The priority for all first time visitors is to get a good overview of Paris, and see as many landmarks as possible.  Happily, many of Paris' most famous landmarks are relatively close together and there are a variety of ways to see the most well known sights, especially important for first-time visitors.



The Seine River flows through Paris and is treated almost as if it is an "avenue" of the city.  Most likely you will be able to either see the Seine (which is only about six city buses wide) or you will be a few blocks away from it, particularly when you are viewing the most well known landmarks.  There are numerous bridges across the Seine and landmarks are sprinkled on either side of it.    The Seine is your most important landmark when walking or when looking at a map.   Look around (or look at the map), ask yourself "Where is the Seine?"   This is usually a good way to figure out where you are or where you are trying to go.


Many of the most famous tourist sights can either be seen from or are a few blocks away from the River. Almost everyone who goes to Paris takes a sightseeing boat tour on the Seine.  If you return from Paris, you will probably be asked: "Did you take a tour on the Seine?"  There is a reason that nearly all visitors to Paris do this: it is easy, the sights really are close to the River, is just something almost everyone does.

There are a few different companies that offer River tours.  Some provide a narration of the sights you will see in a variety of languages.  Look on the Internet for options.   There is a novelty associated with being on the river in a glass enclosed boat. Even if it is drizzling, it is still a great option.  There is plenty to look at on the River, there is no bad seat on the boats, and no-fear of being sea sick as the boats are stable, and there is virtually no "tide".  Some companies have better audio than others regarding the announcements that are made about each landmark.   The audio info is barely OK, pretty sparse, said very quickly, and the intercom system is not the best, but the websites (below) or office handouts provide good info.  This is more a lovely way to SEE Paris and to be transported to different sites, than to get in-depth knowledge of the locations via the audio.

Most Seine sightseeing tours are 1 hour, which shows how compact Paris landmarks are.  The traditional choice of Seine River cruises is from  Bateaux Mouches:  a one hour, round trip (no stops) Seine River sight-seeing tour of Paris (daytime and at night), and they also offer romantic dinner cruises.  Evaluations on the food served on the River cruise are mixed, so look on the internet and on Trip Advisor for suggestions and alternative companies, although Bateau Mouches is so well known that the tours are sometimes referred to using that name, even though other compaines now provide similar cruises.   A more appealing option might be something other than a straight 1-hour tour.   Batobus offers a day (and multi-day) ticket for the same type of glass enclosed boat, the same path on the Seine and a sightseeing announcements, but the ticket allows you to jump on/jump off at 8 or so different stops along the Seine, close to sightseeing spots.   You get a similar sight-seeing journey with the option of using it as a water taxi to different locations, giving you flexibility and a more scenic way to travel during the day than using the Metro.   You can take the boat to your destination, using it as a water taxi, or you can stay on the whole tour, see where things are, and get off on the 2nd time around, if you wish.  You could take the batobus to one tourist destination (Eiffel Tower), then walk to another landmark in Paris with a Batobus stop nearby, and then take the batobus back to your hotel.   This is a great option, especially when you are tired from walking around!

The Seine cruises show you one "side" of Paris, yet do not show you the city itself.

Consider taking a Paris bus tour which, many think is the easiest and one of the best ways to learn about the city's landmarks.   L'Open Tour Paris Bus is most likely the most popular tour bus, offering double decker buses, open on the top, with the same get on/get off option described above about Batobus.    The company has different routes that cover different parts of Paris.  The longest tour, and the best for first time visitors, is the Paris Grand Tour, which lasts 2 hours 15 minutes and shuttles visitors around many of the city's most popular sites, including the Louvre Museum, Eiffel Tower, and the Arc de Triomphe. You get on the bus (look on the sidewalk for the logo) and pay (driver will accept credit cards) and will be given an audio tour with earphones.

Once the bus starts, the audio starts and you will hear landmarks described as you pass them.  You can use this strictly as a tour of Paris and never get off or you can decide to use it also as a means of transportation to landmarks as well as a tour bus.   Decide what you want to see that is listed as a stop.   Get off at that landmark, tour it, and then get back on another bus and continue on the loop.   Look at the different ticket options so that you know what will be your best choice financially (usually the 2 day option--must be 2 consecutive days) and consider your available time and interests.   This is one of the best ways to see all the Paris sights quickly and enjoyably.  Reviews on Trip Advisor are here; more information on bus tours is  here.  There are other companies who also provide hop on/hop off tours but there is an overall feeling that the electric green L'Open Tour buses are more plentiful.  When you are at your landmark ready to be picked up and are waiting for the next bus, there is the impression that L'Open Tour buses come more frequently.   L'Open Tour Bus may also offer a combo ticket with Batobus Seine River tours.

Free stuff

- view the Eiffel Tower from the Trocadero (best pictures)

- visit parks and gardens such as Tuileries and Luxembourg

- stroll around the Marais district

- Walk up the the Champs Elysées up to the Arc de Triomphe

- stroll arond the seine banks

- visit large department stores like Galeries Lafayettes or Printemps

- Visit the Opera House

- Wego Walking Tours  provide a fantastic 3.5 hour   free daily walking tour in english that takes you to all the classicsthat make Paris the most beautiful city in the world. Getting a feel for Paris upon arriving can feel quite challenging, where to go, and how to make the best out of your stay.


First-time visitors need to know one thing : Paris is a city where you walk a lot, the reason is that all major landmarks are quite concentrated, that is why walking is simply the best way to discover Paris, and meet some locals at the same time. This can easily be done with Discover Walks free guided walks of Paris which show you Monmartre, the Latin Quarter, The River and the luxurious Right Bank. Check time and meeting point here :

After seeing the neighborhoods on the open bus you’ll want to return to certain neighborhoods for shopping and walking. A good overview guide for independent travelers that is organized by arrondissement with photos and maps is No Worries Paris. Recommended to read or download before you go.