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 of the top 10 most famous monuments of Paris, France. However, if you’re not familiar with the French capital’s iconic landmarks, you’ll surely recognise a few of them!
What are the most famous monuments of Paris, France?
We often take for granted that all our readers should be familiar with the iconic monuments in Paris. 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. Moreover, some 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! 🙂
And if you are a student researching the most famous monuments of Paris, a big welcome! You’re in the right place! Pick the info you need to feed your essay and don’t forget to click on some of the internal links that will guide you to more info about the monument. You’ll also find a mini English-French glossary at the end of the article. And if you’d like to experience our French moments, I invite you to subscribe to our newsletter!
There is more!
Want to know more about France outside of Paris? Check out this post on the blog The Travel Scribes that describes no less than 21 fantastic landmarks in France!
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 establish gardens evoking those of Boboli in Florence.
Furthermore, architect Salomon de la Brosse has entrusted with 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 Autumn. If you have kids it also has a brilliant play area.
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.
However, 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.
⚠️ The museum will undergo a major revamp in the years to come and will be closed during the renovation works.
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 originally 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.
Finally, the Hôtel des Invalides also hosts three museums: the Army museum, the Order of the Liberation museum, and the Relief map museum.
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. Therefore, 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 collonaded 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.
Sacré-Cœur Basilica, 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!
Finally, 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.
⚠️ April 15. 2019 – A fire broke out at Notre-Dame cathedral in Paris and spread rapidly across the building. During this catastrophic blaze, the spire and roofs collapsed. Reconstruction work is in progress and we hope the cathedral will be restored by 2024 at the earliest.
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 liked visiting Notre-Dame at Christmas to admire the monumental Nativity Scene.
Before the great fire of April 2019, if you climbed up the 380 stairs to the South Tower, you’d meet the many chimaeras and gargoyles that watched over the city of Paris day and night.
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.
Originally 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…
Finally, the Louvre and its glass pyramid open onto the garden of the Tuileries at the starting point of the Historical Axis. With places like this available to visit, it is no surprise that France has been named one of the top 25 holiday destinations of 2021.
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. In fact, 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.
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? Then at the time of its inauguration, it was the world’s tallest monument.
More than 7 million visitors each year!
Nowadays 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. In fact, the Eiffel Tower is the most visited paid-entrance monument in the world.
- Visit our page on the Eiffel Tower.
- Enrol on our new course: the secrets of the Eiffel Tower.
- Visit the official website of the Eiffel Tower.
Where to stay when visiting Paris?
There’s a huge choice of accommodations in Paris, from basic hotels to luxury palaces and comfy holiday rental apartments. Check it out by clicking on this affiliate link or navigate through the following map to give you an idea: