For a moment, let’s put aside all of the bad things I have ever said about Paris and just be completely superficial. Rustic, uniform, and architecturally exquisite, Paris is one of the most photogenic cities in the world come rain, shine or fog. From the wide avenues to narrow passages, there is a wealth of beauty and charm to behold, much of which is missed by the typical tourist trail and you’d be forgiven for making a beeline for the Eiffel Tower upon arrival – although not for making the same mistake twice. La Tour Eiffel – as she is known in her ‘native’ French – is a Parisian landmark, icon, and pure unadulterated hell hole (yes, I know I’m doing it again but you must be warned). I won’t deny that the views from her rafters are breathtakingly phenomenal, but the queues on the ground, the queues to reach the top, and the wind in any month other than July or August are all utterly intolerable. Accordingly, I am here to tell you where to go either save yourself a small fortune, several hours of your life, or your toes from frostbite. Here is my list of places to go in Paris for an equally good or better view of the city (hopefully there’ll be something for the acrophobics among you).
Trocadéro is THE place to go for your Eiffel Tower snaps, and is where I saw in the new year for 2015. The beautifully tiled platform is elegantly sandwiched between the bookends of the National Marine Museum and the Museum of Architecture, and is pretty much the perfect place to see La Tour for the first time.
TROCADÉRO – metro lines 6 &9
CHAMP DE MARS-TOUR EIFFEL – RER line C
LE PARC DES BUTTES CHAUMONT
The 61-acre Buttes Chaumont park is located on the north-eastern edge of Paris and is the fifth-largest park in the city, after the likes of the Bois de Boulogne and the Jardin des Tuileries. Work your way up to the stunning Temple de la Sibylle on top of the fifty-metre high cliff in the centre of the park for a stunning view up to Montmartre (featuring the Sacré-Cœur) and out across the north-eastern suburbs of Paris.
BUTTES CHAUMONT – metro line 7bis
LAUMIÈRE – metro line 5
BOTZARIS – metro line 7bis
THE ROOF OF GALERIES LAFAYETTE
The mammoth Galeries Lafayette department store in the 9th arrondissement is home to the likes of Chanel, Dior and Louis Vuitton, and boasts a jaw-dropping ten floors within the main building. Those that have ventured to the top floor to see one of the weekly free fashion shows may have discovered the little publicised publically-accessible extra level – the roof. With views of the opera house, Eiffel Tower and, on a clear day, the Sacré-Cœur basilica, the roof of Galeries Lafayette is well worth the diversion from your spending spree.
CHAUSÉE d’ANTIN-LAFAYETTE – metro lines 7 & 9
HAVRE-CAUMARTIN – metro lines 3 & 9
AUBER – RER line A
L’INSTITUT DU MONDE ARABE
The Arab World Institute, on Rue des Fossés Saint Bernard, is a beautifully modern piece of architecture (that in fact won a 1981 design competition) sitting on the banks of the River Seine at the edge of the Saint-Germain-des-Près district. Inside, you’ll find a museum, library and restaurant. Outside, you’ll find yourself on a modern balcony overlooking the River Seine and the Notre-Dame Cathedral.
CARDINAL LEMOINE – metro line 10
MAUBERT-MUTUALITÉ – metro line 10
GARE D’AUSTERLITZ – metro lines 5 & 10, RER line C
BANKS & BRIDGES OF THE RIVER SEINE
Walk along either bank of the River Seine and cross any bridge along the way and you are sure to find something beautiful behold. The Pont des Arts, the Louvre, the Musée d’Orsay, the Eiffel Tower, a replica of the Statue of Liberty, the Grand Palais, a traditional flower market, the National Library, and the headquarters of several multinational corporations are just a few of the things you might spot along the river and feel tempted to pop into. Some of the most spectacular views can be spied along the Voie Georges Pompidou and Quai François Mitterand, and from the Pont Neuf and Pont des Arts. I recommend starting from l’Institut du Monde Arabe and heading west, before crossing over to Île de la Cité and again to the right bank (la Rive Droite, or northern bank of the Seine).
INSIDE THE CLOCK AT THE MUSÉE D’ORSAY
You’d be forgiven for sticking to the galleries leading off the main hall at the Orsay and perhaps only venturing as far as ‘The Gates of Hell’ (the name of a sculpture, not me bitching…again), but should you feel inclined to climb one of the steel staircases towards the back of the museum for the panoramic view of the former train station, the more adventurous among you might stumble upon more than you bargained for. Follow the scent of coffee around a couple of freshly-painted grey corners and you’ll find yourself on the inside of one the musée’s famous clock faces – only this one is a window to the city outside where, immediately in front, you overlook the Musée du Louvre and in the distance sits the Sacré-Cœur atop Montmartre.
SOLFÉRINO – metro line 12
MUSÉE D’ORSAY – RER line C
PARC DE SAINT CLOUD
Not strictly within Paris’ city limits, the Parc de Saint Cloud is a domaine national in the Saint cloud area of “Greater Paris”, just west of Boulogne-Billancourt (my former home). These grounds of the Château de Saint cloud provide panoramic views across Boulogne and Paris, looking out towards the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse and the Sacré-Cœur.
This photo was taken on a day when Paris was the most city in the world – you can see the pollution rising above the city.
Saint Cloud, Hauts-de-Seine (western Paris suburb)
PONT DE SÈVRES – metro line 9
BOULOGNE-PONT DE SAINT CLOUD – metro line 10
PARC DE SAINT CLOUD – T2 tramway
If you’re heading up to visit the Sacré-Cœur basilica, be sure to turn around and take in the panoramic views southwards across the city.
ANVERS – metro line 2
ABBESSES – metro line 12
CHATEAU ROUGE and BARBÈS-ROCHECHOUART – metro line 4.
LE CENTRE GEORGES POMPIDOU
When visiting the Pompidou Centre it’s an absolute must to take the escalator to the top floor for an eastwards panoramic view of the Eiffel Tower, La Défense and the Sacré-Cœur, and while browsing the permanent collection of modern art you can look out southwards towards Notre-Dame and the Panthéon.
A museum entry ticket is required for access to the viewing level.
RAMBUTEAU – metro line 11
HOTEL DE VILLE – metro lines 1 & 11
The Montparnasse tower is the tallest eyesore *ahem building* in Paris and offers 360° views across the entire French capital from its rooftop viewing platform, and views towards the southeast (overlooking the Montparnasse cemetery) from it’s top deck cafe.
Access to the top of the tour is subject to the purchase of a 15€ entry ticket (9.20€ for kids).
MONTPARNASSE-BIENVENÜE – metro lines 4, 6, 12 & 13
EDGAR QUINET – metro line 6