Ah, Paris. This city is full of beautiful places, from iconic towers to palatial museums. I’ve been coming here all my adult life, and I never tire of seeing the sights. If you want to explore the best the city has to offer, today I bring you A Lady in London’s guide to Paris landmarks. There’s a map, too.
The French capital’s attractions come in all shapes and sizes. From the A-frame Eiffel Tower to the domed Sacre Coeur, the colorful Centre Pompidou to the winged Moulin Rouge, there’s no shortage of variety in Paris’ attractions.
Given Paris is well connected by metro and has some of the prettiest streets in Europe, the city’s famous landmarks are easy to see as part of your Paris sightseeing itinerary.
I love to walk, and on this trip I’ve spent two days wandering between them on foot. On my last trip I got around using the metro and RER trains. However you choose to discover them, seeing them is one of the best things to do in Paris.
The Louvre is one of the most important Paris landmarks. Not only is this the world’s largest art museum, but also a former royal palace.
Everything from ancient Greek sculptures to the Mona Lisa is on display inside, and I.M. Pei’s iconic glass pyramid adds a contemporary touch to the outside.
Speaking of the outside, the Jardin des Tuileries sits in front of the Lovure and its gardens and fountains are great places to explore in Paris. Together with the Louvre, they make up one of the most iconic Paris attractions.
2. Eiffel Tower
If anything could challenge the Louvre in importance, it’s the Eiffel Tower. This iron giant is one of the best Paris landmarks, and is a symbol of the city in its own right.
Completed in 1889, the Eiffel Tower was originally subject to intense criticism. It’s clearly grown on people over the years, as it’s now one of the most beloved places to visit in Paris.
3. Arc de Triomphe
Across the Seine, the Arc de Triomphe dominates the scene at the top of the Champs-Elysees. This triumphal arch was built by Napoleon in the early 19th century to honor his Grande Armee, which had conquered most of Europe at the time.
The Arc de Triomphe sits in the middle of Place Charles de Gaulle, a star junction with twelve avenues radiating out from its core. It’s amazing to see the traffic circling the roundabout from the top.
4. Notre-Dame de Paris
On an island in the Seine, the Notre Dame is another of the most beloved Paris landmarks. The church is an important symbol of the city, and it has featured in everything from books to films.
Dating back to the 12th century, the Notre Dame is considered one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture. Its striking facade and flying buttresses are visible from many parts of Paris, and it’s worth a special trip to see them up close.
5. Sacre Coeur Basilica
On a hilltop in Montmartre, the Sacre Coeur is another Paris landmark. Built in the 1870s following the military defeat of France by Prussia, this Neo-Romano-Byzantine church is one of the most unique buildings in the city.
One of the best ways to see the Sacre Coeur is from the steps on Place Saint-Pierre. The church dominates the scene here, and walking up to it brings the details into greater relief. Once at the top, it’s worth going inside to see the stunning mosaics.
6. Moulin Rouge as a Paris Landmark
Not far from the Sacre Coeur lies the Moulin Rouge. This cabaret is one of the most famous theaters in Paris, and is a landmark in its own right. With a red windmill on top of the building, it’s an emblem of the Pigalle area.
Originally built in 1889, the Moulin Rouge was made known by the likes of artist Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. Today visitors can relive the glory days in one of the most famous buildings in Paris.
In fact, an evening at the Moulin Rouge in Paris is part of my itinerary for this trip. At first I’m skeptical that it will be a tourist trap, but I really enjoy the show. The costumes in particular are incredible.
7. Musee d’Orsay
Back to museums, the Musee d’Orsay is one of the most iconic in the city. This former Beaux-Arts train station was converted into an art museum in 1986. It’s now one of the most important Paris landmarks for Impressionist art.
The Musee d’Orsay is packed with paintings by Monet, Renoir, Degas, and other French artists. It displays collections from 1848 to 1914, so it’s a great place to focus on a specific period of French art.
8. Les Invalides
Not far from the Musee d’Orsay lies the gilded dome of Les Invalides. Originally a hospital and home for war veterans, it’s now dedicated to all things military history.
Les Invalides is not only famous for its striking facade and manicured grounds, but also for housing the tomb of Napoleon. Beyond that, it contains the museum of the Army of France and the tallest church dome in Paris.
9. Centre Pompidou
On the contemporary side of things, the Centre Pompidou is one of the most important modern landmarks in Paris.
This inside-out building is known for the colorful pipes, ducts, and wires running along its exterior. Opened in 1977, its unconventional design still shocks visitors today.
Inside, the Centre Pompidou is home to a vast collection of modern and contemporary art. It also has some of the best views of Paris from its upper floors.
It’s worth a visit just to see the Eiffel Tower and Sacre Coeur over the rooftops (and they even sell tickets just for that part of the museum).
10. Avenue des Champs-Elysees
While not a building or tower, the Champs-Elysees deserves a place on my list of Paris landmarks. This wide street in the 8th arrondissement runs from the Place de la Concorde to the Arc de Triomphe.
The Champs-Elysees is one of the most famous roads in Paris. Not only is it lined with well-known shops, but it’s also the location of the annual Bastille Day parade and the finish line of the Tour de France.
I walk down the Champs-Elysees almost every time I’m in Paris, and seeing the shops, gardens, and views never gets old.
11. The Bridges as Paris Landmarks
Given Paris is divided by a river, the city has a lot of bridges. And rather than choosing just one, I want to include all of them in my round-up. From the Pont Neuf to the Pont des Arts, the city has a lot of iconic structures spanning the Seine.
For me, the most beautiful bridge in Paris is the Pont Alexandre III. This beauty has two pylons on each end topped with huge bronze sculptures. In between them, ornate lamps and figures add eye-catching touches and one of the best views of the Eiffel Tower.
Over in the Latin Quarter, the Pantheon is another great Paris landmark. Designed to resemble the Pantheon in Rome, it has a striking Neoclassical facade.
Originally built as a church, this 18th-century building is now a mausoleum housing the remains of notable French citizens. Everyone from Voltaire to Marie Curie is buried here.
13. Jardin du Luxembourg
Just down the road from the Pantheon, the Jardin du Luxembourg and its accompanying palace are both beautiful to behold. The gardens are a treat to walk around, and the Medici Fountain is lovely.
The Palais du Luxembourg is a former royal residence that’s now used by the French senate. Even from the outside, this 17th-century palace is awe-inspiring.
I take a walk here on most of my trips to Paris, and always discover something new. On my last trip it was a statue of Mary, Queen of Scots. I never imagined finding it among all the statues in Paris.
14. Place de la Concorde
Back on the Right Bank, the Place de la Concorde is another of the great Paris landmarks. The largest square in the city, it sits between the Champs-Elysees and the Jardin des Tuileries.
The Place de la Concorde is notable for the towering obelisk in its center. The Egyptian government gave it to the French in the 19th century. Also notable are the views of the Palais Bourbon across the bridge.
15. Hotel de Ville as a Paris Landmark
No city would be complete without a local administration, and the Hotel de Ville is one of the most stunning examples of a city hall in France. Neo-Renaissance in style, it was built following the destruction of its predecessor during the Paris Commune in 1871.
The exterior of the Hotel de Ville is ornate, and there’s always something to entertain in the square out front. Inside, there’s a replica of the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles.
16. Palais Royal
Back by the Louvre, the Palais Royal is a former royal palace built for Cardinal Richelieu in the 17th century. Today it’s best known for its peaceful gardens and historic arcades lined with shops.
The Palais Royal is also notable for artist Daniel Buren’s striped columns. Installed in the courtyard in the 1980s, they were extremely controversial at the time. Today it’s hard to imagine the area without them.
17. Galeries Lafayette
Paris is one of the most fashionable cities in the world, and no list of Paris landmarks would be complete without a retail temple. My favorite of them is Galeries Lafayette.
Located near the Palais Garnier opera house, this department store not only has all the French fashion one could want, but also a stunning domed ceiling with rotating art exhibitions throughout the year.
I always pop in when I’m in Paris, and this time I’m treated to all the colors my eyes could desire.
Paris Landmarks Map
I hope you’ve enjoyed this tour of Paris’ most beloved sites. If you want to see them all in one place, here’s a Paris landmarks map that can help you find them all and navigate your way between them. Bon voyage!
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