• Leslie

The Best Virtual Tours of Paris Landmarks and Museums

Updated: May 13


Luxembourg Gardens in Paris, which you can tour virtually on Google Arts & Culture


Here's my wanderlusty guide to the best virtual tours of iconic Paris landmarks and museums.


Do you wish you were in Paris? Or need some destination or cultural inspiration (who doesn't)? Well, there's a fix. Now, you can explore French wonders right from your couch or computer. You'll be transported to the City of Light with the click of a mouse.


Allons-y!

The Best Virtual Tours of Paris To Take Online


Let's take the best virtual tours of Paris landmarks and museums together. FYI, in this guide, I've only included art museums with massive online collections on Google Arts & Culture. If you need even more fine art and want the complete scoop on all Paris museums that you can virtually visit, here's my guide for that.



skulls in the Paris Catacombs


1. Paris Catacombs Virtual Tour


The Catacombs is Paris' "Empire of Death,” a 200 mile honeycomb of tunnels. The system is so enormous that no one knows exactly how many tunnels or chambers exist. The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables' Jean Valjean both haunted these tunnels. During WWII, the French Resistance used the tunnels.


With cemeteries in Paris overflowing, a portion of the tunnels were turned into an ossuary for human remains. At first, bones were haphazardly deposited. Eventually, they were organized and systematically displayed.


Now, housebound horror fans can get their fix of Parisian gore. Check out this virtual Catacombs tour. This virtual tour gets you even closer.



the beautiful dome of Les Invalides


2. Les Invalides Virtual Tour


Les Invalides is a complex of buildings in the 7th arrondissement. It includes: (1) the the royal chapel, known as the Cathedral of St. Louis des Invalides, with its iconic golden dome; (2) the Musee de l'Armee, and (3) Napoleon's Tomb.


The cathedral was Paris' tallest building until the Eiffel Tower was erected in1887. It's definitely one of Paris' must see churches.

You enter the royal chapel through monumental bronze doors decorated with fleurs-de-lys and Louis XIV's initials. Inside, the decoration is sumptuous: painted cupolas, pilasters. columns, low-relief sculptures, and stained-glass windows.


You can enjoy a virtual tour of the interior of the chapel or explore the online collections of the Musee de l'Armee (Army Museum). I've also written guides on both Napoleon's Tomb and the Army Museum, which is one of Europe's best military museums.



Sacre Coeur in Paris' Montmartre neighborhood


3. Sacre Coeur Virtual Tour


The striking white Sacre Coeur is one of the most iconic attractions in Paris' popular Montmartre neighborhood in the 18th arrondissement. It sits atop Montmartre Hill, they highest point in Paris, overlooking the city.


The Sacre Coeur is not ancient Paris. It's surprisingly new. It was only completed in the early 1900s.


The Sacre Coeur offers an actual audio guide tour of the building. It comes complete with shots of the interior and exterior. You can even listen to the organ, which you might miss on a regular visit.


Check out the virtual tour here.



the massive Louvre palace


4. Louvre Virtual Tour


The Louvre is Paris' crown jewel and the world's most visited museum. This treasure trove of history is closed right now. Unfortunately, it doesn't have an arrangement with Google Arts & Culture.


But the Louvre does offer free virtual tours of some of its important exhibits. You can walk through the Egyptian Antiquities, Napoleon's Rooms, the Medieval Louvre, and works by Michelangelo. Via my blog, you can also explore the Louvre's underrated masterpieces and what I think is the best painting in the Louvre, Theodore Gericault's Raft of the Medusa.


If you're a Beyonce fan, her recent music video featured pieces from the Louvre. Now, you can follow the Beyonce Louvre Trail. Smarthistory also has a large collection of YouTube videos about individual master works in the Louvre. Don't miss everyone's favorite, the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci.


Here's my complete guide to exploring the wonders of the Louvre from home.



iconic gold clock in the Musee d'Orsay


5. Musée d’Orsay Virtual Tour


Ah, this is one of my favorite museums in Paris, housed in a beautiful converted Beaux-Arts railway station. The museum has a large collection of French paintings from 1848 to 1914. This is where you'll find one of the world's best stashes of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist art.


On Google Arts and Culture you can virtually tour dozens of famous works from French and European artists. You'll see artworks from Monet, Cézanne, Manet, Gauguin, Seurat, and so many other artists. Smarthistory has a good collection of online videos analyzing the d'Orsay's masterpieces.


In particular, the d'Orsay is a Van Gogh treasure trove. You can inspect his Self Portrait, Starry Night, Dr. Gachet, The Church at Auvers, and The Siesta. Other masterpieces at the d'Orsay include Manet's Luncheon on the Grass and Olympia, Cezanne's Card Players, Monet's Houses of Parliament, and Renoir's Moulin de la Galette.



view of the iconic Eiffel Tower in Paris


6. Eiffel Tower Virtual Tour


The Eiffel Tower is Paris' iconic landmark. It was built for the World Fair in 1889 in record construction time, and considered an engineering marvel at the time. But the Eiffel Tower can also be a Paris tourist trap, plagued with crowds and lines.


Now, you can go up the tower virtually. On the Google Arts & Culture virtual tour, you can enjoy the view from the top over the Champs de Mar and learn about the history of the Eiffel Tower. You can also take a virtual tour on YouTube.





7. Arc de Triomphe Virtual Tour


The Arc de Triomphe, officially titled the L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, was inaugurated in 1836. Napoleon commissioned the ceremonial structure following his victory at the Battle of Austerlitz.


The Arc de Triomphe is the centerpiece to a roundabout with 12 avenues. Beneath the arch lies the flame and tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The top of the Arc de Triomphe offers amazing views over Paris.


While this site doesn't have an interactive virtual tour, there are still 360 shots of the famous landmark and you can virtually tour it on YouTube.





8. Sainte-Chapelle Virtual Tour


Completed in 1248 and enshrined within the Palais de Justice, Sainte-Chapelle is Paris’ most exquisite Gothic monument. It's a 14th century royal chapel, built by Louis IX to house the relics of the passion of Christ. You'll be awed by the gorgeous stained glass and intricate painted wood columns.


Now, you don't have to wait in line. You can see the stunning stained glass panels up close and personal on a virtual tour. And you can check out the site on Google Arts & Culture or on Smarthistory.



the Medici Fountain in the Luxembourg Gardens


9. Luxembourg Gardens, Virtual Tour


Luxembourg Gardens is one of Paris' ever-so-pretty green spots, full of architectural delights, in the Latin Quarter. It's essentially an outdoor sculpture museum. Dating from 1612, the sun-speckled gardens featured heavily in Victor Hugo's romantic novel Les Miserables. They were frequented by the real life philosophers Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir.


Marie de Medici, Henry IV's widow, commissioned the Luxembourg gardens in the 1630. They were styled to emulate the Boboli Garden of the Pitti Palace, Medici’s childhood home in Florence. The crowning glory is the incredibly romantic Medici Fountain. It's a grotto-like monument designed to emulate water seeping from the stones.


Now, you can visit the Luxembourg Gardens online via Google Arts & Culture. There are two stories about the gardens and 45 photos, including some of its most famous statues. You can take a 360 tour of the Medici Fountain here.



Monet water lilies in the Musee de L'Orangerie

10. Musee de l'Orangerie Virtual Tour


Paris' Musée de l'Orangerie, or the Orangerie Museum, is one of the best small museums in Paris. It's a quick 10 minute walk from its more popular sister museum the Musée D'Orsay. And it's completely worth the detour, a hidden gem in Paris just waiting for avid fans of the Impressionist painter Claude Monet.


The Orangerie's main claim to fame is its famed collection of Monet's water lilies, some of which can also be found at the equally stunning Musée Marmottan Monet in Paris' 16th arrondissement.


In 1927, the water lilies were set in massive curved panels and installed in two adjoining oval shaped rooms in the new museum. Some art historians call the Orangerie the world's first "art installation" because the space was designed specifically for Monet's water lilies.

Here's my complete guide to the Orangerie. You can also visit the museum masterpieces virtually on Google Arts & Culture or on Smarthistory.



the beautiful Musée de la Vie Romantique


11. Paris Musées Collections Virtual Tours


In a collective effort, Paris museums have made 100,000 images of artworks from Paris museums freely available to the public. This includes digital downloads of masterpieces by artists like Rembrandt, Courbet, and Eugène Delacroix. Here's the digital collections portal.


This group includes 14 municipal museums in Paris, which are listed below. I've written guides on some of these museums and link to them below.



Henri Matisse, La Dance, 1930-33 -- at the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris


Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

Maison de Balzac

Musée Bourdelle

Carnavalet Museum History of Paris

The Catacombs

Musée Cernuschi Museum of Asian Art

Musée Cognacq-Jay

Archaeological Crypt of Notre-Dame

Musée Galliera

Museum of the General Leclerc and the Paris’ Liberation – Jean Moulin Museum

Petit Palais City of Paris Museum of Fine Arts

Musée de la Vie Romantique

Maison de Victor Hugo Paris 

Zadkine Museum


For even more art in Paris, here's my guide to 8 free museums in Paris. And here's my guide to 10 secret museums in Paris that aren't the Louvre.



the Opera Garnier


12. The Paris Opera House, Opéra national de Paris Virtual

Tour


The Opera Garnier might be the most beautiful building in Paris. Especially if you’re in the mood for gold. It first sprang from the brain of Napoleon III, who had almost been assassinated at the old opera house.


The exterior is sometimes compared to a wedding cake. You can sort of see why.

It's built in a rather bombastic Beaux-Artes style with eclectic Neo-Baroque elements.


The interior was designed in four segments: the entrance, the auditorium, the stage, and the administrative offices. As you proceed through, it’s almost a crescendo, with each room more magnificent than the next. There's gold and marble everywhere. Even a mini Versailles-like Hall of Mirrors.


Now, you can explore the Opera Garnier virtually on Google Arts & Culture. During this tour, you’ll be able to explore everything -- the grand staircase, the stage, the balconies, and even the rich red velvet seats. You can marvel at the magnificently painted ceiling by Marc Chagall.


Here's my complete guide to the Opera Garnier if you want more information.





13. Notre-Dame de Paris Virtual Tour


On April 15, 2019, Notre Dame and I cried. Located on the Île de la Cité in the middle of the Seine River, the Gothic cathedral with its dramatic flying buttresses is 859 years old. The first stone of the cathedral was laid in 1163. It was completed in 1345.

Since then, Notre Dame has been the toast of Europe, a utopian symbol of western civilization, of literature, and of culture.

Notre Dame has a storied history. Louis IX deposited the crown of thrones there in 1239. Henry VI was crowned king there in 1431 after the 100 Year War. Mary Queen of Scots was married there. Napoleon was coronated as emperor there in 1804 and married there in 1810. In 1909, Joan of Arc was beatified by the pope.


Since the fateful fire, you can no longer visit. There will likely be years of construction. But don't despair. Now you can visit take a 360 tour of the edifice virtually. The tour takes you down the nave. You can study the stained glass and rose windows.



the Basilica of Saint-Denis


14. The Basilica of Saint-Denis Virtual Tour


Just outside the Paris city limits lies a completely overlooked hidden gem, the fantastic and underrated Cathedral Basilica de Saint-Denis. It's a French national treasure.


Saint-Denis is the birthplace of Gothic architecture. It heralds Europe's transition from a clunky Romanesque style to a more elegant Gothic one. It's one of the most historic and religiously important buildings in Paris. And it's essentially a museum of monumental French religious sculpture.


As the world's first Gothic church, the basilica is even on the tentative UNESCO list. If it still had its north tower, it might be already.


Here's my complete guide to Saint-Denis. You can tour the basilica virtually on YouTube or take this Smarthistory guided tour.




the Grand Palais


15. Grand Palais Virtual Tour


The Grand Palais is a massive palace, Paris' Beaux-Arts icon. The facade combines a classical stone facade and a riot of Art Nouveau ironwork. It has a beautiful glass roof. At the corners, are statues of flying horses and chariots. At night, the glass roof glows, lit from the inside.


The Grand Palais is used for all sort of occasions. It hosts art exhibitions, fairs, trade shows, and sporting events. In winter, it even has an ice rink.


You can go on a virtual tour of the Grand Palais and learn about its history and design. You can go up the roof and see panoramic views of Paris. The Grand Palais has partnered with Google Arts & Culture. You'll find hundreds of images, stories, and photographs.



Musée des Arts Décoratifs


16. Musée des Arts Décoratifs Virtual Tour


Paris' Decorative Art Museum combines beautiful architecture with priceless art. Decorative arts are objects and crafts whose purpose is both beautiful and functional. The museum has room after room of furniture, reconstructed rooms, mirrors, glass vases, jewelry, books, and fashion items. The museum also hosts special exhibitions.


You can take a virtual tour of the museum online here at Google Arts & Culture.



Louis XIV's Palace of Versailles


17. Palace of Versailles Virtual Tour


The Palace of Versailles is massive, flashy, and very, very gold. The opulence is overwhelming. Even the bathrooms are gold plated. It's the most famous and popular day trip from Paris. It's been a UNESCO site since 1979.


The Sun King Louis XIV transformed his father’s hunting lodge into a monumental palace in the mid 17th century. Located in the quaint suburb of Versailles, the Baroque palace was France's political capital and royal seat from 1682 until October 5, 1789.


Now you can explore the palace virtually on Google Arts & Culture. You can go outside and inside for a birds's eye view. And admire the famous Hall of Mirrors. Versailles 3D, created by Google, also gives you an impressive tour.


If you need more info, here's my complete guide to taking a virtual tour of the Palace of Versailles. If you'd like to go behind the scenes and visit the filming locations for the BBC's series Versailles, here's my guide.



Napoleon II's Pierrefonds Castle


18. Pierrefonds Castle Virtual Tour


Right outside Paris is another magical palace, Pierrefonds Castle. In 1857, Napoleon III hired the famed architect Viollet-le-Duc to rebuild the romantic ruins of Pierrefonds Castle. The ruins have been captured by many artist, including Camille Corot. Napoleon III longed for a lavish castle, fit for a king and evoking a medieval fantasy.


Inspired by Coucy Castle, one of my favorite French ruins, Viollet-le-Duc wanted to maintain an equilibrium between fortified palace with beautiful state rooms and a residence. The rooms are recreated in vibrant rich colors as they would have appeared in the Middle Ages, with medieval motifs like St. George and the Dragon.


Here's my complete guide to Pierrefonds Castle. Here's a 360 virtual tour of Pierrefonds. And you can also explore the castle on its official website.



the Chateau de Vincennes


19. Chateau de Vincennes Virtual Tour


Lying in the eastern suburbs of Paris is the 14th century Chateau de Vincennes. The chateau began life as as a royal hunting lodge in the 12th century. During the 13th century, the lodge was transformed into a larger, palatial estate for the French kings.


In the 14th century, the venerable building you see today was reconstructed, renovated, and modernized. It became the primary royal seat until Versailles was completed. When the 52 foot Donjon was added, Chateau de Vincennes became the tallest medieval fortified structure in Europe.


The chateau is wholly intact with a keep, dungeon, moat, and fortified concentric walls. You can take a 360 tour of the chateau here and explore it online at Google Arts& Culture.

St Etienne du Mont, which makes an appearance in Midnight in Paris

20. Saint-Etienne-du-Mont Church Virtual Tour


Saint-Étienne-du-Mont is a secret spot in Paris' latin Quarter. It's the final resting place of Paris' patron saint, Saint Genevieve. The exterior has an asymmetrical design, with a tall belfry on the left side.


Inside, there's an elaborate and rather unique rood screen, which separates the chancel from the nave. It's flanked by two distinctive spiral staircases and is the only one of its kind in Paris. The stained glass dates from the 16th and 17th centuries. The church was heavily damaged during the French Revolution, like so much else, but was restored in the 19th century.

You can take a 360 virtual tour of the church and explore it on Google Arts & Culture.



Eglise Saint Sulpice


21. Eglise Saint Sulpice Virtual Tour


The 17th century Saint Sulpice is a hidden gem on Paris' Left Bank. Its mismatched towers seem to float over a quasi-Greek temple. Saint Sulpice is a vast church, a massive hodgepodge really, second in size only to Notre Dame.


Victor Hugo, who disliked "pretentious" neoclassical architecture, derided Saint-Sulpice's two towers as "two giant clarinets." But inside, you'll find real treasures -- a magnificent organ and gorgeous restored murals by famed French painter, Eugene Delacroix.


You can take a 360 virtual tour of the church. If you want to see and learn about the Delacroix murals, check this out.



the Cluny Museum


22. Cluny Museum, the National Museum of the Middle Ages,

Virtual Tour


Are you a history buff who wants to be transported back to the late Middle Ages? Or are you, like everyone else it seems, just crazy for mythical unicorns? If so, the Musée Cluny is a must see site in the Latin Quarter of Paris.


It's truly one of my favorite museums in the City of Light. The museum's housed in the Hotel de Cluny, built in the 14th century and adjacent to an extant Roman bath.


This museum is dedicated to all things from the Middle Ages. Its centerpiece is the famous Lady and the Unicorn tapestries, considered the Mona Lisa of tapestries and one of the greatest surviving medieval relics.


You can take a virtual YouTube tour of the museum here. And here's a 360 tour of the beautiful museum.





23. The Conciergerie Virtual Tour


Perched on the Île de la Cité, the Conciergerie has had myriad incarnations. It's morphed from a medieval palace to a torture prison to a notorious guillotine way station to a public museum. Its magnificent Hall of Soldiers, with incredible ribbed vaulting, is a UNESCO-listed site.


The 6th century Conciergerie began life as a royal palace. But in the 14th century the royals abandoned it. It became an infamous prison during the French Revolution. It's most notorious prisoner was Marie Antoinette.


You can now take a virtual 360 tour of the Conciergerie.



Chateau Sceaux


24. Chateau de Sceaux


Sceaux Castle is a dreamy little chateau-castle just outside Paris. The chateau was originally built in 1670. But it was demolished during the French Revolution.


In 1856, it was re-built by the Duke of Treviso. The castle lies in a beautiful estate with a cherry blossom orchard and orangery, which makes a spring visit enticing.

Like Versailles and Vaux-le-Vicomte, the gardens of Sceaux were designed by master landscaper André Le Nôtre. There are fountains, green spaces, and trees galore. And the grounds are free to visit.


Sceaux was one of the filming locations for the BBC series Versailles. You can take virtual tour of the chateau's beautiful interiors on YouTube here.



Louis XIV and his mistress Madame de Montespan on the BBC show Versailles


25. Virtual TV Shows and Books About Paris


Paris is a good city to enjoy vicariously. One way to experience the magic of Paris is to have a Paris movie night. My particular favorites are Midnight in Paris and Amelie. Midnight in Paris has beautiful shots of the Latin Quarter.


One of my all time favorite Netflix shows is also set in Paris, Call My Agent. It's a charming dramedy about French agents representing temperamental movie stars.


And of course there's always the BBC show Versailles on Netflix or Amazon Prime. The series is about Louis XIV's quest to create the most beautiful palace in Europe, seize absolute control of France, and romance women. If you'd like to visit the filming locations for Versailles, here's my guide.


If you prefer to put your nose in a book rather than watch TV, I have a handy list of my 20 favorite books set in Paris. You can let your imagination run wild and travel through the streets of Paris in peace and quiet.



the Louvre in Paris


If you'd like to travel virtually to other places in Europe, I've got guides for that too:


Virtual Louvre

Virtual Lisbon

Virtual London

Virtual Rome

Virtual France

Virtual Andalusia

Virtual Barcelona

Virtual Palaces in Europe

Virtual Paris Museums

Virtual Italian Museums

Virtual Spanish Museums

Virtual French Chateaux


If you'd like take some virtual tours of Paris, pin it for later.












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