Who can think of Paris without thinking of the most iconic church in Paris – Notre Dame Cathedral?
Few cathedrals have inspired more in the popular imagination, and few have inspired more grief than when Notre-Dame de Paris burned in 2020.
Although Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris remains one of the most important sites in Paris to visit, there are so many more churches in Paris you cannot miss on your Paris Bucket List. Notre Dame is – technically – the only cathedral in Paris, the many churches in Paris and basilicas in Paris are so majestic and beautiful that they inspire awe and repeat visits.
Paris is home to 197 churches. These places of worship in Paris are rich with French history and so many of them are worth a visit!
With so much to do on any trip to Paris, whether you are spending 3 days in Paris or many more, it’s important to know which are the most famous churches in Paris, as well as the oldest churches in Paris, and the most beautiful churches in Paris so you can plan your trip! Below are my favorite 14 churches in Paris (in rough order of importance/beauty!).
1. Notre-Dame de Paris
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II 75004
Nearly synonymous with Paris itself, the Cathedral of Notre-Dame de Paris is perhaps the jewel of the great churches of Paris. Despite the devastating fire in 2019, it is still a gorgeous and unique church in Paris that should be #1 on your Paris itinerary. In fact, historically, Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris was Europe’s most visited historical monument.
Construction of this iconic Gothic masterpiece began in the 12th century, in 1163, under the direction of Bishop Maurice de Sully and continued for nearly two centuries, culminating in the completion of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris around the year 1345.
The cathedral’s intricate architectural style is characterized by its stunning flying buttresses, stained-glass rose windows, and intricately carved sculptures and stands as a testament to the medieval craftsmen’s ingenuity and devotion.
Throughout the centuries, Notre-Dame Cathedral has played a central role in French history, witnessing the most important French coronations, marriages, and significant religious events.
However, perhaps its most famous moment occurred in 1831 when Victor Hugo’s novel “The Hunchback of Notre-Dame” brought the Notre-Dame de Paris further into the global spotlight.
The Notre-Dame Cathedral is beautiful to view from the River Seine as well and many companies offer boat tours for great photography of Notre-Dame!
How to Visit Notre-Dame Cathedral After the Fire – in 2023:
As of 2023, visitors may once again enter the square in front of Notre-Dame Cathedral as well as the Pont au Double, which connected the island of Notre-Dame with the Left Bank.
Visitors may also enter the Crypt to see some of the treasures of Notre Dame, though the church itself and its towers remain closed. The reopening of Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris is announced for the 8th December 2024 – I am looking forward to that day!
Where to Stay Near Notre-Dame de Paris, Accommodation in Paris:
Staying near Notre Dame means staying in the heart of Paris itself! Notre-Dame Cathedral in Paris lies in the Île de la Cité and is in the 4th arrondissement. The surrounding area is central to almost everything in Paris! You can search Expedia for awesome, refundable hotels in the 4th arrondissement in Paris!
2. Saint-Sulpice Church
12 Place Saint-Sulpice
75005 Paris, France
The Eglise Saint-Sulpice in Paris lies in the Latin Quarter of Paris, the 6th arrondissement. Much newer than Notre-Dame de Paris, Eglise Saint-Sulpice was built in the 17th century – and the current structure is actually the second church to be built on the site, the original church having been destroyed.
You’ll recognize it as you walk up to it by its mismatched towers that end in round turrets instead of spires. Eglise Saint-Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris, after Notre-Dame.
A baroque church, and a Roman Catholic Church like the vase majority of churches in Paris, Saint-Sulpice Church has a very different architectural style from Notre-Dame Cathedral! Eglish Saint-Sulpice is also famous for having mismatched towers. And lately, it’s gained even more fame because Dan Brown used it for scenes in his famous novel, The DaVinci Code.
Saint-Sulpice is famous for a number of reasons, the main reason being its incredible organ. The grand organ at Saint-Sulpice is considered by many the greatest organ in existence, and its organists – now and through history – some of the greatest to have lived.
The best way to visit Saint Sulpice: attend a religious service and hear the organ played! After the 10:45 am service [check times ahead of time in case there are changes] the organist usually gives an encore and mini-concert. Going to Mass at Eglish Saint-Sulpice is one of my favorite memories from visiting Paris and the organ music really is sublime!
3. La Sainte-Chapelle – St. Louis’s Chapel
10 Boulevard du Palais, 75001 Paris, France
For pure wonder and amazement, head to Sainte-Chapelle, very near Notre Dame. La Sainte-Chapelle is without a double one of, if not the, most beautiful churches of Paris.
Not a cathedral or even a “church” in the traditional sense, La Sainte-Chapelle is actually a Royal Chapel, commissioned by King Louis IX (later Saint Louis) to house important relics that he acquired (including the purported crown of thorns of Christ.) Sainte Chapelle was built in the 13th century originally as a part of the Royal Residences on the Île de la Cité in Paris.
Sainte-Chapelle is famous on Instagram and with all kinds of photographers for very good reason! The upper chapel is adorned in 618 square meters of incredibly intricate stained-glass windows – that equals 1,113 stained glass windows in 15 glass panels and a Rose Window.
The chapel is built in a high Gothic style – making it feel high and sweeping! It is truly one of the finest religious buildings you will ever visit – a church in Paris no one can miss.
4. Montmartre Basilica in Paris
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris, France
The Basilica of Sacré-Cœur is unique amongst the churches in Paris because it is the only true Basilica. Second only to Notre-Dame in popularity, Sacre Coeur Basilica is an icon in its own right, perched at the highest point in Paris’s famous arts district: Montmartre.
One of the best things to do in the Sacré-Cœur Basilica is to climb the bell tower for the most incredible view of Paris imaginable!
The Basilica was begun after France lost the war between France and Germany that began in 1870. Many people believed that the loss was due to spiritual poverty in the country, and leaders vowed to build a new Basilica to bring spiritual fervor back to France.
The all-white Basilica was not completed until 1919, also making it one of the newest churches in Paris. It is built in the Roman-Byzantine style. Inside the Basilica in the apse is a stunning mosaic, Christ in Majesty, one of the largest mosaics in the world. You can also visit the crypt at Montmartre if you are brave!
5. L’église de la Madeleine
Place de la Madeleine, 75008 Paris, France
L’église de la Madeleine, in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, doesn’t look like a church at all: in fact it looks like a Greek temple!
The Madeleine church, named for Mary Magdalene in the Bible, doesn’t particularly look like a place of worship because it didn’t start out as one! The current Greek temple-style building is the third attempt at building a church on the site, the first two were torn down after the builders were dissatisfied with the attempts.
This present church building was actually begun as a temple by Napoleon Bonaparte to honor the French navy. Only later was it consecrated as a church.
The result is a neoclassical church with 52 Corinthian columns. On the pediment, the triangle part of the roof, the relief depicts the last judgment with Mary Magdalene praying to intercede for those who are lost (this was completed after it was decided to turn the building into a church!).
Inside the church are three domes that aren’t visible from tge outside and a particularly celebrated high altar with a statue of Mary Magdalene. The organ is also highly celebrated – not quite as much as Saint-Sulpice. If you are lucky like I was someone will be practicing when you visit!
6. Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis
1 Rue de la Légion d’Honneur, 93200 Saint-Denis, France
The Cathedral Basilica of Saint-Denis isn’t technically in Paris, but is located just north of Paris, France. It’s one of the best cathedrals in Paris to visit if you are interested in French history!
The Basilica of Saint-Denins traces its origins back to the 12th century. It was commissioned by Abbot Suger, a visionary patron of the arts, who sought to create a space that would reflect the divine through innovative design and grandeur.
The cathedral is renowned for its Gothic architecture, with pointed arches, ribbed vaults, and towering spires setting the stage for the evolution of European religious architecture.
Beyond its architecture, the real treasure of Saint-Denis Cathedral is its rich history. Saint-Denis has served as the final resting place for numerous French monarchs, including King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette.
It has survived through wars, the French Revolution, and many other historically significant events.
Because the Basilica of Saint-Denis in Paris is the final resting place of many famous French monarchs and members of the royal families, the most important thing to do at Saint-Denis is to buy a ticket to the crypt to see their tombs! Some of the notable figures buried at Saint-Denis including:
- King Dagobert I: One of the earliest French Merovingian kings, buried in the original Merovingian church.
- King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette: The last Bourbon monarchs of France, executed during the French Revolution.
- Queen Catherine de’ Medici: The influential queen consort of King Henry II.
- King Louis VII and Queen Eleanor of Aquitaine: A prominent medieval royal couple, known for their historical significance and Eleanor’s involvement in the Second Crusade.
7. Saint-Germain-des-Près Church in Paris
3 Place Saint-Germain des Prés, 75006 Paris, France
The history of the Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church in Paris is deeply intertwined with the development of the city itself. The church is one of the oldest churches in Paris and has a rich history dating back over a millennium.
Saint-Germain-des-Près was originally founded in the 6th century by Childebert I, the King of the Franks, as an abbey dedicated to Saint Vincent, and it later took on the name of Saint-Germain-des-Prés in honor of Saint Germain, the Bishop of Paris.
The Saint-Germain-des-Prés Church is a prime example of Romanesque architecture, characterized by its sturdy, simple forms, thick walls, round arches, and small windows. The interior of Saint Germain des Prés is known to be one of the most beautiful churches in Paris.
One of the coolest features of the church is its square bell tower, which stands apart from the main building. This tower was originally used as a defensive structure, as well as for housing the church bells.
During the French Revolution, Saint-Germain-des-Près suffered damage and looting, like many other religious institutions in France. However, it managed to survive and was later restored.
While you are visiting the church, check out the surrounding Saint-Germain des Prés neighborhood. The neighborhood is known for its literary and intellectual history, with famous figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir frequenting its cafés and bookshops.
8. Église du Dôme, Napolean’s Tomb in Paris
75007 Paris, France
The Église du Dôme, situated within the breathtaking complex of Les Invalides in Paris, is not a place of worship or “church” per sé, but stands as an architectural marvel and a poignant tribute to the legacy of France’s military history.
Les Invalides was originally a complex of buildings built as a military hospital and retirement home for war veterans.
The construction of the Dome Church began in 1677 and was completed in 1706. Crowned by its iconic gilded dome, the church was designed by Jules Hardouin-Mansart, and is most famous for serving as the final resting place for Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte. It has an ornate Baroque façade, intricate interior decorations, and the captivating play of light that filters through its magnificent stained glass windows.
Now housed within the Army Museum of Paris, so in order to visit the Église du Dôme you need to buy a ticket to the Army Museum which will grant you access to one of the best museums in Paris and also Napolean’s tomb within Les Invalides.
9. Saint-Etienne-du-Monte Church in Paris
Place Sainte-Geneviève, 75005 Paris, France
The construction of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont began in the 16th century on the site of a former abbey named Sainte-Geneviève. Sainte-Geneviève is the patron saint of Paris. The abbey was a significant religious and cultural institution, and the church was built to house the relics of Saint Geneviève.
The church was built in the Gothic style, with intricate ornamentation and detailed stone carvings. Its construction continued over several centuries, with various architects and builders contributing to its design. Inside the church, one of its most famous features are its spiral staircases!
Today, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is renowned for housing the shrine of Saint Genevieve, a revered patron saint of Paris. Pilgrims in France and visitors have historically come to the church to venerate her relics.
During the French Revolution, the neighboring Abbey of Sainte-Geneviève was largely demolished, and the church was spared from destruction due to its integration into the new Panthéon building as a symbolic gesture.
Saint Etienne is also the final resting place of many important people from French history, including the philosopher Blaise Pascal and the playwright Jean Racine.
10. Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church
99 Rue Saint-Antoine, 75004 Paris, France
The Saint-Paul-Saint-Louis Church, often simply referred to as Saint-Paul, was constructed in the 17th century during the reign of King Louis XIII. The church was commissioned by Louis XIII’s widow, Queen Anne of Austria, in memory of her husband. It was designed as a place of worship for the Jesuit community in Paris.
Many churches in Paris were built in the Gothic style, but this church’s architecture is a prime example of the Baroque style, which was prominent during the 17th century. It was designed by architect François Derand and features a blend of Baroque and classical elements.
The facade of the church is characterized by its elaborate ornamentation, intricate carvings, and sculptural details. The interior is known for its impressive dome, decorative columns, and ornate altarpiece.
The altarpiece is a masterpiece of Baroque sculpture, depicting scenes from the life of St. Paul. The church also houses several important paintings, including works by renowned artists such as Charles Le Brun and Jean-Baptiste de Champaigne.
Look here to find some of the best possible deals on accomodation in Paris!
11. Saint-Eustache Church in Paris
2 Imp. Saint-Eustache, 75001 Paris, France
Saint-Eustache Church, officially known as L’église Saint-Eustache, is a historic church located in the heart of Paris, France. Its history dates back to the 13th century when a smaller chapel was built on the site. Construction of the current church began in 1532 and continued until the Saint-Eustache Church was finally consecrated in 1637.
Saint-Eustache Church is a prime example of French Gothic architecture. Its design reflects the transition from the earlier Rayonnant style to the more ornate Flamboyant style. Its nave is one of the largest churches in Paris and is known for its grand proportions and striking rib-vaulted ceilings.
One of Saint-Eustache Church’s most notable artworks is “The Resurrection of Lazarus,” a painting by the celebrated artist Nicolas Poussin. The grand organ, built in the 19th century by renowned organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll, is another highlight.
12. Saint-Clotilde Basilica
23B Rue las Cases, 75007 Paris, France
The Basilique Sainte-Clotilde, commonly known as Saint-Clotilde Basilica, is a Catholic church located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, France.
It is dedicated to Saint Clotilde, the queen of the Franks and wife of King Clovis I. The basilica’s construction began in 1846 during the reign of King Louis-Philippe, and it was completed in 1857.
Saint-Clotilde Basilica is built in the Neo-Gothic style. The façade features detailed sculptures depicting scenes from the life of Saint Clotilde and other religious figures. The interior of the basilica is equally impressive, with a nave flanked by side aisles, rose windows, and a magnificent apse.
13. Saint-Augustin Church
8 Av. César Caire, 75008 Paris, France
The Église Saint-Augustin (Saint-Augustin Church) is a Catholic church located in the 8th arrondissement of Paris, France. Construction of the church began in 1860 and was completed in 1871.
Where Sainte-Clotilde above is a Neo-Gothic Church, Saint-Augustin is built in the Neo-Renaissance architectural style, which draws inspiration from the Italian Renaissance. The church’s design features a symmetrical façade with a central dome and two tall bell towers flanking it.
Like other churches on this list, Saint-Augustin is particularly known for its grand organ, which was built by the famous organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
Saint-Augustin was constructed during a time of transformation and modernization in Paris, and its Neo-Renaissance style represents the artistic trends of the Second French Empire.
14. Saint-François-Xavier Church in Paris
12 Pl. du Président Mithouard, 75007 Paris, France
L’église Saint-François-Xavier (Saint-François-Xavier Church) is a Roman Catholic church in Paris located in the 7th arrondissement. The entire church was built in the 19th century. It is dedicated to St. Francis Xavier, a Spanish Jesuit missionary who played a significant role in the spread of Christianity in Asia during the 16th century.
Architecturally, Saint-François-Xavier Church is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Paris and represents the Neo-Gothic revival movement that sought to recreate the aesthetics of medieval architecture. During the 19th century in Paris there was a strong desire to return to historical architecture and aesthetics, and Saint-François-Xavier and Sainte-Clotilde both epitomize this era.
The Cluny Museum in Paris: French Medeival Art and Architecture
For any lover of religious art and architecture, the Cluny Museum in Paris is a must-visit landmark in Paris!
Also known as the “National Museum of the Middle Ages”, the Cluny Museum is home to much artwork, including its most famous “Tapestries of the Lady and the Unicorn.”
I spent a wonderful afternoon wandering around the 5th Arrondissement in Paris and just happened upon the Cluny Museum. I know what you are thinking: someone as obsessed with Stumbling upon the Cluny Museum (which I loved!) rates as the happiest “stumbleupon” in my travels to date!
The Cluny Museum is on the site of third-century Roman baths and has two buildings, the “Hotel de Cluny” houses the actual collection. You enter through a beautiful courtyard and then go into the museum. The museum collections include incredible Romanesque art, Byzantine art, Capitols and carvings from famous Cathedrals around France and the world, work from Limoges, and more!
Where to Stay in Paris
If you’re looking for a place to stay in Paris here is a map with each of these beautiful churches in Paris & great accomodation nearby!
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