When travelling the world, there’s no better place to start than Paris. So much art, so much beauty, so much to see—where do you start? Actually, you start right here.
We want to make sure you don’t miss anything. So to make your trip to the City of Light easier, we’ve written you this guide to Paris landmarks every visitor needs to see. From the most famous to the lesser-known, each item on this list is an architectural masterpiece—a triumph of Parisian artistry and ingenuity.
So before you pack, plan. And before you plan, read this Paris destination checklist.
1. The Eiffel Tower
The number one must-see architectural marvel of Paris, the Eiffel Tower, was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Paris World Expedition of 1889. Once completed, it was the tallest structure ever built by mankind, a record it held until succeeded by New York City’s Chrysler Building in 1930.
It’s hard to believe this most iconic of Parisian sights was originally despised by locals for many years after its creation. Today, it delights 7 million visitors per day.
The skeletal monolith stretches 324 meters from base to tip (1,063 feet) and consists of 10,000 tons of wrought iron. And there’s no better view of Paris than that from atop the Eiffel Tower
Visitors can ascend by stairs or elevator, though the stairs only go to the first level. Those who wish to reach the top must use the elevator.
But, besides the top, the lower levels have something to offer as well. There, you’ll find an assortment of unique restaurants and shops.
2. Arc de Triomphe
The aptly-named Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte to celebrate his triumph in the Battle of Austerlitz in 1806. The enormous arch was not completed, however, until 1836.
Those who make the climb to the top are rewarded with a breathtaking view of the famous Avenue des Champs-Elysées. Champs-Elysées is said to be the most beautiful avenue ever beheld. It’s also home to some of the most high-end fashion shopping Paris has to offer.
Beneath the Arc de Triomphe, an underground passage leads to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. In commemoration of World War I, the eternal flame of the Unknown Soldier has been continually burning since 1920.
3. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
The Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral was once the most visited destination in all of Paris. This was largely due to its role as a functioning religious site, as well as its extensive collection of rare artifacts. After suffering severe structural damage from the tragic fire in 2019, it has ceased all religious services and closed to the public until further notice.
That said, while the central spire and surrounding area was destroyed, much of this architectural wonder still stands. As such, any visit to Paris would still be incomplete without an up-close look at the exterior of the world-famous cathedral.
Furthermore, restoration and reconstruction are ongoing. Plans are underway to make this beloved Parisian icon safe for public viewing once again, no matter how long it takes.
4. La Grande Arche
One of the more modern marvels on our list, La Grande Arche is kind of a 20th-century answer to the Arc de Triomphe. The archway towers over Paris’ business district at a height of 364 feet. It appears as an enormous concrete cube with the center removed, embellished with glass and marble.
The Grande Arche stands as a testament that the artistic beauty and creativity that made the city famous lives on to this day.
5. The Louvre
Another unmissable Paris destination for your bucket list is the world-renowned Louvre. The museum is home to an unparalleled art collection including the Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo.
But, as any lover of architecture knows, the view outside the building is unparalleled as well. First, you’re welcomed by the iconic glass pyramid in front of the building. Beyond that is the royal palace that housed several generations of French kings for centuries.
During your visit, don’t forget to take in the view before going inside.
6. Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur
The Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur is a gorgeous example of late 1800s French architecture. This stone monument to the Heart of Christ is characterized by impressive domes and pillars and is 83-meters tall at its highest point.
The inside is a treasure trove of artistic design. Massive mosaics of Christ, saints, and angels adorn the ceilings. Even the floor you tread on is a 480-square-meter mosaic.
The belfry includes the nineteen-ton Savoyarde bell, one of the largest bells in the world. Next, the wonder and beauty of the Sacré-Coeur Basilica extend even further—from the catacombs beneath to the view at the top.
7. Château de Versailles
Located in the Versailles suburb of Paris, the Palace of Versailles is well worth the trip. Never has there been a better example of “a palace fit for a king” than that of the Château de Versailles.
With its high arching ceilings, crystal chandeliers, marble floors, and golden statues adorning the interior, you’ll feel like royalty just for being there. Outside, you’ll view artfully-crafted gardens overlooking an enormous decorative pool.
Make sure your trip to Paris includes a Château de Versailles tour.
8. The Pantheon
When in France, do as the Romans! The Pantheon in Paris is an homage to the original in Rome. As such, it looks as you’d expect—like you’ve been instantly transported from Paris to ancient Rome!
On the inside, though, the Parisian Pantheon is somewhat of a celebrity crypt. It’s the burial place of many notable French citizens including Alexander Dumas, Voltaire, and Rousseau.
9. Centre Pompidou
Lastly, we have one more modern architectural wonder, the Centre Pompidou. Inside is the National Museum of Modern Art, housing top collections of art from the 20th and 21st centuries.
But perhaps the most notable sight is the building’s tubular, color-coded exterior. Developed in the 1970s, the Centre Pompidou looks straight out of a futuristic city from a science-fiction film.
The exterior network of blue, yellow, and green tubes makes the building look more like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory than a museum. And you’ll traverse throughout the building along the outside via transparent elevators that travel diagonally.
The Centre Pompidou is a real, yet surreal, sight to behold.
Don’t Miss These Beloved Paris Landmarks
You shouldn’t have to spend your return flight from Paris kicking yourself about what you missed. If you keep this guide and plan accordingly, you won’t have to.
Make sure your visit includes a tour of these Paris landmarks. Au revoir!
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