When I tell people the Pantheon is one of my favourite sights in Paris, most of the time I get a blank look in return (occasionally accompanied by ‘Err are you sure you aren’t thinking of Rome?’). Perched up on a hill in the Latin Quarter, the Pantheon seems to be overlooked by most visitors – every time I’ve been, the crowds have been minimal compared to those at the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre or Notre Dame, just down the hill.
Why is a mystery, though.
I mean, look how grand it is…
And inside, things get even more spectacular.
In the centre, a giant Foucault pendulum swings back and forth. It’s weirdly hypnotic – I could stand there watching it for hours.
Although the Pantheon was originally built as a church, it was converted into a mausoleum during the French Revolution. Head down to the crypt and you can find the tombs of some of France’s most famous figures, including Marie Curie, Victor Hugo and Voltaire.
The icing on the Pantheon’s cake? The fact that you can climb to the top of its dome (between April & October) and enjoy 360-degree views across Paris. When you arrive, ask when the next tour is – they’re not particularly regular, and only a small number of people are allowed up each time, so you’ll want to book on asap.
The first stage of the climb brings you out on an interior terrace overlooking the main hall.
Next, you’ll wind your way up spiralling stone staircases until you reach the dome’s terrace. You get plenty of time to wander the full way around, taking photos and spotting landmarks along the way, so don’t rush.
There’s a fantastic view of Saint-Étienne-du-Mont church, another of my favourite places in Paris (if you’ve ever seen Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, the steps of the church are where Gill waits for his 1920s taxis).