Nitrogen dioxide (NO2) is a regulated air pollutant that is of particular concern in many cities, where concentrations are high. Emissions of nitrogen oxides to the atmosphere lead to the formation of ozone and particulate matter, with adverse impacts on human health and ecosystems. The effects of emissions are often assessed through modeling based on inventories relying on indirect information that is often outdated or incomplete. Here we show that NO2 measurements from the new, high-resolution TROPOMI satellite sensor can directly determine the strength and distribution of emissions from Paris. From the observed build-up of NO2 pollution, we find highest emissions on cold weekdays in February 2018, and lowest emissions on warm weekend days in spring 2018. The new measurements provide information on the spatio-temporal distribution of emissions within a large city, and suggest that Paris emissions in 2018 are only 5–15% below inventory estimates for 2011–2012, reflecting the difficulty of meeting NOx emission reduction targets.