Paris’s top 5 most iconic landmarks

Paris’s top 5 most iconic landmarks

Step back in time as you marvel at Paris’s must-see architectural attractions


1. Eiffel Tower

Paris’s most iconic symbol, the Eiffel Tower, or La Tour Eiffel, as the French call it, is the world’s most-visited paid monument, attracting more than 250 million people since it opened in 1889. Designed as the centrepiece of Paris’s World Fair, to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and show off France’s modern prowess on a world stage, it took two years, two months, and five days to build, using 7,500 tons of iron and 2.5 million rivets. It’s now a famous beacon to environmental sustainability, serving as the world’s shapeliest electric generator. The crowds of around 19,000 people per day flock to marvel at the view, snap the Instagram money-shot, dispatch a love letter from its tiny post office, or to toast reaching the top with a glass of chilled bubbly.


2. Notre Dame

In 1793, Marie-Antoinette, aka Madame Deficit, spent the final days of her life in La Conciergerie, (, part of the former medieval royal palace, the Palais de la Cité. The 14th-century Gothic structure is located on Île de la Cité, an island in the River Seine that is classed as the true heart of Paris. Today, La Conciergerie is primarily used as court of law, but visitors can access a few of the areas – the executioner's walkway and Marie-Antoinette’s reconstructed cell are particular highlights. The slender island is also where you’ll find Notre Dame de Paris, easily one of the most famous cathedrals in the world. Distinguished by its classic French Gothic architecture, the structure was one of the first to use a flying buttress.


3. Arc de Triomphe

The Arc de Triomphe was commissioned by Napoleon Bonaparte after his Austerlitz victory in 1805, telling his solders: “You will return home through arches of triumph." By then, his Grande Armee, which had conquered pretty much all of Europe, was considered invincible. The monument is usually admired from a distance, but it’s well worth mounting the 284 stairs to its viewing platform. Not only will you appreciate the (almost) tower block-free Parisian skyline, it’s also a good place in which to remember the three million French soldiers who lost their lives in WWI – the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, honouring every single casualty of war, lies beneath the arch.


4. The Panthéon

In the Latin Quarter is the Panthéon, a neo-classical monument with a formidable colonnaded dome. One of the city's most well-preserved ancient buildings, it was constructed between 1757 and 1791. Originally a church, the Panthéon since became a necropolis for France’s greatest citizens and a popular national monument.


5. Place de la Bastille

On July 14, 1789, a state prison on the east side of Paris known as the Bastille was attacked by an angry mob of civilians. At that time, the prison was a symbol of the monarchy’s crack-the-whip rule, and the storming of the Bastille became one of the defining moments in the ensuing French Revolution. It took ten years of bloodshed and cost thousands of French lives but, ultimately, the absolute monarchy of Louis XVI and the feudal system was abolished, and a republic led by Napoleon Bonaparte was established.


The area where modern France threw off its medieval shackles is not the most beautiful, but it is one of the most symbolic. The importance of the square at Place de la Bastille – or simply Bastille, as the area is now commonly known – features two landmarks: the July Column, a tribute to revolutionary verve, and the Opéra Bastille – its cumbrous architecture may have a polarising effect, but the performances here are world-class.


6. Opéra Garnier

For a more classically beautiful opera house, visit the Opéra Garnier – or Palais Garnier (, as it is also known – at the end of the Avenue de l’Opéra. Built from 1861 to 1875 by architect Charles Garnier during the reign of Napoleon III, the nephew and heir of Napoleon I, it was part of the great reconstruction of Paris by Baron Haussmann during the Second Empire.


Source: Condé Nast Traveller Middle East


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