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If you’re planning on touring the city of Paris, you are probably eager to see the view from above. Not to fret, friends, as I have made a quick summary to ensure that you make the most of your time while enjoying the best view that Paris has to offer!
View from the Eiffel Tower
Level of difficulty: Low to High
Ahh, what would be a visit to Paris without a trip to the Eiffel Tower? Listed in the Top 5 Most Visited Attractions in the World, over 7 million people a year visit Lady E, so expect some company while you’re there.
You can purchase your tickets online ahead of time if you plan on taking the elevator. If you wish to take the stairs, which is definitely the cheaper option, you will have to buy them there. Come prepared with your running shoes though – at just under 700 steps, you will be earning your sandwich that day.
I’ll be honest – I definitely rode the elevator to the top of the Eiffel Tower. We actually did a tour through Get Your Guide, which allowed us a line bypass and a Behind the Scenes Tour on how the Tower operates. Total win!
When you’re at the top, enjoy a glass of Champagne (You’re at the Eiffel Tower, bubbly please!) from the Champagne Bar as you and your loved one toast to the view over Paris. We were unfortunately too early to do this (how sad), as it opened at noon at the time of our stay. Currently, the website states that it opens at 10:15 am, so there ya go.
Were the views worth it? I can’t say that this view was my favourite. Like any popular city, it’s nice to have the landmark IN the pictures, although Champ de Mars was beautiful from above. Plus, the stairs are see-through(!), which for a chicken like me, making for a scary climb up.
View from Notre Dame
Level of difficulty: High
A UNESCO world heritage site, Notre Dame is an extremely popular tourist attraction in France. It was in the square in front of Notre Dame that I witnessed the most police presence in all of Paris.
The line in front of Notre Dame will seem excessively long, but don’t be discouraged. It does actually move quickly, and although it snaked all around the square, I think we wait maybe 20 minutes to enter.
The church is free to enter, but you must pay and reserve a time slot if you want to climb the tower. To do this you will have to find the machines located on the left side of the building if you are facing it from the front.
The Tour of the Towers in included in your Paris Museum Pass, but as each group is limited to 25 people, you will have to get a specific time slot ticket from the machine. There will be a guide there to help you if you need assistance.
Climbing the towers of Notre Dame was the most difficult of all of our Paris jaunts. The staircases are narrow, winding and dark, with no room to pause or pass. Your group is dependent on the pace you set, and each group must continue on in order to let the next group through.
If you choose to tackle these 387 difficult steps, your dreams of Esmerelda or Beauty and the Beast will be realized when you see the gargoyles at the top.
You can also admire the island (Île de la Cité), the Eiffel Tower and the Seine River, which will further make you giddy about your French experience.
***Editor’s note: Due to a recent fire, tours are no longer in operation at Notre Dame. You can continue to view the Cathedral from the outside – I would recommend the view from the river for the best photos.
View from Sacré Coeur
Level of difficulty: Low to Medium
Heading to the area of Montmartre is something I think should be included on every trip to Paris. Located on the outskirts of Paris, Montmartre has much more to offer than just the famed Moulin Rouge.
You can arrive easily in Montmartre from any point in Paris simply by taking the Metro. We got off at Anvers as we were coming from Gare du Nord, but you can also exit at Abesses station if you are taking the Green (12th) Line.
The level of difficulty will be determined by what you decide to do at Anvers once you arrive. There is a Funicular at the bottom of the hill that you can ride to the top in order to visit Sacré Coeur. It will require one Metro ticket.
If you choose to walk instead, there are 90 steps to the top. I found these steps to be the least difficult of all of the viewpoints in Paris. The steps are wide and have a railing to assist you, so you can take your time.
Sacré Coeur stands on the highest point in Paris and also houses the largest bell in France. It offers a unique viewpoint of the City of Paris that the rest do not – a citywide view from a distance.
If you are not satisfied with the view from the highest hill in the city, there is always the option to climb the dome inside of Sacré Coeur, which will cost you an additional 5 euros and 300 steps.
View from Arc de Triomphe
Level of difficulty: Medium
Set in the center of Place Charles de Gaulle, the Arc of Triomphe is iconic in its own right. The roundabout unites 12 boulevards across 5 (although I was certain it was 8) lanes of traffic, which can only be described as traffic chaos.
You can enter the Arc de Triomphe via an underground passage, which can be accessed from the North side of Champ-Élysées. The sign is clearly marked, so please do not attempt to cross 8 lanes of traffic!
Even though I was overheated and dehydrated by the time I got to this attraction, I was still able to complete it without having to rest. I was anticipating a Notre Dame level of difficulty and I was pleasantly surprised by the walk up – only 284 steps. We chose this attraction late afternoon, and although it was busy, we did a total line skip (thank you Paris Museum Pass!).
It is important to note that there is no elevator access to the top. You can take an elevator to the small museum inside, which tells the history of the Arc, but you will have to walk the remaining 46 steps to the top.
From the top, you can see the business district (La Défense) on one side and the avenues of Champ-Élysées on the other. You cannot beat this 360-degree view!
Do any of these pictures do justice to the beauty that you see from above? Not even close.
But if you are looking for the best view of Paris, in my opinion, Arc de Triomphe takes the cake. The line bypass, the manageable steps, and the panoramic views make it the top choice for a climb in Paris.
Short on time? Catch your Arc de Triomphe Line By-Pass Ticket at Get Your Guide.
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I traveled here in 2017. As always, be sure to check your country’s travel advisories before booking any trips or excursions. You can check out the Canadian opinion here.