The Paris skyline more than lives up to the city’s nickname as the City of Lights—in fact, it’s a perfect description of the array of modern structures, historic architecture, magnificent gardens, and old world culture located in the center of the city. Divided into twenty arrondissements (districts), each with its own number code, the central portions of the Paris skyline are enclosed in a circle ringed by the city’s major highway. Within the circle, you’ll find some of the world's most famous landmarks.
From the center of Paris, sightseers have a variety of attractions visible during the day that come alive with brilliant light creating stunning views of the city, particularly at night. In the epicenter of the city, arrondissements 1 through 8 are the focal point for historical sites, palaces, famous attractions, and cathedrals, all of which create the unique style of the Paris skyline.
The most famous aspect of the skyline is the Eiffel Tower. It’s one of the most recognizable structures in the world, and it stands out particularly well in the Paris skyline at night, as the tower is alight with vibrant colors. There are two restaurants and three landings where tourists can see a bird’s-eye view of the bustling city below, as well as many of the other structures that make up the skyline, including the Arc de Triomphe, the Place Charles de Gaulle, and the famous Notre Dame Cathedral.
The Arc de Triomphe stands as a monument to the time of Napoleon, who commissioned the arch in 1806, after France’s victory in the Battle of Austerlitz, though construction was fully not completed until 1836, when the country was then governed by Louis-Philippe. Inscribed on the structure are the names of the generals who served during Napoleon's reign. The top of the arch is accessible by walking up 234 steps to the viewing platform, where you will see particularly beautiful views of the Paris skyline at night looking down the avenue of the upscale Champs-Elysees where patrons find chic boutiques and elegant fashion venues.
In the fourth arrondissement, on the small Ile de la Cite in the Seine, is Notre Dame de Paris, the largest cathedral in the world and another magnificent example of gothic architecture set against the Paris skyline. Views of the cathedral are particularly pretty from the river itself, especially after dark, when Notre Dame is illuminated.
Another famous historic building in Paris is the Pantheon, located in the Latin Quarter. With its impressive colonnade and high dome, the structure is an imposing one, but it also has great views of the city. The structure was commissioned in 1744 to replace the ruined Abbey of St Genevieve, built in the sixth century, though it was not completed until 1791. From the colonnade of the Pantheon, which is now a secular mausoleum, you can see the Sorbonne and the Jardin du Luxembourg, among other sights.
Residing alongside the Seine across from the Louvre, the Jardin des Tuileries, and the Pont de la Concorde, the Musee d'Orsay lines the banks of the river creating a majestic backdrop to the Paris skyline. Originally built as a grand railway station in 1900, the museum opened with a collection of more than 4,000 pieces of art including work by Degas, Renoir, Rodin, van Gogh, and Cezanne.
Whether you plan to tour the city by bus or car, take the metro to stops throughout the city, or tour the meandering waters of the Seine by boat, the Paris skyline is something remarkable to see. Unlike most other cities, the major buildings in Paris are quite spread out, meaning that you’ll find unique views of the skyline as you travel through the different arrondissements.