10 Best Things to do in La Défense, Paris


If you’ve spent any amount of time in Paris, then you’ve probably noticed the skyscrapers that figure into the (otherwise very ancient) city skyline. These skyscrapers are actually located in La Défense, or Paris’ business district. La Défense is situated just 3 kilometers to the West of Paris, right outside the city limits.

La Défense is a major business district, where a lot of large French banks and corporations are headquartered. Lots of Parisians commute to work here, but there’s actually a lot more to do in La Défense. Here’s a guide to the 10 best things to do in La Défense, Paris. 

1. Admire a bird’s eye view of Paris from the Grande Arche

Photo courtesy of lagrandearche.fr – Sourced from their official website gallery

Standing 110 meters high, the Grande Arche de La Défense provides a bird’s eye view of Paris in the distance. Climbing to the top and taking in the views is easily one of the 10 best things to do in La Défense. Plus, the Arche was constructed to be perfectly in line with not only the Arc de Triomphe, but also the Arche in the Tuileries Garden which makes for some unique framing opportunities. 

There’s also an exhibition space dedicated to photojournalism, and a restaurant where you can refuel after your visit. 

grande arche de la défense – 1 Parvis de la Défense, 92800 Puteaux
metro station: la défense RER
opening hours:
monday to friday from 9:30AM to 7PM

2. Visit the Nanterre Cathedral

Photo by Spedona on Wikimedia Commons

Constructed in 1966, the Nanterre Cathedral is a Roman-Catholic church located in La Défense. And before you ask how this one made it onto my list of the 10 best things to do in La Défense, just hear me out. This Art Deco style cathedral is actually much more impressive inside than out. The beautiful stained glass windows and vaulted ceilings make this place worth a visit. And this cathedral is actually the seat of the Bishop of Nanterre!

Nanterre Cathderal – 28 Rue de l’Église, 92000 Nanterre
metro station: Nanterre – ville RER
opening hours:
open daily from 7Am to 8PM

3. Marvel at the construction of Europe’s tallest Skyscrapers

Photo courtesy of defense-92.fr

It’s no secret that La Défense is home to some of the tallest buildings in the Paris region. But did you know that soon it will also be home to the tallest skyscrapers in all of Europe? 

That’s right, the Hermitage Plaza project will soon be the tallest building in Europe. There will be three towers in total, the shortest one (measuring 309 meters or76 stories tall) was finished in 2014. The final two towers are currently under construction and will stand 320 meters high, and have 87 and 86 floors respectively. The construction is set to be completed in 2027. 

4. Stroll through an open air art gallery

Photo courtesy of Parisladefense.fr

One of La Défense’s best kept secrets is that there are several dozen modern artworks decorating the city center. From ‘the Thumb’ statue by César to even a piece of the Berlin Wall, there are artworks throughout the La Défense city center. It’s literally a free open-air museum you can stroll through! You can find a full list of the artworks and their locations here

5. Do some shopping at the Westfield Mall

One of the best things to do in La Défense is shop! La Défense is home to a huge shopping mall and commercial center, the Westfield 4 Temps. Here you’ll find plenty of fashion boutiques with international and French brands from Adidas to Aigle to Desigual. A giant Auchan supermarket, plenty of home decor boutiques, and even an Apple store have also staked their claim here. There’s also over 40 restaurants and eateries located throughout the shopping center in case you need to stop and refuel. 

westfield 4 temps – 5 Parvis De La Défense, 92092 Puteaux
metro station: la défense rer
opening hours:
open daily from 10AM to 8:30PM

6. Enjoy the André Malraux Park

Photo by unknown on Wikimedia Commons

Enjoying some time at a beautiful park is easily one of the 10 best things to do in La Défense.  The André Malraux park is a 25 hectare green space right in the middle of La Défense! There are walking paths, fields, meadows and even a large pond. This spot is perfect for catching a breath of fresh air or enjoying a picnic during your visit to La Défense. 

parc andré malraux – 39 Avenue Pablo Picasso, 92000 Nanterre
metro station: nanterre prefecture rer
open 24/7

7. Check out the Food Trucks

One of the great things about being such a bustling business district – there are plenty of dining options! Over the past couple of years, several dozen food trucks have begun to make the rounds at La Défense lunch hour. There is a huge variety of cuisine available, from fusion food to classic French, to Italian and even Poké. They can generally be found in Parvis de La Défense, but their position changes often. Find a full schedule here

8.  Check out La Défense Jazz Festival

Each June, La Défense hosts an open-air jazz festival. If you’re a jazz fan, this is definitely something you won’t want to miss. This year’s festival is scheduled for June 21st-27th and features over two dozen artists – a great blend of renowned musicians and up and coming talents. Names like Melody Gardot, Ana Carla Maza, and Asaf Avidan are all on this year’s lineup. Oh and the best part? Entry is free! Find the full schedule and all the festival info here. 

9. Catch a movie at the Cinema

Sometimes you’re just in the mood to sit back and enjoy a movie – especially after a long day of sightseeing. Luckily, La Défense is home to UGC, a great cinema where you can catch a movie just about any time of the day or night. You can find all the showtimes here

UGC la défense – Parvis de la défense, 92800 Puteaux
metro station: la défense rer 

10. Have drinks with a view at Skyline Lounge Bar

Photo courtesy of Skyline Lounge Bar – Sourced from their website gallery

Fancy having a drink with a panoramic view of Paris? Grabbing a drink or two at the Skyline Bar is definitely one of the best 10 things to do in La Défense. Perched high on the 19th floor of Melia Paris La Défense, this bar and lounge still manages to remain cozy while providing breathtaking views. 

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skyline lounge bar – 2 2 Espl. du Général de Gaulle, 92400 Courbevoie
metro station: esplanade de la défense rer