Paris is one of the prettiest cities in the world and I’ve found it to be more like a giant museum. Naturally, it’s always interesting to see things from above and in Paris, this is especially true. I’ve gathered for you seven of the best places in Paris for panoramic views. It took quite a bit of waiting in line, lots of Euros spent – but it was all very worth it! I’m also including a few spots that are totally free, and one secret tip!
The Rooftop Terrace of the Montparnasse Tower
Metro Station: Montparnasse – Bienvenüe
Pros: short wait, best Eiffel Tower view in Paris
Cons: on the edge of the city center, €17 ticket
Many Parisians still regret the day when plans for the Montparnasse Tower were approved. It was one of the first skyscrapers to be built in Paris and the first in the city center. These days it’s definitely the ‘elephant in the room’, noticeable from pretty much every point in town in a city that prides itself on being relatively flat. There is, however, one huge benefit to having a tower of 210 meters in the middle of town. The Montparnasse Tower is, in my opinion, one of the top places in Paris for panoramic views and there are a few reasons why.
First off, the view from the rooftop terrace is phenomenal. You can see all the way to Montmartre and get an unobstructed view of the Eiffel Tower. There’s also a champagne bar up there, though it can be a bit windy and I didn’t like too much the excessive protective glass. In addition, foodies or simply just romance seekers might want to check out Ciel de Paris – a French restaurant that’s got to have some of the best views in Paris (reservations necessary). You can also just stop by for a coffee or take advantage of their lunch menu. Lastly, if it’s panoramic sunset views of Paris you’re after, then the Montparnasse Tower is a no brainer from the pictures I’ve seen.
See what else there is to do in Montparnasse with this Montparnasse & Southern Paris neighborhood guide
The Terrace at the Printemps Department Store
Metro Station: Havre – Caumartin
Pros: free, city center, shopping district
Cons: low elevation, closes early
Visitors to this classic Art Nouveau department store are not only treated with a 12% discount but also to one of the best panoramic views of Paris – and it’s all completely free. Together with Gallery Lafayette just next door, Printemps is a classic Parisian institution and it’s always interesting to check out what’s new in their super creative display window. If shopping is not your thing, head upstairs to Cafe Déli-Cieux and step outside to the outdoor terrace. You’ll be treated to fantastic views just above the city center and get up close and personal with the store’s decorated signature roof. The Palais Garnier is just next door and though you don’t have to buy anything, it’s a great spot for a light lunch with a view or just a glass of wine before sunset. UPDATE: Cafe Deli-Cieux has closed its doors but it’s still worth checking if rooftop access is possible. I assume a new establishment will shortly open at this location, if it hasn’t already by the time you visit Paris.
There’s lots to do aside from shopping in this area. Check out this guide to the Grands Boulevards of Paris
The Balcony of the Musée d’Orsay
Metro Stop: Solférino
Pros: inside one of the best museums in Paris, right on the Seine
Cons: often closed, views only towards northern Paris
You don’t come to the Musée d’Orsay for the views but this little treat awaits those who venture to the top floor. The Musée d’Orsay is one of the best museums in all of Paris, right up there with the Louvre. In fact, it picks up where the Louvre leaves off, covering the Impressionist and Post Impressionist eras. This converted railway station is definitely one of the top things to do in Paris and it’s also got a pretty nice view from the small terrace on the top floor. You’ll be able to get a view of Montmartre just across from you and down below towards the Seine and the Louvre. I came here on one of the days when the museum is open until the late evening and the sunset views were excellent!
Definitely aim to visit the Musée d’Orsay! Here’s a guide I wrote to help you plan your visit
The Dome of the Sacre Coeur Basilica
Metro Stops: Abbesses, Anvers
Pros: highest point in Paris
Cons: crowded area, the climb might be challenging for some
A visit to the romantic hilltop neighborhood of Montmartre is a simply a must if you’re a first time visitor to Paris. This area has retained some of its old time charm as a former village on the outskirts of town, though these days it draws the tourist crowds, to say the least. At the very top of the hill stands the Sacre Coeur Basilica. It’s relatively ‘new’ by Parisian standards, only opening up in 1919 but the panoramic views of Paris are definitely worth the uphill journey. It’s totally free to enter the basilica and there’s even a great view of Paris from the outdoor terrace. But if you’re seeking that extra adventure, climb the 300 steps to the top of the domes for breathtaking panoramic views of Paris and of Montmartre, just beneath you (€10)
Check out this Montmartre itinerary and plan a romantic day in Paris!
The Tower of the Notre Dame Cathedral
Metro Stops: Abbesses, Anvers
Pros: super central location
Cons: long and slow moving queue
Paris is home to dozens of magnificent cathedrals but none are as visited as the flagship cathedral of Paris – the Notre Dame. Located on Ile de la Cite, this spot is pretty much the birthplace of Paris, starting out as a small Roman village on the island called Lutetia. Aside from being the spot where all distances in France are measured from, the cathedral is a prime example of ridiculously marvelous Gothic architecture. This cathedral is so grand, that it took nearly 200 years to complete. It’s free to enter inside and though you’ll definitely not be alone, it’s just one of those things you have to see in Paris! If you’re on the hunt for the best panoramic views of Paris, queue up to climb the 387 steps to the top of the tower (€8.50). Unfortunately, things are very inefficient here and the line moves at an agonizingly slow pace. So it’s best to come here early and have a chance to admire the panoramic views, without spending your day in the queue!
Restaurant Georges at the Pompidou Center
Metro Stops: Rambuteau, Les Halles, Châtelet
Pros: romance, food, terrace
At the top of the famous (or infamous) Centre Pompidou, lies one of the top French restaurants in Paris – Georges. If you’re prepared to spend €75 per person (without wine), you could spend a romantic dinner overlooking central Paris. The Eiffel Tower will be glowing at night right before your eyes, and you’ll be pampered by staff who seem to outnumber the diners. It may not be for everyone but if you’re interested, be sure to book way in advance.
See what else is around Georges with this guide to the Grands Boulevards of Paris
The Top of the Arc de Triomphe
Metro Stop: Charles de Gaulle – Étoile
Pros: Eiffel Tower & Champs Elysees view
Cons: the climb might not be suitable for everyone, pricey
I’ve visited Paris quite a few times but never managed to tick this one off the list, until moving to Paris for 3 months and having no more excuses. One of the world’s most iconic landmarks sits comfortably at the top of one of the most famous avenues in the world. It’s free to visit the Arc de Triomphe but for that extra view, climb the spiral staircase and you’ll be treated to amazing views right above the Champs Elysees (€9.50). Surprisingly, the line moved very quickly and I entered within 15 minutes, even on a busy Sunday. The terrace offers 360-degree views of Paris and you could spend a good hour up there, moving from one spot to another and sucking in the great views of Paris! This one definitely ranks up there as one of the best places in Paris for panoramic views and though a bit pricey, I think it’s worth it.
Don’t miss out on other Champs Elysees area highlights with this guide
The Eiffel Tower
Metro Stop: Trocadéro
Pros: great balance between height and central location
Cons: long wait, very crowded
Not much needs to be said about the Eiffel Tower. In a city with so many iconic landmarks, this is the quintessential Parisian postcard. At 300 meters height, the steel tower was an engineering marvel at the time of construction for the Universal Expo in 1889. It’s hard to imagine today, but the tower was to be dismantled after the expo. Thank God Parisians know how to get their way when they want something. There’s simply no way you can visit Paris without making it here. The question you really need to ask is whether to climb to the first-floor observatory (€9) or all the way to the top (€15.50). I strongly recommend buying your tickets in advance, as the queues can really be a downer. Keep in mind that once you’re up there, you won’t be alone – but you probably won’t care! It’s a super touristy thing to do but hey, you’re a tourist, so it’s fine. James Bond fans might want to book a table at the Jules Vernes restaurant, though I heard it’s certainly not worth the price.
The Eiffel Tower district is one of my favorites in Paris! Check out this guide to the 7th arrondissement
I hope you’ve found this list of the best places in Paris for panoramic views. If there are some spots that I missed, feel free to share them in the comments!