Having recently visited Paris, I had the chance to visit a landmark that I wasn’t very aware of. There are of course the few most famous icons which all think of when envisaging Paris and that the majority of tourists head straight for, but what always excites me when I visit a foreign country is finding a lesser known activity to do. This means that you can get to know the place you are visiting more like a local and can escape the crowds of tourists that become so standard on holiday. When looking for a good view of central Paris, most head for the top of the Arc de Triomphe, or up the Eiffel Tower. However, there is a less flashy, and perhaps better way to view this city. The Montparnasse Tower, near the other two, offers an equally amazing view, but with just a fraction of the crowds.
In French, the tower is known as Tour Montparnasse. It is 210 metres high as compared to the 324 metres of the Eiffel Tower and the mere 50 metres of the Arc de Triomphe. It is less to look at from the outside, simply appearing like any other generic skyscraper, however it was primarily designed to offer a good view of Paris from above, not to look pretty, and it fulfils this purpose well. For a time (between 1973-2011) it was the tallest skyscraper in France, since the Eiffel Tower cannot be classified as a building itself exactly. It is also higher than the top of the Monmartre hill where the Sacre-Coeur stands. The tower has 59 floors and those aside from the public viewing floors at the very top are used as corporate offices. The 56th floor in particular has a viewing gallery allowing visitors to look out in all directions over Paris, and a restaurant, and the very top floor is an open-air terrace.
One of the many benefits of the Montparnasse Tower is that it also offers a great view of the Eiffel Tower itself, something that’s hard to find elsewhere. Alternatively, some criticise the tower for its ‘simple’, modern architecture, which would perhaps better suit a city such as New York or London than Paris, and it stands out in the skyline, being dramatically taller than any other building in the city. In fact the criticism it received was so strong that soon after its construction, a ban was placed on the further construction of buildings over the height of 7 stories in the centre of the city.
Still, the slight out-of-place-ness of this building in the city is worth it for the views it brings. It’s my personal favourite place to view the Eiffel Tower, and it doesn’t take a lot of time out of your day either. It’s not too far from the Eiffel Tower either, so it’s easy to fit both into a day, getting great views of the city from two different angles. Also nearby is the Jardin du Luxembourg, which is a beautiful, but more relaxing activity way to spend some time.
So whilst the Eiffel Tower is a great tourist destination in the sense that it is well-known and iconic, the Montparnasse Tower should not be underestimated for an equally amazing and more relaxed way to see the city.
Image from: http://www.tourmontparnasse56.com/media/images/photos/photo_5_m.jpg