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Paris-eiffel_tower photo by Chadi saad under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

HISTORICAL SITES IN PARIS: 15 PLACES TO VISIT

With a history that stretches far back to 300 B.C., it is not surprising that there are various magnificent monuments and attractions in the French capital. Here are some of the historical sites in Paris to visit:

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Historical Sites in Paris – Arc de Triomphe

Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile is a neoclassical triumphal arch that commemorates French victories and their generals during the French Revolution and the Napoleonic era. Below the vault of Arc de Triomphe, one can find the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from the First World War.

Historical Sites in Paris – Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris

Following the fire that consumed a large section of this French-Gothic cathedral in April 2019, Notre-Dame de Paris is presently undergoing a reconstruction. Completed in 1345, this landmark is one of the prime reflections of architecture and religion in Paris. While temporarily closed off to the public, one can still snap some pictures of the façade of the historic cathedral from afar.

Historical Sites in Paris – Eiffel Tower

Designed by Compagnie des Établissements Eiffel, this iconic, wrought-iron lattice tower stands 324 meters tall. It was built for the World’s Fair of 1889 and over the years, it has become one of the structures often associated with France and widely mentioned in books about Paris.

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Historical Sites in Paris – Hôtel de Ville

The Renaissance Revival Hôtel de Ville has long been the home of the local administration of Paris. The original structure, completed in 1357 and fully expanded by 1533, was set on fire when the Communards faced imminent defeat. It was reconstructed from 1873 to 1892. Hôtel de Ville was the venue for the Third Republic proclamation, and Charles de Gaulle’s speech during the Paris Liberation.

Hôtel national des Invalides

Les Invalides was originally built to function as a hospital and retirement home specifically for those who have served in wars. Presently, aside from serving this function, the complex also accommodates Musée de l’Armée, Musée des Plans-Reliefs, Musée d’Histoire Contemporaine, Dôme des Invalides and tombs of French war heroes, including that of Napoleon’s.

La Conciergerie

Formerly a French Revolution prison, Conciergerie was where Marie Antoinette and several others were incarcerated. Following the Bourbon Restoration, the structure continued to function as a prison for high-value personalities, including Napoleon III. In 1914, a portion of the Conciergerie was opened to the public. Presently, most of the building is utilized by Paris law courts.

Les Catacombes de Paris

This underground network of ossuaries in Paris holds over six million human remains. The catacombs was the late 18th century solution that ended the “intra muros” burial problems of Paris. In 1871, the catacombs witnessed the death of a group of monarchists in the hands of the Communards. During the Second World War, the tunnel system was used by the French Resistance.

Louvre Palace

Originally a medieval fortress, Palais du Louvre was a royal palace in the 14th century, during the time of Charles V. Subsequently, other French kings made it their main residence in Paris. In 1793, a portion of the palace was opened to the public as Musée du Louvre. These days, the museum occupies most of the palace structure.

Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation

Opened in 1962, Mémorial des Martyrs de la Déportation is dedicated to the 200,000 people transported from Vichy France to WWII Nazi concentration camps. This underground memorial sits on what used to be a morgue behind the Notre-Dame.

Musée de Cluny

Musée national du Moyen Âge – Thermes et hôtel de Cluny, simply Cluny Museum or Hôtel de Cluny, houses medieval art pieces and objects. The tapestries of La Dame à la licorne can be viewed here. Within the site, one can also find vestiges of 3rd century Gallo-Roman baths.

Palais-Royal

Across the Louvre, one can find Palais-Royal, a former royal residence that is now the seat of Conseil d’État, the Constitutional Council and the Ministry of Culture. Originally Palais-Cardinal, it was the official residence of Cardinal Richelieu. After his death, the palace fell under the coffers of the French King and its name was changed to Palais-Royal.

Panthéon

A neoclassical structure originally built as a church for Saint Genevieve, it was made into a mausoleum during the French Revolution. From then on, it accommodated the remains of illustrious French citizens, including Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Victor Hugo, Emile Zola and Louis Braille.

Place de la Concorde

Place de la Concorde was the venue for several prominent French Revolution public executions. Among those who were executed by guillotine at this square are King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, Elisabeth of France, Marie-Anne Charlotte de Corday d’Armont, Antoine Lavoisier and Olympe de Gouges.

Sainte-Chapelle

Most noted for its collections of 13th century stained glass, Sainte-Chapelle is a recognized historic monument found in Palais de la Cité. The Gothic style royal chapel is one of the oldest surviving structures within this royal palace.

Université Paris-Sorbonne

In the Latin Quarter of Paris, the Sorbonne remains an imposing campus. It was home to the then College of Sorbonne in 1253 that later on became part of the University of Paris. The campus is also home to Chapel of Sainte Ursule de la Sorbonne, the surviving structure of the 17th century reconstruction project of Cardinal Richelieu. Observatoire de la Sorbonne is another notable feature of the campus, built from 1885 to 1901 during the Sorbonne reconstruction.

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