Discover the most spectacular Paris viewpoints with this guide to the best places to see views of Paris from above, including the Eiffel Tower, Montparnasse Tower and the dome of Sacré-Cœur Basilica.
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In every city I visit, I always like to climb up something tall to see it from above, to spot the famous landmarks and get an idea of how things all fit together. And Paris has no shortage of panoramic viewpoints where you can get a bird’s eye view of the City of Light.
Whether you want to get to the top of the Eiffel Tower or just get the best view of it. Whether you want to reach the heights in seconds in a lift or climb your way up. Or whether you’re just looking to catch the views or soak them up over dinner and drinks. We’ve chosen five of our favourite places where you’ll find the best views of Paris from above.
The best views of Paris from above
The Eiffel Tower
It’s Paris’ most famous symbol and the city’s tallest building – so it’s no surprise that climbing the Eiffel Tower is the top of so many people’s Paris wishlists. The tower was built by engineer Gustave Eiffel for the 1889 World’s Fair. At 300 metres high it was the tallest building in the world until 1930, but it was originally only meant to last 20 years.
Despite most locals thinking it was an eyesore when it was first built, the Eiffel Tower is still going strong and attracts almost six million visitors each year. There are three different levels which you can access. To reach the first and second floors you can climb the stairs (674 in total) or take a hydraulic lift which travels diagonally up the tower’s legs.
From the second floor at 115 metres you already get amazing views across the city, and you’re not even halfway up. Then from there it’s straight up another 160 metres in a second lift. Despite the small space they’ve managed to squeeze a compact Champagne bar in at the top, so you can toast Paris from its highest point with a €22 glass of bubbly.
There are also two restaurants in the tower if you fancy dining with a view of Paris from above – Madame Brasserie on the first floor and the legendary Michelin-starred Jules Verne restaurant on the second floor. Both are pricey but make a good special occasion splurge, and a reservation also means you avoid having to queue for entry.
The Eiffel Tower is open daily, from 9am–midnight from mid-June to early September and from 9.30am–11.30pm for the rest of the year. Tickets to the top cost €28.30 for adults (€14.10 for youths aged 12–24 and €7.10 for children aged 4–11 years).
There are also various other tickets available at lower prices. Cheapest are the tickets for the stairs to the second floor (€11.30 adults, €5.60 youths, €2.80 children), but you can also get tickets for the lift to the second floor or the stairs then the lift to the top.
The Eiffel Tower is almost always busy – if you want to avoid the worst of the crowds go very early or late in the day or dodge the queue with skip-the-line access.* The nearest Metro is at Bir-Hakeim and the nearest RER is at Champ de Mars.
The Montparnasse Tower
The much-maligned Montparnasse Tower is a big box-like, black blot on the Parisian skyline, and was even once voted the second ugliest building in the world. But as its haters like to point out, at least when you’re at the top of the tower you can’t see it!
At 210 metres tall, the Montparnasse Tower was Paris’ tallest skyscraper when it was built in 1968 and is still the only one in the city centre, as they restricted such tall buildings to the La Defence area afterwards. The majority of the tower is used for offices, but the 56th floor and the open-air rooftop terrace on the 59th floor are open to the public.
A super-fast lift takes you to the 56th floor in 38 seconds, which has large windows looking out across the city. Then there are three flights of stairs to climb to reach the terrace, surrounded by a curved glass wall. The views are best at dusk when you can watch the lights come on across Paris, and the Eiffel Tower sparkle when it lights up on the hour.
You can have a glass of Champagne on the roof terrace, or you can get a free view over a drink or dinner at the Ceil de Paris bar and restaurant on the 56th floor.
The Montparnasse Tower is open daily, from 9.30am–11.30pm between 1 April and 30 September and from 9.30am–10.30pm (9.30am– 11.30pm on Fridays and Saturdays) for the rest of the year. The last lift is 30 minutes before closing. Tickets cost €21 for adults (€16 for youths aged 12–17 and students, and €9.50 for children aged 4–11).
There’s also a day and night ticket available where you can go up to the top twice within 48 hours (€28 adults/€22 youths/€14 children) to see the views by day and night.
The queues for the Montparnasse Tower aren’t usually too bad, but it’s still a good idea to book in advance,* especially during the summer months and at weekends around sunset when it’s busiest. The nearest Metro is at Montparnasse Bienvenüe.
Although only 83 metres high, the dome of Sacré-Cœur Basilica is actually Paris’ second-highest point thanks to its position right on the top of Montmartre hill. The basilica was built between 1876 and 1912 to honour the victims of the Franco–Prussian War.
It’s made from white travertine limestone which gets whiter as it ages, in an unusual mix of architectural styles that was controversial at the time. As well as visiting the basilica, you can climb to the top of the inner dome for a 360º panorama of Paris from above.
You need to climb 300 narrow spiralling stairs to get up there (so it’s not ideal if you’re claustrophobic), with a gallery at top so you can walk around the dome. The gallery is at a height of 213 metres, and on a clear day you can see for over 30 miles, as well as getting a great close-up view of the basilica’s bell towers and its stone gargoyles.
Sacré-Cœur Basilica itself is open daily from 6.30am–10.30pm and is free to enter. But if you want to climb the dome it costs €6 for adults or €4 for children. The dome is open from 10.30am–8.30pm, with the last entry at 8pm. Entrance to the dome is on your left after going through the basilica gates, before you get to the main doorway.
The nearest Metro station is Abbesses, from where it’s an uphill walk, or from Anvers there’s a funicular railway to Sacré-Cœur from the bottom of Montmartre hill.
The Arc de Triomphe
The Arc de Triomphe is nowhere near the tallest building in Paris at only 50 metres high, but its location make it one of my favourite Paris viewpoints. It commissioned by Napoleon in 1806 to honour the French army, but wasn’t completed until after he died.
The arch is engraved with names of soldiers who fought in the French Revolution and Napoleanic wars, and houses the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. It sits at the end of the Champs Élysees, where 12 roads radiate outwards from the Etoile (star) junction, which is famed for its manic traffic and forms an axis of arches through the centre of Paris.
At one end there’s the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel next to the Louvre, and at the other there’s the Grande Arche in La Defense. You can see both of them from the viewing platform on top of the arch, as well as the traffic below. And its central location gives you a great view of the Eiffel Tower, Tuileries Gardens and Place de la Concorde too.
Although it doesn’t look that tall, you do have to climb 284 steps to reach the top – there is a lift partway up but the terrace is only accessible via a spiral staircase with 40 steps.
The Arc de Triomphe is open daily, from 10am–11pm between 1 April and 30 September and from 10am–10.30pm the rest of the year. Though it does close on certain public holidays and for official ceremonies. Entry costs €13 for adults or free for under 18s – you can also get free entry with a Paris Museum Pass* (available for 2, 4 or 6 days).
The nearest Metro is at Charles-de-Gaulle-Etoile, and you can avoid the terrifying Champs Élysees traffic by taking the underpass from Wagram exit of the Metro.
Galeries Lafayette Haussmann
Not all of the best views of Paris from above cost money – one of the biggest bargain viewpoints is the rooftop terrace at the Galeries Lafayette department store on Boulevard Haussmann, which is free to visit. The store is famous for its Art Nouveau stained-glass domed roof and its elaborate window displays, particularly around Christmas.
But if you head to the eighth floor there’s a huge panoramic terrace with views out across the Paris rooftops and down onto the neighbouring Palais Garnier opera house. It’s especially beautiful at sunset, when you have two of Paris’ most famous landmarks in your sights – the Eiffel Tower in one direction and Sacré-Cœur Basilica in the other.
If you want to stay and admire the views, Galeries Lafayette also hosts pop-up restaurants on the rooftop in summer where you can relax with a meal or a cocktail.
The terrace at Galeries Lafayette Haussmann is open from from 10am to 8pm. The nearest Metro stations are at Chaussée d’Antin La Fayette, Opéra or Havre–Caumartin.