Imagine being in Paris! From beginning your day with a croissant and coffee like a Parisian to taking a walking tour of the Marais streets when you see the oldest mansions of the time while witnessing the fashion show on the streets, Paris has some of the adorable experiences to feel. Whether it be a lunch at the famous Art Nouveau, visiting the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop or paying homage to the Notre dame Cathedrals, Paris is a place where your hazy thoughts from your burdened mind will fall apart, and no matter how bad your day was, the breeze will remove altogether. As Vincent said, “There is but one Paris, and however hard living may be here…the French air clears up the brain and does one good.” Never ever I have visited the city, but yes, I have been through many books which have created enough visualization for my brain to narrate a story. But there is one thing that though Paris is a romantic destination, it is filled with architectural wonders, which every person must know. So, I am drafting this article to let you know about the most iconic and famous Paris buildings so that when you visit the city of love in real, you at least know what you are going through. And yes, don’t forget to go through its chateaux, as they hold an integral part of their culture, and it would be a shame not to visit them.
Buildings in Paris That Hold Immense Value to Viewers and Architects.
1. Notre-Dame De Paris.
Made in c. 1160, Original architects remain unknown
c. 1250 – 58 – Jean De Chelles
Second half of the thirteenth century- Pierre De Montreuil
1296 – 1325 – Pierre de Chelles and Jean Ravy
1699 – 1715 – Choir decoration by Robert De cotte
1728 – 29– Crossing the vault rebuilt and restoration by Germain Boffrand
1841 – 64 – Restoration oversight by Jean-Baptists Lassus and Eugene Viollet le Duc
Notre Dame is one of the iconic Paris buildings which soars over the Ille de la Cite and covers its history with its stony symmetry and Gothic exposure. In addition to providing structural support not previously recognized in Gothic design, its flying buttresses give the nave a sense of weightlessness and lift like the open wings. Previously, the structure was the model of religious architecture from the twelfth century. In 1163, Bishop Maurice de Sully broke the grounds over the roman ruins and started construction on the choir. Then in 1804, Notre Dame withstood the coronation of Emperor Napolean Bonaparte and Empress Josephine. Now, gothic architecture saw many restorations, and it was only because of them that it became an overhauled cathedral of the nineteenth century. It must be noted that the interior furnishing, gargoyles, and statues are not originals but the reproductions and reinterpretation of the design to the medieval era drawings. Despite centuries of reconstruction and restorations, the building of Paris remains a paradigm of Gothic engineering.
2. Palais de Justice.
1776 – 83 – Joseph Abel Couture, pierre Demaisons, Jacques-Denis Antoine, Cour Du Mai Side
The place stands on the land, where the Roman rulers and French kings stayed and were fortified by a moat and drawbridge. Sainte-Chapele, with its seventy-five-meter spire, La Conciergerie and watchtowers, are all parts of this medieval palace. In 1358, the structure witnessed an unfortunate event when Etienne Marcel and his men pursued a bloody revolt inside it. After the murder of Charles V’s counsellors in the incident, he high-tailed it to the hotel Saint-Pol and changed his residence to Louvre. As a result, once the royal residence abandoned the structure, it became a place of trial for civil and criminal cases in multiple courts.
3. Sauvage Building.
1929 – 32 – Project completed after Henri Sauvage designed the building
Sauvage devised it, and it was his last work, which he was unable to see. The structure’s construction was stopped in 1929 and reevaluated. The renovation of the house on Place Dauphine caused discontent over the material used and the need to conform, according to city regulations. After the incident, controversy arose over the need for coordination without disturbing its verified design with two previously renovated entrance pavilions. It, therefore, caused redevelopments in 1932 with material modifications, which also helped to include modern conveniences in the apartments. The entire structure and floors were made fireproof with reinforced concrete on the second floor and then metal structure and flooring above.
4. Sainte Chapelle.
1241 – 48 – Pierre De Montreuil, Thomas Dr Cormont, or Robert De Luzarches
La Sainte Chapelle is a thirteenth-century treasure hidden inside the Palais de Justice, also known as the jewel box for its brilliant stained glass windows. The speciality of this Paris building is that when its oldest stained glass windows illuminate through the sunlight, it showcases around 1134 biblical scenes with a depth of colour, which is supposed to be present only in expensive claret and gems. And during sunset, the immense rose window depicts a scene of the Apocalypse. We know from records that this stained glass artistry reached a peak in the mid-thirteenth century. In the same period, Saint Chapelle was commissioned by King Louis IX, and so it acquired these stained glass tracery windows. Gothic designs typically incorporate these designs. The reduced masonry and expanded window surfaces of this gothic structure gave this a light appearance at its original time.
5. Louvre Museum.
1190 – constructed
1528 – Pierre Lescot and Jean Goujon Palace (Cour Carree)
1624 – Jacques Lemercier did some additions
1654 – Lois Le Vau- Performed additional works in the structure
1668 – Claude Perrault, Colonnade
1804 – 48 – Charles Percier and Pierre Francois Leonard Fontaine
1852 – 53 – Louis Tullius Joachin Visconti
1853 – 80 – Hector Martin Lefuel
1984 – 93 – Ieoh ming Pei- Pyramid
Several incarnations of the structure have been documented, in historical texts- a former defence tower, repository of crown treasures, royal residence, artist commune, the first royal library, Renaissance palace, and mega museum of the world. Hence, we can say that Louvre is one among many Paris buildings that evolved with the times and whims of the leaders. After the deposition of a bounty by Philippe Ausute in 1191 from the Third Crusade, treasures were piled up in the 225 galleries and three main wings. When you visit inside the museum, you will still find a basement of Philippe Auguste’s medieval castle, who also built a wall to exclude the Louvre and Paris from each other. On the other end of the mall at Carrousel-du-Louvre, you will see a wall dating from 1358 and Charles v’s reign, which united the Louvre and Paris.
The geometric entrance of Pei will attract you and command your attention, whereas Pei’s pyramid energizes the entire central courtyard and minimises its visual impact on the existing historic wings. Further, there is a vast underground space illuminated by natural light and built a 45000 square meter exhibition and mall area, accessed by this pyramid.
6. Musee du Jeu de Paume.
Made in 1861
1991 – Renovation by Antoine Stinco
Commissioned by Napoleon III in 1861, this Paris building used to be a royal tennis court. After that, it served as a temporary exhibit space for a few time, then as a museum of contemporary French art and from 1947-86- as an annexe to the Louvre, housing its Impressionist collections. However, the space was small for the art exhibitions serving poor ventilation for the surpassing visitors. Hence, the Impressionists moved to a better place, and the structure was remodelled and renovated during this period. As a result, the building consists an ample-sky lighting with an open view of gardens, now used for contemporary art temporary exhibitions.
7. Hotel de Villeroy.
Constructed between 1699 – 1708
Villeroy family gave their former hotel to the administration for the post office employees, as a newly formed commission, providing essential services for the city’s people and government at the beginning of the eighteenth century. This Paris building was a private architecture of the period, showcasing the large entrance under a low ground-level arch, continuous embossment and a central balcony.
8. Saint Germain l’Auxerrois.
Constructed between the 12th – 16th Centuries
174 – Claude Baccarat performed inside transformation
1838 – 55 – Jean-Baptiste Lassus and Victor Baltard did restoration
There is a story associated with the building from 1572. On August 24, 1572, Vincent Germain and Marie announced the Saint Bartholomew’s day massacre of about 3000 Huguenots from the bell tower. It is only Marie, one of three bells that rang out that night which survived. It was an indication of the arrival of the French Revolution.
The Parish church was built in the thirteenth century and remodelled in the fifteenth for the kings of France when they lived at the nearby Louvre. In 1867, Claude Monet painted this church from a nearby balcony.
9. Mairie de Paris.
1858 – 60 – Jacques-Ignac Hittorff designed the main building
1858 – 62 – Theodore Bally participated in designing the tower
Due to its proximity to the Louvre and Saint Germain l’Auxerroise, building this town hall was not an easy task. It solved the problem of producing something complementary and noble through its neo-gothic tower. Architect Hittorff balanced one side of the town hall by using the profile of the church facade. As a result, the church perceived the tower as its bell tower, while the town hall designated it as its belfry. A respectable neighbour finally surrounded the Louvre.
10. La Samaritaine Department Store.
1905- Frantz Jourdain
1926-28- Frantz Jourdain and Henri Sauvage, Extention
The Samaritaine, founded in 1869 by Ernest Cognacq and his wife Marie-Louise, enjoys one of the best views of Paris from its balcony facing the Point-Neuf. It is notable for its stylish blend of art Nouveau and art deco architectural decor. With carved reliefs of a good samaritan offering a drink to Christ, the name of this department store was inspired by an old water pump.
11. Saint leu Saint Gilles.
1319 – Nave
1611 – Side Aisles and Choir
1858 – 61 – Reworked by Victor Baltard
Like Rome, this church didn’t build itself overnight. As was the case here, ecclesiastical construction in Paris often spanned centuries. It took two hundred years for this small church to acquire aisles and another three hundred years for a choir to be built. The apse, facade, and bell towers of the cathedral, have been modified over 200 years, and voila! That’s how this small church undergoes the five hundred years of evolution.
12. Theatre du Chatelet.
1860 – 62 – Gabriel Davioud
In place du Chatelet, two theatres flank the Fontaine du palmier to the east and west. Almost indistinguishable except for their size and decoration, these typical nineteenth-century buildings were built by Baron Haussmann. There are two theatres in Chatelet, the largest of which is the Theatre du Chatelet. As a result of extensive renovations, the old Chatelet, which presented simple operettas, expanded its repertoire to include ambitious concerts and opera productions.
13. Bourse de Commerce.
1574 – Jean Bullant, Column
1765 – 68 – Nicolas Le Camus De Mezieres, Grain Market
1782 – 83 – Jacques Guillaume Legrand and Jacques Molinos, First wood dome
1809 – Francois Joseph Belanger, second iron dome
1885 – 89 – Henri Blondel, Bourse de Commerce
The court astrologer Riggieri predicted that Queen Catherine de Medicis would die during Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois’s reign in the late sixteenth century. In the following year, she relocated to a new residence, Hotel Soissons, which now houses the Bourse de Commerce. Hence, it served as a residence of the queen during the sixteenth century. Next, Louis XVI constructed a grain market here, called Halle au Ble, in 1765, where wheat, corn, flour, and similar commodities could be exchanged. So, in the eighteenth century, it was dedicated towards the public interest. In the past, the structure had an arch so people could see through the middle to determine the amount of grain and food available. Inspired by Roman temples and their glorification of food, it was the first structure in the world to use a wooden dome.
1532 – 1640 – jean Delamarre or Pierre le mercier
1754 – jean Hardouin-Mansart de Jouy, facade, Then Pierre-Louis Moreau
1844 – Victor Baltard, few restorations
The structure coincides with a story of the historical event, the burial of Moliere. Even though Molière is buried in the cemetery of Saint Joseph’s church, the funeral of the French dramatist created quite a stir in Saint Eustache. Due to his profession as an actor – then a socially unacceptable one – the local clergy refused to confess or bury him in the church. So it was only after the persuasion of Louis XIV to the priests of Saint-Eustache, after four days after his death, which convinced him to bury Moilere at Saint Joseph’s cemetery. Apart from this famous story, which let people remember it for more, it is the second largest church after Notre Dame, which served the common folk from les Halles.
1620 – Marin De La Vallee and Jean Thiriot
1625 – 39 – Jacques lercier
1766 – 70 – Pierre-louis Moreau and Contant D’Ivry, partial rebuilding
1781 – 84 and 1786 – 90 – Victor Louis, Additional Buildings
1817 – Pierre Francoise Fontaine, Additional building
1849 – 75 – Prosper Chabrol
1986 – Daniel Buren, Installation in the courtyard
Parisians used to set their watches in the Palais-Royal gardens by the boom of a small cannon on sunny days at precisely noon. Monsieur Rousseau established this tradition in 1786 when he placed in the gardens on the meridian line a cannon that had a magnifying glass attached to it. A lens attached to the fuse would ignite it. From historical references, we know that cannons were long subject to poetry and lithographs, which stopped booming in 1914 but were restored in 1980, only to be silenced again by their 1998 theft from gardens and elegant arcades. But, the building’s past belies this respite from the city’s bustle.
Originally, built for Cardinal Richelieu, the Palais Royal has been transformed multiple times over time, by its occupants. For instance, the sun king played on the grounds in his childhood. In the wake of Camille Desmoulins’ stirring efforts, revolutionaries stormed the Bastille on July 14, 1789. In the vicinity, Diderot and other intellectuals argued. Next, from the window of their Palais apartment, Colette and Cocteau waved to each other. Briefly, there were sinners and saints here, chess players and prostitutes, duelers and revellers, creating a lively atmosphere in the arcade cafes and gardens. A concept art grid of black and white columns by Daniel Buren revitalized the gardens today.
16. Hotel De Saint Florentin.
1767-69- Jean Francois Therese Chalgrin
1860-70, E. Petit and Leon Ohnet, transformation
The hotel name takes from its patron, the Lord of Saint Florentin, who became De la Vrilliere later. This is one of the Paris buildings that share a rare example of architecture from the time when the entire city transformed in the nineteenth century. We know that the hotel’s facade was a part of the decoration of the new place of Louis XV, according to the law of 1758. One must note that the palace was followed to serve many purposes. Between the years 1813 to 1838, French statement Talleyramd lived here and welcomed French and European Talleyrand high society to his Salon De l’Aigle. Then in 1940, german naval authorities connected the building to the ministry of the navy through a bridge but were suspended as prisoners walked through it. After World War II, the US embassy bought the building to administrate the Marshall Plan.
17. Le Meurice.
1907 – Henri Paul Nenot
2000 – Jean Loup Roubert and Nicolas Papamiltiades, Renovation
Used as a Nazi headquarters during the occupation, the hotel has a beautiful history by displaying the importance of french cinema. As part of the 1966 caper, Paris-brule-iil? (Paris is burning), director Rene Clement stoked the flames using Hotel Meurice as the backdrop for the quintessential Parisian images of the Tuileries Gardens and the Eiffel tower.
The hotel Meurice was originally established in 1817 by a postmaster in Calais who transported British tour groups after the Napoleonic wars. It was moved to its current location in 1835 by a successor to the postmaster. Recently, it got a new renovation which uncovers its original floor and the woodwork of the bar inside it. As directed by architects Roubert and Papamiltiades, more than five hundred artisans restored its antiques, mosaics, stained glass and friezes. It includes lavish decor of silk brocaded drapery and Italian marble, which makes it more attractive.
18. Notre Dame De l’Assomption.
Constructed between 1670 – 76 by Charles Errard
Charles Errand spent too much time in Rome, which made this church inspired by the same. He was the director of the French academy and was clearly disproportionately influenced by baroque architecture. Hence to create something different, he designed this structure. The church is infamous for its oversized dome, but despite of the extravagant design, it always had the presence of the Polish community since 1850.
19. Au Gagne Petit.
1878 – Constructed
During Napoleon III’s reign, Baron Haussman laid the foundation for avenue De l’opera in the late nineteenth century, leaving his trademark signature- the uniformity of facades. Despite those uniform rules, Haussmann did not allow freedom, but this facade illustrates how creativity triumphed over limitations. While he destroyed many buildings in pursuit of his urban goals, some were rebuilt, including this nineteenth-century department store. Its unique facade, flanked by two Corinthian columns, breaks down the monotony of traditional Haussmann design. Today a Monoprix chain store occupies the building.
1809 – 26 – Alexandre Theodore Brongniart, original building
1813 – 26 – Eloi Labarre
1902 – 07 – Jean Baptiste Frederic cavel, Expansion
One of the finest Paris buildings and the city’s second arrondissement became the financial centre of the city with the opening of the Bourse, the Paris stock exchange. The structure is a neoclassical greek pastiche, also known as the Palais Brongniart. Deriving its other name from its first architect, it resembles a temple with orderly and endless rows of columns. At the entrance, four statues represent Agriculture and Industry on the eastern side and Justice and Commerce on the western side. Historically, the bourse was built on the site of the once-thriving Consent Fillies Saint Thomas, which was shut down by the revolutionaries and then razed by Napoleon. Until the commerce court moved to its present location in the first arrondissement, it also housed the commerce court.
21. Chambre syndicale de la Bijouterie.
c. 1930 – Addition of two stories
To establish a strong presence in the capital, the jewellery union had its chamber built in the capital. This Paris building displays the facade architecture mixed with the Italianate style beloved by the architects of the former Ecole des Beaux-Arts, who studied in Italy. Once established, it was further constructed during the 1930s to extend the two stories while maintaining its primary design. Hence, it describes the construction of the two periods, i.e, the first built and the addition of two stories. Between these two eras, the white stone serves as a bridge. Despite the fusion of two different styles, it emphasises the powerful lines and volume of the art deco period minus the ornamentation.
22. Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication.
1905 – Pierre Henry Nenot
As the name suggests, it is Paris’s Ministry of culture and communication. A typical, ridged stone structure at the lower level; a small, mildly decorative stone balcony above the mezzanine; and a mansard roof describe this administrative Paris building. With a concave configuration, its angled facade, which is more like rounded columns flanking the entrance shows more creativity. Despite the small size of Ministere de la Culture et de la Communication, its presence on this small street looms as a monumental.
1852 – 57 – Jean Louis Victor Grisart
One of the Paris buildings from the nineteenth-century, it showcases the time’s architecture with a blend or fusion of different styles from separate times. Its key objective was to stand apart from the never-ending culture and tradition. The architect, Grisart, used brick in the construction of this Paris building, inspired by the Louis Trize style that predated it, but it was hated by the population who opposed the polychrome facade designs. Further, the architectural reference was for Louis XIII and his military reign as an appropriate gesture. It served the purpose of a residence of a soldier.
24. Societe Generale.
1901 – Jacques Hermant
Societe Generale is a corner building with two symmetrical facades and a clock tower. As well as being impressive and elegant, the Societe Generale perfectly embodies the spirit of the time, the Belle Epoque, catching the attention of its contemporaries. Jules Romain writes in the Amours Enfantines about life on rue Reaumur in 1908,
“Its name echoes a song of wheels and walls, a fear of building units, the hum of the subway convoy, the vibration of beton (concrete) under asphalt…”
As the La Defense defined Paris at the end of the twentieth century, this artery capped the nineteenth century with ambitious construction projects.
25. Mur Peint.
1993 – Taine Gras, Wall Painting
A three-dimensional collage covering an entire side of the building, a colourful tile mural featuring an aquatic and floral arrangement on the lower portion of the wall, and a painting of newsprint superimposed over giant carved tulips on the upper part of the wall, best characterizes this crucial structure among the famous Paris buildings. The entire murpeint (painted wall) is dedicated to the establishment of the press in this neighbourhood. Although many media offices have moved to other locations, the Figaro buildings in the foreground attest to their former presence here.
There are hundreds of other monumental Paris buildings, which can literally take you to the previous centuries of intellect through their construction and epic interiors. But what we saw today were glimpses of the famous in many ones. I really think you would love the tour, but don’t be a freak like me to take it through a book. Instead, witness them with your eyes and experience their beauty.
Frequently Asked Questions.
Five famous Paris buildings are Notre-Dame De Paris, The Eiffel Tower, Sainte Chapelle, Louvre Museum, and Palais-Royal.
There are multiple terms to address the architecture of Paris buildings, the most common ones are of which Gothic, Baroque, Renaissance, Art deco and Haussmann.
The oldest building in Paris is the Notre-Dame De Paris, built in 1160. The building soars over the Ille de la Cite and showcases gothic architecture as well as past restorations by architects of different periods and styles.