There are so many views you can’t miss in Paris! With our nose in the guidebook or studying the information texts in the museum, you can forget to look up sometimes and though you love it, taking a moment to stop and take in the best views around you for just a few minutes or even for the afternoon, can really open up the senses.
Paris is a rather flat city as well, except of course for small, hilly neighborhoods like Montmarte and Belleville views, but for the most part, in the center of the city the landscape tends to stay quite straight.
So by escalator, elevator, and yes, good old fashioned steps, get yourself high up, breathe in and absorb the city below, its streets, colors, traffic, patterns, and think, hey, I know this city now. Paris is mine!
Of course the big joke for design insiders and traditionalists is that the best view in Paris is not from the Eiffel Tower, but from the top of Montparnasse, the ever controversial, sore thumb skyscraper built in 1970 on the border of the 6th and 14th arrondissements.
Home to a major train station, shopping center and office buildings, you can also take the elevator to the top for a spectacular view of Paris, without having to see, of course, this much maligned souvenir of modernity in Paris.
Georges Pompidou Center
Take in some art with your view of Paris from the top of the Georges Pompidou Center. Riding the escalators to the top of this fantastic modern and contemporary museum is a thrill. Each level brings you higher and higher for a steady stream of views that do not disappoint once you reach the top.
Once there, you can stand in the hall and look out onto the large plaza below with all the street performers, students, and musicians, and then westwards through the center of Paris out towards La Defense, or take your time with it all and have a drink at the trendy restaurant Georges, partly made famous by Sarah Jessica Parker during her Paris adventure in Sex in the City! (You know what I am talking about).
Le Perchoir Paris
When Le Perchoir opened its rooftops to Paris a few years ago it was THE talk of the town. At last an affordable, fun and well designed place to have a drink or a meal with friends al fresco and with a great view of slate rooftops and the city of lights. But really the best part about it was finding it, (unless the line stretched out the large unmarked door), and waiting to go up in the tiny elevator which led you into the nightlife.
Though not at all exclusive, it has the feeling of being a private club that only lets a limited amount of people up at a time. The drinks include well made cocktails as well as beer and wine, and there is a small restaurant space that offers market fresh food around big wooden tables.
Their deserved success led to them to other branches of Le Perchoir including a collaboration with department store BHV in the Marais for a rooftop bar and café that offers views of Paris to the south including Gothic beauties like the Hotel de Ville and Notre Dame; and the newest space opened in summer 2016 on the roof of the Gare de L’Est train station. Now you don’t have to be annoyed if your train is late! Go enjoy a glass of rosé and take in the views of the 10th arrondissement and beyond.
Buttes Chaumont park
After you have purchased some picnic foods from the nearby place des fêtes market, head to the high point of the Buttes Chaumont park, one of Paris’s hidden, off the beaten path gems.
Set down your blanket and enjoy the scenery-not only the surreal cliffs and meandering paths of this fascinating park, but from some spots here you can see all the way south into Paris, the classic Haussmann rooftops, Notre Dame and the Pantheon. Sigh.
La tour d’Argent
Feel like a bit of history and a Michelin starred dining experience with your view? La Tour d’Argent is for you. With a legacy that rivals any, the Tour d’Argent building and name was established in 1582, when it was built as an inn for the lords and ladies of the time.
So chic, it was one of the first restaurants to employ the use of the fork and apparently Henry IV like to come and chow down on some paté. The stories continue, like its time being called the Café Anglais which saw an 1867 dinner between Alexander II, Czar of the Russian Empire, the future Czar, Alexander III, William I, King of Prussia and future Emperor, and the Prince Otto von Bismarck!
Anyway, the food has gone in and out of style and today it is back on with an excellent chef and positive reviews after a recent face lift. Stunning views of the back of Notre Dame and down along the Seine make it an unforgettable evening.
Wander through the winding streets of Belleville and then relax at the Moncœur (My Heart) Belleville, a café, bar and restaurant which sits perched on the edge of the hill that turns into the Belleville Park.
From here you can look down southwards upon Paris with great sweeping views east, west and south and on a clear day, even the beginnings of countryside all the way out. The café itself is simple, trendy and cheap and perfect for an espresso, beer or glass of red wine.
Eat too much again last night and want to work it off so you can do it again tonight? Then make today the day when you are going to take on those massive stairs made famous throughout the last century in photos and paintings.
Whether you go up the back way along rue Lepic past the vineyard and the original Moulin Rouge or take the stairs up to Sacré Cœur head on, views from the top of Montmartre are quite inspiring.
You feel a real sense of history up there, despite the often throbbing masses of tourist and tourist traps, there are traces of authenticity there and the views down into Paris are breathtaking and the perfect backdrop for your next Facebook selfie post. DO it.
The Arab World Institute and the Quai Branly
Views for the architecture buffs. French architect Jean Nouvel has made his mark in Paris with two unusual but impressive museums, the Arab World Institute and the Quai Branly. One is dedicated to presenting cultural events and exhibitions about the Arab world and the other is dedicated to ethnic and ancient arts from Africa, Asia, Oceania and the Americas. Radically different in terms of architecture, both spaces have spectacular restaurants that offer unique views of the city.
Les Ombres at the Quai Branly offers a menu of elegant, contemporary global inspired food. Perched up on the rooftop terrace, you are literally head to waist with the Eiffel Tower which is just a few blocks away.
Le Zyriab on the 9th floor of the Arab World Institute offers delicious Lebanese food and whether inside, which is surrounded by large windows or en terrace, the views are spectacular looking down along the Seine river and north-west towards the lovely backside of the Notre Dame Cathedral and the beautiful Haussmann buildings along the right bank.
La Tour Saint Jacques
A lesser known monument in Paris but one that is frequently seen as it sits smack in the center of Paris near the Châtelet metro. A gothic legacy of a 16th century church called St Jacques de-la-Boucherie which was ruined during the French Revolution, this former clock tower was the only remaining piece.
In the early 1800s the city of Paris declared it an historic monument and soon a small park was built around it and then soon the layout of Haussmann with the now bustling rue de Rivoli passing in front. After a lengthy renovation and restoration, the tower has just reopened.
Tours must be reserved in advance for this view as the only way up is by a narrow and steep staircase. But the experience, though a bit claustrophobic and spooky, is worth it for gorgeous views and insight into an intriguing history.
And of course… The Eiffel Tower
Buy your tickets in advance and be patient in the lines because the elevator up to the top of this iconic structure is worth it. Kids and parents alike will love it.
When you are up there, grab an ice cream or coffee and wander around all sides of this steel monster and take in views of Paris and beyond. You won’t believe how small it all looks from up there. The only catch, you don’t see the Tower itself!
Side notes: Frankly one of the most fun, though not high up, ways to get views of Paris is cruising along the river. Ride it for a couple of hours up and down the Seine for memorable moments and all the greats from the Eiffel Tower, the Orsay Museum, the Tuileries and Louvre, the Palais de Justice, Notre Dame, Hotel de Ville, and more….
And another post shopping view is from the tops of the Galeries Lafayette and Printemps department stores. Both located in the 9th arrondissement, along Boulevard Haussmann, the rooftops of these famous stores are worth a visit to look over the vast boulevards below and throngs of shoppers, tourists and worker bees, and down towards the beautiful Opera house.