When it comes to contemplating the most beautiful Parisian panoramas, most people automatically think of the view from the iconic Eiffel Tower. With its frequent appearance in cinematic establishing shots and an upper observatory platform situated 915 feet above the Champ de Mars urban park, the lattice tower has become the quintessential symbol of French industry and innovation.
However, its popularity also means that a trip to its viewing platforms and restaurants, which present various dining experiences in front of a picturesque cityscape, can be time-consuming and crowded. So why not consider some of the capital’s other charming spots, and maybe see a whole new side to this infamous city?
Each of Paris’ twenty arrondissements, or municipal districts, has a distinct character and therefore each presents a different aspect of the city’s personality. Information on the layout and navigation of these neighbourhoods can be found on the official tourist information website, and personal preference as to which arrondissement is the most appealing is a much often debated point among not only tourists, but Parisians themselves.
Notre Dame, the setting of Victor Hugo’s beloved novel, is situated in the 4th arrondissement. Aside from being beautiful in itself, with its Gothic architecture and plentiful gargoyles, the cathedral’s South Tower offers an impressive view of the Île de la Cité and surrounding Seine River, as well as an overview of the nearby 1st, 5th and 6th arrondissements. Unlike the Eiffel Tower, this landmark does not offer a lift, so visitors should be prepared to climb the 387 steps leading to it.
For only 284 steps (or a lift and a mere 60 steps), visitors can also ascend the Arc de Triomphe in the centre of Place Charles De Gaulle. Standing at one end of the famous Champs-Élysées in the 8th arrondissement, the monument is a convergent point for twelve avenues, providing a glimpse into the heart of the city’s shopping district with views extending as far as the Obelisk of Luxor in the Place de la Concorde to the east and the Grande Arche de la Défense to the west.
The Grand Arche itself is no longer open to the public but visitors may enjoy the view of the business district from beneath it. Although outside central Paris, in Puteaux commune, it is accessible by public transport and usually quiet and crowd free. La Défense will in time be home to another viewing platform, in the upcoming Hermitage Plaza. Another unlikely view of Paris can be seen in La Vallée Verte, a park opposite the Hyatt Regency Paris-CDG. Where most Parisian parks are exquisitely landscaped, Vallée Verte retains a natural quality reminiscent of the countryside of southern France.
Back in the centre, Montparnasse Tower in the 15th arrondissement gives a view to rival that of the Eiffel Tower. Its proximity to the Luxembourg Palace ensures that guests receive a beautiful bird’s eye view of the Luxembourg Gardens, the city’s second biggest park. Further north, in the 18th arrondissement, the Basilica of the Sacred Heart (Sacré-Cœur) gives an overview of Square Louise Michel and the artistic Montmarte district, home to the Moulin Rouge.
While these structures provide elevated perspectives, thanks to Baron Haussman’s renovation in 1853 and the diligent work put in by its authorities and citizens today, France’s city of love is “picture perfect” from most angles. Little cafés, precise topiaries and street artists adorn each avenue, ensuring that every view is decidedly scenic – and decidedly Parisian.