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What Is Paris Famous For? 29 Things That Make Paris Special

Travels On Point Affiliate Disclosure Statement

Paris is famous for the Eiffel Tower and so much more: iconic landmarks, cathedrals, romance, art, culture, architecture, and fashion among other things.

Paris is my favorite city! I lived and studied in France for a year, speak French fluently and know and love Paris well. I have visited many times over the past 30 years.

This list is based on many trips there and in-depth knowledge of French culture and language.

👉 What Paris is known for in a nutshell:

  • the Eiffel Tower (the number one thing!)
  • Iconic landmarks (Louvre, Bastille, Notre Dame, Sacre Coeur, Arc de Triomphe, the Seine River, Jardin de Luxembourg, Versailles)
  • Art
  • Excellent food
  • Famous neighbourhoods (Montmartre, the Latin Quarter)
  • Luxury Shopping, Fashion, Perfume and more

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The Famous Château de Versailles in Paris
The famous Hall of Mirrors in the Palace of Versailles, Paris

What is Paris Famous For?

When most people think of Paris, they picture the Eiffel Tower. 

You rarely see anything in writing or movies about Paris without the Eiffel Tower included!

But the Eiffel Tower is only the beginning of the many things Paris is known for. Paris is the capital of France and the most visited city in the world; over 44 million people visited in 2022.

Most of the items on our list are indeed well-known, but some may be surprising, like the Paris Opera, which is more famous in Europe than in the US.

Map of Famous Sights in Paris

29 Things That Make Paris Special

Our list includes art, landmarks, history, qualities, neighborhoods (arrondissements), museums and more.

1. The Eiffel Tower

Eiffel Tower - the most famous landmark in Paris

The Eiffel Tower has become the national symbol of France. The iconic monument dates back to the 1889 World’s Fair when it was built to show off France’s architectural genius. 

The top of the Eiffel Tower offers spectacular views of Paris, it’s usually the first stop for tourists coming to Paris.

2. City of Lights

Paris is The City of Lights

Paris is known as “The City of Lights” because it has been a centre of learning, culture, and the arts for centuries. Also, Paris was one of the first cities to use street lights under the reign of King Louis XIV.

3. City of Love

Paris is also called “The City of Love” because of its romantic atmosphere, often shown in film, literature, and art.

The romantic Seine River, cobblestone streets, and elegant architecture make Paris a favourite honeymoon destination.

4. The Louvre

The Mona Lisa at the Louvre, the most famous painting in Paris
The Mona Lisa at the Louvre

The Louvre Museum is known all over the world for its extensive collection of art and historical artefacts. 

This is where the famous Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo are housed. You are getting a two-for-one in this listing! Both the Louvre and the Mona Lisa are iconic symbols of Paris.

👉 For a virtual tour of the Louvre go here.

5. Notre Dame

Notre Dame de Paris

Notre Dame Cathedral is another symbol of Paris. It is one of the finest examples of French Gothic architecture in the world.

6. Arc de Triomphe

arc de triomphe paris

The Arc de Triomphe is a monument at the western edge of the Champs-Élysées. It is one of the largest triumphal arches in the world.

7. Champs-Élysées

The Champs-Élysées is one of the most famous avenues in the world, attracting millions of people to shop, dine, and sightsee along the scenic street.

The avenue is synonymous with luxury, glamour, and French culture. 

8. Moulin Rouge

Famous Cabaret in Paris: The Moulin Rouge

The Moulin Rouge is an iconic cabaret theatre that has made a significant mark on the world with its glamorous shows. It’s also the birthplace of the modern form of the can-can dance.

While Paris is very safe overall for tourists, the area around the Moulin Rouge, called the Pigalle district can be a little sketchy at night.

You want to pay extra attention to your belongings, and it’s advised not to linger there late at night. You can find more info on safety for female travelers in Paris here.

9. The Seine

Seine in the evening in Paris
The Seine River in Paris near sunset

No trip to Paris would be complete without strolling along the scenic Seine River. The river divides the left and right banks of the city.

Along the banks, you get wonderful views of the city’s best landmarks as well as glimpses into French life and culture. Everyday Parisians stroll, rest and picnic along the Seine.

10. Les Bouquinistes – The Paris Booksellers

booksellers on the Seine are famous in paris

Les Bouquinistes are riverside booksellers in Paris that line the Seine and have a 200-year history in their green stalls.

There are about 900 open-air kiosks lining the banks of the Seine, selling used books, magazines, postcards, and other paper goods. 

You get a feel of old Paris walking along the Seine browsing les Bouquinistes.

It is one of my favourite things to do in Paris, and although well-known in Europe, it’s a hidden gem in Paris for some.

11. Fashion

Paris is the world’s fashion capital, offering endless style inspiration in the streets and Metro stations. Fashionistas all over the world come for Paris Fashion Week, which happens twice a year and attracts the biggest names in designer fashion.

12. Art

Impressionist painting by Renoir, Danse a la Campagne, at the Orsay Museum in Paris
Impressionist painting by Renoir, Danse a la Campagne, at the Orsay Museum in Paris

Paris is known for its rich art and culture and has the most renowned art museums in the world, including the Louvre and the Musée d’Orsay.

In addition, there are many lesser-known and smaller museums of art and sculpture scattered throughout the city.  Impressionist art in Paris is especially well-known since the most famous artists lived and painted in Paris and Montmartre.

13. Montmartre

Image of a winding street in montmartre

Montmartre is a charming section of Paris with a world-famous square that’s been home to artists for centuries.

In Montmartre, you will find cobblestone streets, artists working in plein-air, unique museums and almost a village feeling.

It’s also home to the magnificent Sacré-Coeur Basilica and other cultural landmarks.

14. Sacré-Cœur Basilica

View of Paris from Sacre Coeur
My favorite photo that I took at the top of Sacre Coeur.

Sacré-Cœur Basilica stands at the top of Montmartre and is a masterpiece of Romano-Byzantine architecture. The iconic white-domes basilica is a wonderful spot for sweeping city views and the artistic atmosphere of Montmartre. 

It is my favourite cathedral for views of the city; I took this photo of Paris from the top.

15. Macaroons

No visit to Paris would be complete without sampling some sweet and colourful macaroons.

These French cookies are made with almond flour, egg whites, and sugar and filled with delectable creamy centres in a variety of flavours. They are a more recent symbol of Paris compared to the ancient monuments and historical icons.

16. Food

Soup and pellegrino sparkling water on red checkered table cloth at Parisian cafe.
My simple lunch of French onion soup, bread and mineral water at a cafe in Paris.

France has legendary cuisine, renowned for fresh, local ingredients, exquisite flavours, and Michelin-starred restaurants.

Whether you want to enjoy a crepe or croissant on the go or indulge in a 10-course meal, the food in Paris is known for being of the highest quality in the world.

17. Sorbonne University

The Sorbonne is a prestigious university that’s consistently ranked among the top universities in the world. Located in the heart of Paris, Sorbonne has stunning architecture with a mix of Gothic and Renaissance styles.

18. Latin Quarter

The Latin Quarter is in Paris’s 5th and 6th arrondissements and includes an eclectic mix of students, tourists, and locals. The area has many sidewalk cafes, restaurants, and bars, and is well known for the intellectual, bohemian atmosphere.

19. Jardin de Luxembourg

jardin de luxembourg medici fountain

The Jardin de Luxembourg is a beautiful park in the 6th arrondissement that includes the elegant Luxembourg Palace and perfectly manicured gardens. 

Parisians stroll, read, play chess, picnic and play boules here. Pictured is the beautiful Medici fountain.

👉 Personal Story: Thirty years after spending time here, I returned and remembered the same special, peaceful feeling of walking through the trees and sitting near the fountain. I mentioned this to a Russian friend living in Russia, who responded that he remembered it for that same special feeling. It seems that it’s special atmosphere transcends culture and background.

20. Jazz

Caveau de la Huchette, a famous undergound jazz bar in Paris.

Paris has played a crucial role in the evolution of jazz music. Paris jazz clubs have a welcoming atmosphere and some of the best jazz musicians in the world.

Caveau de la Huchette is a famous jazz bar housed in an underground (caves) medieval stone building.

👉 Related ReadingGypsy Jazz and Jazz Clubs in Paris

21. Paris Opera – Palais Garnier

palais garnier paris

The Paris Opera, also known as the Palais Garnier, is one of the most famous opera houses in the world.

It is known for its stunning architecture and its world-class performances, and it inspired the setting of the Phantom of the Opera.

22. Luxury Boutique Shopping

Paris is home to some of the most iconic luxury brands in the world, including Chanel, Dior, Louis Vuitton, and Hermès. Many luxury stores have flagship locations on the Champs-Élysées.

23. Perfume

Paris has a long history of perfume making and is renowned for its high-quality scents. One of the many unique things to do while in Paris is to take a perfume making class.

24. Bastille – French Revolution

cafe at the Bastille
View of the Place de la Bastille

During the French Revolution, storming the Bastille was a turning point for the French people. The Bastille location is now a square called the Place de la Bastille in Paris’s 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements.

I took this photo of the Place de la Bastille from an outdoor bistro where I ate some excellent vegetable soup (potage aux legumes).

25. Versailles

The famous palace of Versailles in Paris

Versailles is an opulent palace outside of Paris that features stunning Baroque architecture and gardens. The Grand Palace was the royal residence of the French monarchs from the time of Louis XIV to Louis XVI.

Versailles is worth visiting if you have at least half a day of extra time in your Paris itinerary.

26. Parisian Cafés

Cafes in St. Germain des Pres, Paris
Locals and tourists at cafes in St. Germain des Pres near my hotel

 Parisian cafes are at the center of social life for many Parisians.  Sitting in a Parisian café lingering over coffee and a croissant is one of the reasons people love Paris. The cafes in Paris are legendary.

27. Literary Life

Paris is famous for its literary history:  in the 1920s, Paris was home to American writers known as the Lost Generation.

These writers, including Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and Gertrude Stein, were drawn to Paris by its bohemian atmosphere and reputation as a centre of art and culture.

28. Père Lachaise Cemetery

pere lachaise cemtery paris

Père Lachaise Cemetery is the oldest and largest cemetery in Paris.

While it is off the radar and a bit of a hidden find for first-timers to Paris, it is known for being the final resting place of many famous people, including Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Edith Piaf, and Frédéric Chopin.

29. Paris Métro

Paris metro - what paris is famous for
Paris Metro Entrance

The Paris Métro is one of the oldest metro systems in the world and includes 16 lines. Many Paris Métro stations are beautifully decorated, with Art Nouveau architecture and mosaics.

The iconic Paris metro sign is synonymous with the city.

Where To Stay In Paris

I have been to Paris many times and have stayed in several parts of the city; Montmartre, near the Eiffel Tower, the Latin Quarter, St. Germain des Pres, the Bastille area and near Pere la Chaise. 

These are recommendations based on my experience and research (I read reviews in French and English) for high-quality hotels with excellent service and an authentic, local experience:

📍Budget Option: Hotel La Louisiane (St. Germain des Pres) Artsy, original, well located, quiet inner courtyard, sitting room with piano, great walking location. A favorite place of mine to stay.

📍Mid-Range Option: Hôtel des Grandes Ecoles (Latin Quarter) Unique country house atmosphere, country-like setting, gardens, peaceful. 

📍Luxury Option: Luxury Option: Hotel Recamier (St. Sulpice, St. Germain des Pres) former Bourgeois family home, elegant, unique views of St. Sulpice, discreetly nestled behind trees, award-winning.

👉 More Paris hotels with character and culture.

Visiting Paris: FAQs

Below are some frequent questions and my answers about visiting Paris.

What food is Paris famous for? 

Croissants, baguettes, macaroons, French onion soup, escargot, and excellent cheese. Paris is also known for excellent chocolate and the most famous hot chocolate is at Angelina’s.

Why do people love Paris so much?

I think people love Paris because of the culture (Parisian cafes, excellent food made with care, attention to art and culture), the beautiful architecture, the old-world cobblestone streets and the romantic nature of the Seine river winding through the city.

I dearly love Paris; it is my favorite city in the world 💖

Why is Paris called the City of Love?

Books and films have shown Paris as a romantic backdrop for the past 100 years at least. The beauty of the streets, the incredible amount of art, the exquisite cuisine and the cozy cafe culture also contribute to a romantic atmosphere.

Open displays of affection such as holding hands and kissing were common in the past, and maybe still today.  It is one of the most popular honeymoon destinations in the world.

Final Thoughts on Paris

Statue in Paris in St. Germain des Pres

The famous author, Ernest Hemingway, called Paris, “a moveable feast”. 

The City of Lights is indeed a feast of beauty, art, architecture, slow conversation, excellent food, and good living. How do you summarize all of the things that Paris is known for?

I would say Paris is famous for being a city of romance, beauty, art and overall excellent living. Even just a weekend in Paris is enough time to fall in love with the city of Love! Cheers!

For related reading about Paris:

21 Best Hotels in Paris for Character and Culture

Parisian Culture Guide: 23 Things To Know Before You Go 2024

29 Hidden Gems in Paris to Feel Like a Local in 2024

The 7 BEST Paris Speakeasies to Visit in 2024

Paris for a Weekend – The Perfect 3-Day Itinerary