Sightseeing in Paris


paris cheat sheet mini
get the full cheat sheet below!
I'm replacing the City Guides with these Cheat Sheets - practical guides about the places to go, what to do and what not to do in different cities in the world and the first one up is Sightseeing in Paris. I hope you enjoy it!
This first cheat sheet covers the main sights in Paris. I'm not saying you have to plan every second of the day, but here are some ideas about what to see, what not to see and how to maximize your time in Paris so that you have all the time necessary to wander and get lost in its beautiful streets.

The Metropolitan
Most of the sights in Paris are within an easily walkable distance. Just to give you an idea: walking from Notre Dame (on the eastern side) to the Arc of Triumph (on the western side) takes just over an hour, as does walking from the Jardins du Luxembourg (south eastern part) to the Sacre Coeur (north western side). So I so very strongly recommend walking as much as possible! However, I do realize that the weather conditions, physical condition, and some distant sights can make walking a little daunting. In those cases, Paris offers great public transportation alternatives. The Metro goes almost everywhere and is very convenient. If you plan to be hitting many spots, opt for the t+ 10-ticket booklet (€13.30) which is very flexible as you can buy a booklet to share amongst as many people as you want (one ticket goes for €1.70). One ticket is valid for 90minutes on metros, buses, RER trains in the city, tramways and the Montmartre funicular - which will take you up to the Sacre Coeur.
If you are keen on going to soak up some culture and plan to visit many museums, consider getting the ParisVisite pass valid for 1,2,3, or 5 days for €10.55, €17.15, €23.40 and €33.70 respectively. It's valid on the same services as the simple t+ tickets as well as on the SNCF trains and the bus connecting to Orly airport, and gives you numerous discounts and benefits - such as cutting lines - at museums around the city.

The BatoBus
The BatoBus will let you enjoy the same sights as the Bateau-Mouche but at a lower cost. The Bateau-Mouche tours are roughly €12.50 for a 70-minute tour allowing you to just pass by the main monuments along the Seine, but the BatoBus offers you an unlimited day-pass for €15 meaning you can hop on and off as you please to see the sights more closely.

The Velib
In an effort to make Paris a greener city, the local government set up the Velib system whereby you can pick up and drop off bikes at various spots around the city. This is the best alternative to walking and the day pass is just €1.70, the first 30 minutes being free!

The Eiffel Tower
The symbol of Paris, the Eiffel tower is a beautiful structure to admire. The best way to access it is walking from Trocadero Station, so that it suddenly surprises you as you get closer. You can enjoy great views of the Tower from the Trocadero as well as the Champ de Mars. However going up the tower is - in my opinion - not a must-do. Threre are fantastic views of Paris with the Eiffel tower in them from other places in the city that don't require as much (or sometimes, any) time or money.

The Sacre Coeur
This beautiful building is perhaps the toughest to get to because of its location at the top of a hill. The easy solution to this is to take the funicular (worth one metro ticket) all the way up and then navigate the stairs on the way down. Sunrise and sunset make the building look absolutely spectacular and give awesome views of the rest of Paris - without even climbing up the Dome. Remember that it is a Basilica and therefore you should make sure to have your knees and shoulders covered.

The Invalides
An awesome complex includes 5 museums about the different aspects of the military. Its huge, golden dome make it a landmark in the Parisian cityscape. Its biggest appeal is the tomb of Napoleon which lies inside. If you are short for time, just enjoy its gardens and imposing architecture from the outside.

The Arc of Triumph
The Arc of Triumph is close to the Eiffel Tower and can also be climbed to get impressive views of the city, and in my opinion, more impressive than from the Eiffel Tower itself. However there is a line to go up, so if you really want to add this to your list of things to do, try to arrive early. 

Notre Dame Cathedral
Access to the Cathedral itself is free and relatively smooth, however, if you want to climb up the towers (again, not a must), try to go on a weekday before 9AM and get in line (to the left of the building - not the general entrance) before the tour buses arrive.

Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier's exterior is spectacular but nothing compared to the interior. It is definitely a must-do, especially if you don't have a chance to make it out to Versailles. However, make sure to ask if the auditorium is open before you buy your ticket!

The Pantheon
Unless you have a particular interest in the prominent figures buried inside, the Pantheon is more impressive from the outside and can be admired in passing, saving you some time for other sights.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery
If you are interested in seeing past legends and key literary and musical figures, I completely recommend the Pere Lachaise Cemetery. It covers a massive area, so don't skimp and buy a map. For the more digitally inclined, there are maps of the cemetery online - get one or get lost. It's also a good idea to get one in advance and plan which tombs you want to visit, otherwise you will spend hours in there... and get flowers before you go in!
Also, the cemetery is on a slope, so get off at Gambetta Station and walk down rather than getting off at Pere Lachaise station and walking up.

St. Germain, Le Marais
The hip and happening area that fed the imaginations of numerous writers, artists and composers. This is where the Bohemian lifestyle was born. It is still a hip and happening place, perhaps a little touristy, with the two iconic cafes: Les Deux Magots and Cafe Flore.

The Moulin Rouge put Pigalle on the map, but it isn't what the movies make it seem and it is one of the more dangerous areas of Paris - in terms of pick-pocketing, scams and fights. I wouldn't say it's a must-see but if anything, dusk would be a good time to go, as the lights will be on but the area will still be quite lively.

To get the summarized version and more info, feel free to download the full cheat sheet below!

Feel free to leave comments about what you loved and learned about Paris!

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