Paris may be one of the world’s best-preserved cities. History is a walk around the block here, with stunning Paris monuments finding visitors wherever they venture. Come here to find information on Paris’ best-known monuments and historic buildings, but also for picks of lesser-known, hidden nuggets of history around the city.
1. The Eiffel Tower :
More than any other landmark, the Eiffel Tower has come to represent an elegant and contemporary Paris. The iron tower, which was built for the 1889 World Exposition by Gustave Eiffel, was wildly unpopular with Parisians when it was unveiled, and was nearly torn down. It has since attracted over 220 million visitors, and it would be hard to imagine Paris now without it. The tower crowns the Paris night sky with its festive light, and glitters up a storm every hour. Cliché? Maybe. But essential.
Further information : Eiffel Tower Official Website
2. The Louvre Museum :
Most think of the monumental Louvre as a museum, but it was a fortress and palace long before it became a world centre for art. The palace is testament to a rich history spanning from the medieval period to the present. Visiting the Louvre’s medieval foundations is fascinating. The adjacent Tuileries gardens are perfect for a stroll pre-or post-visit.
Further information : Louvre Museum Official Website
3. The Arc de Triomphe :
The 164-foot Arc de Triomphe commissioned by Emperor Napoléon I does exactly what it was made to do: evoke sheer military power and triumph. It was built in an age when leaders erected monuments in their own honor, and scaled to their egos. The arch’s beautiful sculptures and reliefs commemorate Napoléon’s generals and soldiers. Visit the Arc de Triomphe to begin or culminate a walk down the equally grandiose Avenue des Champs-Elysées. You can’t help but feel grand yourself.
Further information : Arc de Triomphe Official Website
4. Notre Dame Cathedral :
No first trip to Paris is complete without a visit to this marvel of Gothic architecture. One of the most singular and beautiful cathedrals of Europe, Notre Dame Cathedral’s dramatic towers, spire, stained glass and statuary are guaranteed to take your breath away. Witness first-hand the spot that was once the heartbeat of medieval Paris, and that took over 100 years of hard labour to complete. Climbing the North tower to see Paris from the hunchback Quasimodo’s vantage is essential, too. You’ll soon understand why Notre Dame is one of Paris’ top attractions.
Further information : Notre Dame Cathedral Official Website
5. The Sorbonne and the Latin Quarter :
The Sorbonne University is the historic soul of the Latin Quarter, where higher learning has flourished for centuries. Founded in 1257 for a small group of theology students, the Sorbonne is one of Europe’s oldest universities. It has hosted countless great thinkers, including philosophers René Descartes, Jean-Paul Sartre, and Simone de Beauvoir. Enjoy a drink on the café terrace in front of the college before exploring the winding little streets of the Latin Quarter behind it.
Further information : Sorbonne University website
Many tourists hoping to tour the halls of the esteemed Sorbonne University in Paris are disappointed to be turned away by guards at the doors. Entry is in principle reserved for students and faculty. But it is possible to visit the Sorbonne if you arrange for a tour ahead of time (and are able to get enough people together).
Group Visits of the Sorbonne (by Appointment) : The Sorbonne regularly organizes group visits for between 10-30 people. The guided tours last approximately 90 minutes and take place by appointment from Monday to Friday, in addition to one Saturday a month. Unfortunately, all tours of the Sorbonne are given in French. Guided tours of the Sorbonne are currently 9 Euros for adults and 4 Euros for students and large families.
The Latin Quarter
The Latin Quarter is Paris’ traditional center of great thinking. Some of the world’s most important artists, philosophers, and writers have passed through the area throughout history, frequenting the centuries-old Sorbonne University or the many now-legendary cafes around the area. The Latin quarter retains the nostalgic charm of past ages, while still being an important hub of education and ideas to this day. It’s also a lush, picturesque area of Paris, with lots of quiet squares and gardens, winding backstreets, and vibrant open-air markets. To explore the Latin Quarter, which is located in the 5th district of Paris, try getting off at Metro Cluny-la-Sorbonne (Line 10) or RER Luxembourg (Line B), and let your feet carry you where they will.
6. The Pantheon :
The Pantheon is a neoclassical-style mausoleum where many of France’s great minds are buried. It was built between 1758 and 1790. From the Pantheon, a distant Eiffel Tower can be seen. Stop by the Pantheon during a stroll in the Latin Quarter.
Further information : Pantheon Paris website
7. Pere Lachaise Cemetery
Paris counts within its walls many of the world’s most poetic cemeteries– but Pere Lachaise outdoes them all. Countless famous figures are buried here : the most popular being The Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, whose tomb is kept constant vigil by fans. The French playwright Moliere, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Richard Wright are a few others. On a sunny day, climbing to the cemetery’s summit and looking down on the lavishly designed crypts can be surprisingly joyful.
Further information : Père la chaise website
8. Opera Garnier
Seating 2,200 people, the imposing Opera Garnier in Paris — also known as the Palais Garnier or simply the Paris Opera– is an architectural treasure and essential spot for the city’s ballet and classical music scene. Designed by Charles Garnier and inaugurated in 1875 as the Academie Nationale de Musique -Theatre de l’Opera (National Academy of Music – Opera Theater), the neo-baroque style Opera Garnier is now the home of the Paris ballet. The city’s official opera company relocated to the starkly contemporary Opéra Bastille in 1989.
Further information : Opera Garnier Website
9. Hotel de Cluny and Roman Bath
The Hotel de Cluny is a medieval residence that now houses the National Medieval Museum. The famous tapestry, “The Lady and the Unicorn“, is displayed there. The ruins of thermal baths from the Roman empire can also be seen at the site. One of the museum’s rooms, the “Tepidarium”, was originally part of the baths.
Situated in the historic Latin Quarter also boasts a medieval-style aromatic garden that provides a pleasant spot for a stroll, or for reading on a bench in the spring or summer.
Further information : Hotel de Cluny
10. Les Invalides
This vast complex was built as a hospital and convalescent home for injured soldiers under the reign of Louis XIV. Part of les Invalides maintains this role today, but it’s most famous for housing the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte. The on site Musée de l’Armée (Army Museum) boasts a vast collection of military artefacts.
Further information : Les Invalides website
For further information : Paris Tourist Office Monuments Guide