What to Do in Paris: A Complete Guide

Whether you're a first-time visitor to Paris or have been there so many times you can proudly claim it as your second city, figuring out what to do during your stay is rarely an easy task. 

That's why I've put together this complete guide to enjoying all the city of light has to offer, from iconic sights and attractions and day trips, to tasting and touring, nightlife and entertainment, and quirky, offbeat things to do. Click through to see all of my suggestions, or navigate to the topic that interests you most:

1. Most Popular Attractions and Activities: Monuments, Museums, Day Trips, etc.

2. Off the Beaten Track: Unusual and Authentic Things to Do 

3. Exploring and Touring the City: By Theme and Area

4. Shopping on Any Budget: Best Shops,  Boutiques, Gifts 

5. Eating and Tasting: For Gourmets and Foodies

6. Paris After Dark: Where to Go Out for a Nightcap

7. Visiting Paris With Kids: Suggestions for Family Visits

8. Visiting on a Tight Budget: How to Save Euros and Still Enjoy

9. Annual Events and Holidays Not to Miss

Bookmark this comprehensive guide ahead of your next trip, and you'll likely suffer far less from "What to do?"-itus. 

01 of 09

Most Popular Things to Do in the City of Light

The Eiffel Tower: once despised, now embraced as a symbol of modern Paris.
Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images News

There's a very good reason why some sights and monuments in Paris attract millions of people each year: they're simply outstanding examples of architecture, history, or otherwise well worth the time and the crowds, especially on a first visit.

One can't always claim to be original-- nor is it recommended, since seeing "the big stuff" is part and parcel of enjoying a grand, historic metropolis like Paris. So go forth and make these popular sites and attractions your own.

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02 of 09

Off the Beaten Track: Unusual and Locally Authentic Things to Do

Admiring street art in un-touristy neighborhoods like the Butte aux Cailles is highly recommended.
Courtney Traub

Ok, so you've already seen the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre, and taken a boat tour of the Seine. Is that all there is? Of course not: it'll just take a little more digging, and an adventurous spirit, to get to know Paris off the beaten track. 

These resources offer excellent ways in: from offbeat museums and shops to local havens away from the crowds, bookmark these guides to ensure your next trip to Paris is full of the unexpected. 

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03 of 09

Exploring and Touring the City, by Theme and Area

France, Europe, Paris Cityscape Panorama With Eiffel Tower
  spreephoto.de/Getty Images

Readers frequently ask for recommendations on how to "do" Paris: is it best to draw out a detailed itinerary and follow it to the letter, or just walk around and stumble on unexpected beauty?

My answer is always "aim for a happy compromise between those strategies". First-time visitors will likely want to plan more carefully, but should also allow for some adventurous ambling and spontaneity. Long-time visitors may think they know all their is about a particular area or famous attraction, but might want to take a tour or revisit certain places to learn even more. 

Whatever your comfortable balance between adventure and structure, exploring the city just got easier thanks to these detailed, area-specific and thematic guides to Paris. Whether on foot, bus, or boat, open yourself to all the mystery and depth the fantastic metropolis has to offer, and be receptive to the unexpected!

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City Tours by Thematic Interest: 

04 of 09

Shopping on Any Budget: Best Shops, Boutiques, Gifts

Colette is one of the most coveted concept stores in Paris, located on Rue St Honore.
InCase/Some rights reserved under the Creative Commons license.

As a center of the fashion industry and a historic hotbed of creation in all things fashion and design, Paris is obviously a much-coveted destination for shopping.

Whether you're simply in the mood to window-shop or are looking for a specific wardrobe item, vintage piece for your home, or special gift for someone back home, bookmark these fantastic resources to make sure you hit all the right places for shopping in the city. Note: if you're looking for gourmet and food items, click to the next page. 

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05 of 09

Paris for Foodies: Tasting and Gourmet Shopping

Fresh red fruits and berries at the Aligre food market in Paris.
Courtney Traub

If you're anything like me, one of the topics you'll have high in mind when visiting Paris is food. Good food, good wine, and where to find it. Luckily, bookmarking and mining these guides will all but guarantee you'll avoid tourist-trap eateries, bad street food, and home in immediately on gourmet experiences you won't soon forget.

Oh, and you don't need to have a generous budget to enjoy good food in this city: another thing to love!

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06 of 09

Nightlife and Entertainment in the City of Light

The Bellevilloise is a favorite night haunt among locals in the trendy Northeast.
Courtney Traub

Looking for a great Parisian nightcap? Whatever your budget and preferred style (calm, rowdy, classy, edgy, hole-in-the-wall cool), the city has tons to offer. Mine the resources below to make a fantastic and unforgettable night of it. 

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07 of 09

Visiting Paris With Kids: Best Things to See and Do

16feb-jardin-d-acclimatation.jpg
Will Peach

At first glance, parents may be very nervous about trying to bring kids-- especially the youngest ones-- along on a Paris vacation. After all, with its reputation for high art, fancy cuisine, and miles upon miles of prestigious monuments and museums, it doesn't initially strike most as kid-friendly.

Yet behind the snooty-seeming facade, this is a city that in fact offers many fantastic things to do with your youngest of family members. Bookmark these great resources, and never worry again about keeping the kids happy and busy!

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08 of 09

How to Enjoy Paris on a Tight Budget (and Not Suffer)

Paris Plages, an annual operation on the Seine, is entirely free.
Courtney Traub

When you're on a tight budget, the steep prices often on display in restaurants, shops, or bars in Paris can make you feel like you'll never stay in the black as planned. Yet this doesn't have to be the case. Read on for the best-kept secrets on enjoying Paris to the fullest while saving Euros. 

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09 of 09

Not-to-Miss Annual Events and Holiday Attractions in Paris

An ice rink installed on the Champs-Elysees Christmas market.
Sophie Robichon/Mairie de Paris

Finally, irrespective of the date of your planned visit to Paris, there are almost always seasonal events (many free!) on the calendar that'll go a long way in making your visit memorable. Click through these in-depth resources on seasonal events in the city to plan ahead, and not miss out.

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