Things to do in Paris : First time in the city of lights

We have planned a 4-day trip to Paris to help you explore the city, especially if it’s your first time visiting. Our guide features the main things to do in Paris, as tasting the best food, visiting the main sights, but also Parisian tips. This will help you feel like a local and fully experience the French atmosphere!

For your first time visiting Paris, you will want to make sure that your day starts with a classic French breakfast at a quaint café. Here is our advice to have the ultimate Parisian experience:

  • We recommend finding a café located in the backstreets of Paris, rather than those near the tourist hotspots, as they are likely to be crowded and hectic.
  • When looking for the perfect café, make sure to keep an eye out for one with a charming terrace where you can see Parisians socializing over coffee, or perhaps enjoying a smoke and gossip with their friends. 
  • Once you find the perfect spot, ask for a café allongé – the French version of American coffee, a crispy baguette with smooth butter and delicious jam, and of course, a warm, buttery croissant. Savor every bite and take your time to fully soak in the Parisian atmosphere.

When you are fueled and ready to go, make sure to explore the stunning city of Paris and everything it has to offer!

Trip to paris

Paris Travel Tips for Day 1: Recommended attractions for first-time visitors to the city.

When it’s your first time visit to Paris,  one of the main things to do is to visit the most famous monuments such as the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre Museum, Notre Dame, Sainte Chapelle… The city has plenty of ways to discover these monuments, depending on how much time you have and what you’re looking for.

  • Walking/Biking along the banks of the River Seine: from Paris City Hall to the Eiffel Tower, you will discover the most picturesque places of Paris and meet many locals running around, having a coffee with a view or just chilling along the River Seine banks.
  • Taking the Bateaux-Mouche or a private boat: visiting Paris as the River flows is probably the best way to get to see all the highlights and get a history lesson at the same time. Quite comfy and quicker than walking around.
  • Metro like the locals: Paris’ subway system is the best alternative to hop on & hop off buses during trip to Paris! No traffic jam, a metro every 2 minutes and all monuments are reachable. Download “Next Stop Paris” app to find your way or read our guide!

Here are some local tricks: If you want to visit the monuments or museums, I suggest that you get your tickets online a few days before your arrival. It’ll save you plenty of time at the ticket office. Also, some monuments have time slots, so you’ll avoid the long lines.

A few top tips: watch your pockets in the metro and in touristic areas (pickpockets often target tourists), the Louvre Museum is closed on Tuesday, climb the Eiffel tower one hour before sunset, and take the audio guide at the Opera.

walking in paris
Visit paris guided

For lunch, eat some excellent French food – but not snails or onion soup clichés!
Here are some dishes we advise for a first time visit to Paris : boeuf tartare (spiced raw beef), croque monsieur (French grilled cheese), sauté de veau (veal), or boeuf bourguignon (slow dish with sauce). You can also get jambon-beurre (bread, butter and ham) at a bakery.

Paris Day 2 Travel Tips: Visit the most charming districts of the city.

Paris has many charming areas to walk around! You can go on your own, wandering and taking your time, or the best way to visit and understand the city’s history is to book a private walking tour. Here are our favorites:

  • Montmartre is the top hill village that welcomed many artists and is a significant part of the history of Paris. From Picasso to the Paris revolutionaries, not forgetting the cancan dancers, Montmartre has lived many lives. Its story is so interesting that I recommend taking a walking tour. During your exploration, you will probably discover the Sacré-Coeur (climb to the top, the view is worth it), the Maison Rose (pink house), the last vineyard of the city, and meet many artists who can sketch your portrait. Montmartre has a special atmosphere that only locals can explain!
  • The Marais district is also an area where walking around is amazing. This area is divided into various neighborhoods, each with an incredible identity. You can enter the Marais via various points like Saint Paul, Hotel de Ville, Rambuteau or Arts et Métiers metro stations. I suggest walking around la Place des Vosges, having an aperitif at Les Enfants Rouges Food Market, spotting some incredible mansions, eating a falafel in the Jewish quarter, and shopping at Rue des Francs Bourgeois. There are so many things to do in this district that you’ll have to end your day by having a drink in the gay quarter, where the atmosphere is crazy and fun!
  • The Latin Quarter is the birthplace of the university in Europe. It is now the heart of student life and the site of France’s most prestigious high schools and universities. It is the oldest and most preserved area of Paris, where you can stumble upon ruins of Ancient Paris dating back to the 2nd century and remains of the wall protecting the city in 1190.
montmartre paris france

Day 3 in Paris: Skip the bustling city and explore the nearby areas.

Paris is quite central in France, and from here, it’s straightforward to reach other French regions, even for a day. Here are some recommendations to spend a day away from the city:

  • The Chateau de Versailles is one of the best day trips out of the city. For a first-time visit to Paris, it’s a must-see. Not far from Paris, you can either go on your own by train or book a private day tour with a guide. Visit the castle, the gardens, even Marie Antoinette’s farm, and if you have time, you can even start the day with the Notre Dame food market (open Tuesdays to Sundays), where you can grab plenty of things for a picnic.
  • Normandy is also a good option. There are two ways to visit it. The first is to follow the Impressionist painters, stopping by Giverny and Monet’s house and the easily walkable medieval city of Rouen. The second option is to head to the D-Day beaches, a little further.
  • The Champagne region is also not too far away from Paris (about 1.5 hours by driving). The countryside is beautiful, and it’s a great opportunity to discover what type of bubbly is your favorite! Pinot noir, Chardonnay, or Meunier, they all taste different. The landscape and the famous cellars are quite amazing too!

You can also reach other cities by train, such as Bordeaux, Lyon, Beaune (Burgundy), or Nice, but we suggest taking two or three days to fully enjoy these places. You’ll find so many things to do there! If you want more information on what to do in those areas, don’t hesitate to contact us!

versaille paris
day trip normandy

Day 4 in Paris: Visit the best shopping addresses

You can’t plan a trip to Paris without doing some shopping! You can enjoy some small shops in the covered passages but also make sure to go to the famous department stores!
  • Galeries Lafayettes and Printemps on boulevard Haussman are probably the most famous ones. In the Galeries Lafayette, you will enjoy shopping in an incredible building, with an incredible Art Nouveau Dome. They both have rooftops so you can enjoy the beautiful Parisian skyline view.
  • Bon Marché, in the 6th arrondissement: this one is where you go to find new fashion designer brands and get your own style!
  • Samaritaine, in the 2nd arrondissement, just It’s the place where you’ll find luxury items and clothes.
You can also go to the famous fashion streets. You will find the most famous luxury brands around rue Saint Honoré, Village Royale and the Champs Elysée. If you absolutely want to buy something at Chanel, Dior, Louboutin for example, I suggest that you book an appointment with them, if you want to take your time, avoid lines and find the perfect French luxury goods to buy. For secondhand items, you will find plenty of shops around the city, but the finest items and antiques are at the flea Market in Saint Ouen (only open during weekends). Reach this place via Garibaldi Metro Station (avoid Porte de Clignancourt), or taxi. For those who are not into shopping, here are some ideas to enjoy your free day:
  • Going to Disneyland Paris Find the best desserts and pastries around the City: French toast, crème brûlée & profiterole at the restaurants, and go to Sebastien Godard pastry shop for the famous French pastries.
  • Walk around lesser known Parisian districts like Canal Saint Martin, Belleville, Batignolles or visit some Parks like Buttes Chaumont, or Vincennes.

I hope this will help you to organize your next trip to Paris, if you need help don’t hesitate to ask, I will be glad to help you around!

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