Tuesday 22 Feb, 2011

View Paris from the Montparnasse Tower

Eiffel Tower lit up at dusk

I have a suggestion for you this week if you are interested in going up a tower for a view over Paris. Before the comments section is awash with “is he now just stating the incredibly obvious, what next, Rome has a big church worth seeing?” bear with me.  The place I have in mind is the Montparnasse Tower.

Naturally, I am aware that for most people a tower in Paris can only mean Eiffel. It is a wholly understandable choice. As a structure itself, it is imperious, looming over a large part of Paris and a stirring testament to the engineering skill of the age.  It has a fascinating history, there are some great pictures of its construction and a nice mini soap-opera as to whose idea it was and suggestions on who should receive far more credit for its design.

However, for all of this, we cannot deny that one or two other people might have heard about it so it does tend to get busy. This, alone, is fine, we take people to busy sites and this is largely the point of what we do. There is a reason these places are busy and we want you to join in. But enough of that logic circle. You see, going to the top of something just because it is there is fine, (and brings the stirring words of George Mallory to mind), but, in tourism, sometimes it is good to escape the crowds and find a bit of time to breathe. So, I wish to share with you something that many of our Tour Directors like to do. We have a plan B. Something you can do in addition to visiting the Eiffel Tower.

Remember, the structure of the Eiffel Tower is astonishing, so go to a place where you can enjoy its beauty. The nearby Montparnasse Tower was built in the early 1970s and immediately offended certain sensitivities due to its failure to blend in at all with the uniform style of the city, all very Eiffel in a way. It is, in truth, a bland office tower. So, get to the top of it, where you cannot see it and enjoy the view from its fabulous open air platform.

The elevators (Europe’s fastest apparently) to the 56th floor take about 40 seconds and   deposit you in a pleasant enclosed viewing area with excellent information on the sites visible around the city. From this space, go up four flights of stairs to the balcony and enjoy wonderful views of the Eiffel Tower and elsewhere. Yes, chilly at certain times  of the year, but on a summer evening get there just before sunset and then see the lights come on at the Eiffel Tower. A really enjoyable experience with no long lines and crowds, so it makes for a pleasant evening excursion (and, dare I mention it, cheaper than the Eiffel Tower too – apparently I do dare).

So, if you are on an EF tour in Paris this year thinking “I just have to go to the top of the Eiffel Tower” you certainly can, however, this alone no more completes a visit to Paris than seeing only the Mona Lisa allows one to feel they have experienced the Louvre. The Eiffel can be enjoyed from so many parts of the city and offers some excellent photo opportunities. Ask your Tour Director about going up the Montparnasse tower, you won’t regret it.

(Editor’s note: Add Paul on Google+ If you have a question about for EF Tour Director Paul Mattesini, or an idea for a blog post topic, you can email Paul here, and he will answer readers’ questions in future blog posts.)