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Paris Sights and Tourist Attractions

Here you can find information on the most important and well known landmarks in Paris. Show all of the folks back home the obligatory snaps of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower, visit the many churches and memorials in the city and delight in the wonderful works of art which line the Louvre's walls.

Paris Highlights

The Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower, built in 1889 by French architect Gustave Eiffel, is a technical marvel of the 19th Century. Nowadays it’s funny to think that for long periods during its construction, this tower, which would go on to become one of the most iconic symbols of Paris, was highly controversial and denigrated by much of the French public. Nevertheless, its creator proved his critics wrong and The Eiffel Tower is now the most visited landmark in all of Paris. At a height of 324 meters, the tower takes an incredible 1665 steps to scale and, thanks to the unrivalled views of The City of Love at the top, it is easy to see why. Each day, 35,000 visitors flock to the public gardens of Champ de Mars on the banks of the river Seine to catch a glimpse of this world famous landmark. To put that in perspective: at the beginning of the 20th Century this figure was more like 200,000 a year. Of course, this boom in tourism has meant a massive increase in waiting times but patience is by all means rewarded. Especially since inside The Eiffel Tower you will find a multitude of souvenir shops and restaurants, with incredible views of Paris. All three observation decks are accessible to visitors. The first and second levels can be reached either on foot or with the lift. However, for a really breathtaking view of Paris, it is definitely worth making your way up to the 3rd floor 324 meters in the sky. Even the lift up to the top is enough to make your fingertips tingle with excitement.

Notre Dame de Paris

The Notre-Dame Cathedral of Paris, French for "Our Lady of Paris", with its extraordinary gothic architecture lies in the historical centre of the city in the Île de la Cité. The work on this magnificent building began in 1163 and was not completed until 1345, which means that it constructed in a mixture of Gothic architectural style. It is hard to imagine that construction lasted almost 200 years but it was certainly worth the wait. On average, 13.5 million people visit this attraction each year and stare in wonder at its façade, its organ, its artwork and its stained-glass windows. The church can hold up to 10,000 people, with its nave alone measuring in at 130 meters long. You can also climb the towers, which all reach 69 meters into the heavens after it was decided in the early phases of construction that the cathedral should have no peak. Nevertheless, as time has gone by it has become something else that the cathedral is known for - that is of course, the world-famous gargoyles which, according to legend, sit atop its upper balustrade in order to ward off evil spirits. The originals were replaced during renovations in the 18th Century, since they were beginning to crumble and fall onto the street below. Significant historic events took place at the Notre-Dame Paris, including the coronation of Napoleon I as Emperor of the French on 2nd December, 1804. Victor Hugo’s famous gothic novel "The Hunchback of Notre-dame" from 1831 is also centered on the cathedral and has since been adapted in several films, theatres and musicals. If you wish to visit the towers of this wonderful cathedral you will be asked to pay a small entry fee, but otherwise visits to Notre-Dame are completely free of charge.
Opening Hours:
Weekdays from 8.00 – 18.45
Weekends from 8.00 – 19.15

Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge been the symbol of Paris’ nightlife for generations and has shaped cabaret and burlesque theatre the whole world over. One thing is for sure, it certainly has a worthy location in the arts quarter of Montmartre. Under the banner of the Red Windmill, this famous revue was opened in 1889 and for a time exclusively hosted balls. People danced the likes of the Cancan and the Chahut, with dancers such as Jane Avril or La Goule becoming some of the stage’s biggest stars. However, much of the fame that the Moulin Rouge gained during this time was down to Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec’s advertisement posters, which still exist today. Copies of these posters are very popular amongst tourists. Parisians would visit the music hall to amuse themselves and escape from the banalities of everyday life, as cabarets and operas began to take hold of the Moulin Rouge’s programme over the coming years. From time to time it was used as a cinema and in 1946 an aquarium was installed, in which naked dancers performed on a spectacular underwater stage. Indeed, even in the year 2000 this historic music hall entertained people all over the world in the blockbuster movie "Moulin Rouge", which offers viewers a glimpse of the theatre’s most successful period. Nowadays the Moulin Rouge can seat an audience of up to 850 people and is easily reached by taking the metro to Blanché on line 2.

Famous Buildings in Paris

The Palace of Versailles

Versailles is a city in itself, lying to the south-west of Paris, which is famous for its palace "Le Château de Versailles". Once the home of Louis XIV, Louis XV and Louis XVI, it was actually built as a hunting château by Louis XIII and continued to be developed by his heirs until the French Revolution. The palace is now a world heritage site that has become a symbol of the French monarchy and in particular Louis XIII and his heirs. Each year it beguiles visitors from all over the world with its sheer beauty, with a mind-boggling 2000 rooms spread out over an area of 67,000m². The Hall of Mirrors is the most well-known of all Versailles’ halls and was constructed at the end of the 17th Century to symbolise the monarchy’s power. Upon your visit you will be able to view it in its entirety as well as other highlights such as the living quarters of the kings and queens who stayed here in the past. In addition to this, the Palace of Versailles is surrounded by a magnificent park which can be explored on a miniature train service around the grounds. This wonderful park has its own woods, more than 50 swimming pools and two French gardens known as Le Petit Parc and Le Trianon. Even though Versailles is situated outside Paris, it is still a popular attraction among tourists visiting the capital. With more than 5 million visitors each year it is definitely a top sight in Paris. From Paris it takes less than an hour to go to Versailles by train. Simply take the RER C to "Versailles Rive Gauche".
Address: Place d'Armes 78000 Versailles
Opening hours:
April – October: Every day except Monday, 09.00 – 18.30
November – March: Every day except Monday, 09.00 – 17.30
April – October: Every day from 08.00 – 20.30
November – March: Every day from 08.00 – 18.00

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l'Étoile, simply called the Arc de Triomphe, was built to honour the Frenchmen who fought and died during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. It is situated on a huge roundabout at the end of Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement and is without doubt one of the most famous monuments in Paris. Napoleon commissioned the monument after the victory of the Battle at Austerlitz, but it was not completed before 1836 due to a long halt following the fall of Napoleon in 1814. It has been a historical monument since 1896 and the vault beneath contains the Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers from World War I. A torch stands at the base of the Arch de Triomphe, and since November 14, 1923, it has been re-lit every night at 18.30, even during the German occupation during World War II. The Arc de Triomphe is 50 meters tall, 45 meters wide and 22 meters deep. It is a fascinating construction designed by the architect Jean Chalgrin (1739-1811) and the inner and outer surfaces are imprinted with the names of all French generals and victories. At the base of the arch stands four impressive sculptures, which represents important events in French history; The Departure of the Volunteers of 1792, the Triumph of 1810, La Resistance and Peace. Tourists and locals can enjoy a wonderful view over Paris from the top of the Arc de Triomphe and we can surely say that it is quiet unique to look down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The monument can only be reached by climbing up its 40 steps. Please access the monument via the underground tunnel leading under the roundabout and do not cross the traffic at ground level!
Opening hours:
April – September: 10.00-23.00
October – March: 10.00 – 22.30
NB: It is closed on certain public holidays.

Hôtel des Invalides

The Hôtel des Invalides can be found in the 7th Arrondissement of Paris, where it was constructed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart in the 17th Century to accommodate and care for the veterans of King Louis the XIV’s army. This classically Baroque-style building is dedicated to the Holy Saint Louis and is crowned with an impressive golden dome, underneath which is the tomb of Napoleon I. Louis Visconti also created a quartz burial case for him with five coffins placed inside of one another. In addition to Napoleon, five other military leaders lie under the dome, including Ferdinand Foch, Hubert Lyauley and Henri Giraud, as well as the famous fortress architect Vauban. In fact it is easy to see that the building was originally planned as a mausoleum before it ended up becoming a Royal and State church reminiscent of the St Peters Basilica in Rome. In the centre of the dome you will see paintings of apostles and French kings. One of the most important parts of the Hôtel des Invalides is the Musée de l’Armée, French for the Army Museum. The museum has various artefacts from the French army on display. There is an impressive collection of weapons, ancient armour, artilleries, paintings and historical figures. You will also be able to see unique items relating to Napoleon’s Empire during the 19th century. Only few other places in the world you will find such a large collection of military art and history. Classical concerts regularly take place here. Please check the website below for more information. Opening Hours: The museum of Hôtel des Invalides can be reached from 129 rue de Grenelle or Place Vauban.
Address: Place Vauban 75007 Paris
April – October: Daily from 10.00 - 18.00
November – March: Daily from 10.00 - 18.00

The Pantheon

The Pantheon is one of the most important monuments of Paris, as it is intended to honour the memories of the greatest men in the history of France. Above the entrance to the Pantheon you will read the inscription "Aux grands homes, la patrie reconnaissante", which means "To the great men, the grateful homeland". It is located in the Latin Quarter in the 5th arrondissement of Paris. The foundations of the building were laid in 1758 after King Louis XV during his illness in 1944 decided to replace the ruins of St. Geneviève if he were to survive the illness. The king did recover and the French architect Jacques-Germain Soufflot was chosen to design the new church. It was however not finished until 1790 due to financial difficulties. By its completion, the French Revolution had begun and the building was then decided by the French government to function as an honorary monument instead of a church as initially planned. The story is however a bit more complicated than so. Different regimes followed the revolution and the status of the Pantheon changed several times between being a religious monument and what it is known as today; a house to honour the intellects of France. Today the famous Parisian landmark is 83 meters high, 110 m long and 85 m wide. The top sight in the Pantheon is its crypt and the graves, and you will here find the graves of famous personalities such as Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Jean Moulin, and the only woman honoured for her merits, Marie Curie. The Pantheon is open every day from 10:00 to 18:00. You can get there with the metro line 10 (Stop: Cardinal Lemoine), RER train (Station: Luxembourg); or the bus lines 84 and 89.
Address: Place du Panthéon 75005 Paris

Sacré-Cœur Basilica

Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris was built in the 19th Century and is a Roman Catholic church designed by the architect Paul Abadie. It can be found in Paris’ northern quarter, Montmartre. At that time of construction this quarter was a French municipality, however in 1860 it was officially integrated into the city. The building lies atop the Montmartre hill and at 129 meters high it offers an incredible view of Paris. You can reach this beautiful church of pilgrimage by cable car or on foot, provided you feel up to the 222 steps it takes to get to the top. The Sacré-Cœur has a striking white exterior and is designed in a gingerbread style. Inside you will find the largest mosaic in the world, which depicts a 475m² image of Jesus standing with open arms. The basilica is visited annually by more than 10 million tourists and pilgrims making it the second most visited monument of France after the Notre-Dame Cathedral. Since many pilgrims come to pray, there are no guided tours. You can however buy a guidebook for 5 euros in the bookshop with lots of useful information about the basilica. Still, as breath-taking as this place may be, you shouldn't allow yourself to miss out on the near legendary artistic quarter in itself. Montmartre is a fantastic place to relax, eat well and stroll through the streets, wandering in and out of its many small shops and cafés. Characteristic of Montmartre is also the Moulin Rouge, a world-famous cabaret. All you have to do is take the underground M2 or M12 and you can experience all of this for yourself. Opening Hours: The basilica is open every day from 6.00 to 22.30 for both visitors and if you wish to pray. Admission is free.

Museums in Paris

The Louvre Museum

The Louvre Museum with its iconic glass pyramid is one of the most important museums in the world, holding more than 35,000 items on display from prehistoric times to the present day. In total the museum actually houses a mind-boggling 380,000 artefacts and works of art from some of history’s most renowned artists. Right in the heart of Paris, just north of the river Seine, the Louvre, once a Royal French Palace, was opened to the public in 1793 and stands for the diversity of world culture, also encompassing an unrivalled array of Islamic and Oriental art. In addition to this, the beauty of Ancient Greek and Roman antiques also take pride of place alongside items from the Italian Renaissance period. From inside out the museum presents world famous art works such as the Mona Lisa, painted at the beginning of the 16th Century by Leonardo de Vinci. The painting is probably the most famous piece of art in the museum and synonymous to the Louvre. It is a painting filled with mystery and lots of fact regarding the painting is yet unknown. Other famous works count the La Liberté Guidant le Peuple’ (The Freedom of the People) by Eugène Delacroix from the year 1830 and well known sculptures such as the Venus de Milo and Amor and Psyche can also be seen in The Louvre. It counted in 2012 a grand total of 9.7 million visitors, making it the most visited museum in the world. However the size of the place alone also makes it the third largest. It may be a good idea to buy tickets in advance since the line to get in can be very long at times.
Address: Musée du Louvre 75058 Paris
Opening hours:
Monday, Thursday, Saturday, Sunday: from 9.00 to 18.00
Wednesday, Friday: from 9.00 to 21:45 Closed on Tuesdays

Musee d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay first opened its doors to the public in 1986 and is now one the most visited museums in Paris – and the world. It is located directly by the Seine River in the 7th arrondissement of Paris. The museum is housed inside the former railway station, Gare d’Orsay, which was built in 1900 and worked as one of two main railway stations in Paris until 1939, where the trains became too long for the short platforms of Gare d’Orsay. The museum houses mainly French art (paintings, photographs, sculptures etc.) dating back from the mid-nineteenth century until 1915. Famous artists such as Degas, Monet, Manet, van Gogh, and Cezanne among others are represented amongst the world’s largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist art. More than 5,000 pieces are on display making it a visit worthwhile. Do not miss the "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe" (The Luncheon on the Grass) by Manet, "La nuit étoilée" (Starry Nights) by van Gogh, "Bal du moulin de la Galette" (Dance at Le Moulin de la Galette) by Renoir, and the sculpture "Petite danseuse de 14 ans" (Small Dancer Aged 14) by Degas. If you feel amazed by the art, you can bring home your own print copy from the museum shop at very reasonable prices. There are also many temporary exhibitions, which are renewed often and allow a rediscovery of the museum. The museum is open daily, except Mondays, from 9:30 until 18:00, and Thursdays where the museum has late night openings until 21.45. If you are in Paris on a limited budget, then remember that the museums in Paris have free admission on the first Sunday of the month.
Address: 62, rue de Lille 75343 Paris

The Pompidou Centre

The Pompidou Centre, or known by the French as Centre Pompidou or Beaubourg, was inaugurated in 1977 and is not only famous for its amazing collections of modern and contemporary art but also for its radical and multi-coloured architecture. It is one of the must see attractions in Paris. The centre was initiated by the former President Georges Pompidou (French President, 1969-1974), who wished to build a multidisciplinary cultural centre that would represent visual arts, books, design, music and movies. The Pompidou Centre is designed by Renzo Piano and Richard Rogers, who won the architecture competition among 681 competitors. The building looks extraordinary with its many windows and plumbing pipes, air ducts, and electric wires in various colours functioning as its external façade. You will find the MNAM/CCI collection on the 4th and 5th floor constituting of Europe’s largest collection of modern and contemporary art with nearly 60,000 works on display. The collection covers pieces from significant artists from the XX and XXI century. Moreover, the centre is housing the first public library in Europe, Bibliothèque Publique d’Information (the Public Information Library), exciting and excellent temporary exhibitions as well as a cinema and theatres. Pay the restaurant, Le Georges, on the top floor a visit and enjoy an amazing view of the rooftops of Paris. The Centre is open every day (except on Tuesdays) from 11.00-22.00. Remember that most museums in Paris have free admission on the first Sunday of each month – also Pompidou Centre! It is located in the 4th arrondissement of Paris, at the crossroads of the district of Les Halles and the Marais. It is accessible from Châtelet-les-Halles with RER A, B and D and the metro lines 1, 4, 7, 11 and 14, and from the stations Rambuteau with line 11 and Hotel de Ville with line 1.

Places to visit in Paris

The Avenue des Champs-Élysées

Paris’ prettiest avenue and probably the most famous street of Europe, Avenue des Champs Elysées, is located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris and runs between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle. This iconic avenue is up there with the most beautiful in the world and makes up the central section of the Axe Historique. This axis of Paris landmarks begins with the Louvre before meeting up with the Obelisk of Luxor at the Place de la Concorde and then on to the Champs Elysées, from which the Arc de Triumph and its memorial to the unknown soldier can also be found. It then comes to an end on L’Avenue Charles de Gaulle at the Grande Arche de la Défense. This astonishing architectural achievement, which was constructed between 1806 and 1836, is one of the most incredible sights in Paris and was originally commissioned by Napoleon in order to exalt his victories. Today however, war is remembered here on the Champs Elysées in a different light, with the eternal flame of remembrance burning at the memorial for the millions of lives lost during the World War I. At 1910 meters long and 70 meter wide, the Champs Elysées offers tourists a wide range of exclusive shops belonging to renowned brands such as Louis Vuitton, the Guerlain and Le Fouquet’s, as well as first class restaurants and cafes. More than 300,000 pedestrians visit the avenue daily and it is definitely a must-see while visiting the stunning capital of France. Every year since 1975 the annual bicycle race Tour de France finishes at Champs Elysées. The winner of the race is usually found before the final stage, but is then celebrated in the yellow jersey at the foot of the Arch de Triomphe. If you are in Paris on the 14th July head to the Champs Elysées and celebrate Bastille Day together with the French. Bastille Day is the French national day and the celebration on the avenue is quite unique.

La Défense

La Défense is labelled as the business quarter of the French capital and lies in the western outskirts of the City of Paris in Hauts-de-Sein. This modern business quarter is home to many of the largest companies in France, such as Unilever, IBM, Total and Hitachi, and is known for its skyscrapers and futuristic architecture. Development actually began at the end of the 50s but the brakes were put on the project in the 70s due to the economic crisis. At this time, many feared that La Défense would never truly reach fruition, until the 80s came around and a renewed sense of optimism took hold of the world economy. Construction duly resumed and by 1989 work on the iconic 110 meter high Grande Arche had already been completed. The idea for the arch was actually dreamt up by former French President François Mitterrand, who enlisted the help of Johann Otto von Spreckelsen and Paul Andreu to design the building, which has since been described as the Arc de Triumph of the 20th Century. In fact, even the Grande Arche’s location at the west end of the Axe Historique creates a direct line to the Arc de Triomphe itself. La Défense received its name after the iconic statue "La Défense de Paris", which was built at the site to honour the bitter resistance by French forces during the Franco-Prussian war in 1870-1871. It is the largest purpose-built business district in Europe with more than 3 million m2 of offices, 600,000 m2 of housing, 2,500 companies, nearly 200,000 employees and 20,000 residents. There is also a huge shopping centre in la Défense, The Quatre Temps, which is one of the best shopping centres in Paris and often open on Sundays. La Défense is accessible with the Metro 1 or RER A.

Tuileries Garden

Located in the 1st arrondissement, the Tuileries Garden is one of the oldest and most famous public gardens in Paris. The garden sets beautifully along the right bank of the river Seine between the Louvre Museum and Place de la Concorde and covers an area of around 250,000 square meters. It was created by the famous gardener André Le Nôtre as a private park for the royals of France in 1564 but opened to the public in 1667. The garden has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list since 1991. You can view many pretty statues and stunning fountains and ponds as well as enjoy colourful flowers and trees. Inside the park you can visit the Orangerie, or in French "Musée de l’Orangerie", which displays among others the painting "Water Lilies" by Claude Monet. The museum is located in the western end of the garden and was reopened in 2006 after several years of reconstruction. Lots of Parisians come here to hang out, especially in summer, and it is definitely worth to stroll through the park during your stay in Paris. Due to its convenient location it can easily be combined with a visit to the Louvre Museum or a shopping trip along the Rue de Rivoli. There are many benches and chairs in the park, where you can take a rest and a few cafes to enjoy refreshments or a small lunch in the sun or the shade. If you are into fun rides you should pay the popular funfair Fête des Tuileries a visit during the summer months. For two months, the Tuileries Garden is transformed into a place of fun for children and adults. Try one of the hilarious carrousels, enjoy a pink candy floss or win a teddy bear by one of the stall games. In summer the garden is open from 7.00 to 23.00 and in winter from 7.30-19.30.