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Don't miss things to do in Paris

My wife and son and I will be in Paris for 6 days 5 nights. I am a history teacher. I have also traveled in Vienna, London and Frankfurt. What are the don't miss sites of Paris?

Posted by
11 posts

I am an American history teacher...however I was educated in a school with very close European ties. I absolutely love European history and art . We are talking about a day trip to normandy beach. Versaille is also on the agenda. Right now i am overwhelmed by all the things to see and do in Paris.

Posted by
360 posts

If you have any interest in military history, I suggest you visit Les Invalides. I haven't much interest, but dropped in one time several visits ago & found it very interesting & touching. Now, I stop at least once every time I'm in Paris. There's a armory full of suits of armor that I think is interesting because of the amount of it as well as the styles (you view it thru a window). Also there's a hall outside with displays of the same where you can get up close. Some of the world war exhibits are being redone & not all are open (or maybe they're done by now). Also, on the top floor there's a series of relief plans of various towns important for military reasons. These were used until last century (if I remember correctly). anyhow, it's interesting to see the models of the houses, neighborhoods, etc of the towns. If you're interested, I suggest you read up first. The buildings themselves are a must-see in my opinion especially at night. Lastly, Napoleon's tomb is located in the church within the Invalides. The Invalides was built as a resthome for soldier invalides and there are still some living there. I could go on & on - I first visited on a rainy day expecting to be bored & found it fascinating. It's the place in Paris I feel closest to the past.

Posted by
157 posts

I am a history buff and I really like Les Invalides, Versailles and I absolutely recommend seeing Normandy. If you can spare an overnight in Normandy you will not regret it, the beaches, the cemeteries and for me Pont Du Hoc are just fabulous to see. As far as other "don't miss" sites that is something we need to more about - and age of your son too. My kids (9 & 13) loved Versailles, Notre Dame, just walking around the city, the Seine River Cruise and the Eiffel Tower of course.

Posted by
6245 posts

6 days 5 nights...a day trip to Normandy...hmmm...first suggestion is to step back and be honest about how much time you will realy have (don't count the day you arrive or depart). f you really have 6 full days, great, but don't "cheat" on that (it's a natural tendency, many of us fall into that trap).

As for Normandy, my own view is that it's not wise to try and do Normany as a day trip based in Paris. Consider investing a bit ore time (2 days, 2 nights), spend one night on Mont Saint Michel (you'll never forget it) and one night in Bayeaux or Rouen. Too many 5-star things to see in Mormandy to let it all go by in a blur on a day trip.

Too many historic things in/around Paris. Remember, you'l be back.

Posted by
32056 posts


With only 6 days / 5 nights, you're going to need to plan your touring very precisely, so you don't waste ANY time (especially as you're considering day trips to Normandy and Versailles, which will reduce your time in Paris considerably).

It's difficult to recommend sites that may be interesting for a History Teacher, but I can certainly give you a few to consider (BTW, I'm also interested in military history, especially WW-II):

  • Les Invalides is definitely a good choice. I'd suggest being "selective" about which parts of that to see. It's a large Museum and touring the whole thing could take some time. I focused on the WW-II exhibits. Have a look in the large Church on the site - it's very impressive (even more so if the large Organ is being played).

  • The Louvre is a "must see" for many people. Again, it's huge so limit your touring to just one part (I'd suggest the Denon Wing to see the Mona Lisa).

  • The Eiffel Tower (of course). Gustav's creation was supposed to have been dismantled after the world's fair, but thankfully they left it for tourists to visit. It's quite impressive to see "close up"!

  • The Musee D'Orsay is located in a former train station and has an incredible selection of Impressionist Art (many enjoy this more than the Louvre). There's an elegant Ballroom and restaurant in one part that (I think) are worth a look.

  • Normandy - most here (including me) would suggest a BattleBus Tour, as it's the best way to see the historic sites in a limited time frame. Many of the sites are quite "spread out" so you'll need to consider some type of guided tour in order to get around. A stop at the American Cemetery overlooking Omaha Beach, definitely! The War Museum in Caen is also worthwhile, but with limited time this might not be possible.

There are LOTS of other possibilities. Have a look at the France Guidebook to get some ideas.

Good luck!

Posted by
32056 posts


One other point (can't remember if I mentioned this previously) - a Paris Museum Pass would probably be a really good idea, especially to minimize your time in queues waiting to buy tickets.

Posted by
711 posts

Hi Lyle...Don't forget the cemeteries.. Pere Lachaise is facinating. Before you go get the book.. Permanent Parisians... and read up on all the famous writers, musicians, etc. They have maps there.The cemetery in Monparnasse has a lot of hitorical figures, also.The metro goes right to the cemeteries.

Posted by
2020 posts

I'm a history & art buff also, and besides consulting Rick Steves' and other good guidebooks and websites, here are my recommendations for must sees (from a woman's perspective):

Eiffel Tower (go to at least the 2nd platform)

Notre Dame (take in the free Sunday organ recital if possible -- other noted churches have these also). The view from the top is great. Don't know the age of your son but kids and teens love climbing the stairs to the top and seeing all the gargoyles...

St. Chappelle, particularly if you are a fan of stained glass, and St. Eustache near Les Halles - virtually un-restored gothic church where Louis XIV was baptized, one of my favorite places.

Louvre (at least see the biggies, crowded though they may be)


Stroll: Palais Royale, Rue du Rivoli, the Marais, Ile St. Louis, taking in various museums, restaurants, shopping: including the Carnavalet, Picasso, Cluny museums and Berthillon ice cream parlor.

Stroll the Tulleries garden, go to the Orangerie museum.

Arch de Triomphe

Seine river cruise (day or night)

Le Bon Marche department store and Grand Epicerie, in the St. Germain area & having a splurge break at Les Deux Magots or Cafe Flore. (there are many other good department stores and shops everywhere, if you are into this)

Napoleon's Tomb and the army museum at Les Invalides

Pere Lachaise, touring Opera Garnier, the many other small and large museums in the city, Montmartre.

AND, if you can work it in I would definitely include Versailles (pick a nice day, since you must tour the gardens, Queen's Hamlet, & the Trianons).

And,as a history fan, you may want to check out Marie Antionette's cell in the Concergerie.

Posted by
1973 posts

One of our favorites in Paris was the Cluny museum, a museum concentrating on the medieval period and home to the amazing Unicorn Tapestries. I also remember some kind of good deal;could it have

Posted by
8660 posts

As a history teacher, perhaps you might want to skip spending time in museums or galleries unless there is something you really want to see, and take that time and spend it in Normandy. I believe Ken suggested the Battlebus tours, and I second that suggestions. This is history at its finest hour and for me it trumps any picture I would see in any gallery, and yes, that includes Mona. For others, seeing this picture is the highlight of Paris. Everyone has their thing!

My husband and I had a blast in Paris and we didn't enter a single museum. Not to say that we never will, just that we had the idea we will be back. We simply walked all over the city. Saw St.Chapelle, which was well worth the entrance price, experienced Bastille Day at the foot of the Eiffel tower, walked up in the dome of Sacre Couer, visited Notre Dame, and so on.

Posted by
2020 posts

P.S. Lyle, you will be overwhelmed by all the great things to see and do in Paris, including just walking around aimlessly, just do what you can this time. I'm sure you will return!

Posted by
522 posts

Picnic on the Eiffel tower lawn...perfect for arrival day when you are jetlagged. Make sure you go back at night when it sparkles. It does this for like 10 minutes every hour. Its gorgeous and iconic. Napoleans tomb - perfect for a history buff. Louvre, but yes very limited as everyone has said...2 hrs. Notre Dame, during the day to tour and light up at night. Across from Notre Dame is the famous "Shaksphere and Co" bookstore. I just found out today they stamp each book with their seal....making it a perfect souvenier or gift for someone. I did not know about this at the time I went, but when I go back - I am going there. :) St. Chappelle church. The Or'sey. With the amount of time you have - I would definitely go to Versailles. If you are going during nice weather months, the gardens at Versailles are the highlight. River Cruise the Seine. Sit along the Seine with a bottle of wine and wave at the people going by. Stop at every bakery and eat as much bread and a day allows. Don't be afraid to try something new food - Particularly the cheese!!!!!
Things that I personally would put lower on the list....Arc de Triomphe. Champs de Elisse. Monte Mare - this whole area was just okay. In this area, one thing I look back fondly on this is the cafe that we accidentally had lunch in that is the setting for the movie "Amalie". Its cool to see that movie and know we ate lunch there.

I wish we had more time to see the Cemetary and the Opera House, but we ran out of time (4 nights in Paris).
Learn the metro. Super easy, super cheap and makes seeing everything possible. Get a Paris Museum covers Versailles also.
Sorry for my bad spelling.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you for all of the help. It is going to be a wonderful experience deciding on what to do. When we were in London we had "debriefing" meetings every night. We are very excited about Paris! Now we have to obviously come up with a very good plan.

Posted by
1158 posts

In my opinion the whole Paris is "not to be missed".

Posted by
1455 posts

Did anyone post the Catacombs?? We've been in Paris many times and kept forgetting to go. Last July we made it a point to go and was glad we did.