Everyone knows that when you go to Paris, you go to the Eiffel for it’s 360 degree views and this is true, however, it is most certainly not your only option!
I was looking for ticket prices and availability to book my place to go up La Tour Eiffel. All pre booked tickets were sold out until after I am scheduled to leave Paris. Merde! Tickets are limited this winter as the Eiffel is undergoing some renovations and they are putting in a glass balcony and floor at the first level of the Eiffel–at least this is what I could glean from reading the French signage under the Eiffel.
Well, now what? I typed ‘Where do you get the best views of Paris?’ into my search engine and after doing a bit of research, I formulated my plan of action to circumvent ascending the Eiffel altogether.
I started with Sacré Cœur in Montmartre. From outside of the front of the Basilica you get a 180 degree vista, including the Eiffel Tower. These views are free, as is visiting Sacré-Cœur itself and if I’ve said it before, I will say it again; Sacré-Cœur is an absolute must when you are in Paris. By far one of the highlights of my entire trip.
Secondly, I visited Tour Montparnasse which is located in the 15th arrondissement and right in front of the metro station Montparnasse-Bienvenue on line 6. Follow the signs to the main exit and not Tower Montparnasse so that you get the full effect of seeing the tower as you emerge from the station! Get your ticket (reduced rates for students when producing a student card) and hop into the automated lift that whizzes you up to the 56th floor within seconds, making your ears pop! There are telescopes, which operate for 1€ and large interactive screens to help you identify what is on the skyline you’re looking at.
I got some utterly amazing photographs of Paris and various landmarks, like Sacré-Cœur, the Eiffel Tower, Les Invalides, The Grand Palais, L’Arc de Triomphe, The Luxembourg Gardens, Notre Dame & Sainte-Chappelle and so many others! You get a 360 degree view of Paris that stretches out for 40km! Be sure to go up to the viewing deck on the 59th floor.
Another great thing about Tour Montparnasse is that you can have lunch, or a coffee and pastry, that will not cost you a small fortune, like at the top of the Eiffel. The ticket prices are cheaper and the views are just as magnificent–some critics of Tour Montparnasse say it’s the best view of Paris because being there means you don’t see it. Be sure to check the weather and go on a clear day as they don’t tell you when visibility is poor at the cash desk.
Lastly, in my trifecta of views excluding the Eiffel, was L’Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile. It stands on the Place Charles de Gaulle at the apex of 12 avenues, including the famous Avenue des Champs-Élysées and it honours those who died in the French Revolution and Napoleonic wars and has inscribed on it’s inner and outer walls, the names of all victories and the names of those Generals involved.
Commissioned in 1806 by the Emporer Napoleon, he would never see it completed and instead his remains would be marched under it en route to their final resting place at Les Invalides.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier from WWI is underneath the Arc and all subsequent parades and marches are made around the Arc, a custom honoured by both Hitler in 1940 and Charles de Gaulle in 1944.
The Unknown Soldier has an eternal flame which burns for all the men who died in WWI (now both world wars) who were never identified.
The slab on top carries the inscription ICI REPOSE UN SOLDAT FRANÇAIS MORT POUR LA PATRIE 1914–1918 (“Here lies a French soldier who died for the fatherland 1914–1918”). A poignant moment indeed.
After climbing a seemingly innumerable number of stairs to the top of the Arc, I was presented with some of the most breathtaking views yet! Again, I got views of the Grand Palais, La Tour Eiffel, Les Invalides and it is truly spectacular to be up high so you can see all the roads that meet at the Arc. It is both beautiful and impressive and showcases the unique Parisian cityscape. The souvenir shop inside the Arc du Triomphe is one of the better priced I’ve seen in the city, so if you want to take something home to friends or family, this would be a pretty good place to get them. I have seen street vendors with more expensive curios than the Arc.
So, if you can’t go up the Eiffel, for whatever reason or you have already been up the Eiffel, these are my picks for the best views in the city. Tour Montparnasse was an absolute highlight for me, there are less tourists, less scam artists and far less queues!
Thank you for reading.