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Sights and Attractions of Paris

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Travel Guide Europe France Île-de-France Paris Sights and Attractions of Paris

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Introduction

Pei Pyramid

Pei Pyramid

© All Rights Reserved jennrob

There are many places to see, do and visit in Paris. First time visitors tend to focus on the main sights, usually also the busiest given their popularity. However, a few steps around the corner, new gems are waiting to be discovered. Travellers that opt to explore away from the main attractions will be justly rewarded.

Even Parisians dedicate their lives to be better acquainted with the city. From one arrondissement to the next, each with its own personality (in as much as its inhabitants), each proud of what their neighbourhood has to offer. From historical squares to major boulevards, from ancient temples to modern museums, the city remains dynamic while retaining what is beautiful from the past.

This guide lists the major sights of interest as well as a number of attractions often missed by visitors due to time constraint and other reasons. Addresses are given along with postal codes to inform of the arrondissements the sights are located e.g. 75004 and 75008 refer to the 4th and the 8th arrondissement respectively. The closest métro and/or RER stations are also indicated.

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Tips for (Budget) Visitors

  • Many national museums (permanent collections) and monuments are free to visit on the first Sunday of the month. However, some are only available during winter months, including Arc de Triomphe, Conciergerie and Panthéon.
  • The national museums and monuments are usually also free for anyone under the age of 18. For youths under the age of 26 who are citizens or legal residents of any of the EU countries, the admission is also free.
  • Many (but not all) cathedrals and churches are free to enter but may charge for visits of their crypts and towers. A number of them also often organise free concerts and recitals.
  • There are countless of lovely parks and gardens that are free to enjoy, and depending on the time of year, other free (or nearly free) events are also taking place, including live music, photo exhibitions, puppet theatres and open air cinema.
  • A majority of the museums and national monuments are closed on Mondays, including Musée d'Orsay, Musée du Quai Branly and Musée Rodin. On the other hand, Louvre, Centre Pompidou and Musée National du Moyen Âge close on Tuesdays.
  • The exhibitions at the Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais are usually superb and tickets should be booked ahead. Otherwise, it is not uncommon to queue for 3-4 hours to get in, even in the winter.
  • Some sights have late openings a couple of days in the week, and tickets for the evening are usually cheaper.
  • Cluster the sights you're interested in and you won't be spending too much time getting from one place to another, not too much money for the transportation since they're very likely walkable between locations.
  • Check the list of attractions included in the Paris Museum Pass. If you plan to visit at least 2 of the sights per day, get the pass. You get to skip the queues (particularly handy during peak visiting periods), it works out cheaper than buying individual tickets (particularly for 4-day and 6-day passes), and encourages you to take advantage of the pass and visit other sights that you didn't think of visiting in the first place.
  • Visitors tempted by Paris Pass should know it's actually not money saving. Paris Pass is made up of Paris Museum Pass (for entry to museums and monuments) and Paris Visite Card (for public transportation with zones 1-3). It is cheaper to buy the two passes separately.

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Paris: Top 10

Pavillon de Flore

Pavillon de Flore

© All Rights Reserved lil_lil

The following sights consistently ranked among the top 10 of favourite lists.

  • La Tour Eiffel is the most iconic symbol of Paris, exhibiting the love that the French has for engineering and symmetry. (75007; M: Trocadéro, Bir-Hakeim, École-Militaire; RER: Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel)
  • Musée du Louvre, housed in the Palais du Louvre, is the home to Mona Lisa, Venus de Milo, Winged Victory of Samothrace and Code of Hammurabi, among its huge collection of paintings, sculptures, antiquities and other artefacts. (75001; M: Palais Royal-Musée du Louvre)
  • The Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris is a magnificent Gothic cathedral located on Île-de-la-Cité, saved from destruction and immortalised by Victor Hugo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. (75004; M: Cité, St-Michel)
  • The Arc de Triomphe was promised by Napoleon as symbol of his victory and can be found at one end of Champs-Élysées which links the triumphal arch to the Palais du Louvre. These sights are all found on the Axe Historique of Paris. (75008; M: Charles de Gaulle-Étoile, George V, Franklin D Roosevelt, Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau, Concorde)
  • Musée d'Orsay has the largest collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art in the world, including works by Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Gauguin and Van Gogh. (75007; M: Solférino, Assemblée Nationale; RER: Musée d'Orsay)
  • The hill of Montmartre conveys Bohemian romanticism of Paris and atop the hill sits the majestic Basilique du Sacré-Cœur. (75018; M: Anvers, Pigalle, Blanche)
  • Jardin du Luxembourg, affectionately known as Luco by the locals, is a green haven in the heart of a bustling city. (75006; M: St-Sulpice, Notre-Dame-des-Champs; RER: Luxembourg)
  • The Panthéon, inspired by the Pantheon in Rome, is the final resting place of France's notables and great heroes, including Voltaire, Rousseau and Zola. (75005; M: Maubert-Mutualité, Cardinal-Lemoine; RER: Luxembourg)
  • The Cimetière de Père Lachaise is Paris' most prestigious cemetery where many celebrities are buried, such as Edith Piaf, Jim Morrison and Oscar Wilde. (75020; M: Père Lachaise, Alexandre Dumas)
  • The quirky "inside-out" Centre Georges Pompidou features modern art by great artists, among them are Matisse, Picasso, Miró and Pollock. (75004; M: Rambuteau, Hôtel de Ville, Châtelet; RER: Châtelet-Les-Halles)

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Museums of Paris

Unsurprisingly Paris has its lion share of museums all over the city, some rivalling the major museums in size, others relatively small and in intimate setting. From arts to science, from artefacts to installations, here is a selection of them, loosely categorised based on the main collections of the museums.

Paris - Institut de Monde Arabe - electro-mechanical windows

Paris - Institut de Monde Arabe - electro-mechanical windows

© All Rights Reserved AC Frieden


Asian, African and Oceanian Art

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art

Photography, Modern Art and Contemporary Art

Parc de la Vilette

Parc de la Vilette

© All Rights Reserved Roni_Paris

Science and Natural History

Furniture, Decorative Art and Objets d'Art

Other Treasures

  • Galeries Nationales du Grand Palais: av Eisenhower, 75008 (M: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau) - the galleries host a variety of excellently curated temporary exhibitions, recently including works of Renoir, arts from Byzantium to Istanbul, Andy Warhol, Yann Arthus-Bertrand and Picasso and Masters.
  • Musée National du Moyen Âge-Thermes de Cluny: Hotel de Cluny, 6 pl Paul-Painlevé, 75005 (M: Cluny, St-Michel, Odéon) - major medieval collection including the famous series of Unicorn tapestries.

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Churches of Paris

Saint Chappelle Arch

Saint Chappelle Arch

© All Rights Reserved RussK

Here is a selection of some of the most beautiful churches of Paris.

  • Église du Dôme: Hôtel des Invalides, av de Tourville, 75007 (M: Invalides, Varenne, La Tour Maubourg)
  • La Madeleine: pl de la Madeleine, 75008 (M: Madeleine)
  • Sainte-Chapelle: 4 blvd du Palais, 75001 (M: Cité)
  • St-Etienne-du-Mont: pl Ste-Geneviève, 75005 (M: Cardinal-Lemoine)
  • St-Eustache: pl du Jour, 75001 (M: Les-Halles; RER: Châtelet-Les-Halles)
  • St-Germain-de-Prés: 3 pl St-Germain-de-Prés, 75006 (M: St-Germain-de-Prés)
  • St-Louis-en-l'Île: 19bis rue St-Louis-en-l'Île, 75004 (M: Pont Marie)
  • St-Paul-St-Louis: 99 rue St-Antoine, 75004 (M: St-Paul)
  • St-Sulpice: pl St-Sulpice, 75006 (M: St-Sulpice)

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Gardens, Parks and Squares of Paris

Autumn in Luxembourg Garden

Autumn in Luxembourg Garden

© All Rights Reserved lil_lil

Paris has hundreds of green spaces that offer solace from the hustle and bustle of the capital.

  • Bois de Boulogne: 75016 (M: Porte Maillot, Porte Dauphine, Porte d'Auteuil, Sablons)
  • Champ-de-Mars: 75007 (M: École-Militaire; RER: Champ de Mars-Tour Eiffel)
  • Jardin des Champs-Elysées: 75008 (M: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau)
  • Jardin des Plantes: 57 rue Cuvier, 75005 (M: Jussieu, Austerlitz)
  • Jardin des Tuileries: 75001 (M: Concorde, Tuileries)
  • Jardin du Trocadéro: 75016 (M: Trocadéro)
  • Parc André Citroën: rue Balard, 75015 (M: Javel, Balard)
  • Parc de Buttes-Chaumont: rue Manin, 75019 (M: Botzaris, Buttes-Chaumont)
  • Parc Monceau: blvd de Courcelles, 75017 (M: Monceau)
  • Parc Montsouris: blvd Jourdan, 75014 (M: Porte d'Orléans; RER: Cité Universitaire)
  • Place des Vosges: 75003, 75004 (M: Bastille, St-Paul)
  • Promenade Plantée: 75012 (M: Bastille)

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Landmarks of Paris

Skull and bones in the catacombs of Paris, France

Skull and bones in the catacombs of Paris, France

© All Rights Reserved GregW

Other notable landmarks of Paris which are interesting and worth visiting.

  • Bibliothèque Nationale de France-Cardinal de Richelieu: 58 rue de Richelieu, 75002 (M: Pyramides) - small and interesting temporary exhibitions often take place at BNF-Cardinal de Richelieu.
  • Forum des Halles: 75003 (M: Châtelet, Les Halles; RER: Châtelet-Les-Halles) - formerly the site of the famous Les Halles market, it now hosts an arrays of shops and boutiques underground, museums and gardens above ground.
  • Hôtel de Ville: pl de l'Hôtel de Ville, 75004 (M: Hôtel-de-Ville) - this is a working city hall thus access is limited but there are free temporary exhibitions, which recently includes Petit Nicolas and The Genius of Gustav Eiffel. Located in the Marais.
  • Les Catacombes de Paris: 1 pl Denfert-Rochereau, 75014 (M: Denfert-Rochereau) - skulls and bones are morbidly yet fascinatingly arranged in orderly and artistic manner -- closed until further notice due to restoration following vandalism in September 2009
  • Les Égouts de Paris: 93 quai d'Orsay, 75007 (M: Pont de l'Alma) - for every address above ground of Paris, there is a corresponding sewer address underneath, and tours of a small section of the sewer is possible.
  • Mosquée de Paris: pl du Puits de l'Ermite, 75005 (M: Place Monge) - a beautiful Hispano-Moorish building, it has a tearoom akin to oasis in the desert, serving Moorish specialties.
  • Opéra de Paris Garnier: pl de l'Opéra, 75009 (M: Opéra) - beautifully ornate and adorned opera house of Paris, it is the small lake underneath it which inspired Leroux's Phantom of the Opera.
  • Pont Alexandre III: 75008 (M: Champs-Élysées-Clemenceau) - the most lavishly decorated bridge in Paris that links the Petit Palais and the Grand Palais to the Invalides.
  • Tour Montparnasse: 33 av du Maine, 75014 (M: Montparnasse-Bienvenüe) -

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Vantage View Points

Basilique Sacré-Coeur, Paris

Basilique Sacré-Coeur, Paris

© All Rights Reserved Gemi9bear

Interested in seeing Paris from high above, and see the city from vantage points? Here are some of the locations to see the city with a different eye.

  • The Eiffel Tower offers a view of Paris from three different levels, and the top is always the best.
  • Get upclose and personal with the gargoyles of the tower of Notre Dame Cathedral and observe how they watch over the city. Mind, it does get windy up here and the queue to the tower may be long, as there is restriction on the number of visitors on the tower at any one time.
  • The hills of Montmartre may be steep in part, but the breathtaking view makes it worth the while to trek it uphill. The view from the dome of the Basilica of Sacred-Heart is the icing on the cake.
  • Champs-Élysées by night is gorgeous. To look down at it from the top of Arc de Triomphe can only reaffirm this. Plus the bonus of looking over at the Eiffel Tower at the hour when it sparkles.
  • In the summer months between April and October, guided tour of the dome galleries of the Panthéon enables one to view Paris panoramically.
  • There is a weather balloon at Parc André Citroën that visitors can ride up in the air for about 10 minutes and admire the magnificent view below.
  • The top (ninth) floor of Institut du Monde Arabe has a splendid view of the River Seine and the sights by the river.
  • For anyone with a reasonably deep pocket, the Panoramic Bar of Hotel Concorde La Fayette is somewhere you can relax with a cocktail and hum to the soothing music while admiring the view the city has to offer by night.
  • It is possible to ride an elevator to the top of La Grand Arche at La Défense for a visit and the journey is simply superb all the way up.
  • Visitors to Centre Georges Pompidou are also rewarded by view of Paris from the highest floors.
  • During Christmas period, the ferris wheel at Place de la Concorde can only act to reinforce the romanticism of Paris, with a snuggle in the winter chill while enjoying the view of the city.

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Paris on a Shoestring: Free Sights

Walking around Paris, many landmarks can be admired (from the outside) at any time, free of charge, and the splendour still doesn't fade. Many cathedrals and churches are free to visit. Museums and national monuments may be free on certain occasions (first Sunday of the month, on Nuit Blanche, Journées du Patrimoine and La Nuit des Musées). For budget travellers, there are also a number of museums that have free entry or access to the permanent collection at all time. The temporary exhibitions, however, are chargeable.

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde

© All Rights Reserved lil_lil


Asian, African and Oceanian Art

Impressionist and Post-Impressionist Art

Photography, Modern Art and Contemporary Art

Furniture, Decorative Art and Objets d'Art

Fountain in Place des Vosges

Fountain in Place des Vosges

© All Rights Reserved Wonkerer

Former Residences

Science

History and Archaeological

Lifestyle (Perfurmerie)

By Appointment Only

  • Musée Edith Piaf: 5 rue Crespin-du-Gast, 75011 (M: Ménilmontant) - privately run museum dedicated to all things Edith Piaf. Monday through Wednesday afternoons, Thursday morning; telephone 01-43-55-52-72 for appointment. On 4th floor without lift. Free to visit and donation appreciated.

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Sights by Arrondissement

Each of the Parisian arrondissements has their own attractions for the millions of visitors that travel in each year. Some of the highlights per arrondissement are:

Paris

Paris

© All Rights Reserved slugtrek

  • 1st (1er) - Louvre: Musée du Louvre, Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, Jardin des Tuileries, Place Vendôme, Palais Royal, Jardin du Palais Royal, Comédie-Française, Les Halles, St Eustache, Ste Chapelle, Conciergerie
  • 2nd (2ème) - Bourse: La Bourse (the Paris Stock Exchange), Bibliothèque Nationale de France (site Richelieu), Place des Victoires, Opéra-Comique, Passage des Panoramas, Théâtre Musée des Capucines-Fragonard
  • 3rd (3ème) - Temple: Archives Nationales, Musée Carnavalet, Musée des Arts et Métiers, Hôtel de Soubise (Musée de l'Histoire de France), Musée de la Poupée, Musée Picasso, Square du Temple
  • 4th (4ème) - Hôtel-de-Ville: Hôtel de Ville, Notre-Dame de Paris, Le Marais, Centre Georges Pompidou, Place des Vosges, Maison de Victor Hugo, Tour St Jacques, Musée Cognacg-Jay, Place de la Bastille, Île Saint-Louis
  • 5th (5ème) - Panthéon: Panthéon, Quartier Latin, La Sorbonne, St Etienne du Mont, Musée Nationale du Moyen Age (Musée Cluny), Institut du Monde Arabe, Jardin des Plantes, Musée National d'Histoire Naturelle
  • 6th (6ème) - Luxembourg: Jardin du Luxembourg, Palais du Luxembourg (Sénat), Place St Michel, St Sulpice, St Germain des Prés, Fontaine de Médicis, Odéon Théâtre de l'Europe, Institut de France
  • 7th (7ème) - Palais-Bourbon: Tour Eiffel, Parc du Champ de Mars, Musée du Quai Branly, Hôtel des Invalides, Musée Rodin, Musée d'Orsay, Assemblée Nationale Palais-Bourbon, École Militaire, UNESCO
  • 8th (8ème) - Élysée: Champs-Élysées, Arc de Triomphe, Palais de l'Élysée, Grand Palais, Petit Palais, Pont Alexandre III, Place de la Concorde, Musée de l'Orangerie, Galerie Nationale du Jeu de Paume, La Madeleine
  • 9th (9ème) - Opéra: Opéra Garnier, Musée de l'Opéra, Galeries Lafayette, Le Printemps, Musée Grévin, Folies Bergère, Musée Gustave Moreau, Musée du Parfum, Hôtel Drouot, Musée de la Franc-Maçonnerie
  • 10th (10ème) - Enclos-St-Laurent: Église St Laurent, Église St Vincent-de-Paul, Canal Saint-Martin, Porte Saint-Denis, Porte Saint-Martin, Passage Brady, Passage du Prado, Musée de l'Éventail
  • 11th (11ème) - Popincourt: Cirque d'Hiver, Église St Ambroise, Musée Édith Piaf, Musée du Fumeur, Place de la Bastille, Place de la Nation, Place de la République
    Canal St. Martin, Paris

    Canal St. Martin, Paris

    © All Rights Reserved mtlchica

  • 12th (12ème) - Reuilly: Place de la Bastille, Opéra Bastille, Parc de Bercy, Bercy Village, Promenade Plantée, Quartier d'Aligre, Palais de la Porte Dorée, Cimetière de Picpus, Bois de Vincennes
  • 13th (13ème) - Gobelins: Manufacture des Gobelins, Petite Asie, Place d'Italie, La Butte aux Cailles, Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) François Mitterrand, Butte-aux-Cailles, Pitié-Salpêtrière Hospital
  • 14th (14ème) - Observatoire: Observatoire de Paris, Les Catacombes, Fondation Cartier pour l'Art Contemporain, Tour Montparnasse, Cimetière du Montparnasse, La Santé Prison, Parc Montsouris, Musée Lenine
  • 15th (15ème) - Vaugirard: Porte de Versailles, La Ruche, Musée Pasteur, Musée Antoine Bourdelle, Front de Seine (Beaugrenelle), Musée du Service des Objets Trouvés, Musée de la Poste, Parc André Citroën
  • 16th (16ème) - Passy: Trocadéro, Palais de Chaillot, Musée de l'Homme, Palais de Tokyo, Cimetière de Passy, Maison de Balzac, Bois de Boulogne, Jardin d'Acclimatation, Parc des Princes, Musée Guimet
  • 17th (17ème) - Batignolles-Monceau: Square des Batignolles, Marché des Batignolles, Palais des Congrès, Musée national Jean-Jacques Henner, Marché Poncelet, Parc Monceau
  • 18th (18ème) - Butte-Montmartre: Basilique du Sacré-Cœur, Église St-Jean-de-Montmartre, Moulin Rouge, Musée de l'Érotisme, Espace Dalí, Place du Tertre, Cimetière de Montmartre, Musée d'Art Naïf Max Fourny, Marché aux Puces de St-Ouen
  • 19th (19ème) - Buttes-Chaumont: Parc des Buttes Chaumont, Parc de la Villette, Bassin de la Villette, Cité des Sciences et de l'Industrie, Cité de la Musique, Canal de l'Ourcq, Canal Saint-Denis
  • 20th (20ème) - Ménilmontant: Cimetière de Père Lachaise, Parc de Belleville

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Further Afield: Around Île-de-France

Versailles

Versailles

© All Rights Reserved Monika23

Paris is a métro/RER ride away from several noteworthy and popular sights in Île-de-France. They make good day trip options from Paris.

  • Basilique Saint-Denis was the building that acted as catalyst for the development of Gothic architecture. It is also the royal burial ground of the French Kings and their families, and all but three are buried here. (M: Basilique de Saint-Denis)
  • Château de Versailles, together with its gardens, fountains and palaces of Petit Trianon and Grand Trianon, are manifestations of the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV - the lavish lifestyle and the wealth underlying it all. (RER: Versailles-Rive Gauche)
  • Château de Vincennes, enclosed by a defensive wall and a moat, was formerly a royal residence which developed from a hunting lodge. (M: Château de Vincennes, RER: Vincennes)
  • Disneyland Resort Paris encompasses two theme parks - the classical Disneyland Park and the movie-themed Disney Studios Park. (RER: Marne-la-Vallée)
  • La Défense is the economic centre just to the west of Paris and the presence of La Grande Arche adds a new dimension of culture to the Axe Historique. (M: La Défense, RER: La Défense)
  • Musée et Château de Fontainebleau are located 55 kilometres to the southeast of Paris, and listed as UNESCO World Heritage Site. (Train from Gare de Lyon to Fontainebleau-Avon, Véolia bus from Fontainebleau-Avon to the castle)

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