Printemps top views

Two Days in Paris: Guide To The Best Panoramic Sights

We are not going to lie: Paris is not a small city that can be explored in two to three days.  You need at least a week to get in some of the major sights and get a sense of what this city is about.  There are numerous museums, landmarks, cathedrals and famous cafes, as well as beautiful parks, historic cemeteries, and various unique districts where one can get lost for hours on time.

Paris

Copyrights: IIVQ, CC BY-SA 2.5

This particular article was written to provide you with a list of the top panoramic attractions from where you can enjoy the most spectacular views over Paris.  With that in mind – we designed a specific two-days itinerary for you to save time and be prepared to check off these bucket list sights with ease and comfort.

Day 1: The Classic Paris

Stop #1: Tour Eiffel 👣

eiffel tower sunriseStart your first morning in Paris with taking a ride to the summit of its most famous sight.  The top of the Eiffel Tower offers some incredible views over Paris and it is definitely the number one bucket list activity to check off in the city of lights.  However, being number one comes with a price, as it is very difficult to buy the ticket upon arrival, not to mention the mile-long lines surrounding the entrance.

Our advice: book your tickets online!  The official Tour Eiffel website sells the tickets up to 2-3 months in advance but they do get to sell out rather quickly (all thanks to those third-party tour companies that re-sell the tickets later at an inflated price).  Therefore it is best to buy your ticket at a minimum 2-3 weeks in advance*.  Please note: all tickets are sold for a specific time slot only, so it is very important to get there on time.  If you are late for 30 minutes or more – you might not be allowed in.

  • Time required: 2-3 hours.
  • Hours of operation: mid-June to early September: 9:00am-12:00am (midnight); mid-September to early June: 9:30am-11:00pm.
  • Price: 17 Euros (to the top/summit, including the access to the 1st and 2nd floors), or 11 Euros (to the 2nd (and 1st) floors only).
  • Access: elevator, stairs optional (to the 2nd floor only).
  • Voucher: either print, or e-voucher (mobile phone) is accepted.
  • Official website: http://www.toureiffel.paris

*If you have missed the opportunity to buy your ticket through the official channel, it is still possible to buy it with a third party vendor.  The cons: of course it is more expensive (around 50 Euros); the pros: it includes a brief narrated history of the Eiffel Tower, and an explanation of the key landmarks visible from its 2nd floor observation deck, plus a guided entry!

And finally, if you don’t want to go to the very top of the Eiffel Tower – you can definitely enjoy some amazing views from the 2nd floor’s observation deck as well.  Check out the pictures below for comparison:

> Views from the 2nd floor’s observation deck:

> The same views from the summit of the Eiffel Tower:

Bonus tip: wake up just before the sunrise and make your way down to the Palais de Chaillot to watch the beautiful morning sun rising over the Eiffel Tower, assuming that you have arrived to Paris on a night before (if not – you can always switch between the itineraries).

paris-sunrise

Stop #2: La Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Paris 👣

Notre-Dame CathedralFrom the Eiffel Tower make your way down to the equally famous, though much more historically important – Cathedral of the Notre-Dame.  The wait lines to the entrance of this popular sight are usually long but the incredible views that are awaiting you at the top are definitely worth it.

There are two levels at the top of the cathedral: the lower one – the balcony connecting the two towers, and the upper one – the top of the South tower.  Inside the South tower (on the opposite side of its stairs, closer to the middle of the balcony) is a narrow entrance leading to a small flight of wooden stairs that are hiding the largest bell of Notre-Dame, called Emmanuel, which was featured in the famous novel by Victor Hugo, The Hunchback of Notre Dame.

  • Time required: 2-3 hours.
  • Hours of operation: April to September: 10:00am-6:30pm; October to March: 10:00am-5:30pm.
  • Price: 10 Euros to access the observation deck; the entrance to the Cathedral is free.
  • Access: stairs only (387 steps).
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance.
  • Official website: http://www.notredamedeparis.fr

P.S. Do not miss a visit inside the Cathedral itself upon finishing your tour!

Notre-Dame Cathedral top views

Bonus tip: if you get hungry while waiting in line, you can grab a quick bite from the numerous take-away eateries located next to the Cathedral.  Some of the popular choices include a long sandwich or a delicious crepe for a mere 2-5 Euros.  And if you’re not in the mood for a take out, there are numerous cafes and bars in the immediate area, since it is a very popular touristic spot.

You can also enjoy your take-out snack behind the Cathedral in its green, quiet and gorgeous park.

Stop #3: Basilique du Sacre-Couer de Montmartre 👣

sacre-couer parisTo access this next and final stop, you can catch a metro ride from the Notre Dame Cathedral.  Take the metro line #4, from the stop called “Cité” located right on the Île de la Cité (the small island where the Notre Dame Cathedral is located), to the stop called “Château Rouge”.  The train should travel in the direction of “Porte de Clignancourt”.

Please note the Basilica of Sacre Couer, the 2nd highest viewpoint after the Eiffel Tower, is located on top of a hill and there are a number of steps leading up to it. You can easily skip this extra hike by taking a quick funicular ride (which costs 1 metro ride, using the same metro ticket), located on the foot of the hill, on the left side of the Basilica.

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Unfortunately there are no elevators to access the dome of this gorgeous Church, and the stairs leading up to the top are quite small and narrow.  But just as with all the other sights, the views from the dome are simply breathtaking!  And since you might be quite out of breath once you reach the top – there are numerous benches built into the inner walls where you can sit down to rest, while admiring the views.

  • Time required: 1-2 hours.
  • Hours of operation: May to September: 8:30am-8:00pm; October to April: 9:00am-5:00pm.
  • Price: 6 Euros to access the dome; the entrance to the Basilica is free.
  • Access: stairs only (300 steps).
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance (underground level, left side from the main entrance).
  • Official website: http://www.sacre-coeur-montmartre.com

P.S. And don’t forget to peak inside the Church once you’re done with admiring its views!

Bonus tip: Monmartre – the vibrant, cobbled-stone area where this gorgeous Basilica is located, is full of small and cozy cafes and bars.  You might as well stay there for dinner (and a well deserved glass of wine), since you don’t want to miss the beautiful sunset falling over this landmark.  Once the darkness kicks out the final rays of sunlight, you will be greeted with another amazing sight – the lit up Basilica of Sacre Couer, a shining star visible from any point of the city.  Seeing the magic up close, just when it happens – is an experience that you don’t want to miss.

Day 2: The Modern Paris

Stop #1: Panthéon 👣

Pantheon - top viewsYou can sleep in a little on your second day exploring the top views of Paris, since this next beautiful landmark opens its doors no earlier than 10am.

Located in the heart of the Latin Quarter, Pantheon was originally built as a Cathedral and then later converted into a mausoleum, where a number of famous and accomplished people have found their final resting place.  Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Emile Zola are just some of those famous names that you can encounter in this grand building.

The tour to the dome is an experience in itself, when you are led through a number of small, hidden doors and narrow staircases up to the very top.  The 360-degree views of Paris are magnificent, especially the Cathedral of the Notre Dame which can be viewed from the closest distance in comparison to from the other famous sights.

  • Time required: 1,5-2 hours.
  • Hours of operation: 10:00am-6:00pm.
  • Price: 8,50 Euros (regular entrance), plus 2 Euros extra (to access the dome – on a guided tour only, offered every hour in English and French).
  • Access: stairs only.
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance (inside the building).
  • Official website: http://www.pantheonparis.com

P.S. Don’t forget to ask for a ticket to the dome in addition to the regular entrance ticket.  If you fail to do that – you might miss the tour, since the number of hourly admissions is limited and everyone is required to have a separate ticket (which only costs 2 Euros more).

Stop #2: Le Centre Pompidou 👣

Le Centre Pompidou top viewsThe next stop is a rather unique construction commissioned by the French ex-President, Georges Pompidou, simply named after his honor.  Hosting an interesting museum of modern art on its 4th and 5th floors, as well as a library on the 1st, 2nd and 3rd, the building offers beautiful views from the balcony of its top floors.

To access the observation deck, buy a ticket at the entrance and take a small escalator to the second floor, located on the left side from the main entrance.  Upon exiting the escalator, walk straight then turn left and you will soon find a glass door leading up to the external escalators located in front of the main facade.  Take a ride to the top and you will reach the destination.

  • Time required: 1-2 hours.
  • Hours of operation: 11:00am-9:00pm, closed on Tuesdays.
  • Price: 3 Euros (panorama only).  1st Sunday of each month – free.
  • Access: escalators.
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance inside the museum, or online on the official website.
  • Official website: https://www.centrepompidou.fr/en

Stop #3: Printemps 👣

printemps-top-viewsThe next lesser-known city gem is a perfect midday lunch stop offering incredible views over Paris (weather permitting).  Located on the rooftop of a busy department store, the Printemps viewpoint includes an outside restaurant where you can grab a quick snack or even sit down to eat a full lunch, since it offers affordable prices via a buffet-like style kitchen.  If you’re not hungry you can definitely skip the food and just enjoy the beautiful panorama opening up in front of you.

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To access this location, you will have to take an elevator up to the 8th floor (located right in the middle of the store), followed by a quick escalator ride up to the ninth, where the rooftop is located.  If you get lost in this massive building, you can always ask for directions from one of the friendly staff working inside.  Also, there are store map brochures located next to the elevator walls for further help with directions.

  • Time required: 1 hour or less.
  • Hours of operation: 9:30am-8:00pm, closed on Sundays.
  • Price: free.
  • Access: elevator and escalator.
  • Official website: http://www.printemps.com
  • Extra: free wi-fi

Bonus tip: located very close to the Printemps Department store is another awesome and large department store, named Lafayette (40 Boulevard Haussmann, 75009 Paris; hours of operation: 9:30am-8:00pm, closed on Sundays; free entrance).  In addition to having a nice rooftop deck where you can also enjoy the views or even a quick bite, it has a magnificent dome inside the building which is a true work of art.  You can access the rooftop by taking a series of escalators up to the 7th floor.  The inside dome is best viewed from the 3rd floor.  Another bonus: it has free wi-fi!

Stop #4: Arc de Triomphe 👣

Arc de TriompheFrom Printemps you can easily walk down to our next scenic and famous stop – the Arc de Triomphe.  Passing through the beautiful and wide Champs-Élysées avenue, you will soon reach your destination located on a small “island” in the mid of constant, heavy and crazy traffic.  As a Parisian would quickly point out: if you could drive here – you can drive anywhere in the World!

If you happen to travel to Paris in the mid of the high season, it might be best to pay a little extra and pre-book your ticket online in order to avoid the ridiculously long lines leading up to the ticket shop of this monument.  Unlike the entry to the Eiffel Tower, the ticket is valid for an entire day and there is no specific appointed timed entry that you have to hurry for.

To access this historic landmark, you will have to go through the underground tunnel, located on the opposite, right side of the monument (when facing it directly, with your back towards Champs-Élysées).

  • Time required: 1-2 hours.
  • Hours of operation: April to September: 10:00am-11:00pm; October to March: 10:00am-10:30pm.
  • Price: 12 Euros.
  • Access: elevators or stairs.
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance underground – right beneath the monument, or online on the official website (small extra processing fee applies).
  • Official website: http://www.paris-arc-de-triomphe.fr/en

Bonus tip: the best time to enjoy the views from this gorgeous landmark are an hour or two before the sunset, when the sun is positioned away from the front, towards the left side of the monument.  If you do come here in the morning, you will be facing the sun directly therefore you won’t be able to take any good quality pictures, if that’s one of your goals.

Stop #5: Tour Montparnasse 👣

Tour MontparnasseThere is no better spot to watch the sun fall over Paris, then from the top of the Montparnasse Tower.  The open-deck rooftop is located on the 59th floor.  The 360° panoramic views offered there are especially glamorous at night, when Paris finally rises up to its famous expectation, transforming into the true “city of lights”.

Getting to this location is quite easy – you can catch a #6 metro from the station called “Charles de Gaulle – Étoile”, located right next to the Arc de Triomphe, exiting at “Raspail” (train should be traveling in the direction of “Nation”).

You will then walk a few blocks to the entrance of the Tower, where you can buy your ticket and take an elevator up to the 56th floor.  The 56th floor offers an indoor panorama as well as a souvenir shop, a cafe, and an exhibition wall.  To access the top, you will have to take the inner stairs located here and walk up three flights to the 59th floor.  Unfortunately there is no direct elevator access to the rooftop.

Visiting Montparnasse Tower to experience Paris from above might not be high on your bucket list, but it’s definitely a fun activity, considering the incredible, top views it provides!

  • Time required: 1 hour or less.
  • Hours of operation: April to September: 9:30am-11:30pm; October to March: 9:00am-10:30pm (last admission 30 minutes before the closing time).
  • Price: 15 Euros.
  • Access: elevator.
  • Voucher: buy your ticket at the entrance, or online on the official website.
  • Official website: http://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/en/

Final note: all admission prices are valid for the year of 2016.

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