What does a perfect evening in Paris mean to someone who set foot in the city for the first time? What are the things to do in Paris at night when the museums are closed and you don’t want to spend money on shopping or clubbing in the new city? Where can you go to get the best views of the city of lights and understand the great complex city in such a short time? Hope this article answers your questions.
It’s no wonder that the city of lights looks her best self at night. Paris was the fourth destination of our Euro-trip and to be honest it was not loved at first sight. The metro lines were too complex, signboards were mostly in French, and getting from one point to another was not as simple as I found it to be in Amsterdam.
But the best thing about Paris is that the city never sleeps, so as a tourist you have all day and all night to explore. And once you start that, you realize why the city has been romanticized to this extent in novels and movies alike.
I love to write travelogues but listicles are more useful. So, I settled in between. Here’s the list of what I did (and how I did) and what I could have done (if I knew better), on my first evening in Paris. We traveled to Paris in Spring when the days were long and the sun wouldn’t set before 9 pm. So many of our photos are actually taken in daylight although it’s evening.
Table of Contents
1. Stroll in Champs de Mars
Well, let me begin with our first trip to Paris which begun with Champs de Mars in the evening (not really night). It’s 3:30 pm. We took the “Paris Pass” for our 3 day trip to Paris, which gave us free unlimited public transport and free entry to most museums and attractions. We just reached Paris and we’re already a bit overwhelmed by the French signboards and complex metro-lines. We somehow reached our hotel at Pigalle (Montmartre), unpacked and rushed to get our Paris pass. The only thing we have had since the morning was a small sandwich at Bruges railway station.
We booked the Paris pass online. Read a detailed review of the pass here (jump to the section Travel Cards).
Around 4:30 pm we reached Champ De Mars– the huge public park leading to the entrance of the Eiffel Tower. A walk down the park is a great way to start the trip- it’s a place where you can feel the vibe of this city with the locals cycling on the tracks, chirping tourists and vendors selling Eiffel tower souvenirs at a really good price.
After clicking a few photographs of the great Eiffel Tower here we headed to the banks of Sienne river to get something to eat. Bad decision! In our rush, we completely neglected a large number of restaurants and food outlets in our hotel at Pigalle itself. We purchased some overpriced Panini at one of the cafes near the Eiffel tower and somehow fill our belly.
Reiterating the first rule of travel (often told by our parents over and over ) – avoid food outlets right across the main tourist spot.
2. Ascend the Eiffel Tower Summit
Like any tourist, we were excited to see that one thing you have seen in every Paris snapshot- the Eiffel Tower. Remember that the tickets to Eiffel tower summit are not covered by the Paris pass.
We purchased tickets to Eiffel tower summit and thankfully the queue was just about 45 mins long(yes, that’s less for peak season).
The panoramic view of the city from the world’s most famous telecommunication tower was just photo-perfect- the square canopies of trees lining the Champ De Mars, the Sienne river, and all beautiful monuments adorning the landscape of Paris. However, I would rate the panoramic view from the 56th floor of Montparnasse tower over this for one reason – what’s a Paris Panorama without the Eiffel Tower in it?
When we went the price to the summit by the elevator was 25 Euros. Check out the current ticket prices below.
Child under 4 Rate(2)
Second floor by elevator
Summit (the top) by elevator
Second floor by stairs
Second floor by stairs + Summit by elevator
Open time – 9:30 am to 11:45 pm.
So yes, you can defer your visit until late at night.
3. Explore Paris at night on a Sienne Cruise
Sourced from Pixabay
The next on our plan for the evening was the Sienne river cruise, but before that, we strolled along the lively banks of the river for a while watching the boats and birds and people – which in itself is one of the best things to do in Paris.
If there’s just one thing I could do in Paris, it has to be the Sienne river cruise in the evening. We boarded the cruise at around 9 pm when the sun just started to set. You can either sit in the warm cozy restaurant area or go up to the roof and have an experience of a lifetime. The one hour cruise took us on a memorable journey, while the dusk loomed upon the land and the city started to lit up slowly. As you sail through the city you see all the famous buildings that you would have read about – The Notre-Dame, Orsay Museum, the Roue de Paris (the Big Wheel), etc.
We got a free cruise tour with our museum pass, but if you don’t have one, pre-book this immensely popular 1-hour illumination cruise.
Big Wheel as seen at night from Sienne Cruise
The fully illuminated Eiffel Tower is a sight to behold, but add to it the five minutes of sparkling and you have a visual that would stay in with you forever. We were lucky to witness this beauty on our first evening itself from the cruise.
Ticket price for a 1-hour cruise is 15 Euros but we got it covered by our rocking Paris pass.
Open timing- 10:30 am to 10:30 pm.
4. See the Twinkling Eiffel in Paris at night
This is a view of Eiffel Tower from Montparnasse
Yes, we already watched it on our river cruise and it was magical. But this needs special emphasis. If there’s only one thing you can do in Paris it has to be this. So whenever you are in Paris, take out some time from whatever schedule you have, choose your favorite spot to see the Eiffel tower and wait for the sparkling show. It happens once every hour at night so you’d certainly not miss it.
This is my favorite free thing to do in Paris. Just stroll on the banks of Sienne river, watch the cruises and wave at the excited travelers onboard, watch someone play music or a couple dancing at the banks.
6. Sunset view at Place du Trocadero
Named after the battle of Trocadero fought in 1823, this place was built on the hill of Chaillot. The palace that stops this hill was formerly named after Trocadero but now called Palais de Chaillot. The large area outside the palace is always in a festive mood with open-air performances by dancers and musicians and tourists flocking in to get the breathtaking view of Eiffel Tower from here. At night the place comes alive with the beautiful fountain show that compliments the twinkling Eiffel tower. This is one of the best sights in Paris at night.
No entry cost here and it is open all night.
7. Ascend the Arc De Triompe
A historic monument raised during the first World War to honor the soldiers who laid their lives for the country. The monument is not only a symbol of patriotism but is a reminder of the inevitable death and destruction due to wars. A fire burns all the time at the site beneath where people come to pay their respect. During WWII, when Hitler marched with his forces into Germany, he too went around the monument and not between the 2 towers, as a sign of respect. A history lesson I took up from the BigBus audio-guided tour 🙂
Arc De Triomphe is open till 10:30 pm. So, if you have completed your activities of the day, you can enter the monument and climb up the narrow stairs to the top of the Arc to get another panoramic view of the city.
Don’t mistake my seemingly grumpy face, it’s just the gush of wind at the top of Arc De Triompe, forcing my eyes to close
This for me, trumps the view from Eiffel Tower, both because of its historic significance and the view of the Eiffel Tower itself.
Ticket price: 12 Euros
Open time – 10:30 am to 10:30 pm
8. Montparnasse Observatory Deck
This is a 689 feet high office building which is the only skyscraper in Paris (Googled info!). The glass terrace is weather-proofed for all seasons and offers a clear panoramic view of the city. We went to this place around 11 pm and experienced the mesmerizing view of the city illuminated at night with its famous landmarks – the Sacre Coir at Montmartre, Arc De Triomphe, Notre-Dame, the BigWheel and of course The Eiffel Tower which is the right opposite.
The roof is open till 11:30 pm but the restaurant below, which happens to be the highest in Paris, is probably open even after that. You can’t help but notice how exceptionally fast the lift is, so when I later read that this is the fastest elevator in the world I was not surprised at all. We ate at an Indian Restaurant, about the 5-minute walking distance from here- fantastic food at really affordable rates.
Open time – 9:30 am to 10:30 pm from Sunday to Thursday. Open till 11 pm from Friday to Saturday.
Price of the ticket – 18 Euros
9. Cabaret Shows in Pigalle
We desi Indians still can’t think of Moulin Rouge without thinking of Sharmila Tagore in the 60s’ movie “An Evening in Paris”. I had to see the Moulin Rouge though I wasn’t sure of buying tickets to a cabaret show there. We were put up at IBIS styles hotel at Montmartre (Pigalle), but it wasn’t until our last night in Paris until we discovered that it was just 7 minutes away from the famous Moulin Rouge.
Walk down the street for great food, take pictures of the red windmill and try not to notice the sex shops and strip clubs lined along the street 😜😈. We had a fulfilling dinner at an Indian restaurant here too. Great way to end an evening well spent!
If you want to experience a cabaret night in Paris pre-book your tickets from Get Your Guide which includes drinks.
The best plan for an evening in Montmartre would be to start from the Sacre Coeur Montmartre at the sunset. The hill-top offers one of the most mesmerizing views of the sunset in Paris. In Spring and Summer, that would be 9 pm already. Then walk down the cobbled streets and cross the Place du Tertre, the artist’s paradise. Stop at one of the pretty cafes or just wander in the most beautiful streets. Finally, walk downhill to Pigalle for wine and dine.
Spend a royal evening at the Chateau of Versailles watching the grand fountain show. Versailles about an hour away from the main city of Paris but it is a worthwhile half-day trip. We missed this on our first trip to Paris. The highlight of Versailles is a musical fountain show with firecrackers and lights lighting up the night sky.
13. Louvre at Night
Let me tell you a secret. You can visit the Louvre museum at night and have it all to yourself, well almost. The world’s most famous art museum which is crowded during the daylights up into a spectacle at night with not many people to see it because it closes by 5:30 pm.
The exception is on Wednesdays and Fridays when Louvre is open till 9:30 pm. So plan your time such that if you are in Paris on any of these days, you get a chance to visit Louvre in the evening. We did visit Louvre but wish someone told this to us before we visited Paris. I just told you, so don’t miss it.
Sourced from Pixabay
14. Watch an Opera at Palais Garnier
We didn’t do this but we were impressed by our guided tour of Palais Garnier in Paris. This historic building is Grandeur redefined. Watching a show here at night has a permanent spot on my bucket list.
15. A Night Walking tour
A free walking tour at night is actually included in Paris Museum Pass if you avail it. Otherwise, you can go to many other independent walking tours at night. It’s the best way to explore the secret sights of Paris while learning about the history and culture of the city. GetyourGuide has some amazing Christmas market and holiday lightings night walking tour for Paris.
These for me are the top experiences for a perfect evening or evenings in Paris when you are not into shopping or pub-hopping. Do not forget to check out the most comprehensive 3 -day Paris itinerarythat will help you do the best of your time in Paris in 3 days only.
What do you think about it? Please share your thoughts and suggestions in the comments section.
Sinjana Ghosh is a full-time business professional with a penchant for writing and travel planning. Backpack & Explore is a journal of her travel stories and tips she collected from her experience. She is the author of the travel book “Postcards from India” which is available on Amazon, Flipkart and Notionpress.com
Wow, this indeed looks like a perfect evening in Paris! One would think that it’s not possible to cover so much ground in just an evening but the tourist infrastructure in Paris is amazing. I always loved how easy it is to get from one touristy place to another in this city.
I’ve been to Paris many times and am just hearing about the 56th floor of Montparnasse tower for the first time! That’s on my list for sure for the next time I’m in Paris. I took a Seine river cruise the first time I was in Paris and loved it as well, so definitely agree on that as a must-do when in Paris!
Wow, the view from the 59th floor of Montoparnasse Tower is incredible. This is surely going to my list of things to do in Paris in evening. Moulin Rouge – yes, of course. Great that you have got so many Indian restaurant options while you were there. Can you tell me how is the nightlife otherwise? I mean, any club or bar that is a must-go types in Paris?
My stay in Paris was too short to make time for night clubs. Also given we don’t drink alcohol any pub-hopping tour would be a waste of money for us. If you like you can actually check out pub-hopping tours. Also a cabaret dance show in Moulin Rouge is quite a must-do thing (we didn’t).
I have visited Paris quite a few times over the years and enjoyed every minute. I have missed out on climbing the Arc de Triomphe at night, this is something I must do next time. Thanks for the tip re the Paris Pass – I normally walk everywhere but this looks like you can save a lot of Euros. I also must put some time aside and do the Seine River Cruise in the evening, this is something I have done during the day but it would certainly give a different perspective at night.
You know what, I did book that trip! 😀 But like all other trips that are booked right now, we are quite sure that we will not make it. For now, at least, we will reschedule and go as soon as possible 🙂
Thanks for all these great ideas! I spent a few days in Paris a couple of years ago, but of the things on your list, I only had time for the Seine river cruise, which was wonderful. I hope to go back and spend a LOT more time there.
I am very familiar with Paris, I’ve been there more than 50 times, but I am a morning person so I am usually seeing the city at the opposite end of the day than this post 😉 so I appreciate the list of ideas for the rare instances I find myself out late at night! Thanks for the list!
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