Ask ‘where can I get a great view of Paris?’, and I would bet €10 on the most common answer. While the Eiffel Tower is a sight to behold, it is exactly that – a sight to be seen. Once you are on the Eiffel Tower, unless your name is Guy de Maupassant, it almost seems a shame that to admire Paris, you can no longer really see arguably its most iconic landmark.
Imagine my surprise then when I came across the most incredible spot for a view of Paris that also comes without the massive queues: the Montparnasse Tower, or Tour Maine-Montparnasse. This big, black blot on the white Parisian landscape does not go unnoticed, but the 1960’s office tower block has the advantage of being the tallest skyscraper in Paris. As a result, it offers an unsurpassed 360 degree view of the city I love.
Located in the Montparnasse area of the 15th arrondissement, the Tower is slightly off the well-beaten tourist track, but is conveniently built on top of a number of converging Paris metro lines. Another top tip: if you are using L’Open Tour green tourist buses, hop on the ‘Orange Route’ and it will drop you right outside.The 59 story high tower is still mainly offices, yet the 59th floor offers a viewing gallery with café and restaurant, and above this a roof terrace to enjoy the open air scene. When I first visited Paris and ‘discovered’ the Montparnasse Tower in 2008, the viewing gallery was little more than a empty space, and the helipad was literally still a helipad, with just a waist height railing keeping you out of harm’s way. That, and the approximately five other people there with us, made it feel like Paris’ best kept secret.
When I returned to Paris in 2012, one of my first stops was the Montparnasse Tower. I must admit that I was disappointed it had been ‘spruced up’ with the health and safety requirement glass walls, and that the number of visitors had increased significantly, but the incredible view over Paris had lost none of its charm. It offers a brilliant platform from which to view iconic sights such as the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Invalides, the Sacré Coeur, the Montparnasse cemetery, and the Place de Bastille.
One thing that I would recommend if you have the time is heading up at dusk to watch the sunset over Paris, and see the city light up. In fact, watching the famous ‘Eiffel Tower’ hourly dazzling light show from above was the highlight of my visit to Paris.
Entry to the Montparnasse Tower costs €13 at the time of writing for adults, and is open year round. If you are going to Paris, I cannot stress enough that the Montparnasse Tower should have a place on your ‘must-visit’ list – it is certainly worth it!