The most famous architecture in Paris is something that keeps bringing me back each time I visit France. I’m not only impressed with its history and art—but also the beautiful buildings. With innovative structures designed by architects and artists, buildings from different time periods paint a picture from classical to contemporary. Here are the spots that impressed me the most while I was in Paris.
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We flew into Charles de Gaulle just before sunrise then took the train from the airport directly to Gare du Nord. When we stepped out of the station, the first thing that registered was how stunningly different the architecture was in Paris, France.
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We stayed in the Montmartre region just down the street from Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. It’s easily my favorite building in Paris. Once you climb the stairs to the portico, you can turn around and see the city sprawled out before you. It was constructed from a type of limestone that exudes calcite, meaning that it will never lose its white color. It is a working Catholic church as well and though it’s gloomy inside, golden mosaics, statues and a bronze altar adorn the hall. Groups can climb to the top of the dome, visit the crypt or wander the gardens outside.
As a former home for French kings and a house to some of the finest art in the world, The Louvre perfectly blends the classic and the contemporary. A complex of interconnected buildings known as The Louvre Palace house the different wings of the museum. It was constructed during medieval times, but in 1989, a renovation was completed that provided a new (and more modern) entrance: a pyramid made of glass and steel. It’s even more beautiful from the inside, where you can stand below the sloping walls that lead to the point above. There are over 400,000 pieces of art within, including wings dedicated to Egyptian and Near Eastern Antiquities; Greek, Roman, and Etruscan art; Islamic art; sculpture; paintings and more. The time spent at the Louvre could be multiple days and you still wouldn’t see everything. Although some people are disappointed by how small the original Mona Lisa, painted by Leonardo Da Vince, looks like, it is still a highlight. Your group may also be interested in other notable pieces of art, such as the Winged Victory and the Venus de Milo.
Centre Georges Pompidou
Another place, with famous architecture in Paris, is the Centre Georges Pompidou. This complex is some of the most unique in the city! The inner design of the building is exposed, showing off its colorful tubes and modern design. It was completed in the 1970s by architects from Italy and the United Kingdom. The center draws in visitors just for its vibrant structural patterns. However, it also provides plenty for groups to do so at the same time. Visit the Musée National d’Art Moderne to see a massive collection of modern art, or stop by the library within. There is also an observation deck on the top floor with fantastic views of the city. Check the schedule for when you’re planning your trip, as they often host festivals, movies or lectures that you, your family and your friends can enjoy together.
While the Louvre is interesting with its blend of old and new, the Musée d’Orsay is a stunning museum and a magnificent representation of famous architecture. In Paris, trains were a very common way to get around. That is why it’s no surprise that when this old train station stopped being used, as new trains and stations were being built, this old station was then converted into a museum. It has now been remodeled, but the inside of the building still looks remarkably similar to its original function. The unique setting makes it an exciting, inspiring place to view an amazing collection of artwork—and it also felt like stepping back in time. If you are searching for a more intimate setting to view art than the Louvre, Musée d’Orsay is a perfect fit. Works inside the Musée d’Orsay include those by impressionist and post-impressionist artists like Monet, Seurat, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Degas.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France
Around the same time the Louvre was remodeled, the French president had the country’s national library constructed in Paris. The architect, Dominique Perrault ended up winning the design competition to build this library in 1989. Four buildings were built, forming the corners of a rectangular piece of land. Each building, though minimalist, was designed in an ‘L’ shape to look like open books. The courtyard within the structures was planted with trees to create a beautiful public space to enjoy reflection and deep reading. It provided a nice bit of nature to complement the literature within. Unfortunately, tourists aren’t granted access to the levels with books, but there are reading rooms so take your own books or wander the halls and search for public lectures to enjoy.
Notre Dame Cathedral
As a major symbol of Gothic architecture, Notre Dame Cathedral draws visitors from around the world. It was finished in the 1300s, but has been updated since then to make it one of the most famous architecture in Paris. With flying buttresses, stone gargoyles and chimeras, it is a spectacular sight to behold. To get up close and personal with the gargoyles and the bells in the tall tower, visitors will have to climb over 300 steps in narrow, spiraling staircases. This may not be the best activity if you have elderly family traveling in your group, but they can always wander the inside of the church while you go up. Inside, you’ll find plenty of adornment in the form of altars, paintings and statues. Stay for a church service to witness the prayer, choir singing and organ music of a large-scale Catholic mass. Even if you’re not religious, this is an interesting experience.
Musée du quai Branly
This museum is another example of fun, colorful modern architecture. It has only been open for 10 years, making it one of the more modern designs in Paris. The Musée du quai Branly is located along the River Seine, where colored boxes decorate the side of the five-level structure. To reach the inside of the museum, visitors must wind through a garden filled with exotic greenery. Once inside, it’s not much easier; some exploration is required to locate specific exhibits. The collection at the museum has work from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas.
It’s easily the most recognized structure in Paris, but that doesn’t make it any less impressive. Built for the 1889 World Fair, the metallic lattice tower sits at over 1,000 feet tall. The appearance has changed over time, incorporating new elevator designs and paint colors. While it’s somewhat cliché, there is something truly breathtaking about climbing all of those stairs, seeing so many different views of the city and exploring the restaurants on the first level.
There are so many other spots that are truly beautiful in Paris, but these are some of the highlights. What building in the city would you most like to visit with your crew?