Are you looking for the best view of Paris? Look no further I have found it: from the top of the Saint-Jacques Tower. Access to the roof terrace is limited but well worth the 300 steps to reach it! Let me show you why it is the best public spot to see Paris from above (I still hope to meet a local who has a great roof terrace...)
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INFO & PLANNING TIPS - Saint-Jacques Tower
Built in the early sixteenth century, the Saint Jacques Tower used to be the belle tower of the church called Saint-Jacques de la Boucherie. As I will explain below, its history has been tumultuous. In the recent years it has been restored and since 2013, it is opened to the public but with limited access.
It is 54 meter high.
The Saint Jacques Tower is one of the best places to see Paris from above.
TIPS FOR TRAVEL PLANNING ADDICTS - Paris' Saint-Jacques Tower
Getting to the Saint-Jacques Tower
- The tower is located in the heart of Paris, rue de Rivoli
- Between metro station Chatelet-les-halles (exit number 1) and Hotel de ville
Visiting the Saint-Jacques Tower
- The tower is only opened through guided tour from June to mid November
- The guided visits happen only from Friday to Sunday and must be booked online on this website.
- Tours are only conducted in French (dur to the limitation, Paris want French people to enjoy it first). However I was informed the guides normally speak english and can provide a shorter version if needed. Plus the view does not need translation.
- The visit requires climbing roughly 300 steps through a narrow circular staircase. The visit lasts for 1 hour. And there are 2 stops on the way up (after 50 steps and after 80 more steps)
- The tours are cancelled when there is a storm
The guided tour and the tower history
The guided tour starts with the statue of Blaise Pascal (who supposedely did some experiements there). Then we climb to the first level to discover the first part of its story. It all started with a church established by the butcher guild during the middle age. Benefactors, including the 'alchemist' Nicolas Flamel, helped improved the church over time. In 1508 they started building the new bell tower in the flamboyant gothic style. During the revolution the church was destroyed and used as a stone quarry but the tower was protected and sold to a private entrepreneur.
Blaise Pascal statue
The tower was first restored in the 19th century when architect fixed the based which was not supported by the church anymore. They also restored the facades but took some liberty adding figures such as a siren. The bell was not there anymore so they placed stained glass on the sides. It became an ornemental tower.
The original church
Where the bell was
As the rock used for the tower does not face well weather and pollution, the city of Paris launched a major restoration project in 2001 including a lot of research and several years of detialed work. The tower reopened to the public in 2013.
Why it has the best view in Paris
Here are the reasons I truly believe this is the best view in Paris:
- It is a small square with no other high building around: 360° view (contrary from the Notre-Dame bell tower)
- It is high enough to be over the roof of Paris but not too high like the Montparnasse tower that you can't see the details of the city
- It includes the Eiffel Tower in the view (that you don't get from the Eiffel tower)
- You are only surrounded by 20 personnes to admire it
- You are close to Notre-Dame and to the Town Hall building for excellent views
- There are no barrier or glass preventing you from enjoying the view
- The only negative thing is that you get the ugly Montparnasse tower in the view...
Now just look at the picture to get the proof that it is the absolute best spot to see and photograph Paris from above:
You can aslo climb the Notre Dame Cathedral Towers to see Paris from above.
Like it? Discover more photos of Saint Eustache church.
The Saint-Jacques tower itself
The tower is surrounded by a nice garden. The first garden created in Paris to copy the London city style.
Even just from outside I find the tower fascinating. Here are the different facades:
And to finish some more artistic shots
Want to see MORE of FRANCE?
Discover more things to do with planning information and photos in my online Paris Travel Guide.
What do you think of this view?
Alas, my return to Paris is in November. It seems the St Jacques Tower will be closed for the year.
Claire, the Travel Planning Geek says
Sorry to read that.
But there are still many many stunning places to see in Paris 🙂
I wish you a wonderful trip!