The City of Light, a nickname that refers to the fact that Paris was one of the first cities in the world to be illuminated by gaslight and because of the prominent role it played in the Age of Enlightenment, has a lot to offer.
The city is full of fascinating landmarks that each have an incredible story to tell. Some of the most remarkable structures are magnificent churches, including some of the most famous ones in the world.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at some of the most famous churches in Paris so you can put these on your bucket list in case you plan to visit France’s capital.
1. Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris is not just one of the most famous churches in Paris, it’s also one of the most famous Gothic cathedrals in the world. This medieval structure is located right in the historical heart of the city called the “Île de la Cité,” a river island of the River Seine.
It was one of the most influential structures in medieval Europe as it integrated a wide variety of novelties into its architectural design. Some of these include the use of rib vaults and flying buttresses. Even though the church was partially destroyed during a fire in April 2019, it remains one of the most fascinating landmarks in Paris today.
The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Paris, better known as simply “Sacré-Coeur,” is one of the most prominent buildings in Paris. That’s mainly because of its location on top of Montmartre Hill, a large hill north of the city center that reaches an elevation of 130 meters (430 feet) above sea level.
The church features amazing domes that can be seen throughout the city. The unique location, magnificent architecture, and the nearby world-famous art district on the Place du Tertre, have resulted in this amazing structure becoming the second-most visited tourist attraction in Paris.
3. Dôme des Invalides
Even though Les Invalides is most famously known as a military facility featuring museums and monuments, as well as a famous mausoleum that features the tomb of Napoleon Bonaparte, it also features a great church known as the Dôme des Invalides.
This church originally started as serving its purpose as the chapel of the hospital of Les Invalides, it’s now referred to as the “Cathedral of the French Military.” It’s the tallest church building in Paris, reaching a height of 107 meters (351 feet), and many of the most famous military figures in the history of France are buried inside it.
4. Sainte Chapelle
Sainte-Chapelle is arguably one of the most beautiful churches in Paris. It served its purpose as the Royal Chapel which was part of the medieval Palais de la Cité, located on the same river island as the Notre-Dame Cathedral in the heart of the city.
The chapel has an extended history because it was built between 1238 and 1248 during the reign of King Louis IX of France. He commissioned it as a place to store his Passion relics, including the crown of thorns that Jesus supposedly wore during his crucifixion. The most remarkable feature of the church is its collection of 13th-century stained glass windows, the most extensive in the world.
5. La Madeleine
Although La Madeleine was built with the same design as an ancient Greek or Roman temple, it is a Catholic church in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. It wasn’t built for this purpose, though, because Napoleon commissioned it in the early 19th century to have a space to glorify his army.
It wasn’t until the ultimate Fall of Napoleon in 1815 and the subsequent Bourbon Restoration that the purpose of the building was changed. King Luis XVIII decided to turn it into a Catholic church and dedicated it to Mary Magdelene, hence it’s referred to as “La Madeleine.”
6. Saint-Sulpice Church
The Church of Saint-Sulpice is located on a square with the same name in the 6th arrondissement of Paris, also known as the “Latin Quarter.” This magnificent structure is much larger than it initially appears to be. It’s huge and only slightly smaller than Notre-Dame Cathedral, making it the second-largest of all famous churches in Paris.
The church was dedicated to a 7th-century bishop called Sulpitius the Pious and was constructed in the Baroque style. Even though construction already began in 1646, the church wasn’t completed until much later in the year 1870. The North Tower is the higher of the two imposing structures on the church’s main façade and stands 73 meters (240 feet) tall.
Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is a church located in the 5th arrondissement and was built on an elevated location known as the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève. As the name of this hill suggests, it was named after St. Geneviève, the patron saint of Paris who lived in the 5th and 6th centuries.
What’s remarkable about this church is that it features the shrine of St. Genevève containing her remains. The church was constructed between 1494 and 1624 and the gilded sarcophagus of the patron saint of the city can be found here.
8. Saint-Eustache Church
The Church of St. Eustache is located near the medieval marketplace of Paris called “Les Halles” in the 1st arrondissement of the city. This is just northeast of the Louvre Museum and in an area that was one of the busiest during the Middle Ages.
The current building was constructed between 1532 and 1632 and replaced a smaller chapel that was built in this location in the 13th century. It’s a remarkable structure in the sense that it features multiple architectural styles, including Gothic, Renaissance, and even Neoclassical elements.
9. American Cathedral in Paris
The American Cathedral in Paris was built between 1882 and 1886 which makes it one of the oldest English-speaking churches in Paris. It’s part of the Anglican Communion, the third-largest Chrisitan communion in the world after the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches.
The church was built in the Gothic Revival architectural style and is located between the Champs-Élysées and the River Seine in the 8th arrondissement of the city. The most remarkable feature of the structure is the spire which reaches a height of 85 meters (280 feet), quite high because the church only has a length of 45 meters (146 feet).
10. Basilica of Saint-Denis
Even though the Basilica of Saint-Denis is located in the city of Satin-Denis just north of Paris (but still within its metropolitan area), it can easily be considered one of the most important churches in Paris for multiple reasons.
The choir of the church was completed in the year 1144 and is considered to be the first Gothic structure in Europe, marking the start of an architectural period that would dominate Europe for multiple centuries. It’s also the location that the Kings of France were buried, starting way back from the 10th century to King Louis XVIII in the 19th century.
11. Saint-Germain l’Auxerrois
The Church of Saint-Germain-l’Auxerrois is located at 2 Place du Louvre, just east of the Louvre Museum. This means that the church was built to serve as the parish church of the people who lived at the Louvre Palace during the times it served as the residence of the Kings of France.
The history of the church dates back to the 7th century, but it has been rebuilt multiple times throughout its extended history. The current building was constructed between the 12th and 15th centuries and incorporated the Romanesque, Gothic, and even Renaissance architectural styles.
12. Saint-Séverin Church
The Church of Saint-Séverin Church is a remarkable structure located in the Latin Quarter of Paris. That’s mainly because it’s the oldest still-standing church on the Left bank of the River Seine. It also features the oldest bell in Paris which was cast in the year 1412.
The church was dedicated to Saint Séverin, a man who lived in this part of Paris during the first half of the 5th century. A small Romanesque church was built over his tomb in the 11th century. This original church was replaced by a Gothic structure built during the 13th and 14th centuries
13. Val-de-Grâce Church
The Church of the Val-de-Grâce is located in the 5th arrondissement of Paris and was transformed into a church after being founded as a royal abbey and convent complex. The construction started in the year 1634 after being founded by Anne of Austria in 1621.
One of the most fascinating features of this immense structure is its dome which forms a prominent landmark of the skyline of the city. This dome featured one of the largest cupolas in Paris at the time and was completed in 1666. Its interior features a magnificent fresco as well.
14. Saint-Louis en l’Île Church
We already discussed two churches located on the Île de la Cité, the historical heart of Paris, but there’s another river island in the center of Paris as well. This island is called the Île Saint-Louis and is located just southeast of its larger neighbor.
As you would surely expect, a church was built n this picturesque island as well called “Saint-Louis en l’Île” or “Saint Louis on the Island.” The earlier church on this location was replaced by the current structure which was completed between 1664 and 1675.
15. Basilica of Sainte-Clotilde
The Basilica of Saint Clotilde is an enormous Basilica church located in the 7th arrondissement of Paris, not too far away from Les Invalides and the Eiffel Tower. The church is dominated by its two amazing Gothic spires that tower above the main façade of the structure.
It’s far from being the oldest church in Paris because its construction only began in 1846. The neo-Gothic basilica was completed just over a decade later in 1857 and was declared a minor basilica in the year 1896. The square in front of the church is known as the Samuel-Rousseau Square and is a popular place to hang out and relax, enjoying the presence of chestnut trees.