Exploring the 7th arrondissement of Paris (district) is to explore one of the grandest and well planned of all the Parisian districts. What it might lack in terms of after dark pleasures, it makes up for big time during the day. There’s probably no way you won’t set foot in this part of Paris. The Eiffel Tower is here after all. But this part of Paris has a lot more to see and if you’re asking yourself what is there to do in the 7th arrondissement, you’ve come to the right place.
Exploring the 7th arrondissement (district) of Paris reveals to the visitor everything from world-famous landmarks, wide open spaces, stupendous monuments and one cool little street that’s just perfect on a sunny weekend. So if you’re looking to combine the top things to do in Paris along with local sights, the seventh district is a great option.
This part of Paris is not only home to famous attractions and historical sights, but it’s also home to quite a few government buildings and embassies. But like with every district in Paris, there’s a residential part as well, where you’ll find your cafes, markets, bistros and plenty of good vibes. It’s not as vibrant as the trendy Marais but I promise you it’s well worth the visit. Before heading to Paris, pick up your own copy of The Rough Guide To Paris (only $17 on Amazon), together with these neighborhood guides, it’ll be your best friend in The City of Lights.
Where to start your visit of the 7th arrondissement?
There are two places where you can start your visit (there are actually three but we’ll save the climax for the end). You can start off at Trocadéro Gardens on the north bank of the Seine and work your way across, or get off at the Alma – Marceau Metro station for a well worth detour that includes a special visit to underground Paris. This is how we’ll begin our day but it’s totally up to you.
When to visit the 7th arrondissement of Paris?
Though the district is dotted with some of the most famous sights in Paris, I found it very pleasant to explore on a sunny weekend day. This is probably because the ‘office crowd’ is enjoying their own weekend somewhere else, so once you leave the tourist hotspots, it’s a pleasantly quiet area to explore. That said, weekends in Paris bring with them the beloved neighborhood markets and it’s no different in this case (thank God). So, you get the best of both world here over the weekend.
How long should you spend exploring the 7th arrondissement of Paris?
Oh, well that’s an excellent question. There are lots of things to see and do in this part of Paris, not to mention that if it’s a sunny day, you’ll want to relax over brunch somewhere. So I would recommend devoting a full day for exploring the 7th arrondissement, leaving out the Musee d’Orsay, which we’ll mention here since it’s in the district but really deserves its own half day.
What to do in the 7th arrondissement of Paris?
Okay, time to get serious. So as I mentioned, there are a few ways to begin your day. Since I was looking for off the beaten path things to do in Paris, I discovered that there’s an interesting little museum in this part of Paris devoted to the sewers!
Here’s a map to help you out, just click on the image to open in Google Maps
So I began my day by taking the Metro to the Alma – Marceau station. As you leave the station, you immediately get your first glimpse of the iconic Eiffel Tower. What’s also interesting to see is the exact replica of the torch from the Statue of Liberty. As you near the torch, you’ll see a highway underpass right beneath you. This is the spot where Princess Diana’s car crashed.
Visiting the Paris Sewer System Museum
Cross the Pont de l’Alma bridge and on the other side of Seine, you’ll get to the Musee Des Egouts De Paris or the Paris Sewer System Museum. Paris is a beautiful city above ground, but aside from the Metro, there’s lots happening underground. A visit to the Paris Sewer System Museum costs only €4.30 and it’s surprisingly not that smelly down there at all.
As you descend beneath the busy streets of Paris, you’ll walk along an active sewer system and learn how this engineering marvel works but also how Paris overcame the immense challenge of water & waste management over the centuries. It’s definitely a great off the beaten path thing to do in Paris and will only take you about an hour or so.
Read more about visiting Paris Sewer System Museum here!
The Eiffel Tower – the symbol of Paris
Back above ground, I now headed to where you could technically begin your day, Trocadéro Gardens. The Eiffel Tower is getting closer and closer and a visit to the Trocadéro Gardens grants you a great view of the iconic landmark (though you certainly won’t be alone). There are a ton of museums scattered around this complex so feel free to look into that if that’s your thing. For me, the main attraction was the view but there will be another (and better) spot to see the Eiffel Tower and we’ll get there soon.
The obvious next thing to do is to cross the River Seine and head to the Eiffel Tower (la Tour Eiffel). There’s really not much that I need to add here as pretty much every citizen of the world will recognize this symbol of Paris. What I should add though is that I’m pretty sure you need to purchase tickets in advance to go up to the viewing decks so check the website for more details. The tower itself is 300m tall, a pretty big deal back in 1889 when it was built for the Universal Expo. It was actually meant to be dismantled after the expo – can you imagine that?
On this particular visit, I did not venture up (this will take up a good few hours of your day). However, here are some photos from a previous (and cloudy) visit to Paris, when I did play the ultimate tourist in Paris and climbed all the way up to the upper deck.
Oh and one more thing, the Eiffel Tower is beautifully lit at night, going from a huge tower of twinkling lights to a good old-fashioned lighthouse. Here’s what it looks like as the sun was setting during a warm spring evening in Paris.
An alternative good view of the Eiffel Tower
OK, now back to business. I mentioned that there’s an equally good (if not better) spot to see the Eiffel Tower in all its glory and you don’t even have to venture too far (though you will have to fight off the touts that sell models of the tower in all sizes). As you continue walking beneath and past the tower, you will get to Champ de Mars. This former military ground was the site of quite a few revolutionary events but nowadays is a popular spot for catching some sun and unobstructed views of the Eiffel Tower. If you’re into picnics, this could be a good spot to take a break. Have a look around the park to the surrounding apartments. These are some of the most expensive in Paris… location, location, location!
As you continue walking south, you can’t miss the Ecole Militaire, which caps off a vast open space that begins at the Eiffel Tower. This military complex was built by Louis XV in the 18th century and is now home to military academies. There are some pretty good looking bistros with tables out on the sunny street (la terrasse) around the northeastern side of the Ecole Militaire (such as Café des officiers).
We’ll now continue checking out some of the famous sites but you can equally take a lunch break in the many options on the trendy Rue Cler. We’ll cover this later on but if you’re hungry, just head there now.
An oasis in the middle of Paris at the Rodin Museum
My next stop was the Rodin Museum. To get there, I took a nice (but long) detour via Esplanade Jacques Chaban-Delmas. This area was quite sleepy on this Saturday afternoon and I had the streets almost all to myself. On the Esplanade, you’ll get a great view of the Eglise du Dome at the L’Hôtel des Invalides, where Napoleon is buried and where we’ll head soon.
The Rodin Museum was one of the highlights of the day for me. The museum is made up of an 18th-century mansion and beautiful gardens, scattered with the sculpture’s famous works such as The Thinker and The Gate of Hell (you can see a replica model in the Musee d’Orsay). The mansion itself was closed for renovation but I intended to only visit the gardens anyway so €2 got me inside this little piece of heaven in the middle of Paris.
Visiting Napoleon’s Tomb – this place is huge!
We’ll now head to the nearby Eglise du Dome, home to Le Tombeau de Napoléon. The church, along with the tomb, is part of the Invalides Quarter. This also includes the former military barracks that now house the military museum (we’ll get there soon). The complex was built by Louis XIV for wounded soldiers back in the day.
For €9.50, you can get inside the Eglise du Dome and your ticket will include entrance to the military museum. I didn’t mean to go there as well, but why not?
What can I say about this church… If you read my stories, you know I have a thing for old European churches (I am not even Christian but the architecture… my God!). This church, however, is on a whole other level.
I’ll let the pictures do most of the talking but what is fascinating here is that this place is… huge. You really feel tiny when you step inside.
There are a few famous folks who call this gorgeous place their final resting stop, each with their own massive chamber. However, the real highlight that cannot (and will not) be missed is Napoleon Bonaparte’s tomb. Housed in a massive circular open pit right beneath the tomb, Napoleon’s sarcophagus is on display for eternity. I mean, this thing surely weighs a good few tons. I guess he deserves it, despite finishing his life in exile…
Wow, after visiting such a church, it will be hard to visit others but to take a quick pulse check regarding that, there’s an adjacent church that you can visit for free – the Eglise des Soldat. If I hadn’t visited the Eglise du Dome just a few seconds ago, this place would have been super impressive. If you like old European churches, your standards will certainly go up once you visit Paris.
A small anecdote if you’re wondering why there are 2 churches joined together? Well, the church didn’t really need a good reason to spend so much cash on buildings back in the day, right? But seriously, this church was built for the ‘common folks’ while the other one we just visited, for the nobles. God forbid those two groups could come in contact!
Visiting the Army Museum in Paris
Since our ticket includes entrance to the Army Museum, why not pay a visit? I must say that I hate going to museums on a sunny day. I’ve spent the past 4+ years in Dublin and I learned that sunshine is a precious commodity, more so on a weekend. However, since I like history anyway (and I’m a guy), I really had an interesting time in the Army Museum and might even come back. The first floor is devoted to the old days and there’s some pretty cool stuff on display here. How could these guys even move around with all that metal on them?
The top floor is dedicated to the World Wars and there are loads of artifacts on display. On the one hand, it’s really cool to see and learn about these kinds of things but on the other hand, how cruel can humans be?
As you step out of the barracks the view is breathtaking. This is Paris in its grandest state. Look across the Esplanade des Invalides towards the Pont Alexandre III and back towards the barracks. It’s very similar to the huge open space between the Eiffel Tower and Ecole Militaire. You can see that this part of Paris was well planned to showcase its beauty and power. I said it before and I’ll say it again: Paris is like one huge museum.
Neighborhood market at Rue Cler
We’ll come back to this area soon but if you haven’t done so earlier, cut back across towards Rue Cler. If you wonder where some Parisians hang out on a sunny weekend, you’ll find your answer here. The street itself is a pedestrian market street, lined with fresh fruits & vegetable stalls, fromageries (cheese shops), boucherie (butcher shop) and more. Of course, let’s not forget the cafes and bistros that spill over to the street along Rue Cler and its intersecting side streets.
Around Rue Clear, especially on Rue Saint-Dominique, you’ll find a weekend antiques market that super cool to examine. Parisians love antiques and I learned that when visiting the Marche aux Puce (the Paris Flea Market) of all places.
Art Nouveau & classic Eiffel Tower photos
If you appreciate architecture and also want a classic Paris photo, head over to 29 Avenue Rapp and its neighboring tiny little square. You’ll find here beautiful examples of Art Nouveau buildings, constructed at a time when architects put a great deal of attention to detail. The Eiffel Tower is right behind you, not bad ah?
Now we’ll head towards the end of our trip along Rue Saint-Dominique, which becomes very vibrant as it crosses Rue Cler and beyond. You’ll find here a great deal of cute little boulangeries (bakeries), boutiques, classic Eiffel Tower views and one special little patisserie (pastry shop) called Gâteaux Thoumieux. After walking so much, treat yourself to a sweet work of art in one of the best pastry shops in all of Paris.
Crossing the prettiest bridge in Paris
We’ve gone around in quite a few big circles and now back in the Esplanade des Invalides. The reason for this is that we need to get back home on the other side of the river (well, at least I need to get home). There’s no prettier bridge in all of Paris to take us to the other side of the Seine than the Pont Alexandre III. It was built in 1900 for the Universal Expo and makes this already beautiful part of Paris, even prettier. Across the bridge are the Grand & Petit Palais but that’s for another day.
Just a FYI
Since we’re in the 7th district, it’s worth mentioning the resident ‘king’ of museums of this area – the Musee d’Orsay. After the Louvre, this is probably the best (and most visited) museum in Paris. Its specialty is the Impressionist works of art including those by Monet, Van Gogh, Cezanne, Picasso, and others but the building itself, an old railway station, is magnificent. If you do make it here, leave yourself a good few hours to fully enjoy – but for more details (and lots of photos) about visiting the Musee d’Orsay, have a look at this post.
I walked a lot, went around in a few circles, finally used my sunglasses and had an amazing time. It was a day that started in the underground sewers of Paris and ended with crossing the most beautiful bridge in town. Exploring the 7th arrondissement of Paris certainly ranks high on my list of top things to do in Paris. The combination of enormous and beautiful landmarks, along with the local vibe in certain parts and rare tranquility in others – are what did it for me. What a day!