From the towering Eiffel Tower to Notre Dame Cathedral's majestic spires, Paris is brimming with architectural wonders that take your breath away.
Paris has it all! From iconic architectural designs, historical buildings, famous structures, and stunning manicured gardens and parks, the romantic French capital city is home to some of the most significant symbols and staple pieces in the country’s history.
Whether you are a history buff with an eye for monuments, a hopeless romantic looking for a quaint stroll through charming streets, or wanting to tick a few things off your bucket list, it is simply impossible to ever get bored in the City of Light.
While Paris is a place every adventurist should visit at least once, it’s impossible to explore everything the city has to offer in just one trip. So when planning your itinerary, it’s important to maximise your experience by prioritising some of the city’s key attractions. Here are 15 of the best landmarks of Paris you must visit on your first trip.
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The staple of Paris and one of the most recognizable monuments in the world is no other than the Eiffel Tower. It is THE landmark to see while in Paris and has been an icon of the city since 1889. Standing at 312 meters high, the tower was the tallest structure in France until the construction of a military transmitter in the town of Saissac in 1973.
The ground of the Eiffel Tower is surrounded by gardens and esplanades, with the main one being the Trocadéro gardens. Created for the Universal Exposition in 1937, this green space of nearly 10,000 m² offers a stunning view of the Tower.
The Eiffel Tower attracts millions of visitors each year, in fact, since its opening, more than 300 million people are believed to have visited the landmark, with many venturing to the top of the 3 floors to admire Paris from above.
The first floor boasts several souvenir and snack shops as well as the popular Le 58 Tour Eiffel restaurant, while the second floor houses the snack-style Jules Verne Restaurant and the famous macaroons bar.
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Home to astonishing works of art, including the famous Mona Lisa by Leonardo Da Vinci, the Louver Museum is arguably the world’s most iconic and largest fine arts museum, and the most visited too with an impressive 10 million visitors walking through its artistic doors each year.
But this wasn’t always the case, the landmark was originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century by King Philippe-Auguste (1165-1223) to protect Paris. Subsequent kings during the middle age expanded the fortress including the French Renaissance King François I, who made the Louvre a royal residence. Following centuries of expansion, the Louvre today covers a total area of 652,300 square feet (60,600 square meters).
Visitors to the Louvre can view an impressive 35,000 objects on display out of an impressive 380,000 collections spanning thousands of years. So vast is the Louvre that it would take an average person three months to see every piece of art contained within the building.
Alongside the Mona Lisa, other must attractions in the Louvre include the La Liberté Guidant le Peuple (Denon Wing, Room 700); Les Noces de Cana by Véronèse (Denon Wing, Room 711); and Vénus de Milo (Sully Wing, Room 345). The Louvre is open Wednesday to Monday from 9 AM – 6 PM and is open on all public holidays except Tuesdays, 1 January, 1 May, and 25 December. Visitors can buy their Louvre tickets at the venue, or they can purchase them online in advance.
The Notre Dame monument is the most visited landmark in Paris. Sitting in the historical 4th arrondissement district of the city, the cathedral’s construction first began in 1163 and took over 200 years to complete with modifications made in the 18th century and a major restoration project carried out in the 19th century. The Notre Dame has influenced notable works of art over the years including Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and more recently Disney’s musical adaptation of the same novel.
The cathedral sits in the heart of many historical events and boasts numerous immaculate designs and artwork including stained glasses, sculptures, gargoyles, and gothic architecture such as The Last Judgement sculptures by Nicolas Coustou (17th century) and Jean-Baptiste Pigalle (18th century).
Listen for the loud and distinguishing bells and look for the tall looming towers overlooking the 4th arrondissement district to find Notre Dame. Once inside explore through the stained glass windows or climb to the top of the tower for exceptional views of Paris.
Notre Dame is open to visitors free of charge seven days a week from 8 AM – 6:30 PM with the exception of Good Friday, Christmas Day, and New Year’s day. A 10 EUR entry fee will, however, be required to enter Notre Dame Tower and Crypt.
One of the most famous monuments in Paris and indeed the world is the Arc de Triomphe, this iconic monument stands tall in the 8th arrondissement district and was built between 1806 and 1836 to commemorate Napoleon’s military victories during the first French Empire. The massive structure stands 164 feet (50 meters) tall and 148 feet (45 meters) wide, with four impressive arches which are decorated with intricate designs.
The central archway is only big enough for two people standing side-by-side to pass through, whilst at the base of the monument lies La Tomb du Soldat Inconnu (the tomb of the unknown soldier), a crypt holding a single unknown soldier who died during World War I and whose eternal flame has been burning since 1923; each night at 6:30 PM, a ceremony is held to commemorate their sacrifice.
To get up close and personal with this iconic landmark visitors can climb 284 steps or take an elevator to the top for breath-taking views of Paris that stretch out over 50km in any direction including a panoramic view of the Champs-Elysees.
The Arc de Triomphe is open daily from 10 AM – 11 PM. Admission fees are 10 EUR for adults, and free for those under 18s. The landmark also has special discounts for large groups (20+ people) and disabled persons.
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Sitting at the top of a hill in the sector of Montmarte, the Basilica of the Sacre Coeur is one of the most remarkable landmarks in Paris and has some of the best views of the city due to its elevated position. Built between 1875 – 1914 on the site of a Roman temple, the landmark commemorates the victims of the 1871 war between Paris and Prussia and is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike.
The Basilica has two bell towers that reach 83 meters (272 feet) into the sky, with a gilded mosaic dome made of stone and gold which overlooks Paris from its hilltop location. Inside the basilica are numerous white marble statues and mosaics, as well as breathtaking works such as La Vierge de Larmes by Paul Dubois (1889) and The Pieta by Luc-Olivier Merson (1891).
The building is open to visitors seven days a week from 6 AM – 10:30 PM, with free admission for all. It is worth noting that a fee may be charged for special exhibitions. There are also several shops, cafes, and restaurants in the vicinity which makes the Basilica a great spot to spend some time soaking up the Parisian culture. Visitors can also climb the steps or take a funicular ride up to Sacre Coeur from Place Saint-Pierre at the bottom of the hill.
Also known as the Opera Garnier, the Palais Garnier is an absolute must-see in Paris. Built between 1861 and 1875, this grand opera house is the oldest in Paris and is a masterpiece of French architecture. The landmark was designed by Charles Garnier who incorporated numerous lavish details into the building such as Corinthian columns, bronze statues, friezes, and elaborate ceiling frescoes.
The Palais Garnier is an extremely popular tourist attraction for those interested in art and history, with plenty of guided tours available to help explore its many intricacies; visitors can also attend performances at the Opera National de Paris or take a seat on one of the famous gilt chairs that line the auditorium.
The Palais Garnier is open daily from 10 AM – 4 PM (last entry 3 PM) with tickets priced at 15 EUR for adults and 10 EUR for children. There is also a reduced rate for students with valid IDs. The building can seat over 2000 people for opera and ballet performances, but they quickly sell out each week, so it is advised to book tickets in advance.
A staple of the city of lights with a rich performance history, the Moulin Rouge is one of Paris’ most iconic landmarks. Built-in 1889, the cabaret theatre quickly became popular amongst Parisian and foreign visitors alike for its theatrical performances, elaborate set design, and dazzling costumes.
Today, the Moulin Rouge continues to put on spectacular musical productions each night with shows lasting around 2 hours; consisting of talented burlesque dancers, with flashy feathers and rhinestones, putting on some of the most extravagant performances in the city. It has hosted business stars, actors, and performers for more than 120 years with a mythical cabernet, as well as being home to the last windmill in Montmarte.
They also have dinner packages available which come with a gourmet meal at their restaurant before or after the performance. The building itself stands out due to its red-windmill rooftop design which makes it an unmistakable landmark in Paris – visitors can take photos of the facade for free during daylight hours or opt for a guided tour which takes place after sunset and includes entrance to the theatre.
Tickets start at 120 EUR, with children’s tickets available from 40 EUR. The building also houses a variety of bars and restaurants, so visitors can also enjoy the Moulin Rouge experience without spending too much money. Visitors should note that since it is an adult-only venue, anyone under 18 years old will not be allowed entry.
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The Place Vendone is an ideal representation of French urbanism, being one of the most common and visited squares in Paris. The landmark stands high in the city center, with a statue of Napoleon dressed as Ceaser at the top. The Vendome previously housed the Royal Mint, an Armillary Sphere Monument, and the original bronze column representing Napoleon’s victory at Austerlitz.
Today, the square is used for concerts, events, and festivals in addition to its role as a major shopping district. It is also home to some of Paris’ most luxurious hotels such as The Ritz among others; visitors can take a stroll through the area or shop in one of the many high-end stores which specialize in jewelry and other luxury items. The Place Vendôme is open 24/7 but tends to be busy during peak hours. Admission is free with no restrictions on age or attire.
Originally built during the reign of Louis the XV as the immortalization of the patron saint of Paris, the Panthéon stands as a stunning example of neoclassical architecture. Situated in the center of Paris, the building features a Greek-style facade, with eight Corinthian columns and an impressive dome that stands 83 meters tall.
Visitors can take part in guided tours which will take them through the structure’s iconic galleries, crypts, and burial chambers; including those for famous figures such as Voltaire, Marie Curie, and Victor Hugo – who have all been interred there since their deaths.
The Panthéon is open daily from 10 AM to 6 PM (last entry 5:30 PM), with admission costing 8 EUR for adults and 4 EUR for children under 18. Students can benefit from discounted tickets if they present valid student cards at the entrance. Visitors should note that there are no bags or backpacks allowed inside, so they will have to leave them in the cloakroom before entering.
Anyone looking for a truly unique experience can also sign up for night tours which take place on selected days and include a guided tour of the structure accompanied by light shows and music performances. Tickets for these nights start from 15 EUR per person and need to be booked in advance online as spaces are limited.
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The Catacombs of Paris are an underground track of tunnels, galleries, and cells that were used as a final resting place for millions of people in the 18th century. Stretching 200 miles long, the landmarks have been a tourist attraction since their opening in the late 1700s, with visitors flocking to explore its dark and mysterious history.
Guided tours will take visitors through dimly lit passageways lined with bones, skulls, and other macabre artifacts. They can also learn more about the history of the catacombs while discovering some well-known attractions such as La Salle des Grandes Plaques or The Wall of Death.
These tours are quite intense and are not recommended for young children; tickets range from 13 EUR for adults and 10 EUR for children under 18. The Catacombs are open daily from 10 AM to 8:45 PM (last entry at 7:30 PM). Due to safety reasons, the number of visitors is limited to 200 people every hour and tickets must be booked in advance online.
The famous Wall of Love is one of the most romantic landmarks in Paris. Located in Jehan Rictus square in the Montmartre district, the wall features over 300 love-themed quotes written in different languages including the phrase “I Love You,” which is written on the wall 311 times, in 250 different languages. It is a popular destination for couples and visitors alike, who come to admire its unique design and take pictures of it with their loved ones.
The Wall of Love is free to visit with no restrictions or age limits; however, visitors should note that due to its popularity, they may have to wait in line before taking pictures. The best time to visit is during sunset when the pink light makes for some breathtaking photos; alternatively, you can also come at night when the area is illuminated by colorful lights.
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Sitting in an old railway station on the left bank of the Seine River, the Musee D’Orsay is undoubtedly one of the best landmarks of Paris to visit and one of the most impressive art galleries in the city. Originally built for the Paris World Fair in 1900, the museum now houses a vast collection of works from French artists such as Monet, Manet, and Renoir, along with famous sculptures by Rodin and other renowned painters from all over Europe.
Tourists can explore the museum through guided tours which will take them through different exhibitions and provide detailed information about each of the 900 pieces of paintings on display including its history, the artist who created it, and more.
The museum is open from 9:30 AM to 6 PM every day except Mondays, with admission costing 12 EUR for adults and free for children under 18. Visitors should note that during school holidays, the museum can get very crowded so if possible it’s best to visit during weekdays. Guided tours are available from Tuesday to Sunday at 10 AM and 3 PM; they cost an additional 5 EUR per person and need to be booked in advance online or at the museum’s ticket office.
The Seine River is the jewel of Paris and is almost impossible to miss while visiting. Stretching over 300 miles, it is the third-longest river in France and has influenced numerous french writers and artists such as Victor Hugo, Claude Monet, and Auguste Rodin.
The river forms a part of the water supply and electricity of the city through its thermal and nuclear power plants. Pathways and bridges line the river making it an ideal spot for sightseeing and leisurely strolls with quaint benches and cafes for soaking in the views.
The best way to explore the Seine River is through a boat tour, which will take you along the waters passing by some of Paris’ most iconic sights including the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Louvre. Most tours run for an hour and cost around 10-15 EUR.
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One of the most famous landmarks in Paris and a former prison and courthouse is the La Conciergerie. Located on the banks of the Seine River, the building dates back to medieval times and is now open to visitors who can explore its grand halls, magnificent courtyards, and secret cells. It also contains a collection of artworks from renowned French sculptors such as Auguste Rodin and Francois Rude in its museum section.
A large part of the structure became a holding cell during the French Civil War, with its most famous prisoner being Marie Antoinette. What was once her holding chamber, is now the Sainte Chapelle. It holds decades of Parisian history, with some parts of the structure dating back to the middle ages, such as the torture chamber of Bonbec tower, and the royal treasury in the Silver Tower.
Visitors can go on guided tours that will take them through the building and its many layers of history, with prices starting at 12 EUR. The La Conciergerie is open between 9:30 AM to 6 PM every day except Tuesday.
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Spanning across the Seine River, the Pont Alexandre III connects the Eiffel Tower with the Champs-Eyeless area, with one single arch made of steel. Designed by French architects Joseph Cassien-Bernard and Gaston Cousin, the bridge is one of the most impressive structures in Paris and its unique design has made it a popular spot for many visitors to take pictures. The two grand piers are decorated with gilded bronze sculptures and ornamental lamps giving it a romantic feel, especially when illuminated at night.
The area around the bridge is also worth exploring as there are many restaurants and shops nearby providing an ideal opportunity to relax and explore the surroundings. For those looking for more adventure, try renting a boat from any of the docks located along the riverbanks and take a tour down the Seine River passing by sights such as Notre Dame, the Louvre, and Eiffel Tower.
Paris has a plethora of landmarks and attractions to explore, all with their own unique histories and charms. From the iconic Eiffel Tower to the mysterious La Conciergerie, there is always something fascinating to do in the City of Light.
So if you’re looking for an unforgettable adventure in Paris start with these 15 amazing landmarks! Even if you have been before, its range of activities and sights make it well worth visiting over and over again. There’s something new around every corner – so don’t forget your camera! Bon voyage!