Top Historic Sights in Paris, France

Explore the historic highlights of Paris

Notre Dame de Paris

Construction history The Notre Dame de Paris stands on the site of Paris' first Christian church, Saint Etienne basilica, which was itself built on the site of a Roman temple to Jupiter. The first church was built by Childebert I, the king of the Franks, in 528, and was already the cathedral of the city of Paris in the 10th century. However, in 1160, having become the 'parish church of the kings of Europe,' Bishop Mauric ...
Founded: 1163 | Location: Paris, France

Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower (La tour Eiffel) is an iron lattice tower located on the Champ de Mars in Paris. It was named after the engineer Gustave Eiffel, whose company designed and built the tower. Erected in 1889 as the entrance arch to the 1889 World's Fair, it was initially criticised by some of France's leading artists and intellectuals for its design, but has become both a global cultural icon of France and one of the most r ...
Founded: 1889 | Location: Paris, France

Louvre

The Louvre is one of the world's largest museums and a historic monument and a central landmark of Paris. Nearly 35,000 objects from prehistory to the 21st century are exhibited over an area of 60,600 square metres. The Louvre is the world's most visited museum, and received more than 9 million visitors annually. The museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, originally built as a fortress in the late 12th century under Phil ...
Founded: 1793 | Location: Paris, France

Sacré-Coeur

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, commonly known as Sacré-Cœur is a Roman Catholic church and minor basilica. It is a popular landmark located at the summit of the butte Montmartre, the highest point in the city. Sacré-Cœur is a double monument, political and cultural, both a national penance for the defeat of France in the 1871 Franco-Prussian War and the socialist Paris Commune of 1871 ...
Founded: 1875-1919 | Location: Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe de l"Étoile is one of the most famous monuments in Paris. It stands in the centre of the Place Charles de Gaulle (originally named Place de l"Étoile), at the western end of the Champs-Élysées. It should not be confused with a smaller arch, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, which stands west of the Louvre. The Arc de Triomphe honours those who fought and died for Fr ...
Founded: 1806 | Location: Paris, France

Grand Palais

The Grand Palais is an exhibition hall and museum complex located at the Champs-Élysées. Construction of the Grand Palais began in 1897 following the demolition of the Palais de l"Industrie (Palace of Industry) as part of the preparation works for the Universal Exposition of 1900, which also included the creation of the adjacent Petit Palais and Pont Alexandre III. The structure was built in the style ...
Founded: 1897 | Location: Paris, France

Musée d'Orsay

The Musée d'Orsay was built between 1898 and 1900. The museum holds mainly French art dating from 1848 to 1915, including paintings, sculptures, furniture, and photography. It houses the largest collection of impressionist and post-impressionist masterpieces in the world, by painters including Monet, Manet, Degas, Renoir, Cézanne, Seurat, Sisley, Gauguin and Van Gogh. Many of these works were held at the Galerie nationa ...
Founded: 1898-1900 | Location: Paris, France

Place de la Concorde

The octagonal Place de la Concorde is the largest square in Paris. It is situated between the Tuileries and the Champs-Elysées. In 1763, a large statue of king Louis XV was erected at this site to celebrate the recovery of the king after a serious illness. The square surrounding the statue was created later, in 1772, by the architect Jacques-Ange Gabriel. It was known as the place Louis XV. In 1792, during the French re ...
Founded: 1763 | Location: Paris, France

Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel

The Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel is a triumphal arch built between 1806 and 1808 to commemorate Napoleon"s military victories of the previous year. The monument is 19m high. Around its exterior are eight Corinthian columns of marble, topped by eight soldiers of the Empire. The upper frieze on the on entablement has sculptures of soldiers: Auguste Marie Taunay"s cuirassier (left), Charles-Louis Corbet"s dra ...
Founded: 1806 | Location: Paris, France

Conciergerie

The Conciergerie is a former prison and part of the former royal palace, the Palais de la Cité, which consisted of the Conciergerie, Palais de Justice and the Sainte-Chapelle. Hundreds of prisoners during the French Revolution were taken from the Conciergerie to be executed on the guillotine at a number of locations around Paris. The west part of the island was originally the site of a Merovingian palace, and was initia ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Paris, France

Sainte-Chapelle

Sainte-Chapelle (The Holy Chapel) is a 13th-century Gothic chapel on the Île de la Cité in the heart of Paris, France. Sainte-Chapelle was founded by the ultra-devout King Louis IX of France, who constructed it as a chapel for the royal palace and to house precious relics. The palace itself has otherwise utterly disappeared, leaving the Sainte-Chapelle all but surrounded by the Palais de Justice. Unlike many devout ari ...
Founded: 1241-1248 | Location: Paris, France

Palais Garnier

The Palais Garnier is a opera house, which was built from 1861 to 1875 for the Paris Opera. The architect was Charles Garnier (1825–1898). It was originally called the Salle des Capucines because of its location on the Boulevard des Capucines in the 9th arrondissement of Paris, but soon became known as the Palais Garnier in recognition of its opulence and its architect, Charles Garnier. The theatre is also often referre ...
Founded: 1861-1875 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre Church

Saint-Julien-le-Pauvre is a Melkite Greek Catholic parish church in Paris, France, and one of the city's oldest religious buildings. It replaced a Merovingian refuge for pilgrims, or an older church dating back to the 6th century. The earliest mention of such a site was found in texts authored by Gregory, bishop of Tours, who resided there during the rule of Chilperic I, king of Neustria. A synagogue serving the Jewish re ...
Founded: 1210-1220 | Location: Paris, France

Panthéon

Panthéon was originally built as a church dedicated to St. Genevieve, but after many changes now combines liturgical functions with its role as a famous burial place. It is an early example of Neoclassicism, with afacade modelled after the Pantheon in Rome surmounted by a dome that owes some of its character to Bramante"s 'Tempietto'. Among those buried in its necropolis are Voltaire, Rousseau, Victo ...
Founded: 1758-1790 | Location: Paris, France

Les Invalides

Les Invalides is a complex of buildings containing museums and monuments, all relating to the military history of France, as well as a hospital and a retirement home for war veterans, the building"s original purpose. The buildings house the Musée de l"Armée, the military museum of the Army of France, the Musée des Plans-Reliefs, and the Musée d"Histoire Contemporaine, as well as ...
Founded: 1670 | Location: Paris, France

Palais-Royal

The Palais Royal was built in 1629 by Cardinal Richelieu, an influential French minister. It became a royal palace after the cardinal bequeathed the building to King Louis XIII. Louis XIV, the Sun King, spent his youth here before moving to the nearby Louvre and later to Versailles. Between 1871 and 1874, Louis-Philippe d"Orléans, cousin of King Louis XVI expanded the palace by adding arcades and shops. At th ...
Founded: 1629 | Location: Paris, France

Musée Rodin

The Musée Rodin was opened in 1919 and is dedicated to the works of the French sculptor Auguste Rodin. It has two sites, at the Hôtel Biron and surrounding grounds in central Paris, and just outside Paris at Rodin"s old home, the Villa des Brillants at Meudon (Hauts-de-Seine). The collection includes 6,600 sculptures, 8,000 drawings, 8,000 old photographs and 7,000 objets d’art. The museum receives ...
Founded: 1919 | Location: Paris, France

Musée de l'Orangerie

The Musée de l"Orangerie is an art gallery of impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. Though most famous for being the permanent home for eight Water Lilies murals by Claude Monet, the museum also contains works by Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Henri Rousseau, Alfred Sisley, Chaim Soutine, and Maurice Utrillo, among others. the Orangerie w ...
Founded: 1852 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Jacques Tower

Saint-Jacques Flamboyant Gothic tower is all that remains of the former 16th-century Church of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, which was demolished in 1797, during the French Revolution, leaving only the tower. What remains of the destroyed church of St. Jacques La Boucherie is now considered a national historic landmark. The tower"s rich decoration reflects the wealth of its patrons, the wholesale butchers of the ne ...
Founded: 1509-1523 | Location: Paris, France

Luxembourg Palace

The famous Italian Medici family have given two queens to France: Catherine, the spouse of Henry II, and Marie, widow of Henry IV, who built the current Luxembourg palace. Maria di Medici had never been happy at the Louvre, still semi-medieval, where the fickle king, did not hesitate to receive his mistresses. The death of Henry IV, assassinated in 1610, left the way open for Marie"s project. When she became regent, ...
Founded: 1615 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Eustache

The Church of St Eustace was built between 1532-1632. St Eustace"s is considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture. The church’s reputation was strong enough of the time for it to be chosen as the location for a young Louis XIV to receive communion. Mozart also chose the sanctuary as the location for his mother’s funeral. Among those baptised here as children were Richelieu, Jeanne-Antoinette Pois ...
Founded: 1532-1632 | Location: Paris, France

Père Lachaise Cemetery

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the largest cemetery in Paris city. The cemetery takes its name from the confessor to Louis XIV, Père François de la Chaise (1624–1709), who lived in the Jesuit house rebuilt in 1682 on the site of the chapel. The property, situated on the hillside from which the king watched skirmishing between the Condé and Turenne during the Fronde, was bought by the city in 1 ...
Founded: 1804 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Germain l'Auxerrois

The Church of Saint-Germain-l"Auxerrois was originally founded in the 7th century, but it has been rebuilt many times over several centuries. It now has construction in Roman, Gothic and Renaissance styles. The most striking exterior feature is the porch, with a rose window and a balustrade above which encircles the whole church, a work of Jean Gaussel (1435–39). Among the treasures preserved inside are a 15th- ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Paris, France

Moulin Rouge

Moulin Rouge (French for Red Mill) is a cabaret co-founded in 1889 by Charles Zidler and Joseph Oller, who also owned the Paris Olympia. Close to Montmartre in the Paris district of Pigalle on Boulevard de Clichy in the 18th arrondissement, it is marked by the red windmill on its roof. Moulin Rouge is best known as the spiritual birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance. Originally introduced as a seductive danc ...
Founded: 1889 | Location: Paris, France

Thermes de Cluny

The Thermes de Cluny are the ruins of Gallo-Roman thermal baths lying in the heart of Paris" 5th arrondissement. The present bath ruins constitute about one-third of a massive bath complex that is believed to have been constructed around the beginning of the 3rd century. The best preserved room is the frigidarium, with intact architectural elements such as Gallo-Roman vaults, ribs and consoles, and fragments of original d ...
Founded: c. 200 AD | Location: Paris, France

Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés

The Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Prés was the burial place of Merovingian kings of Neustria. The Abbey was founded in the 6th century by Childebert I, the son of Clovis I (ruled 511–558). Under royal patronage the Abbey became one of the richest in France; it housed an important scriptorium in the 11th century and remained a center of intellectual life in the French Catholic church until it was disb ...
Founded: 1014 | Location: Paris, France

La Madeleine

Curiously resembling the Parthenon in Greece, the Eglise de la Madeleine (named after Mary Magdalene) was originally slated to be a government hall, a library, and a National Bank. It was originally built in the 18th century to the site of ancient Jewish synagogue. The Madeleine Church was designed in its present form as a temple to the glory of Napoleon's army in 1806. The latter eventually got his way, and in 1842 ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Paris, France

Catacombs of Paris

The origin of the Paris Catacombs, which it would be better to call “Municipal Ossuary”, goes back to the end of the 18th century. The Cemetery of the Innocents (near Saint-Eustache, in the area of Les Halles) had been in use for nearly ten centuries and had become a source of infection for the inhabitants of the locality. After numerous complaints, the Council of State decided, on November 9th 1785, to prohib ...
Founded: 1786 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Sulpice Church

Saint-Sulpice is a huge Late Baroque parish church. It recently became even more popular with tourists than usual thanks to its prominent role in the novel The Da Vinci Code. Saint Sulpicius, the patron of the church, was a 7th-century bishop of Bourges noted for his piety and his resistance to the tyranny of the Merovingian kings. The Church of St-Sulpice was founded by the Society of St-Sulpice to replace a small Gothi ...
Founded: 1646 | Location: Paris, France

Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux Church

The church of Notre-Dame-des-Blancs-Manteaux was built on the site of an earlier 1285 church founded by 'Les Blancs-Manteaux' ('white coats'), the mendiant Augustin Order of Servites, who also rebuilt the current church in 1685-1690.
Founded: 1685-1690 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Martin-des-Champs Priory

The Priory of Saint-Martin-des-Champs was an influential monastery established in what is now the city of Paris. Its surviving buildings are considered treasures of Medieval architecture in the city. The oldest known structure on the site was a chapel dedicated to St. Martin of Tours, founded during the Merovingian dynasty, which appears in a text of 710. At a date which remains unknown, a community of monks b ...
Founded: 1135 | Location: Paris, France

St-Gervais-et-St-Protais Church

Beginning in 1653, the St-Gervais-et-St-Protais church employed and sheltered the Couperin family, one of the most famous dynasties of French musicians, for more than two centuries. On one side of the church, the home of the famous harpsichordists, organists, and composers still stands, with a plaque commemorating the Couperins" tenure in this place. The organ used by Louis and François Couperin still exists t ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Nicholas-des-Champs Church

The Church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was once part of the powerful Abbey of Saint Martin des Champs. The abbey was founded as a daughter house of the Benedictine monastery of Cluny in 1067. It was incorporated into the city in the 14th century when it was enclosed by the new city wall constructed under the management of the Prefect of Paris, Etienne Marcel. The church of Saint Nicolas des Champs was begun in 1420 and en ...
Founded: 1420 | Location: Paris, France

Palais Bourbon

The Palais Bourbon is the seat of the French National Assembly, the lower legislative chamber of the French government. The palace was originally built for the legitimised daughter of Louis XIV and Françoise-Athénaïs, marquise de Montespan - Louise-Françoise de Bourbon, duchesse de Bourbon, to a design by the Italian architect Lorenzo Giardini, approved by Jules Hardouin-Mansart. Giardini oversaw ...
Founded: 1722-1728 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-Roch

The Church of Saint-Roch is a late Baroque church built between 1653 and 1740. In 1521, the tradesman Jean Dinocheau had a chapel built on the outskirts of Paris, which he dedicated to Saint Susanna. In 1577, his nephew Etienne Dinocheau had it extended into a larger church. In 1629, it became the parish church and thereafter underwent further work. The first stone of the church of Saint-Roch was laid by Louis XIV in 1653 ...
Founded: 1653 | Location: Paris, France

Montparnasse Cemetery

Montparnasse Cemetery was created from three farms in 1824. Cemeteries had been banned from Paris since the closure, owing to health concerns, of the Cimetière des Innocents in 1786. Several new cemeteries outside the precincts of the capital replaced all the internal Parisian ones in the early 19th century: Montmartre Cemetery in the north, Père Lachaise Cemetery in the east, and Montparnasse Cemetery in the south. At ...
Founded: 1824 | Location: Paris, France

Arènes de Lutèce

The Arènes de Lutèce are among the most important remains from the Gallo-Roman era in Paris (known in antiquity as Lutetia, or Lutèce in French), together with the Thermes de Cluny. Lying in what is now the Quartier Latin, this amphitheater could once seat 15,000 people, and was used to present gladiatorial combats. Constructed in the 1st century AD, this amphitheater is considered the longest of its ...
Founded: 0-100 AD | Location: Paris, France

Maison La Roche

Villa La Roche, also Maison La Roche, is a house in Paris, designed by Le Corbusier and Pierre Jeanneret in 1923–1925. It was designed for Raoul La Roche, a Swiss banker and collector of avant-garde art. Villa La Roche now houses the Fondation Le Corbusier. La Roche-Jeanneret house, is a pair of semi-detached houses that was Corbusier"s third commission in Paris. They are laid out at right angles to each other ...
Founded: 1923-1925 | Location: Paris, France

Château de Bagatelle

The Château de Bagatelle is a small neoclassical château with a French landscape garden in the 16th arrondissement of Paris. The château is intended for brief stays while hunting in the Bois and it was initially built as a small hunting lodge for the Maréchal d"Estrées in 1720. Bagatelle from the Italian bagattella, means a trifle, or little decorative nothing. In 1775, the Comte d&quo ...
Founded: 1777 | Location: Paris, France

Saint-François Xavier Church

A 'seminary for foreign missions' had been set up on rue du Bac in 1637 by Monseigneur Duval, with an accord from pope Urban VIII, during the Counter Reformation. The seminary's oratory or chapel was built between 1683 and 1689, with interior decoration by Jacques Stella, Nicolas Poussin and Simon Vouet, and it was this chapel that operated secretly as a parish church for the area during the Revolutionary era when the are ...
Founded: 1637 | Location: Paris, France

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.