Paris is known as the City of Light, and there’s no better place to appreciate its warm glow than high above it all. Whether perched on a precipice over the Champs-Elysees or living the high life atop a modern skyscraper, you’ll get some perspective when you visit these five sites.
5. The Eiffel Tower
Elevation (at 3rd observation deck): 276 m
The most obvious addition to the list, arguably the symbol of all of France to the rest of the world, should not be discounted as a must-see Paris panorama. Aside from its function as a monument, the Eiffel Tower’s only real purpose is to provide elevators full of pilgrims with unobstructed views of the surrounding city, and it does its job well. The downsides are admission prices (though not prohibitive, the fees can be a nuisance) and crowds, but if you can avoid weekends and holidays you’ll cut down on queue time.
4. Montparnasse Tower
Elevation at roof terrace: 210 m
In the grand tradition of New York and Chicago, Paris offers up the top floors of one of its few skyscrapers to acrophilic tourists. The Montparnasse Tower is located in the 15th arrondissement, and looks directly down on the expansive Montparnasse Cemetery, offering a sobering reflection of the surrounding metropolis. Morbidity aside, this tower is rarely crowded and offers a sheltered observation deck as well as a terrace, so year-round ogling is encouraged.
3. Arc de Triomphe
Elevation: 50 m
This Napoleonic construction is probably most often viewed from the disorder of its encircling roundabout, but the view from the top is much more impressive. While the city’s second interactive monument doesn’t offer much in terms of sheer spine-tingling height, it’s the location that counts: overlooking the Champs-Elysees and other underrated spokes, the Arc de Triomphe is a great place to take in the twilight glow of the City of Light.
2. Arab World Institute
Even if you’re not there for the museum, the café or a cultural event, you can always head to the roof of the Arab World Institute for an up-close and personal view of central Paris’ most iconic rooftops. Entry is free and the building is just a click down the Seine from Notre Dame, so there’s no reason not to stop in for a peek.
Elevation: 130 m
Montmartre, the neighborhood, is high on the list for any traveler who’s a fan of literature, painting or general expatriatism, and the hill itself should not be missed. Best appreciated on a warm summer day with an ample wet lunch packed, you can hike to the top along the zigzagging paths or steep stairs and stop as often as you’d like to take in the increasingly expansive view. A small fee will grant you access to the dome of the Sacre Coeur, adding an impressive 83 meters to your panorama, but you’ll find that the party is always in the grass below, and the view from there is just fine.