What is Paris Famous For? 17 Things that Make Paris the City it is
Paris is one of the most desirable and popular travel destinations in the world thanks to its stunning architecture, its wealth of art and culture and its exquisite gastronomy that will leave you feeling blissful (if not a few pounds heavier!).
No matter what time of year you visit, Paris will be sure to enamour and enchant with its picture-perfect landscapes and world-class museums. Whether you visit Paris for a day or a week, you’ll be left longing to return to explore this magical city even further.
Read on to discover why Paris is such an enthralling city, why it’s so famous, and what sights and scenes are must-sees when visiting the City of Light and Love.
What Paris is best known for?
Paris is famous for its cafe culture, the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, Notre Dame, the Moulin Rouge, pastries, and fashion. Paris is often seen as having beauty, elegance, and as being a boldly romantic city.
The French capital has long been known as the City of Light, with most people thinking this name comes from the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower that grace the banks of the Seine at night and the glistening boulevards around the city.
However, this name actually comes from the mid-17th century when Louis XIV (aka the Sun King (Roi Soleil)) decided to restore the public’s faith in law and order by quadrupling the number of police officers in the city and installing lanterns on almost every major road in Paris. From that point on the city became known as La Ville-Lumière (‘The City of Light’).
The City of Light nickname has also been used to refer to the Age of Enlightenment in Paris, bringing to the fore poets, philosophers, scientists and engineers who all played a part in the city’s development.
What Sights are Paris Famous For?
The following list gives you a glimpse at just some of the things that Paris is so famous for, showing its beauty, heritage, culture, and eclecticism.
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The Eiffel Tower
La Tour Eiffel is arguably the most famous monument in Paris (if not the world!) and is much loved by all those who visit. Interestingly, ‘la dame de fer’ (aka the Iron Lady) was only supposed to be a temporary installation, intended to be in place for just 20 years after it was erected for the 1889 World Fair. Here we are 130 years later, still admiring its architectural beauty!
The Eiffel Tower is one of the most-visited monuments in the entire world and is often referred to as one of the most romantic destinations, with up to three proposals happening at the top every hour! While queues to the Eiffel Tower can be a bit manic, a visit to at least see the tower, if not go up it, is a must for all visitors to the French capital.
Want to try walking up the Eiffel Tower? How long will it take you?
Not only famous for being home to Victor Hugo’s Hunchback in his 19th Century novel, Notre Dame was one of the most impressive works of Gothic architecture in Europe and one of the most famous churches in the world.
This stunning church was devastated by a fire in April 2019 which saw one of the spires collapsed and left the roof demolished. This was a sad day for both those who had visited and loved Notre Dame as well as those who were yet to admire this work of art.
Plans are underway to rebuild the famous cathedral within five years so that it can be discovered and beloved once again, but until then visitors will have to witness the devastated, yet still magnificent, structure from afar.
The Arc de Triomphe
L’Arc de Triomphe is a true national symbol of France and is an instantly recognisable monument that lies at the top of the Champs-Élysées. The Arc de Triomphe is a monument honouring the lives of those who fought and died in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars and is admired by both locals and tourists alike.
This photogenic arch is set in the heart of a crazy and chaotic roundabout known as L’Étoile, which reaches out towards 12 picturesque Parisienne avenues. Visitors can reach the Arc de Triomphe via an underground passage and can climb to the top of the monument to witness Paris’ ordered architectural layout and beautiful buildings.
The Avenue de Champs-Élysées is perhaps one of the most well-known streets in Paris thanks to its array of high-end hotels and designers stores which draw in thousands of shoppers (and window shoppers!) every day.
This wide, tree-lined avenue stretches almost 2km between the Place de la Concorde and the Place Charles de Gaulle and always has something different and exciting going on. It’s hard to believe that Les Champs (as it’s affectionately known by locals) was once a swamp, considering that it now plays home to theatres, jewellers, restaurants, cinemas, and nightclubs!
In a city with as many museums as Paris, you’d think it would be hard to stand out against the crowd, but The Louvre is something so spectacular that it just cannot be matched in terms of its sheer size and breadth of exhibits!
The Louvre museum is home to around 400,000 different objects from paintings and sculptures to mummies, metalwork and musical instruments.
Visitors could easily spend hours on end exploring the works on display in the eight different departments around the Louvre, with sights like the Venus de Milo and the Mona Lisa being crowd favourites.
How to avoid (or reduce) the lines at the Louvre
Another of Paris’ famous churches, is the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, also known as the Sacré‑Cœur. This picturesque white basilica stands on the hillside in Montmartre and is a popular spot for taking in panoramic views of the city.
The Sacré‑Cœur is Romano-Byzantine in style and was designed by architect Paul Abadie who chose water-resistant stone that releases calcite which cleans itself each time it rains, enabling the church to retain its whiteness!
The area around the Sacré‑Cœur is known for being arty and slightly rebellious and is a wonderful place to pick up souvenirs and enjoy a spot of lunch.
The Moulin Rouge
The cabaret in and around the Parisienne district of Pigalle is a quintessential part of any first trip to Paris, with the Moulin Rouge being one of the most famous examples.
The can-can dancers and cabaret girls have been putting on shows for guests since the Belle Époque era of the late 1800s, and the art form is still admired today. Whether you head over to Montmartre to witness the Red Windmill of the Moulin Rouge or go to see a show you’re sure to have an experience to remember.
While the Louvre is by far in a way the most famous art gallery in Paris, it certainly serves a different purpose to the modern Centre Pompidou located in the Chatelet-Les Halles region of Paris.
This contemporary art gallery is home to a whole host of modern exhibitions and expositions, showcasing the works of a variety of artists in a range of mediums. Not only is the Centre Pompidou a fantastic place to while away a few hours, it also offers visitors an incredible view of the city from the rooftop balcony and restaurant.
Aside from the Champs Élysées, Galeries Lafayette is probably the most famous shopping destination in the city. This stylish department store is located in a stunning building and offers visitors the chance to purchase designer goods (at especially good prices during ‘Les Soldes’/January sale).
Even if you’re not into shopping, the building is well worth a visit, with its glass, domed ceiling, picturesque balconies and amazing Christmas tree in the centre during the festive season. Galeries Lafayette also boasts a 7th-floor rooftop terrace which offers you views of the Palais Garnier, Tour Eiffel, Sacré-Cœur and the Grand Palais.
Cimetière du Père Lachaise
While a cemetery may seem like a fairly macabre sightseeing destination, Paris’ Cimetière du Père Lachaise is a popular choice for visitors who want to witness the resting place of celebrities such as Frédéric Chopin, Édith Piaf, Marcel Proust, Jim Morrison, and Oscar Wilde.
Oscar Wilde’s tomb is particularly famous, with many visitors coming to see the epitaph from Wilde’s poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol and to kiss the tomb. Since 2011 a glass barrier has been erected around the tomb to stop people from covering it in lipstick, but it is still well worth a visit.
Jardin de Tuileries
The landscaped gardens of the Jardin des Tuileries are located between the Louvre and the Place de la Concorde and are a lovely place to enjoy an afternoon stroll in the sun. The gardens were designed by the royal gardener André Le Nôtre in 1664 and have been kept in pristine condition ever since.
There are plenty of places to sit and relax, or you can visit the Musée de l’Orangerie, the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel, and sculptures of artists such as Auguste Rodin.
The Tuileries Festival runs from June to August each year and features traditional fairground rides, activities, and refreshments!
Jardin de Luxembourg
Another of Paris’ famous gardens is the Jardin de Luxembourg located in the 6th arrondissement. This 23-hectare garden sprawls out in front of the Luxembourg Palace and features fountains, flowerbeds, promenades and ponds for you to explore at your leisure.
Deck chairs are set out around the park in summer, making it an ideal place to catch some rays or cool off in the shade during the strong summer heat. There are often recitals, events, and festivals held in and around the gardens, so it’s worth visiting on a weekend to see what is going on.
For other low key things to do in Paris have a look at our guide:
21 Relaxing Things to do in Paris | How to Slow Down and Enjoy Paris
Shakespeare & Company
While visiting a bookshop might not be a high priority on everyone’s sight-seeing bucket list, Paris’ Shakespeare & Company has a certain ‘je ne sais quoi’ that makes it a top attraction for both visitors and residents alike. Shakespeare & Co. is an English-language bookshop and reading library located on Paris’ Left Bank that has been open in its current location for over 50 years.
The original Shakespeare & Company was a popular gathering place for the likes of Ernest Hemmingway and James Joyce, which makes it a favourite among budding authors looking to be like their heroes.
Café de Flore
Café de Flore was another gathering place for authors and philosophers during the Third Republic with names such as Georges Bataille, Pablo Picasso, and Remy de Gourmont being some of the more famous regulars.
Café de Flore was also known for its rivalry with nearby café Les Deux Magots, both of which are now choice cafés for tourists, artists, writers and celebrities alike. Café de Flore is an amazing place to watch the world go by while enjoying a warm croissant and a cup of sumptuous hot chocolate.
Paris’ Metro Stations are a sight in themselves while also being an easy way to get around the city. Whether you visit the art deco entrance to Abbesses station, see the tiled walls of Concorde, visit the Place Colette entrance to the Palais Royal station or witness the historic murals at Bastille, you won’t be disappointed!
While the trains themselves can be stifling in summer, exploring some of Paris’ most beautiful metro stations should definitely be on your bucket list!
Last but by no means least is Paris’ fashionable district Le Marais located in the 4th arrondissement.
This eclectic district was once the Jewish Quarter, and while it still features both synagogues and kosher restaurants, it has morphed into a melange of vintage shops, designer boutiques, gay bars, and quirky cafés.
The mix of cultures (Jewish, Chinese, and LGBT, among others) work together to create an interesting area that welcomes all visitors and residents.
Now you know what Paris is known as and is famous for you can start planning your trip to France’s incredible capital city. Whether you love art and culture, parks and gardens or foodie fun, there is something for you to enjoy in Paris.
If you want to make your own bucket list have a look around this site… maybe start here?
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