Paris is nothing if not photogenic. Filled with a charming blend of towering high-rises and cobblestoned side streets, the city that captured the hearts of writers like Ernest Hemingway and Ralph Waldo Emerson is at once cosmopolitan and quaint. Visitors to the City of Lights (or "la Ville des Lumières,” as they call it in French) will find old buildings like La Sainte-Chapelle or La Sorbonne sharing space with modern feats like the Géode or the La Grande Arche.
The picturesque city is brimming with art and culture. It is the birthplace, after all, of famous painters like Claude Monet and Edgar Degas; writers like Simone de Beauvoir and Voltaire; and filmmakers like Jean-Luc Godard and François Truffaut. Take a stroll through its streets and you’ll find a colorful kaleidoscope of museums, arthouses, restaurants, galleries, and other scenic gems.
To give you a sense of what the city looks like, Stacker has put together a 30-photo tour of what the city has to offer. Scroll through to take a look at just some of the locations that make this city so iconic.
The Eiffel Tower, which stands an impressive 1,060 feet tall, was built in 1887 to honor the centennial of the French Revolution. It served two years later as the main exhibit at the World's Fair of 1889 and the temporary structure was slated to be torn down in 1907. But people loved the structure so much that officials decided to keep it. In this view from the top, tourists can peer through the telescope to see some of the most stunning views of the city.
The Eiffel Tower is an impressive sight to take in at any hour. But at night, the monument becomes especially breathtaking. The tower is illuminated for five minutes out of every hour on the hour, every evening of the week, and is equally stunning whether you stand below the structure and look up or soak in the full view from across the city. Taking photos of the Eiffel Tower at night is officially illegal; however, the rule is seldom enforced.
Bathed in beautiful golden light, these Haussmann-era buildings represent the classic Parisian architecture that so many people call to mind when they think of the City of Love. This recognition comes courtesy of Georges-Eugène Haussmann, a 19th-century prefect who was appointed by Emperor Napoleon III to revamp the city’s buildings. Between 1853 and 1870, Haussmann carried out a large-scale urban planning project that changed the architectural aesthetic of the city and continues to define it to this day.
Arching ornately over the beautiful Seine river, the Pont Alexandre III bridge joins the area around Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower with the Avenue des Champs-Élysées. The bridge, which connects the seventh and eighth arrondissements of Paris, is one of the most picturesque structures in the city and features 55-foot pylons topped with gilt bronze sculptures.
The Museum Carnavalet is Paris’ oldest municipal museum and as such, it holds a rich history in itself, while also telling the story of the city’s past. Visitors to the museum can walk through the decorative building and feast on elaborate displays showcasing French Revolutionary artifacts, archaeological remains, architectural elements, and other mementos of bygone eras.
Few cathedrals in the world are as iconic as the Notre-Dame. The medieval Catholic monument is at its finest early in the morning—which also happens to be the best time to appreciate the building’s stunning French Gothic architecture without having to fight hordes of crowds.
The view of Paris from the top of the Notre Dame seems to stretch for miles. The cathedral, which took more than 200 years to build and was completed in 1345, sits on the Ile de la Cite island on the Seine river. It is the modern-day seat of Paris’ archbishop, who holds Sunday mass there every week.
Nestled in the chic Saint-Germain-des-Prés area, the famous Les Deux Magots cafe has been a favorite spot throughout history of famed artists and intellectuals including Ernest Hemingway, James Joyce, Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, Simone de Beauvoir, Pablo Picasso, James Baldwin, and others. The café is so well-known for hosting writers that it even has a literary prize named after it: the Prix des Deux Magots.
The iconic Arc de Triomphe at night doubles as a viewing platform for watching the city lights. Inside, visitors can climb a winding, 300-step staircase to an indoor museum with adjacent rooftop platform. The monument, which commemorates soldiers who fought in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, joins the eighth, 16th, and 27th arrondissements.
Situated in the city’s fourth arrondissement, the 1970s-era Centre Pompidou is a giant salute to art, music, and literature. The structural expressionist-styled building is the brainchild of British and Italian architects Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, and Gianfranco Franchini. Centre Pompidou is home to Europe’s largest collection of modern art (the Musée National d'Art Moderne), along with a huge public library and center for music and acoustic research.
As if walking along the Seine river isn’t charming enough on its own, the river’s scenic banks are also full of Les Bouquinistes, a group of booksellers and literary merchants who’ve been using the space to sell books, photos, and other artistic trinkets for more than 400 years. The "open air bookshop,” as it’s sometimes referred to, runs from Pont Marie to Quai du Louvre on the Right Bank and from Quai de la Tournelle to Quai Voltaire on the Left Bank.
Perhaps as beautiful as the artwork inside the famous Louvre art gallery is the pyramid that decorates its main entrance. Known as the "Pyramid of the Louvre,” the elegant steel-and-glass creation was designed by Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei as a solution to structural problems the previous entrance was having with the high volume of visitors. The pyramid is especially stunning at night, as pictured here, when the lights inside make the whole structure glow.
With the stately La Grande Arche de la Défense monument towering in the center, Paris’s La Défense business district sits just outside the city in a cluster of purpose-built skyscrapers and high-rises. The bustling area includes 37.7 million square feet of office space and 72 tall commerce buildings, 14 of which rise above 490 feet.
Queen Marie de Medici, homesick in 1612 for the Boboli Gardens in her native Florence, had the Luxembourg Gardens designed to remind her of the gardens of her childhood. The scenic space spans 60 acres at the intersection of Saint-Germain-des-Prés and the Latin Quarter, features dozens of attractions including an apple orchard, rose garden, apiary, large pond, geometric forest, tennis courts, several greenhouses, and more than 100 statues.
With the Seine river flowing through the middle of the city, Paris can most easily be divided into two sections—the north and south sides, known respectively as the La Rive Droite ("the Right Bank”) and La Rive Gauche ("the Left Bank). The latter, shown here, is a picturesque area that has historically been home to artists and intellectuals, particularly around the Montparnasse district. The area today is also home to dozens of museums, including the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Musée d’Orsay, and the Musée du Quai Branly.
Paris is known all over the world as a literary city, so it’s no surprise that one of its more famous attractions is a bookstore. This well-known shop was called "Le Mistral” when it first opened in 1951; however, the owner changed the name in 1964 to pay tribute to an earlier bookstore called "Shakespeare and Company” that was shut down during the German occupation of World War II. The original bookstore had been an artistic hub for writers and poets like Ernest Hemingway, Gertrude Stein, James Joyce, and Ezra Pound.
One of the most awe-inspiring places to be in Paris when dusk rolls around is on top of a rooftop somewhere, looking around at the other rooftops nearby. The view is so spectacular, in fact, that many Parisians have created makeshift balconies for themselves using stepladders and other accessories. Tourists can catch the brilliant view from any of the city’s myriad rooftop bars.
Home to the infamous Moulin Rouge cabaret, the Montmartre district has historically been a gathering place for artists, bohemians, and beatniks. The 18th arrondissement neighborhood is full of cute cafés and restaurants, as well as lots of opportunities for shopping, theater, music, and nightlife. The most famous attraction in the historic district is the Sacré-Cœur Basilica on top of the hill.
Located on the Left Bank ("Rive Gauche”), the Musee d'Orsay is known for its impressive collection of impressionist paintings including pieces by Vincent Van Gogh ("La Nuit Étoilée,” "Portrait de l'Artiste, 1889”), Auguste Renoir ("Etude. Torse, Effet de Soleil,” "Dan”), Claude Monet ("Le Déjeuner Sur l'Herbe,” "Coquelicots”), and others. The museum houses roughly 2,000 paintings and 600 sculptures, and in 2018 won TripAdvisor’s Travelers’ Choice Award for best museum in the world.
Known in English as the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, the Sacré-Cœur is the second-most visited monument in Paris after the Notre Dame. The Romano-Byzantine-styled basilica, which features statues of Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX, bears the "Françoise Marguerite” bell on top, commonly referred to as the "Savoyarde.” The famous bell, which is one of the largest in the world, weighs 19 tons and can be heard from more than six miles away. At the base of the basilica’s steps, visitors can ride the colorful carousel pictured here.
Parisians love to dine al fresco. Their charming sidewalk cafés are among the most popular ways to eat breakfast, lunch, or dinner—and anything in between. The outdoor cafés were likely "born of the sunshine, bright skies and the Mediterranean spirit,” according to a 1972 New York Times article. In this delightful image, a bird helps itself to leftovers at an outdoor bistro in Montmartre.
Nestled in Paris’ historic Marais district, the Hotel de Sully was originally built in the 17th century and occupied by Maximilien de Béthune, Duke of Sully and minister to King Henry IV. Today, it is home to the Centre des Monuments Nationaux, an organization that oversees the city’s major heritage sites.
Another impressive snapshot of the city’s rooftop horizon, this image depicts the view as seen from the window of an apartment on Rue La Fayette. The busy downtown street was the subject of an 1891 painting by Norwegian artist Edvard Munch as he recalled his time in Paris.
Père Lachaise Cemetery is the final resting place of many famous people throughout history, including including composer Frédéric Chopin, novelist Marcel Proust, songwriter Edith Piaf, playwrights Oscar Wilde and Molière, and the Doors frontman Jim Morrison. The infamous tombstones are part of what makes it the most visited cemetery in the world.
Though large swaths of the Notre Dame cathedral were destroyed during the French Revolution, the building was made famous again in 1831 after Victor Hugo published "The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and King Louis Philippe ordered a restoration project. Today it is Paris' most visited landmark, welcoming 12 million tourists through its doors every year. While most come to view the building’s intricate gargoyles, strixes, and biblical sculptures displayed beneath its 225-foot towers, others come simply to relax on the steps below that lead down to the Seine.
In this view of the Sacré Coeur basilica from a small side street, the white domes of the Romano-Byzantine monument can be seen towering overhead. The building was constructed from a type of rock called travertine stone, which releases calcite, giving the structure its unique ivory-colored exterior.
Before the bohemian arts scene began flourishing, Montmartre—which means "hill of the martyrs”— was used for military purposes during the Paris Commune and other moments in history when the hill’s natural slope provided a strategic advantage. In this snapshot, an antique car can be seen making its way down the district’s winding, cobblestoned streets.
Showcasing French classical architecture of the 17th century, Palais du Luxembourg is home to the French Senate, France’s upper house of Parliament. In a 1900 edition of Baedeker's Paris guide, the author noted that the palace "bears some resemblance to the Pitti Palace at Florence … but at the same time it preserves an unmistakably French character, especially in the corner-pavilions with their lofty roofs." In this photo, the stately building looks all the more enchanting covered in snow.
A sunset cruise on the Seine river is a common way for visitors to experience Paris, winding through the long stretch of water that divides the Left Bank from the Right Bank. As boats pass through, tourists and locals alike tend to gather on the concrete banks to watch the sun go down over the city.