Famous Churches in Paris – Gothic at its Best

The French invented Gothic architecture and Paris is one of the easiest places to experience it. Within a twenty minute walk of the Cathedral of Notre Dame are a number of other historic and famous churches in Paris that should also not be missed.

Notre Dame is one of the beautiful churches in Paris

Last Updated on 06/27/22 by Rose Palmer

There are many beautiful and famous churches in Paris, France, but the grand dame Gothic Paris church is without a doubt the Cathedral of Notre Dame. And while visitors flock to see it, within a twenty minute walk are a number of  other lovely historic churches that also should not be missed. Read on to discover some of the other churches of Paris at their Gothic best.

The architecture of the old European churches never ceases to amaze me. Without computers, mechanized machinery or advanced mathematical knowledge, and using only basic hand tools and rudimentary understanding of geometry, the medieval builders were able to create architectural masterpieces that have lasted hundreds, some even 1000, years.

They figured out how to build bigger and taller, supporting heavy stone roofs, while at the same time, bathing the interior with color and light through large beautiful stained glass windows. And they showed persistence and dedication as many of the great churches took generations to build and complete.

The French invented Gothic architecture, building upon the Romanesque churches that came before. The first church built in a Gothic style is Saint Denis Basilica in what is now the northern suburbs of Paris.

This characteristic architectural style which used pointed arches for the high vaulted ceilings, spread throughout France and the rest of western Europe. Not surprising, many of the famous churches in Paris are beautiful examples of Gothic design.

Discover the famous churches in Paris

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Paris

The sun sets over Notre Dame Cathedral
The sun sets over Notre Dame Cathedral

THE Gothic church in Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame is Paris’ most famous church and one of the iconic tourist sites to visit. Construction on the church was started in 1160 and completed around 165 years later. It was the first church to require and use flying buttresses to support the weight of the high roof. For me, what makes Notre Dame interesting are the details, especially the intricate stone sculptures on the outside.

Closest Metro stop: Cité

One of the highly elaborate entrance doors of Notre Dame de Paris
One of the highly elaborate entrance doors

Details inside Notre Dame de Paris

After the unfortunate recent fire in 2019, Notre-Dame de Paris is under renovation and is still swathed in scaffolding. The projected reopening is scheduled for  2024.

Notre Dame de Paris under renovation
Notre Dame de Paris in Summer 2019



Paris Saint Chapelle church

My favorite Gothic Church in Paris, and in my opinion, one of the most beautiful churches in Paris, has to be Sainte Chapelle.  Just down the street from its more famous neighbor Notre Dame de Paris, it is built on a much smaller and intimate scale.

The church was built by King Louis IX in 1248 to house a collection of Christian relics that he had purchased, including the crown of thorns. Most of the relics were dispersed during the French Revolution and what is left has been preserved at Notre Dame instead.

What makes Saint-Chappelle stand out are the high walls of 13th century stained glass windows – 15 windows that are each 45 feet high. It feels like the walls are nothing but windows.  The bare minimum of stone supports was used, and as a result the inside is an airy, graceful expression of light and color. The windows tell the stories of the old and new testament in intricate detail.

About two thirds of the windows are still original and were carefully restored in the 19th century. To protect them during WWII, each pane was carefully removed and stored, and then meticulously replaced after the war ended.

To compliment the windows, the interior was painted in bright reds, blues and golds and decorated with larger than life statues of the twelve apostles. It’s an absolutely beautiful and breathtaking space.

One of my favorite activities in Paris is to attend one of the evening classical music concerts at Saint Chappelle.  Listening to talented classical musicians as candle light dances on the multicolored windows or in summer as the glow of the setting sun creates a rainbow of color throughout the chapel is an experience that should not be missed.

To visit Sainte Chapelle, you will need to pre purchase a ticket with a reserved date and time. You can purchase tickets online.

Closest Metro stop: Cité

Sainte-Chapelle exterior
Sainte-Chapelle exterior
Detail of the intricate stained glass windows of Saint Chapelle
Detail of the intricate stained glass windows.


Eglise Saint-Severin

Eglise Saint-Severin in Paris

Another one of the churches in Paris that I love to visit for its beautiful stained glass windows is Saint Severin, located in the city’s famous Latin Quarter.  This church was originally built in the 13th century, but over the next 400 years was enlarged, rebuilt and modified many times, though the original Gothic style predominates.

The stained glass windows in the upper level around the altar are said to be from the 15th century, however, the windows that immediately capture the eye are the beautiful colored modern stained glass windows by Jean Bazaine that were installed in 1970.

The seven windows represent the seven catholic sacraments. Another interesting element to this church are the columns that line the ambulatory that have been carved to look like palm trees. The centerpiece is the central column behind the altar which is also carved in a twisting pattern.

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Cluny-La Sorbonne or Saint-Michel

St. Severin exterior
St. Severin
Detail of one of the modern windows at St. Severin
Detail of one of the modern windows


Eglise Saint-Sulpice

Eglise Saint-SulpiceTechnically, Saint Sulpice is not a Gothic church, but rather late Baroque in style. Never the less, as one of the largest churches in Paris it is still impressive. The current building is a second version of a previous Romanesque church.

Construction of the current version began in the mid 1600s and continued for about 75 years. The church is known for its three Eugene Delacroix paintings and its large organ with over 6500 pipes and free organ recitals on Sunday afternoon.

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Saint Sulpice


Eglise Saint-Germain-des-Pres

Eglise Saint Germain des Pres

Another of the best churches in Paris though not particularly well known to tourists is the colorful Eglise Saint Germain des Prés. The original church was founded in 543 which makes it the oldest church in Paris. Eventually a massive rural abbey complex grew around the church and became very powerful.

The abbey was destroyed many times by the Normans, and then finally in the French Revolution. The church that we see today is a mix of rebuilt styles – Romanesque, Gothic and Renaissance. The interior recently underwent an extensive restoration, bringing back to life the brightly colored murals, walls and ceilings.

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Saint-Germain-des-Pres

The Romanesque tower of Saint Germaine-de-Pres
The Romanesque tower of Saint Germaine-de-Pres
The beautifully restored ceiling of Saint Germain des Pres church
The beautifully restored ceiling


Saint Etienne-du-Mont

Saint Etienne du Mont

Next door to the Pantheon is the lovely little Gothic Saint Etienne-du-Mont from the 1400’s.  It’s a surprisingly light and airy church with stonework that is open and lacy. The church is best known for its surviving finely carved stone choir screen.

This church also has some lovely stained glass windows and ornate side chapels. It is also the shrine to St. Genevieve, the patron saint of Paris. It is believed that in  451 AD Genevieve’s prayers were responsible for Atillas’ marauding army to change course and go to Orleans instead of Paris.

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Cardinal Lemoine

The finely carved stone choir screen at Etienne du Mont church
The finely carved stone choir screen
Side chapel at Etienne du Mont church
Side chapel
The delicate stone carvings and stained glass window of Etienne du Mont church
The delicate stone carvings and stained glass window



Details of. Saint Eustache exterior
Details of. Saint Eustache exterior

Saint Eustache, considered a masterpiece of late Gothic architecture even though it was completed in the 17th century. It is also one of the largest Gothic churches and could be easily mistaken for a cathedral. Over 300 feet long and about 100 feet to the vaulted ceiling, it overwhelms when you step inside. The church was built between 1532 and 1632, replacing the original parish church from the 13th century that had outgrown its flock of parishioners.

Due to the time frame of its construction, St. Eustache also has Renaissance decorative details. Inside the side chapels are especially attractive, decorated with paintings, sculptures and highly ornamental painted details on the stonework. To go along with such a large church, St. Eustache also lays claim to the largest organ in France with an an impressive 8000 pipes, and offers regular free concerts.

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Les Halles

Saint Eustache church
Saint Eustache church
One of the side chapels of St. Eustache
One of the side chapels
Chapel of the Virgin at Saint Eustache
Chapel of the Virgin



This church is located across the street from the east wing of the Louvre and was built between the 13th and 15th century. I have not yet had a chance to visit this church, but am looking forward to seeing it next time I visit Paris.

Closest Metro stop: Louvre-Rivoli


Sacre-Coeur Basilica

I would be remiss not to mention the big white church on the Montmartre hill that dominates the Paris skyline, though it is not built in the Gothic style. Compared to the other churches in Paris, this one is quite new as it was built in the late 19th century.

The basilica is beautiful inside and out, though photography is not allowed inside. Find all the information you need for a visit at https://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com/english/

Entrance is free when the church is open.

Closest Metro stop: Anvers


Paris is definitely the place to go if you admire Gothic architecture. Of the many beautiful Gothic churches in the city of Paris these are just the ones I’ve visited. I look forward to discovering more the next time I am there.

You can read about one of my other favorite French churches, the spectacular Chartres Cathedral. Chartres is an easy day trip from Paris and is well worth a visit to see this masterpiece of great Gothic architecture as well as to explore the cute town.


Other stories you may like:

Spend a day at the exquisite Palace of Versailles: How to Spend a Day in Versailles – A Golden Palace Designed to Impress

Visit Monet’s garden at Giverny: A Day in Giverny – Impressions of Monet

Visiting the Eiffel Tower: My memories of the Eiffel Tower

Photos of the Louvre: The Louvre as Art


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