Paris sees millions of tourists arrive every year to soak up its culture, food and atmosphere. When it comes to popular tourist destinations, these kinds of numbers don’t lie.
But, if you’ve clicked on this article, you’re probably in two minds as to whether a trip to Paris is really worth it. No fear, that’s why I’m here to insist “oui”, Paris really is worth visiting!
From food to museums, romance to football, Paris has so much to offer everyone – no matter your interests and preferences. So, here’s the full lowdown in the form of 10 important reasons why you must visit Paris.
Reasons not to visit Paris
But first, why would some people seek to avoid Paris to start with?
It’s no secret that Paris is expensive. As a city of luxury and culture, and France’s capital, the standard of living in the city is high and things can cost a lot.
For this reason, many tourists on a low budget may understandably stay away. Flights from locations outside of Europe can be very expensive, especially if trans-Atlantic.
It’s very touristy
It’s true, Paris is one of the biggest tourist cities in the world and it can be hard to visit without getting caught up with lots of other tourists and feeling a bit like you’re in a tourist trap.
Depending on which season of the year, you may have to book activities several days in advance and be prepared to pay more in the central touristic areas. You will have to go further afield from the central landmarks to find a more “authentic” Paris and France.
Parisians have a reputation for being rude
Many people will claim that Parisians are rude and unfriendly, and this puts them off from visiting the city.
If you’re looking for a visit where you can engage and become friends with the local population, you may find that Paris may not be the place for you. The city is fast-moving and, due to the large number of tourists, the local people have developed a bit more distance from those who are just visiting.
Yet, many of these stereotypes about Parisians arise from miscommunications and misunderstandings. I would say they are largely overinflated – but more on that later!
Reasons why you must visit Paris
1. For the culture
For me, the reason I was drawn back to Paris time and time again was the culture. You won’t be surprised to hear that there is genuinely so much to do and see.
Whether you like art, cinema, culture, theatre, or music, there’s something for you here. And, you really don’t need to be an art history expert to enjoy it, either.
The most famous cultural spaces to visit in Paris include, of course, the Louvre, the Centre Pompidou and the world-famous Opéra. Many other opera houses across the world are inspired by Paris’ own Opéra.
But, there’s also so much to do outside of the main attractions! Take a visit to l’Atelier des Lumières to witness immersive art produced by amazing artificial light shows and accompanied by music.
Or visit the Palais de Tokyo to see one of Paris’ most trendy cultural spaces and its contemporary art scene. The Palais even has a nightclub, named YoYo.
2. To visit world-famous landmarks
The landmarks that make up Paris’ skyline and panorama need little introduction. The Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the Sacré-Coeur, the Louvre. The buildings and structures are famous across the world and attract millions of tourists to the city every year.
If it’s your first time in Paris, of course you will have to take a trip to at least some of these landmarks. After all, it’s impossible to walk around the city’s center and not feel the magnificent presence of the Eiffel Tower watching over you – it is really that big!
If you have the time and money, it’s really worth going up the Eiffel Tower or Arc de Triomphe for some wonderful panoramic views of the city’s skyline. And, of course, the view from the Sacré-Coeur, found on top of Paris’s largest hill, is similarly amazing.
3. For the food
France and Paris have a strong reputation for food and drink. Whether you’re a foodie or not, it’s hard to avoid the gastronomical wonders Paris has to offer.
And you don’t need to break the bank either. For traditional French food, you could head to a local brasserie, bistro or boulangerie. Parisian brasseries and bistros will sell a range of typical dishes for a reasonable price, whereas a boulangerie is where you’ll find the best bread and pastries to offer.
And, given Paris’ strong tradition of immigration and its colonial history, it’s also a great place to explore international cuisine which might not be available in your home country or town.
Paris has a great scene for Arabic and African food, whether Lebanese, Syrian, Algerian or Senegalese. Head to the Grande Mosquée (Great Mosque) to not only see the wonderful Arabic architecture but also sample the food from its connected restaurant.
4. For the beautiful architecture
But, it’s not just the famous landmarks that make Paris so special. The value of Paris’s beauty is also in its everyday architecture, especially the rows of white stone buildings that line the city.
Paris’ white stone and wide boulevards are specific to the city and easily recognized across the world as quintessentially Parisian. This style of architecture and urban planning was designed by Georges-Eugène Haussmann in the 1800s, in order to rejuvenate the city. It also sought to prevent blockades of narrow streets, commonly carried out by anti-monarchy revolutionaries.
Yet, Paris’s architectural delights are not just limited to older styles. The interaction of medieval and Haussmann architecture with modern architecture is wonderful, and impresses many who travel to the city for its architectural value. The Centre Pompidou’s inside-out structure is a prime example.
5. To enjoy the Parisian café culture
The café culture in Paris is quite something, and spending time in local Parisian cafés was one of my favorite hobbies while I lived there. And it’s also one of the best ways to meet and engage with locals.
Firstly, the coffee is great! But be aware of what you’re ordering because un café will be black and you’ll need to specify if you want milk (called un café au lait).
It’s also a great location to people-watch and experience life slowly going by. Outside seats at Parisian cafés will typically face outward towards the street, giving you a wonderful view of the comings and goings of the city.
Cafés were traditionally the meeting place of intellectuals and philosophers, so also be on the lookout for any animated conversations around you. You may be witnessing an important moment in the history of knowledge and philosophy!
6. For Paris fashion
Paris is a worldwide center of fashion and style, and so makes for a great reason to visit Paris.
If you like fashion and the latest trends, you can take a trip to the huge number of independent boutiques across the capital. With such a variety of styles and budgets available, you’ll be sure to find something you like. Try Le Marais or Grands Boulevards for more affordable options.
If luxury brands are more of your thing, you’re also right at home. Head to the Champs-Élysées for the main stores of France’s biggest fashion brands, from Louis Vuitton to Dior.
And if you’re in town at the right time of year, you may even be able to catch a glimpse of Paris Fashion Week, one of the largest fashion events in the world. Fashion Week takes place twice a year around February/March and September/October.
7. For the football
If you’re into football, a trip to Paris really is a must. When it comes to French football, Paris really is where to be. Its main team, Paris Saint-Germain, has won the French League ten times. And, eight of those wins have been in the past ten years.
Head to PSG’s main ground, the Parc des Princes, to watch a game for yourself. If you’re lucky enough, you could even schedule to go when PSG play Olympique Marseille, their main rival.
With France winning the most recent World Cup in 2018, the national team too is great. If there’s an international game scheduled against a foreign team, definitely head to the Stade de France (France’s international stadium) to see les Bleus (the Blues) in action.
8. To practice your French
What better place to practice your French than the heart of France itself? No matter what your ability, or how long you’ve been learning, you’ll find great opportunities to put your French to the test.
And if you don’t know any French yet? You can easily get up to scratch on the basics before your trip. Check out this article for some fluency tips.
In fact, learning the basics of French could make your experience a lot nicer. As I mentioned before, Parisians can often be seen as rude, but this often arises from what they see as a lack of effort from tourists to learn French and expect locals to speak English.
After all, learning the basics such as please (“s’il vous plaît”) and thank you (“merci”) should be the bare minimum!
9. For a romantic getaway
Paris is known as the city of love. So where better to spend a romantic holiday with your other half? The wonderful architecture, the beautiful lights, the glorious food and the Parisian atmosphere will leave you feeling nothing but romance.
As you stroll down the Seine river at night, with the Parisian lights surrounding you, it will be hard not to feel that you’re in your own rom-com, like Amélie or Before Sunset.
And if you’re single right now? That’s definitely no reason to stop you from having your own Parisian romance.
10. To visit the rest of France
Paris is great, no lie. But, so is the rest of France, and it’s very accessible from the capital.
The Versailles Palace is located just outside the capital and is easily accessible by train. A day trip here is a must. Other quintessentially French châteaus are also abundant across the country, and easily visitable from your base of Paris.
And of course, Disneyland makes for a great day trip if you have kids to amuse or love Disney yourself.
Alternatively, transport in France is great and other major cities such as Lyon and Bordeaux are easily accessible by train within hours. You really don’t want to travel to France and only see Paris because the country really has so much more to offer.
So, yeah it can be expensive and touristy, but is Paris really worth visiting? Definitely! Bien sûr. Absolument.
From its marvelous culture to wonderful food and stunning architecture, Paris has mesmerized visitors for centuries. And it won’t stop anytime soon, so no rush on the saving and the planning if it’s not possible just yet.
But, at some point, you really do need to visit to understand the true attraction of this fantastic city. À bientôt!