Tag Archives: Paris

A View Over Paris: From The Towers of Notre-Dame

Staring up at the tower of Notre-Dame de Paris, you think of the bell ringer. The hunchback. Quasimodo.

Notre-Dame de Paris
Notre-Dame de Paris

Victor Hugo’s novel Notre-Dame de Paris and its protagonist Quasimodo, the “Hunchback of Notre-Dame” helped to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining significant medieval buildings and in 1845 brought about a restoration effort by Viollet-le-Duc to revive the neglected cathedral. Ever since, climbing the towers of Notre-Dame has been a must-do for visitors to Paris.

The Chimera Gallery
Chimeras in the Chimera Gallery – including one that appears to be not fully formed

As you climb the narrow steps up to the top of the tower, look around at the windows and the stairs and feel the cold tower wall. When Victor Hugo came here and explored the towers, he came across the Greek word ANAKH, which means ‘fate’. It was one of the sources of inspiration for his novel, and if you pay attention perhaps you can find your own story inspiration carved into the stone.

The Chimera Gallery
The stryga, one of the chimeras, looks out over the Eiffel Tower from the Chimera Gallery

After you reach the top of the first staircase, you find yourself in the Chimera Gallery. Here, you can see why Disney chose to use the chimeras as Quasimodo’s companions in their 1996 animated film The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. They all seem to have their own unique characters as they stare out past the cathedral and over the city of Paris. Each is carved in such detail, it’s like they were meant to be on display for people to climb the towers to see them.

The Chimera Gallery
A wyvern looks down from the Chimera Gallery

As you move slowly along the Chimera Gallery, they’re everywhere. It’s a testament to the skill of the stonemasons, who must have spent months and years following Viollet-le-Duc’s designs. You could become so absorbed in picking out the different animals that you could forget to look at the view!

View of the Panthéon
Looking from Notre Dame out over the hill of Sainte-Geneviève and the Panthéon

After you’ve taken in the Chimera Gallery (and ducked in to the South Tower’s belfry – mind your step! – to see Emmanuel, the cathedral’s largest bell weighing in at over 13 tonnes!), you have another staircase to ascend, which takes you to the very top of the South Tower for a 360 degree view of Paris.

The Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame
Looking out over the Place du Parvis-Notre-Dame

The view of Paris changes depending on where you are. From the Towers of Notre-Dame, higgledy-piggledy rooftops hide streets and almost take over the Seine. Only the spires of churches, domes of palaces and the very tops of towers can be seen.

Don’t forget to look down over the cathedral itself and admire the architecture of the catchments that carry rain water to spout from the mouths of the gargoyles, to the flying buttresses that support the cathedral walls.

Looking down over the cathedral
Looking down over the cathedral’s flying buttresses and gargoyles that spout water when it rains

Whether or not you find story inspiration and go on to write a bestseller like Victor Hugo, take the time to climb the Towers of Notre-Dame and you will find one of the best views over Paris.

Do you have a favourite view of Paris? Share it in the comments!

What you need to know:

A View Over Paris: From Montparnasse Tower

The French writer Guy de Maupassant reputedly said that the best view of Paris was from the Eiffel Tower, because he could look out over Paris and not have to see the tower itself. Many people hold the same view of Montparnasse Tower (Tour Montparnasse) – the sleek black skyscraper, that looks out of place amongst the older buildings of Paris.

Montparnasse Tower
Montparnasse Tower: a skyscraper consisting of mostly offices. The 56th floor and the terrace are open to visitors.

While I do feel sorry that the tower gets such a bad rap, the truth is that these people are right: the views from the topmost floors of the tower are amazing, and you could spend hours here picking out the landmarks.

Les Invalides from Montparnasse Tower
Les Invalides as seen from Montparnasse Tower

Make sure you get out on the terrace for the best view

Montparnasse Tower is essentially an office building, with the 56th floor turned in to a panoramic viewing area for tourists. From here you can see iconic buildings such as Notre-Dame de Paris, Les Invalides, the Louvre, the Sacré Cœur, the twist of railway lines beyond the Gare Montparnasse and, of course, a fantastic view of the Eiffel Tower. There are also interactive panels, a photo exhibition, a gift shop and a café.

While the view from the 56th floor is great, if you want to take photos you have to deal with potential glare and windows smudged with fingerprints. If you turn right as you walk in, you will find a staircase that will take you up on to the terrace and allow you to look over Paris without trying to shoot around bars and through windows.

Eiffel Tower at twilight
Go to Montparnasse Tower just before sunset to see the sky change from daylight to twilight

Time your visit for sunset

My tip for visiting Montparnasse Tower? Go an hour before sunset. That way, you can enjoy the view in daylight, then watch as twilight settles over the city and the yellow glow of the streetlights appear, and then once the sky has darkened you can catch the ultimate view of the Eiffel Tower as it sparkles in the night.

The Eiffel Tower sparkles
Montparnasse Tower provides the ultimate view of the Eiffel Tower

Plan to spend at least an hour taking in the views here and to fully enjoy the experience!

Do you have a favourite view of Paris? Share it in the comments!

What you need to know:

  • Montparnasse Tower is located across the road from the Gare Montparnasse and can be reached by Metro at stop Montparnasse Bienvenüe
  • Further details can be found at the Montparnasse Tower website

A View Over Paris: From Montmartre

As I found a spot among the people in front of the Sacré-Cœur already admiring the view, umbrellas in one hand and cameras in the other,  I looked out over Paris and felt a bit underwhelmed.

The view over Montmartre
The view over Montmartre

Perhaps it was the mist and fog, or that I wasn’t as high up as I thought I’d be, or that the buildings below were all jumbled up without any landmarks or tall buildings to draw my eye,  but I didn’t feel that the view from the top of Montmartre was as good as the monuments I had climbed.

What do you think?

The view over Montmartre
The view over Paris from the top of Montmartre, hidden by fog and mist!

Do you have a favourite view of Paris? Share it in the comments!