Panoramic cityscape
Architecture,  Lens-Artists,  Paris

The best views of Paris?

It’s hard to ignore the Tour Montparnasse. This 210 metre high skyscraper dominates the skyline on the southern fringes of central Paris. Its monolithic appearance has often been criticised as incongruous or inappropriate for this proudly elegant city.

Cityscape seen over the top of trees
View over Paris from the Belleville Belvedere, taken on our 2021 visit, with the Tour Montparnasse left of centre and the Tour Eiffel far right

Properly known, but never referred to, as the Tour Maine-Montparnasse, it was built in the early 1970s around the time of my first ever visit to the city in 1971. The criticism it received led to a ban on the construction of buildings over seven stories high in the city centre. It remained the tallest building in the city until 2011 (the Tour Eiffel is taller but is of course not a building). In that year the Tour First in La Défense was extended in height and is now taller. But that lies technically outside the centre.

Visiting the tower

Enough of the facts. Although primarily an office block, the top of the skyscraper, as with so many around the world, is open to the public as a viewing terrace. Many say that it offers the best views of Paris, in part because from the top you cannot see the unattractive building itself! In all our many visits to the city neither of us had ever been up the tower, so on this most recent visit we resolved to rectify that.

On a sunny Saturday morning we took the Metro to the station near the foot of the tower. There we paused to get some closer photos.

Skyscraper and traffic lights
Skyscraper with passing plane
Looking up at a tall skyscraper

We then walked over to the tower. After showing our pre-booked tickets and passing through an airport-like security check, we were ushered into a lift that took us to the 56th floor. Here there is a café, a gift shop and already some excellent views, but through glass. So we headed up the three flights of stairs to the 59th floor roof terrace. This too is surrounded by glass., for safety of course. But there are very helpful viewing spaces at the perfect height for a camera lens, so photography is much easier.  

The weather was perfect and we spent some time here taking lots of photos. I enjoyed picking out many of the city’s most famous landmarks. Sophia has chosen the ideal Lens Artists challenge theme for me this week, Urban Environments, as it gives me an excuse to share a selection of these Parisian cityscapes.

The roof terrace

I also enjoyed taking some candid shots of the other tourists enjoying the views, and even snapped an unusual selfie! The terrace is well laid-out with seating, quirky signs and interestingly placed mirrors. And on this sunny morning no one seemed in a hurry to leave, yet it wasn’t crowded.

The 56th floor

On our way down we spent a little time exploring the 56th floor. I found that despite the glass I could get some pleasing and rather different shots here. Unlike on the roof terrace, it was possible to look directly down to the streets far below. I spotted an unusual apartment block and a classic Parisian café terrace.

So are these the best views of Paris? I’m not sure, as I love to see the city from any angle. But they are certainly great views. We were both so pleased we’d finally got around to visiting the Tour Montparnasse.

I last visited Paris in September 2022 when all but two of these photos were taken (the exceptions are noted in the captions)


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