Without a doubt, the most famous observation deck in Paris is the Eiffel Tower, which at a height of 324 meters (1,063 feet) is the city's tallest structure. Naturally, you can't see the Eiffel Tower from the Eiffel Tower, though.
However, there is another observation deck in Paris on the 56th floor of the 210-meter (690-feet) Tour Montparnasse (Montparnasse Tower). Inaugurated in 1973, and sticking out of the 14th arrondissement like a gigantic bruised thumb over... well, everything else in the neighborhood, Montparnasse Tower has few fans in architecture circles, but as far as travelgasm.com is concerned, it has the best observation deck in Paris.
From Montparnasse Tower, you can see the Eiffel Tower and every other landmark in Paris from Sacré-Cœur to Luxembourg Garden and everything in between. Its observation deck costs less than the Eiffel Tower and the lines often are minimal. Based on our experience, it isn't really necessary if you arrive in the afternoon, but particularly if you plan to show up after sunset, it would be wise to book tickets in advance. It's open every day of the year with modest closing hour changes by season. Kindly — unlike the Eiffel Tower — the organizers of the Montparnasse Tower observation deck do not require you to show up at a specified time and even allow you to use an advance ticket as late as two weeks after the visit date that you select without penalty. Consequently, it makes it much easier to buy an advance ticket and visit when the weather is most cooperative during your time in Paris.
The Montparnasse Tower observation deck provides both an indoor level with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and an uncovered rooftop terrace. The rooftop — accessible only via three flights of stairs rather than an elevator — also has surrounding glass walls for safety, but there are small gaps between the plates to make photography easier.
In defense of the Montparnasse Tower itself, although it's not the prettiest building in the world, it could be worse. It doesn't melt or cook adjacent buildings, and it is built on top of the Montparnasse-Bienvenüe metro station, which, in turn, is connected to the Gare Montparnasse regional train station; so rail connectivity is excellent. If it were part of a cluster of highrises that tapered into the height of the established neighborhood and perhaps less 1970s matte dark brown, maybe the opinions would be less negative.
In our humble opinion, the worst aspect of Montparnasse Tower isn't the building itself, but rather the high speed arterial roads — Rue de l'Arrivée and Rue du Départ — that surround it like a lighthouse on an isthmus pummeled by a rough sea of cars. The very names of these streets make it clear that this is not a place that you would want to hang around. Thankfully, the building owner, EITMM, is well aware that the building is underloved, its mall could use modernization, and that its ground level could be more people friendly. The company is in the process of choosing an architecture firm from submissions around the world to implement a €300 million redevelopment plan that promises to at least "re-skin" the structure with a lighter, more subtle look as well as improve the ground level with inspiration from New York City's now partially people-only Times Square. The winning firm will be chosen in September 2017 with the goal of starting work in 2019 for completion in 2023. We look forward to seeing the changes.
To eat nearby, there is the high-end Ciel De Paris with its lovely view from within Montparnasse Tower as well as a collection of unremarkable chain sandwich shops and the like on its ground floor, but a better option would be to go one block to the cluster of famous crêperies on Rue de Montparnasse and Rue d'Odessa. Of these, La Crêperie de Josselin is the most well-known, but other good options with perhaps shorter lines also include La Crêperie Bretonne, Crêperie Plougastel, and Crêperie Le Flibustier.
If you're curious as to why there are so many restaurants of this type in the area, crêpes originally are from Brittany, and the Gare Montparnasse train station has long delivered regional trains from that part of France. When new arrivals in Paris showed up from Brittany, they often settled in this area and set up shop, too.
You're probably familiar with dessert crêpes that are made with white wheat flour and served with Nutella, strawberries and whipped cream, or other dessert toppings, but you may be unfamiliar with savory crêpes — more correctly called galettes — made from buckwheat flour and could include ham and cheese, spinach and mushrooms, or other more dinner friendly options. One galette and one crêpe commonly is considered a proper meal.
We've mapped out the best route to Montparnasse Tower as well as the quickest walk to the famous crêperies nearby. Be particularly careful crossing the street in this area.
How to Get Here: Take line 4, 6, 12, or 13 to Montparnasse-Bienvenüe Metro Station. Exit 4 (Tour Montparnasse) will take you directly into the building. If you head to the crêperies — which could work either before or after visiting Tour Montparnasse as they tend to close around 11 PM — the closest metro station to depart is Edgar Quinet on Line 6.
Like Montparnasse Tower, Rue de Montparnasse, or Rue d'Odessa? Tell your friends and frenemies on social media that you discovered them first:
Intelligent and good-looking readers of travelgasm.com like you also sign up for our free monthly mailing list.
Live in Paris? What tourist attraction do you most like to share with visitors? Spotted anything out-of-date or inaccurately translated? Please tell travelgasm.com. Merci beaucoup!