Bonjour! I’m Sara from Simply Sara Travel and I’m thrilled to be able to share with you some of my favorite spots in Paris.
I love my new home for many reasons, one of them being just how gorgeous this city is to walk around and just be in. I’ve spent the last two and a half years getting to know Paris from different angles – by boat, on foot, by bus, by metro… just not by bike yet because it still freaks me out that the bus and bike lanes are one and the same! That being said, my favorite angle of the city is looking down from above. So here is my list of the 10 best views of Paris that I’ve discovered – pick one which suites your mood and start climbing!
1. The classic view: Arc de Triomphe
When I think of all the views you can get of Paris from above, the Arc de Triomphe comes to mind loud and clear as the monument to scale for the classic, ironic surveyal of the City of Light. It’s proximity to the Eiffel Tower makes for an incredible and surreal view – it looks like it’s a metal toy just plunked down in place. This structure is also perfect to see those wide boulevards span out like a star from the Arc de Triomphe. Follow the path down this boulevard and there’s the Musée du Louvre at the end.
2. The I-have-to-do-this-once-in-a-lifetime view: Eiffel Tower
I admittedly never really had a desire to go up the Eiffel Tower. It took two vacations to Paris (prior to living here), almost a year and a half of living in Paris, and many visitors from the US before someone finally convinced me to get a view from the Tower. My thinking has been that there aren’t many stand-outs in the skyline, and if you’re standing on the Eiffel Tower well, you’re missing seeing the most exciting monument.
Truth is, after I did it, I went again a few months later! It is a special moment to actually be standing on the Iron Lady herself. And even though she’s the star of the Parisian skyline, the view is still beautiful – I mean, it is Paris after all!
My tip? The lines get long, especially for the elevator. If you are able-bodied, look for the line to purchase tickets for the stairs. For only €5, you can climb up to the second platform. If you still want to go up from there, just buy a ticket once you reach the second floor for the elevator ride from the second level to the top (you still save money opposed to paying for elevator rides all the way up).
3. The view with a dose of art: Centre Pompidou
Centre Pompidou is one of my favorite museums in Paris. It houses a wonderful and vast collection of modern art that is constantly changing, which makes my annual pass there so worth it. I love timing my visit to make sure I’m there at sunset – in fact, since I live close enough, sometimes when I’m itching for a sunset perch I go there just for the view. Sometimes the beauty of a vibrant sunset is the best masterpiece of all.
4. The view with the best atmosphere: Montmartre
Montmartre in my opinion doesn’t offer a notable view of Paris. But it does provide a fun atmosphere for those who trek up the hill. On any nice day or evening, the steps leading down from Sacré-Cœur are full of people sitting and hanging out. Guys come around selling beer, musicians bring along their guitars for a jam session, and you’ll most likely catch the occasional bride and groom taking wedding pictures. And if you’re lucky, you’ll spot my favorite street performer in action. Iya Traoré can climb the lamp post all while dribbling a soccer ball with total control. It’s incredible!
5. The shopper’s view: Printemps
Printemps is a famous and very fancy department store in Paris. Despite the fact that I can barely afford anything in the store, I can happily access the terrace for a view of the city for free. You can see Palais Garnier (the opera house), the Madeleine church, the Eiffel Tower, and Sacré-Cœur all from the top (9th floor). There’s even a self-service café up there that sells food and drink for surprisingly reasonable prices if you want to pause for a little longer.
6. The exclusive view: Tour Saint-Jacques
I call this one exclusive because it’s only open during the summer. In fact, time is running out this year to visit it – it’s open only on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays until September 28th. Thankfully I can only assume it will reopen for visits next summer (last year was the first year it was open to the public). Tour Saint-Jacques is the bell tower of the former Église Saint-Jacques-de-la-Boucherie, a church that was demolished after the French Revolution. If you’re lucky enough to climb this tower, it offers a fabulous 360-degree view of the city from its central location. If you’re interested, take a look for more information on how to make a reservation for a guided visit on my recent post.
7. The view for kids: La Grande Roue de Paris
This is my pick for kids, but of course the one time I took a spin in this giant ferris wheel I was accompanied by my very adult cousin. But whether you are young, or just young at heart, all can enjoy seeing the city from this ferris wheel that pops up from time to time in the center of Paris. In the summer it can be found near the Louvre in the Jardin des Tuileries. In the winter months it is stationed at Place de la Concorde – the next opportunity to go for a ride will be between November 15 – February 16. The €10 adult ticket seemed a little expensive for two or three rotations, but then again, how often can you get a magical view of Paris like this – and not have to climb a single step?
8. The view with a glass of wine: Le Perchoir
Le Perchoir is a hip rooftop bar in the 11th arrondissment. You could pass by in the evening and not know what the line of people are all queuing for because the building doesn’t look like much from the outside. But once granted access, you take the elevator up and step out…and Sacré-Cœur is seated on top of Montmartre right in front of you!
This year another location opened, Le Perchoir Marais. Now you can go to the roof of BHV and get a drink in just as trendy an atmosphere. The space is much smaller than the original Le Perchoir but it still has a cool vibe. Le Perchoir Marais is open this year until October 12th so hurry over and see which location you prefer. (I like the extra space that the one in the 11th provides but enjoyed this view of the Hôtel de Ville and the Marais at the newer one.)
9. The view with a price tag: Ciel de Paris
Paris is quite a beautiful city but it does have one eyesore – a modern skyscraper called the Tour Montparnasse. It doesn’t fit in at all with the rest of the city, so the best way to avoid seeing this building is simple. Use it to get a great view over the city.
Tour Montparnasse has an observation deck on the 56th floor and an outdoor terrace on the 59th floor. However, it costs €14.50 (regular adult price) for admission. My pick therefore is to head to the restaurant on the 56th floor, Ciel de Paris. The way I was raised, I was taught that you might as well get a little more bang for your buck for the same view!
The prices at Ciel de Paris are inflated but when you consider how much it costs just to get to the observation deck, you can justify a pricey sweet or glass of wine. You can stop by for breakfast, afternoon pastries, or a drink at the bar. Or you can splurge a little and go for a fancy dinner at night (the less expensive menu is €68 per person). It’s how I saw this gorgeous sunset when two generous house guests treated me to a night out. And despite the fact that you are of course paying for the view, the food was very good!
10. The gargoyle view: Notre Dame
I have to say that I saved the best for last. I love each and every one of these views, but for me these cool gargoyles (technically called chimeras, not gargoyles, because they are not used as drain pipes) make this my favorite view of Paris. If you are facing the front of Notre Dame Cathedral, the line to climb its tower goes down the street on the left side of the building. It’s certainly a popular activity so if you want to go, get in line early before it opens or be prepared to stick it out for a wait of over an hour (minimum on most days). I am far from a morning person so I endured the long wait in the peak of summer…and I still can say it’s my favorite. I mean, just look how unique this view is!
Sara traded her New Jersey bagels for French baguettes when she moved to Paris two years ago. Since the big move she’s learned a bit of French, has eaten more cheese in two years than the previous 25, and can now tie a scarf in 10 different ways. Follow her experiences in Paris, adventures in France, and travels throughout Europe on her blog,Simply Sara Travel, and on Instagram, Facebook, Google+, and Pinterest
That’s my list – now it’s over to you. Do you have a favorite view of Paris?