Paris is a city of many iconic landmarks. Some of them are very well-known, while other landmarks may not be immediately recognizable by visitors to the city.
They are a part of the city’s rich history, but they are also a part of its present identity. So let’s have a look at some of the top landmarks in Paris, shall we? Allons-y!
1. Eiffel Tower
Known as the La Tour Eiffel or la Dame de Fer (“The Iron Lady”) in French, it is of course called the Eiffel Tower by the rest of the world. Instantly recognizable, the Eiffel Tower is a French landmark that has become the symbol of not only Paris, but the whole country.
Construction of the Eiffel Tower started on 26th January 1887, and was completed in 2 years, 2 months and 5 days, a massive technological feat.
Today, tourists the world over flock to the Eiffel Tower in the 7th arrondissement to take in the views from all around and its observation decks. With expansive views stretching across the city, millions of visitors put it on their bucket list every year.
If you are visiting Paris and would like to visit the Eiffel Tower, I highly recommend buying tickets in advance.
2. Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is one of the most symbolic buildings in France. With the unknown soldier buried at its base, along with the eternal flame this is a monument to the France’s past and a major landmark in the city.
It was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806, but his defeat by the British meant that he never saw it finished. It was completed in 1836, and become a rallying point for both French and foreign armies.
Famous victory marches around or under the Arc de Triomphe include:
- the Germans in 1871 – Franco-Prussian war
- the French in 1919 – WWI
- the Germans in 1940 – the invasion of France at start of WWII
- French and Allied Forces in 1944-45 – end of WWII
Nowadays, there are military marches every 14 Juillet (Bastille Day) and 11 November (Armistice day) where the President of France and other dignatories gather to pay tribute to those who have fought for the country’s freedoms.
It is located at the corner of the 8th and 17th arrondissements in Paris. You can buy your tickets to the Arc de Triomphe here.
3. Place de la Bastille
The epicenter of the French Revolution, Place de la Bastille is where the ancient prison called Bastille Saint-Antoine was located before it was destroyed.
Today a tall pillar stands as landmark where the prison once stood. Called the Colonne de Juillet (July Column), it was inaugurated in 1840.
There are no remnants left of the prison today, it was dismantled during the revolution. Some of the stones were used to build to the Pont de la Concorde bridge that leads from the Place de la Concorde, the site of the executions of the French Royals, to the Assemblée Nationale which is France’s House of Representatives.
If you are interested in is era, follow my self-guided walking Revolution tour that begins at the Place de la Bastille.
4. Sacre Coeur Basilica
Consecrated in 1919, Sacré-Cœur Basilica is located at top of a hill called butte Montmartre. This Parisian landmark is the highest point in the city (except for the Eiffel tower).
It was built as a penance for the local riots and troubles that happened during the Paris Commune of 1871 right here in Montmartre.
These days it is one of the most beautiful churches in Paris, and most famous across France. The Basilica is free to enter and certainly quite impressive to explore. However, it is in coming back out of the Basilica, that you notice the views.
Have a seat on the stairs of Sacre Coeur Cathedral and admire the panorama of the whole city. The best views are at sunset from this northern point of the city.
5. Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral
Standing majestically on Ile de la Cité, Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral in the 4th arrondissement has been a landmark and focal point of Parisian life for centuries.
The building which began construction in the 9th century, suffered a significant fire in 2019 and is currently under reconstruction. It is still a beauty however, even with a few scars!
The site of the first Gallic and Roman civilisation here was called Lutece, and there are plenty of sights and history in the area. You can book a guided tour around the area here.
Originally intended to be a church, the Pantheon in the 5th arrondissement is where France’s national heroes and legendary figures are buried.
Like its much older counterpart in Rome, Italy, this landmark celebrates famous French names like Victor Hugo, and Marie Curie, becoming a mausoleum and a monument to much of French history and culture.
Inside are several statues, paintings, and symbols dedicated to French ideals of the République. Right in the center of the Panthéon is French physicist Léon Foucault’s pendulum, demonstrating the rotation of the Earth.
In addition, several people like Voltaire, Emile Zola and Jean Jaures are buried at the Panthéon. It is open everyday to visitors, and you can purchase your skip-the-line tickets here.
7. Place de la République
Known as the Place du Château d’Eau until 1879, Place de la République is located on the border between the 3rd, 10th, and 11th arrondissements.
At the center of the Place de la République is the impressive landmark of a large bronze statue of Marianne holding an olive branch in her right hand. In her left hand is a tablet engraved with the “Droits de l’homme” (the “Declaration of the Rights of Man and of the Citizen”), similar to the Statue of Liberty.
This highly symbolic square is the place you see on TV where protesters usually gather. Most of the square is pedestrianized, and surrounded by small shops and hotels.
Officially known as the Palais de la Cité, this historic castle fortress today attracts millions of visitors from around the world. Sitting on the Seine, this landmark earned the nickname of the Conciergerie because it is here that a new royal position was created in the 12th century within the royal palace.
One of the oldest buildings in Paris, this was once a royal residence and the main power base of the French Monarchs in Paris. It would eventually become a prison.
It is here where Queen Marie-Antoinette was held in prison, put on trial, and found guilty. After a two-day show trial, she was found guilty on all charges and condemned to death.
The tiny prison cells of the Conciegerie were a far cry from the palaces the Queen was used to. You can book a tour of the Conciegerie here.
9. Assemblée Nationale
The French House of representatives, the Assemblée Nationale is also a landmark in located along the Seine.
If you do happen to be in Paris in September (during journée du patrimoine), do visit inside the Assemblée Nationale you can. Entry is free and you can explore the famous Hemicycle, the Galerie des Fêtes, and much much more.
10. Opera Garnier
Paris has two main opera houses, the Palais Garnier and the Opera de Bastille. Palais Garnier a beautiful 18th-century landmark in the 9th arrondissement, while the Opera de Bastille is a modern building in the 12th arrondissement constructed in 1989.
Both buildings are run by the Opera de Paris and host the crème de la crème of opera productions and ballets in Paris.
The shows are based on the season and tickets go fast, so book early. If you can, combine it with a guided tour before the show starts (book here).
11. Place de la Concorde
In a straight thoroughfare from the Place de la Bastille, past the Louvre Museum, is the Place de la Concorde in the 8th arrondissement and its towering Egyptian obelisk landmark.
This marks the spot where Marie-Antoinette, King Louis XVI and other members of French nobility had their heads guillotined during the French Revolution.
If you are interested in is era, follow my self-guided walking Revolution tour. These days, the Place de la Concorde is a giant roundabout, with a fountain in the middle and the American Embassy next to it.
12. Centre Pompidou
Centre Pompidou in the heart of the Marais is a modern art gallery built by the ex-President of France, George Pompidou. (You can read more about Pompidou’s questionable decor choices here.)
The building itself is a piece of art and landmark as an “inside-out” building in with its structural system, mechanical systems, and circulation exposed on the exterior of the building.
All of the functional structural elements of the building are color-coded: green pipes are plumbing, blue ducts are for climate control, electrical wires are encased in yellow, and circulation elements and fire safety devices are red.
It holds hundreds of famous artworks from the 1970s onwards, from Andy Warhol to Lucien Freud. You can read more about the Centre Pompidou and book your tickets in advance here.
If you enjoyed this article, you may like to read more about the top museums in Paris. A bientôt!