Our Top 5 Places to Photograph Paris from Above

The Best Panoramas for Capturing the Paris Skyline
Paris seen from the top of the Pantheon Paris seen from the top of the Pantheon

The panorama of the Panthéon is open from April 1st – October 31st. Photo © Renata Haidle.

July 24, 2020
Although we can’t currently get out to soak in all the incredible views of our favorite city, we can still dream of beautiful locations and travel through photographs and memories until we can once again explore all that Paris has to offer.
Portrait of Urbansider Paris author Renata
by Renata

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Life changes, unexpectedly and abruptly. Plans are put on hold, or worse, canceled. Long-nurtured dreams have to remain, well, dreams. Nevertheless, as long as there is life, there is hope, therefore I dream. Of my favorite places, of the things I’ll do, the people I’ll meet, the images I’ll create. One day, soon. And so will you.

For now, come with me on a virtual photo trip through Paris. We’ll pick some spots to see the city from above, enjoy sunsets, watch the rain fall, or simply let our eyes take in the splendor of the city we love.

Let’s start with one of the best rooftop views of the city (and my personal favorite), the view from the Panthéon, in the 5th Arrondissement.

1. The Panthéon

Don’t rush upstairs to the colonnade yet, because there is so much to see as you walk into the Panthéon. Enjoy the monumental architecture, the paintings, Foucault’s famous pendulum, visit the crypt and pay homage to some of France’s greatest: Voltaire, Rousseau, Dumas, to name a few.

When you’re ready (preferably you would time this around the golden hour for the best photos), climb up the steps and prepare yourself for a memorable sight—the panorama from the colonnade is breathtaking. A 360-degree show of splendor and architectural delight, Paris lies at your feet, ready to be admired. 

Paris rooftops and skyline looking out to La Defense
The panorama of the Panthéon is open from April 1st – October 31st. Photo © Renata Haidle.
 

2. Sacré-Coeur

Across the city, perched up on Butte Montmartre, sits our next destination. The Sacré-Cœur Basilica, a gem of Roman-Byzantine architecture, has only been around for one hundred years but it quickly gained a solid reputation as one of the top landmarks to see in Paris.

Walk inside, maybe sit down for a few minutes and let the peace and quiet surround you. Prepare yourself for the steep walk up to the cupola. Three hundred narrow, sinuous steps will take you to the top. Once there, you can walk around the open-air gallery and marvel at the expanse of the city. Even the Eiffel Tower looks tiny in the distance.

Paris skyline view from top of Sacré Coeur
The view of Paris from atop Sacré-Coeur is definitely worth the climb. Photo © Renata Haidle.

3. Galeries Lafayette

Shall we walk the thirty minutes from Montmartre to Galeries Lafayette? No, we’re not going shopping, although you can certainly do that if you wish—the legendary department store is surely worth a visit. We are, however, going up to the seventh floor to the Lafayette rooftop terrace where we can breathe some fresh air and get up close and personal with the roofs of Paris!

One of the closest is the famous green roof of the Opéra Garnier. You can get a good look at the statue of Apollo, lifting his golden lyre to the sky, and see the genius of Baron Haussmann at work, one neat and uniform group of beige buildings after another.

Rooftop of the Galeries Lafayette.
Before or after shopping, be sure to go up to the top of the Galeries Lafayette Haussmann for fantastic, free panoramic views of Paris. Photo © Renata Haidle.

4. Printemps

Just a stone’s throw away from Les Galeries on Boulevard Haussmann, rival Parisian retail giant Printemps also boasts fabulous views from its top floors. Not to be outdone by its close-by competitor, here, you have the option of indoor or outdoor dining while taking in the Parisian panoramas.

With Montmartre on one side, the Eiffel Tower on another, and the gilded domes of Printemps just below, you’re spoiled for choice, or as the French say, vous n’avez que l’embarras du choix. And while you’re here, don’t miss the art nouveau cupola of Brasserie Printemps, located on the sixth floor of Printemps Women.

View of Paris skyline from the rooftop of Printemps.
The Printemps department store on Boulevard Haussmann is the place for glittering golden domes and wonderful views of the Paris skyline. Photo © Renata Haidle.

5. Musée d’Orsay

Crossing the Seine to the Left Bank, let’s take moment to stop by the Musée d’Orsay. We’ll spend some time enjoying the stunning works of art—the Impressionist collection is a must-see!—and the sheer majesty of the building itself, before heading upstairs. Did you know that the museum has its own rooftop terrace?

The views from the Musée d’Orsay stretch across the Seine and its bridges, embrace the wide expanse of the Louvre, and go far into the distance all the way back to Montmartre. And don’t forget to peek through the glass of the giant Orsay clock that has become somewhat of an Instagram legend. You might have to wait for your turn, as it is a very popular selfie spot. Who knows, maybe your own photo will have a chance to go viral.

Clock at the Musée d'Orsay.
In addition to incredible Impressionist artworks, the Musée d’Orsay also offers spectacular views of Paris. Photo © Renata Haidle.

These are my five top spots to see—and shoot—Paris from above. Yes, there are many more, including famous landmarks like the Eiffel Tower, Tour Montparnasse, Arc de Triomphe or L’Institut du Monde Arabe.  Or maybe you have your own undiscovered gems.

Share your favorite views of the city with us by using #urbansider on social media, we’d love to see them all!

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