Paris is one of the most visited cities on Earth, and it is the capital of one of the most visited countries on Earth. Tourists’ love for France is nothing new. France has been a mecca of tourism for hundreds of years, and Paris is at the heart of it all. Paris is one of those cities that is just so iconic that you have to visit, but there is so much to do that many travelers have no idea where to begin.
I decided to take a similar approach with Paris that I did with Rome, as both are iconic cities with so much to see and do. This post will take a look at all of the best sightseeing in Paris, much like my post on the best things to see in Rome. In addition to this post, I’ve also written a detailed Paris travel guide and a post on the best museums in Paris. If you are planning a trip to Paris, I highly recommend checking out both of those!
Also, as a disclaimer, this post is not about the best things to do in Paris, but rather the best things to see in Paris. So many lists of the best things to do in Paris are congested with things that you walk up to, see, take a picture of, and move on. I decided to separate these lists, as there are enough iconic sightseeing spots in Paris to merit their own blog post! For the best things to do in Paris, check out my Paris travel guide.
1. The Eiffel Tower
The Eiffel Tower is the single most iconic thing to see in Paris, and it is often regarded as the symbol of Paris. In fact, the Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognizable monuments in the entire world. This tower is over 1,000 feet tall and was built in 1889.
While seeing the tower is one thing, taking the elevator to the top is an entirely different experience. There are even two restaurants located in the tower, and they provide excellent views of the city while you eat (for a steep price tag, of course). There are many great photograph angles of the Eiffel Tower, but my favorite place to get pictures is in the Eiffel Tower Garden, located to the southeast of the tower.
2. The Notre Dame Cathedral
The Notre Dame Cathedral, or Cathédrale de Notre-Dame de Paris in French, is one of the most iconic churches in the world and needs to be on your sightseeing list while in Paris. This church was the victim of a devastating fire in 2019, and large portions of its roof and spires were destroyed. While the cathedral is currently closed to visitors, it can still be seen from the outside and is worth v. The cause of the Notre Dame Cathedral fire remains a mystery, but the cathedral is supposed to reopen its doors at some point in 2024 when the restorations are complete.
3. The Arc De Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is another one of the most iconic monuments in Paris, and it was built in 1806 to commemorate the military triumphs of Napoleon Bonaparte. It is decorated ornately with scenes from many of Napoleon’s most famous battles, and there are images of some of France’s most heroic soldiers and leaders of that time.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from World War One is located below the Arc de Triomphe, too. This monument is located at the center of a traffic circle that feeds into 12 different streets, so it is highly recommended that you visit during non-rush hour if you want to get a picture from the street! You can get pictures closer to the monument on its concrete base, but you can capture the full monument if you stand further away on the street, like we did in the picture above.
4. The Sacre Coeur Basilica
The Sacre Coeur Basilica, or la Basilique du Sacré-Coeur de Montmarte in French, is a stunning church built on the highest hill in Paris. This church is known for its giant white domes and gorgeous interior, and unlike the Notre Dame Cathedral, you can actually go inside this one.
Many people enjoy hiking up to the top of the hill from the Place Saint-Pierre, and hiking up the stairs from the Place Saint-Pierre to the basilica is often seen as a pilgrimage by Catholic visitors.
Angel and I attended a French Mass. The basilica’s massive organ wrung throughout the church walls. It made the Mass feel incredibly solemn and almost like we were in a horror film! Even though it was haunting, it was haunting in a very meaningful way. It transported us to an entirely different place. We didn’t feel like we were here on earth. We felt like we were in another world, another era. It felt unearthly. Dare we say heavenly? What better way to celebrate the Holy Mass! We would definitely recommend this experience, especially for any of our Catholic readers. Find the Basilica’s Mass Times here.
We weren’t even engaged at the time, but we decided to light a candle of prayer for our future marriage. Either that or it was for our future child….Presently we are both married and also have a kid so I suppose whichever it was doesn’t matter because they both came true (You can read our full story here).
5. The Luxembourg Gardens
The Luxembourg Gardens is the second-largest public park in Paris, and it is a beautiful green space where visitors can sit back, relax, and simply enjoy the outdoors within the city of Paris. There are several family-friendly attractions here, including a playground and a pond with remote controlled boats. This is a very popular picnic destination in Paris, and this is probably the best place to go in the city to simply relax and get a breath of fresh air.
6. The Pantheon
Wait, the Pantheon is in Rome, isn’t it?
Yes, and the French liked it so much that they built a copy of it in Paris. The Pantheon in Paris was originally a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, the Patroness of Paris. During the French Revolution, it was repurposed to be a mausoleum of some of Paris’ most notable heroes and martyrs, including Marie Curie and Victor Hugo. Burial spaces here are reserved for the most notable Parisians of all time.
7. The Conciergerie
The Conciergerie in Paris has been around for over a thousand years, and it has served many different roles and purposes throughout that time. It has functioned as a palace, a residence for workers, a prison, a court building, and more. It has also grown and expanded over the past millennium, and it looks nothing today like it did in the 10th century. Today, it primarily acts as a courthouse, but its facade facing the River Seine is one of the most breathtaking sights to see in Paris.
8. The Palais Garnier
The Palais Garnier was built in the 1800s, and its extremely ornate interior made it the most expensive building constructed during its era. The Palais Garnier is the home of the National Opera of Paris, and it is where the iconic Phantom of the Opera takes place. While the building is beautiful on the outside, the interior is what you really want to see. This building still hosts shows and events, and attending one is absolutely worth the ticket price.
9. The Catacombs
Some of the best sightseeing in Paris is located below the city’s surface. The Catacombs below Paris are an extremely unique place to visit, and seeing them is a very worthwhile experience. The Catacombs are filled with bones of Parisians from throughout all time, and the network extends for about a mile beneath the city. At many points, the bones are arranged artfully, and they tell a story of the more gruesome history of the City of Love.
10. The Sainte Chapelle
The Sainte-Chapelle is one of the most striking churches in all of Paris, and it was built all the way back in the 13th century. This gorgeous chapel is known for its stunning stained glass windows, and for housing what was believed to be Christ’s crown of thorns. While the church was restored in the 19th century and is no longer fully original, it is still a remarkable structure that is one of the best things to see in Paris.
Thanks for reading my post on the 10 things you need to see in Paris! Hopefully this list helps you to plan your sightseeing in Paris. No trip should be all about sightseeing, but Paris has plenty of things to at least fill a couple of days. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out – we’ve got you covered.