First Time in Paris Guide for Art Lovers was first published on Culture Tourist on 22 January 2019 and updated on 8 March 2024.

Paris is the city I could visit a few times per year and never get bored with it. I used to live three hours by train from Paris, so I was there quite often. However, I still visit it frequently. After visiting it on a school trip, with friends, as a couple and on a solo trip, I’ve become a first-time-in-Paris expert among my friends.

First Time in Paris Guide for Art Lovers

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To help you plan your perfect first visit to Paris, I created this first time in Paris guide for art lovers. Here, you’ll find a list of sites you should visit, the best museums, French food and souvenirs to look for, and some other valuable tips for your trip to the French capital.

Read more: My yearly pilgrimage to Paris 

A short history of Paris

Paris is filled with history, art and culture. The city was first inhabited in the 3rd century BC and became a Roman town later. During the Middle Ages, Merovignians and Franks were ruling it, before it finally became the French capital in the 12th century. During that time, the construction of one of its most famous buildings, the Notre Dame Cathedral, started.

Louis XIV lived during the 17th century and was one of the most famous French kings. However, he actually moved his court from Paris to a nearby Versailles. Paris became a centre of the French Revolution in 1789, with a crowd storming to the Bastille, the symbol of the Royal authority. It was destroyed during the Revolution, and today, you can only see a square in Paris where it once stood.

Napoleon Bonaparte, who ruled France between 1799 and 1815, erected many buildings in Paris. Arc de Triomphe, Pere Lachaise Cemetery and the city’s first metal bridge, Pont des Arts, are the most famous among them.

TIP: An impressive Napoleon’s tomb remains at the Les Invalides Church, next to the Army Museum. 

Napoleon III and his newly appointed prefect of the Seine, G.-E. Haussmann, rebuilt the city centre between 1853 and 1870. Within one of the most impressive urban projects ever done, they’ve built wide boulevards and created buildings with typical façades of the same height, design, and colour.

Paris became one of the world’s most important art centres during that time. Its captivating bohemian lifestyle attracted artists many of whom moved to Paris. An Impressionism, one of the first modern art styles, developed during that time.

Read more: Impressionists in Paris

In 1889 and 1900, two important international exhibitions were organised in Paris. Some famous buildings were built for them, like the Eiffel Tower, Pont Alexandre III, the Grand Palais, the Petit Palais and the first Paris metro line.

In the first half of the 20th century, Paris again became the magnet for many artists. Pablo Picasso, Amadeo Modigliani, Henri Matisse, Marcel Proust, Ernest Hemingway, Igor Strawinsky, James Joyce, Josephine Baker and Salvador Dali are just some that lived in Paris during that time.

During the First World War, the city was on the front line and often bombed, while during the Second World War, it was occupied by the Nazis. However, in the second half of the 20th century, it developed into one of the most important European capitals.

Read more: Modern architecture in Paris

Start your visit with a Paris Walking Tour

A great way to get a feeling of a city and an excellent introduction to its neighbourhoods and history is by taking a walking tour. You’ll get to know the city better, hear about the lifestyle of its locals and the best places to visit during the walking tour.

Numerous walking tours are organised in Paris daily and I’m sure you’ll find some focusing on the theme that will interest you. Check out this link for the selection of walking tour in Paris you can join.

Read more: My travel diary – Three days in Paris

What to see during your first visit to Paris

Paris is one of the most popular travel destinations worldwide, with millions visiting annually. That’s why it’s good to plan your visit well. My advise is to pick one or two sites to visit within a day. And spend the rest of it by just strolling its cobbled streets, next to the Seine River or by exploring some of charming Paris’ neighbourhoods.

TIP: One of my top tips for visiting Paris is to book entrance tickets for places you want to see in advance. I’ve included links to them next to the sites I mentioned.

1 – Eiffel Tower

Address: Champ de Mars, 5 Avenue Anatole France
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

One of the most iconic symbols of Paris is the Eiffel Tower. Built in 1889 and initially seen as an ugly metal construction by the Parisians, it soon became the city symbol. I love seeing it from different parts of the city. The best view of the Eiffel Tower is from Trocadero on the other side of the Seine River. If you want to visit it, book your ticket online and avoid queueing for hours.

2 – Notre Dame Cathedral

Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II
Entrance tickets: Entrance to the Cathedral is free of charge. However, you can buy tickets to visit the towers or the crypt at the entrance.

One of my favourite buildings in Paris is a masterpiece of French Gothic architecture, the Notre Dame Cathedral. I love walking around its beautiful gardens and taking a closer look at its flying buttresses, gargoyles and other details.

The Cathedral was severely damaged in the 2019 fire. It’s under reconstruction now, so you can see it from the outside only. An interesting exhibition about its history and current reconstruction is displayed on panels around it. So, be sure to visit it!

TIP: Would you like to learn more about it during your visit to Paris? Check out this Notre Dame Cathedral virtual reality experience.

3 – Arc de Triomphe

Address: Place Charles de Gaulle
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

Located at the end of one of the most famous streets in Paris, Champs-Elysees, Arc de Triomphe was built by Napoleon. It honoured soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Climb to its top level because you’ll find a small exhibition about Napoleon there.

TIP: Arc de Triomphe offers one of the best views of Paris and the Eiffel Tower.

4 – Sainte Chapelle

Address: 8 Boulevard du Palais
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

Sainte Chapelle is another beautiful place to admire the French Gothic style. It’s a royal chapel within Palais de la Cite that used to be a residence of French kings. It’s world-famous for its large stained glass windows and a place you should visit during your first trip to Paris.

5 – The Louvre Palace

Address: Rue de Rivoli

One of the most famous museums in the world is located in the old palace of the French kings (their court was there before it was moved to Versailles by Louis XIV). Since it was built over a long period, you can see different styles on it. However, it is a fantastic building, and walking around its courtyards while discovering busts of famous French people on its façades is something you shouldn’t miss when in Paris for the first time.

Read more: A trip from Paris – Fontainebleau Palace

6 – Sacré-Cœur

Address: 35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre
Entrance tickets: Free entrance

Built at the highest point in Paris, at the Montmartre hill, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur) is the second most visited place in Paris. It’s a relatively new building, finished in 1914. You can combine a visit to it with a walk around the Montmartre neighbourhood.

TIP: One of Paris’s best views is from the Sacré-Cœur Basilica’s entrance. So be sure not to miss it!

Neighbourhoods to visit during your first time in Paris

Saint Germaine des Pres

With its wide boulevards, beautiful residential buildings, and Jardin du Luxembourg, Saint Germaine des Pres is my favourite neighbourhood in Paris. It’s an area with those typical Haussmann’s buildings, many local shops, restaurants and galleries. 

TIP: Being centrally located but still quite residential, I suggest you look for accommodation there. I always stay at a hotel in the Saint Germaine des Pres neighbourhood. Walking to the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Louvre from there is also very easy.


Montmartre is where many artists used to live during the second half of the 19th century. It was a rural area outside the city walls, with cheap rents back then. That’s why it was also attractive to many of those bohemian artists. Many places around the neighbourhood still witness that, from where some artists lived to where they met and bought their art supplies.

It still has that artistic feel today. However, it’s trendy among tourists, so you should stroll at the side streets for a more authentic feeling.

Read more: Locations linked to Vincent van Gogh in Paris


Marais is a charming area that is so different from other Parisian neighbourhoods. You can see how Paris used to look before the massive urban makeover by Haussmann. It’s home to some quite cool restaurants, vintage shops and my favourite, street art.

TIP: Join this Marais Walking Tour to learn more about that fascinating neighbourhood. 

Best museums in Paris

Paris is home to some of the best museums in the world. If you’re only staying in a city for a few days, choosing which ones you would like to visit could be tricky. I advise you not to go somewhere only because it’s a famous museum. Instead, do your research and choose the one with a collection that’s interesting to you.

Read more: The best museums in Paris

Musée du Louvre

Address: Rue de Rivoli
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link 

The most famous museum in the world is definitely a place you should visit at least once in your lifetime. However, it’s also the most visited museum in the world, so plan your visit wisely. If it’s your first time in Paris, I would definitely join some of the organised museum tours (here is the two-hour Louvre Museum Tour I recommend). That way, you’ll see the highlights and get an excellent overview of the museum.

Read more: The Louvre Museum Highlights – What to see at the Louvre Museum

Musée de l’Orangerie

Address: Jardin Tuileries
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

This is one of my favourite museums, not only in Paris but in general. It’s home to two oval rooms in which Monet’s Water Lilies are displayed. It’s such a wonderful experience sitting in the middle of the room, surrounded by those fantastic paintings. They also have a collection of some great Impressionist and Post-Impressionist paintings. It’s a smaller museum, and you can see everything within two hours.

Centre George Pompidou

Address: Place Georges-Pompidou
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

Centre George Pompidou is a museum of contemporary art and a place to go for anyone who likes 20th and 21st-century art. It’s also one of the most important museums of that kind in Europe. My favourite part is its building. So, whenever in Paris, I’m sure to at least pass next to it.

Musée d’Orsay

Address: 1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur
Entrance ticketsBook your online ticket on this link

Another iconic museum in Paris is Musée d’Orsay. Located in a former train station, it’s home to the work of some of the first modern painters. One of the most significant collections of Impressionist paintings is there, together with some famous late 19th-century masterpieces.

Read more: Virtual museum visits: Impressionists at Musée d’Orsay

Musée Picasso

Address: 5 Rue de Thorigny
Entrance tickets: Book your online ticket on this link

This museum is home to one of the largest collections of Picasso’s artwork. It’s a great place to learn about different styles he experimented with, see some of Picasso’s most famous paintings and learn a lot about that fascinating artist.

Read more: What to see in Musée Marmottan – Monet

Parks and promenades you have to visit in Paris

Paris is home to numerous beautiful parks. When tired of the city bustle, go to some of these lovely places, sit on a bench or have a picnic in a park. You’ll see so many Parisians having lunch with friends in parks. So, get some baguette and cheese, and feel like a local for a day.

Jardin du Luxembourg

Closest metro stop: Luxembourg

My favourite park in Paris is Jardin du Luxembourg. Located right in the middle of the Saint Germain du Pres neighbourhood, it’s one of the places I visit each time I’m in Paris. It has a beautiful combination of culture and nature which will transfer you back to history, and you’ll almost expect Maria de’ Medici, who initiated its construction, to pass by. 

Jardin des Tuileries

Closest metro stop: Tuileries

Another park I really like is the centrally located Jardin des Tuileries. It’s a great place to walk between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde. You’ll see numerous metal chairs you can take and put wherever you like in the park, and then just sit, relax and enjoy the view of Paris. The last time I was there was the Tour de France weekend, and we had a perfect race view from the park.

Canal Saint-Martin

Closest metro stop: Republique

Not really a park, but one of the most beautiful Paris promenades is Canal Saint-Martin. It’s a place to go and feel more like a local in Paris. It’s also where some of the scenes from the “Amelie“ movie were shot.

Read more: How to spend a day in Paris like a local

Pere Lachaise Cemetery

Closest metro stop: Pere Lachaise

Pere Lachaise Cemetery is an exceptional place in Paris. It’s an old 19th-century garden cemetery where many famous French people were buried. Some of them are Oscar Wilde, Honore de Balzac, Eugene Delacroix, Edith Piaf and Marcel Proust. Probably the most visited grave is of one of the rare non-French people, Jim Morrison. Beautiful tombs and statues and a feeling like you are walking through history make this place unique.

TIP: If you’d like to learn more about the people buried there and the cemetery’s history, check out the Pere Lachaise Cemetery tour options on this link.

French food to try the first time in Paris

French breakfast

Whenever in Paris, I love having a traditional French breakfast at one of the restaurants around my hotel. I just love the simplicity of it: a baguette, a croissant, a bit of jam and a cup of coffee. And I love starting my day that way. 

Where? Once again, I love the Saint Germain du Pres area. Many restaurants serve traditional French breakfast. I’m avoiding the ones looking too touristic (signs in English are usually a red flag to me) and am choosing the ones where I could see local people inside. 

Duck for lunch

Whenever in Paris, I have a duck for lunch. I don’t know what it is, but a duck in Paris is delicious and much better than anywhere else.

Where? Les Antiquires restaurant! Located close to the Orsay Museums, I have lunch there whenever I’m in Paris. I love everything there, from the service to the atmosphere and that perfect duck.


If there is something sweet you have to try when in Paris, it’s definitely macarons. These sweet little cookies have already become one of the symbols of France and Paris, and you’ll find them in many places around the city. My recommendation is to get them at Laduree or Pierre Herme. Or in both, as I usually do when in Paris.

Where? Laduree or Pierre Herme

French cheese

I love French cheese! Whenever in Paris, I buy some cheese and bring it home with me. You can have a cheese platter in almost every restaurant in Paris. But, I prefer to go to the market or supermarket, buy some cheese there and have it on the balcony of my hotel room. I just feel entirely like a local that way.

Where? Any local market or supermarket

Coffee & French Desserts

Paris is home to some of the best pastry shops in the world. My favourite thing to do in Paris is sit in a local cafe, have coffee and cake, and watch the city pass by.

Where? One of my favourite cafes in Paris is Carette. Their coffee is probably the best I have had in Paris, and the selection of cakes there is fantastic. I always visit it in Paris and even had a mini birthday celebration there a few years ago.

Read more: Ile-de-France travel diary – Paris, Fontainebleau and Moret-sur-Loing

Best souvenirs from Paris

French food – French food is fantastic and getting some of it home with you will make you feel like you’re still in the City of Light. Buy some cheese at the market or some French wine at the wine shop. Macarons are also a great souvenir. In many of those special macaron shops, they will pack them for you in a beautiful box. So, they could make a perfect present, as well.

French cosmetics – France is famous for its cosmetics industry, so whenever in Paris, I buy cosmetic products, too. French cosmetic products from brands like Nuxe and Avene are significantly cheaper there than in other European countries. You can read more about it in my blog post about buying cosmetics in Paris on this link.

Something artistic – Paris is the city of art, and you’ll find many creative souvenirs in its shops. I love museum shops and their selection of souvenirs inspired by art. A Merci Concept Store is one of my favourite places to buy beautiful souvenirs in Paris, too.

Read more: My 5 favourite souvenirs from Paris

Books about Paris

Something I love to do when travelling is read a novel set up in a place I will visit before my trip. Paris was inspirational to many writers, and you’ll find numerous books about it or with a story set up in it.

If you’re a bookworm, then a place you definitely have to visit in Paris is Shakespeare & Co. Bookstore. Many famous writers used to gather there. It’s a historical site already. But, it’s also a place where you can find a large selection of books in English in Paris.

1 – Ernest Hemingway: A Moveable Feast – This is one of my favourite books about Paris. I bought it during one of my visits to Shakespeare & Co. In it, Hemingway described his life in Paris during the 1920s and 1930s so well that you’ll almost feel like you’re there. You can read my A Moveable Feast book review on this link.

Buy ‘A Moveable Feast’ on Amazon on this link!

2 – Christina Henry de Tessan: Forever Paris – This excellent book about Paris will transfer you to some past times. The author follows the lives of famous Parisians like Coco Chanel and Claude Monet. The best part of the book are the short self-guided tours around Paris in the footsteps of these famous Paris residents. I did the Coco Chanel walk during one of my trips to Paris and truly enjoyed it.

Buy ‘Forever Paris’ on Amazon on a link here!

3 – Janice MacLeod: Paris Letters – Something for artistic souls in love with Paris. This novel is about an American girl who moves to Paris looking for a purpose in life. After spending some time in the city, she started to paint scenes from Paris and send them to people worldwide. Of course, she also falls in love with a Parisian guy along the way.

Buy ‘Paris Letters’ on Amazon on a link here!

Some final tips for visiting Paris for the first time

Public transport tickets in Paris – The metro system in Paris is excellent and easy to navigate. The city is quite extensive, so it’s good to use the public transport from time to time. I always buy a set of ten one-way tickets at one of the machines you’re going to find at any station. This is also the cheapest option, and you’ll pay for those ten tickets 17,35 euros. If you buy a single ticket, the price will be 2,15 euros per item. Their official website is also great for finding the best routes inside the city. Check it out on this link.

What to wear in Paris – Paris is the city for layers and an umbrella. Summers are warm, while winters are grey. The weather also changes often, so take something with long sleeves if you visit in summer. Rain is also quite common, but luckily, it lasts for a short time. However, taking an umbrella is something you should do.

Seine River Cruise – A great way to observe beautiful Paris architecture is from some of the Seine River cruises. That’s especially useful if you or someone you’ll be travelling with can’t walk for the whole day. I found them to be so useful when visiting Paris with my in-laws and while my son was little. Here are the Seine River Cruises to choose from.

Read more: Bring Paris to your home for a day

Paris is a beautiful city filled with history, fantastic art, and numerous cultural sites. This first time in Paris guide will help you plan your trip to that beautiful city.