Both first-time and returning visitors are often left dumbfounded when taking in the architectural grandeur of Paris. La Ville Lumière (City of Light) is famous for wide boulevards lined with elegant mansions, resplendent royal palaces and imposing churches. There’s everything from the lavish military monuments of Napoleon to Gothic, Renaissance, Belle Époque and Art Nouveau style landmarks. So next time you are in Paris, make sure to visit these beautiful buildings.
La Grande Arche (or Arche de la Défense)
While the Arc de Triomphe is the city’s most famous arch, La Grande Arche is its 20th-century counterpart. This 360-feet-tall modern arch dominates the La Défense business district and forms part of the Voie Triomphale (or Axe historique), which is a line of monuments that stretch through the city center. The arch resembles a huge hypercube with the middle cut out and features a concrete frame covered in Carrara marble and glass panels. Ride the panoramic elevator to the arch’s rooftop, where a 328-feet-long footbridge affords uninterrupted views of central Paris. Spot major landmarks such as the Arc de Triomphe, the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. The open-air rooftop also hosts traveling exhibitions by Jean-Marie Périer, Nikos Aliagas and other French artists.
Les Invalides (or Hôtel des Invalides)
Standing in the heart of the 7th arrondissement, Les Invalides and its sparkling gilded dome dominate the skyline. Louis XIV commissioned this Baroque masterpiece in 1670 as a home for the homeless and wounded military veterans. Acclaimed Parisian architects Libéral Bruant, Jules Hardouin-Mansart and Robert de Cotte all contributed to the creation of this enormous complex, which remains as one of the city’s most prestigious sights. Nowadays it continues to take care of veterans in need while also housing a collection of military museums and crypts. Delve into national military history at the Musée de l’Armée, Musée des Plans-Reliefs and Musée d’Histoire Contemporain. See the extravagant tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte inside the Église du Dôme church.
Modeled on the original Roman temple of the same name, Paris’s Panthéon is a neoclassical monument built in the mid-1700s by Jacques-Germain Soufflot. His mission was to erect a church that would surpass the beauty of the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica and London’s St. Paul’s Cathedral. Marvel at the rows of soaring Corinthian columns that add majesty to the portico. Following the French Revolution, the landmark was converted from a church into a mausoleum. Paintings portraying the life of St. Genevieve, the origins of Christianity and history of the French monarchy decorate the interior walls. In the crypt are the tombs of French luminaries such as writer Alexandre Dumas, scientist Marie Curie and poet Victor Hugo.
Philharmonie de Paris
Unveiled in 2015, the Philharmonie de Paris is one of the newer additions to the renowned Parisian cityscape. French architect Jean Nouvel, who was the author of Qatar’s Doha Tower, designed this contemporary masterpiece. It’s instantly recognizable for the organic form and a gleaming steel and aluminum facade. Look closely to see 340,000 tiles shaped in the form of abstract birds. The different shapes and shades of the birds are said to represent a takeoff. Inside, the auditorium has an enveloping seat plan that creates a feeling of intimacy and immersion. Eclectic concerts take place throughout the year, allowing visitors of all ages to enjoy the venue. Attend performances by the Orchestre de Paris and musicians such as Kraftwerk and Thom Yorke of Radiohead.