The Most Beautiful Churches To Visit in Paris
If you’re somewhat familiar with Paris you’ll know that it’s sometime easier to find a church than it is to find a cup of coffee.
Old, Roman Catholic churches run in high supply in Paris. From many angles of the city you can spot one of the most iconic ones, the Sacré-Cœur Basilica, on the very top of Montmartre hill as if to be constantly watching over Paris in some way.
Notre Dame is another notably familiar name. This cathedral on the banks of the Seine draws an impressive 30,000 visitors per day; not exactly the place you’d head for some quite time with the man upstairs.
For as many well known churches there are in Paris, there are probably twenty equally as beautiful unknown ones in various other parts of the districts.
Since most are not considered exclusive tourist attractions, you’re unlikely to find them on the major lists of things to do or see around Paris. For this reason I’ve decided to make a list on your behalf.
Many of these churches were found solely by accident while walking the Parisian streets on a whim. Wandering into strange, old churches is a favorite pastime; so I almost always have a strong radar for them.
Others were given to me by some Paris locals who know the spots to frequent in order to avoid the tourist crowding.
Once you’ve settled in Paris, use a mapping app to determine how far your base is from each of these beautiful unknown churches — it’s not unlikely that a few will be in walking distance from wherever you are.
1. St. Sulpice Church in Paris
2 Rue Palatine
Despite pretty much being in the heart of the city centre, St. Sulpice Church is often majorly overshadowed by the Notre Dame Cathedral not far away.
Notre Dame is situated on an island in the middle of the Seine River in the 4th arrondissement. If you leave this island and head onto the Left Bank, St Sulpice Church is just a few blocks south.
It is a Roman Catholic Church that was completed back in the 17th century.
In truth, this church lost much of its “unknown” status a few years ago when it became one of the central vicinities within the plot of The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. The book put the church on the map, and fans still flock here to see it in person year round.
St. Sulpice is the second largest church in Paris. It’s quite a sight to behold, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing the mismatched towers glistening in the sunlight.
The church is within walking distance of the Jardin du Luxembourg which is a great place to head to afterward for an hour or two on the lush green grass. There is also a museum and palace on the Luxembourg grounds that are both worth some time if you have any to spare!
This is a vibrant and constantly busy part of Paris centre. With so much to see (and so little time) free guided walking tours are a hot trend all around these districts. They’ll give you the ‘all you need to know’ version of things so you don’t find yourself doing circles around the place.
2. Saint-Séverin Church in Paris
2 Rue des Prêtres Saint-Séverin
If you were to head back toward the Notre Dame island from St. Sulpice, you’ll likely pass this next beauty on your way.
The Church of Saint-Séverin is a strictly Catholic establishment just a fraction of the size of it’s church friends in the surrounding area. It is one of the oldest churches on the Left Bank and was completed in the 15th century.
Many people like to compare Saint-Séverin to Notre Dame; saying that this church is like the mini-me to the gargantuan cathedral floating on the Seine.
This is largely due to their similarities when it comes to architecture and design. Both were made with gothic style in mind, which is where much of the aesthetic familiarity can be drawn.
The Church of Saint-Séverin also features the oldest still-functioning church bell in all of Paris. The best part about touring this church is that there are strategically placed plaques all through the interior that provide information and facts as needed.
While you’re on the block, take a very short walk over toward the Seine where you’ll find the famous Shakespeare and Company bookshop.
It is renowned around the world and one of the best known independent book retailers, with an eclectic collection of new and used works to browse through. There is also a full wall mural dedicated to the memory of the writer himself; a sort of ode to what he did for literature as we know it.
3. Russian Cathedral in Paris
1 Quai Branly
One day after paying a visit to the Paris Museum of Modern Art on the Right Bank of Paris’ 16th arrondissement, I accidentally crossed the Seine trying to get back to the metro. Almost immediately, a bright, glimmering gold structure caught my eye and simultaneously transported me far out of Paris.
When you visit the Russian Cathedral you’ll know exactly what I mean. The building seems to have absolutely no place amongst the uniform Haussmann buildings that it is surrounded by.
The cathedral looks like something out of a children’s fairytale book with numerous gold tipped domes that glisten in the sunlight.
The Russian Cathedral is one of few Christian churches around Paris. It was built back in 1860 to serve as a place of worship for the vast amount of Russians who were immigrating to Paris at the time.
Some fun trivia that I later learned about this church was that in 1918 it was where Picasso himself married a Russian dancer named Olga Khokhlova.
I’d highly recommend a visit to this part of town for either the church itself or the Museum of Modern art that lead me there. Both are incredible Parisian gems to witness.
4. Évry Cathedral in Paris
Cours Mgr Roméro
Slightly outside of Paris, to the French south, you’ll come to a little town called Évry. Here you’ll find a weird and wonderful church that I can probably guarantee wont feature a single tourist other than yourself.
This is a relatively new church on the Parisian scene; it opened its doors in 1995 and is the product of the work of a Swiss architect named Mario Botta. The foreign nature of the architect will be abundantly obvious, there is nothing notably gothic or renaissance about this one.
The cathedral is cylindrical shaped and the rooftop is covered with silver linden trees; another series of interesting choices by our friend Mario.
Évry Cathedral really needs to be experienced in person for you to being to grasp the very displaced structure that it is. Make a day trip out of this one and go past the Museum Paul Delouvrier a few blocks away! I thougfhrly enjoyed the collection of African works that they have on display.
5. Charonne Village Parish Church in Paris
4 Place Saint-Blaise
Charonne is a tiny district that is part of the 20th arrondissement of Paris. It’s not far from one of my personal favorite parts of Paris, Menilmontant (hometown of the legendary Edith Piaf).
This area is considered up and coming in terms of thing to do and see in Paris. The streets are laid back, yet undoubtably Parisian with their architecture and light stone walling — well worth a visit if you ever have some time to kill.
The Parish Church of Charonne is the anthesis of almost every other gothic place of worship in the city. Instead, the Parish Church makes use of Romanesque style architecture to form its whimsical exterior.
Its and enchanting little place surrounded by a countryside-like town that makes up most of Charonne. Both the church and the bell tower were built back in the 12th century so they really have earned their mark in terms of Parisian history.
6. Saint-Étienne-du-Mont in Paris
Located on the Montagne Sainte-Geneviève in the 5th arrondissement of Paris, Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is one of the most beautiful and little known churches in the land. It is also the church where the shrine of St. Geneviève is based, the patron saint of Paris.
The church was constructed in the 15th century and is an ornate combination of gothic meets renaissance design — its incredible.
The church is situated within walking distance from the Panthéon. Most people find it because they are either looking for the Panthéon itself or on their way back from it.
In fact, the Latin Quarter is filled with attractions and things to do. In conjunction with the church you could also spend the day exploring the Cluny Museum just to the north, of the Paris Botanical Gardens a short walk to the east.
This side of the Left Bank is known for being a rambunctious place where festivities continue late into the night. You’ll find many a bar or restaurant to enjoy a drink or two after your sightseeing.
7. Église Saint-Eustache in Paris
2 Impasse Saint-Eustache
In the very heart of Paris is another gem of a church unbeknownst to many who frequent this district. The Église Saint-Eustache was built 1532 and 1642 in the 1st arrondissement of Paris.
This is another vicinity that made a point to use a combination of gothic architecture meets renaissance design. The result is a whimsical church in the very centre of Paris; that doesn’t get nearly enough recognition as it deserves.
The organ of the church is one of the most complex in all of Paris featuring over 8000 pipes that work together to make the magic. I was interested to learn that both Franz Liszt and Berlioz once made use of this particular organ to compose some of their most iconic pieces.
The stained glass windows of this church are another sight worth noting. Visiting here during sunset on a Sunday afternoon is one of the most peaceful things you can do in this city — in my opinion!
Not far from the church is the Place des Victoires, where you can observe the official statue of Statue of Louis XIV.
8. Saint-Paul Saint-Louis Church in Paris
99 Rue St. Antoine
I couldn’t let you go without introducing at least one example of Jesuit architecture in Paris; the Paroisse Saint-Paul Saint-Louis is a Roman Catholic place of worship that was built back in the 17th century.
If you’re partial to ornamentation, you’ll love this church! Many of these artifacts were stolen from the church during the revolution, however the collection remains impressive and worth a visit if you have the chance!
Typical to Jesuit style, the church features classical Corinthian pillars. The natural light flowing through the interior is beautiful. Given the vastly unknown nature of this church you’ll likely be able to bask in the interior by yourself in peace and quiet — just as King Louis XIII intended when he had the place commissioned back in 1641.
Something similarly unknown and unusual near this church is the Musée de la Magie. A museum dedicated solely to the art of magic and trickery. It’s especially a great museum to take children!
Church, after cathedral, after basilica — Paris is alive with places of worship to both participate in and enjoy visually.
Steering clear of the bigger names in attractions, you’ll come to find many beautiful churches around Paris that not many people know about; I have named but a fraction of them in this list!
I have no doubt that far weirder, far more historically rich and far more beautiful churches are hiding in the streets of Paris; here’s to slowly but surely finding them all.