A trip to Paris is the stuff travel dreams are made of. For some of us, the dream might have started after watching iconic movies like “Charade” with Audrey Hepburn and “Amelie,” both of which magnificently show off the most famous landmarks in Paris. Or, maybe the dream was sparked by a French language class in high school, like it was for Go Ahead traveler Jodie. “I thought often about what I would do and see there,” Jodie said of her dream to visit Paris. “Sit at a cafe and have a glass or two of wine, go to the top of the Eiffel Tower, wander through the Louvre and marvel at Notre-Dame.”
The French capital never seems to run out of awe-inspiring landmarks. Whether you’re planning a weeklong visit to Paris or bundling it into a larger multi-city itinerary through Europe, here are the seven Paris monuments to put on your bucket list for 2022.
1. The Eiffel Tower
Attractions in Paris don’t get more iconic than the Eiffel Tower. And one of the best things about it is that at over 1,000 feet tall, you don’t need to head to the 7th arrondissement to see it. You can be walking around one of Paris’ central neighborhoods and catch a glimpse of its pointed peak. From the windows of tall buildings (including many of the city’s hotels), you can get a great view, too.
But we like a close-up, so all our trips to Paris include a stop at the Eiffel Tower, where you can take as many photos and selfies as your camera’s storage limit will allow. Then let our expert guides regale you with insider intel about this 19th-century, wrought-iron tower by the now world-famous Gustave Eiffel. Did you know that the creation of the tower was met with controversy? Many people at the time didn’t think it would be feasible to make a building this high! According to traveler Jodie, seeing the Eiffel Tower for the first time was the highlight of her trip to Paris. “It literally took my breath away,” she said.
There will be plenty of opportunities to see the Eiffel Tower during our Paris: the City Experience tour, but consider striking out during free time in the evening to get a closer look at the nightly light show. The tower takes on a totally different atmosphere than during the day, and seeing it shine is one of our favorite things about Paris.
2. The Arc de Triomphe on Avenue des Champs-Élysées
The over one-mile stretch between Place de la Concorde and the Arc de Triomphe is perhaps the most beautiful city street in the world. Avenue des Champs-Élysées’ wide, sycamore-lined sidewalk is made for leisurely strolls at any hour of the day. But if you’re looking to do more than just walk and take in the scenery, the Haussmann buildings that dot Champs-Élysées are full of fancy restaurants, designer boutiques, and, for some evening revelry, glamorous bars. During our Grand Tour of France, you’ll get to drive down this famous boulevard with a full view of yet another iconic Paris monument: the Arc de Triomphe.
Located on the western edge of Champs-Élysées, the Arc de Triomphe was built in 1806 (finished 30 years later) to honor French soldiers who died in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars. Until the 1938 completion of the Monumento a la Revolución in Mexico City, the Arc de Triomphe was the tallest triumphal arch in the world at nearly 165 feet tall. It features countless sculptures including one of Napoleon being crowned by the goddess of Victory as well as the historic La Marseillaise volunteers marching to the capital.
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3. The Louvre Museum
Of all the attractions in Paris, this museum is one of the best. Located in the 1st arrondissement, the Louvre has earned the distinction of being the most-visited museum in the whole world. And why not? The striking glass pyramid outside its doors can only hint at the artistic treasures that can be found inside, including the enigmatic “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci. But did you know that the museum started as a 12th-century castle? Remnants of this history can be viewed at the galleries today. No wonder visiting this museum us one of our favorite free-time winter activities in Paris →
When it first opened as a museum in the late-18th century, it housed 537 paintings. Now, the Louvre’s collection comprises approximately 616,000 pieces. It would take weeks to see the 38,000 that are on the display. Many of our Paris trips, like our London & Paris tour, give you an entire free day that can be devoted to the Louvre if that’s up your alley. But if not, maybe you’ll want to add the plaza just outside the museum to your list of picnic spots in Paris? It’s as atmospheric a people-watching perch as any in the City of Light.
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4. Notre-Dame Cathedral
First opened in 1345 on a small island on Seine River in the 4th arrondissement, this medieval cathedral has been a beloved Parisian icon for both locals and travelers alike. Many might know it as the dramatic site of Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.” But it was also a celebratory destination when Paris was freed from the Nazis in 1944. Architecture buffs will love its flying buttresses (the supporting structures that jut out of the central building) and for its colorful, circular windows.
Due to a raging fire in 2019, Notre-Dame is currently undergoing intensive restorations (due to be completed in time for the 2024 Summer Olympics) and can’t be visited. But, many still take the time to walk to Île de la Cité to admire what’s currently visible—and you can even see the monument in all its glory in our virtual tour of Paris. It’s also a good idea to partner a meandering walk to the cathedral with a trip to Shakespeare and Company, the iconic 100-year-old bookstore just steps away from Notre-Dame; many consider it a Paris landmark, too.
Perched on the highest point of the city in the 18th arrondissement, Sacré-Coeur, a Roman Catholic basilica that was completed in 1914, lords over Paris like no other building in town. This 272-foot-tall, all-white building is almost blinding in its striking position on top of Butte Montmartre. Travelers trek to this historic Paris monument not only to see one of the largest mosaics in the world—the ceiling of the apse was brought to life with illustrations of the risen Jesus Christ—but also for the incredible views of Paris.
From this point of view, the entire city is at your feet. Join revelers and street performers as they soak in the views and the atmosphere; this is one of the most popular destinations in Paris to while away a lazy afternoon during free time on tour. Or, do what Go Ahead staffer Jackie did: “Get yourself an assortment of macarons at one of Montmartre’s patisseries, and bring them to the steps of Sacré-Coeur to look over the entire city at sunset,” she said.
Check out more of our favorite things to do in our Paris Travel Guide →
6. Paris Catacombs
If you want to add a little spooky history to your Parisian escapades, consider adding a trip to the crypt during your free time in the City of Light. It might be a bit creepy for some, but one of the famous landmarks in Paris actually houses the remains of six million Parisians. The Paris Catacombs were created in 1810 after city cemeteries started reaching capacity. And what started as a practical solution to a pressing urban problem eventually became rather trendy—the Paris Catacombs were once so sought-after that space within was used for exhibitions, and way back when (in the 19th century), concerts were even hosted in these underground passages.
The entrance to this historic Paris landmark is in the 14th arrondissement, about a mile south of the Luxembourg Gardens. And the one-mile path open to the public (though many more miles are used) is a one-way, 45-minute experience to see groups of bones organized by the cemeteries from which they were pulled from. The catacombs are home to remains that date back to the 13th century and include those who perished during the French Revolution.
7. Statue of Liberty
Did you know that Paris has more statues of liberty than New York? Yes, the most famous of them all is the guardian of New York harbor, but there are hundreds of replicas scattered all over the world. The sculptor of the original, Frédéric Bartholdi, made a nine-foot-tall version of Lady Liberty that now stands in the entrance hall of another Paris landmark, Musée d'Orsay. On Île aux Cygnes, an artificial island on the Seine in the 15th arrondissement, is a nearly 40-foot-tall replica gifted to France by U.S. citizens back in 1889. The tiniest one is hidden on the breastplate of Le Centaure, a bronze statue in the 6th arrondissement. There are a handful more tucked away in various parts of Paris. It’s up to you to find them (but as always, your expert Tour Director will be more than happy to give you a hint!).
What’s better than reading about famous attractions in Paris? Seeing them in person on one of our bucket list Paris tours.