A gargoyle’s view of Paris: 5 great photo perches

One of the great things about Paris is that the low-rise skyline gives the city such an intimate feel. It also makes it easy to get some great, unobstructed views of the Paris skyline. Here are five places that offer great views of the City of Light.

1. Notre Dame Cathedral in the 4th arrondissement. I love the photo above (Copyright by Moyan_Brenn) taken from the tower at the Notre Dame Cathedral. The cathedral’s iconic gargoyle casts a gaze across the city, with the river Seine, Eiffel Tower and the skyscrapers of La Défense business district in the background.

I had every intention of capturing something similar to Moyan’s photo but didn’t realize that the tower closes at 5:30 p.m. from October through March (last access to the tower is 45 minutes before closing). Ack. Don’t make the same mistake if you go. Check the schedule.

Luckily, there are plenty of other places to see the skyline. (See four more suggestions after the jump)


Photo by Joe Newman

Photo by Joe Newman


2. Sacré-Cœur Basilica on Montmarte in the 18th arrondissement. The basilica is in the hills on the north side of Paris and is easily accessible by the metro. We took the green line to the Lamarck Caulaincourt station and walked uphill to the basilica. Of course, there are other options, including a cable car. There’s a vibrant scene on the steps in front of the basilica. The day we were there, there was a singer-songwriter entertaining the crowd, guys kicking a soccer ball around, vendors hawking cheap souvenirs and some other guys working the crowd selling beers on the sly. Montmarte is the highest point in Paris and gives you a great view of the city, except …. and it’s a big except …. the Eiffel Tower is off to the side and out of the frame of your best skyline shot. You can still see the Eiffel Tower from the basilica but it’s somewhat of an obstructed view.


Flickr photo by peteranddorota

3. Tour Montparnasse in the 15th arrondissement. This is the tallest skyscraper outside of La Défense and the only one in the city’s center. Getting there is easy, just find your way to the Montparnasse — Bienvenüe metro stop. The nearly 700-foot tall office building is considered by many Parisians a horrible eyesore. We did not visit the Montparnasse on our trip but the panoramic views from the terrace are stunning. A ticket to the terrace is 8 Euros. You can find information about visiting here. Be aware that there has been an issue with asbestos in the building, though officials contend visitors to the terrace are not at risk.

4. The Eiffel Tower on the Champ de Mars in the 7th arrondissment. Okay, you can’t visit Paris without heading to the Eiffel Tower. Of course, we went to the tower on our trip but we skipped going up the tower to any of the three levels open to visitors. Great views but, of course, none of your pictures will have the Eiffel Tower in it. Most tour guides recommend that you buy tickets in advance if you plan on going up the tower during your visit.


Photo by Joe Newman

5. Printemps Department Store, 64 Boulevard Haussman in the 2nd arrondissement. It’s an easy walk to the store from the Opera Metro station. The store takes up two blocks and you’ll have to ask someone for directions to the Le Déli-Cieux rooftop restaurant. It’s free to get to the roof and you’ll have a view that includes the Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse and Les Invalides. The day we were there, there were only a handful of people on the roof. So if you want to avoid the crowds of tourists, this might be your best shot.

Obviously, there are plenty of other places to take great photos of the city and some may even be better than the ones I’ve mentioned. I could have listed the Centre Georges Pompidou, though you won’t get as much elevation. Tickets to the museum are 13 Euros, though you can get an observation area-only ticket for just 3 Euros.

Images of gargoyle by flickr user Moyan_Brenn and of the view from Tour Montparnasse by flickr user peteranddorato are used under Creative Commons licenses.


Joe Newman

I'm Joe Newman, multi-media story teller, non-profit do-gooder, international street photographer, serious poker player, intrepid traveler. Bourbon drinker.

  • […] Shortly after we left the Palais Royal, we got caught in a furious rain storm. By the time we got to the Pont Alexandre III, pictured above, the rain had let up. My one regret is that I didn’t get the prerequisite shot of the gargoyle staring over the Paris skyline. Instead, I had to use a Flickr photo to illustrate a blog post on shooting the Paris skyline. […]

  • […] came across Brenn when I was searching for a gargoyle photo to run with a blog post on the best places to photos of the Paris skyline. He’s a fabulous […]

  • […] took these pictures during our trip to Paris in March 2012. The one above was taken in the Jardin des Tuileries, just after a quick but heavy downpour. We […]