If every city has a color … I think London is misty-grey, Rome is Tuscan yellow, and Paris should be a subdued but romantic blue. We always see dreamy and romantic pictures of Paris – for the city itself, the houses are covered with matching blue color rooftops that are so recognizable to the world. Strolling in the city alleys and streets, I always admire the buildings and wonder how they are so ‘unusually’ coherent.
Paris’s mansard roofs
I looked it up online and then I found out this architectural style was invented by a French architect in the 17th century and became popular during that period. On top of each French Baroque-style building, the rooftops are called mansard roofs, and it is a double-sloped roof design with two top layers less steep than the lower part in order to maximize the space of the interior. Whilst there are also small oval windows that ‘poked out’ from these roofs are ‘oeil de boeuf’ windows.
The higher you go, the farther you see. It is also the more you see. I love reaching high points and appreciate the city layout, grids, architecture, and cityscape. Especially Paris is rather flat and situated on the river Seine, you might see the city a little bit differently from the above. 🙂 But here, I am also including some places for you to get the best view of Paris.
Trocadéro is a garden of the Palais de Chaillot, which not many people would usually talk about, yet it’s a great place to enjoy the view of the Eiffel Tower – just because the open space is laid right across the River Seine, offering a direct and full-on view of the national monument in all its glory. On a beautiful summer day, enjoy a lazy afternoon sitting on a bench, or even on the lawn. However, it also means tourists may flood in to take pictures. If you prefer a little bit more peace and quiet, visit there in the early morning or later in the evening.
Then, head to the Eiffel Tower for a higher view of the city!
The Eiffel Tower
I think the Eiffel Tower doesn’t require any introduction. It is crowded, it has a long queue, we fight and we line up to go up … and yet it is still a tourist’s ultimate goal to go up the tower for all the sentimental reasons.
For a place like this, you’d better be prepared because you don’t know what may happen to you if you simply make a decision to go there in the morning. Looking into the forum, someone showed off that they were ‘lucky’, and someone complained the queue was 4 hours… The truth is, things are different every day, and it is a gamble whether or not you could go up to the tower with ease (if, again, you are free-spirited and you are not prepared). To spoil the suspense I decided to go for the ‘be prepared’ route – and it was not that easy. I tried to book tickets to the summit of the Eiffel tower – and almost instantly all time slots are full even though you could make reservations 3 months in advance. Obviously, now it has become a profitable business for travel agencies to hog the tickets once the time slot was released and sold them again with a marked-up price. In the end, I bought the tickets from these travel agencies, the price was doubled, but I don’t have to queue up … as long as the walk-in tourists. We kind of skipped the line (there was a line for the securities) for the elevator to the first and second floor, while when you reached the second floor, there is immediately another line for the elevators to the summit! The Eiffel tower basically has three levels – The first floor of the Eiffel tower is spacious. it has a café, restaurants, washrooms, and souvenir stores. Some might even walk the stair to go up the first floor, not that hard and it’s good exercise – even if anyone chooses to go up the first floor by elevator, I would recommend going back down by stairs because there are some exhibits along the wall of the stairs, and the view through the lace-like iron fences is very nice.
The second floor is a little smaller than the first floor and it is the floor connected with the elevators to the summit – it is a queue up the floor so that the long queue would not use up all the space for other view-watchers on the first floor. Luckily, it was not rainy nor boiling hot that day, we could also enjoy the view of the fence while we queue. The 4 elevators worked non-stop, bringing the visitor to the summit frequently, so the queue was moving quite fast and it took around half an hour to reach the legendary top of the Eiffel tower ~~~~ Yeah.
“Mont” is French for “mountain”, and am I saved to say Montmartre is a hill named Martre? The giant Basilica du Sacré-Coeur is standing right at the top of the hill and the silhouette of the basilica could be seen everywhere in Paris. Since the hill is only 130 meters in height, it is easily accessible for tourists to reach the open space in front of the Basilica and overlook the city. Plus, the Basilica is reachable by foot, by vehicles, or by a short ride by the funicular. Due to the direction of where the church is facing, we didn’t see the Eiffel tower at the parvis du Sacré-Coeur. The good thing about Montmartre is that it is a historic, romantic, and artistic district in town we wandered around and enjoyed the view for FREE. However, the district is filled with tourists, as well as questionable con artists and pickpockets that we could feel were surrounded by them. It was a bit annoying.
The Pompidou Centre is a prestigious contemporary art museum – it is a modern and industrial building that looks quite a contrast with its surroundings. While you may not be an art buff, then you may miss out on a beautiful view of the Eiffel Tower from the rooftop. If you enter the art museum, you will be able to enjoy the view while you are going up to the top floor on the escalators which are built on the exterior of the museum (and they are facing the Eiffel Tower); but if you decided not to enter the museum, you could pay €5 and go straight up to the rooftop bar and have a drink while looking at the whole Paris.
Arc de Triomphe
Who doesn’t know the Arc de Triomphe? This is yet another national monument that was built in 1806 at the western end of the Champs-Élysées – a star of the juncture formed by its twelve radiating avenues. The monument is dedicated to honoring the people who fought and lost their lives in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, with the names of all French victories and generals inscribed on its inner and outer surfaces. It is a gorgeous structure from below – at the top of the arc is an observatory deck, offering a view of perfect symmetry from the Place Charles de Gaulle down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées; and on the other side, the modern skyline of the skyscrapers at La Defense.
Seine River Cruise
The Seine River Cruise is one of the most popular sightseeing activities in Paris and there are so, so many types of cruises on the River Seine that you can’t even count. From breakfast to dinner, tourists can enjoy the view of the city from the River while enjoying their meals; or simply sit on the deck and take thousands of pictures until their cameras’ batteries run out.
The River Seine runs through the city center of Paris and the amazing thing about Paris is that many of the city’s iconic locations are scattered on the bank of the River. The route usually begins in either the Eiffel Tower or the Notre dame, covering all the highlights in between – The Quai de la Tournelle, Le Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Place de la Concorde, Invalides, Petit Palais, Grand Palais, and so many more.
Another amazing thing about the Seine River Cruise is that you can appreciate some of the 37 bridges and footbridges that were on the Seine, and let me remind you that each of them has its own character, history, and beauty – Pont Neuf is considered to be the oldest stone bridge in Paris. Pont des Arts is a popular dating spot in the city. Pont Alexandre III is intricately decorated, connecting the Grand and Petit Palais with Invalides…. and the list goes on and on. You get to see the sculptures and the other side of these bridges from a cruise, which could be difficult onshore.
Lastly, we went to the Tour Montparnasse. It’s not on a hill but Tour Montparnasse is one of the very rare (if not only) skyscrapers in the city center of Paris. Plus, the building actually faces the Eiffel tower which gives visitors a perfect view of the modern architectural wonder, as well as a panoramic experience of the entire Paris from 200 meters above. What amazed me is that for such an exclusive location the tower was not crowded (nor expensive) at all. For a fair price of €15, we could truly just relax, enjoy, and take photos without pushing and dodging the crowd. Luckily the weather was fine on the summer day, the view was clear without violent sunlight hitting our faces, just grabbed coffee at the café on the open-air rooftop. I totally recommend this place for visitors if they enjoy viewing the cityscape like me.
Outside the building, we explored the Montparnasse district area. The area was actually quite vibrant with lots of exotic restaurants – Vietnamese, Thai, Chinese, Japanese… and entertainment facilities.