we were warned by a friend that we would potentially leave feeling dissatisfied, so going into the Louvre we were prepared.

Even though it was much, much smaller than I had thought it would be, I still loved seeing it. It was easy to let myself get caught up in the fact that I was seeing a Da Vinci masterpiece – he painted it with his own hands! – and I should enjoy the experience for what it was. Plus I stood off to the side, not allowing myself to be crushed by the mass of tourists hanging out right in front. It felt like it was just me and Mona Lisa, and that was pretty cool.

Paris - The Louvre

Entrance fee is 15€.
Musée du Louvre, 75058 Paris

Feel the love at the new home of the Love Locks.

The Pont des Arts bridge was famous with lovers. It was a tradition to take a padlock, lock it to the bridge, and throw the key into the Seine. It symbolized the love you and your partner had, which would never be broken.  Sadly, the original love lock bridge is no more. Roughly one million locks were removed due to structural issues; part of the bridge collapsed in 2014. 

But have no fear, there is a new places for your love lock, and we managed to find it! It’s located next to the Pont Neuf. There is a little area before the bridge spans the water that is not lined with the locks, keeping the bridge safe and everyone’s love alive.

Paris - Love Locks

Paris - a close up of Love Locks

75001 Paris, France

Watch the sunset at the Sacré-Cœur.

On our first night in Paris, we grabbed dinner in Montmarte and found ourselves stumbling up to the Sacré-Cœur with full bellies. We sat on the steps to digest for a bit, but ended up staying through sunset because all of Paris was before us and it was gorgeous.

Paris - Sacré-Cœur
The Sacré-Cœur glowing in the sunset.
Paris - View from Sacré-Cœur
The view from the Sacré-Cœur was incredible. Paris is beautiful!

Paris is such a pretty city, and it’s easy to see why in the magical glow of sunset. Take the time to get to the top of the hill, watch the sunset and enjoy street performers. You won’t regret it!

35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France

See the Moulin Rouge all lit up.

OK, so this isn’t exactly up there in my BEST MOMENTS EVER file. But it was still cool to see a different part of Paris.

The Moulin Rouge is in an area of town that is a bit darker, a bit sexier. There are many sex shops and some interesting characters in this area which added a certain ambiance. I did grab my purse a wee bit tighter, but at no point did I feel unsafe. It was far from the touristy center of the Eiffel Tower and felt a bit grittier and a bit more raw.

Paris - The Moulin Rouge
The Moulin Rouge in Paris.

82 Boulevard de Clichy, 75018 Paris, France

Fall in love with Sainte Chapelle.

I don’t think words are really necessary here. I had heard from a fellow blogger that we should add Saint Chapelle to our list of places to check out, but she didn’t give me any information as to why we should go. In fact, she told me I would understand as soon as we got there, we just had to make sure it happened.

When I walked up the staircase into the chapel, I was struck speechless. You will be too when you get to visit.

Paris - from the back of Sainte Chapelle
Photos don’t really do the Sainte Chapelle justice.
Paris - Sainte Chapelle window
These windows are amazing when the sun is shining.

Entrance fee is 10€
8 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France

Enjoy a picnic along the Canal Saint-Martin.

Paris - Canal St. Martin
The Canal St. Martin was a really nice spot to sit and enjoy for a few hours.

We chose to picnic on pizza from Pink Flamingo, which I highly recommend, but you don’t have to order food to enjoy Saint-Martin. Grab a baguette and some cheese, maybe a bottle of wine and sit in the shade with everyone else. We enjoyed ourselves for a couple of hours, watching a few boats go by, people riding their bicycles with bags of goodies and couple walking their dogs. It felt like we were experiencing every day life.

Enjoy a French 75 where it (supposedly) all began.

It’s said that Harry’s New York Bar in Paris was the birthplace of such well-known drinks like the Bloody Mary, Side Car and the French 75. We went to Harry’s specifically to stand at the bar and drink a French 75 and we were not disappointed.

With decor that is romantically Americana, this bar is definitely a treasure. After walking through saloon doors, you’re surrounded by vintage college pendants. Sit by the bar and enjoy watching the lab coat wearing bartenders mix drinks, an experience you won’t soon forget.

French 75's - Harry's New York
French 75’s at Harry’s New York.

5 Rue Daunou, 75002 Paris, France

Let yourself feel small by the Arc de Triomphe.

The Arc de Triomphe is huge. Twelve different lanes of traffic converge here, which means traffic is insane. There are so many cars driving around this monument! It’s easy to find yourself getting swept away with the energy here and just be amazed. I know I was. Just be really, really, really careful when crossing any of the streets that surround the monument!

Paris - Arc du Triomphe

You can actually go to the top of the monument for a small fee. Hours vary by time of year. From April 1 to September 30 it is open from 10 a.m.-11 p.m. From October 1 to March 31 the hours are 10 a.m.-10:30 p.m.

Entrance fee for the monument is 8 €.
Place Charles de Gaulle, 75008 Paris, France

Use your French skills to buy lunch at the Rue Cler Market.

Ryan has been practicing his French for months in preparation for this trip. He was very proud of himself when he was able to buy our lunch speaking only in French in the market on Rue Cler. It was also the first time he was able to order everything without resorting to English! Whether your fluent or just learning like us, I think the first time you order something and are understood is a great feeling to have.

The Rue Cler Market is quite close to the Eiffel Tower, which is a perfect backdrop to eat!

Paris Lunch
Our lunch we bought using our French skills!

Entrance is free.
rue Cler, 7th arrondissement

Look out over all of Paris at the Montparnasse Tower.

We were told by a friend that Parisians hate the Montparnasse Tower. They hate it so much, building skyscrapers in the city was banned after it was built. But some of the best views of the city can be found from the top of this 210 meter high tower. Mostly because you can view the city without the Montparnasse Tower in your sights!

Paris - Louvre from the Montparnasse Tower
I didn’t realize just how huge the Louvre was until we saw it from on top of Montparnasse Tower!
Paris - Eiffel Tower from the Montparnasse Tower
A view of the Eiffel Tower from the Montparnasse Tower.

Entrance fee is 15€.
33 Avenue du Maine, 75015 Paris, France

Find some hidden gems in the Passage du Grand Cerf.

Paris - Baubles in the Passage du Grand Cerf
I loved walking through the Passage du Grand Cerf in Paris.

The Grand Cerf is a covered arcade found between the 2nd and 3rd. We walked through this brightly lit shopping alley, enjoying the sun shining down through the roof and window shopping. There is a really great vintage thrift shop or two here, which were my favorite parts. We managed to snag some beautiful drawer pulls as a unique souvenir!

Entrance is free.
8 Passage du Grand Cerf, 75002 Paris, France

Pay your respects at Père Lachaise Cemetery.

The Père Lachaise Cemetery was founded in 1804 and covers a total of 48 hectares. The tree-lined paths are large and sweeping, which kind of make it feel more like a park than a cemetery. We specifically went to see Jim Morrison’s grave (I love the Doors) and had an added bonus of finding Oscar Wilde’s grave as well.

Paris - Jim Morrison grave
Jim Morrison’s grave.
Paris - Oscar Wilde grave
The grave of Oscar Wilde. There were a few notes and flowers left for the author when we visited.

We ended up walking through Père Lachaise Cemetery for a couple of hours, partly because we got lost and partly because it was surprisingly peaceful. It didn’t feel morbid, which I was worried about, and it also didn’t kill the anniversary buzz. It was nice to pay respects to people who lived and loved in Paris before we ever stepped foot in the city.

Entrance is free.
16 Rue du Repos, 75020 Paris, France

Find a shady spot in Luxembourg Gardens for a break.

We spent our last morning in Paris relaxing and reading in the Jardin du Luxembourg, 25 hectares of green space in the city. Created in 1612, these gardens today are a beautiful spot for some peace and quiet. The gardens are actually split into two different spaces, a French garden and an English garden. Sitting between the two are a pond and forest, perfect spots to find either sun or shade to sit in.

We were far from the only people enjoying these gorgeous gardens; there were plenty of people relaxing, some were playing tennis and we even saw an elderly couple playing chess.

Paris - Luxembourg Palace
The gorgeous Luxembourg Palace.
Paris - Pathway in the Luxembourg Gardens
A shaded pathway we sat next to in the Luxembourg Gardens.

Entrance is free.
Rue de Médicis – Rue de Vaugirard – 75006 Paris

Wait in line at the Notre Dame de Paris. It’s worth it.

The first time we saw the Cathedrale Notre Dame, the line was outrageously long. The next day we went back, it seemed like it was even longer. But we filled our water bottles at one of the city’s many public fountains and waited in line to get inside. We were pleasantly surprised to find ourselves inside the Notre Dame within ten minutes, even though we started at the back of the complex. And it was so, so worth it. They have great exhibits inside, but truthfully what I loved the most was the feeling of peace and tranquility that I left with.

Outside of Notre Dame - Paris
The Notre Dame de Paris is gorgeous both inside and out.
Inside Notre Dame de Paris
It’s easy to feel small within the walls of the Notre Dame.

You can climb to the top of the Notre Dame, all 422 stairs, for a 10€. Services are held every day, multiple times a day.

The Notre Dame de Paris is open every day from 8:00 am to 6:45PM. Entrance to the cathedral is free.
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris, France


Truthfully, I wish we would have had more time in Paris. But that’s the beauty of travel, isn’t it? It whets your appetite to see more; more of the places you’ve already been to and more places you have yet to reach.

We’re in Split, Croatia right now! We enjoyed a week in Dubrovnik which was nice, if not a bit too long. There was plenty of sun and swimming though, which was a great way to start our October! We got to Split on Monday and already feel like we’re more at home and comfortable in this city.

Are you excited for fall? What are you plans for the coming months?

Suz

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30 Comments

  1. Paris is one of the most beautiful cities in the world and there is so much to see and do. I am sure the first time visitor would be overwhelmed. It happened to me too, but I left spellbound and vowing to myself to go back again and again.

  2. Paris ‘s my dream. This place so so so romantic and unbelievable with the light of city. And Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies. Your post look amazing.

    1. Thanks for visiting, Galia! Moulin Rouge is one of my favorite movies, also! The city was so incredible, I wish we could have stayed longer.

  3. it’s been my mama’s dream for as long as I can remember to visit paris…recently she has become afraid because of all that is going on there…but I really hope we make it some day. Looks amazing.

    1. I hope you make it to Paris, Shannon! Truthfully my parents were a little scared when we told them our plans. But we actually felt safer in Paris than we did in other European cities in the world.

  4. Having lived in Paris for about 3 years, it made me so happy to read your post. It really should be for all visitors to Paris, regardless of first time or not. I was just in Paris two weeks ago and spent a lovely time at Canal St. Matin, even though I had been there countless times before. There is nothing like taking in the Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe. These are incredible moments that should be cherished by visitors and locals alike.

    1. Thank you for such a wonderful, thoughtful comment! I think our trip to Paris will live in my memory as one of the best trips I’ve ever taken. It was so charming and dreamy… I get weepy happy thinking about it.

  5. I’m actually thinking of adding Paris to my quick trip to the UK this November – so this is perfect! I’m a little nervous though, as I don’t speak any French. I love that you highlighted both super popular and maybe some unique things to do -and adding addresses is genius!!!

    1. Hi Katie! To be honest, almost every time we tried to use French we were kindly answered in English. Everyone we met really appreciated that we knew a bit, but I think as long as you try they won’t be mad! I hope you do get to add it to your trip to the UK!

  6. I have been to Paris a few times, but never as an adult and I reeeeeally want to go back!! Thanks for the wanderlust-inducing list 🙂

  7. I’ve been to Paris a fair few times and feel it’s lost its charm a little – but this post has made me think twice about that! The Eiffel Tower by night is always a highlight. Good on you for learning some of the language too! That view from the Sacre Coeur at sunset is stunning. Enjoy Croatia! 🙂

  8. My parents went there and loved the Eiffel Tower and walking the wide streets. They skipped the Mona Lisa as there hundreds of people there. I would too. But this is a great list for someone going to Paris for the first time.

    1. Thanks, Shayan! There were a ton of people at the Mona Lisa, but I’m glad I did it. The Eiffel Tower was definitely my favorite part though.

  9. Paris is on my list, but I’ve never heard about some of the places you’ve mentioned. Glad I’m seeing them now though! The lovers’ bridge was always there, & now I want to add the Chapelle💕

  10. Hi! Being Parisian myself I really enjoyed your post and the fact that you loved it! You seemed to have had nice weather looking at your pictures! Paris can be rough for tourists and people are getting more afraid of coming because of everything that happened lately (which is a shame ;)) I manage to see touristic stuff (which are much do’s ! :D) but also some less known places so that was really well done! Thanks for this post!

    1. Hi Helene! Thank you for your kind words. We had beautiful weather for our trip, only one afternoon of rain. My parents were actually quite afraid of us going to Paris, but we honestly felt safer there than in other European cities we’ve visited.

  11. This is a great guide to some of the best sites in Paris. I have been to Paris a few times but not done all of these yet. I would love to try a French 75, see the Moulin Rouge all lit up and see the Mona Lisa. I will have to go back!

  12. I’ve never been to Paris and this is a great list of places I’m definitely going to check out when I do get chance to go 🙂 absolutely love your photos of Sainte Chapelle, what a beautiful building! Can’t wait to see it in real life one day 🙂

    1. Hi Zoe! Thanks for visiting! Paris is amazing, I bet you’ll love it! The Sainte Chapelle is one of my favorite buildings in Europe 🙂

  13. This is a great mix of very traditional first-time attractions and some more unique picks. It always surprises me when I hear people talk about how “small” the Mona Lisa is, though. I didn’t find her size abnormal for a portrait – she just doesn’t take up an entire wall, is all.

    1. I think the problem might be with how enormous most of the other paintings seem when you’re walking through to Louvre. They really are larger than life! You’re right, it’s a very reasonable size for a portrait, but I’m sure many people make it rather huge in their heads (myself included, until I was warned).

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