Paris, the City of Light is the world’s most visited capital. The city is proud of its many monuments from the iconic Eiffel Tower to the lofty Notre-Dame cathedral and the majestic Arc de Triomphe. No doubt this is Europe’s most enchanting capital! Here is our list for the top 10 most famous monuments of Paris.
What are the most famous monuments of Paris?
We often take for granted that all our readers should be familiar with Paris’ iconic monuments. As I toured with visitors from the Americas, the UK, India or Australia I found out that this was not always the case. Of course everyone knows the Eiffel Tower but not all our clients were able to recognise the Sacré-Cœur or Notre-Dame, had trouble distinguishing the dome of the Invalides from that of the Panthéon… I hope this little list of the most famous monuments of Paris will help some of you to discover the French capital. Please let us know of your favourite Parisian landmarks by commenting below, we’d love to hear from you! Oh and by the way thank you to all our readers for making this post our most successful ever published! 🙂
10. Palais du Luxembourg
The Luxembourg Palace, surrounded by its beautiful gardens, was built in 1617. It owes its name to the Duke of Piney-Luxembourg, landlord of a domain which was later acquired by Maria de Medici, widow of the King of France, Henri IV. The Italian-born Queen wished to create a residence to remind her of the Pitti Palace as well as establishing gardens evoking those of Boboli in Florence.
Architect Salomon de la Brosse was entrusted the construction of the palace. It now houses the French Senate, the upper house of Parliament. The palace opens onto a beautiful park, actually one of my favourites in Paris. I love coming here in Spring and in Autumn. If you have kids it also has a brilliant play area.
9. Centre Pompidou
The Pompidou Centre in the district of Beaubourg is one of France’s most visited museums.
Not far from the busy shopping precinct of Les Halles, the Pompidou centre was designed in the style of high-tech architecture. With its colour-coded pipes and ducts, the design of the modern art museum has been the source of much controversy since its construction.
Inaugurated in 1977, some see it as an eyesore, others praise its architectural audacity. Honestly I don’t really know what to think of it, that’s why I much prefer to climb on the top floor to enjoy the panoramic views over the roofs of Paris where it also has a famous restaurant.
8. Les Invalides
Now this is a place I’m much more familiar with as I used to work as a French teacher in a nearby language school.
The grand complex of Les Invalides on the Left Bank is easily recognisable by its magnificent golden dome reaching 107 metres high. It was built by Louis XIV to house the homeless and wounded veterans of the King’s army.
Today the Hôtel des Invalides is famous for housing the tomb of French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. The Hôtel des Invalides also hosts three museums: the Army museum, the Order of the Liberation museum, and the Relief map museum.
>> Get your Tickets for Les Invalides: the Army Museum [Priority Entrance], Napoleon’s tomb and see war memorabilia! <<
7. Opéra Garnier
Charles Garnier built the opulent Paris Opera house from 1861 to 1875 during the reign of Napoleon III. It is part of the great reconstruction of Paris by Baron Haussmann during the Second Empire.
The auditorium seats nearly 2,000 people and features a grand chandelier and a fine ceiling painting by Marc Chagall. You have to visit the interior of the opera house, including the astonishing great staircase.
At certain times of the day you can pay to look around or have a guided tour. It’s just mind-blowing! You can sometimes get last minute tickets for operas and ballets but it is best to book in advance which you can do online.
Situated in the Latin Quarter, the Panthéon stands at the top of the Sainte-Geneviève hill. A massive colonnaded dome tops the neo-classical white monument.
Originally a church, the Panthéon has since become a necropolis for France’s greatest citizens and a popular national monument.
I recommend you climb the dome of the Panthéon to see the whole of Paris, from the Eiffel Tower to Notre-Dame and Montmartre.
Visible from many parts of Paris, the basilica of Sacré-Cœur stands like a whipped-cream church atop the hill of Montmartre. With its Romanesque-Byzantine-style, the church shares more resemblance with the Taj Mahal in India than the Gothic cathedral of Notre-Dame!
The Sacré-Cœur was built between 1875 and 1914 by architect Paul Abadie and houses France’s biggest bell, La Savoyarde with a weight of 18 tonnes.
The panoramic view of Paris from the top of the dome is just breathtaking, especially at sunset!
I recommend visiting the church and the neighbouring streets of Montmartre early in the morning to avoid the masses of tourists. Make sure you head to Place du Tertre as well where you can have your portrait painted and soak up the atmosphere.
The Paris cathedral of Notre-Dame is a jewel of Gothic architecture and arguably one of the finest churches in Europe. Built from the Middle-Ages, the cathedral is the centre stage of “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame”, a 19th century novel written by French writer Victor Hugo.
I particularly like visiting Notre-Dame at Christmas to admire the monumental Nativity Scene.
If you climb up the 380 stairs to the South Tower, you’ll meet the many chimeras and gargoyles that watch over the city of Paris day and night.
3. Palais du Louvre
It is said that the Louvre is the world’s largest museum. Whether it is true or not, it does rank as one of the most majestic palaces of Europe.
This was the former residence of the Kings of France. Today the Louvre museum displays over 38,000 pieces of art. Don’t miss visiting the remains of the medieval foundations on the lower ground floor.
Some of the most famous are Mona Lisa, the Venus de Milo, and Delacroix’ painting Liberty leading the people…
2. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is a monumental triumphal arch that sits at the top of the prestigious Avenue des Champs-Élysées.
It was raised at the centre of Place de l’Étoile (or Place du Général Charles de Gaulle) from where 12 avenues radiate. The Arc de Triomphe was built in honour of the French Imperial army of Napoleon.
You can admire it from afar at the Place de la Concorde or from the Esplanade de la Défense.
1. Eiffel Tower
Among the famous monuments of Paris, La Tour Eiffel is certainly the most popular. The “dame de fer” (iron lady) is known everywhere in the world.
But did you know that the world-famous metallic tower was built for the Paris International Exhibition in 1889 for the centenary of the French Revolution? At the time of its inauguration, it was the world’s tallest monument.
It welcomes more than 7 million visitors each year and it is estimated that more than 250 million people have visited the tower since its completion. Today the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid-entrance monument in the world.
What about getting a Paris guide?
Looking for a great guide of Paris? We bought The Rough Guide to Paris and found what we needed to know for discovering the must-sees to the more offbeat sites of the French capital. The guide gives an accurate practical information on everything from public transport to opening hours and museum passes.
All product and brand recommendations on French Moments are genuine and based on our own experience. Where relevant we also include links to third party websites using commission-generating affiliate links but otherwise none of the companies or brands mentioned have endorsed our site. If you purchase something after clicking on an affiliate link we receive a small amount of commission which helps us keep running the site and researching future articles.
English-French Vocabulary for famous monuments of Paris
(f) for féminin, (m) for masculin, (adj) for adjective and (v) for verbs