France has a long and interesting history and many of its oldest buildings are regarded as some of the most beautiful in the world. The city of Paris bears witness to many of the developments in architecture over the centuries; from sovereigns to revolutionaries, they have all made their mark in Paris, and there are numerous historic sights that no visitor should miss.

The Eiffel Tower in Paris during my second visit in 2010. ©

The important historical sites

There are some buildings that are particularly notable because of the events that took place there, or because of legends or literature associated with them. One such is the Opera National de Paris, built in the neo-baroque style by order of Napoleon III. It has a stunning central marble staircase and elaborate, gold motifs. It is the key location in the musical The Phantom of the Opera, a great story originally penned by one Gaston Leroux.

The Arc de Triomphe stands in the Place Charles de Gaulle and was commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to commemorate his victory at Austerlitz. It stands 162 feet high and has engravings of various victories and battle scenes.

The Arc de Triomphe. Taken last summer 2010. ©


Some of the most celebrated art movements in the world began in Paris, and on the list of the world’s most famous galleries the Louvre must certainly rank somewhere near the top. Home to one of the world’s most famous paintings, the Mona Lisa, the Louvre began life as a fortress and remains of this use can still be seen in the basement areas. In the sixteenth century, Francis I renovated the building in the French Renaissance style. The latest addition to the building is the glass pyramid in the main court that was completed in 1993.


The Cathedral of Notre Dame is the most famous religious building in France. It is built in the gothic style and is sited on the Ile de la Cite de Paris, an island in the Seine. The coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte in 1804 and the beatification of Saint Joan of Arc in 1909 were both performed within its walls, it is another of the great French buildings to be used in literature, making an appearance in Victor Hugo’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

Social care

The Hotel des Invalides was commissioned by King Louis XIV to house the injured soldiers returning from war and those that were left homeless. The building is built in the baroque style and is home to the Musee de l’Armee and the Royal Gallery. Its golden dome has had five layers of gold laid over it during its lifetime.


The Palace of Versailles is one of the largest palaces in the world, and has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the past 30 years. It began life as a hunting lodge, but several monarchs oversaw its development into one of the most beautiful examples of French eighteenth century art.  It is surrounded by extensive gardens. Famous for its Hall of Mirrors, it was considered the unofficial seat of power until 1789, when the Royal Family were forced to leave its opulent surroundings by the French Revolutionaries.

Paris has so much to offer the traveler; there is really little chance of being bored. There are plenty of ways of getting to this most important of European capitals, and Air France has plenty of regular flights to the city.