The 8 Most Beautiful Squares in Paris

The Fountain and green trees at Place des Vosges in Paris

Photolibrary / Getty Images

As a European capital boasting thousands of years of history and numerous architectural styles, Paris has no shortage of dazzling city squares. From the regal, expansive, and elegant to the quietly poetic and intimate, these are some of the most beautiful squares in Paris. In French, places means "square," and these truly are the places to be when you want to get a sense of local neighborhood life, enjoy a break from the sightseeing, people-watch, or shop.

01 of 08

Place Vendome

Vendome Square and its central column on a sunny day, Paris, France

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Place Vendôme, Paris, France

Possibly the most photogenic open space in the French capital, Place Vendome has long been a symbol of luxury and glamour. The 18th-century square, initially created to honor French King Louis XIV's military victories, was initially called "Conquest Square."

Entering it from the Rue Royale (Royal Street) you can't help but feel a sense of grandeur and importance. The vast, open space, made to look even larger by a noticeable lack of greenery, is flanked on all sides with high-end boutiques, from Cartier to Chanel. The western side is occupied by the iconic Ritz Hotel, which was recently renovated and has long been a place to stay, dine, and drink among the wealthy and famous.

At the center stands an arresting column dating to 1874, which is a reconstruction of a bronze predecessor commissioned by Emperor Napoleon I. The original is said to have been made from more than 1,000 melted-down enemy cannons.

While Place Vendome isn't going to be a realistic place to shop for most of us, it's an ideal place to take memorable photos, especially on a sunny day when the light makes the square feel even vaster. In the winter, tea at the Ritz can be a more affordable way to enjoy a bit of classic Parisian opulence.

02 of 08

Place des Vosges

An aerial view of the Place des Vosges, Paris

TARDY Herv / / Getty Images

Pl. des Vosges, 75004 Paris, France

Nestled in Paris' Marais district is a square whose unusual architecture and pleasant lawns draw tourists for photo ops and picnics. Especially in the spring and summer months, the elegant Place des Vosges can be an idyllic spot for a stroll or casual lunch on the grass.

The square features a central, green park area surrounded by 17th-century, red-bricked mansions. It was commissioned by King Henri IV and originally called Place Royale. The garden area itself is also known as Square Louis XIII, after the French monarch who celebrated his engagement with Anne of Austria at the site.

Lined with cafés, restaurants, art galleries and shops, the Place des Vosges is a good place for an ambling walk or light meal even on a rainy day, thanks to the covered "galleries" that wrap around it on all four sides.

Come take inspired shots of the red-brick facades with elegant, tall windows and other flourishes. The architectural details here stand in striking contrast to the other buildings in the area, which date to the Renaissance and late medieval period. This is a recommended stop on a self-guided walking tour of the Marais district. Also check out the Maison Victor Hugo in one corner of the square—the former home of the celebrated French author is now a museum dedicated to his life and work.

03 of 08

Place de la Sorbonne

Université de la Sorbonne, Place de la Sorbonne, Latin Quarter, Paris, France, Europe

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Pl. de la Sorbonne, 75005 Paris, France

This iconic square in the heart of the Latin Quarter is named after the centuries-old university of the same name that stands at its end. Lined with fountains and lush trees that afford plenty of shade in the summer, the Place de la Sorbonne is a pleasant spot for a break from sightseeing on the left bank.

It's long been associated with writers, philosophers, and intellectuals, who gathered at cafes and bars on and around the square after giving or attending a lecture at the university. It's also in close reach of several beloved Parisian cinemas, making it a good place to perch before seeing a movie nearby.

While the square is pretty crowded these days in peak tourist months, try visiting for a cafe on one of the terraces in the early morning. You'll enjoy its tranquility and historic presence more fully if you beat the noon to early-evening throngs.

04 of 08

Place Dauphine

Place Dauphine in Paris with no people

 Vladislav Zolotov / Getty Images 

75001 Paris, France

This lovely, greenery-dense square in close reach of the city center is a bit of a hidden gem in an area that's often crowded and noisy. Situated on an edge of the Ile de la Cité—a semi-natural island formed between the two banks of the Seine River—the Place Dauphine dates to around 1607 and was built by Henry IV.

The square, which in reality is shaped like a triangle, can be accessed from the middle of the lavish Pont Neuf, one of the most beautiful bridges in Paris. Handsome mansions dating from various periods in the Renaissance and early modern eras surround the triangular public square. Some resemble those on the Place des Vosges (formerly Place Royale), as they date to the same period.

Here, benches and shade trees offer pleasant places to perch with a book or a sandwich. We recommend you visit the square as part of a self-guided tour of the bridges of Paris, or while exploring the Ile de la Cité and notable sites on the Seine.

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05 of 08

Place de la Bastille

Opera Bastille and the Colonne de Juillet at twilight

Thierry Pix / Moment / Getty Images

Pl. de la Bastille, 75004 Paris, France

While this enormous, bustling square isn't especially tranquil, it's permeated with centuries of Parisian history. Once the site of the infamous Bastille prison the sprawling square remains a powerful symbol of France's first Revolution in 1789. Incidentally, one of the metro platforms of the Bastille metro stop (on line 1) depicts some of the tumultuous events of that revolt.

Today, the square's most-imposing monuments include the July Column (Colonne de Juillet), built in 1840 to commemorate yet another revolutionary war that took place a decade earlier. King Louis-Philippe commissioned the column, planned to be built during the 1790s, to commemorate the victims of the July Revolution. You can see a golden statue crowning its top, representing the "Spirit of Liberty".

The contemporary Opéra Bastille is the square's other major sight of note. Inaugurated in 1989, it can seat over 2,700 people and is the city's primary venue for opera and other classical musical performances.

Since the square marks a boundary between several key Parisian neighborhoods—the 4th, 11th, and 12th arrondissements—it can be a good starting point to explore the surrounding area. Head south to see the Marais and the lovely Place des Vosges or head east to take a walk on the verdant above-ground walkway known as the Promenade Plantée.

06 of 08

Place de la Concorde

The Luxor Obelisk dominates the center of the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

Bruce Yuanyue Bi / Lonely Planet Images / Getty Images

75008 Paris, France

Dominated by the awe-inspiring Luxor Obelisk, a 75-foot, 3,000-year old monument dating to ancient Egypt, the Place de la Concorde is a sprawling, busy square that connects the 8th arrondissement to the 1st.

Often crowded with cars owing to the traffic circle curling around it, Concorde doesn't frequently feel peaceful. Still, it's a handy gateway to the Champs-Elysées to the west, and the Tuileries Gardens and Louvre Palace to the east.

Associated with royal and imperial power for centuries, the vast, starkly decorated square is also an important historical site in Parisian political history. Originally unveiled as Place Louis XV in 1755, it became a site of revolutionary terror just decades later, during the early 1790s. A statue of Louis XV was torn down and a guillotine was erected in its place; the square was temporarily named Place de la Revolution where countless notable figures were executed, including King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette.

In 1795, the square was renamed Place de la Concorde as a gesture of reconciliation and peace. Today, a lively Christmas market springs up nearby the square, and sites including the Hotel de Crillon and the American Embassy make the site a continued spot of power and prestige.

07 of 08

Place Dalida

Place Dalida, Montmartre, Paris

 Edmund V. / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 

Rue de l'Abreuvoir, 75018 Paris, France

Tucked away behind the main tourist sites in hilly Montmartre is a square most visitors happen on by accident. Dedicated to Franco-Egyptian-Lebanese singer Dalida, the tranquil, tree-lined square bears a bust of the iconic musician.

It's not the sort of place that inspires crowds assembling on the nearby Sacré-Coeur basilica and (ultra-touristy) Place du Tertre to come for photo ops. After all, most English-speaking visitors have never heard of Dalida. But it is one of the loveliest spots in the neighborhood to take a breather and enjoy morning or late-afternoon light filtering through the trees.

08 of 08

Place de la République

large statue in Place de la République, Paris with a crowd of people

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Place de la République, Paris, France

A favorite site for mass demonstrations, concerts, performances, and even dance parties, Place de la République is one of the city's most-used squares

Seen by many Parisians as a symbol of French democracy the immense square measures over 8 acres. It's "watched over" by a bronze statue of Marianne, a symbol of liberty, equality, and freedom.

It's little wonder, then, that the square has been elected as a choice location for massive protests and other popular gatherings. It's not unusual to see it filled with thousands of people, whether for a protest or for a summer concert. During the solstice event known as the Fete de la Musique, held each year on June 21st, a huge stage typically springs up on the square and crowds gather to see free shows in the warm, open air.

Like the Place de la Bastille, the Place de la République straddles the 3rd, 10th and 11th arrondissements. It makes a good starting point for a tour of the neighborhood around the Canal St. Martin, with arty Belleville further northeast. The edge of the Marais district lies at the end that touches the 3rd arrondissement, stretching toward the Temple metro station.

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The 8 Most Beautiful Squares in Paris