Views of Paris: Which one is Best?

Sam Kornylak
June 20, 2022

I am about a month into my study abroad experience in Paris, so I have had ample free time to spend in and around Paris during weekends and after class.  I have gone to the Louvre, the Château de Versailles, the Rodin Museum, and many more important sites.  I have also seen Paris from several vantage points, and I have been thinking about which one was the best and why.  Between the Eiffel Tower, the Basilique du Sacre Coeur, and the Arc de Triomphe, each view has a varying position, height, ticket price, and wait time.  In this post, I will describe my experience going to each of these sites, and my opinion on which one is the best.  

The Eiffel Tower

The first view of Paris I got to see was from the Eiffel Tower.  When I arrived there, I was confused because there were few signs directing visitors from the nearest subway stop to the public entrance.  I also had to be careful, as the area around the Eiffel Tower is known for pickpockets.  Eventually, I found the entrance and got in the security line for the elevator.  Visitors can also take the stairs up to the second level, but only the elevator goes all the way to the top.  Although it was crowded, the elevator ride was quick and better than walking up 1,665 steps.  The top of the Eiffel Tower provides a view of Paris and everything surrounding the city.  One drawback is that because it is so high up, it is difficult to spot certain buildings because they are small and blend in with the rest of the city.  It is also crowded due to the small size of the deck.  Finally, there is one important landmark missing from the view because you are on top of it!  


La Basilique du Sacré Coeur

The hilly and tourist-heavy neighborhood of Montmartre is in the north of Paris.  On weekends, the narrow walkways can be packed shoulder-to-shoulder.  However, that is not the case at the top of the dome at the Basilique du Sacre Coeur.  A cathedral completed in 1914, it is situated at the highest point in Paris and getting to the top requires paying seven euros and walking up more than 300 steps on a spiral staircase.  When we arrived, my friends from IES Abroad ridiculed me for “paying to climb stairs.”  I decided it was worth it.  Once I reached the top, I had a panoramic view of Paris and could see all major points in the city.  The only obstruction were the towers adjacent to the main dome, which I thought were useful for photos, because I can show where I am.  The only major downside is that Sacre Coeur is north of the city center, so the view of Paris is from the outside looking in.  Because of this, the landmarks are small and far away; similar to the Eiffel Tower, but with distance instead of height.  


The Arc de Triomphe

In my opinion, the Arc de Triomphe is the best view of Paris that I have seen.  From the Charles de Gaulle-Étoile metro stop, there is a tunnel that goes under the roundabout and delivers visitors to the security line to enter the Arc.  After scanning my ticket, I walked up 284 stairs (so not as many as Sacre Coeur).  Once at the top, there were three levels to explore.  The first two have an interactive exhibit on the history of the Arc de Triomphe and a gift shop.  The third level has the viewing deck.  I think this view was the best because not only is it in the city center, but it is specifically in the middle of the line of the most important points in Paris:  The Louvre, the Tuileries, the Place de La Concorde, the Champs Elysees, the Arc de Triomphe, and La Defense.  Another unique feature of the Arc is that I could see the Place de Charles de Gaulle, which is so dangerous to drive through that many insurance companies offer special coverage just for that zone.  The chaotic traffic is a sight to see at any time of day.


The Grande Arche de la Defense

The Grande Arche de la Defense is a monument that was completed in 1989 in a business district just outside of Paris.  It is 360 feet high and shaped like a cube.  Out of all the viewpoints I went to, La Defense was the only one technically outside of Paris, and also the most bizarre.  Upon exiting the metro, I was surprised at the size of the monument.  I was used to seeing it from far away, but I realized it’s twice as high as the Arc de Triomphe!  The area around the Grande Arche looks like the downtown of an American city.  It is flanked by a mall with a McDonald’s, a Starbucks, a Five Guys, and numerous big box stores.  There is so much going on that the tourist entrance to the Grande Arche is difficult to find.  When I finally found the entrance, I had to scan my tickets at an automated machine, similar to a metro station.  It is set up to scan paper tickets that you buy at the counter, so scanning my e-ticket from my phone was difficult and took a few tries.  I would suggest getting a ticket on-site, as there was a very short line when I was there.  The view itself is good, but nothing you can’t get elsewhere.  The Eiffel Tower and Arc de Triomphe are visible off in the distance, but La Defense is too far away from the city center to see anything else.  There was also construction going on at the top of the Grande Arche, so the western side of the viewing deck was closed.  The visit was still worth it because the complex surrounding the Grande Arche is interesting to see.  There’s plenty to eat if you miss American hamburgers and fries, and the shopping is excellent.


The Bottom Line

Paris is a beautiful city that’s worth seeing from many angles.  All of the places I visited were interesting in their own way, and I would recommend going to all of them if you have the time.  I had a ticket in advance to all of them except for Sacre Coeur.  I didn’t need it at La Defense, but I would strongly recommend getting one at the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower, as the ticket lines were long.  I hope this was helpful for anyone planning a trip to Paris, and please feel free to connect with me on Instagram (@samk_618).  

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Sam Kornylak

Bonjour! My name is Sam Kornylak and I am from Chapel Hill, North Carolina. I'm currently studying economics (with an environmental science minor) at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. After college, I hope to go into international development, so I obviously love learning about other parts of the world and the people and geography there. This summer, I will study abroad in Paris with IES Abroad, and I am looking forward to sharing that experience with others through the IES blog. I have a passion for writing (I'm a staff writer for The Daily Tar Heel), traveling, reading, and meeting new people, and these are all things I hope to do while I'm in France.

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