History majors, amateur historians, and anyone who finds history interesting will be delighted to find the best historical places in Paris. Like most major European cities, Paris is brimming with ancient finds and breathtaking sights.
Bring your camera, your love of history, and your sense of adventure when you plan your visit to Paris. Some of the most intriguing parts of the city were shaped by the Romans, the Gauls, and the French Revolution.
If you are in a bit of a time crunch, look for tours that will touch on many of the historical places in the city instead of wandering through the streets learning on your own. And to save energy for walking and exploring, be sure to stow your heavy items and backpacks. Keep the bag burden light and see as much as you can!
We’ve started our guide with the Louvre Museum, a place that every visitor to Paris will want to include in their sightseeing. Find convenient luggage storage near the Louvre and start your day off right.
The Louvre Museum
The largest art museum in the world draws millions of visitors each year and is the perfect place for history lovers to start their exploration of Paris. Located on the Seine River, the Louvre Museum is home to so many breathtaking pieces of art.
While here, don’t focus on the art only at eye level, but look up and marvel at the frescoed ceilings. Check out the medieval underpinnings of the palace that date back to the 12th century. The ironwork on the staircases and windows should not be overlooked, either!
View famous works such as the Mona Lisa, the Wedding at Cana, and the Winged Victory of Samothrace, just to name a few. Get your tickets in advance to skip the long ticket lines and see more of the Louvre.
Musée Carnavalet and Lutetia
The Roman city Lutetia is actually the very first established city and stood where parts of Paris now stand. Artifacts from Lutetia are being unearthed and displayed at Musée Carnavalet which is dedicated to preserving the history of Paris.
While it is wonderful to see many of the artifacts that have been preserved and are now displayed, it is even better to watch as history is uncovered. Descend beneath the city at the Archaeological Crypt of the Ile de la Cité in front of Notre Dame.
The Crypt was discovered during renovations to Notre Dame and many ancient and medieval finds were discovered. Be transported back in time over 2,000 years and imagine the city as it first began to thrive as Lutetia!
Palace of Versailles and the Queen’s Hamlet
Anybody visiting Paris will want to check out the Palace of Versailles. It is an iconic fixture and was the main royal residence from 1682 until the beginning of the French Revolution in 1789. While not in Paris, it is close enough to visit and take in its beauty.
If you are a history buff, after exploring Versailles, you will want to search out the Queen’s Hamlet, also known as Marie Antoinette’s Hamlet, located at the Palace of Versailles.
The Queen’s Hamlet is a small village that Marie Antoinette created in the Trianon Gardens in 1783. The village was built around an artificial lake where the cottages are on the eastern bank of the lake and overlook the pristine water.
Arènes de Lutèce
Visit one of the most amazing ancient Roman discoveries in Paris! The Arènes de Lutèce was built during the 1st century A.D. and is a Gallo-Roman amphitheater. This interesting amphitheater had the ability to seat 15,000 spectators.
It was used to showcase the skills of the gladiators and while the underground portion of the amphitheater is not passable, you can imagine the roaring crowds as their favorite gladiator emerged into the arena. And good news, it is free to explore the Arènes de Lutèce.
Thermes de Cluny and the Musée Cluny
Plan a visit to the Musée Cluny and see many treasures dating back to the Middle Ages, all housed in the former home of the abbots of Cluny. Framed tapestries grace the walls and unique Gothic statues from Notre Dame have been preserved.
Beside the Musée Cluny are the Thermes de Cluny, or the ancient Roman thermal baths that date back to the 2nd century A.D. Wander through the ruins of these fantastic baths and imagine life as a Roman living in ancient Paris.
Built in 1248, the Sainte Chapelle was the royal chapel at Palais de la Cité, the main royal residence until the 14th century when the Palace of Versailles was completed. The chapel overlooks the Seine River and is a must-see for any history lover!
Before you visit the Sainte Chapelle in person, you can take a virtual tour to see some of the highlights. Bring your camera and explore the nooks and crannies of this ancient chapel.
A good portion of the Notre Dame Cathedral was damaged from fire but visitors can still explore certain areas. Built in 1345, Notre Dame is a magnificent Catholic cathedral located on the Ile de la Cité.
Just like the Louvre, millions of visitors flock to Notre Dame. One of the most overlooked pieces of art within the cathedral is a statue of Joan of Arc just inside the doors. Be sure to not forget to look for her while you are there.
Père Lachaise Cemetery
The largest cemetery in Paris is also the largest park in Paris. While you may not find the idea of spending the day at a cemetery much fun, this famous one was founded in 1804 and is the final resting place of many famous people.
With over 3.5 million visitors each year, you will not be alone in exploring the Père Lachaise Cemetery! There are currently 70,000 marked graves, but the exact number of people buried here is not known.
As you wander through the myriad of interesting headstones and mausoleums, you will notice some pretty important names such as Jim Morrison, Oscar Wilde, Simone Signoret, Frederic Chopin, Colette, and Alfred de Musset.
Brush up on your French history, pack your bags, plan your itinerary, and book your flight for an adventure that will stretch your imagination and quench your thirst for all things historical.
While you can still check out some of the more touristy spots in Paris, many of which do have a historical significance to the city, the nitty-gritty spots where you have to dig to unearth the past are really the best places to visit when in Paris!