Can you guess how many churches and cathedrals there are in Paris? If you said 200, then you must be either really good at guessing or an extremely knowledgeable person! Paris churches and cathedrals seem to be present on the corner of every street and are undeniably some of the most stunning in the world.
Catholicism heavily influenced France for many centuries, for it was the official religion. As a result, the monarchs and kings governing edified more than 50,000 churches and cathedrals with time. As one can expect, each one of them had a different architectural style and theme.
These religious and spiritual relics stand as physical evidence of what the country has gone through, from the fall of the Roman empire to the French revolution, and from the 12th century Notre-Dame de Paris to the 19th century Sacré-Coeur Basilica. Most of these churches were damaged and fell into near-ruin during the revolution. However, the renovation of many, including Paris churches and cathedrals, allows us to fully enjoy these architectural masterpieces today.
We rounded up the 5 most magnificent Paris churches and cathedrals below, to add to your travel bucket-list right now!
5. La Madeleine
Formally known as “L’église Sainte-Marie-Madeleine”, La Madeleine is one of the most unique and distinguished Paris churches and cathedrals. Its remarkable Roman architecture and neo-classical style really set it apart.
La Madeleine was inspired by Maison Carrée, another smaller church in Nîmes, France. The synagogue-turned-church was founded at the beginning of the 12th century to commemorate Saint Mary Magdalene. However, in the 19th century, Napoleon chose its site as a memorial for the Temple de la Gloire de la Grande Armée (“Temple to the Glory of the Great Army”). He rebuilt it completely and gave it its current form.
The first thing that strikes the first-time visitors in La Madeleine is its Roman temple external form. The 20-meter high Corinthian columns never cease to awe and give off a sense of grandeur to the church.
Our advice: You can easily access La Madeleine from the famous Place La Concorde. Make sure to drop by if you’re in the hottest district of Paris.
- Website: Eglise La Madeleine
- Address: 14, rue de Surène – 75008 Paris
- Prices: Free.
If you ever want to feel the majesty and solemnity of Gothic architecture, then you should definitely pay a visit to Sainte-Chapelle.
This royal chapel is well-known for its magnificent upper-level interior. It has the most extensive 13th-century stained glass collections in the world.
This pinnacle of the Gothic architecture was commissioned in the mid-13th century by King Louis IX of France. Its main goal was to house his collection of Passion relics.
Our advice: Go to Sainte-Chapelle on a sunny day and bask in the vibrant colored lights filtered through the stunning stained glass. Blissful moments guaranteed!
- Website: Sainte-Chapelle
- Address: 8, boulevard du Palais, 75001, Paris
- Prices: Between 11€ and 15€.
3. Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral
Situated in the heart of Hôtel Des Invalides, Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral plays a central role in the history of France.
The Hôtel Des Invalides (also called Les Invalides) was originally erected as a retirement home for war veterans during the reign of Louis XIV. Answering the desires of the king and the needs of war veterans, the construction of the site evolved until it became a complex of buildings. All are relating to the military history of France, including museums, monuments, a hospital and the Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral.
The cathedral faces the Dôme des Invalides, a large church with the tombs of some of France’s war heroes, most notably Napoleon Bonaparte.
Our advice: Don’t stop at Saint-Louis des Invalides Cathedral, it would be a shame to miss all other Hôtel des Invalides monuments. Estimate a whole morning or afternoon to visit them all, and check the opening hours and days.
- Website: Saint-Louis des Invalides
- Address: Esplanade des Invalides side, 129 ruede Grenelle
- Prices: From 10€ to 12€
2. Notre-Dame de Paris
Who doesn’t know Notre-Dame de Paris? The Gothic beauty of the cathedral led Victor Hugo himself to praise it in long paragraphs in his widely acclaimed book The Hunchback of Notre-Dame.
Notre-Dame de Paris is a jewel of French Gothic architecture, especially with its small individually crafted statues such as gargoyles and chimeras. Since the construction of Notre-Dame de Paris took almost 2 centuries, it had known its share of neglect and mismanagement. Luckily, it didn’t diminish its splendor after its renovation.
Our advice: Climb the steps and spiral staircases of the cathedral and take in a breathtaking view of Paris.
- Website: Notre-Dame de Paris
- Address: 6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Place Jean-Paul II, 75004 Paris
- Prices: Free for all except the towers, which cost 10€ (but free for under 18s and 18-25s from the European Union).
1. Sacré-Coeur Basilica
The highest point of Paris is calling you. Sacré-Coeur Basilica is easily one of the most jaw-dropping churches in the world. Proudly crowning Montmartre district, Sacré-Coeur Basilica serves as a historical and political monument. Built strategically on top of the most rebellious neighborhood of Paris, its purpose was washing away the population’s sins.
As opposed to the other Paris churches and cathedrals, Sacré-Coeur Basilica is built in white stone and features Romano-Byzantine-inspired features. It has some nationalist symbols such as the two equestrian statues of French nationalsaints Joan of Arc and King Saint Louis IX. The church also possesses one of the heaviest bells in the world: the Savoyarde bell, weighing 19 tons.
You can also admire the mosaic of Christ in Majesty in the apse of the church, one of the largest in the world. Head then to the top of the dome, open to anyone wanting to see the amazing panoramic view of Paris.
Our advice: After your visit, enjoy a moment of relaxation in the green space down the basilica, you may even find some visitors enjoying a light picnic there.
- Website: Sacré-Coeur Basilica
- Address: Parvis du Sacré-Coeur – 35 rue du Chevalier de la Barre, 75018 Paris
- Prices: Free, except for dome and crypt.
How about you, which one of these Paris churches and cathedrals caught your attention the most? Did you visit any of them before? Let us know in the comments, and don’t miss our next article to learn how to visit all important monuments of Paris in 5 days and get the most out of your short vacation.