Paris is a city to make your own. But if you have never been, there are a number of standout sights and experiences that must make your to-do list. Read about them in our first-timers’ guide to Paris.

Where to Stay

Situated in the heart of the historic district of Saint-Germain des Prés, Grand Hotel De L'Univers Paris acts as an ideal base for first-timers to experience the City of Light. The boutique hotel exudes Parisian style  decorated with exposed stone walls and Pierre Frey, Manuel Canovas and Rubelli fabrics  and is located within close walking distance of Paris’s most famous sights.

Stay at the Grand Hotel De L'Univers Paris with a great deal from Agoda.

Where to Eat and Drink

Pastries

Paris and pastries go hand in hand, and there’s no boulangerie (bakery) in Paris more prolific than PAUL. Founded in 1889, PAUL has grown from a small family operation to prominent world-wide franchise. Don’t let the word ‘franchise’ deter you… PAUL serves delicious baked goods in authentically French surrounds.

Bistros

Located in Paris’s 17th arrondissement, Relais de Venise L’Entrecote is an intensely French bistro that has attracted buzz for more than 50 years. Exclusive yet unpretentious, the famous restaurant serves only one dish, steak frite (steak and fries) and salad. The formula is simple: queue; sit; order wine, beer or water; specify rare, medium or well-done meat; eat; pay; and leave.

Snails

At the southern end of Rue Montorgueil  a prominent dining and shopping street in the Chatelet-Les Halles district  L’Escargot has been serving snails for two centuries. An institution in the centre of Paris, the heritage-listed restaurant is renowned for plating up the tender and sweet delicacy, amid genuine Second Empire decor.

A Nightcap

A long-established rendezvous for Paris’s literary, artistic and intellectual elite, Les Deux Magots boasts a world-famous reputation. In bygone eras the historical Saint-Germain des Pres cafe was a favourite haunt of names like Simone de Beauvoir, Hemingway and Picasso. Today it’s a popular tourist hotspot that hosts an annual national literary prize.

Where to Shop

One-stop

With a history that dates back to 1893, Galeries Lafayette is not only one of Paris’s oldest department stores, it’s also the city’s best. Housing everything from kitchen equipment and wines, to four sprawling floors of menswear, the 9th arrondissement megamall is a must-visit one-stop spot for all shopping enthusiasts.

Fashion

Running for almost two kilometres through the 8th arrondissement  from the Obelisk of Luxor of Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe of Place Charles de Gaulle  the Champs-Elysees is one of the world’s most famous shopping streets. The tree-lined avenue is home to luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Hugo Boss and Cartier, as well as lifestyle labels like Adidas, Benetton, Zara, and H&M.

Bric-a-brac

Every weekend, more than 3,000 traders converge in Porte de Clignancourt, to set up shop over Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen’s seven hectares. Considered to be the biggest flea market in the world, the Marche aux Puces de St-Ouen’s open-air streets and covered antiques boutiques attract hundreds of thousands of visitors.

Books

Paris is a city of writers and poets, and consequently book lovers. Booksellers, known as bouquinistes, can be found hawking used and antiquarian books on both banks of the Seinefrom the Pont Marie to the Quai du Louvre on the on the Right Bank, and from the Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank.

What to See and Do

Eiffel Tower

No first trip to Paris can be deemed complete without visiting its most popular attraction, the Eiffel Tower. A Parisian icon, the iron lattice tower soars 324 metres into the air, and can be seen from angles all over the city. By day it guards lush gardens pockmarked with tourists, school children and lovers. By night it showers the city with glittering lights and searching beams. 

Tip: Cut down waiting times, take the stairs to the second floor; where a lift will take you to the summit.

Arc De Triomphe

Standing in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle, at the western end of the Champs-Elysees, the Arc De Triomphe is the linchpin of Paris’s historic axisa sequence of monuments and thoroughfares, on a route that runs from the Louvre to the Grande Arche de la Defense. Setting the tone for the city’s public monuments, and home to the tomb of the Unknown Solider, the Arc De Triomphe is a breathtaking symbol of French honour and pride.

Tip: Climb the 280 steps to the top and be rewarded with sweeping views of Paris.

Musee du Louvre

Learn about the city’s history and culture with a visit to the Musee du Louvre. Once a fortress, the Louvre was transformed into a museum after the French Revolution, and today hosts some of the world’s most acclaimed masterpieces. Home to more than 35,000 artefacts and 6,000 paintings, the most famous of which are the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo (Aphrodite), the Louvre is the most visited museum in the world. 

Tip: Evade long queues, avoid the Pyramide entrance and visit after 5pm.

Centre Georges Pompidou

In a city rich with millennium’s-old history and culture, Centre Georges Pompidou is a shining example of modernism. Situated in the in the Marais district of the 4th arrondissement, the centre is devoted to modern artistic creation. Its high-tech architecture houses the vast public library of the BPI, Europe’s largest museum for modern art, the Musee National d'Art Moderne and the IRCAM institute for music, sound and the avant garde. 

Tip: Visit the centre’s upper levels, to experience some of the best panoramic views of Paris.

Montmartre

Located in the north of Paris, in the 18th arrondissement, Montmartre has long been known as the city’s premier artist's enclave. Names like Picasso, Dalí, Van Gogh, Renoir, Toulouse-Lautrec and Matisse have all lived and found inspiration in the area. Today, Montmartre is home to a bustling streetscape, a buzzing nightlife, and the Basilica du Sacre-Coeur; and offers an exciting example of bohemian Paris.

Tip: Walk down the hill to Paris’s red-light district, Pigalle, to visit the famous Moulin Rouge.

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

As morbid as it may seem, Paris’s biggest cemetery, Pere Lachaise Cemetery, is also one of the city’s most popular tourist attractions. Boasting rolling hills, rows of trees, winding paths and elaborate catacombs, Pere Lachaise is considered one of the world’s most hauntingly beautiful places of rest. Names like Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust are all buried in the cemetery and draw huge crowds and fan tributes.

Tip: Enter from the Porte Gambetta entranceit's the closest to Oscar Wilde’s grave, and will allow you to experience the cemetery on a leisurely downhill walk.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Commanding a small island in the middle of the Seine for more than 850 years, the Notre Dame is a standout Parisian attraction. Considered the epitome of the French Gothic architecture, and one of the most well-known churches, the cathedral is famous for its gargoyles, lush public gardens, 600-piece collection art, and as the subject of Victor Hugo-novel-turned-Disney-movie, The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.

Tip: Unless you want to attend mass, avoid visiting the Notre Dame on Sunday morning.

Paris at Night

If you haven’t already fallen in love with Paris by day, Paris at night will romance and wow you. Landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, Louvre Museum, Pont Neuf and Notre Dame Cathedral are lit up for all to see, illuminating the city with a magical appeal.

Tip: Take in the magnificence of the Left and Right Banks from aboard a Seine boat cruise. Or join a bus tour and drive the boulevards, discovering the city Hemingway called a “movable feast”. For a less touristy experience, hire a taxi and plot your own Parisian night tour.

How to Get There

  • Together with partner airline, Etihad Airways, Virgin Australia operates flights to Paris, via Abu Dhabi, from Sydney and Melbourne.