Where to Find the Most Memorable Views of Paris
The word “picturesque” was probably coined for the city of Paris. At least that’s my theory on the matter.
Whether you’re climbing Montparnasse Tower in the west, or scaling the hills of the north east — you’re almost guaranteed a view that renders even the most talkative individuals speechless.
Perhaps it’s the miles and miles of uniform grey concrete. Or the greenery that calls the spaces between the concrete home. Perhaps it’s the light that bounces from the iron castings to the statues. Or the water of the Seine that ties the arrondissements together.
Whatever it is, Paris is a privilege to look at from every angle. I believe Ernest Hemingway put it best when he described his years living in the city during the 1920s; a “moveable feast” he called it. A city that stays and moves with you; and undoubtably a feast for the eyes.
While you don’t have to venture very far to find a great view of Paris (they’re pretty much on every corner); there are a few places where one could dub the view most memorable.
If you only have a limited amount of time in the city then it is important to know exactly where to go to experience the full impact of the city skyline. The following views are about as “picturesque” as they come — panoramic views of Paris that will etch themselves into your mind for years to come.
Let’s explore shall we?
The Pompidou Center in Paris
One of the architectural marvels of the 4th arrondissement, the Pompidou Center is an unsuspecting place for one of the most memorable views in all of Paris.
Most people known the centre as that building with the colored tubing and elevators on the outside. Most aren’t aware that the space is also home to the National Museum of Modern Art.
Visiting the Pompidou Centre is a great way to kill two birds with one stone. You’ll be able to get in some valuable art viewing while simultaneously observing one of the most beautiful panoramic views of the Parisian skyline.
The incredible view can be found on the 6th floor of the building. The art can be found on the floors below. The Pompidou Centre has an incredible collection of the more recent works of artists such as Picasso, Matisse and Andy Warhol.
Also on the top floor is the Pompidou Center’s signature restaurant: Georges. A great spot to stop for a bite of French cuisine while enjoying the panoramic view of Paris. Try stop here for a pot of tea at least, even if you’re not hungry you can still bask in the view for a few minutes longer.
The museum and viewing floor are open to the public for free on the first Sunday of every month so keep this in mind if you happen to be in the area.
Centre admission: €14 6th floor admission only: €5
Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris
6 Parvis Notre-Dame – Pl. Jean-Paul II
As we know, the city of Paris is made up of 20 districts known as “arrondissements”. These districts are divided into a clockwise spiral starting from the centre of the city. The official centre point is situated just in front of the very well known cathedral of Notre Dame.
Climbing up to the tower of the cathedral gives visitors something that is known as the “gargoyle’s view of Paris”. You’ll have a chance to see the would of Paris from the eye of the iconic gargoyles that guard the building night and day — and it is spectacular.
Being the centre, or heart, of Paris; the 4th arrondissement is a bustling hub in terms of city life. Free guided walking tours are common in this district, as there is so much to see and do it makes more sense to explore along side someone who knows a bit about everything.
The view of Paris from atop the Notre Dame tower is beautiful. On one end the Eiffel Tower looms in the distance, strong and tall over the Western districts. On the other side, the delicate presence of Sacre-Coeur on the Montmartre hillside is a treat for the eyes.
The Parisian skyline is not all there is to experience at Notre Dame. The cathedral itself is an exceptional example of fine French gothic architecture. Walking through the main space is absolutely free and you’ll be able to light candles inside.
Also on the Notre Dame premises are some pleasant gardens as well as the crypt hidden deep under the surface. What’s more, the town of Notre Dame is a great place to enjoy lunch or dinner in. Most of the streets are lined with Parisian cafes and bistros.
Notre Dame Tower admission: €8.50
Shangri La Rooftop in Paris
10 Avenue d’Iéna
Some of the best views in Paris are not always found in the most public of places. Many Parisian hotel rooftops keep their panoramic views very low-key to avoid the craze of the public.
Shangri La are known for their hotels around the world. They are almost always attached to some incredible building that features a panoramic viewing deck of some sort. Things are no different at their spot in Paris.
This hotel is a gem in the 16th arrondissement. It is located not far from the Seine and is just across the water from the Eiffel Tower — so you can imagine the view that their rooftop lounge must boast.
You wont be able to stroll into this venue for “a quick look”. I suggest making an evening reservation sometime around sun down and settle in for a glass of wine and some snacks. Watching the sun light descend from Paris as the city lights come up will have the hairs on your neck standing upright.
The Shangri La rooftop is also probably the best place to be on July 14th every year. Bastille Day in Paris is a big deal. It is the only day of the year when fireworks are visible in Paris and they take place right in front of Shangri La, over on the Eiffel Tower grounds.
You’ll be lucky if you can get a booking, there is quite possibly no better seat in town.
Bastille Day or not, any evening at the Shangri La rooftop is well worth the experience. You feel so close to the glistening Eiffel Tower, as if you could reach over the glass balcony and just pick it up. Magnifique.
Average cost: Under €100
The Big Wheel at Place de la Concorde
Place de la Concorde is a district situated in the 8th arrondissement of Paris. Every year from the middle of November until the beginning of May there is a giant ferris wheel that is constructed in the district centre.
The wheel has become a holiday favorite for both locals and tourists who love riding the structure with family and friends during the festive seasons. The only thing better than a panoramic view of Paris, is a 360° panoramic view of Paris!
While simultaneously offering a great deal of fun to all involved, the wheel gives riders an all access pass to all angles of skyline on the city scape.
The direct view of the wheel falls over the Champs-Elysees, which is essentially just a short jump to everything else in Paris.
You’ll have such fun challenging your friends or children to pointing out other landmarks on the skyline as the wheel rotates you from east to west and back again. Ten points to whoever spots the Orangerie Museum and the glass pyramid of the Louvre first!
I make a point of trying to ride the Paris ferris wheel at least once a year because I really enjoy that it is not something that everyone has done or can do anytime. There is a very limited bracket in which experiencing this view of Paris can occur, if you miss it you miss out.
I am still not certain as to whether I prefer the wheel by day or by night. Both are so different and so breathtaking in their own way, it doesn’t seem fair to dub one as better. Of course with any panoramic view by day you are able to see a lot further into the distance, so this is a plus.
The wheel usually operates right up until midnight which is wonderful for anyone with a busy day schedule who would still like to fit in the excursion. What better way to kiss the city goodnight than from on the very top of it.
Admission fee: €8
Sacre-Coeur Basilica Steps
35 Rue du Chevalier de la Barre
If you’ve viewed any of the Parisian skyline prior to this chances are you can already pin point the Sacred Heart church of Paris. The incredible structure is perched right on top of the Montmartre hill in the 18th arrondissement.
Montmartre itself is a very historic and very interesting neighborhood to explore in Paris. It’s bohemian artist’s flair still runs deep within the district’s streets.
By just walking through here you’ll be overcome with a deep sense of the progress made by Paris in more recent centuries involving everything from art and design to entrepreneurism and immigration (Read more about Discover walking tours).
At the very top of Montmartre sits this elaborate structure known as Sacre-Coeur. The church itself is beautiful to behold; far more delicate to the eye compared to the more gothic layout of other Parisian places of worship.
The steps to the front of the church, however, are where the true magic happens. The garden and stair ways of the Sacre-Coeur make for a massive viewing deck that spills over most of the city of Paris.
This is arguably the best spot in all of Paris to say farewell to the sun as the day comes to an end. If you feel the need you can also climb up to the church’s dome tower for an even higher view, though it isn’t really necessary in my opinion. There is nothing higher than the stairs other than the dome, so the view is the same.
The park area just below the stairs is a great place to picnic especially if you are traveling with children.
Sacre-Coeur dome entrance fee: €5
5 Avenue Anatole
I would usually say that a memorable Parisian view would at the very least have to include the icon that is the Eiffel Tower; but I suppose if the view is coming from the tower itself, then its lack of presence is somewhat justified?
You’ll find this ultimate symbol of Paris on the Champ de Mars in the 7th arrondissement.
Because of its world fame, this is a view of Paris you’ll likely do just once. The entire process can be somewhat of a mission due to the long lines and slow nature of the tower’s elevators. If you’re up to claiming the 1710 stairs then that option is yours for the taking as well.
Going up the Eiffel Tower once is good enough. The view is magnificent, not something to easily put into words. Every minute the elevator spends climbing higher and higher the more of Paris’ array of districts comes into view. It is quite a sight.
The Eiffel Tower view is best experienced early early morning, or very late afternoon (though this can be hard to orchestrate due to crowds). Like the ferris wheel, this is a great place to challenge your accompanying party to pointing out specific landmarks on the city scape.
Admission fee: €25.50 (price comes down if you are able to take some stairs)
So there you have it. Some of the most memorable views in all of the city of lights. Perhaps a visit to one of them will cause you to understand exactly what it was Hemingway was referring to regarding Paris all those years ago…