Born in Berlin, Parthey was the son of Daniel Friedrich PartheyGeheimrat in the General Finance Directorate in Berlin, and Wilhelmine Nicolai (-1803), the eldest daughter of Friedrich Nicolai. His sister, the diarist Lili (1800–1829) married the composer Bernhard Klein.(1745–1822),
Parthey graduated from the Gymnasium zum Grauen Kloster in Berlin. Later he studied philosophy and archaeology in Berlin and Heidelberg, where he graduated in 1820. In the following years he travelled through France, England, Italy, Greece and the Orient. In 1824 he married Wilhelmine Mitterbacher from Karlovy Vary. From 1825 he lived again in Berlin. Due to the privileged position of his family, he never knew about material worries.
Parthey was in charge of the Nicolaische Buchhandlungand as a private scholar he was engaged in art and cultural history studies. He published several works.
1857 he became a member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences. He died in Rome.