There is no shortage of beauty to see in the city of love. We’ve created the ultimate list of Paris landmarks you need to have on your bucket list.
Some are iconic and others holes in the wall. Call it whatever you’d like – the city of love, the city of light… Everywhere you turn, there are glorious monuments memorializing this cosmopolitan city’s past. Scattered throughout different districts, finding and visiting each is an adventure in and of itself. We’ve done some traveling and scoped out the best Paris landmarks you need to visit during your stay. From the great to the small and everything in between, here are our top picks.
Here Are Our Picks for the Top Paris Landmarks You Need to See
1. Eiffel Tower
How could we possibly start off this list without the Eiffel Tower as number one? We don’t care if you’re a first-timer or seasoned traveler. This iconic structure is worth the visit, revisit, or whatever it may be. While the view from the top is undoubtedly incredible, you don’t need to pay a fee to enjoy its beauty. One of our favorite (and free) things to do is just pack a picnic and enjoy a great spot from the grassy knoll nearby. Or better yet, bring a blanket and scope out a spot to watch the Paris night show with a bottle of wine for two. Yes please.
2. Arc de Triomphe
Here is another one of the most famous Paris landmarks for your viewing pleasure. But don’t just look at pictures online. Go see it in person. Standing on the Place de l’Etoile at the very end of the Champs-Elysees stands one of the world’s largest triumphal arches. While there are many tourists snapping photos in front of it, few actually know its history. We like to travel deeper.
Built in 1806, the Arc de Triomphe was commissioned to celebrate the victory of Napoleon Bonaparte in Austerlitz. Inspired by the Roman triumphal arch, it was designed on a grand scale. Today, it stands as one of the most famous monuments on the globe. Just beneath the vault lies another, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Did you know that every night, under a continual watch, a flame is lit at 6:30 pm?
Visit this monument and make sure to climb to the summit. Yes, you can do that. Here, you can enjoy sweeping views of the city come day or night. Inside, you will also find a museum explaining the history of the Arc de Triomphe. Psst. Here’s a hint. One of the best ways to skip the lines and save a lot of money is to invest in the Paris Pass. With this lovely ticket, you will enjoy unlimited use of the public transportation system (aka the subways and bus systems) as well as admission to more than sixty different museums and attractions, and more.
3. Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur
Wind your way up to the top of the hill Montmartre. Here, you will find one of the most stunning Paris landmarks. Perched 130 meters above the city, this Romano-Byzantine style building offers sweeping views of the landscape below. Besides the hilltop views, this architectural marvel is a wonder in and of itself.
Four dome and an eighty-three meter high dome come together to create this church. Built in 1873, it was commissioned after the French National Assembly voted to commemorate the casualties of France and Prussia’s war. Take a step inside and you’re instantly overwhelmed by its magnitude in the best possible way. From the dramatically high ceilings to the mosaic tile, stained glass windows, and sweeping staircases, the Basilica of the Sacre-Coeur seems like something out of a dream.
4. Musee de l’Armee
This is one of the best Paris landmarks and you would be surprised at how few travelers actually have it on their list. The backstory behind the Army Museum or Les Invalides goes something like this. King Louis XIV first created the structure to house disabled soldiers of his army. But the way we know it today wasn’t born until 1905.
One hundred and thirteen years ago, it became known as the Army Museum, housing some 500,000 historical items. With a collection of this magnitude, it’s no wonder the site became an important piece of military memorialization in France and also one of the first of its kind in the world. When you visit, you can go and admire its vast collections. You’ll find that they run chronologically from the days of old to World War II.
But that’s not all. Also inside, are the Dome des Invalides (a small church) and the heart of the Marquis of Vauban. And last but certainly not least, you will find the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte the First lying beside his son, Napoleon II, King of Rome.
5. Notre-Dame de Paris Cathedral
If you’ve never attended a candlelit service in the Notre-Dame, you haven’t lived. You’ll find it in the historic center of Paris. This master of architecture shines over all the city, a beacon for travelers near and far. Construction began all the way back in 1163, taking nearly two centuries to finish. Here’s a fun fact. The high towers are what inspired Victor Hugo in one of his novels. Throughout history, the Notre-Dame has always been at the heart of pivotal historical events. Henry IV of France was married here. The funerals of the greats like Napoleon Bonaparte were held here too.
Before you visit the cathedral, make sure to read up a little on its history. Knowing the significance of a place historically draws out a deeper appreciation for it when you can visit in person. The interior and 42-meter-high ceiling are certainly something to be admired. For a small fee, you can climb up the stairs to enjoy spectacular views from the towers. This is another one of those times where your Paris Pass will help you cut the line and save yourself a whole lot of time and money.
You can literally lose yourself in here. We’ve done it. Somewhere we heard that in order to see everything there is to see in this massive museum, you would have to spend 100 days. And that would just be looking at each piece of art for only 30 seconds. Here, you can explore art from all corners of the world spanning from the ancient civilizations all the way through modern day.
Among the most famous works on display are the Mona Lisa, Winged Victory of Samothrace, and the Venus de Milo. To prepare for your visit, make sure to check the museum’s website. Know what you want to see and what part of the museum to find it in. It’s so easy to go and spend a day overwhelmed with the sights and not enough time to truly drink them all in.
7. Musee d’Orsay
Inside of an old railway station from the 1900 World’s Fair, you will find the lovely Musee d’Orsay. As one of the most famous Paris landmarks, it’s another place you just have to visit. Here, you can enjoy occidental art spanning from 1848-1914. While it is less known than the Louvre, that’s one of the main appeals in our eyes. Who doesn’t want shorter lines and less crowds in front of the painting you’re trying to see?
Besides, the Musee d’Orsay is famous in its own right. Did you know that it is home to the world’s largest Impressionist and post-Impressionist collection? With over 900 of these paintings in its collection, it’s safe to say that you’ll have a lot of exploring and reflecting to do. From time to time, there are also temporary exhibits that highlight one artist’s unique style or a trend. This is one of those Paris landmarks that is well worth the visit.
8. Palais Garnier
Towering over the Place de l’Opera, you will find the Palais Garnier. For anyone looking to truly dive into the city’s culture, this is one of the must-see Paris landmarks. Can you guess whose rule it was designed under? You got it – none other than Napoleon III. At the front, two torch-bearing female statues greet guests.
On the walkway to the famous vault, take a moment to stop and admire the intricacy of the Bassin de la Pythie and the Grand Escalier. Reaching over 30 meters high, the vault shines with a rainbow of colors in the marble that composes it. Something else you should know is that the Palais Garnier regularly organizes events surrounding both operas and fashion. While you’re visiting the city, check to see if one crosses your path. That would really be something for the books.
9. Shakespeare and Company
This is one of our favorite Paris landmarks of all time. It’s arguably one of the most famous independent bookstores in the world with all the charm of a hidden gem. Shakespeare and Company feels like something out of a literary utopia, too good to be true. Here, money takes the backseat and knowledge is the driver.
To the left of the shop past leafy green trees, you’ll find a bustling coffee shop with delicious pastries and hot coffee. On the right, there are rows of antique books for sale, leading into the shop. Walk the old wooden stairs to a loft overlooking the city. Here, you can enjoy a window seat while reading books from the shop’s antique collection. What could be better than reading antiques in a 17th-century Parisian loft?
This cafe is connected to one of the city’s oldest bookstores, that’s been open since the early 1920s. Head up the small wooden staircase to the antique room, where you can grab a window seat and read from some vintage collection novels.
While the cafe opened in 2006, it has quickly become a hit. It’s the perfect pit stop for breakfast or an afternoon pick me up. Here, you’ll find freshly-baked bagels, croissants, and hearty dishes like veggie stew. The bookshop cafe also offers other special treats including some of the British variety. Think scones topped with butter and jam or a savory crumble fruit pie. Why not pair your pastry with a cup of hot coffee or a chai latte? Just saying. The sticky chai (infused with ginger honey) is the first of its kind in the city.
Book Your Visit and Go See the Best Paris Landmarks
The only thing more beautiful than Paris in the springtime is Paris in the fall. Since it’s after peak season, you can go see all the sights on your bucket list (including some epic day trips) with the perk of fewer tourists and shorter lines. This city offers a whirlwind of excitement for even the most well-versed travelers. Whether it’s your first time visiting the city of love or you’ve been drawn back again, we know you’ll love getting to explore the amazing art in all of the best Paris landmarks.