For the best views in Paris, don’t go up the Eiffel Tower

I don’t know how many times I’ve had to advise people to avoid going up the Eiffel Tower to get the best view of Paris.

You can forget Montmartre too, the stairs outside the Sacre Coeur can provide a superb view, but not the very best one. The Tour Montparnasse is where it’s at. Think about it logically: Where is the best place to see all the prettiest places in a city, without having to look at the ugliest bits? That’s right – FROM the ugliest bit!

The 210m-high Tour Montparnasse was seen as such a monstrosity when it was constructed in 1973 that it’s one of the main reasons that Paris is pretty much entirely low-rise today. The blocky and stark design didn’t do it any favours either. It’s remarkably similar to the dark monolith from the start of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, the people of Paris playing the part of the raging apes beating against it.

Monolithic Tour MontparnasseSo, we pulled into the Gare du Nord early in the morning, after enjoying the whizzy Eurostar from London’s beautiful St. Pancras station. The Paris rush-hour hadn’t even really begun yet. Because our hotel probably wouldn’t have our room ready this early we made our way south to Montparnasse-Bienvenue Metro station. The Tour Monparnasse doesn’t open until 9:30 so we killed time with crepes and coffee in the cafe ‘A Saint Malo’ at the base.

We paid our 13 Euro fees just after the doors opened at 9:30 and rode the lift up to the 56th floor gallery and observation floor. There are quite a few interesting reproductions of photographs of the area before the Tour went up but the obvious main attraction is the modern city of Paris, as seen through the enormous windows. Slowly circling the 56th floor you take in all the sights of Paris one after the other. Please forgive the quality of the photographs, taken on my old compact digital…

Tour Eiffel and Les Invalides from Tour Montparnasse

Montparnasse Cemetery, from the Tour Montparnasse

Le Senate and Notre Dame, from Tour Montparnasse

Gare Paris Montparnasse, from Tour Montparnasse

Sacre Coeur, Louvre, and Tuilleries ferris wheel from Tour Montparnasse

Les Invalides, and Le Grande Palaise, from Tour Montparnasse

I Heart Stan message on the roof of a tower block far below the Tour Montparnasse

The greatest of the views is the stunning Tour Eiffel itself, at the end of the Av. de Saxe. Yes, it’s fairly far away but nowhere else provides this view of the tower in its entirety. Montparnasse Cemetery, Jardins du Luxembourg, Notre Dame, des Invalides, Le Grand Palais, Sacre Coeur, Palais du Louvre – all can be admired from up here.

The Tour Eiffel from Tour MontparnasseOnce you’re done with the 56th floor, head for the 59th floor roof terrace to lose the glass reflections from your photographs. You’ll probably be wind-blasted, and you might struggle to keep your camera still, but the width of the sky is the tremendous frame for these views of Paris. It simply cannot be beaten. Oh and by the way, should you want to come back again, you can, the ticket is valid for a year from the date of purchase.

This is the best viewing spot I know of but surely there are some rooftop hotel bars out there? Leave a comment, let me know please.

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