Your first-time-to-Paris friend
Don’t feel obliged to go to the Eiffel Tower or to Notre-Dame if you do not want to—drop her off for a visit and meet for lunch later. Get these key places out of the way early in the trip (not to say she won’t enjoy them—of course she will), but then you’ll be able to do everything else together.
Consider trying one of the more unusual tours as a way of touring the city broadly, like the Segway tour.
Do consult our must-do’s guide. Don’t feel obliged to see everything at the Louvre. Eat and shop a LOT and take breaks for culture and history. Try to see some kind of show, preferably at Opéra Garnier, which we believe is probably the most spectacular venue in the world. Don’t get hung up on seeing every single sight—show her your version of Paris.
Art Lovers’ Paris
- Visit the Musée Rodin, Musée Picasso and Musée d’Orsay.
- Go to Giverny and visit Monet’s home and then see the water lily paintings at Musée Marmottan or L’Orangerie.
- Don’t miss Musée Cluny for art from the Middle Ages and Notre-Dame for exemplary Gothic architecture.
- Peruse the galleries on rue de Seine and breakfast or lunch at La Palette.
- Eat at La Coupole (the place for artists in the 1920s) or Le Dôme Montparnasse, where Picasso and friends hung out. Also try a meal at Le Moulin de la Galette in Montmartre with one of the last remaining windmills, followed by an old-fashioned cabaret at Lapin Agile, painted by Picasso and frequented by Modigliani, Max Jacob and others.
- Stay at Hôtel Odéon Saint-Germain, designed by Jacques Garcia, or Hôtel des Académies et des Arts, just steps from boulevard Montparnasse.
- Take a tour from an art specialist or go on Context Travel’s Musée d’Orsay tour.
- See some jazz at New Morning (7, rue des Petites Écuries, in the 10th Arrondissement; 01 45 23 51 41) , Le Petit Journal (13, rue du Commandant Mouchotte, in the 14th; 01 43 21 56 70) or Duc des Lombards (42, rue des Lombards, in the 1st; 01 42 33 22 88).
- Before you go, read The Judgment of Paris: The Revolutionary Decade That Gave the World Impressionism, by Ross King, or The Book of Salt (a novel by Gertrude Stein’s cook).
- Buy Art for Travelers: France, by Bill and Lorna Hannan.
- Go to Paris’s most spectacular modern art museum, the Pompidou (designed by Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano), and eat lunch or dinner there at the ever-chic Georges.
- Don’t miss Atelier Brancusi, just in front of the Pompidou.
- Stay at Hotel Amour in the 9th, Hôtel le A in the 8th or Mama Shelter in the 20th; lunch at Rose Bakery in the 9th (46, rue des Martyrs; 01 42 82 12 80) or in the Marais (30, rue Debelleyme; 01 44 78 08 97).
- Roam around the Marais, shop and cruise the art galleries (use the search function here for a list of galleries in the Marais). And don’t forget the excellent photography museum Maison Européenne de la Photographie.
- Go to Palais de Tokyo (très hip new modern art museum) and eat at their artsy restaurant. Sit outdoors in summer.
- Eat at Les Ombres in the Musée du Quai Branly, Jean Nouvel’s masterpiece of a museum housing everything Asian and African.
- Check out Centquatre , a new art/atelier space where you can see artists in action.
- Attend the city’s contemporary art fair (normally in October).
- Stay at L’Hôtel, where Oscar Wilde died. A former whorehouse, this place is just divine.
- Have a drink at Bar Hemingway at the Ritz, where the man himself lived for a time.
- Eat a late meal at La Closerie des Lilas, where Hemingway wrote The Sun Also Rises.
- Go to rue de Fleurus, where Gertrude Stein lived, and read The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. Café Vavin is a lovely place to stop for a drink in the area (18, rue Vavin in the 6th; 01 43 26 67 47). Also read Henry Miller’s steamy Tropic of Cancer and A Moveable Feast, by Hemingway, before you go (if you haven’t already).
- Stop into Shakespeare & Co. and stay awhile. Read Time Was Soft There, Jeremy Mercer’s book about his experiences living at the bookstore.
- Go to Victor Hugo’s house, which is now a museum on the Place des Vosges.
- Have a drink in the square in front of St. Sulpice at Café de la Mairie (a literary hangout).
- Visit Maison de Balzac with a Context Travel professor.
- Go to a reading at the Village Voice Bookshop .
- Go to the Musée de la Vie Romantique, where George Sand often wrote, and enjoy tea in the garden.
- Buy something from les bouquinistes, who often sell beautiful antique books from their small shops along the Seine. The booksellers have existed along the Seine for nearly 500 years.
- Have dinner at Le Voltaire.
- Buy Literary Paris: A Guide, by Jessica Powell.
What to do with Mom?
- Tea or champagne at the Four Seasons Hotel George V to see the lobby and the flowers (they spend over $1 million a year on flowers).
- Or tea at the Plaza Athenée.
- Take Mom on our tour of the Marais, beginning at the Place des Vosges. Consult our downloadable guides.
- Take a tour of the Opéra Garnier. Be sure not to miss the ceiling, painted by Marc Chagall.
- See an opera or some jazz (consult our music pages, under Culture & Art).
- Treat her to a special dinner at Les Ambassadeurs in the Hôtel de Crillon and go to the gift shop here.
- Buy a scarf at Hermès.
- Stroll through the Tuileries Gardens.
- Visit the Musée de l’Orangerie.
- Visit one of the marchés and cook a nice Sunday dinner if you rented an apartment.
- Have a pastry at Ladurée. Although they are famous for their macaroons, we love the Palmiers (elephant ears).
- Take a French cooking class together at Cook’n with Class. Be sure to reserve ahead, as this is a VERY popular thing to do.
Your teenage daughter
- Take a Segway or bike tour of Paris—use Fat Tire.
- Download our Pastry and Chocolate Tour and exercise your sweet tooth.
- Take the metro.
- Comb rue Étienne Marcel for bargains beginning at the E. Marcel Metro station and walk up.
- Take a French cooking class together at Cook’n with Class. Be sure to book ahead.
- Have tea or hot chocolate at Ladurée
- Take her to see a band at one of the clubs we recommend in the nightlife section. Whatever you do, though, DON’T dance in front of her. Teens hate that.
- Take her to Shakespeare & Co. and then through Notre-Dame to light a candle.
- Climb up to Sacré-Coeur for the view and take our tour of Montmartre and Pigalle. This is an area my teenagers love.
- Have a crêpe a day from one of the street vendors.
- Introduce her to modern art at the Pompidou.
- Play tennis in the Luxembourg Gardens.
- Treat her to a facial at Spa Nuxe.
- Palais de la Découverte
- The science museum at Parc de la Villette
- At Luxembourg Gardens: enjoy the marionettes, the pony rides and the merry-go-round. Try out the jungle gym in the play area for a small fee.
- Ride the big Ferris wheel at the Place de la Concorde in winter or any of the carnival rides in the Tuileries in summer.
- Drink a lot of chocolat chaud (hot chocolate) in winter or have ice cream (glace) in summer and teach her how to order it in French.
- Watch them make bread at Paul on rue de Seine.
- See Paris Story for a multimedia history of the city.
- Visit the Aquaboulevard water park.
- Notre-Dame and the Eiffel Tower, of course.
- La Conciergerie (where Marie Antoinette was imprisoned).
- Visit the best and most old-fashioned (yet wonderful) candy store in the world: À la Mère de la Famille.
For more tips, check out Travel for Kids.