Located in the Latin Quarter area of Paris about one mile south of Sainte-Chapelle and Notre-Dame, and a five-minute walk from the Cluny Museum of the Middle Ages and Luxembourg Gardens, the Panthéon is one of the most memorable monuments in the city. Built in the late eighteenth century as a church honoring the patroness saint of Paris, the Panthéon today has become a symbol of the French Republic and the burial place of some of the nation’s greatest heroes.

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History of the Panthéon

The Panthéon occupies a hill in the Latin Quarter area of Paris where the city’s patroness saint Genevieve is said to have been buried in the early sixth century. A church was built here in her honor later that same century, but by the middle of the eighteenth century it had deteriorated and was in terrible condition. Recovering from an illness in 1744—a miracle he attributed to the protective spirit of Saint Genevieve—King Louis XV vowed to build an inspiring new church on the site. From the beginning, though, the project was plagued by indecisive planning and financial difficulties, and work didn’t begin in earnest on the new church for some 20 years.

The Panthéon was designed by Jacques-Germain Soufflot, who was inspired by the Vatican’s St. Peter’s Basilica. He died in 1780, and the project was seen to completion by one of his students, Jean Rondelet. When work on the Panthéon was finished in 1790, it was the highest point in all of Paris (a title it would hold for nearly a century, until the Eiffel Tower was built), and deemed a place of religious worship. Throughout the nineteenth century, the attraction would flip back and forth between being considered a church and a secular temple depending on what forces held power in the government. Today, the Panthéon is firmly established as a temple to the French republic and its people.

Panthéon Highlights

The Panthéon is full of fascinating architectural details and artistic flourishes—you’ll for sure want to have your camera ready when soaking in its numerous frescoes, columns, and arches. The Panthéon’s central dome is an especially lovely spectacle, and visitors will definitely want to make time to observe Léon Foucault’s pendulum and the ornate sculpture piece The National Convention.

The Panthéon is also famous for its Crypt, where a small number of individuals who have been deemed the greatest of French heroes are buried. Very few people in the history of France have received this honor, but among those interred here are such legendary figures as Voltaire, Rousseau, Émile Zola, Victor Hugo, Jean Jaurès, Marie Curie, Simone Veil, and Alexandre Dumas. Several prominent persons—like Josephine Baker and Aimé Césaire—are not buried here, but rather honored by memorials.

Another terrific feature of the Panthéon is its Panorama, considered by many to offer some of the finest 360-degree views in the entire city. The Panorama is situated in the midst of the Panthéon’s colonnade, and from there you’ll be able to enjoy stunning views of Paris landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Notre-Dame, the Arc de Triomphe, Montparnasse Tower, and more. Be advised, though, that there typically is an upcharge for visitors wishing to experience the Panorama, and that the Panorama itself is located at the top of over 200 steps.

More to See and Do at the Panthéon

For many visitors, a tour of the Panthéon proves to be an enjoyable aspect of their trip to Paris. Here are several other things to keep in mind as you plan your visit.

•A well-regarded audio guide is available at the Panthéon for a small additional fee. It comes in 11 different languages, and though there is an extra charge for it, most guests report that it greatly enhances their experience here.

•Visitors with a special interest in the Panthéon—or some flexibility in their schedule—will want to consider going on a guided tour of the attraction. Guided tours of the Panthéon are led by a knowledgeable expert, and they depart daily at 2:00pm and 3:00pm. Reservations are not required, and better yet, there’s no extra charge. Simply inquire at the Panthéon’s reception desk when you arrive.

•As strange as it might sound, there’s a model of the Panthéon located within the Panthéon that’s worth checking out. This remarkable miniature version of the Panthéon was created by the architect Jean Rondelet as he prepared to begin construction on the real structure itself. Rondelet built this small-scale version to attract attention and drum up financial support to see the project to completion. Its elaborate detail is quite impressive, and admiring the model Panthéon is a useful way to examine parts of the attraction that aren’t necessarily accessible or easily viewed otherwise.

•Be sure and visit the Panthéon’s official website in advance of your trip. There you can discover all the latest information on any special events, educational lectures, or temporary exhibits that might be taking place when you’re planning on being in town.

Why the Panthéon Should Be on Your Must-See List

Exquisitely detailed artworks, technically intriguing architecture, celebrity graves, and one of the city’s best viewing platforms: add it all together, and the Panthéon has a little bit of something for everyone, making it well worth a visit. It’s a splendid place to take some time and reflect on the rich history of this incredible city—even as you excitedly look forward to your next Parisian adventure!